§ 9.4 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
I beg to move,That the Cattle (Import Regulation) Order, 1933, dated the twentieth clay of 2208 December, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, made by the Board of Trade under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, a copy of which was presented to this House on the twenty-ninth day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who is fully acquainted with all the Rules of Order of the House, would be, in fact, the first to protest if anyone got up and continued a Debate which the House had just decided. I am sure that the Rules of Order and Procedure merely led him just now to indicate that he was about to take a lively interest in the Debate that was to follow. The interest of the House in the preceding Order was so keen that I thought it would go on much longer.
In bringing before the House the Cattle (Import Regulation) Order, which was made in 1933 and dated 20th December of that year, I would remind the House that just before Christmas I indicated, in reply to a Private Notice Question that the Government proposed to take action along the lines which we now ask the House to confirm. On the next day, on the Motion for the Adjournment, we were able to debate the proposals which the Government were to bring forward. I think that, on reflection, some of my hon. Friends who took part in that Debate may be a little ashamed of some of the statements which they made during the Debate. I see the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) present. He made some strong statements which the figures in our possession go a long way to disprove. I do not see the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) present. He also made some very vigorous statements. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) is present. He has already been greeted by the House on his return, and perhaps I may be allowed personally to greet him.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Certainly not, I will not leave anybody out. To those who prophesied that under this Order the poor would not be able to get beef and that they would be deprived of their Christmas dinners, I shall be able to show by the irrefutable evidence of statistics that, so far from the price of beef going up against the poor, the price of beef is lower than it was in January of last year and very considerably lower than it was when the Government of which the hon. Member for the Don Valley was a supporter was in office, a Government which had the enthusiastic support of the hon. Member for Birkenhead East, the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and others. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not very enthusiastic."] The hon. Members below the Gangway are never very enthusiastic. Hon. Members opposite may think that they were not enthusiastic in the support of their Government, but that was nothing to the lack of enthusiasm they showed in supporting us. Although they did not join the Labour Government they made speeches on their side, whereas they joined our Government and made speeches against us.
May I remind the House that the livestock situation is what we expected when we laid our scheme before the House last December? The White Paper embodying our statement which I made on 20th December is in my hands and we are able to claim, looking back now, that it gave a very fair and accurate picture of the situation, a picture which has been completely borne out by the course of events since that date. What we said was that:The number of home produced fat cattle marketed this summer and autumn has thus been less than in the corresponding period of last year. The supplies held back are likely, however, to come forward at an early date, so that the immediate problem is now that of averting a further price decline as well as of bringing about an improvement in the situation. In these circumstances, it is essential to afford some relief to the market in respect of the supplies of cattle imported for immediate slaughter.Accordingly, we said to the House that we intended to bring about a reduction in 2210 the imports of fat stock from the Irish Free State by 50 per cent., although we should impose no reduction upon the imports of store cattle from the Irish Free State. The course of events has shown that there was heavy pressure of fresh beef on the market. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who more particularly represent beef-producing constituents will bear me out when I say that the pressure of beef supplies upon the market has been so heavy that, even with the cut of 50 per cent. in Irish Free State fat stock we have not been able to prevent a still further decline to the extent of 1s. per cwt. in British home-produced fat stock as compared with January a year ago. If we had not taken the action which we did on 20th December, it is absolutely certain, as certain as any supply picture that could be painted, that there would have been a catastrophic decline in the prices of British home-produced livestock, and the hon. Members who accused us then of being too precipitate would have been arraigning us now for complacency and inertia in the face of a situation which they would have said was obvious to them and should have been obvious to us.
We were also accused of injuring the relations between this country and the Irish Free State. We were accused by the hon. Member for the Don Valley, who said that:All the statements about conciliation are not only sentimental humbug, but more or less in the nature of poisoned arrows."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1933; col. 1548, Vol. 284.]I said that we put our proposal before the House and before the country as a measure not dictated by any desires of political expediency but by the stern facts of necessity and it was so accepted by the House, by the country and by the Irish Free State. Who is working that Order to-day? The Irish Free State authorities are working the Order.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Whether or not it is a situation in which they have no alternative, in the true Irish fashion they have been able to discover an alternative when they wanted to do so. The Irish Free State is working the Order because it believes in the assurance which I gave on behalf of His Majesty's Government 2211 that we were not undertaking these steps with any ulterior motive but simply and solely because the supply position in this country demanded that Order. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Irish Free State accepted our assurance, and they are working the Order, and the market position in Great Britain to-day is such as to prove that such an Order was an absolute necessity. It would be perhaps rather unfair to quote many statements made by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for the Don Valley went so far as to say:The policy announced yesterday by the Government was not only too precipitate …. but it will certainly damage the prospects of the poorer section of the community, who will no longer be able to buy meat of any kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1933; col. 1552, Vol. 284.]My hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead said that he did not believe that we had taken into account any sort of balance-sheet as to the good and evil results which would arise from this policy, and he further said that there would be an increase in unemployment arising directly from the operation of the Order. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green said:The only Christmas message that the Minister of Agriculture has to send" [to the poor in Bethnal Green] "is that he is conspiring artificially to raise the prices of food they have to buy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1933; col. 1558, Vol. 284.]He said he was making an authoritative statement, and that he was not bringing it forward on the authority of a Liberal but on the authority of a Conservative—to which naturally he attached much greater weight and importance. He saidThe first person I selected was a well-known Conservative butcher, and he assured me that the reaction of this policy would have two effects: first, to raise prices, and, second, to decrease consumption."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1933; col. 1560, Vol. 284.]Do the figures bear out these rather exaggerated statements? The average wholesale price of fresh beef of first and second quality per pound was, in January, 1931, 7¾d.; in January, 1932, 7⅜d.; in January, 1933, 7¼d.; and in January, 1934, 6¾d. It seems to me that the accusation of the conspiracy to deprive the poor of their food is not entirely borne out in the facts. They 2212 do not bear out the statement that the poor would never again be able to buy a bit of meat; and the other statements that were made were equally far from true. I say that the limitation of the importation of Irish fat stock which we made was closely and narrowly calculated upon the supplies of the time, and all that these figures prove is that the cut was not sufficient. They prove, if anything, that the limitation was not great enough; they prove, if anything, not that my policy worked too precipitately, but that it has not succeeded sufficiently. Those who accuse the Government of rash and precipitate policy are, in fact, barking up the wrong tree altogether.
The dangers which we foresaw, which we were so anxious to avert, the dangers to our inter-Imperial trade and to the supply position of the poorer consumers, were seen by us, and we were so anxious to avert them that we did not take what we might have been properly justified in taking in the circumstances, a decision to prohibit the importation of Irish fat stock altogether. The limitation which we made was one that on the import of Irish cattle as a whole, was 12½ per cent., which still left 87½ per cent. of the Irish cattle trade absolutely untouched. It was a limitation which, as a matter of fact—and I am sure this will interest my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead—actually resulted in more cattle being landed at Birkenhead in January, 1934, than were landed in January, 1933. I am glad to see that he agrees with me. Does he now apologise for the vehement statement he made during the Debate on the Adjournment shortly before the Christmas Recess? I am sure he would not willingly do us an injustice. When I say that in January, 1933, there were 15,800 cattle landed at Birkenhead, and that in January, 1934, there were 18,000 cattle landed there, he will see that his accusation that we were going about deliberately depriving his constituents of employment are not fully borne out by the statistical facts of the situation.
The fact of the matter is we are dealing with a situation of crisis by admittedly experimental methods. We have to handle a situation which I will not repeat to the House in detail but which I think I was able to show in the Debate on the 21st December was one where the beef producers supplying this market were 2213 facing a market in which there was a contracting demand. We are all familiar with that. The beef consumption of this country has been going down for years, in years of prosperity and in years of depression, and that is a thing which the beef suppliers of this market have to take into account. The market was becoming over-supplied. There was a situation in which that over-supply had to be corrected and in which, limited as we are at present by agreements of one kind and another, we took the opportunity which was open to us of dealing with supplies which were not affected by any trade or commercial agreements. We limited those supplies of fat cattle by 50 per cent. If there is one criticism which can be brought against us for our action it is that it was not sufficiently drastic, and did not have a sufficiently great effect upon the beef position of this country.
So much for the policy. I was able to say in the course of the Debate that I thought the provisions of the Order and the administrative arrangements were such as could be carried out by the technical men concerned, although I said it was a difficult task and would require a great deal of organisation. That, I think, is also borne out by the facts. Up to the 13th February some 50,000 cattle have come into the country under the working of this Order, which I now ask the House to confirm. Of that number there have been 240 seized by the Customs at the request of the authorised officers. Such a small number of seizures indicates a smooth and accurate working of the Order, even though grievances may have arisen in individual cases. Cases have been brought to my notice, and no doubt to the notice of my hon. Friends, where friction and even hardship may have arisen. Let me point out again that we are acting here under the authority of the Customs Consolidation Act, which specifically provides not merely for forfeiture of goods which have been wrongly described, but for appeal against such forfeiture if desired. Representations have been received from several quarters to the effect that forfeiture is an unduly hard penalty when there is no deliberate intention to evade the Orders. We fully appreciate the force of that contention, and the position in those cases is at present being actively considered by the Department concerned. There is no desire on the part of the Department to ad- 2214 minister an Order in such a way as to cause undue hardship, and the fact that the thing is working with increasing smoothness as time goes on is shown by the fact that the number of seizures has shown a tendency to decline.
Therefore, at short notice to meet an emergency position, we have been able to work out a procedure which has been so accurately administered by competent technical men that there have been only 240 cases of forfeiture out of 50,000 beasts that have passed. That, I say, is a high tribute to the administrative skill with which these arrangements were worked out and the technical efficiency with which they have been enforced by the officers responsible. I do not wish to go further into the matter except to say that the object of this Order was to bring to a remunerative price level the price of British home-produced fat stock. We cannot say that the Order has been fully successful in its operation as yet, but I say that without any doubt we have to keep this situation continually under review. I said before, and I say again, that until we have done beef we have done nothing; when we have done beef we have done everything. Beef is the keystone of the arch of British agriculture, and it is idle for anyone responsible for British agriculture to say that we have solved the questions affecting British agriculture while beef production is still in the critical stage in which it is to-day.
The first task, however, which we set before ourselves has been accomplished: that of arresting the decline. The average prices of first and second quality cattle in England and Wales since the beginning of January have been stated at about 38s. 6d. per live cwt. In January last year prices were running at about 1s. per live cwt. higher, but we all remember that a little later on prices began to slip away and the ordinary seasonal rise of the early summer did not occur. It is too early to say that there is a market just now, or to judge of the full effects of the measures taken by the Government. Several factors have to be called into account: for instance, the shipments of fat cattle into Great Britain from Northern Ireland have shown a considerable increase from last year, and have to some extent offset the reduction in the Free State supply. It was to be expected that there would be a movement of that 2215 kind, for the conditions which lead to the holding up of cattle in this country also operate in Northern Ireland. That accumulation is now being reduced; I think it is practically shifted, and let us hope that the position will return to normal. There will then be good reason to be hopeful for a turn in the tide for the livestock industry.
I have reviewed as quickly as I could the general position which led to the imposition of this Order, and one or two of the details in its working. I should be very glad to reply to any requests for information which hon. Members may desire to make. It seems to me, however, certain that on the facts as we have seen them and on the analysis of the situation that it corresponds to the picture which we put before the House in December, and that the House was fully justified in the general approval which it gave to our proposals then and which it will again, I hope, give to-night.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman, as is usual with him, delighted us with the courteous terms in which he spoke. Hon. Members on the Opposition side sometimes almost feel that they ought to accept his philosophy. Nevertheless, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will have observed, during the few minutes that the Minister has occupied, how he has stressed the necessity for this Order, so that there could be marketing organisation and development in the livestock trade. This Order is produced under the Agricultural Marketing Act. I do not recall the Minister having made one single reference to that Act or to any marketing scheme affecting livestock or the beef trade of this country. He reminds me of a wireless talk which I heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade one day this week, and which was a very clear exposition of all the hopes and expectations of the Government for the British Industries Fair. The hon. Gentleman told us that this country was a manufacturers' paradise, and proceeded to deplore hampering restrictions and quotas. Now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade condemns anything between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 people to hampering restrictions and quotas, and the Minister commends those restrictions and quotas as the last word in political 2216 wisdom. The mental gymnastics of Members of the Government in one direction and another would qualify them for a first-class job with Mr. Bertram Mills.
The President of the Board of Trade has at any rate been satisfied that this Order is necessary, not for the purpose of increasing the price of beef, but for the purpose of enabling the producers of beef to organise and develop their industry on lines laid down under the Marketing Act, 1933. Presumably not only the President of the Board of Trade but also the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland have been satisfied that this Order was necessary; not—hon. Members ought to note—to increase the price, but to enable beef producers to make a marketing scheme, perhaps in order that they may dispose, as was said, of the superfluous middle-man, find the logical market for their produce and exact for themselves the best price obtainable. The right hon. Gentleman having been satisfied, apparently, that marketing is necessary, and the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland having also satisfied themselves that this Order, which is merely a meat import restriction Order for the Irish Free State, is necessary for that purpose, the right hon. Gentleman curiously enough very carefully avoided making any reference to the causes that went to satisfy him that the Order was necessary. Perhaps he will forgive me if, in trying to represent certain human livestock, we ask for some of the evidence which satisfies him and his colleagues—who are two good Liberal Ministers—that restriction must precede organisation. So far we have not heard a word about the marketing scheme, how it is developing, how far it has proceeded, and what the results are likely to be.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman at least to supply hon. Members with some of the evidence which satisfied him and his colleagues that this Order, for marketing purposes as distinct from price purposes, was necessary at all. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether it was the members of the Livestock Commission who satisfied him that it is necessary for marketing purposes, or whether it was the Farmers' Union or the Market Supply Committee. If it was the Market Supply Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us this? Although imports have been reduced during the past 2217 18 months or so and, as the Minister states, they have been so far insufficient to enable the price increase to reach the desire of his heart, did the Market Supply Committee inform the Minister that there was a general decrease in consumption in this country, or was the market being flooded by cattle imported from the Irish Free State? Clearly one of those two things must be necessary for the situation in which the Minister and beef producers in this country find themselves at the moment.
So far as other interests are concerned, we are entitled to ask the Minister whether he, or the President of the Board of Trade, or the Secretary of State for Scotland, consulted any consumers' organisations, if not on price questions, on the question of organisation. Did they consult any exporting trades or any trades that may be affected by the application of this Order? We know that during the past 12 months our coal exports to the Free State have been reduced considerably, to the hurt of miners in Yorkshire, the human livestock that we seek to represent. We are entitled to know whether any exporting trades were consulted. Were there any British creditors of Ireland consulted? I remember that on the day before the House adjourned for Christmas the right hon. Gentleman said that we had reached a stage where we should have to be very careful in restricting imports from debtor nations. The right hon. Gentleman apparently has no such worries about Ireland. Someone has satisfied him on all these points, although he carefully avoided telling us anything about them; and he proceeded immediately to lop off 50 per cent. of the imports of cattle from the Irish Free State. He says that the machinery is well oiled, that there has not been the slightest trouble so far, and that it goes to show that the exporters from the Free State appreciate the difficulties of this country. Do they? Does he imply that the Irish Free State is happy as the result of this latest attack?
I think all the statements about the "ever-open door," made by the Dominions Secretary and his Under-Secretary, are sheer humbug in face of this Order, for to lop off 50 per cent. of imports from the Irish Free State under the guise of a marketing scheme I should say is the last word in Parlia- 2218 mentary absurdity. The right hon. Gentleman has been pressed, I know, from the Farmers' Union. It is true that he states that prices have not responded to his treatment. While that is the case I think the right hon. Gentleman at all events has to thank the Lord for de Valera. At least he has provided the right hon. Gentleman with an opportunity for supplementing Ottawa Agreements and past actions which he hopes may bring the results he so earnestly desires.
Let us get down to the facts with regard to imports. It is true that prices have been persistently low for a goodly period. But the right hon. Gentleman must also remember that wages are very low and have been very low for a long period, and that the statement I made on the day before the Adjournment for Christmas is not untrue. Figures can be given shortly to prove that many families in this country are unable to buy any meat of any kind, imported or home produced. I do not think it would be difficult to satisfy even the right hon. Gentleman on that point. Since 1931 imports of chilled and frozen beef have decreased by 1,790,000 cwts., and mutton and lamb by 412,000 cwts. Yet English beef prices fail to respond. Sir Roger Keyes, the Conservative candidate for North Portsmouth, boasts that prices have not increased. The Minister of Agriculture shed tears because they have not increased. I hope that the Labour candidate at Portsmouth will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said to-day and of what the Conservative candidate is saying. It is not the Minister's fault that prices have not increased, nor is it that of the Government as a whole.
Some one whispered to the right hon. Gentleman at the right moment, "There is still Ireland. When you have talked with the Argentine and Paraguay and the Dominions, now that all your schemes have more or less failed because you have failed in examining spending power and potential demand as distinct from effective demand, there is still Ireland left and there is no need to trouble about debt." The Minister is certainly attacking the Irish Free State in a vulnerable part. If beef is the keystone of the agricultural arch in this country, it is not less so in the Free State, and to lop off 50 per cent. of Free State imports certainly is not a 2219 loving cup to our friends in the Free State. If the Free State, appreciating the difficult position of the meat producer in this country, for sheer cussedness had diverted its activities from dairy farming to beef and cattle production and had flooded the British market, one could understand the action of the right hon. Gentleman as affecting prices but not as affecting the Agricultural Marketing Act or the organisation and development of the beef industry in this country. We could have understood it if he was troubled with excessive imports from the Free State. But what are the facts? The yearly average for the 10 years ended 1932, of cattle imported from the Free State, was 733,000. The imports for 1933 were 583,000. That was a reduction of 150,000 head last year. So that the Free State has not been flooding the British market. That being so, clearly it cannot be charged with the responsibility for collapse in the price level.
I notice that in 1931 the average price per head of cattle imported from the Free State was £16 6s. 1d. The average price in 1933 was £9 8s. 9d. Is that the explanation for the right hon. Gentleman's Order, that the Irish Free State is exporting cattle at a very low price? If it is the case, surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell us about it. I observe that there is little or no restriction upon imported Canadian cattle, the price of which is still somewhere between £16 and £16 10s. "Away with the cheap cattle," says the Minister to the Free State. That is a possible explanation. Instead of the Free State having flooded the market and made it extremely difficult for the beef producers in this country while they are building up their marketing scheme, perfecting their organisation and preparing for development to meet the home demand, the Free State not only reduces its exports of cattle by 150,000, but in the same period it sends 242,000 fewer sheep and lambs, and 334,000 fewer pigs. So that if there is one State either within or without the Dominions that the Minister of Agriculture ought to bless for having helped him in his policy of organising scarcity, surely it is the Free State.
They have reduced their imports to this country abnormally—for reasons about which the Under-Secretary for the Dominions probably knows something— 2220 over the past two years, and this is the last part of the Dominions or indeed of the world, upon which the Minister should have made an attack. Does the hon. Gentleman think, after his experience of the past two years and his knowledge of what has happened in regard to bacon that he is taking the proper course? Merchants tell us that, as a result of the increase in price by 3d. or 4d. per lb. sales have gone down by 15 per cent., and that possibly in the course of time, unless great care is taken, our second state may be worse than our first in this respect. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that by concentrating all his efforts upon restricting supplies within certain limits, he is ultimately going to succeed? He knows as much about it as I do and probably a great deal more and he is aware that he can restrict supplies and force up prices to a certain point. What he cannot do is to compel people to buy what they cannot afford. He knows that not one out of 10 English men or women would prefer foreign meat, if they could afford British meat. He knows that, in regard to beef, mutton and lamb, the price variation is anywhere from 3d. to 5d. a lb. and that a vast army of workpeople with modest wages buy chilled or frozen meat only because they cannot afford British meat.
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said a day or two ago, that we want a revolution in this country, not a revolution of bloodshed or violence of the kind characteristic of the Continent, but a revolution in policy. It seems to me that such a revolution could be started by a Minister who sought to organise the extension of consumption instead of the restriction of available supplies. We all admire the energy and vigour of the Minister of Agriculture and his determination to do something. Speaking personally, I would prefer to see the Minister trying to do something and failing, than to see him doing nothing at all in the manner which is characteristic of so many of his colleagues. But he must know that since 1931 the imports of beef of all kinds, mutton, lamb, bacon, ham and pork have decreased by no less than 3,500,000 cwts., and still the price for British beef fails to respond. What is the explanation Is it not true, as I said before Christmas, that there are thousands of families who cannot afford 2221 to buy any sort of meat at all? Does it not follow from the experience of the past 18 months or two years, that the Minister's policy cannot succeed? We are all anxious to see the cattle raiser in this country, as well as the wheat producer and other agriculturists as successful as any other section of the community. But we shall have to pay more attention to the spending power of the people in the future, if we hope to succeed with any one of these policies.
The right hon. Gentleman has heard questions put to the representatives of the War Office and the Admiralty, asking why our British soldiers and sailors are not supplied with British meat. The answer is: "Because it costs too much." It would cost £80,000, or whatever the figure may be, more than frozen or chilled meat. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, like the boy whistling to keep up his courage, tell the House in sonorous tones that all the meat consumed by the Army and the Navy comes from the Empire. But it is frozen and the Army and the Navy are supplied with frozen meat because it would cost more to feed them on British meat. Well, that is what the unemployed man, with his 15s. 3d. a week, says. The collier who works three or three and a-half days a week and has 12s. 6d. deducted from his wages for rent, leaving him with 17s. to maintain himself, and a wife and children, cannot afford British meat. If he gets any meat at all it is the cheapest kind available in his district. Merely to organise scarcity will ultimately fail.
We stand, as the right hon. Gentleman stands, for organisation, for development, for elimination of waste. We are anxious to see all farmers enjoy a reasonable standard of existence. We never lose sight of the agricultural worker. He is very near to us. We know the agricultural worker. The farmers know the position too and they cannot point to a period when the mining industry has been really prosperous, during which agriculture has not been prosperous too. The reason is obvious. When the man who is working hard has a wage, which enables him to buy the best British meat, and plenty of it, he proceeds to purchase it. But, when his wage goes down to unemployment benefit levels, you cannot expect him to buy British beef, whether at 7d. or 9d. or whatever it may be. Much as we are anxious to see organisation, we think it 2222 is a mere mockery to suggest that organisation and development could not be brought about in this industry without an Order of this description.
We therefore oppose this Motion on two grounds. First, we think that the attack upon Ireland is one which is outside the Queensberry Rules. It is well below the belt, and although the right hon. Gentleman says the Irish Free State are working the Order and that everything is running smoothly and sweetly, they have no alternative but to work the Order, so long as he gets the power here, as he always can, to lop 50 per cent. or 75 per cent. off their exports to this country. We think that a question of that kind should never be tackled under the guise of a marketing scheme, and we are obliged to criticise what we regard as a lack of candour on the part of the Government in that respect. Secondly, we oppose this proposal because we think that merely to organise scarcity, paying no attention to the spending power or the potential demand of the people at home, is bound to fail and I hope that not only-Members of my own party, but hon. Members opposite as well, will go into the Lobby with us in opposition to this Order.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I had no intention of speaking upon this subject to-night but I have been tempted to intervene by the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I am surprised that he has taken up a critical attitude towards this Order. I recollect when he was one of the supporters in this House of a marketing scheme, the purpose of which was to help the British producer. That scheme was passed by the Government of which he was a supporter. It was an absolute failure, because, while it gave control over the production of the British farmer, it gave no control over foreign imports. I thought the hon. Member would have expressed his gratitude to the Minister who is fulfilling the unfulfilled part of the task undertaken by the hon. Member's friends, and is making this marketing scheme practicable. By this means there will be control and organisation of British production, and also control and organisation of the foreign imported meat. The hon. Member for Don Valley said he would require some evidence that some action of this description was necessary. 2223 I would ask him to go to some of the country markets and see what fat cattle have been selling at this autumn and Christmas, and to talk to some of the farmers who are the owners of the cattle. Men are selling these cattle at a price far below the cost of production, and in many cases they are bound to sell them in order to obtain money for the necessary expenses of their farms.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
What I said was that we required evidence that this Order is necessary to enable agriculture to organise a marketing scheme for beef.
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
At present the producer in this country will have and can have no incentive to organise his production unless he is assured that a market is to be found for his produce when he produces it, but these regulations are absolutely essential to maintain a market for the British farmer. The hon. Member also said that wages are so low that the poor are unable to buy meat, and that there are thousands of families who are not in a position to purchase meat. I would like to inform him that in the county a part of which I represent there is a certain institution which kills its own meat, and a buyer goes round to the market and buys meat and kills meat for that institution, and during the past 13 weeks, having paid the whole overhead charges for the killing of that meat, the price of the meat to the institution was 4d. a pound, a figure which, I suggest, is not beyond even the lowest paid of the workers of this country.
Recognising as I do how essential it is that the key position of the beef trade should be held, I whole-heartedly support any action that will bring about some increase in the wholesale price of meat. There need be no increase whatever in the retail price, because the margin between the wholesale and the retail prices is sufficiently large for the wholesale price to go up without necessitating any increase in the retail price. I hold the view very strongly that the toll taken between the producer of meat and what the consumer pays is far too great and is responsible for some of the trouble that we have in regard to the price of British agricultural produce.
The method of assisting beef under this Order is by a limitation of imports, but 2224 I still think that the method of controlling imports by tariffs is far better and far more simple than the method of controlling those imports by quotas. I hold that if the imports had been controlled by tariffs, a revenue would have been derived which could have been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the remission of taxation and that would have been more useful to us than paying an increased price to the exporter of that product. I am still unconvinced that tariffs are not the best method, but the Minister, with better knowledge of the whole situation, as he undoubtedly has, has chosen to deal with these imports by means of quotas, and as long as his method produces the result which we desire, and that is an increase in the wholesale price of meat—and I feel confident that eventually it will—I desire to express my wholehearted support of the Motion.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. WHITE
My right hon. Friend, in moving the confirmation of the Order, took occasion, in terms to which I take no exception, to remind the House and to refresh my memory of certain statements or forecasts which were made at the time when we discussed this proposal on the Adjournment before the Christmas Recess. Let me say at once that in so far as any statement that I have made, based upon the apprehensions of my constituents, has been falsified, I should be only too pleased to acknowledge it, but I must say that I am very much puzzled by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-day. I only wish he were a less busy man than he is, because if I thought there was any chance of his accepting the invitation, I should be only too pleased to invite him to come down to Birkenhead and to make the speech which he has made here to-night to the people in the lairages there. We should give him a most cordial welcome.
When he went on to quote figures with regards to the happenings at the landings at Birkenhead, I was more mystified still. I remember, in the Debate before Christmas, I pointed out that there seemed to be a disparity between the quota given to fat cattle and that given to stores. The proposals seemed to me to be favouring the farmer, in all the circumstances, too much, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman to con- 2225 sider the interests of the slaughtering trade in Manchester, Liverpool, and elsewhere. I think he must have included the landings of store cattle as well as of fat cattle in his speech to-night, because the figures which have been supplied to me give the landings of fat cattle, cows and bulls, at the Mersey cattle wharf during January, 1933, at 8,828 and in this year at 4,454. When it comes to slaughtering—and this is the important thing so far as Birkenhead is concerned—the number slaughtered in Birkenhead in January, 1933, was 3,058 and this year 2,094.
My right hon. Friend suggested that I might want to make an apology in regard to some quotations which had been made by myself, and I think he included also my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Birkenhead (Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen). If I may without offence, I would remind him of the old adage about crowing before one is out of the egg. What has happened has not perhaps borne out the enormous fears which we had then, when we had not had full time to consider the situation, but there has been some increase of unemployment in Birkenhead as a result of the Order, and there is still the gravest apprehension that there will be more. If he made his statement in regard to the situation at this moment, it would be still less in keeping with the facts. A deputation came up to see the hon. and gallant Member for West Birkenhead and myself on Monday last, complaining bitterly that during the next fortnight they had no animals coming in at all. The consequence has been, according to the information supplied to me—and as I do not work in the place myself I can only take such information—that all the people who are not regarded as staff men are gradually becoming unemployed. What may be called the permanent casuals are out of work already. Next week the steady people employed in the industry at £4 to £5 10s. or £6 per week will be for the first time unemployed. That is the actual situation in Birkenhead to-day.
I want to be perfectly fair in this matter, and I will say that this unfortunate situation arises from conditions which I did not myself fully foresee when the Order was brought into force. It does arise very largely from the incidence of the quota system, and the way in 2226 which the licences for the export of cattle from Ireland are now being distributed. I very much regret that there is no representative of the Board of Trade in the House for this discussion, because I understand they have been looking into this matter to see whether what seems to be an inequitable arrangement cannot be remedied in order to secure some continuation of the trade on more or less normal lines. I understand that the licence permits to export cattle from Ireland are now handed over to the Free State Government to dispose of as they wish, and the present method is to distribute them to the farmers, one to this farmer, perhaps two to the next, three to another, and so on, and the result is that a trade is springing up in the permits collected by an enterprising individual who holds the buyers up to ransom. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have an unexpected assistance in price raising from that practice.
I would like to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that there is no guarantee that any animals will come to the ports or places of slaughter to which they have come in the past. That is going to hit the people in Birkenhead over the next fortnight, for they have not a single animal coming in so far as they knew when they were at the House on Monday last. Will not my right hon. Friend look into this matter? He knows that this blow has descended on our constituencies, and we are perhaps over-anxious, but I believe he has the good will to see that as far as possible trade shall be continued more or less in the proportions which it held before. If there are to be reductions of business and unemployment, let us have them spread fairly and squarely throughout the country. On that ground I must oppose the Order. I cannot apologise—I wish I could—because the situation which the right hon. Member and I pointed out, if it has not taken place to the full extent, is nevertheless serious, and we are afraid that in the next week or two it will realise our most serious apprehensions. I wish my right hon. Friend were as right as he thought he was, and that I were as wrong as he thought me. I would ask him, in association with the Board of Trade, or whoever is placed in command, to see if he cannot obtain control of the permit system. I notice with some satisfaction that the terms of the Order do 2227 envisage a change of this kind. In paragraph 4 (c) I read that the licence grantedmay contain such conditions as the Board of Trade think proper, including in particular conditions as to the ports in the United Kingdom at which, and the land routes in Northern Ireland by which, cattle may be imported into the United Kingdom.I would earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear this matter in mind, and to see if anything can be done.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. RONALD ROSS
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) is a very good Member for his constituency—very good indeed, and if one Member may sympathise with another, I would sympathise with the hon. Member. But let us not exaggerate aspects which in a question of this magnitude are comparatively small. Although, to the hon. Member who is entrusted with the important question of these import licences, they are formidable, when looked at in their proper perspective, they are a small portion of the question in which the country as a whole is interested, the welfare of the agricultural industry. As my right hon. Friend has said, the cattle industry is the key industry in all agriculture, and he and we know that the cattle industry at present is in an extremely critical condition. The measures that we are discussing to-night affect the restriction of cattle from the Irish Free State, and I do not think anyone who has the interest of British agriculture at heart can question the wisdom of such an Order. I would like in particular, before I deal with the Order, to say something about the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). He has represented this Order as an attack on the Irish Free State. I deprecate that as strongly as I can, because it is not an attack, but an Order made in the essential interest of British agriculture.
I hope that no one in the House to-night will think me too ardent a partisan of the Irish Free State, or that I am going out of my way to represent their point of view. But I do insist that, things being as bad as they are between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which will remain the United Kingdom, on the one hand, and the Irish Free State on the other, it is a great pity for an hon. Gentleman as 2228 responsible and as sincere as the hon. Member for Don Valley to represent a measure like this as an attack on the Irish Free State; it is nothing of the sort. By this Measure the Treasury will lose a considerable amount of money which would otherwise come to it in duties on Irish cattle, and you can be certain that before such a Measure as this, involving a reduction of receipts to the Treasury, was decided upon, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will have had representations from that watchful bulldog the Treasury to see whether he could not do what he wanted in some other way. In this case it is an act of necessity.
On one point I must make a mild criticism of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He, I am sure, will be the first to realise that it is with the utmost reluctance that I make any criticism of such a friend of agriculture in general, and of one, in particular, who in carrying out the duties of his Department has not forgotten that Northern Ireland is part of the entity of the agriculture of the United Kingdom. But in his speech he did draw a distinction between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. He alluded to fat cattle in increased numbers being introduced from Northern Ireland into Great Britain. To my mind the area of the United Kingdom is one. The sea which lies between us can be bridged by a unity of interest. Certainly he is relieved of some of the more intimate details of agricultural administration by the Minister of Agriculture for Northern Ireland who, I know, acts in the closest collaboration with him, but on questions as to restriction and quota the interests of Northern Ireland are in his hands—hands which we in Ulster are very glad to see them in. I do hope that in future he will not think of that area as being distinct and different from the rest of the area which is affected by an Order such as this and by so much of the work which he is doing with so much determination—
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I do not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I did draw attention to the fact that the increase was only natural. I merely gave it as an example of the increase which both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain was the increase which I had referred 2229 to, the increase which was bound to come. I said that it could be seen more easily in the case of the increased shipments from Northern Ireland, because they came across the seas, but that was merely an indication of the holding back of fat cattle which in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was bound to take place. I was merely giving Northern Ireland as an example.
§ Mr. ROSS
I welcome most heartily the explanation which my right hon. Friend has given. It alters the whole position as far as I am concerned. He has now explained that the illustration was given as symptomatic of the reactions of the agriculture of the United Kingdom to the Order which he had made, and there could not be a more appropriate illustration. I welcome it. There is one other point I would put forward, not as one who would claim to be any real authority on agriculture but as one who has considered the question as affecting his constituency. This Order affects fat cattle, but its effect upon store cattle is practically negligible. I suggest that it is impossible to achieve what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind unless he restricts the importation of store cattle as well as fat cattle. They bear a relation the one to the other. Until a suitable price can be realised by those who are interested in beef I shall still feel that the agriculture of the United Kingdom is in rather a parlous state.
Although my right hon. Friend and his Department have worked hard it cannot be said that the beef industry is in a satisfactory condition. Of course, if agriculture improves in other directions it may bring a slightly greater demand for stores. The restrictions on chilled beef should have improved the price, but so far the situation is far from satisfactory, and I hope my right hon. Friend will not be content with leaving things as they are at present after the imposition of this Order, which may save us from disaster but has certainly not brought us to prosperity. I trust he is still occupying himself with a consideration of how he can help the beef industry in this country, because until something more is done I cannot see that the agricultural industry can be in a position of any safety for the future.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. HENRY HASLAM
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) rested his opposition to the Order upon the points, first that it was unfair and unjust to the Irish producer, and, secondly, that the Government had not paid sufficient attention to increasing consumption in this country. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) in strongly deprecating that anyone in this House should make such a suggestion against the Minister and against the Government when they have specifically stated that the Order was made in the interest of the sorely-taxed and hard-driven livestock producer of this country.
In order to show that the Irish producer has not been hit so much, may I give the latest figure for imports of cattle from the Irish Free State, as given in the Board of Trade Navigation Returns just issued? They show that the number of cattle from the Irish Free State imported in January, 1933, was 36,193, and that the number imported in January, 1934, was 36,352. There has therefore been an increase of cattle imported from Ireland, comparing January this year with January last year. To a question which I put down the other day, I received an answer to which I would like to draw attention, because it shows that the character of the imports has altered. The figures of fat cattle for January, 1933, are 17,106, and by January, 1934, they had been reduced to 7,195, a reduction considerably in excess of the 50 per cent. promised by the Minister. It is not the number of cattle which matters so much in this case as the character of them, and the English farmer is given some opportunity of getting rid of those large numbers of cattle which have been gradually accumulating on his hands.
With regard to the hon. Member's second argument, it is not, of course, the business of the Minister of Agriculture to cause an increase in consumption in this country, but it is the business of the National Government, and I submit that the National Government are carrying out the task of increasing consumption. Between 500,000 and 750,000 men have been put back into work, and every one of those men, and every salary earned owing to the expansion of British industry, means more customers for the 2231 British farmer. Every trade treaty which is negotiated by the President of the Board of Trade, in which he is always careful to push British coal in foreign countries, makes fresh customers for British agriculture, as the hon. Member for Don Valley will admit.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
Will the hon. Member tell us the amount of coal that has been lost to the coal industry in Scotland, Ayrshire, Cumberland and other parts of Britain, by the policy that has been pursued by the British Government?
§ Mr. HASLAM
I was endeavouring to answer the allegation made by the hon. Member for Don Valley that the Government were not using every endeavour to increase the consuming power of the people of this country. What is the position of the live-stock producer of this country to-day? Who can question the necessity for doing something to give him some small ray of hope? For two years he has been selling his products at a loss, sometimes at a very heavy loss. Deficits and overdrafts have been accumulating all this time, and now to-day, even after this Order has been in force for a month, and 10,000 cattle have been taken off the market, the price is far below the cost of production.
The hon. Member opposite professed sympathy with the agricultural worker, and I agree that he has shown it by his actions and speeches in this House; but the fate of the agricultural worker is equally at stake with that of the livestock producer, and if and when the livestock producers are driven out of business, as they surely must be unless a reasonable price can be obtained, then skilled agricultural workers will be rendered unemployed also; and, what is just as bad, land will go out of cultivation on a greater scale than it is already. It is a very sad sight to see a devastated farm—an unoccupied farm—with the buildings, perhaps in good condition, closed, the cottages closed, with no inhabitants, and I have even known a case where the church and the vicarage have been closed because there was no one to 2232 occupy them. On these areas of sometimes 400 or 500 acres the land simply produces weeds and rabbits; and not only is it a terrible spectacle in itself, not only will it require enormous sums of capital and many years of labour to put it back into cultivation, but it is, of course, a standing danger to the countryside around. That process of farms becoming unoccupied and unlet is continually going on, and, of course, it must go on until the farmer can get a reasonable return on what he produces. It is because this Order is a step in that direction that I heartily support it. I earnestly hope that my right hon. Friend will not cease his efforts, but will use every endeavour, by further restriction of some of the imports which are crowding upon us, owing to the enormously increased power of production throughout the world, still further to reduce the imports of cattle until the livestock producer does at long last see some hope of getting a decent price for his products.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I only want to occupy the attention of the House for a very few minutes, but, in the comparatively small amount of criticism that has been directed against the proposals of the Minister of Agriculture, there seem to be two or three points the consideration of which might, I think, be carried a litle further. I listened to the whole of the criticism that was directed against my right hon. Friend by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and I think the pity was that the hon. Member did not carry his analysis far enough. He asked us to have sympathy for what he called the human livestock in this country, and under that designation he referred to the collier, whom, naturally, he would place first in his category. We quite understand that. But why does he not carry his sympathy rather further? If the human livestock include the collier, they include the industrialist, and they include the farmer also; and, while no doubt the hon. Member expresses his sympathy for the farmer, he does not do so in a way that would show that it would be operative to any extent. It is mere academic sympathy which, if his criticism could be put into practice, would operate distinctly to the farmer's hurt and not to his benefit.
2233 Everyone realises what a hard time we have all been through, and in what hard times we are still living, industrialists and agriculturists alike. If there is one thing, however, that has been true during this period of depression, it is that, though prices of industrial commodities have fallen, though industrial wages to a certain extent have fallen too, there is no question that by far the greatest fall has occurred in agricultural prices and commodities. Broadly speaking, if anyone wished to try to preserve an even balance of fairness as between the great industrial population and the farming population, they would say that some care ought to be taken to try to prevent agricultural prices from falling to even lower levels than they have yet fallen. Success in attaining that end would not inflict upon industrialists who are in work any hardship which could be called at all unfair when you consider the way in which the general burden of the whole depression has to be borne. I do not think anyone who considers the arguments that my right hon. Friend has brought forward could say that from that point of view there has been any disregard for human livestock, to borrow the hon. Member's phrase. It really means that, in considering the human livestock, he has taken into account all the different species of human livestock and tried to hold the balance fairly between them, and from that point of view the proposals that he makes are in fact wholly justifiable.
The hon. Member again asked for proof that a Measure of this kind was needed from the point of view of marketing. I am not certain that he has had as long and intimate experience of agricultural as of mining matters. I am not in the least decrying his knowledge of agricultural matters, but I think his knowledge of mining matters is probably greater still. If his knowledge of agricultural matters had been as great, if he had ever been round in agricultural districts, or been present, as I have, at some agricultural meetings, he would have found that a comparatively small overloading of the market, a comparatively small unexpected addition from outside, tends to upset a great many marketing arrangements which may have been previously made. Once you begin to overload a market, it is extremely difficult to have 2234 a proper marketing scheme carried through. That applies to agricultural commodities, and I think the hon. Member, with a little more thought, would realise that. Had it been a question of a comparatively small consignment of coal coming into the country, I do not think he would have required chapter and verse with the same sort of meticulous precision that he did of the Minister of Agriculture. It is clear that no precise quotation from this or that authority is needed to show the effect that can be produced by overloading the market with an undue amount of commodities from outside.
The hon. Gentleman had great sympathy for the collier who was poor, who could not afford to buy British beef and had to be content with frozen beef. There again I am sure there are none of us who would not wish that everyone could afford to buy British beef. I should be only too glad if it were possible. When, however, we have criticisms in detail of this, that and the other policy of the Government, I wish sometimes we could also look upon it as a whole together with the other parts of the policy of the Government which are also involved. It is true that a great many colliers and a very large number of other people have to buy frozen meat from the Dominions to which he has alluded. At the same time, it is equally true that unless we had had certain arrangements with the Dominions, which were made as another part of the policy of His Majesty's Government, we should have found those colliers in many cases, together with a number of other industrialists, probably without the work and wages to buy even as much meat as they can buy under present conditions. On that point of view I am perhaps unduly insistent, having recently heard the other side of the story from Canada. They have been impressing upon me what they have been trying to do, or are willing to do, in return for some preferences which have been awarded to them. I can really assure the hon. Member that if we do these things in order to help our fellow-citizens in the Dominions, they have a very lively sense of what they have been endeavouring to do for the population in the old country in return.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
I desire to deal only with one point in the Order to which attention was drawn by the hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. White). I regret that the hon. Member is not in his place, and the enthusiasm of Members of his party for agriculture is so well known that they must have been restricted by some quota of my right hon. Friend the Minister. I observe that now the "quota has arrived. The point which I desire to bring before the House is one which I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for East Birkenhead make. He made a complaint that my right hon. Friend the Minister intended, in dealing with these Orders by licence for the importation of cattle from the Irish Free State, to give a preference to store cattle, and more drastically to restrict the amount of fat cattle. Surely that must be ill-founded. Is it not reasonable that we should take into consideration cattle which, after all, are the raw material for our own farmers, and exclude fat cattle, which are the finished article and of no use whatever to the agriculturists in this country. One of the reasons why the act of the Government should be applauded in this matter is that they are definitely allowing imports by licence and giving preference to store cattle over fat cattle.
Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN
Is it not a fact that the hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. White) merely pointed out that the Minister had joined the two figures together in presenting his case? He did not grumble about the proportions between fat and store cattle. His point was that the Minister had brought both the figures for store cattle and for fat cattle to prove his case for fat cattle.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
The hon. Member complained of the lack of all cattle landed at Merseyside. Is that not so? That was his point. If they come as fat cattle, they have to be landed just as much as if they were store cattle. I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend has been of much assistance in explaining the argument of the Member for Birkenhead East. I should like to draw attention to paragraph (1) of the Order. It is most important. That paragraph provides that 2236It shall not be lawful to import into the United Kingdom from the Irish Free State any beef or veal or edible beef or veal offals.That is a most commendable Order. This definite prohibition of beef or veal or edible beef or veal offals will mean that whatever may be imported from Ireland will be live cattle, which we can handle and which we hope in the future we shall be able to turn into profit. The fattening of cattle in this country has for some time past been a disastrous and money-losing proposition, but we recognise that the Government have taken very drastic steps to try and improve the position, without success altogether, as is admitted on all hands.
The Minister was well justified in his speech to-night when he drew attention to what would have been the situation had it not been for drastic action which the Government took. As regards the prohibition of beef, veal and veal offals from the Free State there is a very big problem involved, one that goes far beyond merely bringing assistance to one branch of the agricultural industry. It is of much wider application, and I hope that the Government are going to apply it in a far greater degree to other industries, namely, that we ought to stop the finished manufactured article from entering this country and that we ought to do everything possible to encourage the importation of raw material. If we can get that principle firmly established in relation to agricultural products as well as the products of other industries we shall be doing a great deal to revive the fortunes of our country, whether agricultural or industrial. We have to remember that when a finished article in the form of a fat beast comes into this country it is not in any sense an available raw material for the farmer, although it is raw material for the butcher and the fact that it is slaughtered on this side does give a certain amount of employment. How much better it would be that we should have two strings to our bow and that animals should come into this country on the hoof rather than as carcases, thereby providing raw material both for the agricultural industry, that is, for the farmer, and when he has finished with it he can turn it over as another raw material to the butcher.
I desire, in conclusion, to commend the Government and the Minister of Agricul- 2237 ture for taking what I think are very sensible and practical, even if somewhat drastic steps, to try and regulate the amount of meat that comes into this country. I cannot but believe that when times become more normal we shall find that the steps that have been taken, and which might require even yet to be reinforced, will in the end have had practical results for the benefit of the great industry of cattle raising and cattle feeding in this country.
§ 10.45 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN
I am not going to repeat the arguments put forward by my co-Member, the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), as I should be out of order, but I would like to endorse them and further to make a suggestion to the Minister. The trade in Birkenhead has been upset and that is admitted. What we ask is that the minimum amount of upset should be caused to the trade. We would ask the right hon. Gentleman to investigate the complaints made with regard to them. The trade in Birkenhead has been the butchering and dressing of cattle from Ireland. They have all come in to the lairages at the port. There are also abattoirs situated some distance away and entirely separate from the lair-ages. We cannot kill home-grown meat there owing to the risk of infection and for other reasons which have been thoroughly investigated. But there is no reason why the home-grown cattle should not be killed at the abattoirs and the labour displaced in the lairages transferred to the abattoirs. The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is the business of the traders in Birkenhead. It would be so in the normal way, and, given time, no doubt they would be able to build up the business. In one fell swoop however the right hon. Gentleman has destroyed the business of the lair-ages and thrown a great many men out of work. That being the case, is it not possible for my right hon. Friend who has quite rightly as has been showed, destroyed a certain amount of business in Birkenhead, to help build up by diverting some of the home-grown cattle to the abattoirs so that men will not be out of work to the same extent. I am certain that agricultural Members will join with me in agreeing that such is only fair and would cause the least damage to our trade. I do not think my 2238 hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead has exaggerated the case. He put the case very fairly, and not as the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) suggested, with exaggeration. The hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) suggested tariffs instead of quotas. I suggest he should investigate the past history of the duties on Irish cattle, and he will find that, although high tariffs have been put on, they have not succeeded in the object desired.
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
Is it not a fact that the failure of the tariffs to deal with the importation of fat stock from Ireland was due to the Irish Government having the land annuity money which was used to subsidise the export of meat to this country.
Precisely, that is the reason why tariffs have failed, and that is why I would point out that it is no use having tariffs. I trust that the Minister will realise that considerable disorganisation has taken place and that he will do what he can to divert, if possible, some of the killing of the home-grown cattle to the abbattoirs in Birkenhead which are capable of dealing with it, and so replace some of the displaced labour.
§ 10.49 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel C. MacANDREW
I should like to bring up the question of licences. In the Order under Clause 3 and 4, it would appear that the Board of Trade have substantial powers to deal with the issuing of licences. I understand from a constituent who is a cattle salesman that these licences are now being distributed by the Irish Free State, and the result is that the exporters get the licences and the importers of this country are rather left in the air. This particular man writes to me that his average for the first three weeks of 1931, 1932 and 1933 of animals which he has been selling was over 350. This year that dropped in the first three weeks to 57; since he wrote that letter in January it has dropped substantially. He told me that it was the same with many other people in the same line of business as himself. It would be much fairer if people who have been in the habit of dealing in Irish cattle were given their licences by the Board of Trade and allowed to import their quota. It seems unfortunate that 2239 this man, for example, cannot supply his customers; he has now been reduced by some 84 per cent., by much more than his quota. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
§ will give this matter his attention, because I think it is a justifiable grievance.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 191; Noes, 38.2241
|Division No. 108.]||AYES.||[10.50 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lleut.-Colonel||Greene, William P. C.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Agnew, Lleut.-Com. P. G.||Harbord, Arthur||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Apsley, Lord||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Balniel, Lord||Haslam, Henry (Horncastie)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Remer, John R.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Hepworth, Joseph||Robinson, John Roland|
|Bilndell, James||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hornby, Frank||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Boulton, W. W.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jamieson, Douglas||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Jennings, Roland||Scone, Lord|
|Burnett, John George||Law, Sir Alfred||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Leckie, J. A.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Tasweli (Brmly)||Leech. Dr. J. W.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)||Llewellin, Major John J.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Lockwood. Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Coifox, Major William Philip||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Colman, N. C. D.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Conant, R. J. E.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Storey, Samuel|
|Cook, Thomas A.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Copeland, Ida||McKie, John Hamilton||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Cruddas, Lleut.-Colonel Bernard||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Milne, Charles||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Dickle. John P.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Train, John|
|Drewe, Cedric||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Tree, Ronald|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Moreing, Adrian C.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Morgan, Robert H.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Morrison, William Shepherd||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Munro, Patrick||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Elmiey, Viscount||Nation, Brigadler-General J. J. H.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Walisend)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||North, Edward T.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||O'Connor, Terence James||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Fisiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Palmer, Francis Noel||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Patrick, Colin M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Ganzonl. Sir John||Pearson, William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Penny, Sir George||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Womersley, Walter James|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Lord Erskine and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Graves, Marjorie||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Cape, Thomas||Davles, David L. (Pontypridd)|
|Batey, Joseph||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Cove, William G.||Dobbie, William|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Edwards, Charles|
|Buchanan, George||Dagger, George||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lawson, John James||Price, Gabriel|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Leonard, William||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||White, Henry Graham|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Maxton, James|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Milner, Major James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Paling, Wilfred||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Tinker.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Parkinson, John Allen|
Question put, and agreed to.
That the Cattle (Import Regulation) Order, 1933, dated the twentieth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, made by the Board of Trade under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, a copy of which was presented to this House on the twenty-ninth day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.