§ 7.7 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 18, after the word "Kingdom," to insert the words:and the conditions of employment and standard of life of those engaged in the production of such products.We consider that the time has now come in the reorganisation of agriculture, when giving protection to the agricultural industry, to insert a provision that the benefits of the Bill shall be extended to the man who works on the land. It may be said that the general history of agriculture in this country, however far we may go back, does undoubtedly suggest that, even when British agriculture was in a prosperous condition, the interest of the British agricultural labourer, who, when all is said and done, is the most important person in relation to the products of agriculture, never was seen to, as far as wages and conditions are concerned. Surely, when the National Government are going to reorganise this industry, one of the first conditions which ought to attach to that reorganisation is that the man who works the land should have his conditions reviewed. At the same time as the Marketing Committee is giving Protection to the producer, a term which includes both landlord and farmer, the farm labourer should get some benefit out of this Protection.
The Amendment we seek to include in this Bill is a just one. Is there any hon. Member in this House who can give any justifiable reason why, when asking for protection, as this industry is doing, and seeking to lay a definite embargo on imports, as well as giving it a general monopoly of supply in the markets and fixation of prices, there is no room for 1617 consideration of the man who works on the land? The Government are largely made up of men who come from the agricultural districts. They have promised the agricultural labourer that he will get full consideration in any Bill for the organisation of this industry. Is it too much that the agricultural labourer should be given a fair crack of the whip, and fair consideration when the Marketing Board is considering imports and fixation of prices? No reorganisation would be sufficient in this industry, or any other, which did not give first place to the man who does the work of the industry, and who, putting first things first, is the most important person in the industry.
A National Government should consider in all their legislation impartially all classes of society. Here we find protection for the landlord and protection for the farmer, but as to the unfortunate man employed on the land, not a word is said regarding what conditions he shall have guaranteed from this wholesale protection and benefit to the landlord and farmer. One would consider that it would have been a first fundamental to the National Government that, in any reorganisation of this industry, importance should be given to the tiller of the soil. He should have fair conditions of wages and hours. It is no use for whoever replies to suggest that provision has already been made for his protection. It has not. What legislation there is on the. Statute Book at this moment for the protection of the agricultural labourer is being fiercely violated, and has never operated. The people asking for this protection have been the biggest opponents we have had against the man who tills and works from morn till night organising himself with a view to battling for his own rights. Here is an opportunity for the National Government to show for once in a while—and they have not done it yet—that they are anxious to legislate for all classes of society.
If it is fair to give the landlord and farmer protection, why is it not fair to give it to the agricultural labourer and the consumer? If we pass legislation on purely nationalist lines, then we ought to give protection to all sections of the community, and not one section. The agricultural labourer is one of the most deserving men in industry. He is the 1618 man who toils and does the work. But even at this stage of our civilisation we have no Government prepared to admit that man to the place he should take in a Bill of this description. I hope the Minister will give this his serious consideration, and let the country know if he intends to be fair and just and give protection to all classes of society. If the Government do that, these agricultural labourers are the people they will put in the first place, and not in the last.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not expect the Minister to give it his consideration, for I expect nothing from this Government, and I think time will prove that I shall not be disappointed, particularly with regard to the agricultural worker. As the hon. Member has said, landlords, farmers, and vested interests generally, get protection, but to the farm labourer little sympathy is shown. This Amendment says that the Market Supply Committee shall not be limited to reviewing supplies of agricultural products in the United Kingdom, but that they shall, in addition to that review, generally report to the Minister onthe conditions of employment and standard of life of those engaged in the production of such products.Surely we have a right to ask the Minister at least to permit the Market Supply Committee to make some recommendations to him as to how things are going, generally, from the labourers' point of view in the various areas affected. We may not get what we want, of course, but we think we have the right to ask for it.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
As an agricultural Member I wish to assure the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment that agriculturists throughout the country have a very Sincere sympathy with the conditions of agricultural employés and there is a personal contact between the agriculturist and his men that does not, I believe, exist in any other industry. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) said both the farmer and the landlord were getting protection under this Bill, but that there was no protection for the agricultural 1619 worker. I respectfully suggest to him that the agricultural worker has had his protection already in the Agricultural Wages Boards, but in the past there was no protection for the farmer to enable him to pay the wages. This Bill will give the farmer the protection in selling his products which will enable him to pay, as he desires to pay, a proper and reasonable wage to the agricultural worker.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I think the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) and the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) do rather less than justice even to the work of a previous Labour Government and certainly to the work of all Governments Since in maintaining and extending the work of the Agricultural Wages Board. There are very few classes of workers in the country who have statutory protection for their wages and when we find that, although the products out of which wages are paid have fallen Since 1924 from 161 to 112, whereas agricultural wages which were 156 in 1924 have moved to 173, it shows that the desire which has been very properly expressed, in connection with this movement for re-establishing the solvency of agriculture, that the worker should have "a fair crack of the whip"—to use the expression of the Mover of the Amendment—is very fully shared by the community as a whole and by successive Parliaments and successive Governments—not any one particular Government. It is, in fact, because of the movement of agricultural wages that it is necessary, unless the standard of living of the agricultural worker is to be reduced, that some Measure such as this should be introduced.
I believe that the remarkable change of opinion which has come over the whole community with regard to the farm, with regard to the industry of agriculture, and the willingness of the towns to contemplate a rise in prices, are largely due to the fact that we began this alteration of conditions by dealing with the condition of the farm-workers. It has not been an easy matter either from the Ministry's or from the agriculturists' point of view. As my hon. Friends opposite know, at this very moment there is in Norfolk a most 1620 unfortunate dispute, but one in which neither the Ministry nor the National Farmers' Union have shirked their responsibilities. The wages committee in spite of resignations is functioning, and has just issued an award, and that award has statutory effect. I ask hon. Members whether, under these conditions, they cannot see their way to withdraw the Amendment? It would be serious were it to go forward to the agricultural community that, after all that has been done, not, as I say, by any one Parliament but by several, not by any one Government but by many, it was thought that the system was not efficacious. To throw doubt upon the efficacy of such a reform as that is the first step to sweeping it away, and none of us, I am sure, would wish that to happen.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I am astonished that the Minister has not found it possible to accept this Amendment which merely imposes on the Market Supply Committee the obligation to have regard, among a number of other things, to the conditions of the labourers. It imposes upon the Ministry and upon the committee no additional statutory obligation other than that. If these words were included they would, I gather, permit the agricultural workers to make representations to the Market Supply Committee with regard to the conditions of labour, in exactly the same way as the farmers can make representations to the committee with regard to prices. The Amendment seems to be most reasonable. Surely it is admitted that when considering the efficiency or otherwise of an industry we cannot ignore, in connection with that test, the consideration of whether the people engaged in the industry are having a square deal or not. The view advanced by the Minister will give rise to considerable apprehension in the country. It is true that agriculture is one of the few instances in which the State has entered into an important industry with a view to the regulation of its products. It is the beginning of that State planning of which we have heard so much. But is it not extremely unfortunate, now that the Government are launching the first of these schemes, that they should not. in the Act of Parliament make any provision at all for giving consideration to the conditions 1621 of the workers in the industry which is being planned.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am afraid that my hon. Friend is confusing this committee with the Import Duties Advisory Committee. This committee has no executive powers such as he suggests. It merely has the power to inform the Minister. The Minister is already informed as to the operations of agricultural wages through another statutory channel of information and does not require this further channel of information.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that protests have been made in this House time and time again that the Agricultural Wages Board machinery is being sabotaged in many parts of the country. Protests have been made in the House that the inspectorate has been reduced by the Government of which he is a Member, and that there is no proper inspection of the wages which are now being paid. It is not good enough for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to presume that the Agricultural Wages Board machinery is working with 100 per cent. efficiency in the country and that all that is necessary is to leave the protection of the workers where it is at the moment with the Agricultural Wages Board. The words which we asked him to insert give the Market Supply Committee power, in making representations to the Board of Trade—
§ Major ELLIOT
But they do not make representations to the President of the Board of Trade. I have no doubt it was a slip on the part of the hon. Member, but they only make representations to the Minister of Agriculture.
§ Mr. BEVAN
That is of course a slip, but we have just been told by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland how representations would be passed from the Ministry of Agriculture to the President of the Board of Trade in regard to the limitation of the imports of certain pro- 1622 ducts, the production of which it is proposed to organise under the Bill. The point which we are striving to put is this. The landlord's interest is being protected, because the object of the Bill is to increase the revenue from their land. The farmer's interest is being protected, because his interest is related also to the price of the product, and all we are seeking to establish is that regard should be paid in the organisation of these schemes to the protection of the market for the agricultural workers' labour. It is of paramount importance that that should be done in this Bill. The Minister in effect, is proposing to organise a scarcity of agricultural products. His principal purpose is to bring about an artificial scarcity ill order to raise prices. At the same time as the Minister creates a condition of scarcity in agricultural products he creates a condition of plenitude in regard to agricultural labour. A scarcity of agricultural products necessarily means a surplus of agricultural labour. The Minister cannot have it both ways.
§ Major ELLIOT
My hon. Friend cannot have heard the Debate on the earlier part of this Bill in which we spoke of the necessity of an expanding share of the home market. It may create a plenitude of agricultural labour in the world all over but the purpose is to create increased opportunities for the agricultural labourer here at home, and I can have it both ways, and I am having it both ways, as the figures show. The thing is working just now. It is actually in operation. I beg of my hon. Friend to consider before he continues this line of argument whether he attaches any validity to the Agricultural Wages Act at all or not. Otherwise we find ourselves here debating, not the functions of the Market Supply Committee, but the functions of the Agricultural Wages Board.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I find from reports which I have received from various parts of the country that the Agricultural Wages Board machinery in many parts is being sabotaged and that is why I wish to give the Government additional powers. Why does the Minister object to this augmentation of powers? If it is found on inquiry by the Market Supply Committee that such powers are not necessary, if a report is received that in one part of 1623 the country where a particular scheme is about to be set up, the agricultural wages machinery is operating satisfactorily, then "everything in the garden will be lovely" and it will be possible to go on with the scheme for that area. But if it is reported through representations to the Market Supply Committee that in another area wages are not adequately protected, surely no harm can be done by having those representations made to the Market Supply Committee and passed on by them to the Ministry or to the appropriate Department for seeing that the Act is carried out properly. I would like the Minister to tell the House in what way will the inclusion of these words add to his embarrassment?
§ Major ELLIOT
In a word, by the very procedure which the hon. Member has sketched out to the House, namely, to set up under this Measure, independent machinery to review the working of another Act. He suggests that this work should be carried out by two different organisations both responsible to tine same Minister. That would of course create widespread confusion. My position in relation to the Agricultural Wages Act is that of a judge and an elaborate system of statutory procedure has been worked out, by the hon. Member's own party as well as by ours, for ensuring that complaints shall go to the Minister and shall be considered by him in that way. To suggest that we should spatchcock another body into this system, a body which has nothing to do with the working of the Act, which has no administrative contact with the working of the Act, which has not attached to it any inspectorate whatever, and to suggest that a series of roving commissions like that would not add to my embarrassment —all that I can say is that I would ask my hon. Friend to put himself in my place and see what he would say then.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I would be very glad to be in the position occupied by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He exaggerates when he says that we should be giving to this Market Supply Committee a roving commission to inquire into all sorts of things. All that we are suggesting is that, when a scheme is about to be set up, representations shall be made, if people wish to make them. If the agricultural labourers in that area wish 1624 to say, "This scheme ought not to be set up because these farmers are already unjustly treating us," surely that is a reasonable proposition. There is no need to have a duplication of inspectors. All that you need do, if you are Sincere about protecting the agricultural labourer, is to increase the number of inspectors and see that they do their job properly. We on this side have had far more experience than has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of the way in which this sort of legislation is sidetracked. We know of instances where indeed in many parts of the country landlords or employers force their employés to enter into conspiracies with them to thwart the intentions of the law, and the poor labourer finds himself in a hopeless position, because he either has to agree with the employer to accept a wage far below the legal standard, or put up with dismissal.
Hon. Members must not imagine that the job is finished when an Act has gone through. The employer is in a privileged position and is always able to impose conditions upon his employés, who in very many instances are unable to secure the protection of the law. I have seen in many instances false wages paid to employés, when investigation would have shown that they were 12s. or 15s. under the contract wages. So it is not true to say that adequate protection is given to a labourer merely by means of the wage-protecting machinery which exists at the moment. We are seeking by this Amendment to provide an augmentation of the protection of the agricultural labourer that at present exists. It is not good enough to say that we shall have roving commissions or duplicate inspectorates if the Amendment is passed. All that we desire to do is to put a new weapon in the hands of the agricultural labourer, to secure that if he cannot get proper protection for his labour, the farmer shall not have protection for his products.
If there is anything at all in the agricultural planning scheme, if the Government are Sincere in their intention that this shall lead to a revival of the countryside, they will secure in every way that the wages of the agricultural labourer shall be augmented and protected, because he spends his money in the village, and the landlord generally spends his money in the city, so that from the point of view of rural revival, it is more im- 1625 portant that the agricultural labourer should have more money than that the landlord should. You should try to get the money spent in the village, and it is spent there if it is in the hands of the labourer, who cannot leave the village.
We want a tribunal where he can argue his case. I am surprised at the suggestion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that innocent words of this description, which merely secure that in one place in the Bill the agricultural labourer shall have a voice and make his protest effective, will upset the symmetry of the Bill. Let him have more regard for the symmetry of the countryside and less regard for the symmetry of the Bill, and probably he will get a more prosperous agriculture. In resisting the Amendment, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not doing himself any good in the country, because, if he intends to go on with these planning schemes, if he thinks, as I do not agree, that the various interests in agriculture can be reconciled and worked into a scheme for the whole industry, let him allow all the interests to appear in the Bill, and not leave out the agricultural labourer.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must know that his wages Department at the Ministry of Agriculture is more or less a recording angel, and nothing more. It simply receives wage reports, it employs eight or nine inspectors to insist on the law being carried out, and, as far as the Ministry is concerned, that is the beginning and the end of its problem with regard to wages. We regard this Market Supply Committee as of vital importance. They not only have to review generally the circumstances affecting the supply of agricultural products in the United Kingdom, but they have to give advice to the Minister of Agriculture, and they have periodically to make recommendations to the Minister as to the effect of the application of an Order under Part I and as to what further Orders ought to be applied to any particular products. If that reorganisation or efficient organisation for which the Minister hopes is to come to pass, we shall have various changes in
§ the industry. We shall have transfers from an uneconomic area to an economic area, and we shall have combinations of producers of primary as well as of secondary products; and if the results are to be worth while, they ought to find expression in the wages of the agricultural workers.
§ Surely it is not too much to ask, when Orders under Part I are applied, if prices commence to increase and some element of prosperity is restored to agriculture, that somebody should be definitely charged with responsibility for the agricultural labourer. I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will deny that he has no responsibility for the worker. His only responsibility is to record the wages that are settled by a wages committee, and to see that the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act of 1924 is carried out by means of the employment of his inspectors. If in any county a wages committee disagrees and a case finds its way back to the National Wages Committee, who have no power in the matter, that is as far as the Minister can go.
§ It seems to me, because of the obvious changes that this Bill will make in almost every area, if the farmers are to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them, that changes will take place in the wages and working conditions of the labourers, and we ask that this Market Supply Committee, this committee of five wise men who are going to advise agriculturists how, with import restrictions, they can make the best use of the 6oil of this country, should not exclude the labourers from its consideration. We think it is a very modest Amendment, which even Conservative agricultural representatives might accept. However, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has objected to it, we have no alternative to taking it to a Division, though we would very much have preferred at least one manifestation of Governmental sympathy for the agricultural worker.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 220.1629
|Division No. 202.]||AYES.||[7.42 p.m.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Cocke, Frederick Seymour|
|Banfield, John William||Buchanan, George||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Cape, Thomas||Daggar, George|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Dobble, William||Leonard, William||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||Thome, William James|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Gcvan)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James||Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|John, William||Price, Gabriel||Mr. Groves and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Golf, Sir Park||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Goldie, Noel B.||North, Edward T.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Nunn, William|
|Albery, Irving James||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Allen. Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Pearson, William G.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grimston, R. V.||Petherick, M.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Potter, John|
|Balfour, George (Hampetead)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Hales, Harold K.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd)||Rankin, Robert|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Hanbury, Cecil||Ray, Sir William|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Hanley, Dennis A.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Harbord, Arthur||Held, David D. (County Down)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Hartland, George A.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Blindell, James||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Remer, John R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Briant, Frank||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Holdsworth, Herbert||Robinson, John Roland|
|Brocklebank,' C. E. R.||Hornby, Frank||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hurd, Sir Percy||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J.A. (Birm., W)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Samuel, Samuel (Wdsworth, Putney)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Janner, Barnett||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Jones, Sir G.W.H. (Stoke New'gton)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scone, Lord|
|Cooke, Douglas||Lamb. Sir Joseph Quinton||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Leckie, J. A.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Leech. Dr. J. W.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Levy, Thomas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lewis, Oswald||Smithers, Waldron|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Dickie, John P.||Mabane, William||Sot heron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Dormer, P. W.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetiaw)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J|
|Drewe, Cedric||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McKie, John Hamilton||Spens, William Patrick|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Stones, James|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Maitland, Adam||Storey, Samuel|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Fermoy, Lord||Meller, Richard James||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Toucne, Gordon Cosmo|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Morrison, William Shepherd||Wallace, John (DunferMilne)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Munro. Patrick||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wells. Sydney Richard|
|Gluckstein. Louis Halle||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Wills, Wilfrid D.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wise, Alfred R.||Wragg, Herbert||Sir Victor War render and Lieut.|
|Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 4, line 21, to leave out the word "regulating," and to insert instead thereof the words,planning the agricultural industry in relation to.Hon. Members will find that the following words occur in Sub-section (2):It shall be the duty of the Market Supply Committee to review generally the circumstances affecting the supply of agricultural products in the United Kingdom and to make recommendations to the said Minister and Secretaries of State as to any steps which ought, in the opinion of the committee, to be taken for regulating that supply.It is hardly worth while having a Bill of this kind to achieve the object which the Minister and the Government seem to have in view. We want to go very much deeper by inserting these words, and to say that it is very little use appointing a committee of this kind merely to regulate the products that come into the markets of the country. The situation of the countryside at the moment shows that the policy of the Government for some unknown reason does not Colncide with what they are trying to do in this Measure. Let one give an example of what I mean. As I came from Manchester to-day I passed through about 150 miles from Derby to London. I am assured by those who understand the qualities of the soil and who know something about agriculture that in that 150 miles there is probably the finest soil in the whole of Europe. I guarantee that as far as I could see from the train there were not more than 20 persons employed over the whole of that area. In France, Italy or any other Continental country there would be at least ten or a dozen times as many persons employed on the soil per acre as there are in this country. There is nothing in this Bill which will affect that fundamental problem of employing more men to produce more from the soil, and we are very anxious that the Minister of Agriculture should take heed of something more than merely marketing the products of agriculture.
The Government in appointing the Market Supply Committee ought to give 1630 it authority to inform the appropriate Minister whether vested interests, on either the landlords' or the farmers' side, are preventing the development of agriculture. There is very little in the Bill to deal with the agricultural industry as such. It relates almost exclusively to the marketing of the products of that industry. We want to know, therefore, whether the Minister cannot insert these words so that the Government should sit down and plan the industry for a few years to come Let me give an example. In the County of Shropshire tons of apples are left almost any year to rot on the ground. At the same time the Corporation of Manchester possesses a huge cold storage scheme to house apples from Australia and Canada. Would it not be better to lay down cold storage in Shropshire where the apples are grown so that they can be kept until they can be sold? I want to ask the Minister what relationship there is between the appointment of this Market Supply Committee and the work of the Empire Marketing Board. The Empire Marketing Board encourages with all its power, and with the expenditure of State money, too, the bringing into this country of some commodities that can be produced within our own shores. Some Members of the Government are so imperialistic that they forget that Great Britain is part of the British Empire. We want to develop some relationship between the amount of the commodities that can be produced in this country and the volume that comes from our own Dominions.
I promised to give no more than a general outline of the proposal embodied in the Amendment. I am afraid that I have done it inadequately, but I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture will not deal with me in the same fierce way as he-dealt with the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans), who delivered such a brilliant speech and made such a good point that the Minister attacked him almost ferociously. I am sure that I have not made such a good case as to warrant such a violent attack in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's reply to me. 1631 Every Member in the House, I am sure, is distressed to see our countryside in such a predicament. I should imagine that if the Government had the power and cared to wield it, at least one-half of our unemployment problem would be solved in a very short time by producing within our own shores the commodities which it is possible to grow here. There are of course differences in the methods as to how that should be done. Some Members think that quotas will do it and others that Import Duties will achieve the object. We, on the other hand, feel that there is one thing that has to be done in planning our agricultural industry—the shackles of private enterprise and the ownership of large tracts of territory in the hands of the few must be done away with once and for all.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) in his aspirations. The trouble about him and his colleagues is that they do not understand even their own Bills and Acts of Parliament. The Labour party two years ago passed a Measure called the Agricultural Marketing Act, and that provided for the establishment of a reorganisation commission which would do precisely the work which my hon. Friend is trying to foist now on to a committee appointed for a totally different purpose. If they would only consider what has actually been done under their own Act of Parliament they would find no cause for duplicating the machinery which already exists, as they are trying to do in this Amendment, and as they tried to do in the last. The work of planning agriculture is now going on under the energetic leadership of my right hon. and gallant Friend under the Act that was passed two years ago. To introduce that question here is simple supererogation. I am not going to follow my hon. Friend in his eloquent peroration about the 150 miles of the best land in the world which employs only 20 men and his comparison with the conditions in France. I will say only two things to him. I would ask him first to go to France and try to induce the French people with the higher ratio of employment on their agricultural land 1632 that they would do better by the nationalisation of the land than by Protection. I should like to know what the French would say to him. Secondly, I would advise him to buy a farm situated on that 150 miles, and try to farm it himself.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
We may have forgotten many things that the Labour Government did, but I do not think that it falls to the Noble Lord to tell us that the present Minister of Agriculture is planning the agricultural industry as we would have it planned. Some of my colleagues and I come from areas which are badly depressed. We are concerned as to what is to happen to the enormous aggregation of people situated in the mining valleys of South Wales and elsewhere. We wonder whether it is possible for this Government, with its enormous power, to remove the men from what are now recognised to be uneconomic areas, Capttalistically, to some other areas or industries where they would be able to earn a living instead of being dependent upon unemployment benefit or public assistance.
In moving this Amendment we are trying to get the Government, through the Minister of Agriculture—who is to me the most progressive of Ministers of the State, and seems to possess an outlook and a philosophy far more progressive than we usually get from the Front Bench opposite—to consider whether it is possible to agree that this Market Supply Committee shall not only have power to regulate things but have power to plan things. Could it not be within the competency of the Committee to deal with imports on a large scale; to purchase commodities in bulk and see that those commodities were distributed at a fair price to the consumers at large; to see that landlords—I do not wish to infer that the Noble Lord was considering his own peculiar interest—do not charge an exhorbitant price for land? We have some knowledge of what landlords do when land is wanted for special purposes, though I am sure the Chair would not permit me to dilate on what has been happening in Glamorgan and other parts of the country where fabulous prices have been charged by landlords, and nothing has been said about it though 1633 reference has frequently been made to the enormous cost of road construction.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
This Amendment relates solely to the agricultural industry, and the cost of roads cannot arise under it.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I appreciate that point—only roads may have to be constructed for agricultural purposes. I thought it might be out of order, and that is really why I put the observation in parenthesis. We hope the Minister will appreciate what it is we are driving at. We are anxious that this Committee, which is to make certain recommendations after reviewing things in this country and, for that matter, in other countries, shall if possible have some kind of executive authority, some power which will enable them to take within their ambit the whole of the agricultural industry considered over a period of years. We think they should ascertain exactly the quantum of goods which can be produced per acre, and ascertain how much is required from other countries to supplement it. By such means it might be possible to bring about a general revival in the agricultural industry. They might ascertain, also, how to cheapen the cost of production, and altogether try to make us less dependent upon the outside the word. We want to revive our badly-depresesd areas and give some hope to the millions of unemployed.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am sure no one on this side of the House will complain of the tone of the speeches nor, indeed, of the desires expressed by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams), As these Debates go on we see a remarkable harmony of purpose in all parts of the House regarding the general desire which we have, and my only fear is that my hon. Friends opposite may, in their zeal, altogether outrun discretion, and desire completely to ban foreign imports of any kind. Indeed, that was foreshadowed by the hon. Member for Westhoughton, who envisaged half the unemployed being put on to producing food and making us completely independent of all imported supplies, though that might, as we are so often told by them, have the corresponding effect of throwing out of work an 1634 equivalent number of men who are now manufacturing goods to pay for this imported food. If we are to secure acceptance of our general conditions, nobody will be more pleased than myself, but at the moment we are in the embryo stages of these new developments, and, as the hon. Member for Ogmore said in his very thoughtful remarks, it is not so much the question of this actual Amendment as of the purpose which we have before us.
We do appreciate the necessity for planning, but I would ask them to consider the remarks of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), who pointed out that, product by product, that was now in progress, and that to load the whole of the plan upon one committee of five persons would probably hopelessly ovEriead that committee. That committee has the very important function of a man watching a pressure gauge—it will be watching its rise or its fall, because there is a danger that, quite suddenly, scarcity may appear in the world. Then the economies of the present situation would cease to operate, and we should have to change over as quickly as possible to producing an extra quantity of some commodity the supplies of which have suddenly left us. This committee will have the very important function of supervising schemes which combine all these operations. To ask them also to plan, to lay out the works, would be like detaching the man watching the pressure gauge from his immediate performance and giving him a more long-range performance which would be more properly carried out by other functionaries in the works. We have the reorganisation commission report, a planning report, upon pigs, we have the reorganisation commission report, a planning report, upon milk, we have the planning committee for fat stock and fat stock marketing. All these are reviewing not merely the immediate problems but the very long-range problems of which the hon. Member for Ogmore spoke.
I ask the House to beware of ovErieading any particular piece of this machinery with functions to which it is not adapted. This committee will be a planning committee, but its guide to planning will be the head of steam, the pressure of supply which it sees before it on the gauges, that is according to the reports given out daily by the markets of this country 1635 and the statistical information in the hands of the Board of Trade. My hon. Friend desires inquiries into the maximum output per acre, what supplies may be expected from abroad, and what we could do without if we planned all this country down to the last detail, and if we began a large scale movement of men from the economically derelict areas into the other areas, and moved new industries into the derelict areas. Incidentally, it seems to me that the glass-house industry might be more usefully set up in a coal area than many of the other industries which it is suggested those coal areas should take up. I do not think the Market Supply Committee is the proper body to do all that. We may find on further experience of these schemes that it is the proper body, and if we do it will be time enough then for us to embark upon that development. We have commission after commission sitting, planning going on at high speed.
There is a great new problem for this committee to work, which is not planning but watching supplies coming forward to this country and watching the working of these Orders which we are now putting into force. We have enough work for this committee to do. The planning is to some extent being carried out now, and it will be time enough to come back to the House seeking a revision of the functions of the committee when we have had experience. Much thought has been given to this plan and it would be a dangerous thing to alter it now. Let us see how it works, and if it needs revision I shall be the first to come to the House and ask that it should be revised.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
I beg to move, in page 4, line 30, to leave out the word "four," and to insert instead thereof the word "nine."
This is the first of two Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). If this Amendment to increase the number to nine is accepted, we should then propose that the Members of the Market Supply Committee other than the Chairman should consist of three persons representing the producers, three the distributors and three the consumers. After listening to the Debate and to the state- 1636 ment by the Minister on the last Amendment, we did not Divide in favour of it because we accept his word that this committee is to have a planning function. He was not prepared to go as far as we on this side of the Committee would like to go, however. Indeed, there has been a difference from the very day on which the Bill came up for Second Reading. We on this side then emphasised the importance of this Clause 3. After having conferred very active and important functions upon the President of the Board of Trade, we have now come to a point where the Minister of Agriculture is independent of the Board of Trade and has to consult solely the Market Supply Committee.
In to-day's Debate we have listened to speeches showing how difficult it will be for the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Agriculture to be working together and consulting each other on matters which will be thoroughly unfamiliar to one or other of the parties. We have had an example of that, in the language used just now by the Minister of Agriculture, who said that the Market Supply Committee would be like a person in charge of a power-house watching a pressure gauge. That was not so much an evidence of confusion as was the metaphor used by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade when, earlier on, he brought into the discussion a nautical metaphor in which he said that his object was to save the ship from sinking. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade brought a ship on to land, and asked us to save the ship of agriculture from sinking in the sea of depression in which we find ourselves. The Minister of Agriculture turns at once to the mechanical and the engineering side, and asks us to look at a pressure gauge with him. That shows how difficult it is to get men to think together; in trying to accommodate themselves to a mutual activity they get all tangled up, and, in this case, have failed to make themselves intelligible to the House.
We attach very much importance to this Clause. Here is the core and the centre of the position of which the House is now asked to approve. If the Market Supply Committee fail, we feel sure that all the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture in limiting and regulating 1637 the imports of goods must fail. I would like to be allowed to extend a word of advice to agriculturists, and particularly to one of them whom I see looking very happy, now that he has got a Bill after his own heart. Although he represents agriculture, and is himself a practical agriculturist, in his heart of hearts he attaches much more importance to the services that the Board of Trade can render him than to the services that the Ministry of Agriculture can give under this Bill. My word of advice to him is: Not so much of the Board of Trade and more of the Ministry of Agriculture; a little more confidence in the Minister of Agriculture, and a little more reliance upon the Market Supply Committee which will survey the conditions of agriculture, the quantity of the various products produced, the extent of our markets, the prices in those markets, the competition in various commodities coming from foreign countries and the origin of that competition. The Market Supply Committee will be the general supervisor of the industry of agriculture, and can confer much more advantage upon the agricultural industry than can the indiscriminate and the easy use of the Orders of the Board of Trade for the regulation of imports, contained in the first two Clauses of the Bill. We want to make the Market Supply Committee the governing influence in the regeneration of agriculture.
We do not accept the Minister's reference to the brown book dealing with the pig industry, and to another book dealing with the milk industry, and his taking up these books so easily and saying: "Here is the plan for the reorganisation of the industry." That is not a plan; it is simply a specific treatment for one specific side of the industry. We do not believe that that is a plan. The Market Supply Committee, with all the sectional boards in front of them and all the difficulties of agriculture and the conditions of the market ever present to their eyes, can give valuable advice to the Minister and to the industry itself. It is because we are confident in the Market Supply Committee above all other things that we say that the committee shall be extended in number and that four persons are not enough. We want the number of the committee to be raised from four members to nine, and that the nine should be made 1638 up of three to represent the interests of the producers, which ought to satisfy the agricultural Members in this House; three to represent the interests of the distributors, who are a very important party in regard to the purposes of the Bill and who will act between the farms where the products are raised and the consumers, who live, in many instances, at a great distance from the place where the products are raised, and three to serve the interests of the consumers. That will be a well-balanced committee, not too large and not at all unwieldy. We have been advised by the Minister to accept an executive committee which was not to exceed seven in number. That was a figure which he put forward as almost the ideal number to do executive work because of the various interests involved. Because of the great responsibility that the Market Supply Committee will have to bear, in the fulfilment of the promise made by the Government in bringing forward this Bill, we ask that these three sections shall have equal representation, and that not more than three persons shall represent every branch. Those three sections will be represented also in the development schemes and upon the development boards.
The consumer has no place in this Bill. There is ample room for the extension of this committee from four to nine in number, and when that figure has been raised, there will be ample room for three representatives of the consumers. Let it not be assumed that though they be representative directly of the consumers, they will be indifferent to the case of the producers and the distributors. I am a consumer. I am not a farmer, and I am not interested in the distribution of farm products. I am simply a consumer, like a great Majority of the people in this country, but I am very much interested in agriculture, and I believe that the time has come when we should strive, not only to redress the unequal balance of trade between ourselves and other countries, but to make determined efforts to employ a very large number of our own people on the land and to grow a considerably greater proportion of the food that we consume. The representative of the consumers' interests will not be indifferent to the interests of the producer and the distributor, or the interests of the country as a whole. We believe that it will be an advantage to the operation of 1639 this scheme if the Market Supply Committee be made a real executive committee, and a real advisory committee of representatives who would help the Government, and especially help the Ministry of Agriculture, in the very important duty which now devolves upon that Department.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I think that the whole House will agree with the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Grower (Mr. D. Grenfell). We are all anxious to see agriculture a more prosperous industry employing a larger number of people. In those remarks I find myself in complete and long-standing agreement with him, but when he turns to the Market Supply Committee, and seeks to make it, at one moment of his speech, an executive committee and a real planning committee, and, at another, a representative committee upon which the consumers and others will be heard, he seems to be putting upon that body, which has a useful part to play, a variety of contradictory functions which will not make it a very useful link in the plan of the Bill. May I state what was rather fully gone into in the Committee upstairs, namely, the function of this Market Supply Committee? It is a small committee, whose function, as my right hon. Friend said on the last Amendment, is to keep their eye upon the state of the supply of agricultural products in this country, on the result of Orders restricting the importation of these products from abroad, and generally on the operation of these regulative Orders. The function of the committee, that is to say, is confined to the supply of agricultural products in its original form and in its altered form, altered as it may be by Orders and so forth. The committee are to keep their eye on these problems, and report to the Minister.
I do not think anyone can deny that that is a very important function, especially when this country is entering into a new field, the field of quantitative restriction of supplies from abroad. It is a function which, in my judgment, will need people of trained intellect and careful and businesslike habits of mind, with the power of analysing figures and situations and searching out the necessary information. It is clear that for such work 1640 a small committee is necessary, and it seems to me, as I think it will probably seem to the House, that no worse way of appointing such a committee could be found than to make it representative of, firstly, producers, secondly, distributors, and, thirdly, consumers. I say that because the result of the adoption of this method of appointment would be to give the committee a certain emphasis, and to give it exactly the kind of emphasis that you do not want. What is necessary here is a Committee independent in judgment and concentrated upon their job, and I can imagine no less satisfactory way of finding the type of committee that is needed than the method proposed in the second Amendment. I do not say that by good fortune it might not be possible to find them by searching through the ranks of the producers, consumers and distributors, but merely that that is an entirely wrong method of approaching the problem of finding them, and one that is not likely to lead to the formation of a successful committee. I think I have said enough to show, also, that it is desirable that the committee should be as small in number as it reasonably can be, and I think that a committee consisting of a chairman and four members does fill the bill.
I was amused when the hon. Gentleman poured scorn on the reorganisation committees and the Minister's references to them, for the system of inquiry into the necessary planning of various branches of the agricultural industry by reorganisation committees is embodied in the Act of 1931. I do not think that anyone who has any familiarity with the subject doubts the value of the reports of both the pig and the milk commissions, and in constituting these commissions, and to a large extent in framing the policy with regard to the milk industry and the pig industry, we are merely carrying out the policy which was instituted by our predecessors, the Labour Government. I think that no good purpose is served, if I may say so in all friendliness, by pouring scorn and contempt upon the reorganisation commissions which have already sat or those which may be sitting, or upon the view that, if you are going to plan the agricultural industry, you must do so branch by branch.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I should have thought that the essential thing was to study each branch. The function of co-ordinating is an important one, but the first thing to do is to find out the actual needs of the separate branches, and I cannot see that very much would be gained by co-ordinating, say, a raspberry scheme in Scotland with a hop scheme in Kent. The effective way to replan the agricultural industry is to investigate by means of reorganisation committees each of the main branches of agriculture, and to let practical and wise men apply their minds to the planning that must take place. That planning, which is vital, fundamental, and of the first importance, was arranged for by the Labour Government's Act of 1931.
The scope of the Market Supply Committee is much more limited. I quite appreciate, and have appreciated all through the Debates we have had, the fact that my hon. Friends opposite are using this Market Supply Committee as a peg on which to hang a variety of interesting proposals and ideas, and none of us complain that those ideas should have been brought before the Committee and the House; but, when it comes to dealing practically with the proposals in this Bill, I suggest that the Market Supply Committee should not be charged with functions quite outside its scope, and, further, that the method of appointing it should not be one which at the outset would give it a completely wrong emphasis, and lead people to believe that its functions are different from what they are to be.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I am not at all sure that the hon. Gentleman is not correct when he says that each phase of agricultural life must be separately examined and separate conclusions reached, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) truly said in his interjection, there must be some co-ordinated plan if we are to secure the very best results from this Market Supply Committee. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Pig Commission and the Milk Commission, both of which conducted very valuable inquiries, but the evidence is now on record, and I want him to visualise the infliction upon five men of the duty of examining what ought to be done with regard to mutton, lamb, bacon, butter, cheese, milk, 1642 potatoes, cereals, fruit and vegetables, while on the top of all these primary products, they must now pay some attention to secondary products. Clearly, it is a tremendous duty, and one which will not be carried out and completed for years ahead if it is left in the hands of these five men.
The hon. Gentleman may say that the interests referred to in our second Amendment would not furnish the best sort of Committee for reorganising our agriculture from top to bottom, but, even if we exclude the possibility of appointing representatives of producers, distributors and consumers, and concentrate upon the appointment of nine persons whose duty it will be to reorganise agriculture from top to bottom, determining which area or areas are most suitable for the production of certain commodities, transferring from uneconomic areas to economic areas the production of certain commodities, and so forth, nine would not be a large number to undertake such a gigantic problem. Agricultural produce in 1925 was estimated to be worth £273,000,000. More recently, as the result of price reductions, the output would be worth round about £220,000,000. If, as the Minister has stated, we are to restore 100,000 men to the land or if, as some optimists suggest, there is a possibility of restoring 250,000, how long will it take five men to produce a scheme ranging from vegetables to the production of cattle, all on scientific lines, one woven and interwoven with the other. There is more in the Amendment than the hon. Gentleman appears to imagine.
We argued that the Market Supply Committee ought to be charged with the responsibility of the planning of agriculture, but the Government have turned down that planning scheme. We regret it, because, not only is organisation necessary if agriculture is to be successful, but complete reorganisation is essential also. We have had some experience of Boistering up economic industries, sugar-beet for instance. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) tells us that to produce sugar-beet is the finest assistance that we could give to the arable cultivator. There may be some point in that argument as a temporary expedient, but for a permanent scheme, whereby we are going to make the maximum use of our own soil, utilising it according to natural and 1643 meterological conditions, we need to plan. There has to be much more solid thinking and acting than there has been in the past. Nine men seem a lot to the hon. Gentleman, but the Government have already employed 1,200 extra Customs officials Since they took office. Nine is not a gigantic number. The problem calls for a larger number of men, business men who know something about the use of soil, machinery and the last thing in fertilisers. We do not think we are asking for too much in asking for nine members, so that the job, instead of being a 50-year plan, may possibly be a five-year plan. If the Government would see the wisdom of doing the thing on a grand scale, having sufficient men with sufficient brains to reorganise it from top to bottom, they would confer a lasting benefit on agriculture.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I am pleased that the Government are not prepared to accept the Amendment. It is entirely superfluous. The hon. Member who moved it advised me to have confidence in the Board of Trade, the Board of Agricul ture and the Supply Committee. I am always willing to take good advice, and I thank him for it, but I shall only have confidence in those Departments so long as they each continue to deal with those questions which are pertinent to their own particular Department. The duties of the Supply Committee are to consider supplies and not to consider schemes. I should be very sorry if any particular Interest was included on the committee. When you put on particular interests, you generally find that the individual looks upon it as his duty to look after that interest, often to the detriment of others, and you do not get the equal balance that you ought to have. To my mind, the qualification for members of the committee is not that they should represent any particular industry or section of industry, but capacity as men of business, with ability to collect information, to study facts, to come to conclusions on the information that they receive, and to give an unbiased opinion to the Minister. If we add to that any particular interests, or try to detract from their qualifications, we shall be doing something detrimental to the proper working of the committee.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
It seems to me that this committee will be concerned primarily with producing, and it will tend to become more or less a producers' committee. It will to a large extent represent producers, because it will always have to be examining questions of supply, and it seems to me that there ought to be co-ordination between this and other committees. No one wants to wreck the scheme. Everyone will do what he possibly can if there is to be any improvement or promise of improvement for agriculture. My friends on this side of the House are not nearly so opposed to agriculture as is usually assumed. In my young days it was a Socialist, Robert Blatchford, who in his famous "Merrie England" did more to arouse the, people to the neglect of agriculture than any other writer in the early 'nineties. He continued his work in a book called "Britain for the British." Socialists have always taken an interest in the matter and have wanted to rectify the lack of balance as between the manufacturing and the agricultural side of our common social life. I interjected a remark a moment ago with regard to coordination. The Minister was not very encouraging about that. He has had two reports, a Milk Report and a Pig Report.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We are getting rather far from the Amendment. The only question is as to the composition and the number of members of the committee.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Then I press for the committee to be made as large as possible in order that its work may be as coherent and as complete as possible. I think a larger committee is required. The problem is a pressing one. The committee is top small for the magnitude of the work to be undertaken. The Amendment is put forward in no party spirit, but with the intention of assisting as far as possible. It seems to me that the Government might have accepted so simple an Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not possible on the Report stage to raise a question on the Motion "That the Clause stand part"? I want to raise a point.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think that the hon. Member has been long enough 1645 in the House to know that on the Report stage a Motion to the effect "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" is not taken, and that the House is solely confined to the Amendments.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid that what the hon. Member suggests is impossible. The hon. Member might have been in order in moving to omit the Clause, but the time for that has passed.