Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,165,624, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants and grants in aid in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and fishery research; and grants, grants in aid, loans, and expenses in respect of improvement of breeding, &c., of live stock; land settlement, cultivation, improvement, drainage, &c.; regulation of agricultural wages; agricultural credits, co-operation, and marketing; fishery development; and sundry other services."—[Note.—£2820,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Major Elliot)
I have to present to the Committee Estimates for a net expenditure for the current financial year of £1,985,624. The constitutional rights of the House of Commons, as the Committee well knows, are that the Committee should discuss grievances before voting Supply. I do not think that I am misinterpreting the desires of the Committee, or of the country as a whole, when I say that I am well assured that the discussion of the general outlook facing agriculture to-day will occupy more of our time than the actual details of the administration even of the considerable sum which the Committee is being asked to sanction. This, however, is an opportunity for the review of Departmental work, and it would be wrong to minimise in any way the importance of the Estimates and of the work which is being done by the aid of the sums provided by Parliament. The sum of £2,000,000, even in these days, is still a considerable piece of expenditure.
It can, I think, be grouped under four main heads: Land settlement and land 940 drainage; agricultural education and research; the prevention of disease; and what may loosely be grouped under the heading of administrative services. In the first group, land settlement, for which the sum of £853,000 is provided, absorbs by far the greatest proportion of the charges. That is nearly all past expenditure. During the past six years, only 1,100 men have been settled through the operation of the 1926 Act. I will not say that I am satisfied with that. Who could be? Our problem to-day is not to settle new people on the land, but to hold on the land the population who, by their own thrift, tenacity, industry and endurance, have settled themselves there already. When I am adjured, as I shall be, to settle more men on the land, I have to say to the Committee and to the country that it would be black treachery, not only to those whom we are seeking to settle, but to those who are already there, to place men on the land if we are not assured of a market for their produce. I will say this more: When I am asked to embark upon heroic schemes of land settlement, I warn the Committee and the House that to do that we will have to hack into the import trade of this country, and hack not with a knife, but with an axe, and a blunt axe at that. Those who will the end must will the means. Much the same considerations apply to agricultural education and research, which are being well and efficiently carried out. At other times, I should have been glad to review their progress, and more particularly the progress of agricultural research, with which I have had for many years certain connections and in which I have taken considerable interest. All these things end in production, and production ends in marketing. It is to the market that the producers and consumers of this country must, for the present, bend their attention. I said that these things were being efficiently done. The next head in my grouping of the Estimates gives proof of that.
The third head is the prevention of disease. That is the great preventive service whose main work is the prevention of epidemics among the stock. The figures are the best proof of the remarkable immunity which we have been able to secure and to maintain in this country. In 1932 the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth 941 disease in France were 9,449, in Germany 18,869, and in the Netherlands, a small, highly-organised country, 10,865. The outbreaks in England were 25. These results were not secured without the cooperation of the whole community, both agricultural and non-agricultural. Of this I think the history of the Reading outbreak is the most striking example. On the night between 4th and 5th January, foot-and-mouth infection from some unknown source reached the loading banks at Reading. That infection was so virulent that every consignment of stock that crossed those loading banks went down with foot-and-mouth disease. The latent period of the disease may reach 14 days, and it was not until five days later that we 'found out what had been happening. So efficient was the disinfection—the ordinary routine disinfection—of those loading banks, that no case occurred in livestock using the banks after that night.
The ordinary men who clean out those Reading banks, as a matter of routine, had no reason to suspect that there was foot-and-mouth infection there, but they cleaned the place so thoroughly of that virulent infection that not a single case of foot-and-mouth disease arose from those banks after that date. We, and the agricultural community, owe a great debt of gratitude to the railway company, and to those unnamed members of the staff who disinfected the loading banks on the night between 4th and 5th January of this year. By that time the greatest opportunity had been given to the disease that it could have, infection in a market. From that time it spread from Derby in the North Midlands to Kent and Sussex in the South, and it occurred in Micheldever, Hounslow in Middlesex, Leicester, Birmingham, Nuneaton, Derby, Beckley in Sussex, in Reading again, in Tonbridge and Ramsgate, Shepton Mallet, and Marlborough, but so efficient is the British preventive service that the whole of the outbreak was cleaned up within 80 days, and at the cost of only £32,000 in compensation for slaughter. That was an outbreak which very easily might have spread from end to end of the island.
There are other less spectacular diseases which also I may mention. If I may touch in a sentence or two upon sheep scab, it has been found possible to clean up, county by county, great areas 942 of the Island, and, in particular, the whole of the mainland of Scotland, and this year the restriction upon sheep coming down from Scotland has been removed, though there are still centres of infection in North Wales and in Cumberland. I beg the co-operation of the farmers, and of all concerned, to clean up these two areas, for our experience on the mainland of Scotland shows that it can be done, and I am not out of order in mentioning Scotland in this one connection, for in this case the administration of the preventive services against disease is a Great Britain service, and runs from end to end of the Island.
The administrative services cover, in addition to the services which I have just detailed, a group which, although small,' includes the activities in which, perhaps, the Committee as a whole is most interested, namely, the services in connection with agricultural marketing and in connection with the whole movement for the reorganisation of British agriculture. This has attracted attention in our own country, and, I think I may say, in other countries as well. Reorganisation is being pressed upon agriculture just now, not by the fitful activity of Ministers, but by the inexorable pressure of facts. Last night the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin) expressed his hope that great good might come to the world if certain conditions could be fulfilled, and, above all, if the Minister of Agriculture could be kept quiet. It is not, however, the activities of a Minister, but the activities of the world, which are pressing forward reorganisation, and the best proof of that is that, in countries widely separated from our own both in position and in circumstances, agricultural reorganisation of one kind or another is being driven forward at almost feverish speed. It is the subject of continual, close, intensive study and of legislation in France, and those of us who have been at the Economic Conference have been enormously struck by the awakened interest which the French Government and the French people are showing in all these schemes of agricultural reorganisation; and in regard to many of their great staples, like wheat and wine, their Chamber is also engaged upon legislative measures which a few years ago would have seemed to be needless and out of the question.
943 There is another great country which is held up to our admiration just now from various parts of the House, and the example of which we are urged to follow. That is the United States of America and the action of President Roosevelt there. I do not know that the House realises, I do not know that anybody in Britain realises, how tremendous and how ruthless is the experiment upon which the United States have been launched. We are asked by critics below the Gangway and on the other side of the House to take President Roosevelt as our example, and to follow him closely in the courses of action upon which he is embarking. Our critics are pressing upon us, they are pressing upon me, action which might be found to outstrip their anticipations. Within the last week, the United States has put into operation a tax of 30 cents a bushel on wheat, or about 10s. a quarter, on the top of the tax of 42 cents a bushel which was already in existence. To-day the loaf in New York has gone up by 20 per cent., and the Secretary for Agriculture indicates that it has another 10 per cent. or so to go before it reaches what he calls the profiteering limit. The 18-ounce loaf costs 5 cents, and the limit has been set at about 1¼ cents a pound more before the Department of Justice is to be brought into the matter.
The money derived from this tax is to be applied to the reduction of wheat production. The whole of that enormous rise in the cost of the loaf is to be applied to producing fewer loaves. We are told that there is a rise in wholesale commodity prices in the United States, and we are adjured to follow the example of President Roosevelt. Let not my critics complain when we come to examples of restriction which I may have to bring before the House, when they hold this banner up to me as a banner to which I should march.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
May I point out to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that, as regards wheat, the United States is an exporting country?
§ Major ELLIOT
This is a processing tax. It is an internal tax levied upon wheat. I am not entirely unaware of the agricultural conditions of the United States. I am not stressing the effect of the import duty alone; I am stressing the effect of the processing tax, an in- 944 ternal tax of which the whole proceeds will go for the purpose of restriction. As I have said, when I have the United States held up to me as an example, I. ask my friends to recollect that there is more than one example which is being given by the United States, and it is impossible for my hon. and right hon. Friends merely to call my attention to one of the examples which they would wish me to follow—
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I rather think that my name is perhaps occurring to my right hon. and gallant Friend among those who have commended the action of America at the present time, but I hope he will keep in mind the fact that it is only with regard to certain things that one asks that the example of America should be followed. It is not universal commendation. There are many things which the President of the United States has power to do at the present time to which I should take great exception—for example, the right of the President to issue 3,000 millions in currency notes.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am not unaware of the fact that there are many other factors, and I think that perhaps my right. hon. Friend is unduly sensitive when he suggests that his name has occurred to me. I assure him that his name has not at all occurred to me in this connection; it was rather the extreme barrier-sweeping school to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) belongs, and to which, intermittently, my hon. Friends the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) belong when it is a case of agricultural products, as against their position in regard to mineral products.
§ Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned my name, let me say that I should never have dreamed, nor would my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) ever have dreamed, of suggesting that he was ignorant of the difference between the conditions in the United States and those here; but it seemed to me that he was suggesting that we, in complete ignorance of that difference in conditions, were wishing to apply all the measures upon which President Roosevelt was embarking in the United States to the 945 wholly different conditions in this country. We never suggested anything of the kind.
§ Major ELLIOT
I think it must be due to some sensitiveness of conscience on the part of my right hon. Friends that they find it necessary to break in in order to indicate that only certain aspects of the President's action should be followed. I am not in any way criticising them, and I am prepared to agree that they were not ignorant of the other aspects of the President's policy. I do snot in any way suggest that they were. I merely say that other hon. and right hon. Members in various parts of the House have suggested that we should follow that remarkable experiment. I had in mind the eloquent speeches of the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland and his leader the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) to whom it may be of interest to have information on the duties which the United States have recently imposed.
The problem of agricultural reorganisation, as I have said, is not a problem which is peculiar to this country alone, and I merely wish to indicate that one of the questions which we in this country have to decide, is the method of bringing supply and demand into equilibrium, and for that purpose of applying from time to time the limitation of supplies, as well as doing our best to stimulate an increase in demand. I do not think I am doing my right hon. Friends an injustice when I say that they—though certainly not my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead—have often criticised us for taking any restrictive measures whether by tariff, quota or anything else. I have made no accusation of that kind against my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead, who, I think, has been one of the most forward in the House and in the country in urging the necessity of the organisation of our imports by tariff, or by quantitative arrangements or by the great commercial organisations with which he himself is so familiar. It did not occur to me in that connection, for I should never think of saying that he was one of those who abused anyone for dealing with the situation of over-supply by a certain limitation of supply while that was temporarily necessary. I am sure he will agree with me in that line.
We have dealt with wheat, barley and oats. In the case of wheat, of our total 946 supply, £42.9 millions, the home supply is £6.9 millions. We can therefore deal with it by a method entirely different from that with which we have to deal with the case of barley, of which the total supply is £9.3 millions and the home supply £6.3 millions; or, still more, the case of oats, where the total supply is £17.8 millions and the home supply £16 millions. The wheat position we have dealt with, as the Committee knows, by the wheat quota, for which we have the powerful support of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland. The home wheat growers, owing to that Act, are now insulated from the effects of world conditions. We are able to give them, on the average, a standard price of 45s. a quarter, which is an increase of 33 per cent. over pre-War values. Payments to growers to date exceed £2,500,000, and I think it is agreed in all quarters of the Committee that that Act has worked with a smoothness and a certainty which have entirely fulfilled the hopes of its promoters. I think it is taking its place as part of the agricultural machinery of this country, and, as I say, the best testimony to its success is the lack of interest in it at Question Time and elsewhere which this House shows.
In the case of barley we are in an entirely different statistical position. In the case of wheat, as I have said, we had a total supply of £42.9 millions, with a home supply of only £6.9 millions. Therefore, a levy makes it possible for us to insulate the home grower very satisfactorily. In the case of barley, that is not so possible, because of the total of £9.3 millions, £6.3 millions is already produced here at home. We have for the time being tackled this by means of the arrangement which the Chancellor was able to announce to the House in his Budget proposals. He obtained an undertaking from the Brewers' Society to recommend all brewers to increase, as far as possible, the proportion of homegrown barley in the brewing of all classes of beer, and I think it may be expected that this will increase the growing of malting barley, for their market has been of late, as everyone knows, particularly my hon. Friends from the Eastern Counties, in a terribly depressed condition. Discussions have taken place with representatives of the brewers, maltsters' merchants and farmers, with the object of devising a plan for implementing the 947 brewers' undertaking. All I can say at present is that the brewers are rather of opinion that this can be quite satisfactorily settled by means of voluntary arrangements which they have indicated, whereas farmers, who are of a more suspicious nature, say: that brotherly love is all very well, but they would like some accounts to be kept.
With regard to oats, with a total supply of £17.8 millions, the home supply is £16 millions, and even so small an importation, as the Committee well knows, has the power of breaking very seriously a market, particularly when that market is already in a saturated condition. Applications for increase in the rates of duty on oats and oat products are at present under the consideration of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, but in 1932–33 to date the Canadian supplies have accounted for 42 per cent. of the imports of oats from all sources, and it is clear that if we desire to deal satisfactorily with the oats situation—and, of course, this is of concern to the whole island and of vital concern to Scotland—we shall need to come to some arrangement with the Canadian Government. I have taken the opportunity of the presence in this country of the Prime Minister of Canada to discuss this question with him, and I have his authority to say that we have every reason to believe that we shall be able to arrive at a mutually satisfactory arrangement.
Meanwhile, a communication has been received from the Import Duties Advisory Committee stating that the Committee understand that conversations have been initiated with the Government of Canada on the subject of the importation of oats into this country, and they are disposed to think that in those circumstances it is expedient to defer a decision on the application for an additional duty on foreign oats until they are acquainted with the outcome of those conversations. The Government concur in the opinion of the committee, and I am sure this Committee as a whole will agree with that view also, because if some arrangement is to be come to with regard to the importation of oats and oat products into this country, it is clearly desirable that any arrangement should be all-embracing, and that we should not deal with this in one section by a committee which is not fully acquainted with the negotia- 948 tions which have been going on with another section. Of course the additional duties would not apply to products imported from the Dominion of Canada. So much for the cereal foods.
Of sugar, we have a total supply in the United Kingdom to the value of £23 millions, of which home production is £4.7 millions. The sugar Subsidy Act comes to an end in 1934. The present year's sugar beet crop is the last that will benefit from its provisions which have been little short of a life-line to arable farmers, particularly in the Eastern counties. The area under sugar beet this year is approximately, 356,00G acres, which just exceeds the previous record of 1930, and represents an increase of 40 per cent. over last year. A decision as to the future of the sugar beet industry will shortly have to be taken by the Government. The Committee is aware that an announcement was made in the last two or three days by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The decision of the Government rests upon the result of a close actuarial investigation now in progress. I have hopes that a decision will not be entirely unfavourable and adverse, but hopes are not things that one puts before this Committee. I will do no more than indicate that that examination is going on, and that we are fully aware of the great necessity of getting out a decision on this matter so that the growers may know what the decision may be in time for the new crop. These actuarial investigations are extremely intricate, and the future of the industry hangs upon the results. I can only say that both the Chancellor and myself are fully aware of the necessity of an early announcement on these points. I will not say to the Committee that I can promise a decision before the House rises, because all sections of the Chancellor's Department are just now being driven at a terrific speed, and I do not want to have a hasty decision for a hasty decision in the case of a Chancellor is more likely to he a decision of an adverse character than otherwise.
Meanwhile, we have effected a reconciliation between the various beet sugar manufacturers and the refiners, and an industrial agreement has been drawn up and a marketing scheme is being prepared which, I think, will probably come forward under the Agricultural Marketing 949 Act, 1931. It is possible too, that advantage will be taken of the rationalisation provisions of the Marketing Bill of 1933, if and when that reaches the Statute Book. Of course, all these points are being fully considered with the Treasury, and we have the advantage of the Treasury in all the steps that have been taken. I would only say, furthermore, that the question of international action to co-ordinate the production and marketing of sugar has been raised at the Monetary and Economic Conference. The Government have intimated that, provided that satisfactory cooperation is forthcoming from all the principal sugar-producing countries, they are willing to limit the production of sugar in the United Kingdom to a reasonable quantity, it being understood that limitation does not mean reduction. The adherence of the United Kingdom and the Colonial Empire to the principle of an international agreement under the Chadbourne plan which, I am sure, will have the support of my hon. and right hon. Friends below the Gangway, will facilitate the co-ordination of the production and marketing of this important world commodity, and it may also resolve some of their philosophical doubts as to how the principle of regulation can be combined with the freeing, of trade.
The total supply of potatoes in the United Kingdom is £38,900,000, of which the home supply is £33,000,000. Growers, of course, suffered last year from low prices for early potatoes as a result, I think, of large imports during July and August and also, I think, from lack of marketing organisation. In order to assist the growers of early varieties, the duty on old potatoes was raised from £1 to £2 a ton up to the end of June this year, and the duty on all potatoes during July and August was raised from £1 to £2 per ton. But I attach much more importance to the scheme for the regulation of marketing of potatoes in Great Britain under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, which has been submitted and, if approved, will come into force in time for the marketing of the main crop this year. The promoters of this scheme have also drawn up complementary proposals for the stabilisation of market supplies and the regulation of imports of potatoes, and these proposals are now receiving the consideration of the Government.
950 I have not time to speak of fruits, vegetables and flowers, but there is a very great improvement. The fruit supplies consumed in this country—of the kinds which can be produced at home—are £16,200,000, of which only 5,000,000 is home-produced, and the flower supply is £3,600,000, of which £2,500,000 is home-produced, and vegetables £21,600,000, of which £13,000,000 is home-produced. If one compares this with the figures for cereals, it will be seen that the vegetable figure is nearly as big as the whole oat crop of the country, cut flowers alone are a third the size of the barley crop, and fruit, flowers and vegetables together are far greater than the wheat and barley crop of the country—a very remarkable figure and one that makes me view with apprehension any suggestion of altering the arrangements under which the very gratifying improvement in these crops has so far taken place. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) knows it is secured by tariffs so high that they make the mouths of other agricultural producers in this country water, and if he approves, he will find difficulty in criticising the other measures we are taking, and if he disapproves it will cause a certain amount of anxiety among the market gardeners.
I will say only a word about the canned fruit industry. It is new in this country, but it has gradually expanded in recent years and the market for canned fruit has unfortunately become overstocked as the result of a heavy increase in imports. I think they are mostly of a kind not produced in this country, although there is indirect competition. The home industry is examining plans for reorganisation and rationalisation of production, possibly under the Marketing Act and the Agricultural Marketing Bill. I again press upon those engaged in this new industry the desirability of seeing that it does not fall into the traps which have beset the feet of our older industries and that, if there is to be expansion, it should be an orderly expansion and should not lead to those sudden expansions, either of plant or of acreage, unrelated to each other, followed by a slump, which brings great discredit upon the whole industry and leads shareholders and producers alike to bankruptcy and makes them disheartened so that for many years the whole progress of these new enterprises is slowed up or stopped.
951 Let me say a word upon another successful scheme, that of hops, because it is a case where, under the Marketing Act of 1931, a marketing scheme not only has been brought forward but is in operation. It was brought into operation in September, 1932, in time for last year's crop. Of course there has been an improvement in the world situation owing to the decrease in world supplies, and it has been reflected in the home market, and the Hops Marketing Board has been able to dispose of the whole of the 1932 crop at an average price of £8 11s. per cwt., whereas in 1931 only a fourth of the crop was sold and the average price was £5 11s. per cwt. We shall be told that that is entirely due to the abandonment of prohibition by America, and various other factors that come in. I am reminded a little of what General Joffre said when he was asked who had won the Battle of the Marne. He said: "I cannot tell you who won it, but, if it had been lost, I can tell you who would have lost it." If the price of hops had fallen from £8 11s. to £5 11s., I can tell the Committee who would have been blamed for that fall. I cannot leave this subject without saying a word as to the services which my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has rendered in this respect. I do not think that the cause of agricultural marketing would stand where it does to-day were it not for the energy and zeal of my right hon. Friend, who has not only assiduously pressed forward what one might call the philosophical side of the case but has provided, what is far dearer to the English heart, a practical working model to which we may refer and the two together, I think, are services in the cause of agriculture which it would be impossible to exaggerate.
When I come to livestock, I do not desire to draw a sunshine picture. The producers are engaged in a desperate struggle, and particularly beef producers. The prices of beef are far from satisfactory, and I will ask the Committee to bear with me while I examine the causes and suggest some steps which we shall take to deal with it. Last Autumn the price of meat in almost every variety was steadily falling. We were able to come to arrangements along the lines which are now about to receive legislative sanction in the Agricultural Market- 952 ing Bill of 1933. It is a most interesting thing in regard to the whole of these proposals that, although the Bill of 1933 is not on the Statute Book, we can today, in this Committee, criticise and explain almost the whole of its main principles, because those principles were brought into action by voluntary agreements brought about by Ministers in their administrative capacity.
The very fact that we were able, not merely to bring into existence but to maintain for many months of violent crisis the agreements that were come to last November is the best answer to those critics who say that the Government are speaking with two voices or that our actions are in any way inconsistent with our speeches at Kensington. In the case of beef, the total supply is £66,600,000, of which £37,900,000 is home-produced. Answers recently given in the House show the depressed state in which this market still is. In June, 1932, the price of fat cattle per live cwt. in England and Wales was 49s. 3d., and in June, 1933, 39s. 6d. For second quality it was 43s. 9d. in 1932 and 35s. 1d. to-day. For fat cows the price was 34s. 9d. in June, 1932, and 27s. 7d. to-day. These figures are the justification for the action in restricting supplies that we took last Autumn. We have taken 19,500 tons of chilled meat off the market. Where would that market be if it had 19,000 tons more of chilled beef placed upon it than it, could absorb to-day?
I shall need to ask the Committee to sanction the further steps which in the light of these figures are inevitable, that is to say, there must be a further limitation of imports of chilled and frozen meat. It is to no one's advantage that the market should be flooded. It is neither to the importers' advantage nor to the home producers, nor in the long run to the consumers. We made arrangements last quarter for a. reduction of chilled beef imports of 2 per cent. below the Ottawa figure. For the first half of this quarter we have arranged for a reduction of 10 per cent. and for the second half of this quarter, which is now coining on, I shall arrange to bring into effect a reduction of 12½ per cent. We have still the last quarter to go and it ma. be that a still further reduction will be necessary to clear supplies for the last quarter of this year, either a reduction 953 under the terms of the agreement with the Argentine of supplies from that country or from the River Plate group or still further measures which were envisaged in the trade agreements and consultations between all meat supplying countries to this country and reductions even over and above that figure.
We have to go cautiously in these matters. We are handling the food of the people. The country is in no condition to stand spectacular or unjustified rises and no one wishes to see such rises take place. We have to balance up the meat supplies coming in regularly from South America with the supplies coming in in a more irregular fashion from the Southern Dominions, where there are signs that the supplies in the second half of the year may not be nearly so great as they were in the first half. Supplies of meat are things that have to be balanced up one against another because, otherwise, there is danger of injury to the consumer and still more of prejudicing the whole question of a regulated supply to the market. If we prejudice the consumer he will not merely be prejudiced against the importer but against the home producer also. The housewife will put it down to the avarice of the home producer if she has been forced to pay an unreasonable proportion of her man's weekly wage to fill her shopping basket. Foreign mutton and lamb and frozen beef are already subject to a cut of 20 per cent., and it will be increased to 25 per cent. next quarter.
The prices of fat stock, of course, have moved up since these restrictions were put on. I do not wish, however, to exaggerate that fact, because any practical farmer knows that to compare back-end or autumn prices with June and July prices is not a fair comparison. Therefore, I thought it best to bring before the Committee frankly the unsatisfactory position of the June prices as compared with the June prices of last year, and I must do so since we asked the House to consent to the steps for the limitation of supply. The House would be wrong if it consented to those restrictions without being sure that an absolutely clear case had been made out for bringing them into operation. But I must say that the prices of fat cattle are higher than they were last November—8 per cent. higher. It is not satisfactory—it is 954 not enough—but, at any rate, it is not 8 per cent. lower. Last autumn it appeared as if there was no bottom to the market, and that an almost unlimited drop comparable to the drops which have taken place, say, in the rubber market or sugar market or other great markets in recent years was about to fall on the heads of the meat producers of this country.
In the case of sheep I can produce a more satisfactory picture. Fat sheep are up as compared with last autumn by 34 per cent. They are 8⅞. per pound as against at this time last year. Fat pigs are up by 7¾ per cent. at 9s. 11d. per score, as against 9s. 2½d. at this time last year. It is interesting to see that the retail prices have not risen in any way to correspond to those increases which have been secured in the wholesale prices. I do not wish to stress that argument unduly, because I should say that in order to obtain a remunerative price to the home producer, a rise in retail prices as well as wholesale prices would meet the case if there was no other way of securing it. Since there was no alteration of retail prices during the race downwards of wholesale prices, it is true that there have been a number of rises in wholesale prices without a corresponding rise in the case of retail prices.
In the case of bacon and ham, we have regulated the position under a, voluntary agreement between the chief foreign exporting countries concerned. Between December, 1932, to May, 1933, inclusive, we took 48,000 tons of pig meat off the market. If anyone had said a year ago that one could withdraw from the market 48,000 tons of pig meat with as little disturbance either in the wholesale or retail trade as has taken place, and with as little movement in the consumers' market as has taken place, so that scarcely any consumer could have given the date on which those changes came into effect, I believe that every one would have said that it was optimism carried to the point of imbecility. These reductions have had the effect of moving up wholesale bacon prices. English green Wiltshire bacon is now quoted at 80s. per cwt., compared with 65s. last November, and, similarly, Danish green bacon is quoted at 70s. per cwt. compared with 51s. last November. As part of our general programme home farmers and curers have submitted 955 schemes under the Marketing Act of 1931 for regulating the marketing of pigs and bacon respectively in Great Britain, and these were unanimously accepted in this House and in another place. The crux and the key of those schemes is that 48,000 tons of pig meat have been taken off the market. If we had left that 48,000 tons of pig meat on the market there would not have been the slightest chance of those schemes being accepted either by the industry or by either of the two Houses of Parliament. It is now necessary for polls of registered producers to be taken upon the question whether those schemes shall remain in force, and the results of the polls should be known early in August, and, if they are favourable, the schemes should be in operation early in September. We are doing our utmost, and I beg hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all sections of the Committee, as they passed these schemes unanimously, to do their utmost to make them a success and to explain them to the growers and to the consumers, and, furthermore, to make sure that people go to the polls, because, as we all know, in an election the great thing is to get one's people to the poll. There is an old election maxim that if you can poll all your own supporters you will win any election.
The dairy produce situation is also a matter of great concern just now to the Government, and of still greater concern perhaps to the dairy producers. I cannot go at length into the dairy produce situation, but it has been examined at great length by the Milk Reorganisation Commission, presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for the Altrincham Division (Sir E. Grigg), to whom the House and the industry owe a very great debt. Again, we have to consider that without some form of regulation both of the overseas supplies as well as of the home supplies of dairy produce to this market, it is impossible for any of these schemes to succeed. To give a single figure, 18,000 tons more butter was put on the British home market this year as compared with last year. The price of Dominion butter last year was £5 5s. per cwt., and this year it is £3 15s.; and 18,000 tons more has been dumped on to the market at £3 15s. than was put upon the market at £5 5s. I think that that shows the desir- 956 ability and the necessity of dealing with the regulation of supplies from overseas, as we desire to deal with the regulation of supplies at home, if we are to secure a stable position in this country.
Exceptionally favourable weather conditions this year resulted in a great increase in supplies of surplus milk sent to the manufacturers. The manufacturers were contemplating accordingly a reduction of output which would have created a difficulty, and, in some cases, a tragic situation for the dairy farmers. We arranged for a cut on all classes of processed milk products, and we were able to secure from the leading manufacturers an undertaking that there need no longer be any question of reducing production, and it is understood that the output of their processing plant has in fact been maintained. Although that is perhaps a small thing, and although I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley that it only represents a proportion and a small proportion of the total milk supplies of this country, yet to Wiltshire and other farmers who were faced with the shutting down of the factories to which they send their milk it is not a small but a very large thing. From the point of view of the milk industry as a whole, the effect of the market being flooded by additional supplies cannot be over-estimated.
The egg and poultry situation does demand consideration. The Scottish producers are at present examining whether they will or will not join in the proposals for a Reorganisation Commission. I think that it will be highly desirable to have a Reorganisation Commission here. The egg and poultry production in this country is so largely a question of the small man and is of vital importance to many smallholding movements in which this House is greatly interested.
I wonder if the 'Committee realise the enormous value of the produce which is being reviewed under all these schemes which the Boards, as they come into existence, will have to administer. They are comparable to the vastest undertakings of the land. The whole electricity supply undertakings of Great Britain had a revenue from consumers in 1930–31 of £52,000,000. Milk alone is a comparable figure to that, and the Milk Board, if it comes into existence, will have to review a revenue of £41,000,000, and will have 957 to secure from somewhere administrative capacity, devotion and skill equivalent to that engaged in the whole of the electricity undertakings of this country. The railway companies of Great Britain in 1932 had gross receipts of £170,000,000, and the value of the meat group together—beef and veal, mutton and lamb, and pig meat—total £150,000,000. Those who survey the fat stock industry of this country will have to survey a gross revenue practically equal to the revenue of the whole of the railway undertakings of this country. Even with regard to coal, which has a Department of State al: to itself, my hon. Friends opposite will be interested to compare the £116,000,000, which represents the annual production of coal, with the £150,000,000 for meat alone, and £41,000,000 for milk.
I think that perhaps I have detained the Committee too long, but these are figures and facts which are not only of the greatest importance to us at home, but, as we have seen, and as I frankly admit, are of the greatest importance in international affairs. We have somehow or other to dovetail together the need for finding room for the produce of our own hands and soil together with the produce hurried towards the shores of this country literally from the ends of the world in pursuance of contracts, undertakings and investments carried out many years ago but only now coming to fruition. This has puzzled wise men and fools, and perhaps is puzzling the wise men longer than it is likely to puzzle the fools. We have recently had a most interesting recantation of the whole position from Mr. John Maynard Keynes, who has done as much as anyone to popularise what one might call the strictly international view in the past. In a recent article on the present position, he has said:But let goods be home-spun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible.That is a very remarkable statement from a wise man, and he goes out of his way to apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) for the strictures which he passed upon the quality of his thought at an earlier stage. That is a beginning, and not the end. We are in the middle of the struggle. It is not a time for running up flags and for hurrahs. The position of producers of many of the staple agricultural 958 supplies is desperate, and that is no exaggeration. We have got on a line of country which I think we can follow. Let us follow it as a Parliament as a whole, and as a House as a whole, remembering that the initiation of this policy was not due to any one party. The credit for it if it succeeds, as I believe it will succeed, will certainly not he claimed by any one party.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
As is usual on these occasions, although the right hon. Gentleman has delighted the Committee with a very lucid explanation of the activities of his Department, I am obliged to move that his salary be reduced by £100. I am not sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman deserves that reduction, but we can only express our views in the way at our disposal by moving that his salary be reduced, and we know that when we vote in favour of that Amendment we shall be certain to lose. We all admire the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's great industry, whether we agree or disagree with his policy. As the former Minister of Agriculture said 12 months ago, the Department is responsible not only for administering a hundred Acts of Parliament, but that its activities extend to land and sea,and range from blood-stock to beetles, mushrooms to milling, microbes to marketing, production to protection, tilling to trawling, and quotas to Kew Gardens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1932; col. 591, Vol. 265.]Since the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Estimates last year we have had in operation the Wheat Act, the Horticultural Products (Emergency Customs Duties) Act, and the Ottawa Agreements, which are the bane of his life. I do not know whether hon. Members noticed that during the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech in all the difficulties that cropped up here and there, Ottawa shouted aloud. There are also voluntary restrictions and conditions, trading agreements and marketing schemes, which will provide plenty of employment for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. What the results of the normal activities of the Department, other than the extraordinary activities, 959 will be, remain obscure, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said:hope springs eternal in the human breast,and that hope has been springing eternal in the breasts of the farmers ever since 1896, and at the end of the 37 years farmers and agriculture are worse off than before. There is one fact upon which we ought to congratulate ourselves, and that is that, at long last, not only the right hon. Gentleman, but the Lord President of the Council and the Conservative party almost as a whole, with the exception of a few last ditchers, are finally educated on the question of marketing. To that extent the propaganda inside and outside this House has had good effect. All the schemes of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman depend upon the value of marketing.
I will not follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman through the whole gamut of the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture, but I want to make reference to several minor matters before dealing with the major questions confronting the Committee and the country. I notice in the Estimates that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has allocated less for education than did the present Home Secretary last year. The present Home Secretary last year, almost with tears in his voice, plaintively told the Committee that the need for economy was so great that he had to cut down the educational and research services. Last year the service for education was reduced by £144,150, and this year it is further reduced by £4,500. The Estimate for research went down last year by £107,080, and this year it is further reduced by £6,645. With all the gigantic problems confronting not only agriculture, but every industry, this is the last moment when we ought to cut down our provision for research and education. As the Lord President of the Council has said, and as the Minister of Agriculture has said, we are living in a totally different world to-day, and it is astonishing how little we know about the problems that confront us, and I do not think it is the wisest economy to cut down the Estimate for education and research.
An agricultural research council scheme was fully worked out by Dr. Addison in 1931. Such a scheme has been pleaded 960 for by agriculturists all over the country. Are we to understand, from the failure of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to make any reference to it, that the scheme is absolutely dead and gone and that no further attention is to be paid to it? There has been a demand for years for the reconstruction of the Veterinary College. Are we to understand that that proposition has been completely forgotten? Some of these things, despite the need for economy in certain directions, might very well prove to be the wisest possible expenditure by the Minister of Agriculture. The Wheat Act is on the Statute Book, and I agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that it is working comparatively smoothly and that farmers are congratulating themselves on the results of that Act. I should like to know, and I think the Committee are entitled to know, how many assignments have been allocated to landowners, bankers and merchants. While it may be the best of all possible policies to provide £6,000,000 per annum subsidy for wheat growers, it is hardly fair to the consumers that they should be called upon to provide a price for a commodity which guarantees a rent which may be a wholly fictitious rent if normal economic forces were having their full pay. We ought to know, therefore, and I hope the Minister will tell us, if the figures are available, how many assignments have been made to landowners, bankers and merchants.
I should also like to know whether during the past 12 months any attempt has been made to ascertain on the large mechanised farm, the middle mixed farm and the small farm, what the real cost per quarter of wheat is. The Department has its University Costing Department at its disposal. During the passing of the Wheat Act we were credibly informed by university officials that wheat could be grown round about 25s. 6d. a quarter. 32s. 6d. a quarter may be an economic prices, and we are guaranteeing 45s. I am not objecting to the price of 45s., but what the Minister ought to tell us is what is the real economic cost of the production per quarter of wheat, taking the large mechanised farm, the middle sized mixed farm and the small farm. If this Act is to continue, we ought to know all there is to know about it. If the Government wish to carry the industrial popula- 961 tion with them, they can best do it by providing them with all the information at their disposal. All the information is paid for by the general taxpayer and consumer, who provides the salaries for those who are in the universities and the various research departments.
The right hon. Gentleman might have gone a little further in regard to fruit, vegetables and flowers. We are paying duties some of which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are enough to make the mouths of agriculturists water. They amount from 10 to 100 per cent. on fruit, flowers and vegetables. We are entitled to know what number of fruit trees have been planted as a result of these duties. We ought to have some idea what effect on unemployment has been created by the extra cost we have to pay for these various commodities. The right hon. Gentleman referred to sugar beet as having been the lifeline of the arable farmer since 1924. That may be true, but the right hon. Gentleman ought to be more specific in his reference to this lifeline, which has cost the taxpayer £30,000,000 since 1924. We ought to know what are the real assets to the nation as a result of this tremendous payment. How near is the industry approaching economic stability? We ought to know whether or not this expenditure is going to be of real lasting value, either in the provision of work or the production of an economic industry in this country.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman covered the whole universe but not a single reference did he make to the agricultural labourer, the sort of house he has to live in and the conditions under which he lives. An Act of Parliament was passed two years ago whereby 40,000 houses could be erected, ostensibly for agricultural labourers, which might, to some extent, have eased the terror of the tied house problem in rural areas. We have heard from the Minister of Health that 1,800 houses have been either erected or are in course of erection. The Minister of Agriculture ought to have expressed some sentiments in regard to the problem of rural housing.
§ Mr. EVERARD
On a point of Order. Shall we be allowed to reply on the question of the housing of the agricultural labourer? It seems to me that this is an agricultural Debate and not a housing Debate.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have no desire to transgress the rules, but as the question of cottages for agricultural labourers is part of the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, I shall not attempt to step into the world of legislation. Whoever the Minister may be who is responsible for the 600,000 or the 550,000 agricultural labourers in this country, it is essential that he should be constantly in co-operation with the Minister of Health for the purpose of expediting house building and of removing the terrors to the agricultural labourer of the tied cottage problem. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made no reference to the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act. The present Home Secretary when he was Minister of Agriculture claimed to have economised to the extent of £1,000,000 because he was going to do nothing under that piece of legislation. I do not think that reflects credit on the Government. I think the figure of £1,000,000 was so fictitious as to be ridiculous. What we think might be done, when so many different experiments are being tried, is this. You are paying £6,000,000 per annum for wheat production, and we ought to have that large industrial experimental farm which is visualised by the Land Utilisation Act.
In referring to small holdings the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that it would be black treachery to put more people on the land until we had made sure that those who were on the land would be kept on the land. That policy is reflected in the Estimates; there is £15,000 less available this year. The second part of the Land Utilisation Act is lying dormant. He made no reference at all to allotments. In my view the meanest of all economies which the Government have practised is the economy on allotments. In a short space of time 64,000 persons were placed on allotments. A good deal has been said about training men and preserving their physique. Can anyone tell me of a better method of preserving their physical condition than working in their own gardens? Yet this National Government must continue to go round with the hat begging money for seed and potatoes for those who desire to cultivate allotments. When 963 the Minister of Agriculture does get a moment to spare, I know he is a busy man, will he see whether Sections 14 and 16 of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act can be brought into operation? Under that Act local authorities and the State, without begging from door to door for a few shillings for persons who are unemployed to enable them to cultivate an allotment, can co-operate, and by so doing tens of thousands of men during the summer months might be indulging in the very healthy occupation of providing themselves with £10 or £20 worth of vegetables. I hope that the desire of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to restrict available supplies, to organise a scarcity, will not descend to the depths of preventing people working on allotments lest it might knock the bottom out of the price level of agricultural produce.
Under the Land Utilisation Act the Government have power, where a farmer or an owner, owing to poverty, is unable to cultivate his farm properly, to buy the land for a consideration, drain and re-equip it, and sell or dispose of it in some other way after having put the farm in a state ready for cultivation. Nothing is done in this direction. The Act also gives power to the Government where there is an eccentric owner of land who could but will not utilise it for food production, to compel the owner to put the land in a decent slate of cultivation, and if he fails to do so after six months the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has power to do the repairs himself and charge the owner with the cost, or dispose of the farm in order that it might be cultivated. This Government really did create the belief that they would do a great deal not only to make farming pay but to solve the problem of unemployment.
Let me refer to what I regard as the major crime of this National Government in regard to agricultural land and agriculture generally. I refer to the saving on land drainage. The present Home Secretary will remember that on the 15th of June last year we had a special day all to ourselves to bring to the notice of the House the urgent need for doing something for the flooded areas of the country. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman agreed that it was necessary, but said that it was equally true that there was nothing left in the purse, there was no 964 more money to spend, and that therefore his policy was to discourage rather than encourage catchment boards. I have had letters from all over the country demanding that the Government shall be urged, in co-operation with the catchment boards, to drain the land of this country. In 1926 it was regarded as of urgent public importance. In 1927 the Commission reported and invited whatever Government was in power to take steps not only to establish the 47 catchment boards but to provide such funds as may be necessary, and to encourage and inspire catchment boards into activity so that large acreages of land might be brought back into cultivation. They said that 4,320,000 acres of land in England and Wales were dependent for their fertility on being properly drained, that 1,755,000 acres were in immediate need of drainage, and that 1,279,000 acres were periodically flooded.
The last Conservative Government, as might have been expected, did nothing before leaving office in 1929. The Labour Government passed their Act in 1930. Catchment boards were established, but the moment this National Government came into office the present Home Secretary stifled their activities at once. Talk about black treachery! If ever there was black treachery it was the attitude of the Government in economising on land drainage last year. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman informed drainage authorities, despite the many promises made during the passage of the Act and despite the fact that Section 55 gives a definite promise of financial assistance to all catchment. boards, that State assistance could only be provided for works of emergency, and he proceeded at once to reduce the expenditure on drainage by £273,000; from £340,000 to £72,000. The present Rinister of Agriculture has added to the disaster of last year. Not content with the notice to do nothing in 1932 the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has further reduced the sum available for drainage by £11,500. That implies that the Government have no confidence in their agricultural policy. If they had they would bring back into cultivation the maximum acreage at once and thus provide temporary work for those who would undertake the drainage work and permanent employment for those who would be employed on the land brought back into cultivation. I 965 think the Government have no more confidence in their agricultural policy to-day than they have had for the last 20 or 30 or even 50 years. I propose to show that whatever policy they have pursued has been a colossal failure.
Let me make a special reference to what has happened in my own immediate neighbourhood. The Don Valley is not the only valley in this country. In 1929 there were schemes at the Ministry of Agriculture affecting not only the DOD Valley but the Great Ouse, the Ouse in Yorkshire, the River Thames, the River Trent and the River Stour, and worked out on a 10 years' basis thousands of men would have been employed for a period of 10 years, the cost would have been comparatively small and the acreage brought into cultivation would have been tremendous. One is amazed at the almost callous passivity of the Government, particularly in view of what has happened in the Don Valley, where three times in a period of IS months over 1,000 people have been driven from their homes and 11,000 acres have been under water from three to six weeks. Many small farmers in the Don Valley have been sent into the Bankruptcy Court, and it is impossible for them, without any confidence as to the future, to farm as they ought to farm. This economy on drainage will go down as one of the blackest spots against this Government.
Catchment boards in some areas are doing their best. The catchment board of the Ouse are preparing a scheme, if it has not already reached the Minister it will be there shortly, but unless the Government are going to stretch a point over and above the estimate of £61,000 for the whole country little or no encouragement will be given to the Ouse Catchment Board. It will mean that the work will be held up and that the residents in the Bentley area and the farmers in the Don Valley will be in fear and trembling every autumn as to what is going to be their lot. The Government need not think that they have been too generous to necessitous areas. They have put at least 260,000 more paupers on the local authorities, an additional cost of 23,500,000; they have given them £500,000 and expect a vote of thanks. On the top of that they regard it as economy to save national funds which would help to drain the land. It is not waste or extravagance if local authorities find the money. When 966 is economy not economy? Do the Government want any drainage work to be carried out? The question of drainage ought to occupy the attention of the Minister of Agriculture. He ought to appreciate that the commissions which have been sitting from 1923 and all the reports which have been submitted to the Government are not all fairy tales and that there is ample justification for putting into effect some of the recommendations which some of these committees have made.
The question of agriculture, as I see it, has been dealt with by various Governments in two sections. They have always had the farmers and land owners in mind, but labourers have been in the background. Conservative and Liberal Governments have been solving the problem of agriculture ever since I came here, and the Minister admits that it is in a worse condition to-day than ever before. He also admitted that they proposed to take advantage of the Act which was passed by the Labour party during their two years of office. Let me review all the things that have been done for the farmer and land owner and compare them with what has been done for the agricultural labourer. From 1896 to 1929 farmers have been relieved of £70,000,000 in rates, an annual gift of £11,000,000 at the present time. Since 1924 land owners have received from State funds £30,000,000 in respect of sugar beet, and the farmers' share has run to about £13,500,000 or £14,000,000. In 1928 a Tory Government passed the Credit Act, which guaranteed £750,000 for 60 years, interest free, and gave the farmers, or those in control of the administration, £10,000 a year for 10 years for expenses. Since 1929 they have been relieved of £1,000,000 annually for railway rates. Since 1932 there has been in operation an Act which will cost £6,000,000 per annum in helping wheat producers. We have import duties of from 10 to 100 per cent. imposed on various articles. The policy of the Government as applied to bacon, beef, mutton and lamb, is calculated to increase prices by about 2d. a 1b. If the Government succeed in that policy it means that the consumers will pay a further £55,000,000 per annum in prices. In the case of the Rural Housing Act, for every house that the farmer or the landlord puts into a decent condition by spending £100 upon it, the State and the local authorities guarantee him £66.
967 There have been Income Tax concessions, Estate Duty concessions and various other concessions during that period.
What has been the result of it all, the reduction in rates, the total abolition of rates, gifts for beet and wheat and for credits, and for beef, mutton, lamb and all the rest? What has been the result of it all? The Minister tells us that agriculture to-day is more depressed than ever it has been before. Therefore, we are to conclude that the policy of the Government is a colossal failure. At the moment the Minister is working overtime in organising scarcity. Farmers are dismissing men and producing less. It seems to us that there is a screw loose in this Tory policy. While some of these experiments may be permissible, while we regard marketing as very desirable, the screw will remain loose as long as we have no import board with absolute control over the price of imported foodstuffs. We cannot see why the 40 per cent. produced at home should dominate the price of the 60 per cent. that is imported. We can perhaps see some justification for the 60 per cent, imported dominating the price that should go to the home producer. Merely to restrict supplies will not be a lasting solution. We feel that the present policy of the Government, in the absence of an import board, will ultimately fail.
What have the Government done for the agricultural worker? Everyone will agree that various Governments have been extremely generous to the farmers and the landowners. A right hon. and gallant Gentleman who sits for one of the Cornish constituencies made the statement many times in this House that whatever is given to the farmer ultimately finds its way to the landowner. I entirely agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. What we are giving now to the farmer will ultimately in some measure find its way to the landowner. The Noble Lord the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) says he does not see why it should not do so. If the farmer cannot secure for his produce a price that will provide him with a decent existence, the first thing that ought to go by the board obviously is the rent, for it is the price of the commodity that determines what the rent should be, and if the price is so small that the farmer is left with no surplus, 968 instead of the landowner being the first to receive rent he ought to be the last. What have various Governments done for the farm worker? The only Government that ever made a stand for the agricultural worker was the Labour Government of 1924. That Government gave him a wages regulation Act. The Bill provided the machinery, but the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) was one of those responsible for cutting out of it a proposed national wages board, which, if it existed at this moment, would be a backstay to the agricultural labourer and would help him to secure some of the funds that are going from the Treasury into the farmers' pockets.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The hon. Gentleman says that wages were guaranteed, but employment was not guaranteed, and there are fewer labourers on the land to-day than ever before.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. No wages were guaranteed to any labourer in this country. What was done was that a machine was established which enabled the two sides of the industry to come together, to put their cards on the table, and on the basis of the economic position of the industry to fix a wage. The right hon. Gentleman knows that farm labourers in various parts of the country through sheer intimidation are afraid to ask for that to which they are entitled. He knows that a national wages board would have been a safeguard for the labourer. But the right hon. Gentleman had that proposal cut out of the Act of 1924. When the Labour Government came into office in 1929 they knew from personal contact with labourers all over the country that evasions were general. The Labour Government employed six more inspectors. Test inspections were carried out, and as many as 28 per cent. of evasions were found in various counties. Farmers were breaking the law by the thousand and the Tory Government from 1924 to 1929 permitted it. The test inspections were doing great work.
Now the National Government has come to the assistance of the farmer, who voices his sympathy with the labourer, though he goes no farther. The National Government has dismissed six inspectors. With what result? The test and other inspections immediately fell from 4,223 to 969 3,133. The Ministry is aware that men all over the country are being denied what is due to them, to the extent of 18 or 20 per cent. in some counties. The Government are condoning thefts from agricultural workers by a refusal to administer the law as it ought to be administered. If what has been done for the farmer and landowner, compared with what has been done for the labourer, were known by every agricultural labourer in the country, there would be fewer Tory Members in this House than there have ever been. In a word we feel that the National Government are not "playing the game" in regard to the agricultural labourer.
When the Wheat Bill was under discussion we sought by our Amendments to secure that the labourer got at least one-third of the profit. But not a penny did he get. We sought to do something under the Agricultural Marketing Act. Again not a penny for the labourer. The Minister said that we did less than justice to our own Act. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the Act is quite a good one if properly administered. But if the 12 inspectors now employed have to spend all their time on complaints that are sent from individuals, from unions and elsewhere, and have no time to make inspections, the result is obvious. It is clear to anyone that between 50,000 and 100,000 farm labourers in this country are not getting what they are entitled to. I do not suggest that that number are not receiving the recognised county wage, but payment for overtime and things of that description they are not getting.
One other thing I want to say in that connection. It is not enough merely to rely upon complaints coming in from all parts of the country. It is the job of the Ministry to see that the law is carried out effectively. If we are to give money for beet and wheat and fruit and vegetables, for rates and for all sorts of purposes, to the farmer and the landlord, we ought at least to see not what the industry cannot afford—we do not ask for that—but what the industry can afford is paid, and that the decisions which have been reached are faithfully carried out by the farmers. The farmer who robs his labourer is a danger to good and decent farmers, of whom there are many. He is not only a danger to the 970 decent farmer, but he is driving to the towns the best and most skilled agricultural labourers. These men know that once they utter a word of complaint they are dismissed and turned out of their houses, and that their goods and chattels are put on the street. Rather than make a complaint they prefer not to say a word.
I finish as I began. I regret very much the economies on the services of education, research, smallholdings and allotments. I lament the fact that the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act is still dormant. There is necessity for providing the few thousand pounds that were made available for allotments for unemployed men. I appeal to the Minister to see whether he cannot work Clauses 14 and 16 of that Act so that instead of begging cap in hand these miserable people may receive a modicum of justice. We think that the Minister ought to take a personal interest in wages. We want to protest as vehemently as we can against further economies on land drainage. We think that land drainage expenditure would be most productive.
We are hopeful, even though our hope may be in vain, that some part of the Government's policy may succeed, and that some sort of prosperity may be restored to agriculture. If that is possible, we think it would be sound expenditure to set aside a few thousand pounds to help those catchment boards who are really anxious to drain their areas. If the Government do nothing and if lives are lost in the future owing to lack of drainage, we shall charge the Government with responsibility for loss of life, for loss of health and for the bankruptcy of small local authorities who are involved in heavy losses every time their areas are flooded. We cannot believe that the policy of organising scarcity merely to increase prices is going to be a permanent cure for the ills of the agricultural industry. We feel, however, that with a planned industry, with full control over imports and also full control over the price of imported food, marketed and sold in relation to our home produce, we might conceivably provide a maximum market for home-produced foodstuffs under an efficient costing system, and provide the maximum of work for British men on British soil without adversely and almost violently affecting the consumer in this country. It is because of 971 some sins of omission and many sins of commission that I move that the Vote be reduced by £100.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
In rising to speak on behalf of the Members who sit on these benches, I wish to congratulate the Minister on the clear, comprehensive and admirable exposition he has made of the work of his Department. I desire to express to him our personal satisfaction that his strongest arguments and the best of his debating power have been put forward to counter the arguments and speeches made from these benches. There are many views on both the permanent and the emergency policies of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and I desire at the outset to deal with a subject referred to by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), namely, the economies and retrenchments which the Minister has deemed it necessary to make in these Estimates. Agricultural education, crop research, and the eradication of disease are very important questions, and I regret therefore the reduction in these Estimates of expenditure on activities in those directions, as compared with the Estimates of 1932–33. I also regret that agricultural scholarships have been reduced from £18,300 to £16,050. This is chiefly accounted for by a reduction from £2,000 to £350 in respect of intending teachers and organisers.
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman himself was aware that now, more than ever, we need expert agricultural organisers. In the address which he so ably delivered to the Council of Agriculture on 18th May he said that the only danger which he foresaw to the reorganisation of agriculture under his aegis was that there might not be enough free executive ability in the agricultural community to grapple with and master the tremendous problems of these great schemes. If we are going to reduce the grants on scholarships and on agricultural education generally, from where are these super-men to come? There are also reductions in the grant for research to colleges and institutions, and in the provision for livestock improvement. There is a reduction in the grants for land drainage and for the improvement of rural water supply. The hon. Member for Don Valley dealt with the question of drainage, but 972 he omitted any reference to the question of rural water supply which affects a great number of villages throughout England. It is of the utmost importance, not only to the health of the inhabitants, but also in connection with various branches of animal and vegetable husbandry, and I would press upon the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that he should give further consideration in the future to the grants made in that direction.
I now come to a subject with which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt very extensively and which is of particular interest to the part of England which I represent. I refer to the beet-sugar subsidy. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has pointed out that the £2,900,000 in this Vote applies to the last year of the subsidy. This is the final year, and the Government are inquiring and studying as to what future help, if any, they can give to the cultivation of sugar-beet and the production of sugar in this country. I am glad that the right hon. and gallant Gentlemen stated that the Government were going to give their answer to the farmers on this subject with all the expedition possible, because they realise the urgency of the matter from the point of view of the farmers who have to make their plans. I am particularly concerned, however, with a question of investigation on which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman only touched very lightly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer I think to a request by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) promised in his Budget speech of 1932 that an investigation would take place. Are we to be asked to vote on future policy in this matter without such an investigation? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that discussions were taking place between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and various interests concerned, but the result of any examination of this question should have been before us ere now.
I am not sure that this procrastination has not been to some extent deliberate. I am driven to that conclusion because of an answer given to a question the other day by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He said arrangements were being made for an expert investigation into the financial aspects of the proposals submitted by the representatives of the United Kingdom sugar industry. I am 973 not sure that that is the information which we want. If that statement implies that the examination will be confined to the arrangement which is being made at the present time between the refiners and the beet-sugar companies, I feel certain that this Committee will not be satisfied. What is required, not only by this Committee but by public opinion. it; a thorough examination of every aspect of this industry which has been so much discussed and criticised. We want to know its economic position; we want to be informed on the financial soundness of the companies, and, last but not, least, on the position of the grower. We do not want to repeat the blunders which were made in 1925 in the Act which gave fie factories astronomical profits in years of high subsidy and brought about. a position in which the grower of to-day bears the brunt of the subsidy reductions and the fall in sugar prices without any cost falling on the factories which piled up colossal reserves.
There is also a Government proposal to the World Economic Conference on the question of a world agreement on sugar production. There is no doubt from what the Financial Secretary has said, and also from the words which fell from the Minister of Agriculture to-day, that there is some definite suggestion that Britain will limit its production of sugar. What does this imply? It is a serious matter as this sugar supply agreement appears to be the only concrete achievement likely to emerge from the international Conference. It will represent, I suppose, the sweets of office to some of the delegates, if they are able to go back to Cuba and elsewhere with a satisfactory agreement from their point of view. But we should like to ask: does it mean that sugar-beet cultivation will be limited in this country to the same areas and the same farmers as at present? This is the position that will arise if any aid is granted by subsidy or tariff to cultivators of sugar-beet. One farmer will see his neighbour doing well out of this crop, and he too will attempt to grow it. Will the Minister of Agriculture then step in and tell him that he may not do so, because we have agreed with Cuba and the West Indies to have only so much sugar-beet grown in this country? Will the present growers, the people who have laid down their acreage for sugar-beet, have a monopoly of sugar-beet cul- 974 tivation and of State assistance whatever form it may take, or will the British quota be divided between the factories? Will it be left to the factories to place contracts, and thus determine which farmers may receive the State subvention? I do not think that the past conduct of the factories justifies giving them that additional power.
There is no doubt that, before long, all farmers will become accustomed to being told what they may grow and how much. This power of dictation to farmers is the basic element of the Marketing Bill policy introduced by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It is true that in the speeches which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman makes to farmers in the country he speaks to them, as it were, with a carrot in one hand and a whip in the other—held behind his back. He speaks to them of quantitative regulation of imported and home supplies of bacon and meat and dairy produce and so forth. The Marketing Bill puts the matter more crudely, giving power to the marketing boards to regulate the quantity of any product with which it deals that may be sold. I fear that this power may lead to stereotyping and crystallising production and to limiting the production of certain crops to certain producers and certain areas. I wonder what will happen to the farmer who wants to change over from wheat to some other crop, when a determined quantity of that crop is already being grown? Will he be allowed to do so or will he be fined?
I do not think that most farmers appreciate these very drastic methods of control which are implied under the schemes. of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman,. but there is one farmer, and a very important one in this country, who, I am surprised to see, does. That farmer is the Lord President of the Council, the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), who confessed in a speech which he made in Glasgow as far back as November, 1932, that we were going to see far more control in the matter of agriculture, and that control of this magnitude would have been scoffed at before the War. He said of the Pig Report:If it had been published before the War, the amount of control that is contained in it would have sent every farmer in the country through the roof. More control, I think, we are hound to have.975 With all due respect and in all humility, I cannot say that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I am quite certain that the farmer dislikes control to-day just as much as he did before the War. Moreover, I do not agree with the Minister of Agriculture in thinking that control has come to stay, because there is no doubt that when prices rise to a remunerative level, the farmer will be tempted to, and will, throw off irksome regulations, and the consumer will throw off import restrictions if he can do so, and generally he can.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman discussed the restriction of the acreage under wheat in the United States of America, and I ventured to interrupt him and say that there was a difference between the United States and ourselves, inasmuch as the United States exported the greater part of the wheat that they grew, whereas the produce that we grow in these islands is for our own consumption, and that therefore it was quite a. different thing to rationalise an exporting industry from rationalising an industry which deals only with home consumption. Let me remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that only recently there appeared in the "Times" an article explaining the attitude of the gentleman called, I think, General Johnson, whom the President of the United States has put at the head of his industrial control. The gallant General pointed out in the broadcast which he gave, I think, that when prices were low, all these industries came in willingly, asking for restriction and accepting any conditions that he made, but that now prices were rising they were escaping from him and doing as they did before when there were no regulations at all, and that they were treating these regulations with contempt. I suggest to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that, when agricultural prices rise, as I hope they will, the same disregard will be shown by the farmer for his recommendations and his orders as is being shown at present in America by the industrialists for those of General Johnson.
While on the subject of import restrictions, may I say a word about the recent trade agreements with the Scandinavian countries and the Argentine as they affect British agriculture? Tariffs and quotas may or may not be beneficial to the 976 nation as a whole, but most of our bargains with foreign countries must be with primary producing countries, and therefore there can be no doubt that if there are any concessions on our side, they must be granted in the market for agricultural produce, and this undoubtedly is the case in the different trade agreements which have been made lately. The Minister of Agriculture has tried to convince the farmer that we have conceded nothing to the Danes. I wonder how he can reconcile that with the efforts of the President of the Board of Trade and his very able first lieutenant to prove that the Danes have given us substantial advantages. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman accused us of saying that the Government had two faces. Well, I can hardly reconcile those two utterances from those two different Ministries. Are the Danes. Swedes, and Argentines fools enough to make such one-sided bargains?
We have given assurance both in the matter of tariffs and in the matter of quotas, and may I be permitted to point out the great difference between tariff bargaining and quota bargaining? A concession in tariffs merely means that we increase the importers' power to compete in price, but a concession in quota is quite a different thing. It means that we decrease the home producers' power to compete at all. This is obvious from the undertakings given to Denmark and Sweden, not to reduce their butter quotas below 2,300,000 and 185,000 cwts. respectively. The intention of a quota is to maintain remunerative prices by controlling quantity coming on the market, but the Ottawa Agreements preclude us from reducing butter imports from the Dominions. The agreements with Denmark and Sweden preclude us from reducing their butter imports below 2,485,000 cwts. Therefore, I am reluctantly driven to the conclusion that we can maintain remunerative prices only by restricting the home producer.
§ Major ELLIOT
Does not my hon. Friend grasp that the quota mentioned in the agreements provides for 13½ per cent. off our butter imports?
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
I fully realise that, but I would remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of the assurance that he has given the Danes and the Swedes. This is the first trade agree- 977 ment in which quotas have been used, and there can be no doubt that quotas will be an arm and a weapon which will be used in future for bargaining. These countries will come to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and say, "We are prepared to take so much steel or coal if you will allow us to export so much butter and other agricultural produce to you."
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
Exactly, and therefore the question will come, Will it be the British farmer or industrialist or the foreign farmer who will benefit by these agreements At present I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the British farmer sees no value in this "quid pro quota" policy, because the foreign farmer gets the quota, the British manufacturer gets the "quid," and the home farmer says he gets "nowt." Indeed, there is no doubt that the whole of this quota policy is entirely based on a Socialistic mis-apprehension. Although there are no import boards in this scheme, there is not much difference between import boards and a control which is shared between the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade However, the Minister will argue that this method of trade regulation must be the right one, since he has the monopoly of right methods, and I quote him here again, when he spoke only a snort time ago to the Royal Empire Society of his policy as one ofcanalisation of international trade to get production into the right channels.This exposes the whole weakness of a long-range policy of quotas and restrictions. How can the Minister be capable of determining the right channels of trade? Does he believe that those coming after him will be equally capable After all, they may come from these benches. But let me remind him of the discrepancies which exist between his own opinions and those of the right hon. Gentleman who is his neighbour at the present time. Only a few weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was making a, speech to the representatives of 66 nations, and this is what he said:Clearing arrangements and barter arrangements which have the effect of diverting trade into channels in which, but for such arrangements, it would not naturally 978 flow are clearly inconsistent with these principles. The United Kingdom Delegation, therefore, trust that the Conference will secure international agreement for the abandonment of arrangements which limit the movement of trade to unnatural channels.Does this mean that the Government as a whole rejects the views and the thesis of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, and does not think that these problems can be solved by the long-range policy of the canalisation of trade? I sincerely hope that it does. Why does the Minister try so hard to find scientific justification for his policy? Because he knows that it is not a policy which he can justify by its results. He has told us that he agrees that the conditions are very bad. His own test, after all, was price level. He cannot claim that it has succeeded in this direction, because he has himself told us that it has not. Imports are restricted by the Ottawa and Argentine Agreements, yet the prices continue to decline. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman told us a very interesting story about Marshal Joffre and the Battle of the Marne, and he said that Marshal Joffre had said that if the battle had been lost, there would have been no doubt as to who had lost it. To-day the right hon. and' gallant Gentleman says he has lost his battle. What he says is that the position might have been much worse. That is exactly, I suppose, what Von Kluck, who lost the Battle of the Marne, said when he returned home to Germany.
Take the figures from the Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture for fat cattle. The figures for 1933, compared with an index figure for May, 1932, of 120, are, for January, 110, February, 107, March, 105, April, 100, and May, 97. Those are the figures for fat cattle. For store cattle they have also fallen, from 107 in January to 99 in May, and the general index of agricultural prices issued by the Ministry gives 102 for May of this year, five points lower than January last and 13 points below May, 1932. That surely goes to prove that the policy of raising prices by purely restrictive measures must fail under present world conditions.
Consuming power at the present time is declining under deflationary influences. Therefore, if there is any tendency to a rise in prices, it is neutralised by the decrease in consumption. I hope the circle may be broken by the arrest and 979 reversal of deflationary tendencies, but until that time comes, I fear that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's schemes may prove to be futile, or largely futile, arid afterwards I fear they may be largely unnecessary. At any rate, I hope so. In the past, world agriculture has languished under deflationary monetary influences and has revived under an expansionist policy, and I think this may happen again. I am glad to see that this view is shared by the expert, Professor Ashby, whom the Government have chosen to sit on the Milk Reorganisation Commission. Those of us who share this view are, of course, profoundly disappointed at the outcome of the World Economic Conference, and may I urge on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the interests of agriculture, the possibility of action, on the line of expansion, in close connection not only with our Dominions, but with America and even with the gold bloc countries? I would urge on the Minister of Agriculture to make available further and more abundant sources of agricultural credit in order to enable the agriculturists to maintain their standard of cultivation and to liquidate also their high interest rate burdens. I hope that in this respect the Minister will consider the burden of tithe. Tithe was fixed in 1925 in relation to a price level estimate. I hope this will receive more sympathy from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman than it has received in the earlier announcements of Government policy. The Minister has claimed in the past that his policy will put 500,000 fresh men on the land.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
I am glad to hear that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not made it. It has, however, been made on many platforms by those who support his policy. Anyhow, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said to-day that he considered that at the present time there could not be a great flow from the cities to the land, and that it was difficult to keep people on the land. There is no doubt that people are not tempted to remain on the land for two reasons. One is because of the housing, which is in a far worse condition in the rural areas than in the cities, bad as it is there. The second reason is that 980 there is no unemployment insurance for the agricultural workers. I hope that when the general scheme for unemployment insurance is brought forward by the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Agriculture will have brought his influence to bear on him and that the agricultural labourer will be included in the unemployment insurance scheme.
I want to refer to one more question which is of importance to the agriculturist, namely, the question of the export of pedigree stock. This is very important to the farmer because of both the financial returns which it has brought to him and the prestige which the British stock raiser has derived from it. I suggest two points for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's consideration. The first is the cost of exportation. The other day an interesting article on this point appeared in the "Field," and it mentioned the case of a ram valued at £8 which was exported to Australia. It cost £15 15s. in quarantine, health certificate and other things, and another £15 for transport to Australia. It therefore cost £30 to get this ram, valued at only £8, to Australia. At the Milan Exhibition the Minister is aware that British sheep took many prizes, and it would have been easy to export 600 sheep to Italy except for the fact that the transport conditions were so expensive that it had to be abandoned. Another matter which is more within the control of the Minister refers to the London Quarantine Station. This station has been recognised by most of the Dominions, and it has greatly facilitated the export of pedigree stock in the past five years. According to the recent report of the Empire Marketing Board, the continuance of this station is threatened owing to the withdrawal of the grant which has been made through the board since 1928. I urge the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to consider the severe loss which will be caused to the industry if this station is closed, and I trust that he will see his way to avert such an eventuality. The Minister has alluded to the fruit in my constituency. I am sure that the farmers there are very grateful to him for what he has done, but they are more grateful for the fact that he has given them the National Mark for jam than for anything else. In this respect, as they are satisfied and grateful, I am grateful too.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
We have listened to an extremely interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), but, if I may say so without offence, it was not a very constructive speech. I looked in vain to my hon. Friend for a constructive agricultural policy, but we did not hear very much in that direction at all. As I understand him, quotas are bad, marketing schemes are bad, and even Empire Free Trade as instanced at Ottawa is bad. The only proposal that he made towards the solution of the agricultural problem was that more credit should be given to the farmers and that the dole should be given to the agricultural labourers. The hon. Member condemned all the machinery which the Minister of Agriculture is using for the purpose of raising prices, and he made a very unfair attack on the Minister when he said that his policy had failed, and gave as an example the case of beef. The fact is that ever since the present Minister came into office he has been engaged in creating machinery with which to carry out his price raising policy. Everything he has been able to do in regard to beef, mutton and bacon—and it is no mean achievement—he has done without the machinery which he has had to create and which is still in process of being created. It is not until these marketing boards come into operation that the full planning of agriculture and the scientific price raising for agriculture can be carried out.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman deserves the greatest praise for what he has succeeded in doing for agriculture with the very little machinery that he has had at his disposal. My only criticism of the agricultural policy of the Government is that the Reorganisation Commissions were not appointed four or five months earlier than they were. Once they were appointed, however, the Minister went forward as fast as he possibly could, and he is now engaged on that scientific planning of agriculture which hon. Members opposite are always asking us to put forward. The Minister deserves the greatest praise for the energy with which he is attacking the agricultural problem at every point. As has often been pointed out, agriculture is not a single industry. It is a group of many industries, and the Minister has recog- 982 nised that fact in that there is not a field or branch of agriculture to which he has not turned his attention. I was particularly gratified to hear this afternoon that he is in communication and consultation with the Government of Canada with regard to doing something to help the oat producers of this country.
We were also glad to hear that he has the sugar-beet question in hand and proposes to announce a definite policy before the time when farmers have to determine how much land they are going to put down next year for sugar-beet. I should like an assurance from the Minister that he will not allow the fact that Parliament will be in Recess when the investigation to which he referred is concluded to prevent an announcement of the Government's policy with regard to sugar-beet being made. The policy, when decided upon, ought to be announced as soon as possible. I do not think that we ought to press the Minister for a large expansion of the sugar-beet acreage in this country. We ought to keep our acreage at the figure—about the present figure—required to keep our factories in full employment. The beet acreage in this country cannot be expanded except by a great addition to subsidies or duties, and I believe that any money that might be available would be better devoted to other branches of agriculture rather than to expanding the sugar-beet industry. Therefore, I hope that the Government's policy will be designed to maintain the acreage at about its present level, and that the expansion of British agriculture should be looked for more in the direction of pigs and bacon, meat and dairy products than of sugar-beet.
The hon. Member for Don Valley must, I think, believe that a General Election is imminent, because he treated us to an electioneering speech. I would only say that during the last three or four years every assistance that has been given to farmers by the hon. Gentleman's Government or by this Government has gone straight into the pockets of the agricultural labourers. During this period of acute depression the landowners as a whole have received practically nothing in agricultural rents. The farmers as a whole have made very heavy losses, and have been living on their capital. Any assistance that has been given to agriculture has gone for the purpose of maintain- 983 ing agricultural labourers in employment. The fact that there are now many fewer labourers in employment than there were three or four years ago is not the fault of the farmers or the landowners. It is the fault of prices, and the Minister of Agriculture is tackling the problem at its root when he tackles the question of prices.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
My point in referring to the treatment of farmers and landowners as distinct from the treatment of agricultural labourers was to show that, while the farmers and landowners have jointly received well over £100,000,000 over the past few years, the position of the agricultural labourers has year by year become worse, indicating that there is a screw loose somewhere. I agree that there were external causes over which the farmer has no control, but the labourer himself has had little or no benefit from any of the gifts that have been made by various Governments, because last year 31 county committees reduced the wages of the workpeople or extended their hours.
§ Viscount WOLMER
That is where I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. If it had not been for the remission of rates that was granted by the last Conservative Government, there would have been thousands more agricultural labourers out of work than there are. The whole of that relief has gone towards keeping in work men who would otherwise be out of work. I wish my hon. Friend would see that anything we can do to put the agricultural industry on its legs and make it solvent will benefit not merely the farmer but the farm worker as well. The great problem of the moment is to make farming pay," as his party said in the Election of 1929, and the Minister of Agriculture is now carrying out the pledge which the Labour party then gave. I do not think my hon. Friends of the Labour party object at all to these marketing schemes; in fact, they were very friendly towards them when they were before the House, and are entitled to a great share of the credit for them, inasmuch as they are all based on the Act of 1931. But our friends of the Liberal party are always trying to make out that planned marketing can only be carried through at the expense of the consumer. I believe that to 984 be a completely mistaken way of looking at the problem.
The Minister of Agriculture was kind enough this afternoon to say something about my activities in regard to the hop scheme. The credit is really due to the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Farmers' Union, but if I do not bore my colleagues too much I would like to mention a new experience we have had in the marekting of hops which, I think, goes to show how organised marketing can be of real use to consumers as well as to producers. The Minister of Agriculture said some people thought we were able to raise the price of hops from £5 to £8 last year not because of marketing but, because of prohibition. I do not think that prohibition had anything to do with it, because up to March last we had sold only 90 per cent. of the crop, and there was a 10 per cent. surplus hanging on the market, and if the Marketing Act had not been in force that 10 per cent. would have glutted the market and all prices would have gone back to what they had been the previous year. Then, in April, the Chancellor of the Exchequer took a penny off beer. The Hop Marketing Board was urged to raise the price of hops as a result of that action. I am glad to say they very properly declined to do so. They took the line that they had been standing out for a fair price for the hop grower, and did not think it would be playing the game towards the consumer to take advantage of an increased demand brought about by the action of the Chancellor, and I am glad to say the brewers have been willing to make handsome acknowledgment of that action, because undoubtedly it steadied the whole hop market.
That was the first way in which we were able to show that organised marketing is of some assistance to the consumer. But more was to follow, because a few days later the whole situation was revolutionised by America going "wet." America came into the hop market as a big buyer. Hon. Members may not know it, but it takes two years in America to raise a hop crop, and so for two years there is likely to be an acute world shortage of hops. The first thing we are entitled to point out in regard to that is that this hop shortage, as far as England is concerned, has been caused by the very bad prices that hop growers received in years 985 previous to last year. Half the hop acreage went out of cultivation. If the Hop Board had not been established, another 3,000 acres would have gone out of cultivation. Therefore, the fact that the Hop Board was established saved the consumers to that extent. Again, organised marketing has been able to help the consumers, because the Hop Board has notified the brewers that they consider that English brewers, who are the permanent customers, ought to have the first call on the 1933 crop, and that before any hops are offered abroad the brewers of this country should have an opportunity of quoting for them.
In those three respects, stabilising the price, preventing fluctuations in acreage and insulating the home consumer, to some extent, from the shocks of this sudden dislocation in the world market for hops, the Hop Marketing Board has been able to serve the interests of the consumer as well as of the producer. I say that organised marketing must benefit both the consumer and the producer in the long run. It is not to the benefit of the consumer, any more than it is to the benefit of the producer, that there should be the colossal waste that goes on, and has gone on in agriculture for many years—plum crops rotting on the trees because it did not pay to pick them. That is the answer to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely who said it was wrong to limit the sugar beet acreage. Of course you have got to limit the sugar beet acreage. If you have planned agriculture, you must plan out the extent of the acreage, and what parts of the country can be devoted to the various crops. At the present moment the trouble is that directly a crop pays all the farmers rush into it and the market is glutted and made unprofitable.
Therefore, the planning of agriculture does necessarily involve the limitation of the amount of every crop which can be grown. The Minister of Agriculture has recognised that fact. He is going on with this great programme of pig and bacon and milk and potato reorganisation, dealing with three of the greatest industries in the country. It is a colossal experiment, a task of tremendous magnitude to tackle these three great branches at the same time, and I only hope that he will Lave, as I am sure he will, the wholehearted support of Members of this House in doing what they can in every 986 part of the country to explain these new and intricate schemes which are coming so suddenly upon the agricultural community. The next six months are going to be a very critical six months in the history of agriculture. We are attempting reorganisation and planning on a vast scale. Some people think it is too great, that we are trying too much at the same time, and would be better advised if we first dealt with pigs and, when that scheme was established and working smoothly, went on to milk and then on to potatoes; but the plight of the farmer is so serious at the moment that I believe the Minister is taking the right course, as well as the brave course, in tackling all these three great questions at once. I only hope that he has the good luck which his courage deserves.
The only criticism I would like to make of these Estimates is that I join with my two hon. Friends who have spoken in regretting that the amount of money to be spent on research is less than it was last year. I would like to pay a tribute, on behalf of the farmers, and especially the fruit growers, to the enormous value of the work being done in our research stations. I can assure the Committee that the money is not being wasted. I am sorry to see that the Minister has saved £5,000 on research. I believe he could spent another £50,000 there, with great benefit to the consumer as well as to the producer. I do not think we have spent nearly enough on research, even during the last few years. The research stations have undoubtedly been starved. More experiments could be undertaken if more funds were available, and I hope that when the marketing boards are fully established they will make the contribution which they ought to make towards assisting these research stations. I hope the Minister will keep the research stations going until the marketing boards are able to take their proper place as the chief contributors to and supporters of the research stations.
Nothing is more pathetic as an illustration of our attitude to agricultural research than a spectacle to be seen at the East Mailing Research Station in Bent. Absolutely next door to that research station, which has been of inestimable value to the fruit growers of England—in the next field—one sees an artificial ship which was built at the expense of 987 the British taxpayers and paid for by the Empire Marketing Board. That artificial ship is there, in a field in the middle of Kent, in order that experiments may be made in transporting apples to this country in cold storage from abroad. Those cold storage experiments have cost a great deal more than the experiments being made for the benefit of the English apple grower, and I hope the Minister will resist any further attempts on the part of the Treasury to cut down the money spent on agricultural research. I am certain he is the last Minister who would want to cut down research work, because he is a man of science himself. He has an extraordinarily good team of scientific workers at our research stations, and I hope their work will not be interfered with or cut down further by what I believe would be very mistaken economy.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
When I listened to the hon. and genial Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), I thought to myself that everything must be rosy in the agricultural garden, and I wondered why it was with all the bounties paid out to farmers and landowners, that so many miners are unemployed. Why do they not go on the land; if conditions there are so good? We have a large percentage of miners unemployed, but I do not hear the Miners' Federation saying with any emphasis that they ought to go on the land. I assure him and the other hon. Members on the Labour benches that agriculture is not in such a rosy state as has been pictured. May I say a, word to the Minister of Agriculture? We know how able he is, and we know that his heart is in his work; indeed, a competent authority said the other day that he was one of the best Ministers of Agriculture we have ever had, and I hope that he will go on and not be weary in well doing—though before I have finished I shall say that he is not doing enough. There is one thing which I hope that he will never do in an agricultural Debate and that is to introduce the political economist. He talks about certain eminent authorities. The hon. Member for Don Valley said that there are university professors who have stated that we can produce wheat in this country at 25s. 6d. per quarter. All I can say is, let them 988 do it. I would like to see those econocists and university professors who understand how to make farming pay give us a little practical experience.
I am sorry if I am a little disappointed at the attitude of the Government. I come from a county where beef and butter are the two main agricultural products. Those products are in the depths of depression, and the position is gradually growing worse. We cannot get away from that fact. It is sad and pathetic that men who know their business, are skilled in their professions and are industrious and sober, are being forced into the bankruptcy court, although they are engaged in what we may rightly call a key industry, the production of food. That is the position. If the nation recognised the really hazardous situation of so many of those cultivators of the land, the Government would be instigated and encouraged to give more help.
I am a little sceptical about all these conferences. We are having conferences about this and conferences about that. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) referred to the President of the United States, who is pursuing an American policy. Let us pursue a British policy. Do not let us bother so much about conferences and all the other talking arrangements. A year ago we were told to "Wait for Ottawa." We have waited for Ottawa, and things are worse. Now we are to have marketing. I am not much of a believer in these marketing schemes, but I will do my utmost to make them a success. Farmers are having to choose between marketing or bankruptcy, and therefore we must try to make them a success. I hope that I and some of my hon. Friends who do not see eye to eye with the Minister may be wrong, and that the Minister may be right; however, we will help him all we can.
There is one point which I am sure that the Minister recognises, and that is that the real, critical and dominating factor in agriculture is the question of price. It is no good talking about the farmers being inefficient. There are some possibly inefficient, but there are among farmers as good business men as anywhere in the land; they have been beaten by the price. I remember what the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely said 989 about tithes. Tithes are fixed, but the price of the farmer's product is not fixed. The hon. Member for Don Valley talked about the agricultural workman, but unless agriculture is to prosper, and unless there are remunerative prices, farmers cannot employ labour. It is idle to talk of fixing wages unless you can ensure employment at those wages. The figures are pathetic to a degree. In 1921, there were 996,000 labourers on the land, but in 1932, only 809,000, a decrease of 20 per cent. Can any hon. Member even on the Labour benches defend such a result as that? Here are 187,000 men gone from the rural districts into the towns. They are some of the finest blood existing in the rural districts of our country, and they have been driven into the towns because of lack of employment. Let us get together and see if we can give those men employment.
When people talk to me about wages, I reply that I want to see agricultural labourers paid as good wages as any other workers in the community. They are skilled men. There is no better man than the stockman or the horseman, or the general worker on the farm. I have been brought up among them from my childhood, and I know that they are shrewd, honest and resourceful men. To-day their employment is paralysed, because of the prices of the products. I would say to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches who represent the coal miners, that while they are fostering the production and sale of coal, in my judgment it would be far better in the long run if the miners settled on the land. I do not believe that the coal industry is a growing industry, and we certainly ought to produce more food from our own soil. We must help the agriculturists, and we must not come down here and say that we are trying to help agriculture unless we see that there is a fair price for agricultural products and employment for the workers. I do not want to put it higher than that. Unless there is a fair price for the product, the consumers in our large centres of population are bound to suffer by-and-by.
§ Mr. TOM SMITH
Will the right hon. Gentleman pardon me for interrupting him? Would he not agree that the same thing applies to the coal industry? I would ask him to recall the attitude of 990 his party towards price-fixing in 1929 and 1930.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am sorry to say that I am not an expert on the coal industry, except that I see as every man sees generally, that coal production is going down, and that there is more and more difficulty in finding markets. If my hon. Friend will take the advice of a fairly experienced Parliamentarian, he will see that the opportunities for British exports are being limited by regulations and by tariffs. I believe that it is in the permanent interests of this country that agriculture should be made profitable. If it is made profitable, people will flock to cultivate the land. How can the industry be other than paralysed if selling prices do not more than equal the cost of production?
May I say to the Government that farmers are disappointed? It is no good saying that they are not. This Government had a finer opportunity than any Government to restore prosperity to agriculture. There was good will in the towns, because it was recognised, as it is recognised to-day, that the industry of agriculture is absolutely vital and essential to the country. The Government had great opportunities. Pledges were given, but unfortunately, especially in my part of the country, the difficulties have been growing steadily worse. I have been furnished with information from the very admirable statistical department of the Ministry of Agriculture. I have never asked for statistics without that Department being ready to give them, and to give them accurately and completely. These are the figures of livestock prices when the Government came into office in 1931, compared with the prices in 1933. They are, per live cwt. as follow: In October, 1931, fat cattle, £1 19s. 7d., and in June, 1933, £1 15s. 3d. That shows a drop.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Things have got worse. There must be a restriction of imports in order to give the producer a reasonable level of prices. You cannot get away from that. I come to the price for fat sheep. The Minister has quite rightly said that sheep have gone up in price since last August. The price of fat sheep was 9¼d. per 1b., dead weight, 991 when the Government came into office. It is now 8¼d. The price of pork per score, dead weight, was 11s. 2d., and is now 9s. 10d. The comparative prices per [head for dairy cows is £25 16s. and £20 18s. I will not weary the Committee with more of these figures, but those that I have given show the trend of livestock prices. After the pledges that have been made, and when the country is willing and anxious to help, something might be expected of the National Government.
I have heard about the Empire Marketing Board. I am sceptical about the advantage of the British taxpayer paying the expenses of the Empire Marketing Board. If you want to advertise and market products, for heaven's sake advertise your own products first; let the British farmer come first. On this Empire question I want especially to deal with a point which must be familiar to the Minister. In my county, Devonshire, butter is a product, and a very fine product, too, but the producers are suffering as a consequence of unfair competition from the Dominions. Butter is sold in London at something like 80s. per cwt., but in Melbourne, Australia, the same butter is sold at 120s. per cwt. In other words, it is sold dear in Australia, in order that it may be sold cheap in London. Is that not dumping? If it is not, I do not know the meaning of the word. There is 3d. per pound export bounty to Australia, while a depreciated currency adds another three-halfpence per pound; that in turn means that Devonshire butter-producers are being subjected to a competition that is subsidised to the extent of something like 4½d. on every pound of butter. Devonshire producers cannot go on. I ask the Government to deal with this question, and to make representations to the Australians. I do assure them, in the interests of inter-Imperial trade, that farmers will certainly be hostile if they are subjected to this kind of competition.
I turn to the question of Irish butter. A question was asked about it a day or two ago. Apparently there is a duty of 22s. per cwt. on Irish butter, and the duty can be 100 per cent., but there is a bounty of 80s. per cwt. on Irish butter coming into this country. Is that right? Cannot my right hon. Friend and the Government give us a little fair play in regard to the production of butter? As 992 I said just now, we have these trade agreements for the sale of coal. You want to sell more coal, but the farmer has to suffer in free imports of agricultural products. It would be far better to try to put, more miners on the land. Again, Denmark has been an extremely severe competitor of ours in regard to bacon and butter. Denmark also has a depreciated currency. I remember that, in the days of the Coalition Government, there was a tremendous agitation against the depreciated currency of Germany. Why may not the agriculturists of this country be sheltered from the depreciated currencies of these other countries?
A trade agreement has been made with Argentina in order to unfreeze credits there. Foodstuffs, in competition with our farmers, are coming into this country from Argentina in order to unfreeze capital credits, and here again the farmer has to pay. I do not object to these trade agreements, but I ask that the farmer shall get fair play—that he at any rate, who is one of the key men of the country, shall be enabled to live. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday that one of the world's great troubles is lack of confidence. Is there a man to-day who has the confidence to put money into an agricultural proposition? If any hon. Gentlemen opposite want to take a farm, there are plenty of farms vacant; they can have as many as they like, and in the best possible circumstances. There is ho man to-day who wants to take a farm. Nobody has any confidence. Therefore, I would appeal to the Government—this will be our last opportunity of doing so—to have the courage to give men and women confidence in cultivating the land.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. GRUNDY
I shall not delay the Committee very long, because I am limited to one question. I want to ask the Minister of Agriculture what he is going to do about the flooded areas. Last year I spoke in the House about the district which I have the honour to represent, namely, the Rother Valley district. In that district there are 10 or 12 miles which are subject to continual floods. The river overflows its banks every time there is heavy rain. The matter was brought before the Minister, or his predecessor, last year, but not a single thing has been done to relieve this 993 flooding. The engineer to the rural district council, in a review of the district, points out what a tortuous and winding river the Bother is, and how its course is impeded by obstructions, which it seems to be nobody's job to clear away. The river silts up, trees fall into it, and he points out that more trees are likely to fall into it in the future. The silt comes from the great spoil-heaps of the collieries, which are tipped near the river. This condition of affairs, which exists in one part of my division, also extends to the Don Valley, the state of which has been graphically illustrated on many occasions by my hon. Friend the Member for that division (Mr. T. Williams). On these occasions hundreds of acres of this lovely valley are flooded and rendered derelict, for lack of Government action. The river runs through depressed and heavily rated areas, so it is no use the Government sheltering themselves by saying that these areas ought to do something.
There are hundreds of men out of work in that district. They see this flotsam and jetsam floating down and forming obstructions which dam up the river, and they think it is typical of their own life—floating aimlessly down the river of unemployment. There we have a river which needs straightening, deepening, and cleaning, and there we have the labour, but these men are left to stand at the street corners. Some of them used to be under the impression that we were very far-sighted, clever men here, but what must they think when they look at all this work that might be done to prevent these floods, and when they look at themselves—men willing to work, but demoralised for want of work? Economy is all right on non-essential things, but here there could be wise spending. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) talks about putting miners on the land, but that cannot be done, and these men have to stand there watching all this waste, and knowing that their own labour could prevent it, The men out of work in that district are adaptable to any class of work, and, while we are paying them unemployment insurance benefit, they are willing and anxious to work. The engineer to the rural district council says that the bed of the river ought to be cleansed, its banks raised, its course 994 straightened, and the colliery tips by the river banks removed. A tip as big as Big Ben is not a thing of beauty. There are willing men there who could level these tips and put them on to the land that has subsided and is subsiding, thereby reclaiming hundreds of acres, and, if opportunity were given to them, making beautiful what is now ugly and unsightly. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, what is he going to do about it?
At Rotherham, which is outside the Bother Valley Division, there are houses whose tenants have to be fetched out in boats through the bedroom windows when the district is flooded. The Government tell us that they are very sorry, and so on, but that as to the reclamation of these lands there is nothing doing. The last flood reached the highest level that has ever been known in those areas. If I went through all my notes I could make a great indictment against the Government, but I will give just a few instances of what it means to the people in those parts. In the district where the last flood occurred is a colliery which employs hundreds of hands. The bridges leading to the pit were broken down, and the colliery had to be closed for 10 days while repairs were made. Let hon. Members try to visualise what that means. It may be difficult for those who live in a comfortable area, which is not flooded, to realise what the closing down of that pit for 10 days meant to the people. I am not blaming the colliery company; I am blaming the Government for not doing something. That is the way I am trying to direct my censure. The time is overdue when something should be done. The Bentley case can be put by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson).
It is a scandal the Government have not done something to stop these floods. At the Rotherham end I have seen people fetched out of their houses by boat. This work which I am advocating is something essential. The big pit heaps ought to be levelled, for you have land gradually subsiding because of the minerals taken out of the bowels of the earth at this place. The great pit heaps, as high as Big Ben, ought to be spread out and this land made useful. I have worked at a pit where we did not build up great spoil heaps, but spread this material over a great surface of land. To-day that land 995 is growing fruitful crops. That is a wise policy. We should level these pit heaps and keep the floods as far away as possible. This scheme should be carried out from end to end of the valley, because, I suppose, if we got rid of the water in our district only, the constituency of the hon. Member for Doncaster would get more of it. It is not a matter to be carried out piecemeal, else we might shift our burden on to the constituency of the hon. Member for Doncaster.
§ Mr. GRUNDY
If we did, we did not send all the water. We had hundreds of acres flooded and, as I have said, people had to be fetched out of their houses by boats. Seriously, I want to finish on a note of censure upon the Minister. Nothing has been done, and the question is, what are the Government going to do? One colliery company, the one which had to stop for 10 days on the last occasion, has raised the banks of the river and put down a stone waterflow to take the water away from their part, but that makes it no better for those below. Economy is quite right, but there is such a thing as wise spending. Are the Government going to let a fruitful valley become derelict? It is continually sinking, but its level could be heightened if the great pit heaps were levelled. I should vote with two hands for the reduction of the Minister's salary if the voting were by show of hands but, of course, going through the Lobby I can vote only once. There is a crying need for action to be taken. There is the devastation of a beautiful valley, and scores of acres are rendered derelict. Labour is idle in the valley. Hundreds of idle men are wondering why nothing is done. They are ready to turn a desert into a paradise by their labour. I have not quoted the engineer's report as to the condition of the river, but I have endeavoured to give the Committee some idea of the flooding of this valley and of these two rivers. Something should be done to obviate this flooding in the future.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Captain HEILGERS
I am afraid I cannot follow the bon. Member into the intricacies of the Rother Valley, but I should like to say how much I appreciate the sincerity of his speech. May I now 996 turn to the speech which the Minister delivered? The right hon. Gentleman delivered an amazingly illuminating speech. He also delivered a very disarming speech. By the time one has finished listening to him, one gets the idea that the land is going to flow with milk and honey. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molten (Mr. Lambert) when he says farmers are disappointed. In my part of the world they are waiting open-mouthed for the Minister's experiment in marketing and reorganisation. It is the boldest experiment ever carried out in agriculture. The Minister is rather like the doctor who has announced that he has got some special cure for an incurable disease. He tells the world he has got this cure; that it is a wonderful cure. He has got to prove it, and the only way really to convince the world that it is a good scheme is to go right out and try it on as many patients as possible.
No doubt he will find willing patients in my part of the country, as regards pig and milk producers. There are, however, other patients knocking at the door. He has quite frankly confessed to us the position of beef, butter and poultry producers. He did omit to mention one thing, for he said nothing about the Meat Reorganisation Commission. I asked him a question in the House yesterday as to when it was to report. We were told it was to report in the late autumn. Then he made a statement which I want to ask him to make clear. He says the emergency position of the meat producers will require to be met by an emergency measure, and that what the fat-stock people want is a long-distance policy. I cannot understand the difference between the meat producer and the fat stock people. I would ask him, however, what he meant by his answer. I welcome what he has done in the way of restrictions, and I look forward to the increased restrictions he has promised for the ensuing quarter. The stall-fed beast is the most expensive beast produced. The right hon. Gentleman has considered the cheapest beast, that coming in the autumn rush off the grass. He has forgotten that all farmers with arable land keep stall-fed beasts. I feel that they, too, are entitled to consideration as regards time of restriction of imported beef.
997 Now I turn to the question of sugar beet. We have heard a good deal this afternoon about that subject. I do maintain that sugar beet has been of very great benefit to English agriculture. If you look at the Cambridge University returns for last year of the financial aspect of farming in Eastern counties, you will find that the decrease in the income from live stock is 16 per cent., while from arable crops the increase is 6 per cent. Cambridge says that is due largely to the increase in sugar beet acreage and yield. We have had several requests to the Minister this afternoon to expedite the report of the actuarial committee. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he will do his best, but there is also the second part of the reply to which he referred—that of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury last week—in which it was stated that the Government were willing to limit production of sugar to a reasonable quantity, it being understood that limitation does not mean reduction. I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) who said sugar beet would have to play its part in the planning of agriculture. I am, however, desperately anxious about that phrase "limitation does not mean reduction." Does it mean that if we make an agreement in the World Conference we are to stabilise at the present figure? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) says we would be lucky if we did. We might be lucky, but the agricultural community of England would be extremely unlucky.
I was much surprised to find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). I have heard many complaints about the beet-sugar subsidy from hon. Members below the Gangway. The hon. Member stood up and practically made the speech which I intended to make about sugar-beet this afternoon. I would put it to the Committee that 80 per cent. of the world's production of sugar is subsidised or protected in some way to-day. Our sugar production has increased to nearly 20 per cent. of our consumption, and yet to-day we still import over 50 per cent. of our requirements. Surely the balance of trade is still a factor we have got to take into consideration. The most remarkable thing about sugar-beet is that four counties in England—Norfolk, Suffolk, 998 Lincoln and Cambridge—produce five-sevenths of the whole quantity of beet in this country. As these counties represent only 25 per cent. of the acreage of the whole country, there is room for unlimited expansion if the necessary incentive is given.
We could produce a quantity of sugar equal to the whole amount of the foreign sugar imported into this country. I would like to draw attention to the employment given by sugar-beet growing. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said he wanted to know what the assets of sugar-beet were. There are over 40,000 producers. The average production is only just over 8½ acres apiece, which shows that the crop is of great benefit to small farmers, smallholders, and even to the agricultural worker, who often uses a corner in his garden for it. There are 9,900 workers employed in the factories for 18 weeks a year, 2,135 of them permanently employed for the whole year. In the four counties that grow sugar-beet there was only a decrease of 1.2 per cent. in employment during the first six years of the subsidy, while in the rest of England there was a, decrease of 12.3 per cent. Looking at it another way, practically 63,000 workers might have obtained jobs on the land if the rest of England had responded to the subsidy as the Eastern counties did. The ramifications are enormous. Over £300,000 spent on coal, £189,000 on bags, £68,000 on limestone, £750,000 on artificial manures, while a fleet of lorries and steam wagons spend three or four months in the winter going backwards and forward carrying beet at the time when unemployment is greatest, and the amount of beet not carried by these lorries is carried by the railway. The pulp that the factories produce is an enormous asset to the farmer. There is £2,900,000 paid out in subsidies. That may seem a great expense, but the State is getting back £1,654,000 in Excise Duty and over £1,300,000 in Income Tax, so that on balance it is better off.
Another matter on which I am in agreement with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely is the necessity for agricultural credits. The hon. Member and I seem to be very strangely in sympathy to-day. I have not the pleasure of his acquaintance but I hope, when we next meet at Newmarket, our mutual sympathy may 999 be increased, and perhaps he will give me a tip. If these schemes of reorganisation are going to be a success, and the pig scheme is going to revolutionise agriculture, farmers must have money to increase their stock. In the past they have fallen back on the banks, the auctioneers and the merchants, but that sort of credit is drying up. They have not the same hope as regards obtaining credit that they have had in the past. The Agricultural Credits Act is a dead letter. As soon as a man resorts to it, the fact is known to every creditor in the land to whom he owes money. The cumulative effects of the years 1930, 1931 and 1932 have resulted in the exhaustion of both credit and the life savings of the farmer. Therefore, I beg the Minister once more to consider the question.
Not quite enough consideration is being given to the question of pedigree stock. The breeding of pedigree stock is the most expensive thing in the whole of farming. Not enough attention is given to the eradication of animal diseases. A great deal of money is spent on agricultural education as regards plant growth and animal husbandry, but comparatively little on the diseases of animals. A tremendous lot is paid out for dead animals, but we want to know how to keep them alive. If we get swine fever, erysipelas in pigs, liver fluke in sheep, Johnes disease, or tuberculosis in cows, there is no cure known at present. We feel that, when the President of the Board of Trade organises exhibitions at Buenos Aires and Copenhagen to boost British goods, the Minister of Agriculture ought to say, "Why not royal shows or exhibitions of British stock at Buenos Aires, or Melbourne, or Sydney or Cape Town?" Some of the money on this Vote might be usefully transferred to doing something more to boost the production of British pedigree stock.
The hon. Member for Don Valley was taunted with making an electioneering speech, and I myself thought it was an electioneering speech, but I have a certain amount of sympathy with what he put forward. He mentioned agricultural wages, but I do not think there are the transgressions that he mentioned. I am certain there is nothing like the 28 per cent. that he mentioned. Human nature being what it is, there are good and bad 1000 farmers and there is no doubt that the inspectors are a necessary item. But there is one anomaly as regards the Agricultural Wages Act. I live within five miles of the Norfolk border. There is a river dividing the counties. A man on the North side does agricultural work and lives under exactly similar conditions to the worker on the other side. In one county the wages are 30s. and in the other 28s. It seems to me utterly wrong that men doing exactly the same thing and living so close to each other should be paid a different wage. We might avoid some of these anomalies by having regional boards of several counties instead of only one county. I appreciate what the Government have done for agriculture. I believe they really understand that its prosperity is essential to the economic welfare of the country. It should go forth to all the farmers and farm workers that the policy of the restriction of imports has saved us from a very big disaster. Although as yet we have not seen spectacular results, there is no doubt that, if these restrictions had not been on, we should have gone much further towards the depths into which agriculture has been sliding for the last few years. I appreciate what they have done, and I hope my right hon. Friend will press on with the policy of reorganisation without any looking back over his shoulder, because we are not yet out of the wood.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE HIRST
I regret that the Minister of Agriculture has never attempted to deal with drainage or even with the flooded areas. The matter was discussed a year ago, when Bentley was suffering from one of the biggest floods it had had for a great number of years. Whenever there are signs of a storm, the people in these areas wonder what is going to happen. The Division that I represent is one of the worst areas apart from Bentley. In May of last year roads were blocked and houses were up to the window sills in water. The inhabitants had to be got out, and food had to be taken to them in boats. That continues for days. It is not a question of a flood coming suddenly and going away in a day or two. It may last for eight or 10 days. The Wath Main Colliery has had to play for six or eight days. The water surrounds it and sometimes gets into the mines, and the men are not able to work.
1001 The areas that are affected in my Division are Darfield, Wombwell, Wath-on-Dearne and Thurnscoe, and the population is between 70,000 and 80,000. Every time these floods occur enormous cost falls on the urban district councils. We got the impression from the last Debate that the Minister of Agriculture was going to do the best he could, but, as far as I can see, the Government are following the same lines as their predecessors. Everyone sympathises with the people in this predicament but, as soon as the floods have subsided, nothing more is done or said. As soon as there is any sign of a storm people are in fear as to what may happen.
In the Wentworth Division, coming down from Cudworth to Wath, Bolton, Thurnscoe and on to Mexborough and the edge of the division of the hon. Member for Don Valley—the River Dearne runs through the Wentworth Division—there are hundreds of acres of land under water at the present time, although there have not been any heavy storms recently. Land is flooded and lies derelict, and nothing is done to reclaim it with the object of getting it into cultivation. I regret that the Minister left out of his speech this afternoon the question of drainage and flooding either at Bentley or anywhere else. Whether he did it purposely or not I do not know, but he has not been able to suggest that something should be done. The Government ought to consider the suffering of the people in those flooded areas and do something to alleviate their position. The whole of this business ought to be paid for by the State. The State ought to tackle the flooded areas. Something has been said about pit-head tips. These are all round the neighbourhood. The ground has gone down owing to subsidence through the mining of coal. The position is gradually becoming worse. Every storm makes the position worse. The Bentley area is getting worse. They have to take all the water coming from the areas above the Doncaster area. I hope that the Minister will say something about the matter when he replies. The Government must make up their minds because sooner or later something will have to be done in those flooded areas.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
Hon. Members who have spoken on the question of flooding 1002 in the Don Valley have not in any way exaggerated the suffering which has, been caused to the inhabitants of those valleys on the occasions of the three very serious floods during the past 13 months. But even the position of being in opposition hardly justifies them saying that the Minister of Agriculture has done nothing at all to remedy the evil condition into which that part of the country has fallen. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who gave such valuable assistance to the Minister in getting the Doncaster Drainage Bill through this House, should be the last person to object. When we were debating this matter last year both he and I joined in urging upon the then Minister of Agriculture that the only thorough and complete way of dealing with this problem was to supersede the Doncaster Drainage Board by legislation and to transfer to the Ouse Catchment, Board the responsibility for the Lower Don, as that board at that time was responsible for the upper reaches of the Don. I think that the Rother is a main river, and, therefore, comes within the jurisdiction of the Ouse Catchment Board. When the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Grundy) referred to the rates for drainage purposes falling upon depressed areas where unemployment was rife, he should, I think, have referred to the fact that the Ouse Catchment Board is one of the largest and wealthiest rating areas in the country and that so far they have not levied any rate comparable with what they are able to levy. The whole argument of the three hon. Members of the Opposition has been that the Government ought to undertake financial responsibility for these works by giving a large grant. The hon. Member for the Wentworth Division (Mr. Hirst) said, in as many words, that in his opinion those drainage works should be paid for by the State. The hon. Member for Don Valley took credit to his party for having passed through Parliament the Drainage Act, 1930, which lays the responsibility for works of that kind upon the catchment boards.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS rose—
§ Mr. MOLSON
May I be allowed to finish my sentence. I agree that in paragraphs 42 and 43 reference is made to a grant being given by the State, and I was concerned with the point made by the hon. Member for the Wentworth Divi- 1003 sion who was criticising a Measure in which, at any rate, the Front Benchers of his party took great pride.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Perhaps the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) will bear in mind that the Act of 1930 was passed only because the then Minister definitely promised a financial grant from the Treasury consistent with the particular area from which the application had come, and so even now we appeal to the Minister of Agriculture to fulfil the promise made by the then Minister.
§ Mr. MOLSON
That was the point to which I was just coming. It is true that it was understood when that Act was passed that some contribution should be made by the State to the cost of these various works, and that assistance should be given in proportion to the poverty and the need of the catchment areas. Last year when I spoke upon this subject I expressed the view that there was at that time no ground for any grant being made by the State to the Doncaster Drainage Board. Conditions have now to some extent changed. Under the Circular issued by the Ministry of Agriculture in September, 1931, they completely stopped all grants made to drainage boards, but they agreed that in cases of emergency grants might still be made to catchment boards. Thanks to the Minister of Agriculture, responsibility for the Lower Don has now been transferred from the Doncaster Drainage Board to the Ouse Catchment Board. Therefore, it is open to him to consider entirely afresh the question of the granting of some assistance to the Ouse Catchment Board in order to carry out those necessary works.
I hope, in view of the fact that an undertaking was given when that Bill was before the House that some assistance would be given by the State, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make some contribution towards these works. At the same time, it is very difficult to argue that any substantial sum ought to be paid. We were told, I believe by the hon. Member for Rother Valley, that the need and the poverty of the Ouse catchment area was very great. A two penny rate levied in that catchment area brings in a sum of about 160,000, and I believe that the total expenditure of the Ouse Catchment Board last year 1004 was about £40,000. When the area is not prepared even to tax itself up to the level of its capacity, it does not, at any rate, strengthen its case when it comes to ask the Exchequer to make a generous grant. To that £160,000 it is necessary to add a sum amounting perhaps to £20,000 or even £30,000 which could be raised by precepting the internal boards. Therefore, it is only right and fair to say that if the Minister can see his way to make some small contribution in order to carry out the undertaking which was given by his predecessor, I do not think that it would be fair and reasonable of the West Riding of Yorkshire, or even the people who have suffered from those floods, to expect the grant to be of a very large character.
Great works of this kind—and the works required upon the Lower Don are estimated to cost about £500,000—ought to be financed by borrowed money and not out of revenue. I believe that the Ouse Catchment Board is almost the only Board of the kind in the country which is trying to carry out large and ambitious schemes—there are many of them required in that area, on the River Bother and on the Dearne, as well as upon the Don—and to finance them out of revenue. There are those who, like Mr. Keynes, are suggesting at the present time that there ought to be a great policy of expansion in order to increase the purchasing power of the people. Those of us who are not able to accept those proposals cannot accept them because when we look round we find so few public works which can fairly be described as either revenue-producing or loss of revenue. But we might have works to safeguard villages like Bentley and Arksey, and all the agricultural area represented by the hon. Member for Don Valley—great drainage works which will last at least half-a-century and, I hope, for much longer. Surely, in circumstances of that kind, even the strictest and most orthodox of financiers would say that it was justifiable to borrow money in order to carry out those works. If those works were financed by borrowing money either in the open market or through the Public Works Loan Board the service upon the debt would only amount to £27,000. I have thought it only right, while associating myself with my hon. Friends the Opposition in expressing the hope that in his concluding 1005 speech the Minister of Agriculture will be able to assure us that he is supervising with care the activities of the various drainage authorities, and that he has not forgotten the dire needs of the Doncaster and Don Valley divisions, and that he may be able to do something in order to assist and encourage the Ouse Catchment Board in carrying out their great new responsibilities, to dissociate myself from those hon. Gentlemen when they accuse the Minister of having done nothing during the last year, when, as a matter of fact, he has not only transferred responsibility to the Ouse Catchment Board, but has, as I know, and as I think that they ought to know, been doing everything he can to induce them to discharge their duties.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARD RUSSELL
It must be a satisfaction to all those who are connected with agriculture to find this House so frequently and so fully discussing the subject matter of their industry. If we discuss it far enough and long enough the time must come when we shall arrive at some solution of the difficulties with which we are confronted. When we come to the consideration of the troubles and the debility which afflicts agriculture, we have to remember that that debility is the result of many years of neglect, if not of direct abuse. Therefore, it is hardly fair to expect the Minister of Agriculture in the short time he has been in office to cure every disease and to efface every complaint.
It is very interesting to study the development of the attack upon the troubles of agriculture over the whole period of the present century and to find out to what extent we have gradually come from external operations on the difficulties which we have to face to the central place in which we now find ourselves. It must be a considerable satisfaction to the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) that he proposed some 25 years ago, along with others, the first attack, by introducing forestry. It must be also a satisfaction to him to-day to know that that work has done so much to assist us in dealing with the problems of the land. I suppose that I should not be in order if I went any further into that subject. A few years later we started the next attack in the form of field operations to deal with 1006 the agricultural problem. One of the ways in which we approached that was to deal with the question of sugar beet. Seeing that so much has been said about that question, I do not propose to pursue it further, except to say that I should like to see some figures showing what it has cost the taxpayers for the sugar-beet subsidy and how much has been saved during the same period to the consumer, who is practically the same individual as the taxpayer.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I think I ought to warn both the Committee and the hon. Member that there is a separate Vote for sugar-beet. So far hon. Members have contented themselves by asking the Minister ii he would make an announcement of policy in due course, and I do not think that we ought to go into that question on this Vote.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
I agree with your Ruling, and I shall not make any long reference to the question, because already in Debate the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) and others have spoken at some length. The only point that I was making was that it would be interesting if we could get comparable figures as between the cost to the taxpayer of the subsidy and the saving to the consumer through the reduction in price. I come to the next and a most important part of the whole agricultural problem, namely, the group of problems which gather about the farmstead itself. Every authority on agriculture in this country seems to agree that the future of agriculture depends upon animal husbandry, and it is from that standpoint that we have to face the problem to-day.
Without beating any further about the bush, I would ask the Committee to consider the position in regard to one section of the industry, the dairy section. Before the War and during the period of extreme free trade in this country, agriculturists were very largely driven to a part of the industry which had natural protection. Because of that natural protection a very large amount of land was laid down to grass and there was a very large increase in the development of the milk industry and of milk production. One hon. Member not long ago said that when the Minister sat down one would have thought that agriculture in this 1007 country, and the countryside generally, was flowing with milk and honey. For a good many years now it has been flowing with milk, and the deficiency has not been in honey but in money. The question we have to face is, how long is it going to take to put things right?
I should like to take the Committee with me to a Cheshire farm. What is the condition in regard to a Cheshire farm to-day? There we have accomplished two things. First of all we have for the last 40 years so improved our cultivation and production that we stand at a very high pitch of intensive output. I could take hon. Members on to a sample farm that I have known during the whole of that period. Forty years ago that farm had 50 cows in full milk and turned out one Cheshire cheese a day. Twenty years later that farm had increased to 90 cows and was turning out between two and three cheeses per day. To-day that farm has 120 head of mulch cows and turns out from three to five cheeses a day. That is a development of output which is considerable and it has a very vital bearing upon many of the fears which are expressed, and rightly expressed, by hon. Members opposite.
The question is often asked what is going to happen if we restrict imported supplies. The answer is, that we can stimulate the production of our agricultural holdings in this country until we have vastly increased the output, and so compensate for any restrictions of imported supplies. We have not only done that but shortly after the War we established a federation to try and improve the quality of our cheese output. The result has been that we have graded the output, improved it and standardised it. We have done the very thing which the Minister of Agriculture and those who are in authority has desired for the last 20 or 30 years. What about the other side of the picture? What is happening to-day in regard to profit? To-day, the cheese which has been increased in output and improved in quality is making starvation prices in the market. During this year the price for Cheshire cheese graded, of standard variety, has been generally in the neighbourhood of 6d. per pound. It cannot be produced at that. Lean take hon. Members to farms where our highest quality of last September 1008 cheese was sold this April at as low a price as 2d., 3d., 3½d. and 4d. a 1b. That is an impossible situation.
What is the cause of it? The cause is due, first of all, to the industrial depression, which has caused a glut in the market. In normal times and normal employment the miner from Durham and the shipbuilder on the Mersey consumes in his mid-day snack a large amount of the cheese we produce. To-day we have a reduced demand, but that is not the chief factor at the present time. On the top of the reduced demand we have a flood tide of Dominion imports which are sent here under conditions which it is impossible to meet. What are those conditions? When I come to details of this description I speak with a certain amount of hesitancy. I have asked for accurate figures, but up to date I have not received them, and I can only quote figures that were given to us in this House by the Dominions Secretary a week or a fortnight ago. Those figures which have already been quoted by the right hon. Member for South Molton, show that there is a system of trading and production in New Zealand and Australia which produces something like a bonus of 3d. a pound on this commodity, which, combined with the advantage of the currency, gives a bonus of anything between 3d. and 4d. a pound upon the Dominions commodity, so that, when it enters our market, the price is quoted at 5d., but really the price to the Australian or New Zealand producer is 9d. in all probability, whereas the price to the Cheshire producer is something in the neighbourhood of 6d. That is generally called dumping.
One of the first things we have a right to ask of the Minister of Agriculture, the President of the Board of Trade or anyone else who is responsible is that this position should be dealt with. I do not think there is anyone, I certainly do not know anyone, who does not want to draw together the bonds of Empire. We are all enthusiasts when it comes to making strong the Empire as a whole, but when we come to trade we forget for a while those high standards that we apply to the Empire when we allow our emotions to rule. The danger is that if we go on these lines we may soon destroy the Empire. The particular districts to which I refer cannot hope much from Ottawa, and there is such feeling in the industries in those districts that the very name of 1009 Ottawa is not pleasing to conjure with at the present time. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will be able, and that speedily, to get to grips with this question arid so save one of our oldest and one of our efficient industries. I know of nothing in the Ottawa Agreements which will prevent the Minister assisting in some way the maintenance of this industry.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. RUSSELL
I should also like to ask whether the Minister can do something in regard to the position of those who hold mortgages on their farms, which they were almost compelled to take out during the prosperous period called the war period. There is one other point which I desire to mention. It may be, and is, desirable to do everything to increase prices but I do not go quite as far as the right hon. Member for Southmolton (Mr. Lambert) in saying that price is everything. There is something in addition to price. No Government has the right to bring in fresh schemes to raise prices unless they secure quality at the same time, and, therefore, if the policy as to quantity is maintained, it is essential that something should be done to assist agriculture to put its equipment in order. We have heard a great deal from medical officers as to the dire effects of tuberculous milk, and probably that for every single child who receives harm from tuberculous milk a thousand receive good from a consumption of the article. But that is not the point. It is up to the Government to see that the produce of our farms is of the highest possible standard, and if that is going to be done a start must be made. There should be a spirit of friendly co-operation between local authorities, owners, and tenants, and if that was brought about and a 20 years programme initiated, there is no reason why it should be a very heavy responsibility upon anyone. This question, and the question of agriculture generally, has been so much before the House lately that I do not propose to take up any more time. The Minister of Agriculture has a great job, and it is the desire of everyone, although some of us may differ from him on some points, to back him up in trying to get reasoned progress in the solution of the great problems which 1010 affect the agricultural industry at the present time.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. Russell) has dealt so thoroughly with the question of milk that I will say no more on that subject. Although a good deal of milk is produced in the constituency I have the honour to represent, our principal interest is in stock raising. The Minister referred with satisfaction to what has been accomplished in certain directions, but when he came to the question of livestock and prices his tone came rather more subdued. That is not altogether unnatural. He told us that the prices for livestock in June of this year were falling as compared with the prices on the corresponding dates last year. That fall, I am sorry to say, is going on. The information I have from my constituency shows that on the first Monday in July this year the fall was still proceeding; the price per live cwt. for fat stock was lower than it was a year ago and now represents a fall of 14s. as compared with four years ago. The Minister also told us that the prices for sheep had begun to rise. That is not my information. I am told that there has been no rise on the prices of a year ago; and a year ago the price of fat lambs was 20s. less than in 1930.
Although our imports of meat have been reduced, it does not seem to have been effective in checking the fall in prices. The Minister thinks that a quota is a more effective means of dealing with imports than a tariff. If that is so, then a tariff must be an extremely ineffective method, because a quota has not yet produced the results which are necessary. There are no signs of improvement, and the result is that farmers are in a more depressed condition in those parts of the country which depend on stock raising than ever before. This affects not only the farmer but the labourer. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said that certain things had been done for landowners and farmers, and nothing for the labourer. How does he think the labourer can get a good wage unless the farmer is in a position to pay it? If the labourer is to get increased remuneration, it can only come through the farmer; and I entirely agree with the right hon. Member 1011 for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that a great deal of what has been done for the farmer has gone in his trying to maintain the employment of the labourer. While the present wage of the labourer is certainly inadequate, in too many instances it is more than the farmer can properly afford to pay.
In spite of what has been done unemployment is increasing among farm labourers. That is quite unnecessary. We are told that in some industries men who are now unemployed have very little chance of getting employment in the industry again. That is not the case with agriculture. There is ample scope for more employment on the land, either as labourers or as smallholders as soon as agriculture can afford it. I was glad to hear the Minister stress the point that a return of agricultural prosperity must precede any large scheme of land settlement. These schemes for land settlement find favour in certain quarters, but it is utterly futile to try anything of the kind unless agriculture can be made to give a proper return, an adequate living, to those engaged in it. When we reach that stage then by all means let us proceed with schemes of land settlement; but not until then. Agriculture cannot be really prosperous until trade as a whole is more prosperous than it is to-day. Still, agriculture may be much better. The Minister has told us that a further limitation on our imports of meat is to be introduced. I hope it will be effective, and that he will not find that he is too much tied up by the Ottawa and Argentine Agreements to do anything effective. I ask him to watch with The utmost care the position of agriculture, because more effective remedies for the position of livestock farmers are absolutely necessary if they are to survive.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
I desire to bring the Committee back again to the subject of drainage, not to the serious effects of flooding but to the much more prosaic, though equally serious, subject of paying for drainage work. I want to draw the attention of the Government to the way in which the 1930 Act is working. It is working with very great hardship indeed on small occupiers and labourers living in small house property. As the Committee will no doubt remember, although 1012 it was possible before the 1930 Act to rate people on annual values it was, in fact, the practice throughout most of the country to raise the rates on an acreage basis. When that was done it meant that the small cottage, the small house, with no large plot of land, was free from all these drainage rates. The 1930 Act made it compulsory that all rates for the payment of drainage should be levied on the annual value of the property. On agricultural property it has to be levied on the total annual value and on all other property, which includes these small cottages, it is now levied on one-third of the annual value. The result is that there has been brought into the necessity for paying these rates, for the first time, a large number of working class people, labourers or pensioners and others, who are living in small cottages and small houses. That may be right up to a point; but that is not the only hardship.
The second hardship is this, that the rates are divided into owners' rate and an occupier's rate. The owner's rate is that portion of the rate which is to he raised for the payment of large capital new works and improvements, but the occupier's rate is the rate which is levied for the purpose of paying current expenditure. But the Act provides that the unfortunate occupier has, in the first place, to pay not only his occupier's rate but also his owner's rate as well. It is true that the occupier has the right to recoup himself from his landlord in respect of the owner's rate, but in the first instance the occupier has to pay the whole of the drainage rate levied on the premises. In the Romney Marsh there are hundreds of labourers and small occupiers who have had levied on them rates which exceed the weekly wage or the pension on which they are living, and they have been faced with demands to pay not only their occupier's rate but the whole of the owner's rate. That is causing very great hardship, and in many cases is causing a great deal of difficulty in the collection of the rate.
There is one other point as regards the small owner-occupier, the man who owns a small property of that description. He has not been liable for any Income Tax in the past. It has not mattered to him what the annual value of his premises has been assessed at. Now he finds that he is assessed at one-third 1013 of that annual value. It has never been worth his while in the past to appeal from any assessment or anything else. You have now a class of some of the poorest people in the Kingdom who for the first time are having rates levied on them as a result of the 1930 Act, in which the Opposition takes such pride. In many cases these occupiers are unable to pay. It is the working of that Act that I ask the Minister to reconsider. I submit that the Act requires amendment in some way.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have been waiting for the hon. and learned Member to show how he would propose that this matter should be dealt with administratively. He cannot refer to matters which require legislation.
§ Mr. SPENS
There is power in the existing Act by which this matter can be dealt with administratively. There is a provision in the Act that the drainage boards can, for special purposes, relieve certain ratepayers altogether from the payment of rates. I suggest that the Minister should consider whether, under those powers, he could not at least recommend—he cannot compel—that the drainage boards, in the case of persons occupying houses whose annual value is below a certain figure, should provide that they are relieved altogether from the payment of these rates.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
Whatever complaint the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) has against the 1930 Land Drainage Act, I think he will agree that that Act was a tremendous improvement on the land drainage law of this country. Before the 1930 Act the land drainage law of this country went back to a Bill of Sewers passed in the reign of King Henry VIII. The 1930 Act is all right if administered properly. When the Act was before the House Dr. Addison, then Minister of Agriculture, laid it down clearly and specifically that it was the intention of the Exchequer to make grants to catchment boards in accordance with their needs. We on these benches are profoundly dissatisfied with the policy of economy which has been pursued with regard to land drainage since 1931. The hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Grundy) and the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hirst) have not in 1014 any way exaggerated the situation as we have it in Yorkshire. As a resident within two miles of one of the worst flooded areas, I can say without the slightest fear of contradiction that the position there is almost intolerable. We are urging upon the Minister that the policy of economy should be reversed and that grants should be made to the catchment boards to enable them to get on with their work.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) seemed to resent the criticism levelled against the Government, and he stated that the Government have done a goad deal for land drainage in the Doncaster area. As a matter of fact what is happening is this: It is true that a Doncaster Drainage Act has been passed and that a temporary scheme is in course of operation, but that temporary scheme is far from sufficient to deal with the difficulties of the area. We are quite satisfied that the Ouse Catchment Board need financial assistance if they are to deal with the problem as the problem demands. I would congratulate the hon. Member for Doncaster on his conversion to our policy. Twelve months ago in this House, in a similar Debate, he very ably misrepresented the position of the constituency for which he sits and in which I have the honour to live, when he said that he opposed any idea of a grant from the State for land drainage in that district. He went on to say that he absolutely refused to ask for money from the Exchequer for dealing with work in his constituency that he would oppose in another. We have heard him with pleasure to-day plead with the Minister to give adequate grants for dealing with this work. I can tell him that he was very severely criticised by thousands of people who had been affected by the floods in the Bentley district for his attitude on this matter 12 months ago.
§ Mr. MOLSON
Let me explain the attitude that I took on that occasion. The National Government when it came into office issued a circular in which it said. that in no circumstances would it give a grant to a drainage board. At that time the body responsible for the drainage of the Lower Don was the Doncaster Drainage Board. To-day, thanks to the Act which has been passed, the body responsible is the Ouse Catchment, Board. I consider that our claim to a 1015 grant is extremely small. Where a 2d. rate would bring in £160,000 a year, and the total expenditure of the Ouse Catchment Board is only about £40,000, I do not think that we have any claim upon its merits to ask for a grant, but in view of the fact that an undertaking was given at the time the Act was passed, I hope the Minister will see his way to make some quite small grant in order to carry out the undertaking given on that occasion.
§ Mr. SMITH
Despite the explanation given by the hon. Member, I would remind him that I have done him the honour to read very carefully what he actually said in this House a year ago. I think he will agree that he said quite specifically that he was not prepared to ask for a grant for work in his own constituency that he would oppose in another.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I say quite definitely that I would far more gladly support a generous grant for the works required at Winchelsea and Rye than a grant for work in my own constituency.
§ Mr. SMITH
Despite that explanation, the position is that the hon. Member was opposed to a grant from national funds for this work, and even though the Doncaster Drainage Act has more or less spread the cost of any work over a, wider area, he now pleads with the Minister for a reconsideration of the problem and for a grant to be made. The only thing I have to say to him is that I congratulate him on his conversion to our policy. In 1931 the Minister of Agriculture circularised the 46 catchment boards throughout the country and said definitely that no further grants would be given except on matters of the utmost urgency. I want him to tell the Committee in his winding-up speech what is regarded as a matter of urgency in connection with land drainage. In South Yorkshire, stretching from Mexborough through Doncaster towards Thorne, there are thousands of acres which are periodically 'flooded. There has been flooding three times in 18 months. Furniture is destroyed, people have to be housed in schools, crops are destroyed and many farmers brought to the verge of bankruptcy. Does the Minister agree that that is a matter of urgency and that work should be undertaken at once in connec- 1016 tion with it I We in this Committee ought not to be satisfied with making speeches on this subject without receiving any definite answers from Ministers.
There is a statement in this year's Municipal Year Book to the effect that if land drainage were taken up as it ought to be taken up, there is more than £40,000,000 worth of work to be done. If land drainage were tackled as it ought to be tackled, it would have three effects. First, it would find work for many men, and, in connection with land drainage, there are no finer workmen than miners and landworkers. It would he a jolly sight better to get ahead with such schemes and find some of these men work at wages than to allow them to continue to line up outside the Employment Exchanges. Secondly, it would increase the fertility and value of the land and, thirdly, it would relieve the anxiety of thousands of people who are almost terror-stricken at the prospect of the next flood.
There is another point which has to be taken into consideration and, in dealing with this matter, Sir Dennis, I shall be guided by your ruling. Care ought to. be taken that houses are not built on any land which is subject to flooding. I have here a letter which I hesitate to quote because this is really a matter for the Ministry of Health, stating that houses are in course of erection on land in the Doncaster district which has been flooded and is liable to be flooded again when heavy rains come. Despite the opposition of the local council and of some well-wishers of the Ouse Catchment Board, the Ministry of Health it appears take the view that if the plans conform to the by-laws of that urban district, the houses have to be built. If that is not a wrong policy, I do not know what a wrong policy is. We ask the Minister, we ask the Lord President of the Council to give us some idea as to whether this mad policy of economy is going to be changed or not.
Having said that, I pass to another phase of this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) chided us on these benches regarding agriculture. He told us that we ought to try to settle miners on the land and that we ought to develop agriculture at home. We have always believed in that policy and if 1017 the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) proposals had been carried out in their entirety there would have been many more workers settled on the land than there are at present. We have never doubted the importance of the question of prices in connection with agriculture but when we buy potatoes at a penny per pound—which works out at about £9 6s. 8d. per ton—and when we find that the producer of those potatoes has only got from 25s. to 45s. per ton for them, then we know that there is something wrong somewhere. I had the honour before the last Election to represent a constituency with a large agricultural area and I was appalled at the small prices obtained by some producers of potatoes. We say that between the point of production and the point at which the housewife buys the foodstuffs in the towns, there is a tremendous margin which ought to be eliminated. To that extent we are prepared to support any policy of marketing and, indeed, the schemes which are now under consideration are being made under an Act of Parliament which was passed by the Labour Government between 1929 and 1931. A good deal of credit must go to Dr. Addison for his work in that direction.
What we object to is the restriction of imports of foodstuffs without adequate safeguards for the consumer. As for marketing we are wholeheartedly with it and when hon. Members chide the Labour party for having let down agriculture we can retort by asking what happened during the period of the Coalition Government? Then we had the blackest form of treachery towards agriculture. When the War broke out the country was told from the Caxton Hall, "Once this War is over, never again will agriculture be allowed to go back into the Slough of Despond." The Corn Production Act was passed but it was removed from the Statute Book years earlier than was intended, with what result? Scores of men who borrowed money to purchase farms at enhanced prices were ruined. When Members of the Liberal party chide us upon matters of agriculture, let them look at their own record, and the same remark applies to Members of the Conservative party. We also remember in connection with the wages question, that in 1924 when Lord Noel-Buxton brought in the Agricultural Wages Board Act, Members of the Liberal 1018 party took away the power of the Central Wages Board.
§ Mr. SMITH
Despite the fact that we were in a minority, being only 193 in a House of 615, it is only fair to us to say that we got that Measure on to the Statute Book against all the opposition which we had to meet. I wish to ask the Minister what is being done to deal with the case of the men who are unemployed in the agricultural districts. There are at the present moment thousands of agricultural workers out of employment. They have no unemployment insurance and the public assistance available in rural areas is often very low. In some cases they have to do test work on the roads for the assistance which is given to them. It is tragic and there are scores of these men who are almost in despair. Is any consideration being given by the Minister to urging on the Ministry of Labour that some scheme of unemployment insurance should be devised for agricultural workers? In 1929 when this question was debated in the House of Commons we were told to wait for the findings of the Royal Commission. We have the findings of the Commission and we would like to know whether the Minister of Agriculture is urging the Minister of Labour to get on with a scheme.
I believe that an approved scheme is the best thing for agriculture. The Agricultural Workers' Union are the people with whom this matter ought to be discussed, and I hope the Minister will give us a definite reply on this point to-night. With regard to their inclusion in an unemployment insurance scheme, we must remember that their wages are far too low. The previous speaker asked how on earth we could expect farmers to pay good wages while agriculture was so depressed. Without being facetious, let us be frank and say that we have never 1019 known the time when agriculture could pay good wages. Not all farmers are doing badly, although the great majority of them are. I heard a farmer publicly declare, within the last three months, that he had received a cheque for his share of the wheat quota and that he did not need it, because he was making plenty of money without it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where was that?"] That was in Yorkshire, in the West Riding. I am not in the habit of making statements in this House that I cannot prove. Even my keenest opponent will give me credit for that. I am only quoting that to show that not all farmers are doing badly, though I agree that many of them are doing terribly badly. Is it not a fact that when times have been good wages have still been low? The very fact of the Agricultural Wages Board Act having been passed in 1924 is a clear indication that the farm workers were not getting their fair share of the revenue coming in, low though it might be.
§ Mr. SMITH
The hon. Member will remember that the Corn Production Act, which carried with it the Agricultural Wages Board, had been altered prior to the Bill of 1924 coming in. There were a number of voluntary conciliation committees which were not functioning in some areas, and that made the 1924 Bill almost inevitable. There is a good deal of suspicion yet that there are numerous evasions of the minimum wages fixed in the different areas, and I want to protest as hard as I can against this policy of economy that compelled the dismissal of the six inspectors who were appointed in 1929–31. As a matter of fact, the Ministry's own report for September, 1931, states clearly that there were evasions and that in one county alone contravention of the standard weekly rates was found in no less than 21 per cent. of the cases. Even in the West Riding, where publicity was not wanting, there were 17 per cent. of contraventions. From the point of view of seeing that the law was carried out, these six additional inspectors justified their existence. I have in my hand a copy of the return of the Ministry of Agriculture, which shows clearly that while the work was 1020 begun on the 9th November, 1929, the result of the first 10 months' work was revealed in the improved record for the year ended 30th September, 1930. The wages recovered in respect of workers underpaid were, in 1929, £12,426, and in 1930, £18,542.
The agricultural workers have a good deal of suspicion that they are not having a straight deal, and we want to ask the Minister to see that the Act is carried out. The general body of farmers, as I have found them, are willing to pay the awards made in the localities, but there is always a, minority that seek to evade their responsibilities, and if they are allowed to do that, it is not fair to the good employers who try to carry out the law. We say that the dismissal of the six inspectors was an absolute mistake and that the Minister has a right to see that the law is carried out. Therefore, I urge the Minister to be quite definite, first, with regard to land drainage. As the hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Grundy) said—and he spoke wisdom in that sentence—What are you going to do about it? You may have speeches all day long, but what are you going to do about it? We say that the situation demands urgent action, and if the problem of land drainage is to be tackled, it needs a grant from the Exchequer, as was promised in 1930. Secondly, we ask the Minister to do what he can to see that the workers displaced in agriculture are not left to the mercy of public assistance, but are given some reasonable scheme of unemployment insurance. Thirdly, we say that the Minister has a right to see that the Wages Act is carried out. We have been discussing for weeks what should be done for agriculture, and while we on this side hope that the proposals of the Government will be successful and will make for prosperity, we say that the men who work in the industry—good men, as the right hon. Member for South Molton said—should have a square deal.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPORN
I hope it will not be considered inappropriate that a Member representing an industrial and trading area should intervene in this agricultural Debate. I wish, representing such an area, to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture upon the ability with which he has created his policy, and upon the 1021 energy and determination, coupled with a little Scotch caution, with which he has put that policy into effect. Industry has learned by bitter experience how dependent it is upon the success of agriculture, both in this country and throughout the world. The purchasing value that comes from successful agriculture was shown by the remarkable figures which were given us this afternoon by the Minister. Hon. Members who sit on the Opposition and Liberal benches have for long supported a policy of protection for miners and mine workers, but have refused, persistently and consistently, to give any protection at all to the producers of beef, yet we heard to-day that the value of beef production in this country even exceeds the value of coal production.
§ Mr. CAPORN
The hon. Member knows very well that the Coal Mines Act guarantees a selling price to the miners.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
May I inform the hon. Member that there is no indication in the miners' wages that they have any protection at all?
§ Mr. CAPORN
I am not going to be drawn into a discussion upon that subject. It is a matter of opinion whether or not the Coal Mines Act is a form of protection, and in my opinion it is a very definite form of protection. We look with hope to a prosperous agriculture to supply a market for the products of our industry. The Opposition Members have always demanded that there should be more consumption. As I understand the policy of the Government, it is to create a better consuming power in both branches of vital industry, trade and agriculture, which are mutually dependent upon each other. I venture to say to the Minister of Agriculture that the workers are prepared to support him and the Government in any reasonable proposals, even though they mean some sacrifice to them, if those proposals held out reasonable hopes of putting agriculture back into prosperity. They demand, and I think that they have a right to demand, from the Government that they in turn should he given a fair chance of securing the benefit from those markets which their sacrifices would have helped to create. They do not ask for more than a fair 1022 chance. I submit that they are not entitled to less.
Industrial areas suffer from bankruptcy in agriculture, not only through possible loss of markets for their goods, but through competition from the flow of agricultural workers into industrial areas. We have among the miners many men who had an agricultural training, men who are qualified and who to-day, seeing no prospect of getting back into the mines, are anxious to make a living for themselves and their families if they can be given the opportunity of having smallholdings. I should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture if he can give us to-day any information as to the intentions or hopes of the Government with regard to the settlement upon the land of a considerable number of such men. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) says that he and his friends have always realised that land settlement depends upon price. Have they done anything to help the agricultural producer to get a fair and proper price for his produce? I wish to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture because he has done that and is still doing it, and I would ask him, now that he has got his policy in being, whether it is not the time to look forward and to make plans for some scheme of smallholdings.
I envisage small groups of smallholdings placed round our great consuming areas. They would there be in easy reach of markets for their produce and they would give an opportunity to many decent men to make a living. It is vital that we should consider plans now because it is useless to build houses in the cities for these men because in a year, and I hope even in a shorter time, they will want houses outside the cities in and around the districts in which their smallholdings will be situated. This policy should be linked up with the housing policy and the town-planning of our great cities. It is time for an inquiry into this question. I also appeal to the Minister to do something to secure for the unemployed workers in the cities better opportunities for holding and working allotments. I would like to take him to see some of the allotments that are now being worked in the City of Nottingham by unemployed men. We had a great struggle to secure for them plots of 600 square yards at a rent that they could afford. In 1932 their 1023 rent was put up from 18s. 9d. to 37s. 6d. It was put up by the Estates Committee of the council, the chairman of which is a member of the Opposition party. The rent was deliberately put up, and after a hard struggle, in which I am glad to asknowledge the help we had from men of all parties in Nottingham, we have managed to get it reduced to 15s. That is a great help.
I suggest that it would be wise to supply to every married unemployed man an opportunity of working a, 600 square-yard plot free of rent. I would like to take the Minister with me to see some of these men at the end of the week gathering into their little baskets what they have grown, and to see in their faces the delight at feeling that they are taking home, to help and support their families, something which they have grown by their toil and work. It would be a, great experiment and would go a long way to encourage in these men that feeling of independence that has played so vital a part in building the character of the British nation. Britain has grown strong on the character of her people, and that character has been built up on independence. Our people to-day object just as strongly as their forefathers did to living on State assistance or charity. They are longing to-day for the opportunity of working for themselves and their families. The Government, I am glad to think, are pledged and are doing their best to create these opportunities for our people. I venture to hope that the Minister of Agriculture will see his way to do something to foster, by allotments now and by smallholdings as soon as possible, opportunities for these men.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Lord FERMOY
I should like on behalf of the distressed area of East Anglia to thank the Minister for his pronouncements to-day. I do not believe there is any county that has more roads to upkeep, and which has a, higher 'rate than the county of Norfolk, and therefore any encouragement to the staple industry of the country is welcome to my people. May I suggest in the presence of the Lord President of the Council that when he comes to Cambridge next week he will repeat the speech which the Minister of Agriculture has made to-day. I am sure that all the points which came before the 1024 Committee this afternoon will very much encourage the assembly which the Lord President is to address. There are two pronouncements to-day which affect my people very much. I am sure they will be very pleased to hear that there is to be a further restriction on the importation of meat. The two staple things on which the county depends are meat and barley, and, given fair weather, we hope this year that our barley crop will be a very paying one. I am sure that the extra 25 per cent, restriction which the Minister announced will be a very great help to my people. I should also like an early reply to the question about sugar-beet. Throughout the King's Lynn area we supply the King's Lynn factory with thousands of acres of sugar-beet. My farmers look upon that as affording a helping hand in the year s rotation of crops, and I hope the Government will soon make some pronouncement about the future.
Members of the Committee may have noticed that during the past year we have tried the experiment in my area, especially on the Royal estate at Sandringham, of growing flax. It is, indeed, a new crop. Very little has been known about it in this country, and I hope the Committee will not mind if I say something about the experiences of those who have grown flax in my division. It comes after wheat in the rotation, and it is a very paying crop at the present time. The exact cost per acre comes to a little over £5 for ploughing, seeding, manuring and weeding. With a fair average crop it is possible to realise a profit of between £6 10s. and £10 an acre, and it, would be well if the Ministry would give advice as to soils which are suitable for growing flax, because I am sure that a profit of £6 or more per acre would be very helpful to farmers in districts where such a crop could be grown. Other parts of the programme of the Government are encouraging to my division.
I was very sorry to hear the remarks of my neighbour and friend the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). In the Wisbech area, which adjoins mine, fruit growers are most grateful for what has taken place with regard to the protection of their fruit. For many years they have seen their plants going to Holland, and, in return, gooseberries and other hard fruits coming back 1025 into their own market. Growers west of King's Lynn are looking up on every band. The protection given to tomatoes has resulted in the growing of tomatoes on a large scale. Hundreds of houses are being erected. Bulb growers are also being helped in the flower industry. Therefore, in our part of the world, we are much encouraged by what has taken place, and should be more so if only we could have further protection for our beef. We hope to have a good price for our barley and we can therefore look forward to this year with a certain amount of hope. Other Members are most anxious to take part in this Debate, and I will say no more, but as I have been the first to have the opportunity to speak for Norfolk may I thank the Minister very much for the announcement he has made to-day?
§ 8.58 p.m.
I want to say how much we appreciate the work the Minister of Agriculture has done during the time he has held office. In connection with the remarks I am about to make I hope he will understand that we do appreciate his energy and his courage in handling the many intricate details of this agricultural problem. His work is keenly appreciated by our farmers. At, the same time I want to say something quite definite to the National Government. The only thing that counts with farmers is results, and we have had no results at all in agriculture, apart from the benefits of the duties in connection with fruit for those in the south, and the wheat subsidy Act. In my constituency there is not one bit of agricultural produce, with the exception of wheat, in respect of which we are one whit better than on the day this National Government took office. There are just the same numbers of unemployed, there is the same amount of land going out of cultivation; and while I thoroughly agree with the long-range policy of the Government I want them to understand that something definite must be done at once if arable farming is to be saved.
The policy of quotas for agricultural products will act as a boomerang in the years to come. It is not a policy for saving agriculture. When we have given a quota to a foreign country are their people going to do anything to raise the price of the commodity which they are 1026 sending into this country? They are going to keep the price as low as they reasonably can, in order that our elastic quota shall not automatically shut them out of our markets in the future. The Minister of Agriculture, in putting forward the quota as a main policy for agriculture, is proposing something which is dangerous to our agriculturists. We believe in proper and adequate protection for our agriculturists, in order that they may be able to make a profit out of what they produce. Then they would be able to pay a satisfactory wage to the labourer and to expand and develop the industry. I suggest to the Minister that the only permanent policy of protection for our agricultural industry will have to be based on some proper form of tariffs which can be imposed at the ports, tariffs which are adjustable consistently with the cost of production as we know it in this country. The Minister has a startling example of what can be done in the action of this Government in fixing the price of wheat. What has been the result of settling the price of wheat at about 45s. a quarter? There has been no rise in the cost of bread. The bakers have been able to make a profit, the farmers have been able to make a profit, and the public have not suffered. If we can do that with one basic article—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member is apparently suggesting that legislation which has taken place should be the basis of other legislation of the same kind, and he cannot do that.
I am sorry if I went outside the rules of order. I was merely suggesting that for the system of quotas now employed should be substituted a form of tariffs, but I will leave that point.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the whole point is that he is asking the Minister to reply to certain questions, and of course I could not allow that.
I will leave that point and come to agricultural marketing. From a very long experience of farmers I know they are ready to accept a measure of ordered marketing at the moment, but quite frankly, the farmers in my constituency feel, with so many schemes afoot which have not material- 1027 ised, that they are going to be fenced round with a maze of marketing Orders which it will be extremely difficult for them to understand. Generally speaking, farmers are simple, honest folk, and they understand a plain straightforward deal, but if the sale of every single article is to be conducted by committees of one sort or another the farmer will not know where he stands. I venture to ask the Minister not to drive farmers too hard by asking them to market every single bit of their produce in a different way. We want a more comprehensive scheme of marketing if the farmer is to understand it. I can assure him that my farmers are quite prepared to accept a measure of ordered marketing under proper conditions, but I do not want them to be in the position of being forced to accept so many committees that they cannot understand the problem.
§ Major ELLIOT
I did not wish to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but I must point out that I do not want to ask the farmers to accept any single scheme. These are the farmers' own schemes. They put them forward to me, and, if they do not wish to put them forward. there is no compulsion whatever.
I agree, when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the farmers are in a position to operate these schemes themselves, that he is not asking them to operate any one scheme.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am not asking them to operate one single scheme. No scheme whatever comes forward, save in its complete initiation by the farmers and acceptance by the farmers as a whole. I do not ask them to do anything.
Then, if they do not accept these schemes, they are not going to have any of the benefits of organised marketing unless they come forward themselves. I accept what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says, and I shall certainly pass that on to my farmers, and shall do everything that I can to encourage them to work the schemes to the best of their ability. I am only expressing to the Minister to-night some of the real fears that have been put forward by practical farmers. The farmers of East Yorkshire are a most 1028 efficient body of men. If the Minister went to any other part of Great Britain. I do not think that he would find land that is any better farmed. As arable land, it stands out as among the best farmed land in Great Britain. The farmers are working very large farms of from 000 acres to 1,000 acres. They are men of substance who understand their business. I shall only try to express some of the fears they have put forward to me.
There is another point upon which I wish to touch. I do not know whether I should be in order in this Debate to ask whether there could be some cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Board of Education. In my constituency are a lot of children aged from 12 to 14 years who are attending school, and who could well receive an extra two years of technical education in the industry that they are going to enter if facilities could be provided. In the village schools, boys, when they reach 12 years of age, might. very easily get some practical education which would be invaluable to them and which would keep them on the land, if some such cooperation could be arranged. I know the difficulties of transportation in a very large scattered area, but I am perfectly certain that it would pay the Minister to do something to encourage boys to stay on the land. Nearly every week I receive letters from the sons of farmers in my division asking me whether I can do anything to obtain employment for them in the towns, as they do not want to be farmers. If in their earlier years they were made more interested in farming we might reasonably expect them to want to stay on the land and not to want to get into the towns at the earliest opportunity.
We are grateful for some of the legislation that has been passed, and we have a feeling of confidence that the long-range policy of the National Government is on the right lines for a permanent solution of agricultural depression, but I venture to direct the Minister's attention to the immediate present, and to ask if lie can do anything to help us immediately, other than by the legislation that has already gone, by any Orders or by any help in connection with the finances of the industry. He appreciates as well as, or probably better than, anybody in the Committee, 1029 the difficulties in which farmers are going to find themselves in financing their business, if an opportunity comes for them to increase their production. If extra financial arrangements could be made, in the form of extended or easy credits, to enable them to get their industry on to a proper footing again, that would be of very great help. Many of my farmers were worth very considerable sums of money five or six years ago. They have carried on and have tried to keep their men at work, although they have been losing money on practically everything that they have produced. They have been working out of capital, which has been steadily going, and to-day they find themselves not in a position to take advantage of the extended opportunities that may come. I hope, when the time arrives for British agriculture to increase its production and for opportunities to be given on the land for further employment, that the Government will take some of the necessary steps to provide credits on a reasonable basis, so that farmers may have the benefit of them.
I do not think that we need fear as to the farmers' ability to deal with the feeding of the people in this country. I have always had it in mind, ever since I have represented this very large agricultural constituency, that we could, without any difficulty, increase our production fourfold, if we had the opportunity to do so, and if prices were remunerative. Li many other parts of the country the same thing appertains. We cannot go forward to national prosperity without we have agricultural prosperity, and unless we are able to take something off that £400,000,000 food import bill we shall not he able in the future to balance our trade, as every hon. Member would like to see done. We have to do something substantial during the lifetime of this Government to make agriculture into a better paying proposition. I speak for many of the industrial parts of Yorkshire, and if the policy of the Government raised prices, I think that people would be very glad to pay a little more for their food, if they thought that the money was going into the pockets of agricultural labourers who were working in this country. We need then have no further worry. We have the most productive land per acre in the world. We can grow more of most things than any other country in the world. We have the 1030 most skilled farmers and workers on the land. I hope, coupling them with the energy and enthusiasm of the Minister of Agriculture and with a little more practical backing from the National Government, that we shall be able, by the time that this Parliament is over, to register a definite advance in agricultural production, and to have given to our agriculturists a security that they have not known for many years.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I found myself for a moment in absolute and complete agreement with the hon. Member on the Opposition Benches who, in the course of his speech, referred to the great difference there was between the price that one of his constituents, a farmer, received for a ton of potatoes,—and the price that those potatoes made in London—1d. a 1b., which amounted to £8 6s. 8d. per ton. He referred to the great exploitation taking place between the producer and the consumer. He has my sympathy. I consider that not only in agriculture, but in industry that the great toll which is taken between the producer and the consumer is responsible for a great deal of our present trouble. I am reminded very often of the farmer who had a pond, and on that pond had some ducks. A friend came down from London and said, "John, what nice ducks you have. How much are they?" John answered, "I can only make s. 6d. or 2s. apiece on them." "What?" said the friend, "If they were in London, I should have to give from 7s. 6c1. to 8s. apiece." John said, "You see that pond? If that pond were in Hell. I could sell it for £1 per pint."
The difficulty is to get the product to the consumer. I suggest that the marketing scheme which is now before us will bring the producer into closer touch with the consumer. I am not quite sure who will be the marketing board that will do that, but in general terms we shall be able, with the marketing scheme, to do away with a good many of the various distributing agencies that now stand between the producer and the consumer, and so to get directly into the pocket of the producer some of the money which the consumer pays.
It would seem that at long last this great industry of agriculture is once more 1031 coming into its own. A few centuries ago, agriculture was practically the only industry of this country. Hon. Members opposite may think that we finish our Session at the end of July in order that some of us may go to the seaside with our families, and others, possibly including Members of the party opposite, may motor up to Scotland and shoot grouse; but that is not the reason why we close down at the end of July. It is, or used to be, in order that Members of the House might proceed into the country to carry on their harvesting operations. Agriculture was formerly the predominating industry of this country, and I am happy to know that once more it is coming into its own.
As agriculturists, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the present Minister of Agriculture for his courage in putting forward the agricultural legislation that we have had recently. Our fear is that we may eventually lose his services—that he may be promoted from the post of Minister of Agriculture to some higher appointment in the Government. I do not, however, see why there should be a higher appointment for him than that of Minister of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture should, in my opinion, be a major Ministry, so that Members of the Government from lower positions should be appointed to the higher position of Minister of Agriculture. I hope, and agriculturists throughout the country hope, that we may retain for many years the services of our present Minister of Agriculture.
In past generations, agriculture has been considered to be a rather unimportant industry. If a man had several sons, and one of them was a little more dense, or a little less efficient, than the others, the father would say, "We will make a farmer of this boy." Those of us who are connected with the land and who believe in heredity may realise why to some extent our speeches may be dense and uninteresting when we remember that we ate descended from a generation of people of that type. But that day is now past. The industry of agriculture is no longer one into which those of little intelligence can go. To-day, to be an efficient agriculturist, you have to have a thorough knowledge of science, mathematics, economics, 1032 physiology, and so on, and if a man has several sons, and finds that one of them is very clever scientifically and mathematically, and has a good commercial brain, that is the one that he will consider worthy to go into the industry of agriculture.
The farmer to-day is an extremely intelligent individual, and is anxious to take every advantage of any information that he can obtain. Throughout the country we have agricultural schools and colleges, all carrying on experimental and research work, and we have county agricultural committees doing the same thing. The agriculturist wants this information; how can he obtain it? He cannot write to the various agricultural colleges and to the county agricultural secretary to ask for it; it is difficult, almost impossible, to acquire. I would suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture would be doing a very useful work if they were to collect all information regarding experimental work, and the data obtained from it, and were to give to the farmer the opportunity of acquiring the knowledge thus collected by means of a publication issued every six months or every year at a moderate charge. I am confident that farmers would value very much the opportunity of obtaining such information.
I see opposite to me the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and I should not feel happy in an agricultural Debate if I had not a word to say to him. During his speech he referred to a certain lack of activity on the part of the Ouse Drainage Board, and said that the Ministry had put a brake upon the work of the Ouse Catchment Board. There are two rivers named the Ouse in this country. The hon. Member is concerned with the Little Ouse; I am concerned with the Great Ouse. My mouth was made to water when a colleague of the hon. Member referred to the fact that a 2d. rate in the Little Ouse area produced £160,000 a year, and the cost of working was only 40,000. In the Great Ouse area practically the whole of the 2d. rate has already been spent, and any further expenditure on the Great Ouse will have to be borne by the internal district catchment boards, who will have an unlimited liability. Therefore, I desire, in direct opposition to the hon. Member for Don Valley, to ask the Minister at any rate 1033 to put a brake on the further activities of the catchment board in the Great Ouse area. Although I value land drainage very much, I feel that there can be too great an expenditure on it. That is our experience in the Great Ouse area.
The work within the Ministry is getting each year more and more important. We have had before us in the last two or three weeks the Agricultural Marketing Bill. I am confident that that Bill is going to revolutionise British agriculture. The agriculturist and farmer in the past has been typically an individualist. He has not only been a producer but at the same time he has been an individualist in selling his goods. To my mind it is far better that the farmer's activities should be used entirely for the purpose of production, in which he has no equal in the whole of the world, and that he should hand over to others the very intricate arrangements for marketing, so that his goods can be marketed under a co-operative scheme. I believe the farmer will reap very considerable advantages from. that Bill. I am not at all pessimistic about the future of British agriculture. I am an optimist with regard to the future. We have gone through a very great period of agricultural depression and I am optimistic for the reason that 10 years ago, when I first came into this House, no interest was taken in agriculture except by a very few hon. Members. To-day not only are the rural Members interested in agriculture, but we have the interest of the industrial community as well. It is because I realise that we agriculturists have to-day the backing of the industrialists that I am confident that the future of agriculture holds hope for those engaged in it.
I would like to say this with regard to the agricultural labourer. We have heard the agricultural labourer's work referred to as an unskilled occupation. No farmer can produce any crop whatsoever without depending on the efficient work of the skilled agricultural labourer. It is a skilled occupation. Let any engineer or coal miner come down into an agricultural area and be put on a binder where he has three horses to drive and one or two levers to work and see what sort of a mess he will make of it. In the same manner the agricultural labourer has to deal with sugar-beet, to thatch stacks and cut hedges and so on. He is expected to be master of many occupations, and he 1034 is worthy of as high a standard of living as any skilled man in any town industry. The industry of agriculture should be placed in a position which will enable the farmer to do what he wants to do, namely, to pay his labourer a decent and proper living wage. I feel sure that the measures taken by the Minister will eventually lead to that and I would like to congratulate him on the energy and efficiency of his Department.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
There were many things that the last speaker said with which I agreed, but it is very difficult to reconcile his remarks with the conduct of the Government with regard to agriculture. I agree that the agricultural labourer is a man who is engaged in a skilled occupation. Certainly he ought to be paid a wage substantially higher than he is now paid, and he ought to have some security when he fails to secure employment on the land. I am hoping that the Minister, if he can within the confines of this Debate, will reply as to whether he is prepared to consult the Minister of Labour to see that some security of some kind can be obtained for the agricultural labourer. While I have been sitting here I have been wondering what is really turning over in the mind of the Minister himself. I think it is recognised by all the Members of this House that of all the Ministers of the Crown the Minister of Agriculture is the one who, perhaps, possesses the greatest depth of philosophy. I am quite sure, thinking as he does think outside of agricultural matters, that he must realise the cause of agricultural depression. He must know that the only real thing that stands between agriculture and its prosperity is the landlord in this country. He must know that if it is really a question of price that determines the length of time the farmer can occupy his farm or make his farming pay, it is substantially a question of rent. He must know that, however much he may endeavour to do—and he is endeavouring within the confines of this system, in which he apparently believes, to do a great many things—in the outcome these things must fail. If agriculture succeeds it merely puts into the hands of people who really do nothing, namely, the landlords, a substantial amount of unearned increment. The depression in industry is attributable to that factor.
1035 I rose, however, mainly to get to know whether the Minister himself can tell me what is to happen to the very many scores of thousands of miners who are now idle in this country, which is, I will not say largely, but partially attributable to the policy of the Government. We find that the grants for smallholdings are being curtailed. We have had a meeting of the Agricultural Committee in Glamorgan, and they are anxious that more men shall be set on the land. We have, as most hon. Members will agree, in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of the most fertile of all the valleys in the whole of Great Britain. We have adjacent to the Vale of Glamorgan, part of which is in my constituency, thousands of miners who are idle, but who could be well settled on the land in Glamorgan. Instead of helping, the Ministry is actually curtailing grants.
We have coming under the purview of the Glamorganshire Agricultural Committee a demonstration farm, which I have visited at the request of students and others. I mention this in order to show the small-minded attitude that the Government adopt. The agricultural committee have been trying for some years to obtain a grant from the Ministry in order to instal electric light. The students attend lectures in the winter months, but the only illumination is from candles and oil lamps. The cost of the electric installation would not be more than about £80. We have received a reply in the last few days that, owing to the financial straits that the country is in, it is impossible to grant the request. It is too funny for words. I agree with the last speaker. I think the Ministry of Agriculture should be put on a par with any other Ministry. The revival of the industry calls for courage, acumen and ability. Instead of curtailing expenditure the Ministry, realising that the prospect of the country depends so largely on its revival, ought to expend far more upon education and research and all the things that matter, which would make it one of the fittest industries in the realm.
I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to make this small grant for an electric light installation, and whether he is prepared to do something to settle some of the 12,000 miners in my constitu- 1036 ency who are idle upon the land. There are a large number of miners who have spent very many years in agriculture. They came in during the War period, and some in the post-War years. They could certainly make a living for themselves and their families if they were settled on the land. I should like the Minister, with the courage that he displays in so many things, to appreciate what it would mean to our mining communities if we could have settled on the land particularly those who have had agricultural experience. Something should be done to increase the grant for smallholdings. It would mean very much for those who have nothing to do. From the standpoint of raising the moral tone, something should be done which would interest them rather than that they should stand at the street corners slowly being demoralised. Although I realise that much can be done within the ambit of the present system, I think the Minister will ultimately find, if he does not know already, that if the land became the property of the State and the landlord was lifted off agriculture and farmers could farm their land without having to pay excessive rents, they could grow crops which would be profitable and pay their labourers a living wage.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
I think I am the only Member who can say with truth that he has heard the whole or part of every speech that has been made in this Debate. That inclines me to fall into one or other of the sealed patterns of speeches that we have heard, either to expatiate on the sad lot of the valleys of the Don, the Rother, the Little Ouse and the Great Ouse and the other Yorkshire streams, with which we are so much better acquainted than we were a few hours ago, or else to take the other line that has been taken by almost everyone else in expecting the Minister to secure adequate prices for everything that happens to be produced in our own particular constituencies. The second plea from now on, I am afraid, will be inevitable. The appetite grows with what it feeds on and once you start on the line of Protection, subsidies and quotas, people will expect in one way or another that they should be applied to everything in which they are interested. That opens up the large subject of the Ottawa Agreements, 1037 which is very tempting to anyone sitting where I do. I will resist the temptation, except to say that it is rather interesting to notice how often the Minister referred to the variations and modifications which he had already had to make in those agreements, how already they are to serve as the basis for arrangements which have had to be made, and how clearly there are some things arising in connection with them which could not have been foreseen at the time they were made. It is rather tempting to point out how the fact that we made them has had a great deal to do with setting the United States on the line of self-sufficiency which they have developed lately. It seems to me almost incredible that it could be possible, as it obviously is, for Australia to give a subsidy of 3d. a 1b. on its butter. That sort of thing was not provided against. The fact is that, when a gentleman makes an agreement with someone, unless he knows him very well he is apt to get the worst of it, and I think that is really what has been happening with some of these Ottawa Agreements.
I heard the Minister say that he thought he would be doing a great in-justice to smallholders if he tried to develop the policy of settling people on t land until prices were better. That is; the sort of thing that we must accept just, now, but I should like to know what that is going to lead to. If and when prices are better, as we all hope they will be, what will he say then'? Will he say, "Of course I could not do it when things were bad, and now that things are better I do not need to do it because they can manage for themselves." Or is it going to lead to a continuous and expanding policy of development from the allotment at the bottom to the whole-time holding at the top? It is unfair to press the right hon. and gallant Gentleman at present, but I want to make a practical suggestion to him which, unlike a good many suggestions that have been made today, would not cost much money. I do not think that the Ministry know very much about any part-time holding policy, except about the ordinary matter of county council smallholdings, about which, no doubt, they know everything. They know a good deal about allotments, but they have not much practical experi- 1038 ence of the definite possibilities between the two.
There is a body which has been trying to get that experience in the last year or so in a practical way. It is a committee, of which I happen to be one of the chairmen, working in connection with the Society of Friends. They are administering an allotment scheme with Government help, but they are also, without any help from Government money, administering an experimental scheme with money which a well-disposed public have put at their disposal for schemes of the kind. In different counties and parts of the United Kingdom we are deliberately making experiments, varying from the full-time holding in the Rhondda Valley to helping Durham and Northumberland miners to build their hen houses and to get a couple of sittings of chicks and start poultry keeping on a small scale. We are making a good many experiments in different places with the limited sum of £5,000. if and when the Government of the country begin once more to turn their minds to land settlement, they will want to know the practical finance of things of the kind which have actually been done, and whether, if you do a thing in one way or another, it will be a success or a failure. All that is being done very carefully by the Committee with which I am working. Accounts have to be carefully kept, and where money can be repaid it has to be repaid. We take very careful note as to whether it is possible to get money back again, and, if so, how much, and how much each type of scheme costs. I suggest that in the coming year the Government should make their help available. I do not want them to pay for it, but, as they are making grants available for unemployed men to obtain allotments, so they should make a grant, it may be, pound for pound, available for these extra land settlement schemes, in regard to which we are accumulating so much information which is bound to be useful in A, positive or a negative way when the Government are able to deal with the question seriously.
With regard to the allotment side of that work we know already that we shall have helped, not the 64,000 unemployed men whom we helped last year or the year before, but well over 100,000 men. Those Ministers who know most about 1039 it have already said that they want us to tackle the job again, and hope that we shall be able to help, not 100,000 but 200,000. I would point out that from practical experience of the working of schemes, it will be extraordinarily difficult to do that unless the Government make some use of those Sections of the Land Utilisation Act which are now in abeyance. The best hope—I almost said the only hope—of getting men on to the land is to get the land permanently and make it secure for allotments for good and not have it on an insecure tenancy so that a man in a few years' time may have to look for other land. That can be done now under the powers of local authorities much more easily than many local authorities realise, either by borrowing on comparatively easy terms, or spending up to a rate of lid. for allotment undertakings. I would like the Government to say that where an authority is able to get hold of land on real security and will use a reasonable proportion of their own powers and rates to get land for unemployed men, let them have it at a rent of not more than Is. a rod, and free for the first year if they have to break up fresh ground, the Government will come to the help of the local authority and make certain Grants-in-Aid to help them to secure the land permanently.
I pass to another question altogether. I am not sure that the Government are quite aware of the fact—and yet perhaps they are, and I expect that the Minister knows practically everything—that an undignified thing is going on in more than one part of the country in regard to tithes. The farmer refuses to pay tithes. A good many things then happen into which I need not go, but after some months have elapsed an auctioneer arrives to sell his stock. The auctioneer is kindly but firmly removed in the direction of the nearest pond or omnibus route. At any rate, the sale does not take place. If it does, no one buys. Next—and it shows the resources of the Church of England—there arrives at dead of night a set of people who drive the cattle of the farmer off his farm and carry them away in motor lorries to a distant market and sell them for the benefit of the tithe-owner. That is not a dignified proceeding. It is encouraging lawlessness, and contempt for the Church of 1040 England and its proper legal dues. I have heard the Government say that they will do nothing about it. They have said that for a long time, but it is a question about which the Government ought to do something and regard it rather more seriously than they have regarded it in the past.
We are looking forward to a big but, very complicated and difficult milk scheme. It ought not to be entirely a scheme with regard to the marketing of milk, big and difficult though that may be. Alongside of the scheme, which, no doubt, will go through, with regard to marketing, the Ministry should consider whether they cannot get a more uniform system with regard to improving and securing the quality of milk. The question of what ought to be done is a difficult one. The whole question of pasteurisation comes up, and on that matter a very strong committee of the Royal Agricultural Society is now at work. It may be that the matter will have to wait until their report comes along. But the question of whether there ought to be whole-time veterinary inspectors is coining up in different counties, and if we do not take care there will be some counties with an adequate whole-time veterinary service and a proper method of having their cows and cow-sheds inspected, and there will be other counties in which practically nothing will be done.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
And it will go on. That is undesirable. If a scheme for the better marketing of milk is to have its full effect, it ought to lead to a very much increased consumption of milk. That will always be liable to be negatived in any particular county. People do not differentiate very much between county and county, and you are liable to get a report from a medical officer in some town that so much per cent. of the milk is dirty, or contains far too many disease germs, and that some outbreak of disease has been due to the quality of the milk. Once that sort of report gets into the papers, down goes the prospect of really increasing your milk consumption. You cannot tackle all that at once, but I would suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that he should take steps before very long to see that the different counties have the same type of service 1041 with regard to the veterinary inspection of cows and such safeguards as can be taken through inspection against getting contaminated milk.
My second point is this, that we passed the pig and bacon scheme a week ago. The Minister was perfectly right in saying then, as he has said this evening that, technically, all he has to do is to see whether the scheme prepared by the National Farmers' Union is such as may he passed on to the farming community. But I want to repeat a point which I made on that occasion and which may be more serious in regard to milk than in regard to pigs and bacon—because milk is more complicated—and it is this, that if one can foresee anything with some certainty the milk scheme will come before the House just before the summer recess and probably will be rushed through rather late at night—I am not blaming the Government—without anything being really possible with regard to an explanation. Therefore, I want to repeat the point that, although the Minister is technically right in saying that he has nothing to do with these schemes that come forward from the National Farmers' Union, yet in regard to the milk scheme it is really, in essence, a Government scheme or a scheme under Government auspices.
I want the Government to consider whether some little account might not be issued in a less expensive form than the orange book of the Committee, which would explain to the ordinary farmer what really is meant, how the position of the ordinary producer will be changed, under what sort of control he will be, how prices will be settled, and things of that kind which it is impossible to gather from the schemes, because they are not framed to show all these things. It could be circulated by hon. Members to their constituents, and the Farmers' Union would be able to circulate it to show that it is brought forward not merely on the authority of the Union but that the authority of the Government is really involved in the acceptance or rejection of these schemes.
My third point is this that, having watched as far as one can the procedure over the milk inquiry, I am a little perturbed to find that at present the National Farmers' Union is against there being set up a body to have the 1042 power of negotiating prices, if negotiation fails between the representatives of the producers and the representatives of the dealers. It is natural for the men in the Farmers' Union who are now very occupied with these schemes to think that they will be able to do it all, but I am not sure that they will. I believe that it will be fatal to the friendly acceptance of the milk scheme if there should be prolonged disputes, wrangles, threats of strike and threats of termination of agreements, and all that sort of thing between the two parties. Therefore, I think it is almost essential that there should be set up from the first as an integral part of the scheme, as was recommended in the Milk Reorganisation Report, a body which shall have the power and authority that the Government can give it to settle a fair price between the two parties. I am afraid that my remarks have been rather disconnected and rather at random, but with regard to the allotment question I speak with some authority, and I hope that the Minister will do his best to consider what I have put before him.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The Committee has experienced one of the most interesting discussions that has taken place on agriculture for several years. Along with other hon. Members, I would congratulate the Minister on the clear way he put his case before the Committee, and I join with them in thinking that the day is not far distant when the Ministry of Agriculture will find a very much more exalted place in the Government than it does at the moment. I have never liked the idea which animates the powers that be in promoting a Member of the Government by removing him from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Home Office. I think the reverse ought to be the case, and I repeat my opinion that before long agriculture will find a very much exalted position in the Government than it does at the present time. The right hon. and gallant Member who has charge of the Department to-day has undoubtedly enhanced the position of the Department and his own reputation as well.
This is the occasion for an annual review of the administration of the Ministry, and in speaking on agriculture I want to make it clear that I am not an expert. I am pleased to say that this 1043 Government have done one thing in regard to the Ministry of Agriculture which Governments do not usually do. As a rule they appoint to ministerial posts men who know nothing about the work, but in the present case the Minister of Agriculture who has been appointed to his present post does know something about agriculture. Therefore, something can be said of him that cannot be said of many other Ministers in the present Government. Hon. Members will have noticed that I am the sixth ex-coalminer who has spoken on agriculture from these benches to-day. No one has spoken from this side except men who have worked in the coal mines. I hope I may be pardoned for introducing a personal note. I claim to know a little about agriculture, because in the first three years of my working life I ploughed the fields, transplanted turnips, fed the cattle and drove them to the slaughter house. I will not, however, tell the Committee what wages I got, otherwise they might be astonished. Probably they would say that I was well paid, whatever I got. It is indeed a sign of the interest that is taken by the industrial population in agriculture when Members on this side of the House who have been working in the coal mines have been the chief contributors to the Debate.
There is no quarrel as to the desirability of making agriculture succeed in this country. I have a very simple philosophy in regard to our economic position. I am satisfied that. the drift to the land is absolutely inevitable. Whatever may be said to the contrary, I feel sure that our country will have to pay very much more attention to the soil than it has done in the recent past. The statement of the Minister was deficient in one respect,. and that is that we have not got, as they have in Scotland, the report of the Ministry of Agriculture for the last year. I understand that the report of the Ministry of Agriculture for England and Wales is divided into seperate parts in regard to acreage under cultivation, and kindred matters. It would be well if we had some form of a report of the work of the Department for 1932 showing exactly where we stood at the end of the year. It would help us to deal better with the problems of agriculture.
Another deficiency in the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member was that 1044 he did not tell us the effect of the Wheat subsidy in an increase or decrease of the number of acres under cultivation for wheat. Surely when the Minister deals with the work of his Department in an hour's speech—I do not object to that—we ought to have some idea as to the prospects for the future. Has the policy of the Government failed, or has it succeeded? Has the policy of shutting out foreign horticultural products, the quota system for beef, mutton and lamb, and the payment of a subsidy to the farmer in respect of wheat, made any real difference Is the soil better cultivated than it was before; is there a greater proportion of the acreage of land under cultivation, is there a larger number of persons employed on the land? These are the tests which should be put as to the work of the Department, and on future occasions I hope we shall have a survey not merely of what has passed—we have that in the statistical information which is available—but some survey as to the prospects for the future.
The Minister of Agriculture missed another point. I should have liked some statement from him in regard to agricultural co-operation. I am afraid that there has been a little set-back to agricultural co-operation in a voluntary form. One of the best agricultural co-operative societies is to be found in West Wales, and if it is a success, as I think it is, we are entitled to know why this conception of co-operation in agriculture is not spreading all over England. This is, indeed, putting the policy of the Government to the test. When the present Government vas formed it was said that their horticultural policy would bring more employment on the land, the number of glass-houses would increase, farmers would do well and horticulturists would make greater profits than ever. In view of the fact that import duties have been tried, quotas imposed and bounties paid, it is a proper question to ask, why is it that agriculture is still in a bad way? I have never heard anyone connected with the textile industry, the shipbuilding industry, the coal industry or the distributive trades, throwing bouquets at the managers and owners in the same way as Tory Members of Parliament are always doing to the farmers. Agriculture is really the darling of the Tory party. They have supported it in every form; by taking off rates, giving bounties on wheat, and so on, but 1045 in spite of everything that the Tory party has done for agriculture we have been told to-day by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) that the situation in Yorkshire, as far as the agricultural industry is concerned, is as bad as ever it was. Buckrose is in the biggest county of England, though not the most important; the most important county is, of course, Lancashire—
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am an Englishman in politics. But the hon. and gallant Member spoke with a good deal of authority on agriculture, and he said that the situation in Yorkshire is as bad as ever it was. There is, however, one good feature about the statement of the Minister. He is convinced at last that the only way to save agriculture is by marketing schemes. The astonishing thing about the Tory mind is that it listens in sullen silence to our proposals for 10 or 15 years and then, when we have done all the propaganda and educational work, it turns round and embraces our principles, and prostitutes them at the same time. A marketing scheme for agriculture purposes is part and parcel of the Labour party's policy. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made a most remarkable statement. He said that only 1,100 persons had been settled on the land, presumably during the' present Government's period of office.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am certain that there has been a slowing down of the process during the last few years of Tory Government. The Minister said that we must see to the welfare of those already on the soil before we begin to speak about bringing others on to the land. That is a change of front. When this Government came into power we were told that everything was well on the way for scores of thousands of people to find employment on the land, especially in growing tomatoes under glasshouses. This is therefore a very serious set-back. The right hon. Gentleman rather congratulated himself about the efficiency of the administration of his Department. I do not think that a Minister is well advised to mix up the administration of his 1046 Department with the policy of the Government. Civil servants are quite as efficient in putting down foot-and-mouth disease under a Labour Government as they are under a Tory administration. I do not think that foot-and-mouth disease takes any notice of the colour of the Government at any time. And when he compared this country with France, and said that there were 9,449 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in France and only 25 in Great Britain, it must be remembered that France is a much bigger agricultural country, although I agree that the law and regulations of the State are much better administered in airs country than in most countries of the world. Some hon. Members may say that it is surprising that a Socialist should say that of this country—
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am not going to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman into what President Roosevelt is doing. I have seen America for myself. I agree with Mark Twain. He said that some people are astonished that Christopher Columbus ever discovered America. He added that he would have been amazed if Columbus had missed it. I was a little surprised to hear some of the comments of the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). See where we have travelled. When this Parliament began the cry was that we were to shut out all foreign agricultural goods that came into competition with our own. Now, however, the competition is not that of foreign countries; complaint is made that the competition against our own agricultural produce comes from within the Empire. If I believed in quotas and tariffs and prohibitions, I would believe also that the competition from the Dominions is quite as serious to the agriculturist of this country as that from France or Spain. I happen to be a member of the Marketing Committee of the Empire Marketing Board. The problem that has confronted that Committee more than once is that the people of this country, when they have been appealed to to buy Empire goods, have always thought that the Empire consisted of Australia, Canada and South Africa, and that England, Scotland and Wales are not in the Empire at all. In the end, of course, the advertisements had to be changed, and they 1047 now read "Buy Empire goods from home and abroad." I suppose that the home producer will get the benefit of the result of that advertisement.
There is therefore that problem of commodities from within the Empire competing with the agriculturists of this country. I am informed that 90 per cent. of the cheese that is consumed in this country comes from Empire sources outside this country, and 50 per cent. of the butter. We have been informed by one right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal benches that Australia subsidises the butter that is sent to this country. Really Imperialism of that kind is not worth having. I should imagine that the Minister of Agriculture will have something to say about the way in which the Ottawa Agreements, which were to save the Empire, are operating at the moment against the home producer.
While we are talking of marketing and organisation and regulation, let me say a few words on milk. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) is not present, because last evening he contributed a very forceful argument in favour of the supply of milk free of charge to school children. I did my level best to prevent the hon. Gentleman from coming to this House, and it is not my fault that he is here. As he has come, I was very delighted indeed to hear him deliver a semi-Socialist speech. This is what he said, and perhaps the Minister will be good enough to deal with the point in his reply:At present I think it is provided for about 10 per cent., nearly entirely but not altogether at private expense. That means a consumption of 8,000,000 gallons a year. If all children received it, the consumption would be 80,000,000 gallons, and that would transform the problem of the milk industry. The annual dost would be about £8,000,000. I do not believe that would be the entire cost."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1933; col. 871, Vol. 280.]The suggestion there is that as we have more milk than can be bought, it is advisable that the surplus which cannot be sold should be consumed by the children in the schools. That is a proposition which ought to receive the attention of Members of all political parties. If too much milk is being produced, there is nothing wrong, economically or politically, in the proposal to give that surplus, free of charge, to the 1048 school children who require it. I do not think any hon. Member would object to a proposition of that kind.
I had the opportunity the other day of coming into rather close contact with the problems of agriculture abroad. I sat on a Commission with representatives from Hungary, the Balkans, Austria, France and elsewhere, and I found that the trend of events in these agricultural countries might be indicated in this fashion. They say, in effect, that in the case of certain commodities produced by agriculturists throughout. the world, the amount of the consumption is known beforehand. You cannot, say how many pairs of boots will be required at a given time because that depends upon the capacity of the individual to buy but, with regard to meat and sugar, salt and coal and certain other specific commodities, it is argued that the market has already reached saturation point. Consequently, it is said, if you know beforehand how much of a certain commodity will be required, it is better to regulate the production of that commodity in order that the agriculturist may not find himself left with three times as much as he can sell. I do not know whether the Minister can tell us whether this problem has been considered at the World Economic Conference. If the nations of Europe are travelling towards economic nationalism and putting up tariff barriers one against the other and shutting other people out, forgetful of the fact that they are shuting themselves in at the same time; if they will not accept universal Free Trade which I, personally, would like to see, then it seems to me that this regulation of the production of those commodities, the world requirement of which is known beforehand, is worthy of consideration. At all events we are entitled to ask whether such a proposition has been made at the World Economic Conference.
This has indeed been a very interesting discussion and before it concludes I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman how comes it that in spite of the agreements with the Argentine and other countries and with the Dominions, for a gradual reduction in the proportion of chilled and frozen meat coming to this country, the price of beef produced in this country is still on the decline. That is an amazing state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman said 1049 that he was not going to draw a sunshine picture of the situation. I do not think this Government can give us a sunshine picture of anything that they have done so far, and that is especially so regarding agriculture. I regretted very much that in the very admirable speech of the Minister he did not utter a single sentence about the agricultural worker. That is typical of the Tory party. The landowner and the farmer—all right. But the agricultural worker does not appear to exist for them, except as one who is to be paid wages as low as they can be reduced.
The surprising feature of some of the arguments advanced to-day was the assumption that wages would be safeguarded if the Government only took care of the farmers' interests. Not a word was said about the complaint of the average farmer which I have heard over and over again. The more efficient the farmer, the better and the neater he keeps his farm, the more he tills the soil, the more beautiful he makes his holding, the higher the rent he has to pay to his landlord because he has made it into a better farm. I would like to know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has any policy on that score. In any case he never said a word about the agricultural labourer in the whole of his speech. He has told us that the Government will seek power soon to do certain other things for agriculture, but he never said that the Government would seek power to include agricultural workers within the next Bill for unemployment insurance, and he never said a word either as to the dismissal of those six wages inspectors. In view of the figures given in the very admirable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), and in view of delinquencies by the farmers in not, paying fair wages to the agricultural workers, I think we are entitled to ask for the reinstatement of some if not the whole of those inspectors.
I compliment the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) on his speech. He has made his point about the value of allotments more than once in this House. If there is one line of progress, an easy and an economical line of progress, in connection with agricultural produce, the one suggested by the right hon. Baronet, namely, an increase of allotments in this country, 1050 is one of the best. I wish the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had told us something also about a better water supply for the rural areas, which is required very much indeed. There are large municipalities in the North, with a declining population and declining industries, which have huge water supplies on their hands that they cannot use. The Ministry in Whitehall ought to take up the problem of utilising that surplus water for some of these rural areas. That is a proposition which ought to receive immediate attention.
I think that hon. Members from the Yorkshire areas have made out an unanswerable case in regard to the floodings that take place there. If what has occurred in the Don Valley had happened in China, or Japan, or Russia, some charitably disposed hon. Member would probably have raised a fund to aid them in their difficulties, to help build dams to prevent any further flooding of those foreign parts. These things ought to stop, and if the Minister of Agriculture did nothing else during the next year of office but give attention in particular to the flooded areas of this country, I think he would be commended by everybody who is interested in human welfare.
§ 10,29 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am sure that no Minister could possibly have had a more sympathetic and a better informed Debate than that which we have had to-day, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who has just resumed his seat, that the interest which the representatives from the coal-mining areas have shown in agricultural affairs, not merely to-night, but throughout this Parliament, is a sign of the times. I am particularly struck with the request of one of the Members from Wales that some hope should be given to his 12,000 constituents, now out of work, who will not again be employed in the pits. I think it is that fact which adds special keenness to our consideration of agricultural problems in this House during this Parliament, for we had begun to see that there are great blocks of people now out of work who will not be reabsorbed in their previous industries. For these, therefore, this House must either say, "We have some line along which you may go," or "We have no line along which you may go." To say 1051 to scores of hundreds of thousands of our own fellow citizens, "The nation has no use for you, we shall feed you until you die, and that is the end of your usefulness," is not a conclusion which this House is willing to adopt or which it can reasonably ask any section of the community to agree to.
There is, of course, the big question over and above what we are discussing to-night. We are discussing agriculture the industry. There is also the wider question of agriculture the mode of life. These things are not mixed up with each other because they are not specifically connected. Indeed, in some ways they are actually opposed to each other, for the greater efficiency of agriculture, which would be the simplest way of meeting foreign competition, the greater mechanisation of agriculture, the scrapping of all forms of useless movement and less efficient labour and of every kind of activity except that which could show the biggest possible return, either in produce or in money—such a procedure would bring about an efficient, and it might be, a prosperous agricultural industry, but it would be the ruin of the countryside of England and Wales as we have known it and as we wish to preserve it.
Let me first deal with the question which the mining representatives more particularly put forward, because, although they take an interest in agriculture, yet they have a very healthy regard for the conditions of their own farmyards. We learned about the windings of the various rivers of the Yorkshire watersheds. I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Grundy) who, in a speech racy of the soil, continued to put one question which no Minister can stand having indefinitely hurled at his head, namely, "What are you going to do about it?" I am not afraid when certain cunning fellows opposite endeavour to put me on the horns of a dilemma, because I have no less cunning than they; but when a great solid miner comes and says, "My people are being taken out of their houses by the bedroom windows, which is not the sort of way in which people ought to be taken out of their houses, and what are you going to do about it?" I am baffled, and I have to go and think of something to 1052 do. Fortunately, I said to myself that no doubt this is the sort of question which will be asked and these are the sort of men who will ask it. Consequently, I have taken steps to meet their demand in anticipation.
As the Committee know, the Bill enabling comprehensive schemes to be brought forward by the two great drainage boards was actually put through this House in the winter just passed, and we were much indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and other hon. Members who sit with him, for their co-operation in passing that Act. The Yorkshire Ouse Catchment Board met and passed certain resolutions on the 24th May, 1933. Immediately they instructed their engineer to prepare a scheme for remedial works on the Don. The chairman of the board and the chairman of the finance committee were instructed, as soon as that scheme was ready, to approach the Ministry on the subject of a Government grant. The chairman of the board and the Chairman of the Finance Committee put up a formal application for a grant on the 28th June, 1933. On the 29th day of June we had a meeting with those two gentlemen and explained the position, and my hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that we made them the offer of a substantial sum of money towards the carrying out of these schemes. The letter containing our offer was sent to the Catchment Board on the 8th day of July. I hope that will meet the question of my hon. Friend the Member for the Bother Valley, "What are you going to do about it?" On the 8th of July we sent a letter to the Catchment Board offering £10,000 on behalf of the Government as a contribution towards the works which it is necessary to carry out to remedy the difficulties in which the Don Valley area finds itself.
It is, of course, well known that these schemes will cost large sums of money, and no doubt the criticism will be made that the sum offered is inadequate. It is half of the whole resources of which I stand possessed for the year and I hope that my hon. Friends in all parts of the House who represent this area will take it as an earnest of our desire to help that great board, commanding as they do vast sums of money—for a twopenny rate will raise £160,000 a year.
1053 I hope they will agree that this offer of the Government to contribute half of its available resources this year for the relief of that area is a fair offer, and not demand unduly that we should make larger and yet larger grants to the Don Valley, for as my hon. Friend well knows, having studied this question, there are areas in other parts of the country which are very hard up, where a twopenny rate yields nothing like that sum, and we shall need to reserve a portion of our resources, even if better times come, and we are able to get the larger grants from the Treasury which, I admit, were definitely promised under Section 55 of that Act, towards the drainage authorities. Even if those sums become available there are many parts of the country where a twopenny rate raises so small an amount that they would really need to get attention before an area such as the Don Valley, where £160,000 can be raised by such a rate.
I hope the earnest of good will which we have shown in the offer of £10,000 will convince my hon. Friends opposite that we are not giving sympathy and then waiting until the floods come the next time, but that we are desirous that, in the better weather, we shall be able to do something to obviate this recurring difficulty, which I agree is scarcely less than a scandal to our countryside. So much for the specific question which my hon. Friend asked about his own constituency. He asked several questions upon the wider aspect, first, of the Estimates which I am proposing and, secondly, the agricultural policy as a whole. He asked what was the position of the Agricultural Research Council, and whether that had been dropped. No, Sir, that has not been dropped at all, it is in being. The Agricultural Research Council Committee has, during the past year, been undertaking a review of the research work in progress, and when this has been completed it will be able to formulate proposals regarding the future development of agricultural research.
We have provided, under subhead G.6 in the Estimates, the sum of £1,500 for such extension of research as may be required in consequence of the recommendation of the Agricultural Research Council, and a research fund of £6,000 has also been placed at the disposition of the council. My hon. Friend will see, therefore, that the council is in being, that it 1054 has been put in funds to the extent of £6,000 on its own account, and that we have placed £1,500 further in our Estimates for any extension of the activities which it may recommend. In regard to the Veterinary College, the college has now raised the £100,000 which was required to earn the promised State grant, but I am afraid that I cannot as yet give an indication whether the Government contribution to match that will be forthcoming, although I admit that a grant was promised to the Veterinary College if they succeeded in raising the first £100,000 themselves.
We were asked what was the position with regard to the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act and to allotments. Several hon. and right hon. Members asked about that. I was most interested in the speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) who pointed out that already over 100,000 persons had been helped through the co-operation of the Government and the various voluntary agencies. That is no small thing. In fact, 108,000 is the figure. He also indicated that he had been sympathetically asked by persons in authority to see whether he could get towards the 200,000 mark. He warned the Committee that it might be difficult to get so far without putting into effect the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act, We shall do the best we can with the resources at our disposal. I am not so certain as he that it is necessary for the county council to buy the land upon which they intend to make allotments available. I give no pledge to them as to the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act, because it is quite impossible to consider putting into effect these great pieces of legislation unless a fund can be made available. When it comes to the question of funds, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, we have to consider the whole of the resources at the disposition of the Government, and the whole of the ends to which those resources have to be applied.
I will only say that, for my part, I consider that allotment work is one of the very best ways within our range at present of dealing with the frightful problem of the man for whom nothing can be found to do. I do not think that it does any harm that the funds available should not be very large, but we should make them go as far as possible, and use 1055 every economy. To make sure that we are not in any way wasting the funds, and that the man who has nothing to do is given an opportunity to help himself and to keep the feeling that he is still a useful citizen, is an object with which every hon. Member will sympathise. We will not, I think, break into any market to an extent that will do any serious damage. On the principle of "Eat what you grow," I have no objection to any number of persons indulging in agricultural work. The danger comes when the subsidised smallholder begins to put stuff on the market against some smallholder who is working entirely by himself, and who feels that that is a bitter injustice; but that a man should produce food and consume that food is an activity to which neither in economics nor in psychology can anyone find any objection whatsoever.
The hon. Member for Don Valley asked what was the effect of all this spoon feeding? He brought an accusation against me, which was repeated by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), that I had not mentioned the agricultural labourer—that I had not said a word about the agricultural labourer. I mentioned the agricultural labourer in almost every sentence that I spoke. I spoke of the industry of agriculture, and I would never insult the agricultural labourer by suggesting that it would be possible to mention the industry of agriculture without mentioning the agricultural labourer. The agricultural industry is not carried on solely by the landlord or the farmer. It is, of course, carried on also by the agricultural labourer. Who, of all the men in the industry, has more to gain, or is more terrified of loss, than the agricultural labourer? He watches with the keenest anxiety the course of the markets and the prosperity of the farm. He watches with very keen interest the possibility of the death of the landlord, not because he wishes to rejoice over that event, but because he knows that then comes down the heavy hand of the State and confiscates half the working capital of the estate, which may quite possibly result in his being out of a job, or at any rate, as we all know from experience, in the postponement, it may be indefinitely, of some small repair to the starting of which he was looking forward, or of some little addition to his amenities 1056 which he confidently expected would take place, had not the all-devouring maw of the "fisc" swept this little amount of money away, and made it impossible for years for the estate to carry out what everyone desired should be done.
If I am asked, "What actual advantage to the labourer can you show in all this?" I will give it in one sentence. Agricultural wages in this country are higher, save for the War period, than they have been for 30 years. I would like to know whether, in the United States or any other agricultural country, such a statement could be made. It was said that there was not a sufficient number of inspectors, and that the inspections which were being carried out were not producing the same effects as were produced when there was a "flying squad" of inspectors available. I listened with interest to the statistics given by hon. Members who spoke on this subject. I think that perhaps they exaggerated the delinquencies. The hon. Member for Don Valley said that about 27 per cent. of the workers on the farms inspected in certain counties were not getting the full wages to which they were entitled; but in only 7.4 per cent. of the cases was the authorised minimum wage not being paid, the bulk of the defaults were not of a very serious character, and only 89 prosecutions were considered necessary, out of over 3,000 farms inspected. I do not think it can be said, on these figures, that the Agricultural Wages Act is being allowed to fall into desuetude. Of course, these inspections have served a useful purpose, but the reduction of the staff from 21 to 15 has not crippled that purpose. We have found in practice that the staff was sufficient to deal with every complaint received by the Ministry, and, in addition, to carry out a considerable number of test inspections. I think these figures should go some way to reassure my hon. Friends in various parts of the House who have brought the matter up.
It would be discourteous if I did not say something about the interesting speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). I thought, for one of his great experience, he was a little uncertain which horse he ought to back. I really felt at certain times I was being pressed by an ultra-Conservative of the Right not merely to 1057 give more assistance to his constituency but to sweep away any shreds of organisation which were being brought into existence just now, because in some way, at some time, in certain circumstances they might inconvenience certain persons in some way or other. That is not the way in which we can look at things nowadays. We do not like to be organised any of us, but we have to be organised nowadays. All these schemes are for the farmers to organise themselves, and if they do not they will be organised by the bank managers and the bank managers are far less sympathetic administrators than the farmers will be to themselves and to each other.
The hon. Member asked if the House would be asked to vote on the future policy in regard to sugar-beet without the result of the examination which is now being carried out. He asked whether it was only an arrangement between the private producers which was being examined—the beet-sugar producer and the sugar refiners. The answer is that it is not merely an examination of the arrangements between two producers that is being carried out. As the Financial Secretary's answer shows, it is an exhaustive inquiry into the whole of the costings and workings of the beet-sugar factories with the object of being able to bring reasonable proposals before the House which have been based on most stringent actuarial investigations. Of course, the House will not be asked to vote on these proposals until this examination has been fully carried out and the result of it is in the hands of the Minister and still more in the hands of the Treasury officials who will have finally to advise the Chancellor as to the attitude he should take up towards requests for assistance.
The hon. Member for Ely also said that when prices rose the producers would throw off these regulations. When prices rise we shall all be more than delighted to relax as speedily as possible the whole of these regulations. We are dealing with an emergency situation, and, if the emergency passes, we shall be more than delighted to give up the regulations which we have made to deal with that emergency situation. Personally, I feel it may be a rather longer period than the hon. Member considers, but if his optimism as to the 1058 results of the Government's present operations is justified then perhaps before the end of this Parliament we shall find ourselves in the glorious position of being able to say, "There is an unlimited market for everything you produce. No organisation. is necessary. Get down to the fields and produce the utmost you can. Bring it to the markets and the towns will consume it all, and there is no need to worry about foreign markets for so great is the revival of trade that all the production of foreign countries is being required for their own consumption." If that day arrives why, of course, I shall not keep on the regulations for the fun of keeping them on. I shall come down and make a statement at the beginning of the Estimates, and move "That this House do now adjourn."
The difficulties of the industry, however, were stated by a number of agricultural Members who know that agriculture is very far indeed from that halcyon period. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers), and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) have all repeated that the state of agriculture is far from satisfactory, that beef prices, butter prices and the prices of many of our staple articles are not only low but lower than they have ever been. That is exactly the position that I disclosed most frankly when introducing these Estimates. The time for the relaxation of our efforts is not yet. We need the most unremitting attention to the present situation, and that is the answer to those who say that the state of agriculture ought to be all right by now. It is not all right, and those in every part of the House who sincerely desire the prosperity of agriculture should realise that we cannot give up either the unremitting efforts that we are making towards the better organisation of the industry or the efforts that we are making towards the release of the pressure of gluts upon our various markets because, if prices continue as they are just now, it is only the blunt truth to say that ruin in many cases actually faces many of the producers of the primary staples of life. The proposals that the Government have brought forward have in some respects eased the situation.
1059 I was asked by the last speaker what results bad taken place in the case of the wheat acreage. In 1931 the acreage under wheat was 1,196,000 acres in England and Wales. In 1932 it was 1,287,000 acres, an increase of 90,000. In 1933 we cannot give any exact figures yet but our estimates are that there is an increase of about 16 per cent. in the winter sowings, so that the efforts that we are making are certainly having effect. The increase of poultry and eggs is continuing rapidly. The increase in dairy produce is one of the causes of the crisis in which the dairy industry finds itself to-day. There is an increase in beef production as well and, in fact, in all lines of agriculture an increase in production is showing itself, and our only anxiety is that those who have produced it shall not have to scrap it because they can find no market.
I was asked as to the position of the landlord in the scheme of things. In the few seconds that remain I do not think I should be justified, though on another occasion I should be glad to take up that discussion also. I shall do my best to
§ examine the many practical suggestions which have been made and, if possible, to reply by letter or by interview to those who have made them. We end with the knowledge that we are still in the middle of a desperate struggle and at this time we can do, not all that we had hoped, but much. We are indebted to the forbearance of Members in all sections of the House at a time when the temptation to make a simple party attack is very, strong indeed, because the position of the Government in agricultural affairs is such that a simple destructive attack could be very powerfully delivered. The Committee has not taken that attitude. It has taken a constructive attitude and one of sympathy towards our constructive proposals. We thank the Committee for that and we shall do our best to justify their confidence.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,165,524, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 42; Noes, 206.1061
|Division No. 260.]||AYES.||[11.1 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Groves, Thomas E.||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Betsy, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Dagger, George||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Dabble, William||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lunn, William|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cross, R. H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Apsley, Lord||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Buchan, John||Dickle, John P.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Doran, Edward|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burghley, Lord||Drewe, Cedric|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Dunglass, Lord|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Burnett, John George||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Elmley, Viscount|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Bernays, Robert||Clarry, Reginald George||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Borodale, Viscount||Colfax, Major William Philip||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Boulton, W. W.||Colman, N. C. D.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Conant, R. J. E.||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Crooke, J. Smedley||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Magnay, Thomas||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Slater, John|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Margesson, Copt Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Graves, Marjorie||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Milne, Charles||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||Molten, A. Hugh Elsdale||Soper, Richard|
|Grimston, R. V.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Morgan, Robert H.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Morrison, William Shepherd||Spens, William Patrick|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Natlon, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Stones, James|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Patrick, Colin M.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Pearson, William G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Penny, Sir George||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Petherick, M.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Pike, Cecil F.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Potter, John||Thompson, Luke|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Thorp, Linton Theodora|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Ramadan, Sir Eugene||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Rankin, Robert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Jennings, Roland||Rea, Walter Russell||Tartan, Robert Hugh|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Wallace, John (Dunfermllne)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Robinson, John Roland||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Ropner, Colonel L.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Roes Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Lees-Jones, John||Runge, Norah Cecil||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffleld, B'tside)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lillie, Graham, Sir Ernest||Salt, Edward W.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Womersley, Walter James|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Scone, Lord||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Captain Austin Hudson and Mr.|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Blindell.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 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.