§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I do not propose to make a speech on the general topics of the Bill because they have been fully discussed during previous stages, and we are more anxious to hear the observations which the Opposition may desire to make. But I take this opportunity of correcting an error that I made last night. I was in error yesterday in my reference to the relations of the consumers' committee and the development board, and, in view of the observations made by the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) we shall consider whether it is possible to make the development board subject to the consumers' committee; and if it is found desirable and possible an Amendment will be made in another place. The House has now before it the whole legislative structure upon which agricultural marketing in this country will be carried on in future, and, although, there may be dissatisfaction here and there with the proposal, I think the House as a whole will be satisfied with the main structure.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House cannot assent to the Third Reading of a Bill which fails to encourage the development of organised marketing under the Marketing Act of 1931, confers wide powers for regulating the importation of foodstuffs without establishing machinery for economic bulk purchase and without adequate protection for the consumer, ignores the plight of the agricultural worker, and does not recognise the necessity for reorganising agriculture on the basis of a co-ordinated national plan.I should like, in the first place, to congratulate the Ministers in charge of the Bill on the very smart way in which they have negotiated the Measure through Committee and Report stages, and to inform them that we fully appreciate the 1726 compliment paid to the Opposition in Committee. We were four out of a total of 44, and were confronted by no less than four Ministers. This Bill was intended to be a marketing Bill, but that has become a secondary consideration. It is now an Import Restrictions Bill; marketing has gone into the background. The initiative which ought to come from the farmers themselves has now to come from the President of the Board of Trade. Instead of encouraging marketing schemes under the Act of 1931, Part I of this Bill, which deals with the regulation of imports of agricultural products, is going to develop procrastination and indifference on the part of farmers who otherwise would have been inspired into activity by the provisions of the marketing scheme. That is a ghastly mistake, and it is a mistake which has been made by the Government and by the representatives of the farmers with their eyes wide open. It is a mistake which will reColl on their own heads in the days to come. We have some sympathy with the small farmer in a remote rural area. His conception of marketing is a very dull one. He knows little or nothing at all about the conceptions of marketing of the Minister of Agriculture or the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, or, in fact, of the House of Commons. If these small farmers are left to themselves, we shall not have marketing schemes in the next 100 years.
Conservative politicians from time immemorial have cultivated the idea in the mind of the farmer that if he is only persistent enough Tory Governments will find him an Eldorado by means of tariffs or subsidies or financial gifts of some kind, and that there is no need to organise his business in modern lines. Since the present Government came into power every farmer in the country, large and small, has been made to believe that initiative on his part is unnecessary; and that if the Government fail by One policy will adopt another, which they hope will be more successful. We have had various Measures in the last few years, commencing with the Measures introduced by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary. I want to commend him for his part in the Government's policy. We started with the Horticultural and Agricultural Import Duties Act. Then we got the Wheat Act; the Ottawa Conference, with all the agri- 1727 cultural agreements; the restriction of imports, beef, mutton, lamb, and later we have had the various trade agreements. Now we have this Bill. What the average small farmer right back in the rural areas thinks about all this sort of legislation I cannot imagine. I recall the statement made by the Lord President of the Council, when he said:The agricultural industry wanted fixity. They did not want interference and they did not want legislative chopping and changing; they wanted to know where they were and to get on with their business.If this Government have not been "chopping and changing" I should like to know what that expression means. Actually even to the farmer who understands organisation and who not only understands the production marketing and distribution of agricultural products but has some knowledge of the money market, I should think that this series of measures—rate relief, sugar beet relief, the Wheat Act, the Abnormal Imports Act, the Ottawa Agreements Act, voluntary restricions, the Trade Agreements and now this Marketing Bill—must have a confusing effect. It is calculated to make the farmers dizzy. What we feel satisfied about, however, is that under this Measure marketing will not develop as rapidly as every hon. Member, I am sure, would like to see.
We think it wrong that schemes should only have to be in course of preparation in order that regulations should be made as to imports. A scheme may be said to be "in course of preparation" but there may be two years delay before it ultimately comes into operation. And yet in the very first month of its consideration if the President of the Board of Trade is satisfied as to the honesty of the promoters of the scheme, an Order can be made, the import of the product concerned can be restricted and prices forced up and the moment that Order is in force, the farmer can sit back and rest on his laurels, satisfied that marketing does not matter if he has regulation of imports. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister, who, no doubt, will deal some sledge-hammer blows when he comes to reply, may tell me that there is a Market Supply Committee who will be watching not only the actions, but the inactivity of the farmers. He may claim it that under Clause 22 they can not only 1728 make a scheme but revoke a scheme and that all this talk about procrastination on the part of the farmers is out of place. But that will not alter the fact that neither in Committee nor during the Report stage of this Bill have we been informed as to when a scheme is to be regarded as "in course of preparation." Will the fact that it is only the first month of the preparation of the scheme satisfy the President of the Board of Trade; or is it to be the 23rd month or 24th month? The Government have seen fit to whittle down the conditions precedent to the granting of an Order. These Orders will be so easily obtained and the necessary conditions will be so easily satisfied that one cannot see how this system is going to achieve the object of the right hon. Gentleman who, we think genuinely believes that marketing whether it grows from the bottom or is superimposed from above, has to come before there can be any lasting prosperity for agriculture.
I want to give one or two illustrations of the falsity of the sort of propaganda that has been employed in connection with this question. Numerous questions have been put recently by agricultural Members about the importation of potatoes. The foreigner is charged with having reduced the price of potatoes here by sending large quantities to this country and robbing the English producer of his market. What are the facts? Last year when imports from foreign countries were very large potatoes averaged £10 per ton. This year when foreign imports are negligible potatoes are only fetching £3 per ton. But that has not prevented the farmers from holding to the belief that the foreigner is the criminal. Though imports from abroad are practically non-existent this year, they are still held responsible for the uneconomic price. So long as the farmer believes that it is the foreigner who is to blame, even though the foreigner is sending in no potatoes at all, nothing that we may say or do will inspire or provoke the farmers into activity in the promotion of marketing schemes.
There is another illustration of which hon. Members ought to take note. We were informed yesterday about negotiations with foreign countries in regard to the imports of processed milk products, including cream, condensed whole milk, 1729 condensed skimmed milk, milk powder and lactol. These imports, we understand, equal a total of 36,000,000 gallons of fresh, milk. The total quantity of liquid milk sold off the farms is 1,165,000,000 gallons a year. To what extent could 36,000,000 gallons of imports upset the marketing of the 1,165,000,000 gallons if that marketing were carried out on scientific lines with a definite relationship to the production of butter, cheese and other processed milk products? It may be true that with the methods in existence at the moment a surplus of milk constitutes a formidable price problem to the farmer but surely the farmer is to some extent responsible. Neither the consumers of fresh milk nor the users of milk for the production of butter, cheese and other articles, ought to be made to pay a higher price until the farmers themselves have a natioNaily organised dairy scheme, one part of which fits properly in with the others.
When the right hon. Gentleman has a restriction of 20 per cent. on the imported 36,000,000 gallons; when Scotland and Northern Ireland take their share of the available market; when the price of processed milk products starts to increase; when the Dominions realise that a bigger price is available in this country and that the right hon. Gentleman because of the Ottawa Agreements cannot keep out Dominion processed milk products—when that comes about, what advantage will there be to the farmer in this country? Not a single penny piece will find its way into the pockets of the milk producers unless and until they have a marketing scheme which is consistent with present-day requirements. The right hon. Gentleman has worked very hard and has done his level best in a short space of time; but after it all the consumer will pay higher prices temporarily and later on prices will revert to the original level, and the problem of the farmer will remain just where it was before he started.
There are two points which I would put to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) and the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). They were ardent supporters of the Ottawa Agreements and they are ardent supporters of the farmers engaged in dairy production. They constantly tell us by 1730 implication that it is the importation of butter and cheese which has knocked the bottom out of the price of dairy produce in this country. The hon. Member and several of his Parliamentary colleagues signed a letter to the "Times" which was an appeal to the people of this country to buy more British-produced cheese. He thought that if we could restrict imports and encourage our own people to consume more British-produced cheese, it would be so much better for the milk producer. The hon. Gentleman knows that he supported the Ottawa Agreements, and that of 2,800,000 cwts. of cheese imported, 2,400,000 cwts. come from the Dominions. They cannot prohibit that, because of their action over the Ottawa Agreements, of which the hon. Baronet is a supporter. So with butter, however largely it is imported from the Dominions, there is no power to restrict it. They cannot have it both ways. They are either supporters of Dominion exchange of trade, or otherwise they must stand for the home farmer first, possibly the Dominions second, and foreign countries third. but they have pledged themselves, and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) too, right up to the neck, and they cannot escape in May, 1933, from what they did in September, 1932. So much for the false propaganda that is constantly going on about keeping out foreign imports. The Dominions are a greater danger than the foreigners in dairy produce, unless and until we appreciate our oneness and the give-and-take of life finds expression.
There is one assurance in this Bill, and that is that the consumer will have to pay the price after every Order has been applied. I referred yesterday to the voluntary restriction. The price of beef has already increased by 12½ per cent., of bacon by 30 per cent., and of mutton by 50 per cent., and the consumer is having to pay. Of every £l spent by the housewife in this country, 12s. 6d. is spent on livestock products. Increase the price of beef, mutton, bacon, eggs, and dairy produce to a point where the lowest layers of society can no longer purchase them, and you will drive them back to margarine. That may be good for the coal industry, because I understand that they produce margarine from coal these days, and there might be something for 1731 the mining industry, therefore, in these "Buy British" proposals of the Government; but—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We are certain that they would prefer not only butter, but English beef, if they could buy it; but if, having driven wages down to the lowest possible point consistent with allowing the working man to live at all, he can buy neither butter nor beef, he will have to accept an alternative, even though it be a base imitation. You will then lose a large number of your original customers for agricultural produce, until your second state will be infinitely worse than your first. The "Daily Express" the other day said:Commodity prices are rising. As existing stocks of goods are used up, this upward movement will be accelerated. Retail prices will follow wholesale prices. The shops will charge more for goods which to-day are abnormally cheap. The wise householder will buy now while the market is in his favour." He will bring in his sheaves while the sun is still shining.That is perfectly true, and unless that does happen, the Government will fail lamentably with their Bill. We have been told that we have not seemed to appreciate that we are living in a new world of glut. The world is overstocked with all sorts of goods, and yet prices are perilously low. What the Government have not told us, if we cannot afford to buy this glut of goods at a cheap price, is who will be able to buy them when prices have increased? It seems to me that there is a screw loose in this high price philosophy, and I hope the Minister will tell us just where it happens to be loose. I read recently a volume written by Professor J. H. Richardson, of Leeds, for the League of Nations, and he says that from 1921 to 1931 the average real increase in wages is 3 per cent. He also tells us that the physical output per day between 1925 and 1929 has increased by 10.7 per cent. How, if production per person continually increases and wages remain more or less static, will it be possible for those static wages to buy this increased productivity? Since 1929 wages have fallen about £500,000 a week. There has been a con- 1732 tinuous decrease in wages from 1921 of £11,310,000 per week.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Actual money wages. There has been a definite reduction in money wages Since 1921 of £11,310,000 per week. It is true that during the same period there has been a more or less perpendicular fall in prices. The net effect is to leave the worker with his real wages 3 per cent. higher than they were in 1914, but during that same period of time the physical output per person has increased enormously, so much so that the difference between the increase in real wages and the increase in physical output must of necessity leave a huge surplus on the market. If the effect of the Government's policy is to increase prices all round, we want to know who, when the prices are increased, will be able to buy these commodities. We have not yet been able to follow that piece of economic philosophy, and we leave the experts on the Treasury Bench to tell us all about it.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has made preparations in certain circumstances for the home-grown produce to be marketed and to be used by development boards for production. With that part of the Bill we are willing to agree, and we welcome the inspiration that brought it about, but for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to restrict imports without controlling the sales of imported products, which are actually larger than the quantity produced at home, is to make a gratuitous present to the importer or to the foreign country of many millions of pounds. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) yesterday gave an admirable example of what we were doing to the foreigner. He gave an example with regard to bacon for one month, and that will be multiplied 10 times over for all sorts of products when this Bill becomes law. We think, without attempting to elaborate any scheme, that an import board is a vital part of any marketing scheme in this country, for unless the imports are marketed in connection with home-produce, neither one of the two schemes will ultimately be an unqualified success.
With regard to the lack of any national planning in this Bill, the Market Supply Committee, consisting of five persons, will 1733 have a very tall job. We think their job should have been made much more important, and we should have preferred that the numbers of the Market Supply Committee had been increased. Their power and influence should have been increased accordingly, and all these marketing schemes should have been of a national character, one working harmoniously with the rest, so that the geography, the fertility, and other considerations would have been taken into consideration by the planning committee, and a natioNaily reorganised agriculture might have been a possibility within a comparatively short space of time. We think that the lack of any national planning is a profound failure and a profound weakness in this Bill. Let me quote what an expert, Sir Daniel Hall, says:The means of production in agriculture and all industries have become immensely and increasingly effective; we could all be well provided with even the luxuries, provided only the machinery of exchange could be got to work. One may, however, conclude that it is wrong to look to restriction of production as the way out; such action in the end can only lead to a lower standard of living all round … Before any effective policy can be formulated there must be a review of the situation as a whole, and the implications must be brought home to the average man. Somehow the answer must be acceptable to people at large. The statesmen must feel that they can trust to the reason of those who have put them in power. For the problem cannot be solved emotioNaily or by appeals to national or party sentiment.He goes on to say:Such a scheme would involve not only planning within each business, but State planning as to the scale and nature of the business that would be allowed a monopoly.This Bill makes no provision whatever for that. Everything is more or less as it was before, and we regret very much that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not gone one step further with regard to national reorganisation and national planning.
The only other point I would raise is that this Bill, like many of its predecessors, takes very great care to look after the producer. It makes adequate provision for that disinterested person, the landlord, who, after all, according to the prosperity that is restored to agriculture, will take his share. For the last person, however, the important person, namely, the agricultural worker, no sort of safeguard has been provided. His plight is 1734 absolutely and entirely ignored. It is not sufficient for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to tell us that our Act of 1924 is enough. It is not enough, unless there is to be some guiding influence to insist that any benefits that may accrue to agriculture, at the expense of the 46,000,000 consumers, at least in part shall find its way into the pockets and the lives of the agricultural workers of this country. We regret that no provision has been made for them. Whatever good there may be in this Bill, and however we welcome its inspiration, yet because we feel that it is likely to encourage procrastination instead of Encouraging marketing schemes, that it confers large powers on the Minister to organise scarcity without giving any adequate safeguard for consumers, provides no machinery for hulk purchase which would not only help the consumer but the home farmer, ignores the plight of the worker, and fails to envisage any sort of national, planned agriculture, we are obliged to move this Amendment, and to oppose the Bill in the Lobby.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
It is natural, when one comes to the Third Reading of the Bill, to consider to what extent, if at all, the points which one has tried to make on Second Reading have been met during its later passage through Committee, and, as we all know, this Bill comes out of Committee substantially in the form in which it went in. I cannot help feeling that that is a tribute to the very great skill of those who drafted it, and, I think, also a tribute to the Ministers, who took up rather a large proportion of those 13 days in Committee in instructing us—I dare say we needed it— in the working of the new plan of Socialism which the Bill embodies. They did it extraordinarily well, and with exemplary patience and tact. Admirable briefs were prepared for them, but the briefs did not conduce to brevity in their utterances to us. But they kept the Bill as it was. Therefore, the points that we tried to make on Second Reading still remain, and I will just mention some of them.
In the first place, it is not justifiable to revolutionise the structure of agriculture, as this Bill will fiNaily do, and to leave what I may call its social structure unaltered. I do not think it will be 1735 found right in the long run to do what we are doing here, and to leave a system under which, as the hon. Member who has just sat down said, quite automatically the extra profits beyond a certain standard of life to the farmer and worker, pass automatically to the landlord on a change of tenancy, whether that landlord is a good one—as I think I am—and deserves all he gets, or is not so good a one, without any regard to the way in which the landlord tries to do his duty to industry. Secondly, we think that, taking a long view and in the long run, the policy of quantitative regulation of supplies at home and abroad, on which this Bill depends, though it seems to the vast Majority of this House the only way to meet a temporary emergency, is bound to come to grief, at home because of its complexity, and abroad because it is bound to handicap the general return to world prosperity which is the only real way, we believe, of securing prosperity for the industry of agriculture.
Arising out of that general position, we feel, as was stated in the Second Reading Debate, that this House is really not justified in interfering in the way that this Bill will interfere unless four conditions are satisfied: first, that we are not justified in interfering if that interference aims at maintaining domestic prices above world prices; secondly, if interference is meant to be permanent and not temporary and provisional; thirdly, if there are not adequate safeguards for the consumer; and fourthly, if what you do is not subject at all main stages to specific control by Parliament. Those are some of the points, at any rate, we tried to make, and they remain.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present —
§ Sir F. ACLAND
I want to deal with the question of control by Parliament over plans upon which we are now embarking. The difficulty, of course, in dealing with this Bill—we found it all through the Committee stage—is that it is simply a machine, a very great machine, but by itself it does nothing. One has had to try to look constantly through this Bill to see what will come after the schemes and orders, the boards and committees and controls, and behind that the reshaping of the whole market- 1736 ing and price-fixing structure of agriculture. One is bound to feel that, once we have parted from this Bill, we shall have schemes presented to us by Orders in due course, but with regard to those orders, first of all, there will be no possibility of amending them. If, as a result of discussion here, the Minister thinks he should amend an Order he will have to withdraw it and lay another one, and, secondly, even the schemes will be in formal language, and will not show us what is really going to happen to the man who owns the plough or the man behind the plough—the really important thing—and still less will they show us how the shoe will pinch when these regulations are put into force. Once passed, we entirely lose control except by a method which is, after all, not a very desirable method, that of bothering the Minister of Agriculture as to particular grievances of our particular constituents.
The position of the industry will be just like the position of the man who said he did not know what it was to be happy until he was married, and it was too late then. I have, for instance, been trying to understand the milk scheme, but in vain. I think there are probably three people, including the Minister of Agriculture, and it may be a few farmers, who understand it, but if I were one of those who really understood it, and were trying to instruct others, I might feel rather like the German professor who said that he had only one student who really understood him, and he misunderstood him. I would like to read to the House a sentence which shows what is going to be the position of the person who is called a producer-retailer, say the ordinary man who in the country supplies me with my milk, for instance my tenant, who now sends the milk I want, and I pay his bill, I hope, when he sends it in. That is a transaction which is complete, and he sends me my receipt:In future, as I learn from a document which describes in simple language the way the milk marketing scheme will work, the producer-retailer, that is, my farmer friend, will as distributor get the normal distributive margin of his region, and, as a producer, approximately the equivalent of the regional pool price, paying the levy for inter-regional compensation and for quality premiums, these levies being deducted from the regional prices at which the Central Producers' Board sells milk to the distributor, and the producer-retailer paying 1737 nine-tenths of the difference between what remains and the regional pool price.That is the sort of thing to which one will have to get accustomed when the schemes under this Bill get to work. We are trying a great experiment and setting up a gigantic machine which, I fear, we shall not be able to control. The Bill contains the structure of the machine, but on one can yet say what it will produce, and still less shall we be able to have any specific control of it when it gets to work.
The next point I want to make is with regard to the interests of the consumer. We were engaged on that subject for several days in Committee and for a good party of yesterday, and the only point I want to make turns on the words in Clause 1 which we had under review yesterday, that the regulation of imports can be made if a marketing scheme is in course of preparation. These words will be found to contain a danger. I would like to illustrate it. Last April the Lane Fox Committee was appointed to prepare a scheme for hams and bacon. It got to work and it worked hard, and by June it would have been perfectly legitimate for any President of the Board of Trade to convInce himself that a scheme was in course of preparation. If you look at the terms of referencee of the Lane Fox Committee, you will see what they had to do, and they began to do it. Their report was published, and I do not think that time has been wasted Since then.
I do not think that there has been any holding up of the scheme because of this Bill not being on the Statute Book. Things have been taking their ordinary course. The farmers concerned have been considering that scheme and putting up their own scheme, and things have been going on from last May or June when the scheme was in course of preparation. Yet I suppose that everyone would be rather optimistic if they thought that anything would really get done under the scheme until next autumn or very likely until the winter. That shows that between the time the scheme is in course of preparation and anything being done to reorganise the industry there may very easily be a period of 15 or 18 months. I am bound to say that I prefer the way in which the Home Secretary dealt with this matter in a 1738 speech which I quoted on the Second Reading. When he was reproached with the fact that the Government were not doing enough for agriculture, he said:When you organise your industry and make your effort and show that you can do it, then you can ask for restrictions, but meanwhile do not talk rubbish.He evidently preferred the organisation to come first and restrictions to come later. I must make the point—an obvious one—that the industry is now on its best behaviour. Schemes are all the rage, but the Bill is not yet on the Statute Book. The getting into operation of a scheme is, after all, the important thing, for you may prepare the best scheme in the world and you will be up against a difficulty of starting it, and will not the preparation of schemes be slowed up a bit when this Bill is on the Statute Book and when those interested are absolutely assured that restriction of foreign supplies is to come first and reorganisation at home may come a good way second? The House knows the story of the showman who put up a pole and had a climbing donkey. He said to those who came to see the donkey climb the pole: "One more sixpence and up goes the donkey." The sixpences come in, but the story is still, "One more sixpence and up goes the donkey," and the donkey never goes up. It may be that once we have got this Bill the farming industry will tend to settle down to a position of saying, "A little more restriction of supplies from abroad and a little more protection direct and indirect, and up goes the donkey; we will then begin to reorganise our industry." They will always be wanting more and not doing very much in return. There may not now be much feeling and friction because—until lately, at any rate —there has been a steady fall in world prices, but as soon as these restrictions begin to have an effect on the cost of living, there will be difficulties and grievances, and I think there may be difficulty in making these schemes permanent. If they are not permanent they will be entirely useless.
I now come to the central point which I want to make. Why is it that we in this party with what hon. Members will no doubt call our out-of-date principles, but which really are very fundamental instincts which we cannot change, and so doubtful and anxious about the result 1739 of the Bill? It is simply because we are not in fact Socialists and that the rest of the Members of the House of Commons nowadays are. We dislike regimentation, and we dislike it equally whether it is regimentation from the right or from the left, whether it is after the pattern of Mussolini or Hitler or after the pattern of Lenin. [Really one hardly likes to think about the difficulties of the farmer under this new dispensation. They are plenty now. He has to master the art and science of agriculture and the business of agriculture, but when one looks ahead, one sees one after another of his activities coming under the control of the schemes which this Bill is meant to facilitate. Let the House mark that, once you begin, you have to go on; you cannot have one piece of the farmer's work regulated and another left free. They all dovetail into one another and one thing will lead on to another until everything is regulated.
I can imagine him considering perhaps the question whether he will keep a bee. He will then have to ask this sort of question: "What is my bee quota? Is my area going to be fairly treated in the allocation of stocks of bees? What sort of bees shall I have to keep? Can I get a little more restriction on honey from New Zealand or other countries before I start on bees? When I have got my stock of bees, am I sure that my industry will not be upset by some trade agreement with some country that wants to send us its honey and which in return will take more of our coal? Can I get my Member of Parliament to see to it for me that if I go in for bees the profits will be assured without any chance of variation?" All that sort of thing is new; it is far-reaching; it tends to shift the centre of gravity of the industry from a man's byres and barns, his orchards and pastures to boards, committees and regulations, to the operations of Members of Parliament on his behalf, and to negotiations with foreign countries—all centering on Westminster. I have an old-fashioned preference for a man centering his business where his business is, and not up here under the control of this new organisation.
That is where we stand. We do not like all these new ideas, and that is all about it. It is said that the Treasury clerks must be a very pious set of men, 1740 because, when two or three meet together, they are always talking about conversion and redemption. It is said, perhaps with more truth, that when the Scottish shepherds and herdsmen, whom the Minister knows so well, meet together, they spend their spare time in discussing the problems of predestination and free will. That is the issue between us in this House. This Bill means predestination, but we still uphold free will. This is not the time or the place to expand that philosophy; still less is this the time in which the issue can be settled. It will take many years to prove whether we are right or wrong. I am sure that the Minister believes that he is right, but, if anyone so well ordered as he seems to be in all his works and ways ever has a nightmare, I wonder whether he does not see polls, and boards, committees, commissions and councils breathing forth inquiries and reports and orders and schemes and regulations, rising up against him like angry beasts round his bed—a great machinery which he has created, but which may some day crush, I hope not him, but his successors.
I am not sure that the biggest conclusion that remains in my mind in considering the whole matter as well as I have been able to do is not that we are setting up machinery which, not by the passing of this Bill, but by the schemes which will follow, without which the Bill is nothing, will be too big for human brains to work. These schemes will be extraordinarily intricate, and the task of reconciling under them the interests not only of producers, distributors and retailers, but of different classes of producers, will create enormous difficulties.
I remember once trying to form a co-operative bacon society for Devon and Cornwall, and I said—it was untrue, but it was politic to say it—that you could make a reasonable bacon pig even out of the Gloucester Old Spot. A man who believed that Gloucester Old Spots were the finest animals that Providence ever sent into the world got up and left and withdrew his support from our scheme. I thought he was wrong, but after all, I have some sympathy with that sort of individual point of view. Under a bacon scheme, when it gets going, that type of 1741 man will disappear. He will either have to give up his Gloucester Old Spots or the bacon industry, but as soon as you weed out, as you will under this regimentation, that sort- of independent view, even though it may sometimes be mistaken, you will lose something in the structure of agriculture and of the life of our countryside. If we find this evening that we have to take the same course on the last stage of this Bill as we did on the first, it will not be because we do not think that the Minister is making a very wonderful effort in what he himself described as a very great experiment, and making it with the most admirable energy and ability; it will be because of the fundamental principle which will not be decided in our day and generation that we are forced to differ from his point of view.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
I do not want to delay the Third Beading of the Bill, but wish to offer a few general remarks. I think that on Third Reading our remarks should be general and should not refer to details, because they have been threshed out in the Committee and Report stages and, even if they have not, this is not the time when it is possible to get any alteration made in the Bill. My first object in rising is to thank the Government, and particularly the three Ministers who have had charge of the Bill, for their action in bringing the Bill into the House and passing it through. I would like to thank them on behalf of agriculture, because I can assure the House and the Government that agriculture is looking for this Bill with great expectations, but I do not wish to confine my thanks on behalf of agriculture only, because I believe that the country as a whole will benefit to a great extent by an improvement in the conditions of agriculture. It is an old saying and still very true that any country that ignores its agriculture is bound ultimately to suffer. At no time has it been more necessary for the country to have a prosperous agriculture, because when industry is finding so much difficulty, even impossibility, in obtaining markets for manufactured articles, it is all the more essential that agriculturists should produce here all that we can, and so relieve industry of having to pay for foodstuffs imported from abroad.
1742 I would like to add my meed of thanks to the Members of the Opposition—it is not usual to do so, perhaps, but I prefer to do it—who not only in the House, but in Committee have given consideration to this Bill. I am aware that, generally speaking, it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose, but their opposition has been more in the nature of assisting to improve the Bill than offering real opposition to its purpose. They did, however, express fears regarding the position in which the consumer might find himself after the passing of this Bill. I believe those fears, genuine though they doubtless are, to be quite unfounded. I can assure them there is no intention or desire on the part of producers here that consumers should suffer. Anyone with business instinct knows that the way to do good business is to keep good friends with one's customers, and consumers in this country are the customers of the producers of agricultural products, also the Bill itself, as has been referred to by the Minister, provides full protection for consumers.
One or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) call for comment. He referred to flotsam and jetsam when speaking of the Minister. All I know about Flotsam and Jetsam comes from what I have heard of them on the wireless, where they have proved to be a very fine combination. As to potatoes, he said that farmers were saying that the disastrous condition of the industry this year was caused by imports. As the farmer knows, however, it was not caused by imports on this occasion, but arose from a glut of home produce, as has been the case on other occasions. This Bill not only provides for the curtailment of imports, but also provides machinery for regulating the sale of home produce. I was asked whether I persoNaily approved of the Ottawa Agreements. Most certainly I did, but I do not think that at the time those agreements were entered into anybody could have had any idea that there would be such a slump in prices as we have Since seen. Undoubtedly the cause of the very great depression in the milk trade has been the competition of imported cheese from New Zealand, not only as regard the quantities sent in but the prices ruling on account of exchange manipulations. The hon. Member also expressed some degree of fear 1743 regarding the position of the agricultural labourer. Agriculture cannot prosper without the agricultural labourer benefiting by that prosperity. He has the protection of the Agricultural Wages Board, and this Bill will also give him the opportunity of demanding and obtaining by the machinery already in existence a reasonable wage for himself and a fair share of the prosperity of the industry. Unless agriculture is put into a reasonable state of prosperity the labourer may not have the possibility of retaining hi3 job, let alone getting more wages.
I would also like to refer to one or two remarks by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). He said agriculturists might find that the shoe pinched under some of the schemes which will be put forward. He was at least assuming that the agriculturist would still have shoes. If nothing were done for agriculture he probably would have to go unshod, and then there would be no fear of the shot pinching. However, this is not the time to consider particular schemes. This Bill provides the machinery under which schemes are prepared, and the time for considering the schemes will be when they come before the House. I hope his concluding sentences did not mislead me into believing that he was going to vote against the Bill. I shall be very much surprised if he does so, because I have always understood that he was a great supporter of agricultural co-operation, and this Bill gives the greatest opportunity for cooperation which the agriculturists have ever had. Consequently, I cannot see how he can approve of co-operation and conscientiously vote against this Bill, which provides the greatest possible opportunities for bringing about co-operation—co-operation with the added satisfaction of the guarantee of a market. One of his remarks had to do with a tale about a donkey, but I could not see anything besides the tail. He also spoke about Gloucester Old Spot pigs. My experience is that when the farmer finds it will pay him to change his spots he will change them. It is the Liberal who never changes his spots.
In a few general observations I would point out that the character of industry throughout the country has changed, and changed very greatly, but the change has 1744 been so gradual that we have not always noticed it. To-day industry is more on the collectivist principle than it ever has been, and I think it will have to be so. I am not an advocate of Socialism. Socialism, it is true, is collectivism, but it is collectivism under political control, and I require and hope to have a collectivism which will be under the control of those people who are interested in the industry controlled. Not only Capttal, but labour, has been gradually but very emphatically turning over to collectivism. In no industry will the change be so much felt as in agriculture, and it is necessary that there should be such a change. The farmer has always been a great individualist, and as a producer it will be necessary for him. to continue as an individualist. Eve)y field requires individual treatment, and even parts of a field require individual treatment. There are fields of which one part will not react to the same treatment as other parts. Those who know anything about stock also will know that every animal has its own personality, which has to be considered by the agriculturist. Again, nothing suffers more from the change of climate than agriculture. The farmer knows the variations of the climate. He must be an individualist if he is to be a successful producer, but in the disposal of his produce collectivism must come in.
Collectivism was made possible to a certain extent by the Act of 1931, and the feeling which prompted those on the opposite side when bringing forward that Measure, and the feelings which prompted those of us, then in opposition, who supported that Bill and endeavoured by criticism to improve its character, was a recognition of the fact that collectivism in the disposal of the produce of the land is absolutely essential. That Measure in itself was incomplete, however. It provided for the organisation of supplies, but, as we pointed out at the time, there was no provision for the marketing of the article after it had been produced. This Bill not only extends in various ways the powers taken under the previous Measure, but it does provide for marketing, and that is the great advantage of it, and why I am supporting it with so much pleasure. If anybody were to ask what is the greatest proof of the necessity for this Bill I should say it is the 1745 action, which we applaud so much, of the present Minister in trying by voluntary arrangements to restrict the import of agricultural produce. The conditions which have compelled him to make those voluntary arrangements prove conclusively the necessity for this Bill. Without saying more I will conclude by expressing my appreciation of the action of the Government in bringing forward the Bill, and the hope that it will have a very successful life and prove to be of benefit not only to agriculture but to the community as a whole.
§ 4.43 p.m.
I am pleased to be one of the first speakers representing an industrial division to welcome this Bill. I welcome it for one very good reason, that by supporting this Bill I am carrying out one of my election pledges, a pledge given not in 1931 but in 1929, when, as one of 500 Labour candidates, I vowed to do my best to make farming pay. It is not always an easy task to carry out election pledges; in fact, hon. Members opposite will find it an impossible task when they attempt to carry out some of theirs. There must be pleasure in Heaven whenever such a task is accomplished; and what praise must we bestow on a Government which, not content with carrying their own election promises, also start to carry out the unredeemed promises of their predecessors? Surely that is the acme of political rectitude. This Bill is a complementary Measure to Acts passed by the Labour Government, the Agricultural Marketing Act and the minimum wage provisions of the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act. The latter enforced the payment of certain wages by the farner to his workers, and this Bill will make it possible for him to do it by providing him with the wherewithal to pay. It will also do away with the dilemma in which the independent members of county wages committees have found themselves. They have recognised that the standard of agricultural wages throughout the country was much too low, but they have known, also, that it was impossible for farmers to maintain even that low standard judging by the prices received for their produce. One does not need to be an economist or an agricultural expert to realise that farmers cannot pay the present standard of wages out of the prices which they have been receiving. Within the past month housewives in 1746 many large towns have been able to buy English new-laid eggs at Is. a dozen.
An hon. Member opposite asks, "Why not?" Suppose I trace that penny egg back from the retailer? The retailer has to make a profit and so have the man who marketed the egg and the farmer on whose farm it was produced. Before the hen starts to lay, the farmer has to provide hen-house, food and equipment, and he has to pay rent, or interest on Capttal. He has also to face the terrible number of almost useless male progeny that his hens produce, progeny that he has had to keep for many months until he found that their laying properties were not coming up to expectation. All those things have to be faced by the farmer who is producing the penny egg. The penny egg cannot bear that burden, and the consumer must pay more than a penny if he wants an English egg.
If the penny egg goes up to three half-pence, the agricultural labourer will be in a better position to buy town products, and that will assist the employment position in our towns. Our country market is very poor because of the low standard of agricultural wages. Having followed the penny egg back, let us take another staple article of food, potatoes. In the provincial town in which I live, the housewife is buying very good potatoes at 20 lbs. for 1s., which means a retail price of about £5 5s. per ton. The retailer has to make a profit. Those potatoes have been transported over 100 miles from the farm to the towns, and that absorbs another £1 per ton. That does not leave much to the farmer, who has had to buy seed and has his rent to pay. He has to plough, manure and hoe the land, produce the potatoes, and place them in bags costing 5s. per ton. At 20 lbs. for 1s. the consumer is getting cheap food, but we must remember that because of that cheap food there must be cheap men and women on our farms and in our fields. We should refuse to bow down any longer to this god of cheapness. A fair price is essential from the town dweller and should be given to the producer in our countryside. We pay far too dearly for cheapness in this 1747 country. We must realise that a fair price is necessary if we are to maintain our agricultural population. As a result of this cheapness, we see the depopulation of our countryside. Men and women have been flocking from our fields and farms to the already overcrowded cities and towns.
We welcome a policy that will not only stem that tide of humanity but will reverse it, so that before long we shall see the re-colonisation of our country; we shall see men and women leaving the overcrowded towns and cities and going back to the country. In the healthy life that they will live they will find themselves growing stronger and more virile, and they will watch their children around them growing healthy and bonny. We do not intend that agriculture shall be sacrificed to the idol of cheap food for the people in our towns. The generations of our towns have been kept going by a constant stream of flesh and blood from the country. That stream is now drying up, but without assistance from the men who live in our fields, a town-bred nation cannot survive. It has already got altogether out of bounds. We have to adjust the balance between town and country if we are to survive.
I am willing to admit the criticism made of the farming industry. I know that the marketing methods which are in use at present leave much to be de sired. There are far too many middle men. That is why I welcome this Bill. I hope that under it is will be possible to wipe out many of the redundant middlemen. A few weeks ago I had a meal at a small restaurant and part of that meal consisted of potatoes. I traced those potatoes back through six pairs of hands, between the producer and the person who ate them. Six people had made a profit. What chance was there of the producer making a living when all those redundant middlemen had to have their pound of flesh out of every transaction that took place? Our staple foods have to run a veritable obstacle race between the producer and the consumer. This Bill will make a highway between the man who produces and the man who needs the food, and the food will not pass through so many hands, each one helping to make it dearer. The Bill will enable the farmer to deal better with bad seasons.
1748 People may say, "When nature is bountiful and the crops are good, surely the consumer should have the advantage of that." But the consumer should not have all the advantage. I have watched prices over a series of years, and I have noticed that a 5 per cent. glut will bring prices down 15 per cent., but a 15 per cent. glut will bring prices down 50 per cent. There should be some relation between excess of supply and the percentage of drop in prices. That can only be accomplished by having a series of marketing boards, but they would be useless without import control. You cannot expect farmers to spend their time reglating their methods of marketing, only to find, when they have arranged a scheme that is practicable and workable, that a sudden glut of importation from another country sends the bottom out of the market and the scheme over which they have spent many months of organising is broken down. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) was doubtful as to when the donkey was going to climb. I can tell him from my knowledge of the farming industry that the donkey is already climbing. We used to have a large importation of potatoes of a class that was never grown in this country, but which was especially useful to fish fryers. The farmer felt that the market was so insecure—the East Coast and London could be supplied so much cheaper from Holland—that he never troubled to plant that kind of potato. The result of the tariff has been that farmers in LinColnshire are planting many acres of that special variety, and a brand new industry that the farmers could not nave tackled unless they had the security of the tariff, is springing up.
The tariff is not enough without the security of marketing schemes. We have noticed in the last 12 months, as was stated by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), that, although we have had from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. import duty upon potatoes, the lack of a marketing scheme has meant that the farmers have not been able to deal with the small glut in potatoes, and that prices have accordingly slumped back. The Bill will give the producers a chance to spend all their time producing. The farmer is an amateur at marketing, and he is up against the professional who is constantly buying and selling, and who understands 1749 much better the ups and downs of the market. The Bill will give the farmer a chance to concentrate upon producing; the selling can depend upon the expert guidance of the men upon the marketing boards. Co-ordinated action is the only way of dealing with this. Individual action is absolutely useless.
Suppose that a farmer is producing peas. He sees in the paper that, while he is getting 3s. in Birmingham for his peas, others are getting probably 3s. 6d. in Leicester, so he decides to send his peas to Leicester instead of to Birmingham. He forgets that dozens of other farmers have already read that article, or heard it over the wireless, and that they do the same. The result is that Birmingham becomes temporarily short of peas; the market which was 3s. 6d. will probably slump to 3s., and the market that was 3s. will probably soar to 4s. The sub-title of this Bill ought to be the Agricultural Marketing and Anti-Gambling Bill, because farming, as conducted at present, is a gamble. The farmer puts in his crops, not knowing whether he will find a market for them, and, if he finds a market, he has no idea what price he will receive. The Clause of the Bill which deals with pig products links the price received with the cost of production, which is absolutely essential, if the industry is to be soundly conducted.
We, who are interested in agriculture, and wish to see the growth of our rural population in order to relieve the pressure upon the towns, believe that the Labour representatives should realise the danger of unorganised labour from the country dumped upon the towns. I remember that when one of our garden cities was started a large factory went down from London, where they had to pay a high rate of wages, and settled in an agricultural area. Then men went from the fields to work in the factory, and one of the men had an interview with the foreman, who said, "What are you getting on the farm?" The man replied, "18s. per week and my milk." "Come in here," said the foreman, and we will give you 25s. per week and wean you. "The standard rate of wages in the town was well over 50s. for that work. We want to keep these men on our countryside, so that they do not flock to the town and bring down the standard of wages in the large towns. The Bill will bring order 1750 out of chaos, and will replace haphazard methods with a sound and far-seeing plan. It is the most important Measure that the Government have yet introduced. The Government have set out to build upon what I believe are sure foundations. They not only intend to build in England's green and pleasant land, but they intend to build up England's green and pleasant land.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. DREWE
I am anxious to see this Bill become law at the earliest possible moment, and I wish to offer my congratulations to the Minister of Agriculture for the very successful and very courteous way in which he has brought it to its final stage. I know that he is well aware of the extreme gravity of the position in agriculture, and how essential it is to take immediate action. The Opposition do not appear to understand that the position is as grave as it is. They seem to be content to see our markets continually glutted with foreign produce until such time as marketing schemes are actually in operation. I am afraid that if that took place, and if such a policy were carried out, there would be no agricultural industry to save. I do not claim to be an expert in this matter, but I have been associated with the land all my life. Any hon. Member who is closely in touch with the agricultural position must agree that the situation in farming to-day is nothing short of desperate. The credit of farmers is so low that, unless immediate action is taken, the situation cannot be saved.
Farmers recognise that the Government are devoting very much more time and thought to agriculture than any previous Government. They are entitled to say that, with the exception of the Wheat Quota Act, none of the schemes which the Government have so far put forward have actually brought fresh money into their pockets. Meat restrictions have certainly arrested the fall in prices that took place last autumn, but the present prices of meat and of store cattle, dairy cattle and sheep, are still far below a remunerative level. We can truthfully say that the prices of pigs have responded better than anything else to the quota system. A short time ago, pigs were getting to a level that once more showed a profit. Unfortunately, 1751 there has been a fall, during the last few weeks, and the prices of pigs have been fluctuating very considerably.
As the Minister knows, there is to-day a crisis in the milk industry, and the same is true of the poultry and egg industry. I am certain that the only thing that will now restore confidence amongst farmers is some immediate action. As the Government will have the necessary powers, I beg them to act boldly and not to employ any half measures. I remember my right hon. Friend stating, when he was dealing with voluntary restrictions, that up till now he had had only a dummy revolver, and that when this Bill became law he would be armed with a real weapon. I hope he will be found to be a really good shot, and that when he first goes out he will make very good practice. Farmers cannot understand why, when milk prices have been forced right down to the bottom, when manufacturers of milk products say that they must restrict their output, we should continue to import condensed and skimmed milk. We are very grateful for the statement that the Minister made yesterday, that he was arranging for voluntary restrictions during the next three months; but I do hope that when he has got these powers he will go further than that, and that the farmer will be able to enjoy a far greater measure of security over a longer period.
As to eggs, the poultry farmer to-day cannot understand why, when there is a glut of British produced eggs and prices are far below a paying level, we should continue to import ever-increasing quantities of liquid eggs for manufacturing purposes. I hope that the Minister will give particular consideration to the question of eggs in the near future. No one can deny that the farmers have been sorely pressed. They have been waiting very patiently for this Bill to become law. It is the only ray of hope that they have had. Now that the Bill is on the point of reaching the Statute Book I beg the Government to use their powers up to whatever limit may be necessary in order to restore prices in agriculture to a point which will show a profit.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Having reached the final stage of this Bill I want Sincerely to congratulate the Minister of 1752 Agriculture upon the very able and courteous way in which he conducted the Bill through Committee upstairs. The chief thing upon which I want to congratulate him is his having got the farmers to accept this bureaucratic control of their industry. The farmer, the secondary producer, is called upon by the Bill to sell the right of conducting business in his own way for the doubtful gift of a system of quotas. The supporters of the Bill claim for it two things—that it stabilises production and stabilises prices. But it goes much further than that. Under the Bill production can be stopped, it can be regulated, a man's property can be bought and sold by a development board, compensation can be granted to the inefficient producer at the expense of the efficient farmer, and no longer is a person free to sell his own goods where and when he likes. The choice of producing what he likes is now at an end, or it will be; he must produce what he is told to produce, in kind, variety or description.
Further, if he is efficient in his methods, that is not thought to be worthy of commendation, but should he produce what someone else may term excessive production he is liable to be fined or imprisoned, or both. Having produced what some committee thinks fit, he then has the doubtful privilege of making a full disclosure of his accounts. Gone for ever is the freedom of the citizen to produce when and where he likes, and the mess of pottage for which he exchanges his birthright is the dictation of a committee, who will instruct him how to conduct his own business. The Bill provides marketing boards, a Market Supply Committee, development boards, an agricultural reorganisation committee and an investigation committee. It struck me that if a man happens to be a member of several of these committees, and should he be fortunate enough to have a little time left, he will be permitted to produce what the several committees allow him to produce, provided always that he understands all the rules laid down. The party opposite, if and when it returns to power, will simply complete this bureaucratic structure by adding to it import boards. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade yesterday used these words:One of the great difficulties in this House is to convInce hon. Members of the entirely new set of circumstances which 1753 confront the world, namely, the economy of glut."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1933; col. 1580, Vol. 278.]Another thing that he said on 13th of March was:Supporters of the Measure …recognise the enormous contribution to Statute law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1933; col. 1746, Vol. 275.].We on these benches think it is necessary to recognise the economy of distribution. We say at once that we will accept your new economy when you have proved to us that the 45,000,000 or 46,000,000 consumers of this country have sufficient of these very things in which you tell us there is a glut. This country and the world generally are not suffering because of the abundance of things, but are suffering because of the failure to find a method of distributing them. What you need are not fewer supplies, but more consumers. You are not making any provision in this Bill for the settlement of that problem. Rather are you aggravating it by making permanent, in your economic system, a policy of restrictive quotas. The consumer, upon whose power of consumption ultimately depends the success or failure of your scheme, is to be called upon to pay much more for his requirements. Is that going to increase your sales?
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) yesterday made a very striking speech, in which he said that in one week alone, Since the voluntary agreement with the countries which send bacon to us, the consumers of bacon in this country had had to pay £90,000 more for what they consumed, and they consumed 22,000 cwt. less of bacon. It is the experience of all countries which have quotas that they actually pay more than those countries which are free from quotas. I remember that when I spoke on the wheat quota I quoted the figures of Germany and France and other countries to show the greater cost of wheat where this kind of quota was in existence. The Minister of Agriculture and those who support the Bill tell us that their desire is to put up prices, but by this quota system, in order to give a higher price to home producers who perhaps produce 10 or 20 per cent. of a, given commodity, they hand over to the foreigner increased prices on 80 or 90 per cent. of the total consumption. I 1754 suppose that this is necessary when one really recognizes "the economy of glut."
Under this Bill the consumer will be called upon to contribute millions a year to the foreign producer, in order that the pledges of two Ministers may be considered to have been fulfilled. But the test of the consumer will be not whether he is taxed directly, but whether by your legislative action you have made it harder for him to purchase his necessities. You will not deceive him by your backstairs methods. We on these benches believe that of all the restrictions which are preventing world recovery, quotas are the worst. You profess that you are entering a World Economic Conference with a desire to free the world from its self-imposed strangling chains, and on the very eve of the Conference you are making permanent a system of quotas. I cannot imagine the other countries crediting us with Sincerity when we make the claim that we wish to see the world enjoy a greater measure of freedom of trade. I suggest that these other countries are not going to sit down and be content merely with your putting on quotas. They are going to retaliate.
I happen to represent a Bradford constituency. One of the things that has prevented a greater measure of recovery in the Bradford trade is this very system of quotas. We can produce in that area cloth which can get over tariff barriers, because of quality. We can produce it at prices which, allied with quality, can compete in any market of the world; but we cannot get past a quota, which defines the quantity that shall go into a specific country. I suggest that by your action of making permanent a system of quotas in this country you may for the time being be giving temporary assistance to agriculture, but I am certain that it must have a very bad effect on other trades in the country. We desire to see trade flowing freely between one country and another, and we say that you could not have chosen a more inopportune moment for fastening on this country as a permanent system the very thing that is preventing world recovery. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) stated on the Second Reading of the Bill under what conditions we should have been prepared to accept a Bill to assist agriculture, which we all acknowledge is 1755 necessary. It is because the four conditions that he demanded are not fulfilled in this Bill, that we are compelled to oppose it.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Captain FRASER
There is a particular class of farmers for whom I want to say a word. They are the small men who engage more particularly in poultry farming and similar pursuits, and especially the ex-service men and many of my friends, a large number of blinded soldiers, who have been very successfully set up as small poultry farmers and are by this pursuit adding substantially to their pensions, and in many cases making a living. They are small individualists. They are both producers of foodstuffs and their own salesmen. It is precisely because they are their own salesmen that they can get a price which makes their small turnover bring in anything worth while. They cannot in any circumstances, by reason of their financial situation and their station in life, develop into large producers with a large turnover, and it seems to me that more or lees to compel them to market through centralised schemes would make it very much more difficult for them to get a living than it is now. They may own half an acre, or two or three acres, and thereon they produce enough poultry and eggs to supply the local country houses, the local schools, and, perhaps, the local hospital. They have a dozen or 20 regular customers to whom they deliver their goods themselves. I understand that in Committee some assurance was given that the small man who raised pigs, and perhaps milk, would not find the market which he had developed for himself taken away from him, and would not find himself compelled to come into a centralised scheme.
I know that I am asking for exceptional treatment for a particular group, while I am at the same time approving of, perhaps, compelling, or at any rate persuading, people in a larger way to come into the scheme, and that may be paradoxical. But, while these men, who at their age are unable to change their methods, are making a living out of their present little businesses, it would seem to me to be a tragedy if they were compelled to come into some scheme which made it unremunerative for them to carry 1756 on their work, and I want to ask the Minister, who, I know, has a particular sympathy for this class of men, to give an assurance that, in carrying out the administration of this Bill when it becomes law, he will see to it that the really small men, whose livelihood depends on the fact that they are their own salesmen as well as producers, are given some: measure of security.
§ 5.18 p.m.
I am glad to have the opportunity of taking part in the final discussion of this Bill before it leaves the House of Commons for another place. Our task to-day is merely that of fiNaily commending or fiNaily condemning the Measure in its amended form. We have listened, during this very interesting Debate, to various points of view which have been put forward, and I should like to say, in passing, how particularly glad we, who are supporters of the National Government in this great attempt, were to hear the vigorous speech of the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Palmer). He, at all events, showed that, so far as he and the Labour supporters of the National Government are concerned, they are in no way dismayed by the prospects held out in this Bill. We have heard the summing-up from those on both sides who are opposing the Measure. We have heard two speeches from the Liberal benches, and I should like to comment briefly upon one or two remarks that fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland).
In an exceedingly interesting speech, he reiterated many of the arguments that he has used against the Bill on the Second Reading, in Committee, and on Report yesterday. With a wealth of illustration, he suggested to us—I do not remember his exact words—that it was like a man who, after getting married, said that of course he did not know what the experiment was like until after he had sampled it, and, when he had, he wished that he had not. I am not a married man, and I cannot speak with the technical knowledge pos-sessesed by the friend of the right hon. Baronet; but there was one other remark of the right hon. Genoleman upon which, perhaps, I can throw a little more light. He said that, when shepherds 1757 on the Scottish hills where at a loose end, they sometimes, with that predilection which the Scottish mind always has for theological questions, sat down and debated the respective merits of predestination and free will. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting that this Measure savoured very strongly of predestination. But, as far as Scotland is concerned, I would remind him that the standard of faith professed by the Church of Scotland, drawn up by an assembly of divines in Westminster, pronounced strongly in favour of predestination, and, seeing that the shepherds are strong supporters of that religious body, perhaps I might make bold to say that they would not be entirely in disagreement with the ideas of predestination contained in this Bill. The right hon.Gentleman wound up by saying words to the effect that this Bill was full of new things, and that, as such, he could not look upon it with very great favour; he hoped that it would be a success, but he gravely doubted it.
The hon. Member who followed him said that the right hon. Gentleman had left us in doubt as to which way he was going to vote. I am not so doubtful as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb). In fact, I wish I could be as sure of what is going to win the Derby to-morrow as I am sure as to the Lobby into which the right hon. Gentleman and his followers will go this afternoon. We have had one speech, so far, from the official Opposition, and, of course, that was strongly against the Measure. Their complaint was not that the Bill is too Socialistic, as has been represented on the other side of the House, but that the Socialism contained in it is not of the right kind, and perhaps, between the two, we who support the National Government in this and other endeavours have hit upon the right kind of legislation to meet the needs of the present day in agriculture, as well as in every other industry.
I welcome the Bill because it is a great attempt, as everyone has said, on the part of the Minister of Agriculture to assist the agricultural industry in its entirety. It supplies what the Agricultural Marketing Act introduced by Dr. Addison in 1931 did not supply, namely, what we believe to be the necessary ingredient of control of foreign imports. 1758 That was the chief complaint raised by the agriculturists against Dr. Addison's Marketing Act. To-day Clause 1 of this Bill, which is the most controversial Clause in the whole Bill, deals with this vexed question. Of course, there has been considerable controversy, not merely among supporters of the Government, but among the farming community, as to whether the restriction of imports goes far enough. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), in order to drive home this point, spoke of the Ottawa Agreements, thinking that he had laid his hand upon a very weak point indeed. It is a point that has been made frequently by Liberal speakers up and down the country. But that is only looking at one side of the question. The case of the Government has been stated very clearly in this House both by the present Minister and by his predecessor, and by every other-spokesman from the Front Government Bench. Their design is, of course, to give the home producer the first place in the home market; secondly, to draw upon Dominion supplies; and, after that, to open our shores to the imports of any foreign country that desires to trade with us.
The hon. Member for South Totten ham spoke about his election address and pledges, and his doing so gives me an opportunity that I am glad to take, because, perhaps, the House will pardon me if I allude to my own election address. In that manifesto to my constituents, I said that the task of the National Government with regard to agriculture, though it would be a very difficult one, would have to be dealt with on these very lines, namely, first the home producer, then the Dominion producer, and then foreign countries. We were all glad to hear yesterday—I mention this in passing, because it strengthens my position—the Minister of Agriculture tell the House at Question Time what agreements he had come to with exporting countries in regard to milk and butter. All those of us who are interested especially in the dairying-branch of agriculture were very glad indeed to hear that statement. We have in this Bill Clause 1, dealing with the restriction of imports, and that, taken in conjunction with the Ministerial declaration, shows that the Government are 1759 in earnest. The Ottawa Agreements must not be looked upon by the farming community as final. There remains for us an ample field in which to work in coming, as in the case of foreign countries, to voluntary agreements with the Dominions, and the Colonies also if necessary, regarding their exports to this country.
Unlike my hon. Friends on the Liberal Benches, I am in no two minds as to which Lobby I shall go into to-night. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) says "Hear, hear." I wish he would come with me, too. I shall support this Bill because I believe it to be a great constructive effort by the Government; and, to my hon. Friends opposite, who, perhaps, may still be in doubt, I would say, "Nothing venture, nothing win." If the electors of North Cornwall are satisfied with a negative position—I do not know that they are; that remains to be seen at the next General Election—at all events the other agricultural constituencies in the country will not be satisfied with that; they want action. The Minister, in introducing this Bill on Second Reading, said "Here it is." We are satisfied with his explanation, and I hope that the House to-night will give the Bill its Third Reading by a very large Majority, thereby earning the thanks and respect of the agricultural community.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I want to state at the outset, in opposing this Bill, that I fully appreciate it so far as it represents an endeavour to bring order into an industry that requires it very much, and I was particularly interested to hear a good Conservative like the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) lecturing Members on the Liberal benches as to the need for an organised industry. I should have thought that at this late period there would have been no need to enter into a lecture of that description. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in moving the Third Reading of the Bill to-day, stated that the House had now before it the complete structure under which agricultural marketing in this country would take place. That is quite a true statement, but, when we look at the structure, we find that that structure in every detail has been framed to please 1760 the producing interests in this country, and no other interests.
The Amendments that were put forward from time to time, alhough I do not like to make any charges, appeared to me, not only in Committee but also in the House, not to be considered from the point of view of their practicability, but only as to whether they would be acceptable to the producing interests, and it was not from that point of view that I supported any Amendments upon which I spoke. They are to have the advantage of quantitative regulation of both imported and home production and if, as I am prepared to admit in some degree, protection of that kind was necessary, in my opinion it should have been accompanied by some form of joint control more intimate than any that appears in the Bill. Interests other than the producing interests are entitled to receive greater recognition than they have, because the interests which are asking for some more intimacy in the scheme are not the interests that are responsible for the inefficiency in the industry. I am particularly perturbed about the lack of that joint control, especially as I have not been appeased by the suggestions made in Committee that Parliament would give ample opportunities for discussion in this House. We pressed that an annual report might be presented to the House so that a further opportunity to discuss the matter should be available to us, and I think that is all the more important now that I have in mind what occurred in connection with the Milk Marketing Scheme. It was presented at a late hour on the understanding that no one should speak very much upon it. If that is to be the attitude adopted towards all matters of this character which have to come here, the pressure that we endeavoured to exert on the Government to obtain further opportunities of discussing the matter here should have been paid attention to much more than has been the case up to the present.
The Market Supply Committee is a point of outstanding importance. An Amendment was moved to make it much more representative than it is. In my opinion, four is not an ample number to deal with the intricacies of a very intricate industry, and the suggestions that were put forward that a number 1761 such as nine would be conducive to delay, and would not be so helpful as a small committee, I am not prepared to accept. I am of the opinion that nine persons could be found who would recognise the need for caution and also for expedition, and there would be no hampering tendency towards an examination of the problem, complex and detailed as it may be. I said that the Committee was analogous to the Wheat Commission, but that was not accepted by the Government. I think that the details that have to be entered into by the Wheat Commission in considering statistics and being aware of the tendencies in this and other countries and the things it will have to pass under review in working up to what is terned the anticipated supply, are just as complex as in the case of the Agricultural Marketing Bill, and, if it is possible for that committee to function with 15 members, I think that asking for nine in this committee is not overstating the claim that can be made. In addition to that, the Meat and Bacon Advisory Committee is representative of all sections of the trade and, if it is possible for them to work efficiently and expeditiously, I can see no reason why the suggestion that nine should be the number of the Market Supply Committee should not be accepted. I regret also that they have not been given the power of gaining information which might be withheld from them by the interests with whom they were working, and the powers that we suggest they should have may in the future prove to be essential.
Reference has been made to the restriction of supplies and to the way in which it has caused certain persons and societies—I speak particularly with regard to the co-operative societies—to go to Denmark in order to have their factories placed in contact with adequate supplies. We now find that factories in this country which are not prepared to organise themselves in a way which would give the supply of the type of commodity in this country are now to be able to have some say whether they shall return to this country producing what is needed by those who are members of co-operative socities It cannot be too strongly stressed that those working class societies have had to send working 1762 class money to Denmark in order to supply working class needs, and they should not be prevented from bringing their factories and activities back to this country. In addition to that, we find that the Development Board is to be enabled to buy up redundant factories and dispose of them in the interests of private trade and private profit, and yet they are not prepared to allow the return of working class activities.
The licences that are to function under the Bill will, in my opinion, conserve the trade to the people in the trade. The co-operative movement cannot forget its experience during the War, when the interests of private enterprise and private profit exerted themselves to the utmost to cabin and crib the activities of that working-class organisation. They were only prevented because war-time conditions made it inadvisable to allow trouble. The co-operative movement is expanding, and in the expansion it may require to extend its activities into fields that they have not yet entered. With the powers given in the Bill to a producers' organisation to control the issue of licences, the co-operative movement may be refused the opportunity of entering into activities necessary to meet its requirements. There are possibilities of dispute between distributors and producers and, while the Minister has made certain modifications, I regret that the decision has been taken out of the hands of neutral persons. I should have preferred to see those persons vested with the powers given them in Clause 11 as it stood originally. The quantity of production permitted to any producer may be based upon his previous production. That, also, is irksome to an expanding organisation.
It is not against the law for the co-operative movement to expand and, if production in the future is to be based upon what it has produced in the past, and the decision is placed in the hands of persons who may be antagonistic to it, it may find that it is not going to have the freedom that it should have to enter into this work with a view not to what it has done in the past, but to its future needs. For these reasons I support the Amendment.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Major Elliot)
I am sure the House will realise that we are discussing this 1763 Measure in an atmosphere of much more calm and quiet than that with which we began its discussion. It is a good omen for the success of the Measure that after two whole days spent on Second Reading, after 13 days spent in Committee, and a day spent yesterday on Report, we can deal with the Third Reading in what we might call a very anodyne spirit. It is said that "Happy is the nation that has no history," and I will say, Happy is the Bill that has no scenes on its Third Reading Debate. We are faced with the decision of the House of Commons as a whole. I do not think that in any part of the House it has been denied that the time has come for a change. It is true that certain fears have been expressed about the possible results and implications of this change, and those fears have been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), whose practical experience in these matters we all respect and whose sympathy for agriculture as a whole, ex- pressed in many years of personal service, we all deeply admire. He said the farmer fears lest his business may be removed from his byres and his pastures, from his orchards and from his stackyards, to the Lobbies of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. The farmer has a much greater and more immediate fear just now. It is that his business and his affairs are to be removed to the head offices of the joint stock banks by people who might have very little concern with anything except to make sure that they cut their losses as quickly and as completely as may be. That is what is driving us into these new ways. The necessity of change has been forced upon us by circumstances, for none of us would embark on such courses were it not on account of that.
I regard the real opposition to this Measure as coming from the bench below the Gangway, but I think it is necessary to examine the objections which have been brought up by the official Opposition, for it is true that they have borne the heat and burden of the day, and all of us who sat opposite them in Committee must realise the patience and skill that they have devoted towards working up a case which was in its essence an unfamiliar one to them, and the assiduity and courtesy with which they presented their point of view. When, however, I 1764 turn to the official Amendment, I fear that it must have been drafted by someone who perhaps was not as deeply engaged in the discussions as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). The Amendment says that the Billfails to encourage the development of organised marketing under the Marketing Act of 1931.If it does nothing else, it certainly develops the organised marketing under the Marketing Act, 1931, and it I have an accusation against me on that matter, I would call witnesses from below the Gangway, for I am sure that the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holds-worth) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall would say that, far from not developing organised marketing, it has developed it to an extent which causes them the greatest apprehension. The Amendment also says:confers wide powers for regulating the importation of foodstuffs without establishing machinery for economic bulk purchase.Surely, the machinery for economic bulk purchase would, as we all agree, have been quite outside both the proposals of the Act of 1931 and the proposals under which we are working to-day. They are complaining that it is this Bill which we have brought in and not another Bill. They are entitled to bring that forward as a flat objection, but it is scarcely a reasoned Amendment which ought to have been put down during the passage of the Bill. Then comes the consumer. The question of the adequate protection of the consumer has been threshed out time and again. Every single safeguard for the consumer which exists in the Act of 1931 is here, and we have reinforced it by other safeguards to the consumer such as the Market Supply Committee. Further, they say that we ignore the plight of the agricultural worker. I gave figures last night to show that the position of the agricultural worker had been fully safeguarded, and that the very necessity for such a Measure as this arises out of the fact that we have in the past safeguarded the position of the agricultural worker so successfully that agricultural wages which in 1924 were at 156, and even in 1925 were 172, are still 173 to-day, whereas the products, as I said last night, from which those wages 1765 are paid have fallen from 161 in 1924, and 159 in 1925, to 112 to-day. That was countered by an eloquent speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who said that this Act was being sabotaged or some such industrial term; it was not being enforced. I have the figures for last year-The number of complaints received were 2,900. There were 2,850 farms inspected including 793 test inspections. We did not stop short of prosecutions. We had 63 prosecutions, 55 of which were judged successful by the court and a large quantity, both of arrears and costs, were recovered. The Act is on the Statute Book and is being enforced. The Act has worked, and the agricultural labourer has been protected. The complaint cannot be justified, by the simple proof of the administrative working of that Statute, as has been recorded in the figures which I have just given to the House. FiNaily the official Opposition complain that the Bill,does not recognise the necessity for reorganising agriculture on the basis of a co-ordinated national plan.Again I would say that if there is an accusation which cannot reasonably be brought against this Bill, it is that it leaves out of account planning. If we were to be accused of overplanning or super-planning to such an extent that it was dangerous, not merely to the success of the Measure but to the existence of the State, I should have to defend myself—and I think that I could defend myself—against such an accusation. When I am told that I am doing nothing for planning, I will merely produce from my attache case the report of the Reorganisation Commission on Pigs and Pig Products, the report of the Reorganisation Commission on Milk, the scheme for regulating the marketing of milk, the scheme for regulating the marketing of bacon, the scheme for regulating the marketing of pigs, and the scheme for stabilising the potato industry of Great Britain. I have no doubt whatever that the other commissions and committees which are soon to report will give me yet more to bring forward to rebut that allegation.
I am not really anxious regarding any of the points brought forward by the official Opposition, but I do not deny that there are problems connected with the Bill which might well give any Minister 1766 and any Administration the most serious food for thought. There is, of course, the general attitude of mind which was represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall that control by Parliament had been whittled away, that the consumer was not fully safeguarded, that he disliked regimentation whether from the right or from the left, and still more the setting up of machinery too complicated for human brains to work. I can only reconcile myself by his concluding observation that the difference between us was not only a fundamental one but was so fundamental that it would not be resolved until long after both of us were dead, and I must say that if we are to wait for the solution of the agricultural crisis until long after both of us are dead, I am sure that my demise will come about rather earlier than later. We cannot wait for these what I believe to be long distant events. We have to get out and grapple with the problems of the day.
I reply to his accusation that we are not allowed full control by Parliament by saying that every one of the schemes which I have brought forward has to secure the affirmative vote of each House of Parliament, and that the difficulty which he foresees as to when the scheme is "in course of preparation" or not, will easily be resolved in practice as it has been resolved in the case of the bacon scheme and is being resolved in the case of the fat stock scheme and, both by a tariff and possibly later on by a quota, in the case of the potato scheme. The difficulties which he foresees are difficulties in theory, and if we adopt the ordinary British fashion of attacking the problem when we see it and when it is presented to us and not as it may appear if the whole power of a very skilful brain has been applied in inventing a problem, I am sure that we shall not meet the difficulties which the right hon. Gentle man visualises.
He went so far as to twit me with some provisions regarding the producer-retailer in the milk marketing scheme. If one sets out to read any Clause in any Act of Parliament I have little doubt that one could find words which require a very great deal of cogitation. These provisions, in fact, carry out the suggestions of the Commission that the produce-retailer should contribute towards the cost of equalising the sales of liquid milk and 1767 manufacturing milk. Surely that is a reasonable proposal. He is thus being protected against a position where the market for liquid milk would be swamped by the flood of manufactured milk. Secondly, it is suggested that he should contribute towards and, if entitled to do so, draw upon the fund for the payment of premiums on milk of guaranteed quality. Surely, that, again, is a very reasonable proposition. Thirdly, he should contribute towards the cost of equalising prices between the different regions, which is again, I think, not an unreasonable proposal. The final answer, if I wished for a debating answer, is that all this is done under the Act of 1931 of which he was from start to finish a full supporter.
§ Major ELLIOT
At any rate of which the party of the right hon. Gentleman was a supporter. It was put through the House of Commons against the wishes of several hon. Members on these benches including myself. Therefore he must not complain if I do my best to utilise the machinery which he has erected. It is only begging the question to say that it is extremely complicated. I want to know whether it will work. I believe that it will thresh the crop, and if it does, I am sure that neither he nor anyone else will complain.
The procedure of the Act of 1931, and of the Bill of 1933 are of necessity bound closely together. It is necessary for us now, when the House is about to part with this Measure, to review the actual steps by which the enabling Bill which we are passing to-day will fiNaily operate. It is the more necessary Since it will form a great part of the work of many Members of this House in the months immediately to come. Many Members of the House are keenly anxious that these schemes should work and operate, and they will go to their constituencies when the Bill is upon the Statute Book with the desire and intention of explaining them to their constituents and of making sure that they are smoothly and easily operated. Under the Act of 1931—and this is my justification and the accusation in the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—the representatives of the farmers themselves work out 1768 a scheme and submit it as their own scheme. If the farmers cannot get men, or time, to work out a scheme, they ask us, the Government, to come along. If they accept our scheme they submit it as their own. There are examples of these at the present time. There is the potato industry scheme worked out by the industry itself, and the milk marketing scheme worked out by the Milk Commission and subsequently submitted by the farmers themselves. It then goes to a public inquiry at which all the objections are thrashed out. It then conies to the Minister who decides whether to put it up to the Legislature or not. If I so decide it goes to each House of Parliament to be examined as a whole, to be approved or rejected by the affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. If each House of Parliament passes an affirmative Resolution, it goes forward to its final stage, which is confirmation by a postal ballot, by a Majority of the producers themselves, requiring a full two-thirds Majority. If it can find sanction from the experts who examine the scheme, if the farmers recommend it, and both Houses of Parliament pass an affirmative Resolution in favour of the scheme, and fiNaily it is approved by a postal vote of two-thirds Majority, I think it will have satisfied every test which can reasonably be applied to it, and producers can ask for the scheme to be put into operation.
But it has been said that these schemes with all this complicated organisation, can be drowned by a flood of imports from overseas. That is where the second Bill which the House is now considering comes in. We say in Clause 1 that if these tests have all been secured or if a scheme which will have to comply with all these tests is in a reasonable state of preparation, then, not the Minister of Agriculture but the Board of Trade, should have power to take such limiting steps with regard to foreign imports as will ensure that such a scheme first, can come into operation and, second, have a reasonable chance of maintaining itself. These are not problems which are singular to this country alone. They have been examined in every country and they are being examined just now by the United States of America in their Farm Relief Bill. The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) accused me of having brought this Measure forward at a most inopportune time in view of the 1769 Economic Conference. We make no complaint of the United States dealing with their agricultural problems on the eve of the World Economic Conference. No bigger mockery could be conceived than to say, because of the World Economic Conference, the farmers of Wiltshire are to see their milk being poured down the drain while cans of Dutch milk are brought in, and that this must continue to be done in the sacred name of world economics and cannot be altered because we are having a World Conference. Such a thing would bring world economics, into disrepute and mockery. The farmer, like all men in this country, is a reasonable, commonsense being, and were he faced with such an actual concrete example as that which I have just given, he would say: "Unless world economics can deal with such a problem as that it is bedlam and not economics, and the sooner they break up and go home the better."
The difficulty that we are in will be met by organisation at home and regulation abroad. If there is no organisation there will be no protection, but if there is organisation then I think the producer can reasonably claim that his organisation should be protected against unregulated world production and competition which has brought him disaster in the past. The proposals of the Government in the Act of 1931 and in the Bill of 1933 do certainly mean that we are exposed to criticism, especially from my hon. and right hon. Friends below the Gangway, in connection with the World Economic Conference. I quite frankly face the position with which I am confronted there. I agree that in the draft annotated agenda of the Preparatory Commission, which the experts have brought forward, there are proposals which in Section IV suggest the extensive removal of all forms of trade restrictions, but on the other hand we are entitled to quote Section VI, which deals with the "Organisation of Production and Trade," of which our trade agreements are an example, and those agreements are held up to admiration as veritable islands of safety in the midst of disaster. The commission say of those agreements in the draft agenda:They have represented an element of order in the midst of disorder, and have constituted what one might describe as islands of safety. They have effectively 1770 contributed, in the case of certain products and certain countries, to the prevention of conflicts and reprisals and the avoidance of tariff increases.I do not need to go any further than the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) to emphasise that point. It is one of the charges which he brings against me, and from his point of view quite legitimately, that these trade agreements have in fact militated against tariff increases in certain fields. I say to my hon. and right hon. Friends below the Gangway that they cannot have it both ways. If they claim Section IV, I am entitled in my defence to claim Section VI. There is the appearance of conflict between those two sections, but the conflict is inherent in the problem with which they are dealing and is not caused by the attitude which the Government are taking towards that problem.
I only speak for agriculture, although it may well be that the matter will have to be resolved in the marketing of other great primary products as well. Speaking for agriculture, I say that these agreements maintain in themselves, perhaps despite pure economics, some of the occupations of the nation which the nation feels transcend the simple and elementary laws of economics. This will have to be reconciled with the aims and the work of the World Economic Conference, and every nation which comes to that conference agrees explicitly or implicitly that that is so. The Continent of Europe has been accused of many things. It has been accused of economic nationalism and insensate wars but it has contributed sufficient towards the history of the human race to enable us to say that the Continent of Europe has an instinctive clinging to certain modes of life which it feels transcend the elementary laws of economics. There is nothing more certain in the polity of Europe to-day than that Europe is deeply attached to agriculture; agriculture which is carried on under the proprietorship of small men. While the European states have so jealous a regard for agriculture, any conference which suggests that for reasons of cheaper production the peasant of Europe should be swept from his moorings and hurled into some form of proletariat, or some form of farm worker in some collective farm system, will find that it is beating its head against the wall.
1771 Europe is to-day dealing with a great economic crisis, but the desire of Europe to see that its anchorage in the land is not carried away is one of the things which Europe will insist upon in the forthcoming conference. The world will not blame but rather applaud Great Britain if it can work out a scheme whereby the conflict between plough and loom can be resolved, a scheme which will reconcile the black country with the green. The conference is to deal with the problems of world economics, but it is also to deal with the desires of men, and the desires of men are that they should not forget the work of agriculture, the work of raising crops and stock upon their own soil, with their own hands. We say that the interchange of primary products can, and I believe it will, prove to be better done by a system of planned trade than by a system of chaos. I am certain that in the case of agriculture that will prove to be so, and that we can and we will reconcile that with the aims and objects of the World Economic Conference, in regard to which I have been honoured by having been appointed a delegate.
The Bill before us has received a great deal of consideration both inside and outside the House, but it has not yet received all the consideration it requires. It will have to be worked out. The flesh and blood will have to be clothed upon the skeleton of the Bill when the schemes are brought forward. I appeal to all sections of the House. Let us be sure that from each section we do our utmost towards making it a success. Let us make sure that the skill, the time, the work and the patience of Dr. Addison in laying the foundation of this great structure in 1931 is not wasted, and that the Labour party, which has its own contribution to make towards these problems, comes forward whole-heartedly to make that contribution. Let us be sure that the Liberal party, which in the past has done so much for the agricultural labourer and which has been keenly interested in all forms of reform, finds here that the greatest of all reforms, the reform of getting an economic return for the agricultural industry, is the one which it is now determined to secure.
Let us of the Conservative party especially secure that the great fund of public service which has been our pride 1772 in the past, especially in rural affairs, is directed into this field, where it can give more fruitful return than in any other field at the present time. Let us see that the boards are staffed by the best men. Let us see that the resources of uprightness and integrity which this country can draw upon are freely placed at the service of these tremendous experiments. These boards will have to do in a short time that which otherwise would take years to do. They have to organise an industry which is greater than the railway industry, the iron and steel industry or the textile industry, great as those industries may be. The dairy industry itself employs four times as many men to-day as the whole industry of shipbuilding, and the dairy industry is only one of the industries which we have to reorganise under the provisions of this Bill and its associated Measures. Here is a task for all parties. It is not perhaps the only task that we have, but I am certain that it is one of the greatest.
The only fear that I have in connection with these Measures is the failure at home. I believe the foreign producer sees and sympathises with the plight of the British agriculturist. In the negotiations we have had with him we have found it possible to come to arrangements with him, and I am sure as my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) said we shall also be able to come to arrangements with the Dominion producers. But nothing can make up for failure at home. These schemes depend primarily on confidence and understanding at home. Let us be sure that no accusations of treachery are allowed to go uncontradicted. Let us be sure that no muddle-headedness is going to produce a false dilemma, where we shall have so many real dilemmas to resolve. Let us be sure that we believe we can do this thing. If we believe that we can do this thing we have gone three-fourths of the way towards getting it done, and if we can get it done, then, if for that reason alone, this Parliament will be well worthy of record in the history of the country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 271; Noes, 66.1775
|Division No. 205.]||AYES.||[6.14 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Goff, Sir Park||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Albery, Irving James||Goodman, Colonel Albert W||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Granville, Edgar||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Munro, Patrick|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Murray-Phillpson, Hylton Raiph|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Hales, Harold K.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||North, Edward T.|
|Blindell, James||Hanbury, Cecil||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hanley, Dennis A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Harbord, Arthur||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hartington, Marquess of||Pearson, William G.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hartland, George A.||Penny, Sir George|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Petherick, M|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Burghley, Lord||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Burnett, John George||Hornby, Frank||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Ray, Sir William|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Horobin, Ian M.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Howard, Tom Forrest||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Robinson, John Roland|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chetter, City)||Hurd, Sir Percy||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Iveagh, Countess of||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Clarke, Frank||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Knox, Sir Alfred||Salt, Edward W.|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Law, Sir Alfred||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Cooke, Douglas||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Lees-Jones, John||Scone, Lord|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Levy, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lewis, Oswald||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Liddall, Walter S.||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n amp; Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Locker-Lampson, Rt.Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Donner, P. W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Doran, Edward||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Soper, Richard|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lymington, Viscount||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Mabane, William||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stanley, Hon. O. F G. (Westmorland)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macdonald, sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stevenson, James|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||McKie, John Hamilton||Stones, James|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Storey, Samuel|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin||Maitland, Adam||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Martin, Thomas B.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Thompson, Luke|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Milne, Charles||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Thorp, Linton Theodore||Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Turton, Robert Hugh||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wallace, John (DunferMilne)||Whyte, Jardine Bell||Mr. Womersley and Major George|
|Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wills, Wilfrid D.||Davies.|
|Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Parcy||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Price, Gabriel|
|Briant, Frank||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Buchanan, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edwards, Charles||Leonard, William||White, Henry Graham|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lunn, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McKeag, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Mainwaring, William Henry||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.