§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out from the word "force," to the word "and," in line 3.
I should like, to suggest that this Amendment should be taken in conjunction with the one following, which is to leave out from the word "prepared" in line 1, to the word "and" in line 3, and insert the words "and approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries."
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
In that case, we will hope that the first Amendment will be accepted. This Amendment is to give the President of the Board of Trade power to regulate imports only when a marketing scheme is in force. This point was debated in Committee, and although we were only represented by four Members we thought that all the arguments and logic were on our side. This is called an Agricultural Marketing Bill, but unless our proposals are accepted it will be an import restrictions Bill, for marketing is certainly not the primary consideration, it is scarcely secondary, so long as the Bill remains as it is at the moment. We regard marketing as being fundamental, and if the right hon. Gentleman, with the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade, feels the necessity for regulating the imports of any agricultural products where an agricultural marketing scheme is in existence we shall have to accept the inevitable, but as the 1559 Bill is now it is ill-defined and more or less meaningless. So long as someone in some part of the British Isles, somewhere at some time, only whispers that an agricultural marketing scheme has been thought about that scheme can be regarded as being in course of preparation. That is not sufficient. An agricultural marketing scheme ought to be in force. The initiative ought to have been displayed by the farmers themselves. This Clause gives power to the President of the Board of Trade to issue an Order for regulating imports. The obvious intention of that is artificially to restrict supplies so that prices may be increased. That ought to be the challenge to the farmer. Unless the farmer is prepared to make a move in the direction of a marketing scheme, so as to get the advantages that the Clause will give him, we do not think that 46,000,000 consumers ought to be called upon to pay the price, until the farmer has made up his mind to have a marketing scheme and an Order has been put into operation.
The Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot (Viscount Wolmer), said in Committee that there would be no marketing scheme without the assurance of import regulations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members who cheer that statement will agree that Clause 1 will be a fact very shortly. The necessary assurance therefore, is embodied in the Bill and is no longer merely a theory. Because the regulation guaranteeing the assurance is there, we think that that ought to be a sufficient spur for agriculturists to display initiative and establish marketing schemes as quickly as possible. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said that if this Amendment had been accepted in Committee it would tend to discourage marketing schemes. I fail to see the logic of that argument. Unless a marketing scheme was in force no regulation Order could be applied. Clearly, there is the inspiration for agriculturists to get to work as soon as possible, and to produce their marketing schemes so as to secure the advantages of this part of the Clause.
The Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone), said in Committee that it sometimes takes two years to produce an agricultural marketing scheme. What does that mean? That the President of the Board of Trade can be satisfied that 1560 a marketing scheme is in course of preparation, but that it may take two years before the scheme is put into force, and that during those two years the products referred to in the scheme can be restricted and regulated. It seems to me that instead of the Amendment discouraging schemes it will encourage them, and that the rejection of the Amendment would deliberately discourage schemes and nullify the intentions of the Minister. Moreover, if it takes two years ordinarily to promote a marketing scheme and prepare it for application, so long as the imported product is regulated the preparation of the scheme may extend to four years or any length of time. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me that there is a Market Supply Committee, and that it will have the power to give advice and make recommendations to the Minister. He will say that under Clause 22, while the President of the Board of Trade has power to enforce a scheme and regulations, he also has the power to revoke an Order. That is scarcely sufficient. We ought not to rely on the President of the Board of Trade who may have had a good night or a bad night. Regulation Orders ought not to depend on the temperament of any President of the Board of Trade.
PersoNaily, I expect the President of the Board of Trade to do the right thing at all times. I think that temperamentally he is very stable. I believe that as far as his Government would permit him he would be the watchdog for the consumers of the country. But it is only a few days Since the President of the Board of Trade had a very rough time with many of his colleagues behind him, including the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and several others. The President of the Board of Trade is living a very precarious political life. He may not be there to be the watchdog of the consumers. The Minister of Agriculture, according to the Amendments on the Paper, has already indicated to us how tremendously strong he is in the House of Commons, and how tremeadously weak he is when the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot and one or two others meet in private. If the Minister of Agriculture were to displace the President of the Board of Trade I am afraid we should be in for a very bad time.
1561 We have already had some experience of what the limitation of imports means. The Minister told me a few days ago that Since the restriction of bacon imports, prices of imported and home-produced bacon have increased by about 30 per cent. The Noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture stated in the House of Lords last week that as a result of the restriction of imports of chilled beef there had been an increase of 12½ per cent. in prices, while mutton had increased in price by 50 per cent. If consumers in industrial areas, where prosperity is very rare, are to be called upon to pay increased prices varying from 12½ per cent. to 50 per cent.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman is really an optimist if he thinks that the wholesaler is to get 50 per cent. more out of the retailer and the retailer not to take it out of the consumer. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's logic, will he tell us what the President of the Board of Trade has been doing during several months past in allowing the retailers to walk away with 50 per cent. more than they are entitled to? The right hon. Gentleman suggests that because wholesale prices have increased by 50 per cent. the consumer does not pay a bigger price. If that is the case, retailers have been deliberately robbing the public, and the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), who is a supporter of the Government and whose duty it is to look after the consumer, has been neglecting his duty very badly. He ought not to be permitted to continue with this sort of restriction unless and until the 46,000,000 consumers have at least some guarantee that the farmers will make the best use of their opportunities. I know that representatives of farming constituencies may say that it takes so long to produce a marketing scheme because of the Act of 1931, under which it is necessary for them to have meetings, to set up committees, to have a poll, to go to the Minister and get his consent, and then to publish a scheme and to do all sorts of other things.
The Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot knows that he, perhaps more than any other single Member of the House, 1562 was responsible for that very prolonged and tiresome procedure. When the original Bill of 1931 was introduced the object was to persuade the farmers to market properly. No one can produce better arguments than the Noble Lord why they should do so. But when the Marketing Bill was in Committee the Noble Lord did his best to make the production of a scheme as difficult as possible. Unfortunately he has been made to pay the price Since. I think we can congratulate him on the part he has played in producing a hop scheme for Kent. He has had some remarkable experiences as the result of his activities in Committee in 1931. If the Minister wants to expedite the production of schemes let him bring in a Bill to make their production much easier, and he will receive no hostility from the Labour benches. The Noble Lord, referring to the question of marketing schemes, made this statement, and I agree with every word:The degree to which organisation can help the beef and mutton producer is more marked even than it is in other branches. One has only to go to any cattle market in the country to see that if there are 10 beasts more than the dealers require that day, the prices are bad all round, while, if there are three beasts fewer than the requirement, there are good prices all round. A system of organisation, feeding our markets with the numbers required and not putting fanners to the unnecessary expense of driving beasts to market in excess of the demand, would at once put thousands of pounds into the pockets of the farmers of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1932; col. 1364, Vol. 261.]We agree with him, and, because we agree with him, we appeal to the Noble Lord to support us in this Amendment which, in effect, says to the farmer, "A glut may disturb the price of your product. Well, we have taken power to prevent those gluts in future, but, as compensation to the consumers of this country, it is your plain and unmistakable duty to establish a marketing scheme not only for beef, but for other commodities as rapidly as possible, so that you can take advantage of the opportunity provided by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture." It is because we feel that this Amendment will help the farmers, will not unnecessarily exploit the consumers, but will help organisation and help to bring some element of pros- 1563 perity back to agriculture, that I beg to move the Amendment.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
My hon. Friend has made an appeal to me to which I should be very ungracious if I did not respond, he made it in such kind terms. But I am sorry to say that I cannot support the Amendment, because, to my mind, it would defeat one of the chief objects of the Bill. If these words were not in, it would be possible for a market to be so glutted by imports, many of which might come in in anticipation of the schemes going through, that any scheme which was subsequently passed would start its career under totally unfair and impossible conditions. Although these words may not be, perhaps, frequently employed, it appears to me that they are absolutely necessary to give that sort of security which the farmers very naturally demand before they are prepared to embark on marketing schemes.
My hon. Friend has twitted us with the safeguards that we were successful in inserting in the 1931 Act with regard to the preparation of marketing schemes. I, persoNaily, do not regret a single one of those safeguards. To my mind, it is impossible to erect a structure for organised marketing unless you have the wholehearted support of the great Majority of the farmers concerned. You have got to get their whole-hearted support, and you have got to get their confidence, and though the steps which the Act of 1931 provides, by which everyone shall have the opportunity of making objection, and by which there are impartial inquiries and long periods between each stage, may be galling and tiresome to some of us in preparing schemes, they do lay a firm foundation. This is only another one of the securities which are necessary for the firm foundation of every scheme. That is to say, when a scheme comes into force, the farmer should not find the market glutted with imports in anticipation of the scheme coming into operation.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
My hon. Friend, in supporting his Amendment, made a somewhat long but very interesting speech, and, as often happens, he replied to himself in the speech he made in support of his Amendment, because he said 1564 that this Bill was in danger of losing its character and becoming a restriction Bill. I am glad to say that it is so, and that it is so recognised, because the Marketing Act and this Bill, which will naturally be a restricting Bill, are two essentials for the one object, the organisation of marketing. Without those two essentials, marketing cannot possibly be done by agriculturists. My Noble Friend has given a second reason why the words proposed to be left out are absolutely essential, because without these words it might be that the preparation of the scheme would take so long that the foreigner would be able to flood the market with his goods and make it impossible for the marketing scheme to work with any satisfaction at all. That is the real object of these words. The President of the Board of Trade has authority to restrict supply if restriction is necessary, and we may take it for granted that the President would rely very largely on the advice given to him and obtained by the Supply Committee. It is only where it is necessary to have restrictions that the Board will make restrictions. With that assurance, I think the consumers will be very well safeguarded, and these words are absolutely essential if we want the Bill to work at all.
§ 4.6 p.m.
I should like to support the arguments of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), and the hon. Member who has just spoken in reply to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I listened with considerable interest to the arguments of the hon. Member; and I was especially glad to hear him describe this Bill, if I understood him rightly, as a producers' Bill. Some of us have had considerable difficulty in persuading the producers that this was a Measure designed to promote a better state of things for them, and, naturally, I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Don Valley express himself in those terms. I am certain my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) must be very pleased to hear this Bill described as one to help producers, because upstairs it Committee, when we were discussing this Bill Clause by Clause, he did his best to pour cold water on the whole scheme, and suggested that the position of the producers in consequence of this Bill becoming an 1565 Act of Parliament would be worse. I think the hon. Member for Don Valley has to-day done his best to dispel any such illusions. We are now perfectly entitled, when this Amendment is resisted, as it is sure to be by the Minister, to point to the producers and say, "There you are. All our efforts have been, not to weaken your position, but to strengthen it." Subsequent Amendments on the Order Paper, if called, will prove that such is the action of those who are here specially to represent the interests of the agricultural community.
I hope that the hon. Member for Don Valley will not for a moment imagine that we are blind to the interests of the consumer. Far from it. He quoted figures about the rise in wholesale prices which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture at once pointed out had not resulted in a corresponding rise in retail prices, in which the consumers are directly interested. After all, that is all that immediately concerns us. The prices in the country, so far from rising in the. last 18 months, Since the celebrated General Election took place, have shown a continual downward tendency. The consumer, who was not frightened in October, 1931, need have no cause for fresh alarm in May, 1933. It is our direct concern in this House—those of us, I mean, who are connected with agriculture—to see to it that wholesale prices are raised to ensure that the farmer gets a fair and a square deal, and the history of the last 18 months has confirmed us in our contention that, in acting on these lines, the consumer will have nothing whatsoever to fear. I hope that my right hon. Friend will resist this Amendment, and enable us to get on with the work of securing for the farmer something really constructive to help him in his present very unsatisfactory position, to raise the general condition of agriculture and make it contribute its share in bringing about a better state of things in the country as a whole.
§ 4.11 p.m.
I rise to support the Amendment, and I must admit that I am, surprised at the discussion. The Amendment seeks to do what, I think, the country would expect. During the discussion last year, before this Bill came into the House, one was led to believe by 1566 gentlemen who represent agriculture that, in seeking protection, they made it perfectly clear that they were willing and ready to stand up for a form of efficiency, which included proper marketing. It has been stated by hon. Members, in resisting this Amendment, which is a very mild and very honest Amendment, that it would be impossible for marketing boards to be set up within a limit of two years. We cannot accept that. The farmers were quife willing to set up boards in respect of the wheat subsidy, and it did not take them two years or even two months. We feel perfectly satisfied that the farmers of this country could carry out what is required here, and guarantee to the public what they are entitled to. Before any Minister is given the power of restricting food imports, there ought to be some guarantee if protection is to be given to the industry. Let me remind the hon. Member who has just spoken that there is nobody on this side of the House representing this party who is not anxious to see that the producer gets fair value and the agricultural labourer fair wages for his services, but we do want to feel that, within the limitations of this Bill, no restrictions are in force until the farmer, as we have a right to ask him, has put his own house in order and organised a proper marketing scheme which will meet the requirements of the public before imports are prevented from coming in from outside.
The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J, Lamb) gives away his case. He says "We look upon this as a restriction Bill." In the plea for its promotion, they did not talk like that last year, and I suggest very seriously that, in taking the line of argument they are taking now, they are playing false, not only to the House which gave a promise for the introduction of this Bill, but they are playing deliberately false to the promise given during the General Election, because none of its supporters can say that they went so far in the General Election as to say, "If we are returned, we will put undue restrictions on the importation of food, without the slightest consideration, whether our own farming community can produce goods—"
I suggest that if this Amendment is accepted, the Minister can restrict the importation of food without having the slightest guarantee that there is a marketing scheme in any part of the British Isles. From what we heard in reply to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) at Question Time, nothing is being done yet, as regards the country as a whole, which gives the slightest guarantee to consumers that the farming community are setting themselves out to fill the home market with home-produced goods. This Amendment simply asks that the farmers shall first fulfil their own obligation by producing practical and efficient schemes for the production and marketing of goods so as to meet the requirements of the consuming public in this country. The Bill with this Amendment in it would, in effect, say to the farming community, "When you have proved that you are in a position to do that, the State will give you full protection from foreign imports."
What more does agriculture want? If the farming community cannot stand up to that proposition their whole case is lost. Agricultural Members of this House will regret in the near future the rejection of an Amendment of this kind which asks for nothing else but the simple proof that agriculture shall deliver the goods. If the farmers are willing to put their house in order this offers to give the farmers far more than a tariff, to give them complete protection, but in reply apparently the farmers say: "No; we want protection before marketing schemes are promoted or properly organised." It must be recognised that apart from the agricultural producers, for whom we have tremendous sympathy there is an immense body of consumers engaged in other industries. Those consumers are entitled to ask from the agricultural industry what is demanded from every other industry, on every occasion when the affairs of that industry are discussed on the Floor of the House. Every industry is told "Before you ask the State to make a contribution to your protection you must put your own house in order."
In this case it is not a question of some degree of protection but of prohibition of imports. I think the hon. Member for Don Valley is to be thanked for moving 1568 the Amendment and that the Minister and the agricultural representative would be well advised to accept it, and to prove to the country that agriculture is ready to promote schemes for efficient production and marketing. Before asking the country to exercise a total prohibition of imports of this kind the agricultural industry ought to prove to the industrial workers, who are the consumers, that they can deliver the goods. Apparently, the agricultural community are unwilling to face up to that proposal. If this Amendment is not going to get any more sympathy than has been indicated, then I feel that the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) is right in describing this as a Restriction of Imports Bill and not as a Marketing Bill, but the agricultural industry as a whole will regret it in future years.
There is a great opportunity here for the agricultural industry to reorganise itself with the full backing and support of the consumers, but, if this Amendment is rejected, then we must take it that this is nothing else but a Restriction of Imports Bill, to advance the policy of the Conservatives, without the slightest consideration for the distress of other industries in the country. The Bill will only be another step in the policy of this Government with its restrictions and tariffs and barriers to trade and commerce in general.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
There was one statement which fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) with which every Member will agree, to the effect that it was certain that the Minister would resist this Amendment. This is the most vital Amendment on the Paper. It raises the issue as to whether the agricultural industry shall first make itself efficient and then claim limitation of imports, or whether there shall be limitation of imports irrespective of the efficiency or inefficiency of the agricultural industry. It is strange that so little use has been made of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1931. I do not think that agriculture wants the marketing Clauses of this Bill. What agriculture is concerned about is that it should receive help by way of limitation of imports, though I think it would have preferred a tariff on imported agricultural products. The Amendment seeks to make it a condition that a marketing scheme shall be in 1569 force before any help by way of import restriction is given.
As far as we on these benches are concerned, we like neither your quotas nor your tariffs but if you are to have quotas the industry should show itself prepared to organise itself properly. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) mentioned certain remarks which were made in Committee upstairs by the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) who told us that it might take two years to complete a scheme. That means that the inefficiency, which is admitted on every hand with regard to marketing, can continue for a further two years and the consumer because of limitation of imports, can be called upon to pay higher prices. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade what is meant by the words:or is shown to the satisfaction of the board, to be in course of preparation"?I know that in Committee we were given the definition:immediately a scheme has been conceived and directed to be prepared.I suggest that any number of men meeting together and passing a resolution to the effect that a scheme should be prepared, would suffice under those terms to ensure the President of the Board of Trade making an Order limiting those imports. What guarantee has the consumer against delay in the formulating of schemes? The objection to the Act of 1931 was that there was no prospect of limitation of imports. The farmer in this Bill has the certainty of limitation of imports, and no excuse can be made on that ground as regards delay in the preparation of schemes, but I think—and I feel that the agricultural Members themselves recognise this—that there will be tremendous opposition by the farmers to the preparation of these schemes. All these schemes are unpopular in the minds of farmers and we are perfectly justified in asking that before protection of this kind is given to the producers, an efficient marketing scheme should be in force. Provision is made in this Bill that schemes shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Why should not this House have an opportunity of considering whether a marketing scheme is good or bad before protection is given by way of limitation of imports?
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
It will be very difficult to cancel one of these Orders once you have limitation of imports and it should be a condition of any restrictive Order that a proper marketing scheme shall be in force. In Committee upstairs I moved an Amendment to insert the words:and it is shown to the satisfaction of the board that it will be in operation within a period of three months from the date when, the order is made.Under the Bill as it stands, it would be possible to go on for any number of years without bringing into force a marketing scheme. Due consideration ought to be given to what I regard as the very reasonable proposal that some period should be fixed—if not three months then perhaps six months—in which a scheme should be brought into force. The Minister opposed that Amendment in Committee because he said he objected to the bureaucracy in Whitehall "hustling the great agricultural industry." My objection is to the agricultural industry lingering for a period of years without doing anything. I do not want to hustle them but—agriculture is not noted for speed and the industry should be called upon, within some period, to show that it is making itself efficient. The Amendment which we are now considering will not hustle anybody. It is simply an indication to the farmers that the sooner they put their own house in order the sooner can they legitimately claim protection under the terms of the Bill. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to give us a guarantee before this Bill goes further that some time limit will be inserted making it incumbent on farmers to bring schemes into operation at least within a reasonable time. I wholeheartedly support the Amendment.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
It seems to me that there is a little confusion in the minds of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in support of this Amendment and I suggest to the Mover that he used terms of exaggeration. His suggestion in effect seemed to be that if there was a rumour that somehow, somewhere in the British Isles, there was to be a marketing scheme, that would be assumed to be a direction to the Board of Trade immediately to issue an Order regulating the 1571 import of the product concerned. Another hon. Member seemed to suggest that any scheme which was put into operation must be a success before any regulation of imports could be considered. The argument was that before any regulation of an import was put into operation, the efficiency of the home producers of the commodity ought to be proved. I think hon. Members who argue in that way ovErieok this possibility. It may be that a scheme can only achieve success by a combination of the efficiency of the home producer and the help given by the regulation of foreign imports. Furthermore, hon. Members in dealing with these agricultural questions must bear in mind that our farmers labour under some degree of inequality in relation to foreign producers, in that the foreigners in many cases have a more equable climate and can depend much more reliably upon their crops than our farmers can here. The interests of the consumers were mentioned, and I would refer my hon. Friend to the fact that, before making any Order for the regulation of imports, there are specifically set out in Sub-section (3) of this Clause very definite considerations which the Board must have in mind. If hon. Members will refer to that Subsection, they will find that at the very outset, before any Order is made:the Board of Trade shall…have regard to the interests of consumers of the product to which the order relates…and to the effect which the regulation of the importation of that product into the United Kingdom is likely to have upon commercial relations between the United Kingdom and other countries,and, furthermore, thatthe board shall not make such an order unless they are satisfied that it is not at variance with any treaty, convention or agreement …In force between His Majesty and any foreign Power.Unlike some of those who have opposed this Amendment, I credit the Board of Trade, no matter who may be the particular individual at its head, with sufficient wisdom to take into account all these considerations before making an Order, and I am satisfied that, if the Amendment were to be accepted, it would materially damage, if not make impossible, the preparation of schemes which, if carried into effect, would in the long run be of benefit to agriculture generally.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
I am surprised at the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) is a professional gentleman, with a practice in accountancy, and he is proposing that the House should give a certificate or sign a balance-sheet, as accountants frequently do, out without having the books properly prepared and completed. Does he suggest that he would sign any balance-sheet in those conditions, if a mere promise had been made that the books would be completed or that they were in course of preparation? Of course not.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The hon. and gallant Member asks a specific question. The specific answer is that there is no analogy between the two cases.
§ Major MILNER
There is every analogy. The hon. Member is putting the cart before the horse. I am quite sure he cannot quote any case to the House of a course of procedure such as is proposed in this Clause. To begin with, the words of the Bill are so vague. What in the world do the words "in course of preparation" mean? One of my hon. Friends in Committee asked if they meant that, if he had a dream some night that he had prepared a marketing scheme, that would be sufficient to bring to the notice of the board; or did it mean that, if there was a scheme which, when drawn up, would take 10 pages and he had done the first page and submitted that to the Board of Trade, they would be satisfied that the scheme was in course of preparation? The whole proposal is replete with absurdities of that sort, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would have a difficulty in showing words anything like so vague in any other Act of Parliament of similar importance to this.
The truth is—and it becomes more apparent every day—that this Bill is not in the true line of succession from the original Agricultural Marketing Act. I have always recognised that some regulation of imports was necessary. We on these benches have on many occasions preached regulation by means of import boards, whereby authority would be set up to purchase the necessary supplies, the home supplies first and then foreign supplies, and then to sell the particular com- 1573 modity concerned at a reasonable price to the consumer, which would yet enable substantial advantages to be given to the home producer. In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman departs altogether from that principle or suggestion and proposes to close up the avenue from which the greater portion of our supplies of these commodities come in—something over 90 per cent. in the case of some commodities, like bacon, and a very large proportion in the case of other commodities. Then, at some later date perhaps, he prevails upon the farmers to put forward a scheme, but there is no guarantee in the Bill that any scheme need ever be prepared or put forward.
As my hon. Friend the Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) indicated, there was an Amendment in Committee proposing that an Order should be done away with in the event of a scheme not coming into force within, I think, three months. We were prepared to support that provision, but at present there is no obligation whatever on the farmers or anyone else, or even on the Ministry, to initiate an agricultural marketing scheme. It becomes more and more apparent that the principal thing in the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government generally is at all costs, in place of a tariff, to adopt a quota system, with a view to restricting imports. Whether or not the agricultural industry organises itself, is a matter of secondary concern to them. First, they will control the imports, and they will do that for the sole purpose of putting up prices. They are not concerned, apparently, with who shall pay those prices, or how they will pay, or whether the prices shall rise 10 per cent,, or 50 per cent., or 100 per cent.
The curious thing in regard to the suggestion that we so often hear, to the effect that we must have a rise in commodity prices, is that it never seems to strike those who put forward that argument that they are again putting the cart before the horse, that it is impossible, if the price is raised above a certain limit, for consumers to purchase. Consumers in this country and elsewhere have not the purchasing power to purchase commodities at any higher price than that at which those commodities are now sold, and one would have thought, therefore, that the first concern on the 1574 part of the Government would be to increase the purchasing power of the people. Just the contrary is the case. Their first proposals are, and have been for many months past, to put up prices, irrespective of whether consumers can purchase, and afterwards to consider, if in fact they ever do consider, the matter of providing the purchasing power.
We, on this side, take exception to the wording of this Clause, which we think vague and ill-defined. We think it is wrong to put restriction first and marketing schemes afterwards. I agree that the ideal method would be to have a marketing scheme and restriction coming into force contemporaneously. It is possible that it might not be convenient to make that arrangement, but at any rate it could be approximated to in some measure, and if, as we suggest, a marketing scheme should have to be brought into force, there is no reason why the restriction should not come into force on the same day or on an earlier day. There can be no justification for imposing restriction first and leaving the marketing scheme to the dim and distant future, with no guarantee that it will come into force at all. I should also have thought that there was a very definite practical advantage in the course which we suggest.
We are always being told, from all sides of the House, and not least from the Government benches, that farmers are a somewhat difficult and conservative class in the community, and that it is only with great difficulty that they are persuaded, as the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) once told us, to approve of marketing schemes, emanating, as they origiNaily did, from a Labour Minister of Agriculture, in the person of Dr. Addison. One would have thought that it would have been the policy of the Government to hold out some inducement to the farmers to bring themselves into line, to draw up and submit a marketing scheme, and to obtain the approval of the appropriate authority thereto, instead of which the opposite course is proposed. You put restriction first and then leave it to posterity to bring in a marketing scheme. I should have thought that there would have been a distinct tactical advantage in saying to the farmers, "Put your house in order. Draw up and submit your scheme, and the moment it is 1575 approved, we will give you the appropriate protection, in whatever form may be best; and we shall do that contemporaneously with the marketing scheme coming into force."
In that way there would be an inducement to the farming community to tackle this problem in regard to every commodity, and generally to put their house in order and be in a position to take immediate advantage of the situation created by the coming into force of a marketing scheme, in the first place, and of a restrictive order in the second place. It may be that the farming community may not trouble to take steps to bring forward a scheme. They may do what the iron and steel industry have done with regard to the organisation which they promised to carry into effect, if import duties were imposed on the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Time has gone on, but no scheme has come forward from that industry, and similarly, I prophesy, it will be the case with the agricultural industry. I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider this practical proposition and agree that in all the circumstances the view which we put forward is the right one.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
The Amendment represents a difference of method. Everybody in the House realises that in agriculture the essential is marketing, and everybody wants to assist the formation and the putting into fcrce of the best possible marketing scheme. The object of the Amendment is to say that a marketing scheme shall not be accompanied by a restriction of imports unless that scheme has previously not only been prepared—the false analogy of the balance-sheet, which the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) endeavoured to put forward—but has been put in force. Marketing schemes are made possible under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, but that Act may be found to be largely ineffective, because it lacked the element of the restriction of foreign imports. The improvement of the present Measure over the Act of 1931 is that it does link, not necessarily restriction, but the power to restrict, with the making of market- 1576 ing schemes, and hon. and right hon. Members opposite who are responsible for the Amendment desire that the marketing scheme should succeed. They would be the last to desire that a marketing scheme when made should be defeated by the incoming of goods from abroad to such an extent that all the provisions of the marketing scheme proved unworkable. The question between us is whether the President of the Board of Trade should be given power to control that importation at a time when it is of some use, or only be given the power after a scheme has been defeated. We think that the time to save the ship is while it is still afloat, and not after it has sunk.
§ Major MILNER
Our suggestion is that the one should precede the other, and not that you should allow a scheme to be defeated before bringing in the restrictions.
§ Dr. BURGIN
One of the great difficulties in this House is to convInce hon. Members of the entirely new set of circumstances which confront the world, namely, the economics of glut. An entirely new orientation of mind is necessary to deal with the problem, which is one of swamping and not of scarcity. Hon. Members talk of the difficulties of restricting. The real difficulty is in allowing unrestricted imports, and here in this case we say that the President of the Board of Trade is to be given power to restrict so soon as a marketing scheme can be proved to his satisfaction to be in course of preparation—not, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), "through the communication of a whisper." That is not the way in which Government Departments communicate with the Board of Trade. I can assure the hon. Member with some experience that something more than a whisper reaches the Board of Trade when it is desired that they should act, especially in such a matter as the restriction of imports. The Board of Trade is to have power to restrict imports if a marketing scheme has been prepared or is shown to the satisfaction of the President to be in course of preparation.
Surely that is a very definite status for a marketing scheme. It is not a question of a number of people meeting round a table and airily debating whether or not a scheme would be desirable. That is not 1577 the point. Somebody has to satisfy the Board of Trade that a scheme is in course of preparation, and, under paragraph (6) of Clause 1 (1), the President has also to be satisfied that, unless an order is made by him, the reorganisation of the particular branch of the industry cannot fully be effected. This Amendment would unduly limit the powers of the Board of Trade and would very likely defeat the whole object which the scheme seeks to achieve, and it must be resisted in consequence. We live in a time of glut, and restriction is essential. I have said nothing of forestalling, to which reference has been made, but I could give the House a number of reasons for showing why in many practical instances restriction is necessary first before putting a scheme into force in order that the objects of the scheme may be achieved.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
Sufficient has been said on both sides to justify the moving of this Amendment, and no finer arguments could have been brought forward than those which have come from Members in all parts in their attempts to oppose it. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) said that he was glad that this was a restrictive Clause. The hon. Member truly represents the agricultural constituencies, which he never forgets in this House, and he says to-day, as he said in Committee, that he wants this Bill to be first and last a restriction upon the supply of goods coming into the British market. He wants scarcity to be created.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
What does restriction mean? I take the hon. Gentleman at his word. If restriction means anything, it means a scarcity, a limitation of supply.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I never said that I wished for a scarcity, and it is not on the records of the Committee or the House that I used such words. I want a limitation when it is proved to be necessary.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
That is the point, and I will follow it up. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) argued in the same way. He said that the Bill had a two-fold object—efficient production at home accompanied by a restriction or regulation of imported products. He rightly insisted, and, in doing 1578 so carried the whole House with him in putting efficiency of production at home first. The hon. Member for Stone never referred to the primary object of the principal Act upon which this Bill is based, that object being to improve and to perfect the marketing organisation in order, hot that a condition of scarcity and high prices might be achieved, but that a condition which would give a fair measure of remuneration to those engaged in agriculture in this country should be brought about. We desire that as strongly as Members on the other side, but we do not believe that the precipitant power which is conferred on the Minister should be given to him at this point.
We are now dealing with the vital Clause of the Bill, for it lays down the condition under which foreign argicultural produce may be regulated. It does not really mean that. It means, as the hon. Member for Stone says, limitation or restriction or prohibition. We must come to that some time or other. There must be reached a time when the various products of agriculture for which marketing schemes are adopted must be limited or restricted or prohibited. The Clause first provides that regulation shall take place, and the vital point is in the words:after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and with the Secretaries of State concerned with agriculture in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, may make an order regulating the importation into the United Kingdom of any such agricultural product as may be specified in the order.All we desire to do is to lay down that that Order shall not be issued until a marketing scheme is in force. We claim that the words providing that a marketing scheme must be in force or must be shown to the satisfaction of the board to be in course of preparation are not an adequate protection to those people who will be affected, possibly adversely affected, by the intention of the Clause to confer an advantage upon agriculture. After all, there is the large section of consumers to be taken into account. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) paid the Minister of Agriculture a compliment for his urbanity of manner, and said that he had a suitable temperament to be the watchdog of the consumers' interest, but that he could not always be trusted. It is a well-known fact that the watchdog that 1579 wags his tail is a much more dangerous watchdog than the dog that barks. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman always allows us to come very near him, and we must be very careful that he does not bite before we become aware of his intentions. We do not trust him in regard to this, and the effect of these limitations require to be examined more closely.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said in an interruption to-day that while wholesale prices had risen there was no evidence that retail prices had risen in a corresponding measure. What is the advantage to the farmer of this country, whom we are out to protect, unless there is to be an increase in retail prices? There can be no value or purpose at all in this Bill unless there is to be an increase in retail prices to the consumer. If the Minister wishes to make sure that there will be no increase in retail prices, why does he not join with us in this Amendment? We say that before there is restriction on the importation of foreign products we shall make sure that the marketing scheme which the producers want is in operation; make sure that there is an efficient marketing scheme and that there is no waste, overlapping or unnecessary expense in bringing products to the consumer. The only way to improve the remuneration of the farmer without raising retail prices is to effect economy in marketing methods. Before we restrict imports we should make sure that it will not create a condition of scarcity which will lead to high prices. If 10 people go to market to buy and there are only nine to to sell prices will go up, but if there are 10 to sell and nine to buy, prices will go down. That is a consequential effect, and nothing can alter it. The only safe way before imposing restrictions is to see that a marketing scheme is in force, to see that the utmost efficiency is maintained in marketing methods, and to ascertain if the market is in danger of being over flooded.
We are against a system of quantitative regulation and we have always insisted on, and shall always urge against this Bill, the need for increasing home production. We do not believe that by creating scarcity of foreign or home-produced goods agriculture will be ultimately benefited. The Minister may reply that 1580 "in course of preparation" means that a scheme will be ready within a few weeks, but it might be a much longer time than that. It may be in course of preparation with good prospects of completion and then break down. There is no provision in the Bill for that contingency, so that if a scheme breaks down the Order shall be withdrawn. We say that we should not run the risk of allowing an Order to create a scarcity with the consequential rise in prices which must injure the interests of large masses of industrial consumers.
I want to say something to the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Walmer), who has just returned to the House. Time and time again the Noble Lord has shown how little confidence he has in the British farmer. His argument was that the British farmer would not move, being conservative like himself, and, I dare say, sharing his political views and his complacent attitude to the world in general. The Noble Lord said of the British farmer: "You can snow him under with goods from all parts of the world, and close up the doors of his barns and his cowsheds, and still he will not move. What you have to do is to stop these importations. Let the farmer alone, create a scarcity, appeal to him nicely, and in course of time he may be converted to the principle of this scheme." I know the farmer pretty well, and I know that he is practical person, and I do not know anything that will compel him to make up his mind more quickly than competition from foreign producers. If that does not make him respond, I do not know what will, and we ask the Noble Lord, in the interest of his conservative farmers, to join with us in seeing that no Protection is given to indifferent farmers. If the farmer gets this measure of assistance he ought to be called upon to play his part. Let the farmer bring in his marketing schemes, and then, not because of our choice, we shall be compelled to accept the latter part of the Bill.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade sought to persuade the House that the difference which exists between those who support the Amendment and himself is a difference purely of method. With due respect I wish to dissent strongly from 1581 that proposition. It is a difference of policy. On this Amendment we cannot debate the general policy of regulating imports, but there is a question of policy here. Assuming that the country does adopt that policy of regulating imports, under what conditions will it be put into operation? The Government have shown by the terms of Clause 1 that when they are embarking upon a policy of regulating imports they are entitled to lay down certain conditions, and they say to those who ask for an Order limiting importations, "Before we make such an Order you shall do certain things." An hon. Member on the opposite side spoke just now about the necessity of requiring agriculture to establish its efficiency. This Clause does not do anything of that sort.
The conditions laid down by the Clause are not at all exacting. It is true that in paragraph (b) the Board of Trade have to be satisfied that unless they make an Order the organisation of the industry will he imperilled, but in paragraph (a) it does not say definitely that a marketing scheme must be in force—I should have no complaint in regard to that condition, because obviously it was one the Government were entitled to demand from the industry—but that it will suffice if a marketing scheme "has been prepared"—and I do not particularly quarrel with those words— or "is shown to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade to be in course of preparation." I submit that this last provision is giving the Government larger powers than they are entitled to ask. Before the Government put into operation their policy of restricting imports they ought to be satisfied that the other party to the bargain, if I may so call it, is playing his part. There is no security in this Clause that the other party will be called upon to play his part. The hon. Gentleman said, "A mere whisper will not do," but he did not say what will do, and he cannot say what will do, because conditions may vary from time to time and vary very much with the particular type of people with whom the Board of Trade have to deal.
It may be difficult to give any definition of what will be regarded as being "to the satisfaction of the board," hut why cannot the Government do this same thing in another way? I think I am right in saying that in Committee upstairs some time limit was suggested, so that when 1582 a branch of the industry applied for an Order and said that a scheme was in course of preparation the Board of Trade should be entitled to say, "We are not satisfied that you are preparing a scheme; you must produce it in a certain time in order to satisfy us of your bona fides." The Government are asking for excessive powers in asking for those words to be inserted in the Clause. I feel that they are unfortunate words to introduce into an Act of Parliament, and I should think that an experienced and able lawyer like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade would have devised words of a more certain and clear meaning. Another answer to the Amendment was that restrictions might sometimes have to be imposed before a marketing scheme was ready. The Government could obtain power from Parliament to impose such restrictions as soon as they felt satisfied that they were necessary. That is the policy they have pursued in other matters, and there is no reason why they should not adopt that policy in this case.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. TOM SMITH
A point which I would like to emphasise is the necessity for making clear the meaning of the words:shown, to the satisfaction of the board, to be in course of preparation.We would like the Minister to tell us definitely what is meant by those words. The Board of Trade may be satisfied that a scheme is in course of preparation and, on the strength of that, impose a limitation on imports, and then, as the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) said, for some reason or other, that scheme may break down before it is ever put into operation. Farmers are like most other employers, neither better nor worse; they want all the help the State can give, with as little interference as possible in their business, A limitation of imports without a marketing scheme may mean an increase in the price of commodities for the consumer, and that rise in prices may not hasten those responsible for a marketing scheme in getting the scheme completed. We want to see these marketing schemes successful. Anyone with any knowledge of agriculture knows that there is a tremendous difference between the price received by the grower in this country and the price 1583 of the commodities when they get to market, and if anything can be done to institute organised marketing, so that the producer can get a better return and be in a position to pay a better wage to his employers, none will be better pleased than us on these benches. But we feel that the language of this paragraph is too vague and too loose, and that agriculturists should be asked to show some signs of having an organised marketing scheme in operation before they get a limitation of imports, and I hope the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) will press this Amendment to a Division.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROSBOTHAM
I do not want to intervene for more than a minute or two, but I must deny the allegation put forward that it is the desire of the farmer to create a scarcity. That is entirely erroneous, We have been inclined to get away from the practical question of what it is that the Bill is intended to do. Its object is to give to the producer, the cultivator of the soil, a price for his produce which will enable him to cultivate the land and to pay a fair rate of wages to those whom he employs. Much of the criticism has complained that the wording of the Clause is too vague. I would like to draw attention to the fact that you cannot hurry nature, and that there are many products which take a long time to grow. For example, it may be four or five years before there is any yield from some trees. Why should it be necessary for a scheme to be actually in operation if the President of the Board of Trade is satisfied that it is in course of preparation? I was pleased to hear
§ the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) say that the real object of the Bill, to his mind, was to do away with the great difference between the prices received by the producer and those of the retailer. That is the real object of the Bill. Farmers have bad no encouragement to prepare schemes in the past. They have been overwhelmed by the large quantities of foreign produce coming in. Let us get this Bill on the Statute Book and then we shall see that farmers are very keen to put forward schemes. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) deserves great credit for what he has done in bringing into operation the first marketing scheme. He worked very hard upon that. I would like to ask the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Bradford whether he is prepared to advise the Liberal candidate in the Altrincham Division that the Liberal party are not in favour of quotas, that they are not in favour of tariffs and are not in favour of restrictions? If Liberals are prepared to tell the farmers in Altrincham that they are willing to vote for the repeal of the wheat quota, which has saved the situation in many arable districts during last season, we shall believe that there is something honest about what they state in the House of Commons. I trust that the Amendment will be rejected, and that we shall go forward and get this Bill on the Statute Book as early as possible.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 230; Noes, 48.1585
|Division No. 200.]||AYES.||15.14 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Leut.-Colonel||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cooke, Douglas|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Broadbent, Colonel John||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J.Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Browne, Captain A. C.||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Cross, R. H.|
|Baillle, Sir Adrian W. M.||Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Davison, Sir William Henry|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Dickie, John P.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Donner, P. W.|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.(Birm., W)||Doran, Edward|
|Blindell, James||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)||Drewe, Cedric|
|Bossom, A. C.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Duckworth, George A. V.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Clarry, Reginald George||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Duggan, Hubert John|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Conant, R. J. E.||Dunglass, Lord|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cook, Thomas A.||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Waiter E.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Entwietle, Cyril Fuilard||Lymington, Viscount||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Mabane, William||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||MacAndrew. Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McCorquodale, M. S.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macdonald, Capt. p. D. (I. of W.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||McKie, John Hamilton||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Gillett, Sir George Maeterman||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Scone, Lord|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. sir Ian||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Goff, sir Park||Macquleten, Frederick Alexander||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Maitland, Adam||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Granville, Edgar||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Martin, Thomas B.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Spens, William Patrick|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Hales, Harold K.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stones, James|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomae C. R. (Ayr)||Sueter. Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrld Hart|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Hartland, George A.||Morrison, William Shephard||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Munro, Patrick||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||North, Edward T.||Wallace, John (DunferMilne)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Nunn, William||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Horsbrugh, Fiorence||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Waiisend)|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Patrick, Colin M.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Petherick, M.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nitaple)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Potter, John||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||PowNail, Sir Assheton||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pybus, Percy Jobn||Wills, Wilfrld D.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rakes, Henry V. A. M.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Rankin, Robert||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ray, Sir William||Womersley, Walter James|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Remer, John R.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Levy, Thomas||Lewis, Oswald||Sir George Penny and Lord|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Robinson, John Roland||Erskine.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Milner. Major James|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Price, Gabriel|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Briant, Frank||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Harris, sir Percy||Samuel, Rt. Hen. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hieks, Ernest George||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, George Henry||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hoidsworth, Herbert||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Laweon, John James||Williams Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, to leave out from the word "made," to the end of line 8, and to insert instead thereof the words: 1586the effective organisation and development of that branch of the said industry under an agricultural marketing scheme cannot be brought about or cannot be maintained.1587 This is put forward in fulfilment of an undertaking which I gave to the Committee. The point was raised there as to whether the word "reorganisation" was too narrow. Organisation was necessary, but the question was as to whether it was reorganisation. It was necessary to cover the ease where an efficient organisation required to be maintained. In the case of an article where a marketing scheme was already in operation, it was obviously desirable to maintain an efficient organisation, just as it was necessary to set up an organisation where no organisation existed. I was asked from various sides of the Committee, the Opposition side included, whether it was the desire of the Government to expand food production, and consequently I am inserting here the word "development," indicating thereby that it is the desire of the Government that organisation and development of the agricultural industry should take place.
If I were asked for an illustration of development I should certainly give the Lane Fox scheme as one example. Development should be orderly, it should not go beyond what the market can stand, and it should, of course, be carried out with due regard to the interests of other suppliers of the market. It should be clear that all sides of the Committee desired, and I believe that all sides of the House will desire, that this new development should not be merely in the restriction of supplies but also in the replacement of supplies. If the home producer can deliver the goods, he should be allowed to do so, and the expanding share of the home market, which has been the subject of more than one declaration by the Government, should find some recognition in the words of the Statute.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
We have no fundamental objection to this proposal of the Minister, but I rather regret that the word "reorganisation" is to be deleted. The Lane Fox Commission was a reorganisation Commission, and their Recommendations were based upon the necessity for the reorganisation of that phase of agriculture. While effective organisation may possibly be as comprehensive and all-inclusive as reorganisation, I should prefer that the word 1588 "reorganisation" remained in the Clause, even though the right hon. Gentleman followed it with "efficient organisation," if those words would meet the situation. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about a continually expanding market for homegrown produce, I wish to pay a compliment to the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), and the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown). Was ever a reward for persistence so definite and conclusive as the Amendment that we are now discussing? On the second day's proceedings, the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury moved an Amendment to insert the words:the economic stability of that branch of the industry, including the guaranteeing to the home producer of a regulated product of a market therefor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Commitee C), 30th March, 1933; col. 59.]That Amendment was not accepted on that day, so the hon. and gallant Member proceded on the following day to move another Amendment, or I should say that he provoked the hon. Member for Stone to move this Amendment:The need for securing that the maintenance and expansion of the production in the United Kingdom of the product to which the Order relates shall be duly promoted in conformity with the purpose of the agricultural marketing scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 4th April, 1933, col. 111.]That Amendment was not accepted, so the hon. and gallant Gentleman had to proceed to the fifth day's proceedings, where another Amendment was moved. He was constantly on the toes of the poor, miserable, wretched Minister. That Amendment was to insert the words:including the guaranteeing to the home producer of a regulated product of a market therefor and the securing to such producer of a continuing preferential position in the home markets."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committe C), 11th April, 1933, col. 180.]It was not accepted, so the hon. Member for Stone, on the same day, moved another Amendment to insert the words:and so that no order made under this section may restrict the Quantity of any product which may be sold unless the said Minister and Secretaries of State are satisfied that the restriction will not operate in such fashion as to guarantee a market in the United Kingdom to imported produce at the expense of persons producing the 1589 regulated product in the United Kingdom."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 11th April, 1933, col. 201.]The hon. Member for Stone was unsuccessful. The hon. Members all went forward therefore to the seventh day's proceedings.
On a point of Order. In order that the hon. Member may read out more occasions on which we did those things, may I ask for the light?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I thought I was throwing some light upon the hon. and gallant Gentleman's activities. During the seventh day's proceedings one of the hon. and gallant Member's colleagues, the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Christie) moved another Amendment containing these words:including the guaranteeing to the home producer of a regulated product of a market therefor,and so forth. That was the fifth Amendment moved in almost identical words during the space of four days in the Committee stage. The poor Minister could bear it no longer, and, therefore, replying to the Debate, he said:I do not in any way recede from the pledge I have given, that I will do my best to meet the words: 'guaranteeing to the home producer of a regulated product of a market therefor …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 2nd May, 1933; cols. 267–72.]If that is not the reward of persistency, I have never seen it anywhere at any time. Hon. Members moved day after day similar Amendments which the Minister had to reject, but ultimately he has had to concede to them this point, which he knows never can be carried out; but the Noble Lord, the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury, and the hon. Member for Stone are satisfied now that the Minister has made this statement and introduced this Amendment, and we do not think we ought to condemn them. All I would say is that they taught us a lesson in that Committee room, and, when the opportunity comes our way, we shall not hesitate to be as persistent as they have been, and to secure results similar to those which have been forthcoming from their persistency.
§ Amendment agreed to.1590
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, to leave out the words "kind, variety or grade," and to insert instead thereof the word "description."
I am assured by the draftsmen that this will avoid the possibility of error which may be inherent in the previous words.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, at the end, to insert the words:or(b) the descriptions of the product which may be imported.This brings the wording of the Clause into line with that of Clause 2, and, further, carries out an undertaking which I gave in Committee.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.35 p.m.
Mr. D. G RENFELL
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, at the beginning, to insert the words:Before making an order under this section the Board of Trade shall be satisfied that adequate supplies of the product at reasonable prices will be available and.I think that this Amendment is amply justified by the evidence which has been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) of the persistency and astuteness of the agricultural Members of the Committee and the way in which they have persuaded the Minister to alter the original wording of the Bill. We heard a great deal in Committee about the subject of the Minister's recent Amendment, and some light was cast upon the origin of the word "development." My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley rightly pointed to the ever-present desire of the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) and of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb). They put their heads together in Committee, and withdrew them when the Minister happened to look round, because they did not want to be seen to be in too close consultation. After five days' conspiring and planning to undermine the loyalty of their colleagues, they compelled the Minister to introduce this word, which has a meaning that was never intended in the original Bill. They may well look pleased. No doubt they will go back to 1591 their constituents and point to the success of their efforts, and will expect in due course to be re-elected to this House for the purpose of carrying on further the kind of work for which they are now responsible.
This is most dangerous to the great mass of people who are not represented by hon. Members opposite, but who are represented, in the main, by people on this side of the House. What is implied in the Amendment to which I have referred, and what is intended in the Bill up to this point, is that there shall be maintained, not a scarcity in the sense of famine, but a short market, and it was urged by hon. Members in Committee that the farmer should always know in advance that that market—a large market, in which he could dispose of his goods at a good price—always awaited his harvest time and the product of his season's work. Hon. Gentlemen insisted upon that one after another, and now we find that that guarantee has been given. The restriction is not to be confined to keeping the market in a state of comparative freedom from gluts, but there is always to be a sufficient limitation or restriction to enable the farmer to look forward at the end of the season, or even the next season, to a constant and gradual development of the industry.
We shall be able to show later that what the representatives of the agricultural interests in this House have in mind is a guaranteed market without any suggestion of price at all. It is not suggested that those in the industry shall give guarantees themselves; what they want is a guaranteed market, and we ask, in the interests of the consumers, that an Order of this kind shall not be granted unless there is an assurance that there are always in the market sufficient and adequate supplies at reasonable prices of the products which are to be regulated. We do not suggest that there should not be regulation. The point has been carried against us, and we have to make the best of the Bill. But we desire to ensure that, when the people go into the markets— the mass of the wage-earning population of this country, whose incomes are far too small and whose budgeting power is more limited than it should be—they shall be protected against having to go 1592 into the market in the face of steadily advancing prices.
The Minister will say, no doubt, that these words are not necessary because later on there is a provision that the Board of Trade shall have regard, among other considerations, to the interests of consumers of the product to which the Order relates, but, if he makes that acknowledgment, I would point out that that provision was in the Bill before his recent Amendment was inserted, and that Amendment, having been made, means, if it means anything, that there shall always be a margin of scarcity, of shortage, which will be to the advantage of the home producer and will militate against the consumer, who always has the advantage when there is an extra supply of goods in the market. The Bill now contains a provision for keeping the market sufficiently low to give the agriculturist the opportunity for further development of his home production, and that in itself implies a scarcity. We wish it to be laid down, not merely in general terms, but specifically for the guidance of the Minister, that the interests of the consumer shall be considered, and that,Before making an Order under this Section, the Board of Trade shall be satisfied that adequate supplies of the product at reasonable prices will be available.I may be asked: "What do you mean by adequate supplies?" It is very difficult to say, but I think that the supply is adequate, and just adequate, when prices remain constant. If prices tend to rise, that is almost certain evidence that the demand is greater than the supply. The question of reasonable prices is connected with the question of reasonable supplies, and is a kind of safety valve which determines the adequacy of the supply or otherwise. As one who represents consumers, I am sure we ought to insist that reasonable prices should be maintained. We do not say that they should be the very lowest prices, but we all know what reasonable prices mean— not the prices of superabundance, not the prices paid for fruit occasioNaily in times of glut, or for fish when the boats come back over-loaded to the ports, but reasonable prices which will give to the producer a reasonable reward for his efforts. We all agree upon that point, but we would like to see in the Bill some safeguard against the exploitation of the consumer. I am sure no one will question 1593 the fact that, given this Order, and given the power to create a shortage or a scarcity, the consumer will always stand in danger of exploitation. All that we ask is that, before that power is given to the importer of foreign commodities and to the home producer, the interests of the consumer should be specifically protected by a provision in the Act itself that the Order shall not be issued unless it can be shown that there are adequate supplies of the product for the use of the industrial masses of the country at a price at which it is within their power to purchase.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
I think that when we talked this matter over upstairs we were told two things—first, that this point was sufficiently safeguarded by the words:shall…have regard to the interests of the consumers of the product,and, secondly, that it was dangerous to put in any specific matters to which the Minister was to give his attention, for fear that we might leave out other equally pertinent matters, and so get a wrong balance in the Clause. But regarding, as we all do, this stage of the Bill as one in which we ought to think of the whole effect of the Bill as it leaves the Committee, I observe one thing which makes me feel that these words ought to be in. Later on we get a provision saying specifically that steps can and ought to be taken under these schemes to prevent any over supply of the commodity. When imports of the commodity are rationed, there may be similar rationing of what is to be produced in this country, and persons who produce more than their rationed allowances are subjected to penalties. If you take rather definite steps by penalty to see that there shall be no over supply, it does not seem to me to be wrong to see that there should be no under supply, and that is precisely what the Amendment does. The two things balance. The general wording:having regard to the interests of the consumers of the productis very vague. The Minister might say he had regard to their interests, but it is a much more definite thing to say that he has to be satisfied that adequate supplies of the product at reasonable prices can be available simply to balance the other power to prevent over supply.
§ 5.47 p.m.
Hon. Members opposite have attributed to me something of which I am quite innocent, though they certainly give me a very good character with my constituents, for which I thank them. There was no collusion with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), but our principle is exactly the opposite from theirs and we are as much entitled to our views as they are to theirs. Our view was that you should not hinder the development of agricultural products and that that ought to be in the scheme. We are very grateful to the Minister for having met that, not in the way we proposed but in general. Further to return good for evil to my hon. Friends, I think that in any proper development scheme what is suggested in their Amendment should be incorporated just as much as the other. Whether this is the right place or whether theirs is the right Amendment I do not know, but I hope it will be incorporated.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
In presenting an earlier Amendment, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade tried to excite our sympathy on these benches by picturing the Government wrestling with very unusual economic conditions, and he summed it up by saying they were having to deal with what he called the economics of glut. But even during periods of glut there are very large numbers of people who cannot get all that they need. They have to go short of many things, and, as we have been reminded, it is essentially a producers' Bill. Consequently, I feel that these words ought really to be inserted. We know very well what are the Ministry's intentions and, if the situation is not carefully watched, it will not be difficult to create a very real shortage of commodities of various kinds, and in such circumstances you would have rising prices. If masses of the people cannot get all that they need in this situation, where you have an economic glut, bow much worse off will they be if you create an artificial shortage with rising prices? I feel that these words ought to be inserted as a safeguard against further penalisation of people who even now cannot get the things that they need.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
I, too, appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment. 1595 I think it is fairly obvious that the purpose of it is one which commends itself to him. I do not suppose there is anyone who will dare to propose to the masses of the people that an artificial shortage should be created. I should like to illustrate the validity of the point embodied in the Amendment by reference to the existing situation with regard to bacon. A voluntary quota has been in operation Since November. Restriction was imposed without, perhaps, the fullest possible regard to existing supplies in this country. Note the effect of this restriction on prices. Bacon prices are very erratic. I have watched them fairly closely in an academic way Since November and have compared them with the corresponding period of previous years. I find no general principle operating. There is very little relation betwen supplies and prices. I have taken a week from last month comparing the quantities that arrived in this country and the wholesale prices as recorded in the lists of the London Provision Exchange with the correlative facts for April, 1932. Imports of bacon have been reduced from 965,000 cwts. for April, 1932, to 760,000 cwts. for April last. In one week of April of this year we received from Denmark 55,253 bales of bacon. In the corresponding week of 1932 the quantity was 66,880 bales. The price of Danish No. 1 sizable last month ranged between 76s. and 80s. a cwt. Last year the prices ranged between 46s. and 56s. In one week of April, 1932, for the 133,000 cwts. of bacon that we got from Denmark, taking a mean price of 51s., we paid roughly £340,000. For the lesser quantity of 110,000 cwts. which we bought for the corresponding week of last month we paid £430,000. That is to say we paid Denmark in one week £90,000 for their being good enough to withhold from our market 23,000 cwts. of bacon.
It may be, as was said by the Parliamentary Secretary, that we have to adapt our economic theories to an age of glut, but, in order to formulate an economic theory for the purpose of regulating glut, it is not necessary to formulate an economic theory for Bedlam. I cannot see that there is any change in our situation which warrants us handing over to Denmark £90,000 in one week for a reduced quota of bacon. We shall probably find that over a period of a year we shall have 1596 handed over to foreign countries millions of pounds in reduced quantities. So much for the Government's concern for the balance of trade. I hope the operations of the marketing scheme will result in a very considerable increase in production in this country, and I hope the supplies will ultimately become adequate and will bring not only a good price for the farmer but a stable price. I would appeal to the Minister to have regard to existing supplies and to have regard to the needs of the consumer before he implements the restriction of imports. There is nothing subversive of the general principle of the marketing scheme in this. As representing an agricultural constituency, I want the case of the farmer to be such as will appeal to the mass of consumers. If you allow consumers to feel that they are being exploited in the interests of one section, there can be no permanence in this or any other scheme to ameliorate the conditions of farming. I think consideration of facts like those that I have quoted would warrant us in pressing the Minister to accept the Amendment.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
If anything made it necessary to ask the House to reject the Amendment it would be the argument that the hon. Member has just brought forward. I was almost disposed to accept it when I heard the persuasive arguments of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) and the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who put the case in general terms, in which I think there is great strength, and my argument in answer to them would have been that which they have already anticipated, that I think it is superfluous, having regard to the very explicit directions in the Clause that, in deciding whether to make an order, the Board of Trade shall have regard to the interest of consumers of the product, and I cannot conceive of anything more germane to the interests of the consumer of the product than to make sure that, as far as possible, adequate supplies at a reasonable price are secured for him. But when my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) began to put those scientific grounds, it was easy to see that, not only was there no point whatever in acceding to the Amendment, but that, in acceding to it. I should do a 1597 very great deal of harm. He began to depart into a criticism of the already existing bacon restrictions, and he alleged that they had been put on without reasonable regard to the interests of the consumer, or to the course of prices, or the adequacy of supply. I hold in my hand the most thorough, scientific, and exhaustive examination of the problem it is possible to bring forward—the Report of the Reorganisation Commission on Pigs and Pig Products. His own argument. There is his own case. Here is the scientific examination which he desires. Here is the restriction of supplies which the Board of Trade is enjoined to carry through. Here is the whole case to which any Minister seeking to escape responsibility could confidently appeal as justifying everything he tried to do.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
I was discussing, not the theoretical propositions of the Pig Commission, but the concrete consequences of the policy.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member is asking us not to discuss under the Statute the concrete consequences of the policy, but the theoretical anticipations which he is unable to secure. He is asking us to prophesy in the Statute—a most ridiculous thing to do—by suggesting that we must assure ourselves that these supplies shall be available. The administration of these very complicated things is rightly the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade, and the hon. Member for Carmarthen rightly makes, on grounds of administration, the case he has just been making, but he cannot ask the President to foresee beforehand that, according to him, the carefully-thought-out, scientific calculations of the Reorganisation Commission for Pig and Pig Products have not been borne out in advance. His case is the case we are arguing here. You must secure the interests of the consumers by administrative action. You cannot secure it here by statutory phophecy. That is our function, and all that we do. I shall be willing at another time to argue the case of bacon prices and the results which have taken place. I claim that the case which was reasonably attempted to be made by the hon. Member for Gower, and so sympathetically argued by the 1598 right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall, is met by the words here.
The very danger which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade foresaw in his rebutting of the arguments for the insertion of the Amendment during the Debate are reinforced by the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, who says that the proper scientific investigation beforehand could take the responsibility off the shoulders of the President of the Board of Trade. I do not think that that could be done. I assure him that the responsibility of the Minister is the safeguarding of the consumer. That which weakens the responsibility of the Minister will weaken the safety of the consumer. The Minister is enjoined in the Statute not to make an Order without having regard to the interests of the consumer. The extra suggestion which is made here to define one, if not all, of those interests, by saying, the adequacy of supplies and the reasonableness of the prices, does not, in fact, add to the security, and leaves out of account altogether such important factors from the point of view of the consumers as the continuity of supply, which might be just as important as adequacy of supply at the moment.
To forecast supply is not possible. To lay upon the shoulders of the President of the Board of Trade the duty of deciding that reasonable supplies shall always be available is to lay upon him an obligation which he cannot carry out. What we can do is to ensure that the interests of the consumer—and in that I fully accept responsibility—and adequate supplies at reasonable prices are protected. Beyond that we cannot go, and in so far as we try to enjoin in advance safeguards upon the President of the Board of Trade, we are, in fact, assuming that the President of the Board of Trade will either be to some extent incompetent or dishonest, and against future incompetency or dishonesty no Statute can protect any body of consumers in this country.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Every Member of the House will pay tribute to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the very clever and adroit way in which he manages all the Bills of which he takes charge on behalf of the Government, but 1599 in his arguments to-day I think that he was meeting himself coming back, as it were. The castigation which he gave to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. E. T. Evans) was really-unjust and undeserved. After this, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take the hint from the Scarborough Liberal Conference and come over to this side of the House. If I were a Member supporting a Government of this kind and received such castigations from one of their most prominent Ministers, I should cross the Floor of the House at once. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that were it not for the argument employed by the hon. Gentleman for Carmarthen he would have been disposed to accept the Amendment. Nothing of the kind. He never intended accepting the Amendment. Whatever argument may have been put forward to-day the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was determined that he would not accept the Amendment on any account. Let us see why he does not accept the Amendment. He suggests that the words which we have put in the Amendment are prophetic, and that consequently you cannot put anything which is prophetic into an Act of Parliament. This is what the Government say in their Bill:The Board of Trade shall…have regard to the interests of consumers of the product to which the order relates.We claim that the words which we are trying to put into the Bill are far more scientific and less prophetic than the words in the Bill. The Amendment says:Before making an order under this section the Board of Trade shall be satisfied that adequate supplies of the product at reasonable prices will be available.Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to answer this question? Is it not the first duty of every Government to secure an adequate supply of food for the people of the country over which they rule? I am astonished at the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not
§ accepting that policy. Can it be sent forth, therefore, that the National Government will not accept the proposal that it is their duty to see that the people of the nation are properly fed? That is what his reply actually means. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's mind is in conflict. The Government are getting into a morass over all this business of agriculture. They have quotas and import duties, and on the top of it all there is the Empire Marketing Board. We shall have something to say later on about the work of the Empire Marketing Board in connection with this Measure. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at me. I do not like his looks: I prefer his speech to his looks. I should imagine that it is more easy for the Board of Trade to lay down scientifically that there shall be an adequate supply of the product at a reasonable price, than to say that they will have regard to the interests of the consumer. Let me make a note of the consumer. It does not say "all" consumers. Of course, the consumers which the Government have in mind are all the people outside the Co-operative Movement. I suppose that they will have no regard at all to the consumers within the co-operative commonwealth. I should imagine that there is a word missing there. It ought to be of "all" consumers. If the Government desire to look at this problem, apart from the prophecy mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, they can tell at any time the situation in Covent Garden and in Smithfield Market, Manchester, the two biggest markets in the country, regarding the supplies of any of those products. I fail to understand, therefore, why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman resists such a very reasonable Amendment coming from very reasonable Members on this side of the House.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 250.1603
|Division No. 201.]||AYES.||[6.12 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Cove, William G.||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Banfield, John William||Daggar, George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Briant, Frank||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Dobbie, William||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)|
|Buchanan, George||Edwards, Charles||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Cape, Thomas||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Griffith, F, Kingsley (Middiesbro', W).|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Groves. Thomas E.||Logan, David Gilbert||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Lunn, William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Thorne, William James|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hirst, George Henry||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||White, Henry Graham|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Milner, Major James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|John, William||Owen, Major Goronwy||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Parkinson, John Allen||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Price, Gabriel||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Lawson, John James||Rea, Walter Russell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Leonard, William||Rothschild, James A. de||Mr. D. Graham' and Mr. G.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Eastwood, John Francis||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Elmley, Viscount||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Albery, Irving James||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Entwistle, Cyril Fuilard||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Maitland, Adam|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Everard, W. Lindsay||Makins, Brigadler-General Ernest|
|Baillle, Sir Adrian W. M.||Falle Sir Bertram G.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fox, Sir Gifford||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Balfour, Capt, Harold (I. of Thanet)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Meller, Richard James|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Glossop, C. W. H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Blindell, James||Goff, Sir Park||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Goldie, Noel B.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Munro, Patrick|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Grimston, R. V.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Brown, Col. D. c. (N'th'ld., Hexham)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||North, Edward T.|
|Brown.Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Hales. Harold K.||Nunn, William|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hanbury, Cecil||O"Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hanley, Dennis A.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pearson, William G.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Harbord, Arthur||Penny, Sir George|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hartland, George A.||Petherick, M.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'varh'pt'n, Bliston)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Potter, John|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A. (Birm, W.)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Weller||Pybus, Percy John|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Colville, Lieut, Colonel J.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rankin, Robert|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hurd, Sir Percy||Ray, Sir William|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Remer, John R.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ropner. Colonel L.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Dickie, John P.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Donner, P. W.||Levy, Thomas||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Doran, Edward||Lewis, Oswald||Russell, R. J. (Eddlsbury)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mabane, William||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Eales, John Frederick||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Scone, Lord||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Shaw. Captain William T. (Forfar)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Summersby, Charles H.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Skelton, Archibald Noel||Sutcliffe, Harold||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Tate, Mavis Constance||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charlees||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Smithers, Waldron||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Sotheron- Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Turton, Robert Hugh||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Spene, William Patrick||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.Westmoriand)||Wallace, John (DunferMilne)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stones, James||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Mr. Womersley and Major George|
|Streuss, Edward A.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wailsend)||Davies.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, to leave out Sub-section (3).
I think that there is no one on the Front Bench who will regard this Subsection with any degree of affection. If it means something, then it is highly dangerous. If it means nothing, then it is merely surplusage. It is one of those directory provisions of which the legal profession and the Government have learnt to beware for some considerable time. I would divide the Sub-section into two halves. In the first part it is provided that the President of the Board of Trade shall have regard to the consumer. The second half deals with the question of foreign countries. Why is he not also to have regard to the producer? Why only the consumer? Why cannot he have regard also to transport or revenue? The Chancellor of the Exchequer may keep a most watchful eye on the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade, but we are told that the President of the Board of Trade shall have regard to the consumer, and the consumer alone. On that point I suggest that the Sub-section is most dangerous. We all know that the President of the Board of Trade is a reasonable being, and is discharging his functions duly. If he discharges his functions duly, then he must have regard to the consumers. We are telling him in effect that when he makes an Order in regard to bacon he is to think of all the happy homes that are consuming the bacon and the eggs in the morning. Do these words in the Sub-section serve any useful purpose? I believe they were put in to reassure hon. Members on the Opposition benches. If so, they have failed in that object. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) has lately put in an Amendment to insert other 1604 words, and has deprecated these particular words.
The real failure of the Sub-section lies in the second part. There, the President of the Board of Trade is directed to have regard to commercial relations and not to break any treaty. It is a very strange and new provision that we order the President of the Board of Trade to think of commercial relations with other countries. It is the function of the President of the Board of Trade that he shall not break treaties. To put in these words is just as if we inserted into a Bill words providing that the Attorney-General should keep the law, that he should have regard to the laws of the country and not break them. It is presumed that every Minister is. of sufficient capacity that he will not break treaties or laws. When I raised this question in Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade defended the words on the. ground that this was not the first time they had appeared in an Act of Parliament. He said that they had appeared in the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921. Naturally, when I am given a precedent I have proper respect for that precedent, even if it were the hasty legislation of that Coalition Government, not all of whose legislation we now approve. When I look at the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, however, I find that it is entirely a different matter. There you are laying down certain provisions in regard to dumping. You are saying that the Board of Trade shall set up a committee to inquire into any case where goods are being sold below the cost of production and at prices which, by reason of their depreciation in value in regard to currency, are competing unfairly with our goods. Then come the words which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted. It is provided that no Order shall be made on any report from any 1605 committee if there are any similar goods being produced in this country with sufficient economy or efficiency, and also:if such an order would be in contravention of any treaty or engagement.That is entirely another matter. It is saying that perhaps the committee has not the resources that lie in the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade—perhaps the committee recommend restrictions which they ought not to recommend, owing to some engagement that that Government or some previous Government had made. This is directory to the Board of Trade when it looks at the committee's report. But in this Bill this particular Sub-section, for the first time in any Act of Parliament, directs the attention of the Board of Trade to the fact that they must not break treaties. I suggest that it is a most monstrous innovation, and if we allow it as a precedent we shall have passed a most dangerous Sub-section as a precedent for future acts. I would ask the House carefully to consider the words in which this direction is given. It says that they are not to make any Order:unless they are satified that it is not at variance with any treaty.I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether that means that it is not to be in any breach of a treaty, or whether it is hypothecating something that is not so much of a. breach but a slight difference. The words "at variance with" have been widely construed in the Courts and have been held to mean any slight difference whether amounting to a breach or not. If we do not direct the President of the Board of Trade not to commit crime, why should it be stipulated that he shall not break treaties? In regard to the words "not at variance with" there is a special danger. In the last Parliament we discussed the dumping of German oats into this country, and the late Mr. William Graham, considering the question of the German Commercial Treaty of 1924, announced that he could not prohibit German bounty-fed oats coming into the country. I asked the same question in Committee, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said that, in his view, you could prohibit the importation of bounty-fed oats under Article 10 of the German Commercial Treaty. With great respect, I would ask him whether it is not possible that the advisers of Mr. 1606 William Graham were right at that time and that the Parliamentary Secretary's present advisers are not right? Article 10 of the Treaty surely provides for the prohibition of particular goods, such as drugs, arms and weapons of war; it is for the purpose of extending the prohibition and restriction on the sale, production and consumption of goods produced in this country to the goods imported from Germany. If we say no oats must be produced here, then we can say Germany must not send any oats here. But we cannot limit our production of oats to a particular quantity and then say Germany must cut down her imports by one-half. That is my view of that particular Section. If that had been the case, then surely it would have been a way out of the difficulty of dumping in 1925. There is a considerable divergence of opinion on the question of dumping. Would restriction of dumping be "at variance with" the treaty, although not a breach of the treaty. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary not to retain these words "at variance with," but to put in other words.
There is one other phrase which is even more dangerous, and that is that the President of the Board of Trade must not make any order unless he is satisfiedthat it is not at variance with any treaty, convention or agreement for the time being in force.What does that mean? They look innocent words, but when you construe them dangers leap up in every direction. "For the time being" means at the time when the Order is made, not the time when the Order is to operate. Lately we have been forced to put a prohibition on Russian goods to operate on a certain future date, a very necessary provision, and that future date was the date upon which the Trade Agreement with Russia was to expire. If you allow these words to remain, it will not be within the power of the President of the Board of Trade to put any restriction on goods at a future date; it will have to be at the time when a trading agreement has actually expired. That is not going to give the agricultural industry that assurance and confidence which it requires.
Some of us are not satisfied with the terms which British agriculture is to receive under the Argentine Agreement. 1607 We hope that there will be further restrictions on some Argentine imports, but we have to wait for three years while that agreement is operating. No Order can be made in any case until that agreement actually expires. In that case you will get at the end of the agreement, not a further limitation of imports but an actual glut of imports from the Argentine. She will be able to flood this country with any imports she wishes. I ask that the words "for the time being" should be taken out of the Bill. In my view, it is a most dangerous Sub-section and one which at all times has given considerable apprehension to the farmers of this country.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
This point was gone into at some length in Committee, and we are still in the dark as to what is the real object of the latter part of the Sub-section. The first part was explained by the Minister of Agriculture when he spoke on the last Amendment, but we have not yet been told how the commercial agreements are going to affect schemes under the Bill. In Committee an hon. Friend of mine asked a pointed question, and he was answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, but he did not really answer this particular question. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Christie) saidanybody who has anything to do or attempts to induce successive Governments to accept a tax on malting barley knows that the President of the Board of Trade has always said that we cannot do this or that because treaties prevent us.And he went on to ask:Will the hon Gentleman tell us whether it will be possible, under existing treaties and arrangements with foreign countries, to limit the importation of butter from any Continental country without, first of all, denouncing the commercial treaty or agreement which exists?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 6th April, 1933; col. 147.]We want to know what will be the effect of the latter part of this Sub-section on the agreements which have been made. If they are going to hinder schemes on other products which are not under a scheme at present, like barley, or milk, or butter, it will be a great blow to agri- 1608 culture. I cannot find that any answer has been given to this point. The Parliamentary Secretary said:The importation restriction is upon an agricultural product; the marketing scheme relates to a branch of agriculture. The reasons were fully explained during the earlier discussions on the Amendments. There might well be a product which affected a scheme, as well as a scheme which affected a product.That sounds all right, but it is not an answer to the question. Later on the Parliamentary Secretary said:the Board of Trade is to take care, when an Order restricting imports is to be made, to be sure that the contractual obligations entered into by or on behalf of this country are respected. The words are not idle words."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 6th April, 1933; col.155.]The Board of Trade is to take care before an Order restricting imports is made that the obligations entered into by this country are respected. I should have thought that the Board of Trade would have done that in any case. These are all pious opinions, but they do not tell us how schemes under the Bill are going to be affected by these trade agreements. At the end of his speech the hon. Member said:The words 'commercial relations' mean the whole external view of trade; in other words, the whole functions of the Board of Trade with regard to the trade and industry of this country. There is no intention of limiting it to one particular line of inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 6th April, 1933; col. 162.]I should have thought that the Board of Trade would have done it in any case. The Import Duties Advisory Committee is supposed to be independent. On various occasions they have held up various products for a long time because agreements were under consideration by the Government. In the case of timber a decision is still held up because there is some agreement in prospect. The same thing has been done in the case of some agricultural products. We want to know how they are going to be affected by this Clause. If it can be used to hinder the preparation of schemes, then some products may never come into a scheme at all.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
When I first read this proposal I thought, what a remarkable Amendment! I suggest that 1609 there is something more behind it than a mere legal argument. What does the Sub-section do? It suggests that the President of the Board of Trade must have regard to three things—first, the interests of the consumers. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) says, why should consumers be considered under an agricultural marketing scheme.
§ Mr. TURTON
I never said that. I said why should not the President of the Board of Trade consider all interests.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
But you make certain that one thing will be done. The hon. Member suggested that this Subsection is highly dangerous. Highly dangerous to whom? It is absolutely essential that the interests of consumers should be considered. But there is something else with which I am equally concerned. The Sub-section says that the President of the Board of Trade shall have regard to persons who purchase a productfor the purpose of subjecting it to any treatment or process of manufacture.I pointed out in Committee that the whole textile industry can be affected by this Bill. Certain things can be laid down which would restrict the import of any kind, grade or variety or description of any particular kind of wool which comes into this country. It is vital that there should be a provision that the Board of Trade, the Department which looks after the interests of industry, should be told particularly that questions of processing shall be given special regard. With regard to the treaties in existence between this country and other countries, surely the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton does not object to England keeping her treaties?
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Why object to his being told about it? It may not be necessary, but I can see no possible harm in it. I hope that the Government will resist the Amendment. It is the only Sub- 1610 section in the Bill which gives particular regard to the interests of consumers in primary and secondary products.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I had every intention of resisting the Amendment, but the appeal of the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) gave me a moment's hesitation. An alliance with such a quarter is indeed suspect, and I have had to think again while on my feet. I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) should have any cause to feel that I did not fully respond to any questions which have been put to me, and I assure him that it was entirely by inadvertence if that were the case. I have now an opportunity of making good that omission by replying expressly to the question, and at the end of my speech I propose to say, "Are there any other questions the hon. Member desires to put before I resume my seat?"
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) would be one of the first to be convInced by a sound legal argument in reply. I pay him that compliment at once. He says, "Either these words mean nothing, in which case they are surplusage, or if they mean something they are dangerous." He put that spiked dilemma to me and asked me to hook myself on to one or other of the points. I propose to ask the hon. Member to consider just what the Board of Trade has to do with agriculture here. If the hon. Member will consider other Amendments which have been moved, he will realise that there was great pressure brought to bear on the Government to accept the suggestion that an Order should never be made to restrict the imports of a commodity from abroad except at the suggestion of the Market Supply Committee. What is the line of procedure to be followed? The Market Supply Committee, knowing all that is going on in connection with any particular commodity, will approach the Minister of Agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture will then approach the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade will have, so to speak, to sit in judgment upon the application made by the Minister of Agriculture at the request of the Market Supply Committee, that an Order should be made restricting some particular importation. The Board of Trade will call for evidence in support 1611 of the application, and the evidence will be that, unless an Order is made, the reorganisation of that branch of the industry cannot be fully effected.
If we stopped there and had none of this Sub-section (3) in the Bill at all, the Government's advisers say that it might be contended that the Board of Trade would not be able to take into consideration any question other than whether the Order was necessary for the effective reorganisation of the branch of industry. In other words, we might be restricted to finding out whether the Order was essential for the main purposes for which it is intended to be brought in. This Sub-section, so far from being meaningless or dangerous, is an enabling Sub-section, permitting the Board of Trade not to be limited to seeing whether the Order is essential to the reorganisation of the branch of the industry, but in doing so to take into regard other considerations, including particularly the interests of the consumers. The interests of the consumers include not merely something which someone has to eat raw or cooked, but yarn or some of the other wonderful products of Yorkshire or Lancashire which someone has to make.
Now I come to the second part of the Sub-section, which deals with commercial treaties. Again, dealing with the matter broadly, it was suggested that the making of this Order should be the concern of the Ministry of Agriculture. Quite a lot of arguments were adduced in Committee that the one to make the Order should be the Minister of Agriculture. We had to point out that it was a question not merely of the agricultural markets in any particular commodity, but a question of the commercial relations of the United Kingdom with other countries, and that that matter comes under the Board of Trade. So the Board of Trade has to be brought into account because it has to deal with commercial treaties. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said, "But surely the President of the Board of Trade may be entrusted with not breaking the law. If you want to tell him that he must not break the law, do not tell him that he must not act at variance with good conduct, but tell him, 'Thou shalt not'." I am authorised to define the words "not at variance." They mean "not in conflict with."
1612 The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton founded his argument very largely on the German Treaty of 1924. I gave an asurance during Committee that I would again look up the whole question of that Treaty, and when I saw the hon. Member come into the House to-day with a large portion of the Library in his arms, I had every assurance that my work of preparation would not have gone in vain. I would like to read to him what, for the purpose of better accuracy, I have committed to writing. This is the assurance that I am instructed to give with regard to the interpretation of the Anglo-German Treaty. I am reading it exactly as it is given to me.
The hon. and learned Member for Thirsk and Malton is quite wrong. He is thinking that Article 10 (e) is confined to things Tike drugs, as suggested by him in Committee. Contrary to his belief, Article 10 (e) of the German Treaty means exactly what it says. There can be no doubt that if restrictions are imposed upon the production, sale, consumption or forwarding within the United Kingdom, then restrictions can be imposed on the import of goods of the same kind whatever their nature.Whether that is in disagreement with the advice tendered to the late Mr. William Graham or not is a matter of academic interest on which I cannot express any views, but I can give, with the full weight of the Government advisers behind me, the assurance that the Anglo-German Treaty does permit us to restrict the "import of goods of the same kind, whatever their nature," and there is nothing in Article 10 or any part of the Treaty which in any way reduces that power.
I think I have dealt with the Treaty. I now have to deal with the words, "for the time being." I noticed that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, when he read the Safeguarding of Industries Act, did not read those few words. But I reminded him in Committee that those words are taken literally from the 1921 Act, and that they have caused not the slightest difficulty. Obviously the time when the President of the Board of Trade has to consider this matter is when the suggestion is made that he should make an Order. He has then to be satisfied that he can make that Order without it being in conflict with anything that the Government has undertaken in any Treaty down to that moment. The President of the Board of Trade makes his Order. The hon. Member asks, 1613 "What is going to happen if in three years we make another Treaty?" The Order made three years before you make a Treaty will not be in conflict with the Treaty.
§ Mr. TURTON
If we imagine that a similar state of affairs were to exist as existed in April we can see that His Majesty's Government would have been precluded from putting any restriction on Russian goods because of the peculiar words in this Bill.
§ Dr. BURGIN
If the hon. Member is asking me to say what are the restrictions in the Treaties at present in force, of course I can do so, but it is a long list. The point is that obviously we cannot make an Order that conflicts with a treaty. The only treaty to be looked at is the treaty in force when you make an Order.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I disagree emphatically. I say that if you had to make an Order that was not at variance with a treaty for the time being in force, and you knew that that treaty was to come to an end within a month, you could quite easily make an Order restricting as from six weeks ahead.
§ Mr. TURTON
The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that that question was considered in the High Court a short time ago on a question of assessment "for the time being."' The Court there construed the phrase in the actual words I have used, and at variance with and in conflict with the words that the Parliamentary Secretary has used.
§ Dr. BURGIN
We are saying here that the Board of Trade shall not make an Order unless satisfied that it does not conflict. I have a junior part to play in the administration of the Board of Trade, but I should have no hesitation whatever in directing the making of an Order, provided I was satisfied that it did not conflict with a treaty. If there is anything in the hon. Member's point about the treaty about to expire one can look at it again. I am not satisfied that there is anything in it at all. I think the words have a plain meaning. The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier- 1614 General Brown) asks, "How does this type of Clause affect our schemes, for instance, in regard to malting barley, butter and other commodities? The Clause does not in any way limit or restrict or expand the difficulties when dealing with any of these commodities. If there is any treaty to which this country is a party, a treaty which deals with malting barley, or butter or anything else, there is nothing in Sub-section (3) which increases the difficulty of dealing with it. All that the Clause says is that the President of the Board of Trade in making an Order shall not be limited to any narrow construction of Sub-section 1 (a) or Sub-section 1 (b); he shall not be limited merely to considering the agricultural scheme or the agricultural industry, but shall have regard to consumers, and shall bear in mind the obligations of this country in treaties and trade agreements with other countries, and shall not do anything that conflicts. For these reasons I ask the House to resist the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.