Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,174,134, be granted to His 'Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants and grants-in-aid in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and fishery research; and grants, grants-in-aid, loans, and expenses in respect of improvement of breeding, etc., of livestock, land settlement, cultivation, improvement, drainage, etc., regulation of agricultural wages, agricultural credits, co-operation, and marketing, fishery development; and sundry other services."—[NOTE £1,060,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
Hon. Members will agree that it is desirable that a review of the whole agricultural position should be made from time to time, and the chief opportunity for it is naturally found in the presentation of the year's Estimates. The Estimates for the current financial year are for a net sum of £2,234,134, and this expenditure may be divided, as I divided it last year, into the four main headings of land settlement and land drainage, agricultural education and research, the prevention of disease, and what may be termed general administrative expenditure. The figures for land settlement and land drainage come to £920,000, for education and research to £612,000, for the prevention of disease to £180,000, and for what one may call the general administrative services to some 906.000. During the Debate many hon. Members will no doubt wish to raise matters directly connected with one or other of those headings, and, if the Committee desire it, I shall do my best, at the conclusion of the Debate, to give such 32 information as is in my power. But Estimates deal with the future, and the future must be judged in the light of our performances in the past. Expenditure is, of course, governed by past Votes of this House as well as the present, and the results are properly reviewed to-day. I do not wish for a moment to suggest that we should neglect the four main heads which I have laid before the House, and in normal times I should have been only too pleased to give the Committee some review of the great activities of the Department under those heads, particularly with regard to the prevention of disease. We are expanding our staff to deal with what is recognised as an urgent necessity, namely, the saving of the great losses which fall upon the livestock industry of this country owing to preventable disease. The times are more critical than can possibly permit a review of these activities in detail. The industry of agriculture is attracting the closest attention not merely from producers but from all the nation, and it is necessary to give some more general review to-day, a review rather of the industry than of the activities of the Department, great and important though those activities are.
The decision of the House, and still more the spirit of the House, last year and this year, may be summed up simply in one sentence: agriculture is no longer a minor issue in Britain. It must be taken seriously as one of the greatest questions of the day both for its economic importance and for its place in the national life. The House and the country are willing, as they have shown, to make the greatest efforts to preserve and extend the activities of our countryside, and the greatest consideration has been extended by them to the Department and myself. What then is our account of our stewardship?
Is there a critical situation in agriculture? On that the report on agricultural output in England and Wales for 1930–31, which was recently published by the Ministry, gives some interesting information. During that period there has been a catastrophic decline in values. There has been a decline in the value of fixed capital and tenants' capital, and an increase in output and a decline in the value of output; coinciding with that, there has been a more or less well-maintained wage level. This wage-level could not have 33 gone on, if that fall in prices had continued, or unless it was not merely arrested but reversed.
From 1925 to 1930–31 the price of wheat fell by 49 per cent., the price of oats by 35 per cent. and the price of barley. by 21 per cent. The production of each of those crops declined considerably. There has, however, been an increase of production in other fields in spite of the shrinkage of values and of return to the producer. This increase has been due to some extent to greater efficiency.
For instance the capital represented by the dairy cow yielded during that period a greater amount of milk by 57 gallons per cow per annum by reason of increased efficiency. That is a 12 per cent. increase in efficiency. The output of eggs increased largely due to the rapid expansion of poultry on agricultural holdings. It was also, however, due to an increase in the average yield of eggs per hen by 20 per cent. When one thinks that, after thousands of years during which the ingenuity of man has been directed to dairy cattle and poultry, in the last five years the efficiency of those two staple producers has gone up in this country by 12 per cent. in the case of the dairy cow and 20 per cent. in the case of the laying hen, one realises what marvels organisation and research are still able to produce and one realises also some of the problems which press upon the shoulders of the Minister of Agriculture in this and other countries. The net result of those increases and decreases in production is an average increase in volume of about 4 per cent. So much for the producers' end. What did he receive in return for all that?
The value of the output of the land, which was £233,500,000 in 1925 was worth £202,500,000 in 1931. It had fallen by 13 per cent. or by over £30,000,000. That is what we got for the greater efficiency and the improvements in output. The capital engaged fell, in the case of tenants' capital, from £365,000,000 to £280,000,000, a fall of £85,000,000 in the value of the property of the tenant farmers in this country. The capital value of the land fell even more heavily. The value of agricultural land must be taken as equal to the value of the equipment. There is practically no figure for mere land as such. The value of the tenants standing equipment fell from £815,000,000 to £645,000,000. The totals during the whole 34 period show that agricultural values fell by £1,000,000 every ten days for over 250 weeks. That capital-value decline was carried, and did not work through to create a decline in the return for those engaged in the industry, but it is a very striking and fundamental fact that the decline in the returns to those employed in the industry could not have been long delayed.
I want to speak of the general position of the staple commodities of agriculture. I can speak with a little more freedom to the Committee, because I am not making any statement about beef. That leaves me more time to devote to other subjects. I will begin with a short review of our principle commodities, and more particularly with cereals. I will take the cereal market first. The decline in cereals made it look for a time as if the cereal producing areas would be driven out of business. We know, and so does every practical man engaged in agriculture, that cereal production is not one of the greatest branches of British agriculture. It represents a relatively small amount, both in employment and in the returns which reach the producer. But the plough is an essential part of farming in this country. You cannot allow the plough to go out of business unless you are going to revolutionise entirely the agriculture of this country. "Speed the plough" is not merely a slogan but part of the organised farming practice of this country. When we say that we have kept wheat going by a Wheat Act and kept sugar going by a Sugar Beet Act, we are not saying that they are merely contributions to the wheat and sugar beet growers. Unless the industry is maintained as a whole, it may be impossible to maintain efficiency in any one of its branches.
When we passed the Wheat Act in May, 1932, the average price received for English wheat was Cs. Id. per cwt. That was the average price received from the market. The average price of English wheat to-day, in May, 1934, if it were judged only by what is received from the market, would be 4s. 8d. per cwt. At these values great acreages of wheat would have had to go out of production altogether, or they would have had to be rationalised and mechanised up to a point which might indeed have allowed prairie farming to continue in this country at an enormously reduced expenditure on 35 labour and at an enormously increased expenditure of capital, but would have stamped out the kindly English countryside as we have known it for many centuries. Under the Wheat Act, the wheat acreage in Great Britain has gone up from 1,247,000 acres in 1931 to 1,340,000 acres in 1932, and 1,740,000 acres in 1933. These are not negligible results, and, although we may say that the acreages of barley and oats have declined, those acreages would not have increased if the wheat acreage had declined also; there would have been just that much less done on the land.
If it be said that, in an era of wheat gluts, we should not cultivate wheat in this country, we can still show yields per acre equal to and surpassing the yields of any other of the great wheat-growing countries, and we can still show that wheat of the quality which we desire for the use of our own people can be produced on our land. The acreages of wheat in this country are not such as to make a heavy invasion into the wheat markets of the world. We produce, it is true, a modest amount of our own grain, but we still purchase vast quantities of wheat from overseas. We are still by far the greatest wheat absorbing market in the world, and we can reasonably state, when we are blamed by certain distinguished authorities for maintaining wheat land in this country, that even the citizens of countries where the prices of wheat have been driven to fantastic heights, and which, while singularly unfitted for the growing of wheat, are yet fostering their markets to the utmost, complain bitterly because Britain tries to maintain a percentage of what her traditional acreage has been.
In the case of barley I cannot report an increase of acreage. In 1931 the acreage was 1,110.000 acres, and in 1933, 813,000 acres. On the average, the price of barley during last season has certainly been higher than it has been for the last four years. I think that that is due directly to the fact that a higher proportion of malting barley is still produced and used in this country. A certain undertaking was given by the Brewers at the time of the Budget of 1933 and it is interesting to note that over 600,000 cwt. more home-grown barley was purchased or contracted for this year than last year. That is a very satisfactory feature of the 36 situation. The reduction in beer duty which the House voted has in fact been passed on to one of the objects for which the House desired it, namely, a greater consumption of British barley, and in consequence a greater prosperity for the countryside.
As for oats, the difficulty in that case was dealt with, at the request of the National Farmers' Union, by the imposition of a tariff. The tariff imposed reached the full height requested by the National Farmers Union. It was a very high tariff indeed—a tariff of over 60 per cent. Prices have of course, responded. In December, 1933, before the tariff went on, the price was 5s. 3d. per cwt., while in June this year it was 6s. 3d. per cwt. But it is true to say the hopes of oat growers have not been fully fulfilled even by this very high tariff, and it is a fact that, in grappling with the modern agricultural situation, one must use any and every method which is necessary to deal with the situation, because those who Preach one panacea alone have no justification from the facts of the case, and the demand for one remedy alone as a panacea for all our ills is proved by the logic of the facts to have singularly failed in certain notable instances.
In dairying and livestock we have, of course, the working of the Milk Marketing Scheme, but that again it would be impossible for me to cover in the time at my disposal, although, if there are any questions which the Committee desire to ask and to which I can properly give answers, I shall be very pleased to answer them. Let us, however, always keep in mind the fact that this is an attempt at self-government in industry; it is not an attempt to centralise all the organisation of this great industry in Whitehall, so that all the orders go out from Whitehall and all the grouses and complaints come through to Whitehall. Self-government carries with it its responsibilities as well as its privileges, and the opportunities for raising and ventilating these grievances are at the annual general meetings of the Milk Boards themselves and at the election of representatives to the Milk Boards themselves. Self-government in industry does not mean the addition of a fifth wheel to the departmental coach; it means the industry assuming responsibilities and itself attempting to grapple with the problems which the producers and distributors themselves ought 37 to understand far better than either the House of Commons or anyone in a Government Department can.
The Government, however, have a responsibility in these connections. They have, of course, the responsibility of administering the Marketing Acts, a responsibility which, I am glad to say, they share with all parties in the House, for, by a singularly happy piece of fortune, the Act itself under which this and other schemes are set up was passed through the House by my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite, and was loyally supported throughout the whole of its passage by my hon. and right hon. Friends below the Gangway. Therefore, we are all at one in seeing that this administrative machine, which all parties set up, works with satisfaction to the general public whose servants we in the House are. The Government, however, have a deep interest in seeing that the results of organisation in the industry are not destroyed by the wash of the tides of the world's markets eating away whole sections of the structure which has so recently been completed, and, therefore, in the milk industry, as far as imports are concerned, we have taken steps, to which I can only refer on this occasion, but which are before the consideration of Parliament in another place, in the Milk Bill. We have underpinned the structure at the lowest level of price, the level of manufacturing milk. That, as the Committee know, is not a subsidy to manufacturing milk, but is a payment which inures to the benefit of all the milk producers, and, therefore, to the benefit of all the milk consumers. It actually means a lower price for milk to all the consumers of milk, and not a lower price for milk merely to the great firms which process or manufacture milk. We have, as I have said, worked hard upon this problem, and the House has treated us with great consideration, because there were many points on which we could not give detailed answers; but I am happy to say that we are proceeding with all the steps necessary for dealing with the situation, in the anticipation that the other House, which has now received the Bill from here, will pass the Measure, and that it will find its place on the Statute Book before we rise for the Summer. If so, many of the great reforms which it enshrines will be brought into action before the House returns after the 38 Summer Recess. I hope, in particular, that the milk in schools which is one of the main features of this policy will be a part of the working machinery of the country before Members of Parliament return from their constituencies again.
I am also asked why we should not do more with regard to imports, more particularly of manufactured processed milks. It is worth while for the Committee to observe that we are doing more there than is generally understood. I spoke at Question Time to-day of reductions in the imports of processed milks which have been arranged for the coming quarter. These are not reductions simply for the purpose, as hon. Members opposite so frequently complain, of creating a scarcity, but they are reductions of imports as against products which are being manufactured here at home. Take the imports, say, of condensed skimmed milk. Comparing the first five months of this year with those of last year, the imports of condensed skimmed milk have been reduced by 260,000 cwt. Hon. Members opposite say, on the one hand, "What a shame that people should not get their condensed skimmed milk," and some of my hon. Friends on this side, in an outburst of enthusiasm, would say, "Why should people be allowed to have any of this wretched stuff?"
Condensed skimmed milk is a food product of great value. It is unfit for babies as beefsteak is unfit for babies, but it is not unfit for the food of ourselves any more than beefsteak is. The fact that we are now manufacturing condensed skimmed milk at home is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a thing that is well worth while holding up our heads about. We have cut out 260,000 cwts. of foreign condensed skimmed milk. We have replaced that by over 300,000 cwts. of the very same product made at home. That is a change over which is clearly for the benefit of all the milk producers in the country because, quite apart from the fact that the surplus milk is made use of, it must be to the relief of all consumers of liquid milk as well otherwise it would be extremely difficult to absorb the surplus milk through the usual channels. Here is another interesting fact. When this country gets a fair chance it is as good at manufacture as any country in the world, and our exports of condensed whole milk have gone up this year double what they were in the same period of 39 1933. It is clear that the milk scheme even as regards processed milk is showing results of great value and results which, I believe, will be of permanent advantage not only to the industry but to manufacture also, for a tin of milk made here employs tinplate and coal just as a tin of milk made abroad does, and it is useless to say that we are injuring the trade of this country when we have made a tin of milk or that we are benefiting trade when we tip a churn of milk in Wiltshire down the drain and bring the equivalent in tins across the North Sea in a ship. It is clearly one of the absurdities of modern commerce to suggest that in one case an advantage is being caused to the nation and in the other a disadvantage. Prices during that time have been reduced as well. Condensed whole milk has gone down a halfpenny to a penny per tin retail, so that we have been able to use more milk, we have been able to send more abroad, and we have been able to reduce the price of this article to our own consumers. Surely that goes far to prove that substantial advantages to all branches of industry are being derived from the operation of the scheme.
I have spoken first of the dairying industry because it has gone much the farthest towards organisation, and in virtue of that organisation co-operation with the organised producer has gone much further in the case of the Government. But there are the other branches of livestock, sheep, pigs, cattle. As for sheep, there was a continuous fall in price from the spring of 1930 to the autumn of 1932. There was a rise in the following spring, there was a seasonal fall to the autumn of 1933 and since that time there has been a continuous rise almost up to date. In June, 1933, the index number for fat sheep was 114. In June, 1934, it was 138. That was secured without any imposition upon the consuming masses of the public of an undue rise in retail prices. That great advantage to our producers has been secured within the industry, and I think it is fair to say that that great advantage to our producers is a striking example of the successful working of the quota. By quantitative regulation the sheep and lamb imports have been regulated closely in accordance with plans laid down before- 40 hand and adhered to and by that regulation we have been able to get these substantial advantages for sheep farming.
As to pigs, the House has had many opportunities of discussing the matter and will not expect me to go into it at length. In baconers, porkers and store pigs there has been a marked advance. The index price of baconers was, in 1933, 97, and in 1934, 110. The price of porkers which in 1933 was 96, in 1934 was 113. The price of store pigs which in 1933 was 106, in 1934 was 135. These are combined with a considerable increase in the utilisation of pigs, and that attempt on the part of the industry to organise itself is second only to the effort made by the dairy industry and in some respects is not second even to that. Hon. Members opposite complain that the rise to the consumer is inordinate and has deprived him of the opportunity of cheaper bacon. I should be happy to debate that with them. We are now easily conversant with the stock facts and arguments. I can hurl across at them the fact that the prices of bacon are much lower than when they were in office, and they can hurl back at me the statement that if they had still been in office the price of bacon would have been very much lower still. But as I say I do not wish to enter into a statistical debate. I merely recall the fact that in this big section of British production there has been a considerable expansion and the price levels are much more remunerative than before the scheme started. With all that consumption has kept pace. None of that bacon is being thrown away or rejected as uneatable. It is being consumed and both in quantity and in price British bacon compares very favourably with what it was only a few years ago, though not with the extraordinary levels that prevailed when the worst efforts of the world slump had hit the British bacon market.
We have to turn to another section of the industry in which no such satisfactory report can be made—that is the fat cattle industry. In beef fat cattle prices fell heavily in 1931. Then there was a slump in the Autumn of 1932. Prices fell still lower in 1933. The prices now are about the same as they were in 1933. Store cattle prices have fallen almost continuously since the middle of 1931. The fat 41 cattle index price for June, 1933, was 95; and in June, 1934, it was 94. For store cattle, the index figure in June, 1933, was 94; and in June, 1934, it was 87. We are not going to leave the position there. We are engaged in active negotiations just now to deal with that position. That is as far as I could with propriety go and I am sure the Committee will not press me to go any further. We know that a statement has to be made before the House rises this summer. We are at present in active negotiations, and I would ask the Committee to allow us to carry on those negotiations.
There are other branches of the agricultural industry where very hopeful improvement can be recorded. The fruit and vegetable industry has prospered very well. The area of orchard fruit in England and Wales increased from 244,800 acres in 1931, to 249,600 acres in 1933, and it is only fair to say that the majority of those increases were secured by title use of the tariff; for while I say that the tariff does not solve all our agricultural problems, there is no doubt that in some of our problems it has been very advantageous. There have been increases in nearly all the vegetable crops in 1933 over 1931. The increase in potatoes was 2.9 per cent., carrots 3 per cent., onions 2.0 per cent; green peas 5.2 per cent., brussels sprouts 8.6 per cent., while—and I am sure this figure will be of the utmost interest to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council—cauliflowers and broccoli have gone up by 17 per cent.
The difficulty, however, is not met by simple figures of increase. The increase in potato productivity has not met with a remunerative price level. We are dealing here with a commodity which should be practically self-supporting, and heavy limitations both by tariff and quota upon overseas importation have not brought relief to the grower in this country. Therefore, the grower himself has undertaken a most extensive scheme of organisation. The Potato Board which came into existence following the resolution of the growers, is still in its initial stages, but the potato scheme has to deal with a more difficult problem than almost any other, that is to say, a commodity in which we are nearly self-supporting, and where any regulation must be internal of the growers and by the growers. The market has been practically secured for 42 the British grower, and I was interested to note an article in a new agricultural weekly by one of the heads of the Potato Board in which he warned the growers against getting what he called an "import complex."
It is true that imports of potatoes do appear to the grower, who cannot find a market for his wares, to be an altogether unreasonable and unnatural phenomenon, but yet they represent a minimum proportion of the consumption in this market. Ninety-seven per cent. of the British market in potatoes is reserved for the British producers. Many of us would feel easier about the case of other agricultural products if we could have a figure approaching that. With a figure of 97 per cent., it is clear that the margin for an increased market by additional restrictions is small, but, even so, we have arranged for substantial limitations. It is unnecessary to go over this again. I would only say that imports have fallen from 832,600 tons in 1931, to 196,400 tons in 1933, and, as I say, the further point is one of internal organisation, because there, again, it is not true to say that merely lowering the price will cause an increased consumption which will absorb all the increase in production. The enormous falls in the price of potatoes to the producers have brought no such extension in consumption, and it is clear that for some commodities, under the same conditions, it is possible to produce in this country as much as, and more than, the market can reasonably absorb.
The same problem faces to some extent another important branch of producers in this country—the egg producers. Before the War, the number of eggs produced in England and Wales was under 1,000,000,000 per annum. In the period 1925–26 it was 1,500,000,000 per annum and in 1932–33 it was 3,000,000,000 per annum. The total import of eggs in shell in 1938 was less than it was in 1924. The figures have been stabilised at the lowest egg import figures for 10 years. At Question Time I gave some details as to how that was working out. The under-shipments in the earlier portion of the restriction period have been slightly counterbalanced by heavier shipments in the latter portion of the restriction period. But the broad fact remains that egg imports into this country will be at the lowest figure for 10 years during the currency of the standstill arrange- 43 ments. These arrangements cover further negotiations in September and we have to discuss them with our suppliers. We shall discuss them then, I hope, with a greater knowledge of the long-term policy which is being worked out by the Reorganisation Commission under Dr. Addison, a. former Member of this House and a Minister of Agriculture to whom any Minister of Agriculture must pay a tribute when speaking at this Box. The work of the Reorganisation Commission has been long delayed by the nature of the problem, and not by any lack of industry on the part of the members of the Commission. It contains distinguished specialists in several branches of activity. It contains Mr. Simon Marks, whose departmental stores throughout our country are well known. It also contains, as my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will be pleased to know, a woman. It has also on it a distinguished ex-Conservative Member, Mr. Blundell, whom all in the House respect, and whose absence from this House we hope will not be for long.
To deal with the problem of egg production in this country has not unreasonably taken many months of the time of the commission. The problem of the innumerable small producers of eggs and poultry must be handled most carefully. We must he sure that we do no injustice to the small men here, because nothing could be more disastrous than to mechanicalise, rationalise and factoryise the production of eggs until in a few years we had nothing but troglodyte hens on wire netting, never touching the ground, never seeing the sun, but producing and over producing until the whole land is covered with egg shells crackling under our feet. The egg difficulty is a very real difficulty, and it may be most reasonably summed up in this way: There are in Lancashire more hens than people, and in Lancashire the producers most vehemently demand that the import of foreign eggs, and particularly Chinese liquid eggs, should be instantly prohibited. At the same time, the Lancashire producers most vehemently demand that the export of textiles to China should be considerably increased, and that the Chinaman should buy from us and pay for all the increased production. That is 44 one example of many of the problems which affect us to-day. It may be they will not be solved by the blunt application of logical principles, but will be solved by the working out of a practical remedy which may very easily defy logic altogether. We have found many such solutions in this country and we shall find many more.
Another example of the inroads of action against logic may be found in the working of the fishing industry. It will be remembered that we passed about this time last year a Sea Fisheries Bill—the first Bill to deal with the fishing industry for over 40 years. That Measure arranged for a limitation of landings, not merely of foreign countries but of our own, and we said that we hoped it would be accompanied by greater prosperity in the fishing industry, and that trawlers would again be built. Thereupon our logical friends below the Gangway opposite overwhelmed us with abuse and derision, saying, "How can you expect people to build a great many more shins to catch a much smaller quantity of fish?" Indeed, for a long time I could oppose nothing but obstinacy to the eloquent arguments they brought against me, but now I can oppose the logic of facts. The industry has gained through the limitation of landings; and the building has begun and trawler after trawler has been launched. I was in Hull a few days ago and found the industry humming with activity, extending itself in every way, organising co-operatively in a manner which was a delight to those who have read this lesson to our primary producers. A healthy spirit of competition is going on among the trawler owners. They said to me, "If so and so can build a new trawler I shall not be beaten by this chap. I will build a better trawler with finer lines which will go faster and fish better," and we see the process of healthy competition going on in the industry on the basis of a remunerative price level and not of adventitious credits or subsidies from this House.
The trawling industry was doing well. The herring industry was not doing well. The industry which supplied this country, the home market, was booming. The industry which supplied the foreign market was depressed. Is it not strange that so often we come back to the strange paradox that we get every 45 advance in our problem by the improvement of the home market in this country. It is very difficult to think of a way in which we can improve the condition of the herring industry. We make our trade agreements under which we must allow imports into this country, if we are. to export herring to other countries. We make our trade agreements with Russia for the purpose of exporting herring to that country, and the Russians continually say "We do not want your herring. What we want is machinery whereby we shall be able to make the goods we are now buying from you, and no longer trade with you." They are very intelligent, very logical and very simple. They say these things quite openly, and are we not to take notice of this? Surely we are. We make agreements with other foreign countries, and, in return for these herring, we are bound to have an increase in the import of other things which those countries can produce. All the time we find in many of those products an expanding market at home, whereas the goods we send out are more and more rapidly being replaced in countries to which we send them. Germany, to which we used to send large quantities of herring, is now building vessels to operate on the fishing ground, not on account of any action which this country has taken against German trade, but because it is a step towards production at home which is taking place at present in every country of the world and which I believe is not due to the folly of rulers or the machinations of central banks, as we are always being told nowadays of every evil of mankind. It is due to the greater amount of leisure which the machine age is bringing about, and certainly in every country it is inevitably the result of the greater mechanisation and the greater leisure which the nineteenth century has left as a heritage to us.
I have perhaps detained the Committee rather long (I hear a remark from the Lord President of the Council suggesting that I am only just starting. I am afraid that he comments more upon my habits than upon my facts). In conclusion I would say that on the general review we can at any rate see signs of return to prosperity. The index figure shows an improvement. The index position of 1933 of 107 has risen to a general price index for the first six months of 1934 of 46 111. There has been an improvement in nearly every branch, and also a psychological change which is so very important. I spoke earlier of the position as to wages. The wages in this country fell as a result of the long continued crash of prices to which I drew the attention of the Committee earlier. Wages also have begun to turn and to improve, not, I think, so much upon the results which have been achieved as upon the hope and belief in the countryside that the towns mean to work side by side with them and that the crash will not be allowed to continue. We had a fall in agricultural prices which meant that the farmer was getting some 25 per cent. less for his produce in June, 1931, than he was in June, 1926. During that, time there was no comparable drop in wages. Agricultural wages are still well above the levels to which they would statistically have dropped if they had been dependent either upon the cost of living figure or upon the index figure for agricultural produce. And rightly so. They were too low as every one knew, and one of the main reasons for the determination of the towns to help is, that they did not want agricultural wages to go down to pre-War level because they knew that agricultural wages at that level would drag down the wage level of every other industry in the kingdom. In the last 13 months we have had an improvement in the working conditions, either in respect of hours or wages, of 300,000 workers. If that had been in industry it would have been regarded as a very great thing for improved conditions to have taken place for 300,000 workers. I am sure that all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have congratulated us upon it. The improvement in agricultural wages is a fact which we should not neglect when they inveigh against the pig scheme, quotas, and administrative interference in pursuit of their gospel of individual enterprise and profit, so long one of their glories in this House. They should remember that as a result of these, or at any rate in coincidence with these, we have secured an improvement in the working conditions of a number of workers more numerous than the number engaged in the woollen and worsted industry itself. That is a thing for which I am sure that all sections of the Committee will wish to congratulate those 47 who were responsible—the producers and the agricultural committees and others.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us how many workers suffered losses between 1931 and 1933, and exactly how many workers in agricultural have secured benefit since 1933?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I should say that the decline in wages affected almost the whole range of the industry, almost all the 700,000 or 800,000 persons who were employed. I should say that we have been able to improve these in this very large number of cases. Of course an industry—this is a fact which I hammered home during the earlier stages of my remarks—which has suffered losses of £85,000,000 in capital and £30,000,000 in income cannot continue to return the same amount to any of those in the industry, and the fact that we have already secured an improvement in the condition is, I submit, evidence rather of faith than of actual results. I do not claim that we have substantially improved the condition of the whole of agriculture to the extent to which any of us would desire. There is no justification for any foolish optimism. I would say only that the tide has turned. We have to take advantage of the turn of the tide, and we must not allow ourselves to be deflected by any temporary phenomenon. We have in this country the great enterprise of cultivating the soil. It is an enterprise which will become more, and not less, important as the time goes on. We have made a hopeful start. I do not say that we have made more than a start. We have made a start with organisation, with the improvement of price levels, and with the improved remuneration of the workers. These are the beginnings and not the end of an agricultural policy, and I ask all sections of the Committee to support the present Government, or indeed any Government which may come, in the consistent effort to improve and strengthen the condition of what is still the greatest industry in our land.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The right hon. Gentleman apologised for having detained the Committee for so long. but I do not think that he needs to apologise to lion. Members either on this side or that side of the House. I 48 think that if the right hon. Gentleman had been allowed to go his usual length he would have solved all the problems of agriculture this afternoon. I am pleased to say that he ended up optimistically after the pessimism of the earlier part of his speech. In spite of the optimism of the Minister and the pleasure which has been given to hon. Members who sit behind him, I regret that it has been necessary to move to reduce the Vote by £100. It is not because it is usual to do this from this side of the Committee, but in order to mark our disapproval of the general policy, which the Minister avoided except in a passing reference. I make no complaint, because I think he occupied the time of the Committee to the fullest advantage in dealing with the enormous number of factors in the problem of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman said—and I think we all agree —that the times are difficult, and he therefore excused himself from making a detailed review of administration because he wanted to give a. more general review. Agriculture is no longer a minor issue in great Britain. Our difference with the Government is mainly on the ground that, while we agree that agriculture is no longer a minor issue, we believe that the Government have taken only a partial view of the problem. Almost every speech made by the Minister in this House and outside, and the speeches made by Members of the Government everywhere, are confined mainly to the question of prices—the raising of prices, stabilisation of prices, guarantees and subsidies, and artificial arrangements of all kinds in order to maintain prices. We say that the question of prices is only a part of the problem of agriculture.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
We are not speaking of the mining industry this afternoon. I should be more at home if we were; the hon. Gentleman tempts me to depart from the subject of agriculture. There is a critical situation in agriculture in this country and all over the world. No one would deny that the whole world is suffering at the present time from the catastrophic fall in prices to which the Minister referred, and in which he said there was a fall of 40 per cent. in wheat and in other cereals of between 20 and 40 per cent. There has been an enormous decrease of which we are all aware. The 49 Minister rather gave cause for very serious reflection on the part of all agriculturists in this House and everybody interested in agriculture in the country when he said that one of the difficulties which accompanied the fall in prices was the increased efficiency of the cow—one of the silent partners in agriculture—and the increased efficiency of the ordinary barndoor hen. They have been working rather better than usual in recent years. The Minister said that the cow is a 12 per cent. better productive machine than it was before, and that the barndoor hen is a 20 per cent. better producer than previously.
One would imagine from hearing the Minister that this was a disadvantage and a handicap to the industry and a thing to be deplored. I should like agricultural Members to consider whether they share that view. If so, what becomes of the department to which the Minister referred—the Education and Research Department, which is a very important feature of the work of the Board of Agriculture? If we were not intent upon improving production, what have we been doing in recent years? If we now complain and feel embarrassed by this increased production, it is a great reflection indeed upon those producers and everybody responsible for agricultural production. One would imagine that increased efficiency makes things worse. That is the tenor of the remarks of the Minister and the trend of his argument. I can visualise the Minister or one of his numerous deputies making a tour of the farmyards of this country imploring the cows to go slow and not to yield so much milk, and urging the domestic hen to be ca' canny because she is laying too many eggs.
It is a problem of marketing. If we proceed on the lines of ignoring the question of efficiency or depreciating the value of efficiency we shall not solve the problem of agriculture. We must not imagine that by organising smaller supplies and retarding greater production, we can solve the question of prices. We shall be slowing down and curtailing production, when nations all over the world are working very hard along lines which we have not yet adopted with much more organisation for greater production, and we shall be left very far behind in the race for cheaper and greater production of all kinds. 50 I do not think that any temporary advantage we may derive from the organisation and raising of prices will help us in the long run. If the tendency of world production is for greater productive efficiency, then we must be in that march, too, otherwise we shall find ourselves left behind, and not merely as an agricultural community. The whole community in which the agriculturists play a part will be left behind if our agricultural and manufacturing productivity is not as great as that of other countries. It is no use confining ourselves solely to the question of prices and neglecting the constant duty of maintaining higher efficiency.
The Minister won almost tearful support from those behind him when he referred to the very great losses which have fallen upon agriculture. Our friends the agriculturists—I call them our friends in this House—must remember that they are not immune from the fall in capital values which has come to every industry. One admits the great fall in capital values in the agricultural industry, but it is nothing compared with the depreciation in the value of capital in the mining industry. The Minister also asked us to follow him into the examination that he made of a whole series of agricultural products, including cereals, milk, beef, and meat of all kinds. He said that cereals do not constitute one of the greatest branches of agriculture. I do not think that anyone would claim that any artificial method of increasing our cereal production will in the long run benefit this country. It is true that other countries, neighbours of ours, not very far away geographically, are growing more cereals at a very heavy cost, but I think it will be found that it will be a great disadvantage to them that they have maintained such a policy at such a heavy cost. I think we have reached the, limit, and have perhaps gone beyond the limit, of cereal growing in this country, but we are pre-eminently suited for other forms of agriculture. Everything is in our favour, and before we insist upon building artificial barriers, giving subsidies and protection in a variety of ways against people who have no natural advantages, we must examine the matter very closely.
When we come to the milk marketing scheme, the right hon. Gentleman did riot explain, and I think an explanation is 51 due to the House and the country, why it is that we cannot produce raw milk, liquid milk and manufactured milk cheaper than anybody else. I do not know why this country cannot produce liquid milk and condensed milk as cheap as any European country which, for the moment, appears to compete successfully with us. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had great expectations from the milk industry. I hope that his optimism will be justified, but for the moment the new machine which he has designed does not seem to be working too well. He described it as self-government in industry. That is a phrase that I never expected to hear from the other side of the House while the present Government were in office. Self-government in industry has been understood to be the policy for which we on this side of the House stand. It is a very important part of our programme. To hear from a Conservative Minister that an industry is to be allowed to set up a kind of syndicalist machine which is going to serve the purposes of that industry, with no interference from anybody else, is a new gospel.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was to be no centralisation in Whitehall. The thing that everybody detested was not to occur. He said there was to be government by the people for the people. The producers of milk were to govern their own affairs and to express their approval or disapproval in general terms when the end of the year came round and the general meeting took place. He said he believed that they would he solving their problems in that democratic way. He hopes that as time goes on the various boards and the schemes which he has outlined will be worked out in detail and that prosperity will soon come to the milk industry. He took credit for having cut off the imports of foreign condensed milk and said that at the same time we were building up a condensed milk industry at home. I do not think that we shall gain the maximum advantage by exchanging tins of condensed milk manufactured in this country for tins of condensed milk manufactured abroad. I would very much prefer that the utmost concentration should be upon the consumption of fresh milk. If that were organised it would be an immense advantage to our 52 people. I think very little of tinned goods, whether it is milk or any other commodity. In the milk industry I cannot understand why we cannot produce our fresh milk and distribute it in a fresh condition at the very lowest price. We ought to use every piece of local machinery and national machinery for the encouragement and development of the consumption of our own milk in a fresh state by those who need it. We are nowhere in sight of, and certainly we are a very long way from having, a surplus of liquid milk. There is more than an ample market waiting for our liquid milk. What is required is determination and effort on the part of the Government and the local authorities and a recognition of the value of milk by the people of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if we spoke of bacon he knew every article in our armoury, and he had an adequate defence. We do not wish to invent any new missiles to attack the Government. Everybody in the House knows quite well that the bacon scheme is not working either for the satisfaction of the producer or the consumer. We have complete restriction of bacon imports, and the net effect of those restrictions I shall refer to later when I give certain figures. The right hon. Gentleman wound up with a category of commodities, and made a special reference to fish. He said that the trawling industry was now supplying the home market and that that part of the fishing industry which supplies foreign markets was not as prosperous. He also said that better prices prevailed in the home market. I do not think that there has been an increase in the quantity of fish landed but better prices have prevailed. Conditions have arisen which we anticipated and of which we warned the House. We said that if there was prosperity in the trawling industry in any season it would be due to protection. We said that protection would benefit the trawling master, and we have evidence of that because the trawling master is building ships, which he was not able to build before. That is due to the form of subsidy which this House has provided. There is no doubt that that can be argued as a fact.
I will leave the point about Russian unwillingness to buy. There has been very grave difficulty. The Minister, quite properly, pointed out that there was a 53 desire on the part of all nations to maintain economic self-sufficiency. That is not a thing to congratulate ourselves about. It is not a thing that we should admit as an inexorable development of post-war events. I think it is a deplorable condition of things, and the final verdict upon that development will show that we suffer more than anybody else in the desire for economic self-sufficiency which now appears to be growing all over the world
§ Mr. GRENFELL
No. I think we can make machinery this year and for many years to come very much better than Russia can make it. We have specialised in the industry, but if we refuse to buy from other countries we shall not be able to sell. It is an inheritance we have in this country that we have specialised in manufacture. No country can produce better manufactured goods, but if we resort to a system of shutting out everything that comes from other countries we shall shut the door against our own manufactured goods from going out, and we shall throw our own people out of work. The Minister says that we have put 300,000 more people into work on the land. What will it benefit us if on the other hand we throw out twice that number from our manufacturing industries? It is the Government's policy that we wish to indict. We are not satisfied having heard the very complete statement of the Minister that their policy is the right one. For a long time their policy has been to raise prices. All the various boards are designed to regulate the supplies coming on to the market from home production and abroad.
We would put a few questions to the Minister and those behind him, who have displayed a wonderful credulity—I will not say gullibility—in regard to things becoming better and better, although they have no tangible results to show from the new policy from which they expect such great things. I should like to know at what point, what improvement in prices, hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies will be satisfied. What idea have they in their mind? There has been no great advantage yet. I have heard many questions and complaints in the House during the last week 54 or two with regard to the condition of the agricultural industry. One would assume that the industry is in a worse condition than it has ever been. Of course, we have always known that the farmers perpetually complain of their condition, but when one hears men who are not, farmers but who represent agricultural constituencies complaining of the great fall in the prices of beef and other things, one is led to the conclusion that no tangible benefit has yet been derived from the Government's policy.
At what point do those who wish to raise prices want to stop? What level of prices will satisfy them? Is there to be a standard of prices? If so, who is to judge what standard of prices will be satisfactory? We have heard about milk prices. The.right hon. Gentleman said that the general consumer is going to have his milk supplied at a lower price by the operations of the milk boards. But what advantage can farmers get unless there is an increase in prices? There is nothing in the character of the Milk Board which is going to cut down the cost of distribution. The country is to be divided into 12 areas, one to cover Scotland and 11 to cover England and Wales, and in these areas there are to be regional prices, to be negotiated and fixed for a short time ahead; but I do not know that there is to be any increase on the prices which prevailed a year or two ago. It is even argued that prices May be lower under regional boards, and in that case I cannot see any advantage to the farmers. If there are to be no higher prices and no economy in the cost of distribution, where can any advantage to the farmers come from?
I find in the report for England and Wales that 45,000,000 gallons of milk were sold during the month of May for distribution purposes and 29,000,000 gallons for manufacturing purposes. The regional price was 1s. per gallon, plus one-eighth of a penny for advertising expenses; and the price for manufacturing milk was 5.47 of a penny. In order to pay the price for manufacturing milk, which is based on a formula which I have found rather difficult to explain but which determines the price to be paid for manufacturing milk, can only be made up by the operation of a pool, a regional levy is made on all milk supplied by 55 farmers. That levy varies from l⅝d. to 2⅝d. and I have heard complaints from every part of the country, from my own part, from the Midlands and from the Eastern Counties, as to the very heavy burden of this levy, and what appears to the farmers its very unfair incidence. I know people who sell and deliver milk to the same people they did five and 10 years ago, there has been no change, they have maintained regular contact with the people who have been buying their milk. To-day they get the same price, but there is no advantage to them because of this levy of 2d. or 2½d. which is made in respect of milk for manufacture, which they never see.
I know cases where men supply 30 to 35 gallons of milk a day. The levy on them is as much as £10 and £11 per month; deducted from the normal price they obtain for their milk. I have heard it said that the operations of the Milk Board have prevented the employment of labour, and one man told me that he could employ a man and a boy every week but for the deductions which the Milk Board makes through the levy in his regular contract. There is a good deal of complaint throughout the country and something mere than the normal operation of the board must be done. The number of distributors is almost equal to the number of contractors for milk, there are between 50,000 and 60,000 contractors and the same number of distributors. There is this astonishing fact, for which there is no remedy, that half the price of retail milk is taken by the distributors. The producer has to maintain his farm, keep his cows and run the risk of death among his stock and failure of his crops, while the distributor, who runs a safe business which he can measure from day to day, gets just as much as the producer out of the retail price; which is a fair price if it were allocated to the right quarter. We do not see any reason for this condition of affairs and we shall await an announcement that somehow or other the Government will overcome this great handicap of the farmer and a great deterrent to the production and consumption of larger quantities of milk.
The right hon. Gentleman invited us to look at bacon, and he admitted that things were not going as well as they should. He is not pleased with the re- 56 sult. I have taken out some figures on this subject. In 1932 we imported 11.39 million cwts. of bacon into this country and paid on the average 53s. per cwt. In 1933 we imported 9,000,000 cwts. and paid 65s. 6d. per cwt. The net effect of this is that we paid almost exactly the same amount in 1933 as we did in 1932 but for a quantity of bacon reduced by 25 per cent. in volume. We lost one rasher out of four, but still paid the same price to the foreigner as in 1932. The same amount of money went overseas to the foreign producer for a less quantity imported. That really is a remarkable comment on the scheme as operated up to date, and there is little encouragement in it for those who wish to see a reorganisation of agriculture, not with the intention of being self-sufficient or doing away with our imports of food, because nobody believes that would be a good thing for this country, but with the object of maintaining decent marketing conditions and building up a decent organisation for the producers of agricultural products in this country.
I know that whatever is done by the Minister or this House will have to be subject to agreements already made, for example, the Ottawa Agreements, about which the right hon. Gentleman has complained from time to time and the Import Duties Act. We do not know how far Parliament will be able to amend these, but figures show how serious is the competition from our Dominions and we must not shut our eyes to this fact. While we would like to be self-sufficient to the extent of not being unduly dependent on foreign countries for our food supplies we must remember that we are under natural obligations to our Dominions which we cannot ignore. The right hon. Gentleman gave an answer last week in reply to a question regarding the prices of butter. Argentine sends us butter at prices ranging from 83s. 6d. for the best to 76s. 6d. for the lower quality. Australia comes next in order of cheapness, she sends us butter at 87s. for the best, and 82s. 6d. for the cheapest. New Zealand best butter comes in at 87s. 6d. and the lowest quality at 83s. 6d. The best quality of Danish butter comes in at 108s. 6d. and inferior quality at 103s. 6d. British dairy butter is sold at 137s. 6d. for the best and 119s. for the lowest quality.
There is an enormous disparity in prices, but what struck me most was 57 that the figures of 1928 do not show the same disparity. The prices of Dominion butter have fallen by 50 per cent; New Zealand and Australian butter merchants and producers have lowered their prices by 50 per cent. since 1928, while Danish prices are down by 45 per cent. and British prices by 35 per cent. The most effective competition in prices has undoubtedly come from British Dominions rather than foreign countries; and that is the problem which we must keep in mind when referring to the competition of the foreigner. When one hears ill-thought remarks about the effect of the insignificant quantity of butter imported from Russia one should not lose sight of the serious problem of making accommodation for the dairy produce of the Dominions, which they sell in this their best market in the world.
One can refer with some satisfaction to the improvement in the prices of wool. We are the second largest producers in the world in Scotland and Wales. The right hon. Gentleman says there are more hens than people in Lancashire; we have more sheep than people in Wales, and it has been a source of advantage to our Principality, it is the kind of agriculture for which it is particularly suited. It is also the case of Scotland, and, therefore, there is some satisfaction that there has been a great revival in the wool market. But that is not the result of anything which the right hon. Gentleman has done. Indeed, we have not had a proper explanation of it yet, but there has been an abnormal buying of wool in the Australian home market which has had an effect on other wool producing countries, and which has been responsible for an increase in the world crop of wool by £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. That is just a rough estimate, but it has been a Godsend to Australia and New Zealand, for if they had not found this windfall of higher prices for their wool they would have been compelled to sell their dairy products cheaper still in order to exist and pay their way.
These are the larger problems of agriculture which we cannot solve by being insular or nationalist in our treatment of the subject. Our complaint of the Minister is that we think he takes a one-sided view of the agricultural problem. His vision is clear but he sees only a partial problem, and will not turn over 58 and see the other side which is vitally important if success is to be attained. There is one other matter to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee and that is the wide gap between production and retail prices. That gap must be filled, in the case of milk, bacon, and wheat. There must be economies in marketing which will enable the low-paid masses of our industrial population to purchase agricultural products at reasonable prices. Their purchasing power is strictly limited, and means must be found to cut down distribution costs in order that they may buy British home grown commodities at prices which they can afford to pay. Unless they can buy at these prices they cease to buy at all and fall back upon inferior substitutes, and upon foreign produce.
A scheme must be brought in for the more efficient distribution of milk. At the present time it is the farmer who runs all the risk and it is the distributor who takes the cream off the milk. Our idea is that the farming industry, important and vital though it is to the life of this nation, must not begin to think of itself as separated from the rest of the community. Farmers must not isolate themselves from the rest of the community. It may not be a happy metaphor, but farmers and the rest of us are all in the same boat. If the industrial masses of this country are prosperous and wages are good, there is a market for agriculture, but if the spending power of the industrial worker is cut down there is inevitably a contraction in the market for agricultural products. We must live side by live and let live, and try to improve general conditions in this country in our efforts to improve the conditions of agriculture.
I think the idea of national self-sufficiency is a dangerous idea. If we concentrate too much on agriculture, to the neglect of our foreign trade, we shall find that prices, instead of rising, will fall; we shall find agriculture, at the end of the system of protection and tariffs carried to an extreme, the worst sufferer of all. We content ourselves to-day by criticising the general policy of the Government. But there is the whole field of administration for which the Minister is responsible and to which he referred. There are the questions of 59 land settlement and land drainage, both of vital importance. There are research and education and the investigation of diseases. All those things we wish the Government to carry on. We wish the Minister to encourage local authorities in the part they have to play for bringing within the reach of agriculture the highest standard of technical knowledge and training that is possible. We look to the industry to be efficient. We believe that when efficiency has been built up and when an equally efficient marketing scheme has been organised in this country, the days of adversity for the agriculturist will have shortened and we shall find agriculturists in this House without a grouse and without the cause of a grouse.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
I think the whole Committee must have been extremely interested and pleased with the Minister's statement. I do not think that any of us thought it was too long. He concentrated in it a great deal of information about many problems that all of us wanted to know about. The most interesting point to many people, however, was not what he said but what he did not say, because—as he knows so well, because of his close practical experience of the matter—there is now the most intense anxiety about that problem which, quite rightly, he said he could not speak about to-day—the question of livestock prices. I am not going to press him. First of all, it would have no effect; and, secondly, it would be wrong, and we know we shall get a statement in due course. But the prospect is terrible to farmers now, particularly in view of the turn the weather has taken and seems to have settled down to. There will be a lot of half-finished stock pushed on the market during the summer and autumn months—while people are still not in the way of eating a great deal of meat—owing to the shortage of keep, which is increasing every day. Unless something can be done—I am glad I am not in the Minister's position of having to say what should be done—and done fairly quickly, the difficulty of the men landed with unsaleable stock, which has been becoming steadily worse in the last few years, will become even worse still.
60 But I want to talk a little about the Minister's marketing schemes, not in detailed criticism, which has been covered to some extent by the last speaker, but about a theory which ought to underlie these matters. I do not know whether general theories on this matter interest the House, but the theory in this case, and the principles to be followed, are matters which do interest the Minister, and I will venture to put. before him and the Committee some things which have been very much in my mind lately, owing to attempts which all of us make from time to time to clear our own minds on some of these very difficult matters. One of the things which have helped me a little is something which I do not think has been noted in the Press of this country at all, namely, a report on these matters which has been presented in the Union of South Africa by a commission which was set up to inquire into co-operation, and which reported in February of this year. One of the terms of reference to the commission was to inquire intothe causes of the failure of co-operation in connection with certain of the most important agricultural products and to make recommendations as to what should he done to remove such causes.The conclusions to which the commission came are extraordinarily interesting and give us cause for thought. In the days when I was trying to get our farmers to co-operate—one cannot do it, because one cannot weave ropes out of sand—I used to hold up South Africa as a model to be followed. I said they had gone ahead in South Africa and settled down to cooperation. They have marketing schemes for no fewer than 19 different articles of agricultural production, including peanuts. But the interesting point is the conclusion that this commission came to. I will read three or four sentences:Compulsory co-operation or compulsory sale through one channel by means of a board of control, both of which had as object the fixation and control of prices, is economically unsound and socially unhealthy, and while it may temporarily benefit producers it will inevitably lead to over production, maladjustment of supply and demand, and ultimate collapse of prices.Price control schemes in other countries have proved that price levels cannot be artificially maintained, since increased prices need increased production, and increased production means lower returns.The experience in the Union with price control measures in two of its major agri- 61 cultural products, tobacco and wine, substantiates the view that this form of control is undesirable and not in the best interests of agriculture. Further, price control schemes have characteristics which are harmful to that independent spirit of self-help which is so essential in the building up of a virile and vigilant nation.Compulsory co-operation and sales through one channel, with the object of fixing and controlling prices of agricultural products, should not be sanctioned by legislation, and the existing provisions in the Co-operative Societies Act in this respect should be repealed.If we were to apply those principles to our Marketing Acts here they would practically come to this: That while the provisions of the Marketing Act of 1931 are probably sound, a great many of the principles embodied in the later Act are condemned as a result of this South African experience. In trying to think out the principles which are legitimate and right in developing the agricultural industry land those which in the long run are harmful, I have come to these clusions:
There is careful and very difficult examination necessary of the margin betwen what the producer gets and what the consumer pays. I am doubtful whether any system of retailing, if taken over by the State, would necessarily be better than the existing system. The middleman generally does the work which the farmer leaves him to do, and the more you go into these things the more difficult it is to disprove the middleman's contention that he is receiving only a reasonable amount for what he does.
- (1)That it is very doubtful whether we ought under these schemes to fix minimum prices unless we have a complete agreement of consumers' representatives.
- (2)It is very doubtful whether we should force people to come inside when schemes are started. If you cannot get such a body of people agreeing to form a scheme as enables you to disregard those who stay outside, it is probably better not to start the scheme at all.
- (3)You must not confer a monopoly on those who happen to be the producers of a. commodity at a certain particular date. That will arise on hops.
- (4)One of the essentials of any scheme, if you are going to regard schemes as being really useful in the long run, is that the scheme should ensure a better service to the public.
62 But whenever one is brought up against that fact, that, for instance, the amount paid for distributing milk equals the amount paid for producing it, it is a horrible fact in a difficult position, and sooner or later it will have to be followed up with regard to milk and other things in order to see that better service is given to the public in these schemes. That was, of course, contemplated, and to some extent is likely to be carried out in the bacon scheme—getting our producers to produce a better quality of bacon. It is because of that fact that on the whole the scheme has been widely welcomed. We did not oppose the scheme nor did the Socialist Members. My limited experience is that our consumers here are very willing always to support Home agricultural produce and to give it a preference if, and only if, they know that the producers of the produce are making real efforts to present it to them better graded, of better quality, it may be better advertised, and so on. That must be an element in the schemes if they are to survive. It is easy enough to set up a scheme, whatever element it contains, but if schemes are to survive, that element of service to the community must be on top all the time.
From that point of view it would be worth my right hon. Friend's while if he gets any spare time—which I fear he does not—to consider whether it would not be reasonable to associate consumers' representatives with these schemes from the start and not to set up consumers' committees later on to try to undo the unpopularity of a scheme which will by that time have been well established in the public mind, as was the ease with regard to milk. I suggest that it would be better to get down to the details at the start to try to visualise whether a scheme will work, and to try to make it something which the consumers as a whole are likely to welcome, and which will therefore be permanent and not unpopular in its inception with an unpopularity difficult to remove by subsequent manipulation. Although it was very tempting and indeed perhaps necessary to rush some of these schemes, particularly the milk scheme—and nobody will deny that it was rushed—yet in the long run, the snore careful the consideration which is given to schemes before they are set up the better it will be.
63 The danger is not only that you may not take the consumer with you, which is of primary importance, but that your scheme may seem to be able to do more for agriculture than any scheme could ever do, and farmers will therefore be attracted into it, and it will dislocate the industry. Owing to the pressure behind a particular scheme, you may find that as a consequence of regulating one thing you are compelled to regulate another, and so, regulation after regulation and scheme after scheme, will be poured out and the inevitable consequences to agriculture must be bad rather than good. If I were asked to suggest three considerations which farmers and others connected with agriculture should keep constantly in mind, I would suggest that they should have on their shaving glasses so that they could not fail to see them every morning, first, the figures 7 and 93 to remind them that if there are seven people out of every 100 who want to get prices up there are 93 out of every 100 who want to keep them down; secondly, the fact that a farm is not a factory, and that you cannot apply factory conditions and strict regulation of output to the farm as to the factory, and thirdly, that the things to be watched a-hove all others are the customer's pockets, the customer's finance, the customer's habits, and the way in which the customer wants to arrange his purchases of food. If you interfere too much with these, disaster is bound to follow.
I turn now to a subject on which I think my right hon. Friend will agree that I know something and at which I have been working for some time, namely the question of the small man in agriculture and the allotment holder. It is inevitable that the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministry should be concentrating now on the bigger man, in connection with these schemes. They have plenty to do and plenty to worry about in that respect know, and although their minds may have been taken up with these matters almost exclusively, I do not suggest that they have been guilty of any neglect of the interest of the small man whom I in my own way, represent as president of the National Allotments Society. We have had plenty of sympathy, but we have reached the stage when we want more than sympathy. Sympathy is so easy and 64 action sometimes is difficult. Our society recently held its annual conference at Newcastle-on-Tyne in the middle of the depressed districts of Northumberland and Durham. We had a bigger annual conference than we have ever had before. There was more interest, and more enthusiasm and a larger attendance of delegates. We have doubled our numbers in that organisation and turned a deficit into a balance in hand.
I mention these facts because the strength of the national allotment movement has come from the small men in those derelict areas. They realise more than anybody else the extraordinary value of this movement to them and the extraordinary change it has made in their lives. They know what it means to a man to get hold of a bit of]and and to get a little help in cultivating it, and the most enthusiastic support for the movement is coming from areas like South Wales, Durham and Northumberland and comparable areas elsewhere in the country. This is a remarkable and a wonderful development. Some of these societies composed entirely of unemployed men insist on paying up their affiliation fees of 3d. per member every January, and in that respect set a good example to other and better-off organisations. If one were not so much rejoiced over it one could almost cry at the affecting anxiety of these men to get bits of land. We all know the work which is being done under the scheme of the Society of Friends in getting allotments for unemployed men and helping them with seeds and manures and so forth.
The difficulty which one invariably comes up against in connection with these schemes is the difficulty of tenure. Men are willing to do almost anything with a bit of land if they are only sure of it, but they cannot be expected to do much with a piece of land unless they are sure of it. It is on the question of tenure that the national allotments movement has been deliberately concentrating. It is the key to everything else. Everybody has been appalled at the ugliness of some of the allotments to be seen throughout the country, with ramshackle huts and decaying cabbage stalks lying about them in the autumn. But one nearly always finds that where allotments are in that state the men who own them are not sure of them for four months 65 together. They do not know whether they are going to remain in possession of that land or whether they are going to be called upon to move out to the outskirts with very little compensation and the prospect of having to start breaking up a new plot. Tenure is the key to progress in this matter, and therefore we have been appealing to the Government to help, because things are not right in that respect.
There are to-day so many good movements which are enemies of the best. The town planning movement is admirable, but the way in which it works is often disastrous to the allotment holders. Land is planned for allotments under a town planning scheme, and the people concerned say:" Oh, that is all right. When these houses are built we shall have allotments attached to them, and we need not bother." But when the time comes the land is found to be too expensive and it goes for something else, and from the allotment holder's point of view it would have been better had there been no town planning at all. Then there are slum clearance schemes, and school building schemes, and so forth. There are borough surveyors who seem to take a deliberate pride in using the allotment holders to level ground and bring it into cultivation and then take that ground for some purpose like housing or school building. Although the very able and sympathetic men in the. Ministry of Agriculture do their best in these cases—when they have the opportunity of coming in—where land is going to be taken away from allotment holders, yet the policy of pushing the allotment holder always further out is only too common among local authorities.
What is it I want the Minister of Agriculture to do in this connection? This is not a question of fresh legislation, but a question of administration. All experience points to the fact that the only secure tenure is freehold and nothing less than freehold. The more cases are brought to one's notice the more one realises that this question of giving a man security of tenure in a piece of land is of growing importance, not only for the unemployed man but for the employed man also. The problem of the right use of leisure is a growing one. More and more firms are shortening the working week or employing men two weeks out 66 of three or applying other systems of that kind, and this problem of the right use of leisure is one with which Governments will soon have to deal. At present we of the National Allotments Society are allowed to inform local authorities that if they are willing to use their powers for acquiring land—and they can spend up to one penny in the pound of the rates for allotment purposes—the Government may be willing to help them. But when we inform a local authority of that fact, it is considered at a meeting and, almost invariably, owing to the indefinite nature of the proposition, the local authority or the committee concerned passes on to the next business and nothing is done.
We want a change of attitude leading to a change of policy. We want the Government to undertake a survey of the tenure of allotment land in urban centres. This is an urban problem, because in the country districts there is no great difficulty. We want to point out to the heads of the great municipalities that this question of getting land on freehold tenure for the small man is a matter in which the Government does take an active interest. We want conferences between local authorities and the representatives of the allotment holders and other interests concerned. We want to have impressed on local authorities the desirability of schemes in which the Government would help, but in which the local authority and the allotment holders would also bear their share of the burden. It is possible to buy land at £150 an acre and to get the whole of the annual charge with about £2 per annum extra out of the reasonable allotment rent paid by a man who is tilling one rod per year. That will pay the annuities on land at £150 an acre with a margin but after that you begin to want a little help, and the idea which we have adopted at our annual conference and which I desire to put before the Government is this. They should ask local authorities to use their powers of helping allotment holders on the basis of sharing the annual annuity burden above £150 per acre equally between the local authority, using the powers which they already have, the Government, using the powers which they already have under the Land Utilisation Act and which are lying dormant and the allotment tenant himself. The allotment 67 tenant is willing to pay up to is. 7d. or ls. 9d. per rod per annum if he can be sure that, he will be able to keep his plot, but there ought to come in alongside him some little help from the Government and the representatives of the ratepayers.
We ask the Government to consider actively undertaking a scheme of that kind when they have time but without too long delay. It is one thing to have the Society of Friends and other bodies working their schemes to assist the unemployed men, but the unemployed men themselves and the country will not get the full advantage, unless and until the men are sure of the land which they work. But from that point onwards you would get a tremendous development in the usefulness of the land to the men themselves. There is also the development recently announced by the Minister on behalf of the Government with regard to. smallholdings. That is the offer of a subsidy. Subsidies are very fashionable and popular just now and this is a subsidy of £50,000 a year for three years on the basis of£1 for every £2 to be put up by outsiders. I know that negotiations on that matter are still proceeding. I know that important and wealthy corporations may come in and take a hand in trying to develop smallholding colonies. I also know how difficult the work is, and I am not suggesting how the present conditions attaching to this subsidy could be relaxed because all that is still under negotiation.
I suggest that the work of settling men from derelict areas on land which is now also in many cases practically derelict is so difficult and requires such a great deal of specialised application, training, and attention that the Government ought not, to he too severe and too niggardly with regard to the help that is offered. It is rather difficult to have to start with getting £2 from outside for every LI that the Government will give. At present, it is rather suggested to us that all the funds for the maintenance of the men during the necessarily prolonged time when they are going through their course of training or before their plots are productive must be met wholly out of that money instead of through transitional payments and so on, as it used to be. That may be essential, but if a thing is worth doing at all—and I think land 68 settlement is, although it is very difficult —it is worth doing well, and if you are going to do it at all, I am not sure that a very limited offer for a rather limited time under very limiting conditions is the best way to do it. I know that many other hon. Members want to speak, and I do not believe in perorations, but I have put some practical points before the Committee, and I thank the Committee for having borne with me on this matter.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who followed the Minister, confessed, with his usual courtesy, that he would have been more at home with the mining industry, and he used those well-worn terms mechanisation and organisation of production. Those are long and, no doubt, impressive words, but they do not convey very much to my mind. If I might put it to my hon. Friend and to his Friends who represent mining constituencies, coal-mining to-day is a declining industry. I have here figures, furnished me by the Mines Department, of the number of men engaged in coal-mining. Before the War there were 1,100,000 engaged in it, and they have now dropped to 792,000. My hon. Friend says we are all in the same boat, and I agree, but I put it to them: Where do they expect to find an outlet far this labour which is unemployed, unless it is in the cultivation of the land? I impress that upon them.
I do not want to advocate measures which will unduly increase the profits of the farmer or the landowner, but I do say to them that here is a great opportunity. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) has taken a very close and extraordinarily valuable interest in the question of allotments. Why do not the miners' trade unions help in that direction? It is their best opportunity, I am quite sure, speaking from a long experience, of employing their men profitably; and, when my right hon. Friend says that tenure is the key to the position, if there are any men in this country who will not give a fair tenure to a man who desires to cultivate the land, let that case be brought before the House of Commons, and I am certain that every man in the House would stand up in condemnation of any such procedure. I do not want to say more than that, but when I find mining Members, 69 such as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gower speaking against agriculture, I ask them to consider: Where are they going to get occupation for their constituents? Coal is the motive power for machinery for the export trade, but the export trade has been shut off in all directions by tariffs, quota restrictions, and exchange restrictions, and therefore when we advocate this resuscitation of agriculture, I ask hon. Members to believe that we have the interests of the country as much at heart as they have the interests of industry.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, whom we are all so glad to see in such excellent fettle and form again, spoke of the losses of the farmers, but he only brought those losses up to 1931, and they have been much more severe since then. I would say to my hon. Friends representing mining constituencies that they cannot expect men to engage in the cultivation of land if what they produce will not give them a margin for their living. The conditions since 1931, since this very admirable little book which my right hon. Friend quoted, "Agricultural Output for England and Wales," was published, have been very much worse, but I would express my gratitude to the Minister and to the statistical officers of the Ministry for having produced this volume, because it has brought into concrete form something of the losses which have been sustained by the agricultural industry.
My right hon. Friend naturally talked of the improvement, and probably I should have done so if I had been in his position at that Box, but I must draw attention to the fact that in the marketing reports of the Ministry for June there were prices below pre-War figures—barley, oats, fat and store cattle, butter, potatoes, hay, and wool. It is impossible for the producers of these commodities, with the present rate of expenditure, taxes, and wages, to be able to go on. They cannot do it. That is why I am complaining of competition. There are no men in the country who have deserved better of the country than the agricultural workers. They are first-rate men. I have been brought up with them all my life. They are shrewd, common-sense, industrious men, and they deserve to be well paid 70 for their arduous labour, but they cannot be paid at all if these prices continue.
The result has been illustrated by men leaving the land. They are not being employed there to-day, although there is an enormous amount of work to be undertaken in renovating all the plant for cultivating the land. Buildings have been let down, drainage has been neglected, and all sorts of things which would contribute to the production of food have been absolutely paralysed. Labour in our villages is paralysed, and I can speak from my own experience. We ask that those men shall have a fair reward for their labour, and if you will give them a fair reward the constituents of the mining Members should come in and help. Their men, the miners, are down in the bowels of the earth, away from the sunshine, hewing coal to export abroad to pay for food which they might grow at home. It is much better to be up in the sunshine and in the fresh air than down in a mine, and therefore I appeal to them for their sympathy when we try to improve the conditions of the agricultural workers. It cannot be said that farmers to-day are inefficient or extravagant. I really do not know how they have carried on in the very depressing circumstances of the last seven or eight years.
We have some very excellent people in Devonshire, and I was very greatly pleased to see that the champion butter-maker at the Royal show came from my constituency of South Molton. These farmers work long hours, and they have to work seven days a week, but they are verging on bankruptcy. It is not right and fair to them, and therefore I ask my right hon. Friend when he proposes to resume the fiscal freedom of this country, which has been infringed by the Ottawa Agreements and the agreements with the Argentine Republic and Denmark. My hon. Friends on this side are very keen about Empire trade, and we all want to trade with the Empire, but I assure them that there is terrific competition in agricultural products coming in from the Empire to-day, and Empire trade will find a very cold response from the agricultural community. It is one of the grave questions to be resolved. My right hon. Friend, together with the Secretary of State for the Dominions, is engaged in consultation with Dominion representatives to-day, 71 and we do not know what the result of their conversations will be, but the Dominion representatives must remember that, if they lose the sympathy of the agricultural community in this country, it will be a very sorry day for inter-imperial trade. The Minister knows full well that livestock is the mainspring of the agricultural industry of this country. Wheat is grown, but only to a small extent. Livestock and livestock products really mean 70 per cent. of the total output of the agricultural industry.
My hon. Friend opposite asked why we could not produce here as cheaply as they can 'abroad, but they have not got the same conditions abroad. Take Denmark. There you have a large number of family farms, on which the people work 10, 12, and even 15 hours a day. I am glad to say that our labourers do not do that. Then, again, our wages are fixed, and that has been one of the most formidable problems. I do not want lower wages—I want to raise them—but our expenses are fixed, and we cannot compete with these floods of imports that are coming in produced by low paid labour. Now we have gone on a. marketing line. I am not very sure that I am a very easy traveller on that railway. It is the conception of the Ministry of Agriculture, and I am rather sorry that my right hon. Friend has sat in that train. I am afraid it is going to lead him into many difficulties. I hope not, but at any rate we have got to help him.
Take the case of milk. My hon. Friend who opened the Debate for the Opposition said the farmers are up in arms against the Marketing Board. I have thought this matter over with the utmost sympathy, and I cannot understand why all the payments for the milk to the farmers and the payments by the distributors have all to go through Thames House. The producers in Devonshire, who are probably a microcosm of the producers all over the country, are very dissatisfied. I presented my right hon. Friend with a petition from 439 registered milk producers in Devonshire. It was the most remarkable petition that I have ever seen with all my experience in this House. Every man who signed it put his registered number against his signature. The petition asked for three things. The first was that the arbitrators' award fixing the price at 72 1s. a gallon should be set aside. I understand my right hon. Friend has no power to do that, but I must remind him that the whole of the proposals of the Milk Reorganisation Commission has not been carried into effect. I cannot discuss that, however, as it would involve legislation. The petition also asked that the liquid milk producers should be ensured a price equivalent to the cost of production. That is only fair. Thirdly, it asked that the Ministry itself should appoint a committee for costing. I regard that as most important. I know it is said that the Milk Board is engaged in compiling the costs of production, but who can say that the arbitrators who are appointed will take any notice of those castings? If the Ministry appoints a committee for costing, it will be authoritative and there can be no gainsaying it. It is most important that the Ministry itself should find out what is a reasonable price to be paid to" the producer of the milk. Then it can fix the price and utilise the Marketing Board. Certain institutions have been engaged on the question of costs of production. The University of Bristol examined a number of farms in the West of England and came to the conclusion that the cost of production of milk in winter was 11¾d., and in the summer 8½cl. They add this, however:It must be pointed out that in these calculations nothing has been included for the risks inherent in agriculture, e.g. from climate, pests, and diseases, nor for the remuneration of any manual work performed by the farmer himeslf, nor for interest on the capital invested in the dairy herd and equipment.We know the risks involved in agriculture. I had a note this morning that one of my animals had died. That is one of the risks. There is, too, the risk of the climate. I do not know how the milk supply is to be maintained in the present drought. One of the troubles of the agricultural community is these risks. Although the University of Bristol put the costs at11¾ in winter and 8½d. in summer, the price has been fixed at Is. less the levy. A number of farmers are getting much less than 1s., and they cannot go on. I observe that the agricultural college at Wye, Kent, through Mr. James Wyllie, has made a thorough investigation into the costs of milk production on 20 farms in the south-eastern counties in the past five years. The average cost was 1s. O¼d. per gallon. The farmer, there- 73 fore, cannot sell it to the Milk Board at is. and have the levy charges deducted. I strongly urge my right hon. Friend to appoint a committee in his Department to ascertain just what is the cost of production. He has some very able officials in the Ministry and it would be an admirable action for him to take.
At the moment the marketing scheme is in such a position that the Government are coming to its aid with a subsidy. I do not like subsidies, for they weaken the Exchequer. All the subsidies that are being talked about now will have a depressing effect upon the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would prefer that we gathered revenue rather than spent it. We are compelled here to produce milk under conditions of comparative efficiency. It is produced efficiently in some farms and the hon. Member for Don Valley was able to see at our college recently that we produced milk under efficient conditions. It costs money to do it, however. If you want Grade A, TT milk you have to have a good water supply, the cow sheds have to be washed out, the men's hands must be clean, the cows must be clean, and everything must be done for cleanliness. That is not so abroad. Can it be said that the butter and the milk products from abroad come from cows that are free from tuberculosis? These are points which it is right for us to bring before the Minister, and before my hon. Friends opposite, too, because they may some time be in charge of the Government, and they should realise that, if the agriculturists of this country are to be subject to all these conditions—and rightly so—there is no reason why we should have to sell in competition with the produce of foreign competitors who work tinder less severe conditions.
I am not cadging any favour for the agricultural industry. All I am asking for is fair play. If the agricultural interests are given fair play they will render good service. At the moment a man who is in receipt of the so-called dole gets 17s. a week for himself, 8s. for his wife and 2s. for his children, so that if he has three children he receives 31s. a week. That is the amount of the wage of the agricultural labourer fixed by the wages board in Devonshire. It is not right. If the House of Commons would only utilise the raw materials of the land for the cultivation of food we could grow 74 an enormous amount more. food in this country. During the War our food supplies were dangerously small. Let us think of this question not only from the point of view of the agricultural community, but also that an increased production of food will increase the safety of the country.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) will forgive me if I do not follow him in any detail. Those of us who have the honour to represent agricultural constituencies find ourselves in general agreement with almost everything he has said. When the Minister presented his Estimates to the Committee this afternoon he began his speech in what I might call the common form of a Minister who is presenting his Estimates on a Supply Day. I must confess that in the few opening sentences that fell from him I was rather afraid that the Committee were to be treated to that kind of speech to which we have grown so accustomed in the past and with which we have been invariably disappointed, namely, a mere catalogue of sundry activities of the Department of the Ministry of Agriculture with the allocation of the various sums of money that have been spent in each branch of the Department. My fears were completely unfounded, because my right hon. Friend dismissed that part of his speech in a very few sentences, much to the relief of my agricultural friends in the Committee. We were treated to something the like of which we have not heard in this House before in a Debate on agriculture on a Supply Day. It was quite novel and very welcome.
At long last there has been a definite change of policy on the part of the country towards the industry of agriculture. Therefore, to-day, for the first time on a Supply Day, certainly in the few years that I have had the honour of being a Member, we have had a proper survey of agriculture in this country. The Minister has shown that he is not merely content to look after the running of his Department in the way in which it has been run—and efficiently run, within limits, for many years past—but he has told us about land drainage, land settlement, education and the general work of his Department, which, I sup- 75 pose, includes research. He then went on to tackle definitely and in detail each of the main branches of the great industry of agriculture. He gave us some interesting facts as to what had been happening in the industry during the last decade or so. He told us that the dairy cow had increased the content of the milk pail by some 12 per cent., and that the laying lien now gives 120 eggs against 100—that she now lays the "great hundred" instead of the "little hundred." The output of the agricultural industry as a whole has apparently increased by 4 per cent. during the last decade. Those are amazingly interesting figures, and I would recall them to the minds of any hon. Members who may have said in the past, either in this House or on the platform, that the British farmer's methods of production were out of date, that he was quite incapable of expanding the productivity of his industry, and that therefore it was not worth the while of the House or the country to bother about him any more.
My right hon. Friend went on to say that for this greater production the fanner had received a lesser sum of money, because the receipts of the agricultural community had fallen by some 220,000,000—not on the original basis of output but on the increased basis of output. Therefore, the effort made by the agricultural community during the last decade has been most praiseworthy from every point of view. At the time of the national crisis in 1931 we were told that we must increase the volume of output and in that way increase the opportunities of employment. Here we have proof that the agricultural industry has responded to that call. Not only has the volume of output increased but we know also, from figures given recently, though I think my right hon. Friend did not make reference to it in his speech, that happily the tide has at last turned in the matter of agricultural employment, and that last year, for the first time for many years, there were more men actually employed in the industry. Now that agriculture has proved that it is capable of giving a greater output and providing a greater volume of employment, the question arises, What are we going to do with that increased output? It has to go somewhere, or it will no longer be maintained, nor will the increase in employment. If 76 an industry has responded to the needs of the nation by increasing its output it is the business of the nation to see that some way is found of fitting that extra output into the economy of the nation's needs. When the nation has called on an industry to give a greater volume of production, it is the business of the nation to find a market for it.
We have done much to try to secure a larger share of the home market for the home producer, but no one would claim, and least of all my right hon. Friend the Minister, that we have so far been altogether successful in finding sufficient space in the market for the increase which the industry has given. The National Government, in taking a national view of agriculture, must be prepared to make full and freer use of such methods and weapons as lie to their hand. Their attitude at the start was perhaps natural, because in 1931 we were venturing on a new policy. There was a great changeover in the national outlook. We had been a defenceless country in the sense that we had allowed our food markets to lie at the mercy of all the nations of the earth. We have now armed ourselves with certain weapons, but I do not think we have used them quite to the extent to which we would have been justified in doing, especially in view of the fact that we have invited home producers to increase their output. We must use the tariff, we must use the quota restriction, we must use, if necessary, the levy on imported articles in order to assist home production, and, where necessary, invent ad hoe measures for any particular branch of the industry which cannot be dealt with by the simpler method of the quota, the tariff or the levy.
We must go further. We must, if need be, use our powers to prohibit the importation of certain things which come into our market and wreck it for everybody, for our home producers as well as our Dominion producers. Why should we tolerate having our market wrecked by importations sent here, very often as surplus goods, and under subsidised conditions, at a price which plays havoc with the home market? It is intolerable that we should allow a situation such as that to persist. Therefore, I suggest to my right hon. Friend, and I feel sure that he will respond to this appeal, that he should use all his influence with the 77 Government to see that in future we act, where necessary, with the gloves off instead of with the gloves on, and that we do really fulfil the promise which I believe every hon. Member who supports the National Government made on his election platform in 1931, that we did intend to give a larger share of the home market to the home producer.
There are one or two smaller points to which I would invite attention. In common with every hon. Member who represents an agricultural constituency, I am waiting with a good deal of keenness to hear the statement on beef which I understand will be made by the Minister within the next few weeks. He has told us that he cannot make that statement to-day, and we all know that he is heavily engaged in negotiations upon the result of which may possibly depend the nature of the statement he will make. Therefore, I will not say anything more about that. I would ask my right hon. Friend, when he has cleared the beef question out of the way, to turn his mind to the working of the Wheat Act, a subject which he knows is rather near my heart. I am sure that all agriculturists, and not merely those in the arable counties, welcome the fact that the Government have promised that the life of the Wheat Act shall be prolonged after 1935. The point I ask him to consider is this. We are importing to-day a very large amount of flour, which is a manufactured or processed article, and that is having an effect upon our country mills. The flour comes in the main from countries which, like ours, grow what are called soft wheats. That flour from Germany, France, Italy and other countries competes directly with flour made from our own home-grown soft wheats.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has realised that those are the kinds of wheat which, in the main, are milled by our own country mills. Supposing they have to shut down. What is the home farmer going to do with his wheat? The Wheat Act will be in operation, and we know that it imposes an obligation upon the milling industry to take the homegrown wheat crop within the cereal year. We do not want to strain the working of that Act, but if this importation of foreign milled soft wheat flour continues at the present rate it will put a very great strain on that part of the Act which imposes upon our millers the obligation to take 78 the home product. As a wheat grower myself I have been up against this difficulty during the last 12 months. Although I had been able to sell my wheat crop I found that the country miller who bought it had been compelled to close down his mill for a fortnight. When I asked," Why have you not taken away the wheat?" he replied, I am sorry, but I have had to close down my mill. There are such large importations of Continental soft wheat flour that I have had to close down." I am sure my right hon. Friend will feel that that is a matter well worth close investigation, if the Wheat Act is to continue to be the success which I think it is agreed on all hands it has been up to the present.
I have a word to say about barley. My right hon. Friend alluded to the fact that last 'season our brewers took an increased quantity of home-grown barley and converted it into beer, and I am sure we all rejoice in that fact; but, without wishing to appear in the least ungracious or unthankful to the brewing industry, I would like to know whether my right hon. Friend is contemplating any similar arrangement in respect of the forthcoming crop, or what arrangement is being made with the brewers this year. It will be very helpful if my right hon. Friend is in a position to give to the Committee figure showing what proportion of all the barley used by the maltsters and brewers in this country is home-grown barley. The milk situation has been gravely aggravated by the award which was made in the Spring. It is no use crying over spilt milk and we must look to the future rather than to the past. I believe that the Milk Marketing Board is going to make a success of its job, and I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will give their full support in their constituencies to the Milk Marketing Board. I have no reason to say this, but I believe the board is composed of able men doing their best with a very difficult job indeed, and I think that probably the marketing schemes will achieve their greatest success with milk. I very much hope so.
Here I come to a point to which I would direct the attention of my right hon. Friend. Under the scheme which provides for extra remuneration for milk sold from accredited herds, herds can only become accredited if they pass a 79 standard of veterinary inspection. As the Committee are aware, the veterinary inspection, such as it is at the present moment, is provided by local authorities. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us whether he has been able to make any arrangements with the Minister of Health for approaching local authorities to increase the number of veterinary inspectors, in order that there may be, from the 1st October, when the Milk Marketing Board hope to bring the accredited herds scheme into operation, an adequate number of veterinary inspectors to carry out the inspection? Obviously, it would be undesirable that the accredited herd plan should come into operation in one part of the country and not in another. It should start universally. You cannot create a veterinary officer in a night, and probably, if local authorities were invited to do all they possibly can to get their veterinary inspection in proper order by 1st October, that would be of great help to the satisfactory working of the accredited herd scheme.
We shall never satisfactorily get rid of our surplus milk problem—or what we call our surplus milk problem—until we set up a butter industry such as used to exist in this country in the past, but hardly exists at the present moment. In olden times there was a butter industry in every farmhouse, and where a cow was kept butter was always made. As it takes about three gallons of milk to make one pound of butter, such an industry would remove a very large amount of what we now call surplus milk from the liquid milk market. We know that the home-made butter industry is dead, and I do not think there is any hope that it will revive, but there is no reason why we should not do what other countries have done and add processing to production by setting up a reasonable number of butter factories. We could work off a large amount of surplus milk in that way, and why should we not do it? We import vast quantities of butter; why should we not make some butter for ourselves? I very much welcome the fact that the Milk Marketing Board have started one butter factory and are contemplating starting a second, because I believe that is absolutely on the right lines.
80 We have been told by the Minister that the increase of production in poultry and eggs has been prodigious. A good deal of anxiety exists in the minds of poultry keepers. They have received a certain degree of benefit from the tariff—a substantial one on dead poultry. The price of eggs during last spring was at a record low level over pre-war time or any other time. The production side of the egg business has been definitely unprofitable, and I hope that the report of the Reorganisation Commission will not be long delayed. The Minister, I am sure, is as keen as anyone that he should have that report in his hands at the earliest possible moment. Whatever the report may say, I am sure that we shall have to make more room in our home market for the permanent expansion of our poultry industry, as regards dead poultry and eggs.
We need not be afraid of using the tariff. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned in his speech that, in connection with horticulture and fruit, we have had a long success by the use of the straightforward simple tariff. Our horticulture, vegetable and fruit industry has a greater chance of success than it ever had before. Other hon. Members from fruit growing districts will probably say that there are points where improvement might be made, and I will not therefore enlarge on this matter. I am merely mentioning fruit to show that when the National Government say," We will take the tariff weapon and use it drastically," they find that complete success, or nearly complete success, accompanies their efforts. Therefore, we should not discard any weapon which may lay to our hands.
My final word is addressed to Members of the Opposition, in response to something which was said by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). He invited those who were engaged in the mining and other heavy industries to show friendship with agriculture. I am convinced that every agriculturist in the country, and certainly in this Committee, would reciprocate that invitation with a most open and full heart. Let us consider how closely our interests are bound together. There is no real conflict between what is good for the coalmining and heavy industries and what is good for agriculture. We are interlocked and 81 inter-dependent, and our prosperity must he a joint prosperity if we are to do what we all desire to do in the best interests of our country. We remember in the old days, when the coalmining industry was going full time and overtime and when high wages were being paid, that we got a high price for our beef. Not only did the miners enjoy the best cuts of homebred beef, but some of it went to the dogs. The whippets enjoyed a bit of it, too. We should very much like to see the coal industry going as it used to in pre-war days. We were most friendly disposed.
I invite hon. Members of the Opposition to consider, when agricultural Members come to this House and ask the Government to do something to benefit their industry, to ask themselves how that will react upon them. Every time an agricultural worker or his wife goes into the village shop, what does he or she find? On the shelves of the shop are probably manufactured goods. Where have they been manufactured? Not in the village, but in the town, or in some great centre of industry perhaps hundreds of miles away from that country village. Therefore, when the agricultural worker, or the farmer and his wife, go into the village shop, or into the local market-town shop, and make purchases, every time the shop door is opened it means work and wages for the great industrial centres. That includes the coalmining industry. We rejoice in the invitation from those benches to a greater degree of friendship between the agricultural and industrial communities, and we hope that a full measure of reciprocity will flow from it.
§ 6.26 p.m.
I do not know why some hon. Members deem it necessary to invite the sympathy of miners towards agricultural workers. Miners and agricultural workers have one thing in common to begin with, that of being called upon to work for wages for their livelihood. That in itself is sufficient to command the wholehearted sympathy of miners towards whatever sections of workers exist in other parts of the country. Miners suffer from precisely the same economic ills as agricultural labourers. The evils which affect the miner are those which affect the agricultural worker. If we were to analyse the 82 causes of depression in those two industries, we should find that the miner demands to have removed from his industry precisely what the agricultural worker requires to be removed. Although hon. Members have gently chided the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), there is no need for pressure to induce miners to express sympathy.
What oppresses the agricultural industry? What are the difficulties that confront it, and should those difficulties of necessity exist or can they be removed? We strongly support the development of agriculture in this country to the utmost possible extent. Nobody is more ready to do that than we are, bat we are suspicious of the aims that lie behind the demands for the fostering of agriculture in this country. We are suspicious of the farming element, and more suspicious of some of the propertied elements. We face the problem from the point of view of what is good for the agricultural population as a whole, and from that point of view we are prepared to examine the conditions and the difficulties of the industry in order to see whether it is possible to remove the difficulties. For the life of me I cannot understand the need for defending British farmers, who live next door to their market and can reach the seaboard with a hop, skip and jump if they want to send their produce abroad. They ought to be able to defend themselves from farmers who are 10,000 miles away, who live hundreds of miles from their seaboard, whose produce has to be taken hundreds- of miles overland and thousands of miles over the ocean, and has to be landed at an English port and taken to an English market. Those farmers have beaten the Englishman.
I would like to invite the right hon. Gentleman to consider the possibility of enlarging the activities of his Department. At the present time important and valuable statistical information is provided, but very little is done, as far as I know, in any Government Department in this country, to correlate the figures or to compare in every aspect production in this country with that in other countries. If the Ministry of Agriculture here could provide us with detailed information as to the conditions and costs of production, transport and so on, in each of our Dominions and in the competitive agricultural countries of the world, it would be much easier to come to a proper con- 83 sideration, and, it might well be, a solution, of the agricultural difficulties of this country, because then one would be brought face to face with the difficulties, including, possibly, natural difficulties, which confront the agricultural industry in this country. Until we have such information, it seems to me that the Ministry of Agriculture is not fulfilling what we might reasonably expect of it. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the function of the Ministry should be to assist the industry to the fullest possible extent. It should exist here in London, as the centre, to collect all possible information bearing on the agricultural industry, not only in this country, but in every other country in the world; and, with those facts before it, it should be in a position to advise our cultivators and producers as to what precisely it is necessary to do, to overcome the difficulties from which they suffer.
Week by week and month by month in the House of Commons each of our main industries comes up for discussion in some way, and the same old song is sung by the representatives of each industry. It is a tale of woe." We cannot carry on," says the agriculturist;" we cannot carry on," says the iron and steel man;" we cannot carry on," says the textile man;" we cannot carry on," says the miner. One by one they recite this tale of woe, and in effect they say that capitalism has failed and is failing in this country. They all want to be assisted; they say they cannot carry on any longer on their own footing. Private enterprise, initiative, independence, the old policy of "Let the State keep its hands off "—all that is utterly gone. To-day the State is being asked," Please come to our assistance; do what you can for us; rush to our aid; bring us your resources." In effect, that means that capitalism has failed. The last speaker said quite sincerely, that we should put restrictions against the importation into this country of the products of other nations, but suppose that the foreigner said the same thing about us. Where is your capitalism if that is to be your policy I If the plea put forward by each industry in this country were to be put forward as a common plea for all, on that day the bankruptcy of capitalism would be announced. It would, in effect, 84 be saying that the function of the State must now be to plan and administer industry on behalf of the nation as a whole, and it is to that that we are coming.
Slowly, one by one, the long list of subsidies, aids, tariffs and so on is lengthening; one by one the industries that receive no support are declining in number; and one of these days somebody is bound to ask in this House," What industry is it that now supplies the assistance to all the others?" There must be one group of industries that supports the others, who simply receive. I do not know whether the Government realise that, as the list gradually lengthens, the process will cancel itself out, because, when the day arrives when they all receive assistance, they will at the same time all be receiving none. The parallel is to be found in the question of monetary policy. Countries go off the Gold Standard one by one, and, when all the countries have gone off the Gold Standard, so all the countries of the world will be on it again. Unless they define the degree to which they have gone off, there will be nothing in it. The same applies to this policy of tariffs, aids and subsidies. This policy is being applied in a greater degree to the agricultural industry of this country than to any other. One by one the products of the industry are being supported, aided, organised, and so on. I do not know whether the Minister could tell us precisely what the agricultural industry is costing this country to-day as compared with 20 years ago—
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am following the hon. Member's argument with great interest. If I follow it correctly, it is that, where none of the industries receives any assistance, all of them are receiving assistance.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
That is precisely what one would expect from the right hon. Gentleman, but what I said was that, if all industries receive assistance, it really amounts to their all receiving none.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
As we have, by hypothesis, come to the time when none of these industries will be receiving assistance, we have equally come to the time when all of the industries will receive 85 assistance. I think that the hon. Member has proved too much.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
No; I have arrived at the point when they cancel each other out. These industries will benefit the one from the other only so long as they are divided into two groups, the one contributing and the other receiving, and that is the contradiction in which the Government and the Minister are going to land themselves. I do not understand where the great industrial capitalists of this country are in this matter. They are amazingly quiet. Is not this policy of raising prices, subsidising agriculture, and so forth, going to affect industry? We on this side are particularly concerned as to how it is going to affect the wages of industrial workers generally. We shall defend those wages whenever we can, and the Government will have to face the fact that, as they raise prices, so the workers of this country will fight for more wages. The net result of subsidies to agriculture and the raising of agricultural prices will be borne by industry in general, thereby reducing the competitive power of our general industry in foreign markets; so that the Government are not getting out of a difficulty, but are simply proceeding from one contradiction to a greater contradiction.
Already the general industries of this country are carrying the burden of rates which was previously carried by agriculture. As the policy of the Minister takes effect, and the prices of agricultural products in this country are raised, so general industry will have to carry also a heavier burden of wages, and then the problem will arise once again of the sale of our products abroad. It is true that, while we are in the present state of swinging in the air with respect to currency, the exporting industries of this country will benefit to some degree in selling abroad; but, on the other hand, when we are purchasing the produce of agricultural countries abroad, we have to pay more for it. 'What would be the position of our farmers to-day if Australia, New Zealand and the Argentine, instead of sending their produce to this country against the exchange, were sending it when the exchange with those countries was at par? What would then be the prices of agricultural products in this country? The position would be very much worse than it is to-day. The prices quoted here to-day for Australian butter 86 and so on are not the prices at which the Australians would like to sell. Those prices are the very lowest which they can reach, but, if it were not for the present position of the exchange, they would be even lower. It seems to me that a good deal more examination into the condition of this industry is needed.
There is one thing of which the Minister and everybody else can rest assured, and that is that anything that we on these benches can do to secure and improve the conditions of the agricultural labourer will be done. We shall defend the agricultural labourer and do everything we can to support him, but we are not going to do it at the expense of purchasing from someone else. Frankly, we are suspicious of the interests that lie behind this policy, and, until we are satisfied that it is in the interests of the nation as a whole, and not in the interests of a privileged section of the community, we shall continue to be suspicious, and we shall examine with care and shall oppose every Measure until we are satisfied that it is in the undivided interests of the nation as a whole.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. CHRISTIE
I do not intend to follow the last speaker into the very abstruse problem which he has put to the Minister, but merely to refer to the subject of agricultural education. At the time of the crisis, all the county councils were asked to exercise the greatest economy in this very vital service, and I wish to ask the Minister whether he does not think the time has arrived when he might persuade the Treasury to be a little more generous? I have been concerned with agricultural education ever since it became part of the policy of my county council, and nothing has astonished me more than the extraordinary way in which the desire for education has increased among our agricultural population. I remember when, not many years ago, Sir Daniel Hall came down to my county of Norfolk to meet members of the county council and farmers—about 60 in all—and suggested to them that it would be a very good thing to start a farm institute and other similar activities in Norfolk. He was treated almost with contempt, and was told that Norfolk farmers did not want to be taught their job by black-coated gentlemen from London. A fortnight ago Sir Daniel came down again to a station where they carry out 87 demonstration work about seven miles from Norwich, and held a meeting on Saturday afternoon, which is market day at Norwich. Notice the difference: 750 people took the trouble to go to the station to hear him make a most excellent speech on the industry.
Ten days ago it was my pleasure to bring before my county council a proposal to increase the staff of instructors in agricultural and horticulture, and the proposals were carried without any dissentient voice, and actually with acclamation. That is an astounding change. Having achieved that tremendous advance, it would be a thousand pities that any of that enthusiasm should be quenched, because the present position is that these officers are hopelessly and grossly overworked. Demands all over the country for further advice and instruction are continuous, and they have been additionally necessary because of the desire to set up the accredited milk producers' register. It is very essential that farmers who are anxious to produce clean milk should he given every assistance in being taught how to do it. We simply cannot go on and do as much as we should like unless we have additional grants from the Ministry to help us to carry on the good work. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use his well-known persuasive powers and suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Treasury should open its purse and enable him to give much greater grants to educational authorities all over the country, because I am certain that what I say about my own county applies to others as well
That brings me to a class of person who is very largely the client of the agricultural educational committee, that is, the smallholder. County councils are very loth to extend their smallholding estates to any extent because they are so afraid that, unless things get better, they may land their ratepayers in losses incurred by the difficulty of the smallholding tenants in paying their rents. Land suitable for smallholdings can be obtained in large quantities at very reasonable prices, and there are in every county waiting lists of men anxious to become smallholders. I wish to suggest that, as far as small holdings are concerned, fruit is quite satisfactory, with the exception of a little trouble about 88 the duty which is now before the Tariff Advisory Committee. Pigs are all right. If only chickens and eggs could be put on an economic basis you would get the three main outlets of the smallholder more or less secured, because if lie can grow vegetables and fruit and pigs and chickens and produce eggs, he has a very good foundation for a good livelihood. I know my right hon. Friend intends, if he possibly can, to ensure to the smallholder a reasonable amount of security in those crops. I should like to suggest that he should permit the smallholdings' committees of county councils to purchase land suitable for smallholdings as it becomes available and not to have the Obligation to develop it as smallholdings at once. The present comparatively low prices obviously will not persist. Once the Minister's policy for assisting the industry generally comes into fruition, with the improvement that takes place it is obvious that the price of suitable land will have a tendency to rise. I suggest that he should allow the smallholdings' committees to get in on the ground floor and buy the land before the rise takes place, but not compel them to develop it or make unnecessary holdings until the time comes when they think they can usefully do so because pricey are sufficiently secure.
There is one other thing with which I want to bother my right hon. Friend. There is in my constituency a little town where every year many thousands of turkeys are sold. The time is coming shortly when those sales will take place. There is an application before the Tariff Advisory Board to increase the duty on foreign turkeys from the miserable figure of a penny a lb. to something more substantial. I ask my right hon. Friend if he could very kindly spur on the Tariff Advisory Committee to give a decision as soon as they possibly can in order that everyone shall know exactly what the position is before these sales take place. If he will do the three things that I have asked him, he will earn the gratitude not only of myself but, I feel certain, of every agricultural Member in the House.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I should like to go on where my hon. Friend has left off, although not in the method of direct supplication. I should like to ask the Min- 89 ister how far the pig policy which has been so eminently successful is being linked up with smallholdings. During the present contract period the number of pigs contracted for has fallen short by about 100,000. I regard that as a very grave position if it is continued in the next contracting period. About March I asked him what was the maximum out- put for the factories and how far they were working, and he answered me that they could deal with 3,500,000 pigs a year, but at that time they were only dealing with half that amount. Now it is worse. Now we have the extra fall of 100,000. I should like to ask the Minister if he could deal with this aspect of pig production, because I believe firmly that the unemployed in certain parts of the country—I am thinking chiefly of the part just outside my own constituency— should be encouraged to go into pig production by schemes which would be linked up together in order to provide a regular supply of pigs to the market. I know there are difficulties, but they could be got over in the same generous spirit that the Minister has shown in his offer to smallholdings of £1 towards every £2 required.
While on the subject of smallholdings, I should like to make a comment on what fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). I will not enter with him upon an expert discussion on allotments, but there was one remark that he made which I thought rather dangerous. He said the great difficulty was security of tenure, and he wanted freehold tenure for his allotment holders. When I looked at the report of the Ministry on the value of land during the five years between 1925 and 1930, I found that, if you take the average value of holdings of one acre and over, which is really the smallholding acreage, it fell from £60 to If he had advocated in 1925 that all these allotments should be freehold, and if, acting on that very wise and weighty exhortation, the Minister had seen that all allotment holders bought their holdings, they would have been faced with that very serious loss in the five years. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is an optimist. Perhaps he believes that throughout the country land is going up at such a rapid rate that it is unwise for allotment holders to be tenants. I believe tenancy is far better for the small man 90 as long as he has secure conditions of tenure, and the present Agricultural Holdings Act, whether for small or for larger holdings, is an adequate protection. I should have thought that the way to deal with the right hon. Baronet's difficulty would be to extend the Agricultural Holdings Act more fully to cover allotments, so that the allotment holder who was being evicted by a powerful corporation could get the due compensation that is granted under the terms of that Act.
If I might skip back to my pigs, I should like to tell the Minister how well the pig scheme is working in Yorkshire. A few months ago I went over a factory which had a capacity of about 400 pigs a week when the scheme started, and now they are embarking on more than 1,000 pigs a week. We have arrived at a great pitch of perfection of production in Yorkshire, and we can supply the area that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) represents with very good bacon at a price that is very reasonable when you consider the cost of production. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfe/1) thought it a pity that bacon should not be 53s. a cwt. I wish the hon. Member for Don Valley would give him a pig and let him see if he could fatten it and get a profit when selling it at 53s. a cwt. for it. If he can, we will welcome him into the bacon industry, and he will gain experience of these low prices. Hon. Members above the Gangway have been very troubled about the question of price. The hon. Member for Gower said he did not know what price we wanted. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) gave us a very complex disquisition on economics which seemed to me to end like the geometrical problems that we had at school, "Which is absurd … Quad erat demonstrandum." I though probably that was the object of his speech.
Surely the problem of prices is a very simple one. All we want is to get back our cost of production. Just as the trouser-maker is objecting to the import of 2s. trousers from Japan, so we are objecting to bacon coming in at uneconomic prices and condensed milk coming in at ridiculous prices. That is the problem—how to get a proper price. The Minister is most actively engaged in various methods— quotas, tariffs and levies, to deal with this question. I am 91 in entire agreement with the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) except for one part of his speech when he suddenly attacked the Minister upon part of his policy. He described it rather vividly as being frightened of travelling on a marketing railway. Members will recall how years ago speeches were made in this House by Members, who said they were frightened by the railway; in fact, a President of the Board of Trade was run over by one. For that reason Members did not like going on the trains. Members since then have so used the railway that they have become fond of it and obtained free travel facilities. I hope we may find in the future that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton accepts this marketing railway with confidence. If I may quarrel with one point in the marketing policy, it is that I think we are paying too much for the permanent way. If you have a good railway company the board of directors are representative of the concern and do not consist only of those who look after the permanent way. The appointed persons under the Marketing Act have caused grave dissatisfaction. I know that the Minister appreciates how all milk producers are dissatisfied with the award. Surely, instead of the chance decision of appointed persons, the proper cost of the production of milk should have been worked out statistically.
Two problems especially are worrying my part of the world. The first is how the smallholders, who, after the War, were promised by the nation holdings on which to breed poultry, can be saved from beggary in view of the low prices of eggs. Nobody can produce eggs at 9d. a dozen. I think the truth came out when the Minister said that our hens have become too good mothers. Before the War a hen produced 75 potential children a year; row a hen produces 125 potential children a year. I was staggered at the Minister's figures showing that this country was producing 3,000,000,000 eggs a year, for the Report on Agricultural Output for 1931 showed only 2,400,000,000. The number is increasing. Let us deal with this problem. In May of this year, whatever reason is given, there were 200,000 more great hundreds of eggs coming into this country. The Minister of Agriculture said it was due to some little diffi- 92 culty in the preceding months of the quarter. I take it at that. I do want the Committee to realise however, that Poland sent us 100,000 great hundreds last year, and this year 375,000 great hundreds. We have got enough without Polish eggs. I do not think that this regulation is stringent enough.
There are two further points I wish to put. The Minister has ordered eggs to be marked efficiently with the country of origin. Unfortunately, he has not ordered that the mark should be indelible, and they rub either against each other or in the shop-keeper's hands, and the mark gets rubbed off. I do ask —and it is not a great deal—that the mark should he required to be indelible. Another question about marketing that I find hard to understand is that if an English producer puts his eggs in cold storage he has to sell them as cold storage eggs. The producers of Poland put their eggs in cold storage, and yet are able to sell them under the trade description of "New laid" or "Fresh from the nest." I find it hard to understand why a regulation should impose such unfair treatment on the Home producer. I am acting on what my constituents and representative poultry societies have told me, and hope that if I am wrong I shall be corrected. I do not think that this should continue. The Minister told us in a part of his speech which appalled me that the Poultry Reorganisation Commission would sit, possibly, for months more, and that nothing can be done until the board reports. I wonder if other Members have had my experience. I always find that persons who take an interest in a subject become like their subject. Go next Sunday to the Zoo and see how many of the Fellows resemble the animals they study. If you go to the wolves' cage you find wild men whose look terrorises. In the monkey-house the children will be found. It seems to be so with the Poultry Reorganisation Commission. Dr. Addison has sat on and on, and become similar to a broody hen. He wants to sit and sit, and not deliver the goods. There is a certain Fascist remedy for broody hens, but I do not want that. I want the Minister to get the report at the earliest possible date. I would like it to be before the House before the Recess. We have waited a long time for it. Perhaps it could be 93 arranged for the House to sit late to consider the report.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member appears to be fond of reflecting upon Dr. Addison, and his zeal for the poultry report is apparent. Can he tell us why he has not mentioned the Livestock Report? Is it because he does not want that report discussed?
§ Mr. TURTON
I was coming to that. I am now going from poultry to meat. There are reasons why it is difficult to talk about meat to-day. I hope that the Minister will not think it improper if I deal with some of the complaints my constituents are making about meat. The top price they are getting at the moment on rare occasions is 40s. Most of the producers in the North Riding of Yorkshire are on their beam ends, to use a vulgar expression. What is to be done when the autumn glut comes along? Unless some really large measure is decided upon immediately, I do not think the producers will be able to weather the year. The Minister has been regulating imports of beef. I was rather concerned on reading the Trade and Navigation reports as to the effectiveness of the regulations. For the first five months of this year there were 250,000 cwts. more imported than last year. I hoped that the regulations would be effective. Somehow, however, meat is arriving in increasing quantities. It is said, "Oh, but the Ottawa Agreement did not work for those five months; it is going to work after 30th June." That is half true. It covers a certain part of the increase. It does not cover one fact I am amazed at. I remember the declaration of the Minister on 20th December last year as to the huge increase in canned beef from the Argentine, and that imports of foreign canned beef for three months of 1934 were to be cut. The imports of foreign canned beef for a similar period in 1932 were 105,000 cwts.; for 1933, they were 150,000 cwts.; and for this year, 202,000 cwts. Is that effective regulation? Foreign canned beef is a commodity that this country can do well without. We have got plenty of fresh beef here at cheap prices. This year we have already taken 421,000 cwts. of canned beef.
Frankly, I do not believe that this regulation is the right policy or one that will work. It may be that it should be one of the measures to deal with this difficult position, but if it is to be, then 94 it must be kept to strictly. The Minister said on 7th November, 1932, that if prices under the 10 per cent. import cuts did not respond, then he would take further drastic steps to reduce the marketing, if necessary, up to a 20 per cent. cut. I am afraid that the price of beef is little better to-day than it was in November, 1932. Beef is the problem of the whole countryside. I talked about pigs and poultry, but they are the problem of the smallholder. The men who are the real bulwark of agriculture are those dependent on beef. The whole of my constituency, the whole of the North of England, is absolutely unanimous about this beef position. They all demand that, wheat having been treated one way, beef should treated in the same way.
In conclusion, I wish to say how very much those interested in agriculture have appreciated the very energetic and able manner in which my right hon. Friend has directed the work of the Government in regard to agriculture. We are seeing the effect of it in the wheat market, and I hope that we shall soon see it in other directions. In order to keep faith with the hon. Member for Don Valley, may I also put this question to the Minister. What steps are being taken to deal with the whole problem of marketing intelligence? We cannot do anything about the marketing scheme for beef until we get the proper exclusion of beef imports and a proper price for beef. What steps will the Government take towards implementing the Report of the Commission of Lord Bingley, and the recommendations made in it about marketing intelligence.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Sir THOMAS ROSBOTHAM
I wish to join in the congratulations to the Minister of Agriculture for the very able manner in which he has presented the Estimates which have given an opportunity for a general discussion on the agricultural policy of the Government and agricultural interests in general. I would emphasise the great benefit to horticulture of the policy of the Government. I can testify to the fact that thousands more persons are engaged in horticulture to-day than there were two years ago. In those days we used to refer to greenhouses, but now we refer to glass farms, which have been erected under the policy of the present Government. Many persons are inquiring when the policy of the Government is 95 to be looked upon as being on a permanent basis in order to give security for this great outlay of capital.
I am confident that the Potato Board will work well. As has been stated, we can grow sufficient potatoes in this country for our own requirements, but last year the prices were ruinous and many potato growers lost large sums of money. This points to the fact that we require regulation of production and proper distribution. It was lily happy lot during the last week-end to go through the greater part of the division which I represent, when I was interested in the fine crops of wheat. I have never seen more and better crops in West Lancashire. It is a fine testimony to the policy of the present Government to see such fine crops of wheat and such capital prospects for the farmers in the coming harvest. We were told that when the present. policy was adopted and we passed the Wheat Act, we should force up the cost of living and make bread very expensive to poor people. The world prices of flour are lower to-day than they have been for many years, and the cost of living has not risen, which is a direct answer to those who are opposed to the policy of the Government and an encouragement to the Minister of Agriculture to go forward with his policy.
Tenant farmers are noted for being grumblers. I am a tenant farmer, and I am not going to grumble this evening but to express a note of optimism as a means of encouragement to the Minister of Agriculture to pursue his present policy. I would like to put in a claim for the small cultivator—not only the allotment holder, but the smallholder. The smallholder, under the present policy of the Government, can make a living. It is no use settling men on the land or embarking upon a system of smallholdings or land settlement unless you can say to the smallholders, "You will get a living." I believe that under the present policy the owner of a smallholding is able to obtain a living. I suggest—and this does not need legislation because we have a Measure on the Statute Book—for the serious consideration of the Minister and the Cabinet, the putting into operation of Part 1 of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act. To encourage smallholdings by an offer of £50 annually for three years is all very well, but I do not find that 96 there has been much enthusiasm. It has not caused the enthusiasm one would expect. I believe that we could get more results from the operation of that Act.
We are still awaiting with patience the Report of the Poultry Commission. I think that, after we have received that report and the poultry industry has been organised, there will be more prosperity in the industry. Here, again, it is a question of regulation and distribution and a proper marketing of the products. We can do without foreign liquid eggs. We can produce eggs in this country, and, if we want a larger quantity to fulfil that demand, why should we not get them from our Dominions and prohibit foreign liquid eggs, the quality of which, on many occasions, is doubtful?
Much has been done to encourage those who live on the countryside, but we cannot expect prosperity immediately and the complete working of the Marketing Act all at once. We must remember that the whole industry of agriculture was on the verge of collapse in 1931. Agriculture was almost bankrupt, and the real voice of agriculture expressed in the country to-day is, "Thank you" to the Government and "Continue to go forward in your good work." Agricultural research is as much needed or even more so to-day than ever it was both in regard to animal and plant life. We do not yet understand foot-and-mouth disease. There is a great deal yet to be done in that connection, and also in regard to plant life, especially in reference to one of our most important food supplies, that of the potato, which is beset with danger from disease and insects. All these matters require a great deal of consideration from the scientific point of view. The cultivator needs every sympathy, as he has many difficulties with which to contend, both in regard to animals and plant life, as well as with variations of weather.
The Labour party were always in favour of marketing boards and the proper regulation and distribution of products. They were always in favour of import boards and restriction of imports. We do not hear anything said about import boards to-day from the Opposition Benches. We require increased development. I am not in favour of reducing production but of increasing it and keeping work and wages at home instead of letting them go to foreign countries. Increased labour in 97 the country means more spending in the towns. The agricultural labourer will share in the increased prosperity that comes to the cultivator, and he will have more money to spend in shopping.
I believe that the pig industry is being put upon its feet. I am all in favour of home-grown produce. We often hear it said, "You pay more for it." It is worth more. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), to whom we always listen with interest, as he commands the respect of the House, put a direct question, and I will try and answer it. He said, "With what will you be satisfied What do you want? What prices do you want for your produce? "We want prices which are based on the cost of production and which will pay us. That is our policy, and that is what we want. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) mentioned the landowner and said that he was a drawback to the present condition of agriculture. I do not agree with him, because I could take him to farmer friends of mine who reluctantly had to purchase their own farms and who are in a worse condition to-day than the ordinary tenant farmer. The tenant farmer under a good landlord is in a better position than the farmer owning his own farm. I trust that the Minister of Agriculture will be encouraged by the almost unanimous Debate and the support he has received in Committee to-day to go forward with a bold policy to put agriculture on a firm basis and bring prosperity to the countryside, which is the backbone of our British life.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
It is very strange for one who heard his first Debate on agriculture in this House 28 years ago to see the change which has come over the House. It is not only in the Conservative party that there has been a change, but lion. Members opposite have also undergone a change. Perhaps the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) is the only one who still sticks to that for which his party spoke a quarter of a century ago. He thinks that the main difficulty in agriculture is tenure. I was young once and held the heresies of the young, and at one time I thought that tenure was an important thing in the life of the farmer and that freeholding would be the end of all evils. I do not think so now, and I do not think that the farmers think so. If the right
98 hon. Gentleman really thinks that it will pay the allotment holder and the smallholder to lock up 15() an acre in the purchase of land, I do not think he will find many who will agree with him.
I want to add my praise to that which has been given already to my right hon. Friend the Minister. I suggest to the Committee that it would be a good thing if his speech could be circulated. Debates in Parliament are, from necessity, through no fault of the editors, very much curtailed in the Press, and when we get a, speech which contains a mass of figures, it is possible that some of the figures will be misplaced. It would, therefore, be a very valuable thing if the review of agriculture that has been made with such knowledge, such insight and such foresight, were given to the country at large. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scot land will convey that suggestion to the Minister.
I have very few criticisms to make, but I should not be doing my duty and speaking out my whole mind unless I reinforced what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) has said on the very grave uneasiness which prevails in the farming community over the liquid milk position. I believe that the scheme will succeed, that it is bound to succeed, and that it is planned on right lines, but when I hear from good, responsible farmers, that all that they get, net, is Old. a gallon for milk, and when I remember the price that the housewife pays for milk, there must be something to be put right. I believe that the scheme stands in need of revision, but before anyone can ask for revision, I think the cost ought to be looked into. One farmer told me, a West Riding farmer, that all he gets is 6¾d. a gallon. I think that is an exceptional case. A good many farmers are getting from 7d. to 8d. per gallon. One, admittedly a good farmer, called in an accountant and had the figures of his cost of production taken out, and the cost of production was 1s. 1d. a gallon—very much the same figure that was given by the right hon. Member for South Molton.
I cannot say whether or not these figures are correct because I have no means of checking them, but I do think that it would be a good thing and would ease the public mind and bring a solution of the question nearer, if the Minister 99 could arrange for some form of inspection, not of all the accounts but of a typical or standard farm in each part of the country. That would be a very great step in advance and would quiet a good deal of the unrest that certainly exists. I believe that the farming community do support my right hon. Friend as few Ministers have been supported. We have now at the Ministry of Agriculture a man whose mind is highly gifted and modern. I believe that there is no one in this House who sees the modern world and all its implications more clearly than my right hon. Friend, and the farming community, although they do feel that they have suffered a very severe blow by the recent arbitration, are prepared to stick to the bargain that was made when the Milk Marketing Board was set up. Above all, they believe that my right hon. Friend is the right man in the right place.
I will not say anything about beef, because it is a difficult and controversial question, and we cannot really discuss it until the negotiations with the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs are concluded. I will, however, deal with one question which is in a nutshell, although it is a big question. I wonder if the Minister could persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer that all is not quite well with the monetary question. He does not meet all objections by merely referring to what he has done. Does he mean to do anything more to raise prices? Although, of course, it would be absurd to say that all the evils which afflict the primary producer are due to monetary causes, I do believe that the monetary disasters did fall with the greatest severity on the farming community and other producers of that sort, and I should be glad if a certain amount could be done to lift the burden and to make easier the position of the man whose rent or mortgage interest is fixed permanently in money, and who has to pay that rent by the sale of commodities, the price of which fluctuates for monetary reasons. I do not think that it would be in order for me to pursue that question further, but I would suggest to the Minister that he should press the matter upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that the negotiations that are going on between the Minister, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and 100 the various countries which supply us with meat will come to a conclusion which will be satisfactory to the British farmer.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
I should like to endorse what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said on the subject of the milk trade. Opinions vary very much as to the cost of producing a gallon of milk, but I think that those who have, as I claim to have, some practical experience of that trade, will accept the figure of Is. ld. as a pretty fair approximation of the cost of producing a gallon of milk. My right hon. Friend is one of those who have battled long and valiantly for the agricultural cause, at a time when agricultural revival was not as popular a. political war cry as it is to-day, and I should like to thank him, on behalf of those who enjoy the fruits of the success of his early work and the work of those who have been associated with him, for what he and they have done for the agricultural interests of the coun[...]v.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture has had a series of well-deserved compliments showered on him. I should like to supplement the reference made earlier this evening to one part of the Minister's speech, dealing with the horticultural industry. On behalf of a constituency which produces, I imagine, more horticultural products per head of the population than any other county district in England, I should like to assure my right hon. Friend that a great many of the expectations we formed of the Horticultural Products (Special Duties) Act have been amply realised, there being even a very real danger that we may have a problem of home glut in certain market gardening products. There have been disappointments and seasonal fluctuations, but on a fair estimate of the year's production, most people will agree that in Bedfordshire and other market gardening districts, broccoli, cauliflowers, lettuces, cucumbers, mushrooms, green peas, tomatoes and potatoes have been reasonably profitable. I hope the Minister will take care that, for example, the increase in carrots and broccoli are not the precursor of an excessive increase in home acreage which may ultimately bankrupt a large number of people who are hopefully entering upon this new trade.
101 Even if we have not always received such prices as we had hoped, the fact that we are getting rid of our crop is a very significant achievement. To use the words of the farmer and the wholesaler, "We are now moving the stuff." Those who remember the dismal sight of a few years ago, when along the Great North Road we saw mile upon mile of lorries going to Covent Garden laden with produce and coming back next day with the lorries still full of the produce, unsold, will agree that the ending of that dismal chain is a significant achievement and one upon which we are entitled to congratulate the Minister. Far-sighted people would far rather sell, for example, all their potatoes at £4 a ton than sell half the crop at £5 a ton and be compelled to give the rest away.
The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) made a speech which explains why it is that the agricultural districts remain unanimously Tory. He referred to the crucial test of agricultural revival as the welfare of the agricultural labourers. I have always been taught to believe that the best thing you can do for the wage earner is to give him a job, and last. year's working in horticultural Britain has seen the successful entry into the labour market of a good many hundreds of men who up to this year have been without a job. I remember, two years ago, the hon. Baronet the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) making many speeches about tomatoes. It was suggested that not only would the horticultural duties bring no fresh employment at home, but that it would place a big burden upon the consumer in the towns. We have not heard much about that state of affairs at Question Time in the House because there has been no burdensome increase in the retail cost of tomatoes or other vegetable products in the great industrial centres. Therefore, I think that idea has been exploded, and it has been shown how you can bring prosperous times to the producer without putting burdens on the consumer.
We have seen a really significant increase in glass acreage, which brings work and wealth indirectly to the industrial districts of England; every 100 acres added to the glass cultivation in this country bringing orders to the towns or adding to the nation's wealth to the value of £300,000. Thousands of tons of coal 102 are being used in Bedfordshire and other districts to keep the new glasshouses warm, and that means employment for the industrial districts of South Wales. We are going to have a discussion in the House on the forthcoming Treaty with Holland, and no doubt those who are actively associated with the export trade in coal will draw attention to any possible ill-effects on our export coal markets in Holland of the forthcoming trade agreement. I hope the Minister concerned will impress upon his colleagues in the Cabinet that we in rural Britain have a very good market indeed in the glasshouse trade which we have built up for South Wales coal, and we hope that they will not in any way prejudice an industry which is growing in this country by a Measure which may or may not recapture some of our export markets overseas.
While on that subject, may I make reference to another matter which is of considerable importance in my particular county, the welfare of which may well be jeopardised in the negotiations with Holland? The hon. Member for Thirsk and Molton (Mr. Turton) made a reference to the facial resemblance which some people who resort to the Zoological Gardens acquire to the animals sheltered there, and he may think it rather dangerous of me to make any reference to the Bedfordshire crop of onions. But I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Agriculture the fact that 14 years ago there were 1,275 acres devoted to the cultivation of onions in Bedfordshire; but that to-day they have fallen to 281 acres, a decline of practically 1,000 acres in 14 years. In the same period the imports from Holland have risen from 1,250,000 bushels to 3,750,000 bushels. No doubt the Under-Secretary knows that it costs £45 an acre to grow onions. Of that £20 at least goes in wages. It is, therefore, true to say that in my constituency alone over £20,000 which would normally have been paid in wages every year has been paid instead to those who are growing onions for the British market in the Netherlands. He would be a short-sighted townsman who would disregard the value of this possible increase in purchasing power. A duty of something like 45s. per ton would enable our producers to grow onions at home at about £7 per ton, or 7s. a cwt., or -2d. per lb. The Dutch price retail is 1d. per lb. If you allow the retailer 100 per cent.
103 profit, an altogether exaggerated amount, he could still sell British onions at 11d. per lb. The possibilities of expansion are so enormous that I hope this question will be borne carefully in mind when the Dutch Agreement is drawn up.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
What is the present acreage?
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
The present acreage in Bedfordshire is 281, and 14 years ago it was 1,275. Those who rely on the beef trade know how much we are handicapped by the Argentine Agreement. I hope the market gardening districts will not have cause to view the Dutch Agreement with the same dissatisfaction as the livestock industry does the agreement made with the Argentine. The present Minister of Agriculture is about the first statesman in the last 100 years who has wooed the agricultural interest and not betrayed it, and we look to him confidently to show that his views are regarded as of great authority in the councils of His Majesty's Ministers.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARD LAW
I hope the Committee will grant me its indulgence if I digress from the important topics which have so far occupied us this afternoon. It is one of the unfortunate characteristics of the Minister of Agriculture that he combines in his one person two different capacities and two different interests. I want to touch upon some of the fishing interests which are his care. We have heard a great deal of what the Minister has done for agriculture, he has done a great deal also for the fishing industry. In his interesting review of the agricultural situation he referred to the Sea Fishing Industries Act, which is, of course, the most important event in the fishing industry not only during the past year but during the last 40 or 50 years. He reminded the Committee how, when that Bill was being debated, Members of the Opposition and the Liberal party were loud in their lamentations and said that the proposals were inconsistent and illogical. However illogical or inconsistent the proposals may have been at least they have worked very well. In my own constituency there are orders for new trawlers to the extent of nearly £1,000,000. Translated into terms of employment and purchasing power, these new orders mean a great 104 deal, and the economic advantages which will accrue from them will not cease when the vessels are completed and launched, because as long as they are afloat they will represent a considerable demand in the industrial markets of this country, a demand for coal and engineering works, in fact, they will represent a wide demand in many fields of industry. That is due largely to the operation of the Sea Fishing Industries Act. If the result had been different, if the conditions of the fishing industry instead of getting better had become worse, the Minister would have been blamed. As things have got very much better he is, therefore, entitled to the credit for the improvement.
In the fishing industry the Minister has had many of the same difficulties and problems which he has experienced in the wider and, perhaps, more complicated field of agriculture. In particular, he has had to grapple with the antagonism between the producer and the consumer, and it would be foolish to deny that when the measures which are now embodied in the Sea Fishing Industries Act were proposed there was a great deal of misgiving on the part of distributors of fish throughout the country. There was a fear that the Bill would create an artificial shortage which might prejudice higher prices for a short time for the fishermen and create serious embarrassment and hardship to distributors. Those fears, those misgivings, have proved unfounded, and there has been an adequate supply of fish for the time of the year. I hope the Minister will bear in mind the possibility of a real shortage of fish occurring and will remember that he has powers under the Act to relax at a moment's notice the Orders prohibiting fishing in Northern waters. If he has any serious reason to apprehend a serious shortage of fish I hope he will take immediate steps to relax these Orders.
A great deal depends on there being a free and adequate supply of fish. The fishermen themselves depend upon it for their livelihood, the people who distribute the fish depend upon it, and a very considerable number of hard working people, engaged in unloading the fishing vessels as they come in, also depend on there being an adequate supply of fish. There is no immediate fear of a shortage, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the possibility of a shortage and, 105 if he has any serious apprehension on the matter, will act at once. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) asked if anyone could point out any industry which was not demanding Government aid in the form of a subsidy. There is one industry, the trawling industry, which does not ask for any financial help of any kind from the Government. All it asks is that it should have a fair field, and given that it is perfectly willing to fight its own battles. But there is one matter in which the trawling industry feels that it is not getting a square deal, and it is a matter which is pertinent to the successful operation of the Sea Fishing Industries Act. The supplies of fish available in the North Sea are not nearly sufficient to make up the deficiency which is the natural result of the closing of Northern waters by the Sea Fishing Industries Act. Our boats, therefore, in order to make up this deficiency must go much further afield and fish off the coast of distant foreign countries, particularly Iceland and Norway.
At the present time there is satisfactory fishing going on off the coast of Iceland, but there is and has been for some time a condition of tension off the Norwegian Coast, a condition which is dangerous to the operation of the Sea Fishing Industries Act and also liable to become very dangerous to the good feeling between this country and Norway. Norway has never admitted the three mile limit, they have always insisted, or tried to insist, upon a four mile limit. They have gone even further and are extending the limit of their territorial waters, until to-day if a ship is within a dozen miles of the Norwegian coast the skipper can never be certain that he will not be arrested, his ship taken into some Norwegian port; with consequent delay. I know of cases where trawlers from Hull have been arrested within five or six miles of the Norwegian coast and delayed for 12 hours or longer, with obviously detrimental results to their catch. In some cases they have had to pay very heavy fines. These fines have been paid not because the skippers have had any feeling of guilt but because it is only by paying that they will be able to get away at all, and land their fish in anything like an eatable condition.
I am aware that His Majesty's Government are negotiating at this moment with the Norwegian Government, and I hope 106 that if the negotiations break down they will be prepared to explain to the Norwegian Government that the resources of diplomacy are not altogether exhausted. A similar state of affairs existed 12 years ago off the Russian coast. In that case the Russian Government claimed a 12 mile limit. Representations were made by the Government of the day and a patrol boat was sent to the Russian coast. Without any feeling of grievance on either side the Russian claims were reduced, and to-day, and for 10 years past, the Russian Government have granted to British fishermen the ordinary facilities which we grant to fishermen fishing off our own coast—namely, the three mile limit. It is urgent that the Government should take severe steps if necessary to inform the Norwegian Government that we cannot continue to allow the molestation of our ships which has been going on for some months past. It is urgent for more than one reason. It is urgent because the success of the Sea Fishing Industries Act and the fishing industry depends on these waters being left open to our fishermen. It is urgent because if the Government do not take some firm action the fishermen themselves will. One of these days when a British trawler is molested on the high seas the fishermen on board will resist arrest, and that will create a very unpleasant situation. For these reasons I hope that the Minister will use his influence to see that this question of the Norwegian fishing industry is settled in a satisfactory way and at the earliest possible moment. There is one other point to which I wish to refer.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. Committee counted, and 40' Members being present—
Earlier to-day the Minister referred to the export of British herring. He spoke of the enormous difficulties in dealing with our export markets. The export of fish is not limited to herring. There are other kinds of fish, notably salt cod, exported to a great number of countries. I hope that when the various new training agreements are discussed the Minister will see that the interests of the exporters of salt and dried fish are not overlooked. I do not expect any reply from my right hon. Friend now on the several points I have raised. The work which he has done for the fishing industry is very much appreciated, I 107 think I can say by all sections of the industry; but I hope that he will bear these points in mind and that if necesary he will act upon them.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I did not intend to take part in this discussion, but references have been made to that part of the Ministry's work which relates to milk marketing, and while in general I have agreed with a considerable portion of the comments made, there was one remark made which was in the main responsible for my rising to speak. In so far as organisation in the milk industry is concerned, it has always been recognised. We have never endeavoured to burke what could be deemed to be good organisation. We have rather helped as far as we could. On behalf of the Co-operative movement I would say that we have not only looked to this as something desirable, but that in the past that movement applied itself, as well as conditions would permit it, to good organisation being introduced in a voluntary manner in the milk industry. While we have given support to the need for good organisation, it will be recollected that we have always insisted on the functioning of some machinery that would not give all power to the producer.
I was rather perturbed to-day to hear a statement made by an hon. Member emphatically objecting to the role of the appointed persons and the attitude that they have adopted in the near past. I want to say that I look upon the role and the duty of those appointed persons as very important. I look upon them as one of the units within the organisation that will make for the continuity of the organisation. I do not think that this country would be prepared to allow all power to be given to any set of producers without the intervention of some machinery, or of some individuals who would be capable of putting a check upon those who have received considerable power from their fellows. In view of the fact that the reorganisation committee which preceded this scheme did not regard it as desirable that the producers themselves should have all the power in deciding such matters as price and related questions, as they were not prepared to concede that the producers should be so powerful, the attitude that has been adopted in opposition to what 108 has been the task of the appointed persons is to be deplored.
So far as I am concerned we will not take in any meek form any tendencies towards a departure from any machinery that has been interposed in the scheme. We feel that the Minister through the functioning of this organisation in future should do all he possibly can to off-set tendencies such as have been discussed already. We would like the Ministry to realise the possibility of bringing the sections in this industry a little closer together than they are at present. I have given details as to the attitude adopted, especially in Scotland, towards the distributive element, an attitude that is not, in my opinion, helpful to the industry as such. With regard to the accredited producers who are to receive special recognition, I think that that is a tendency in the right direction, but I hope it will not in any way reduce the activity of the machinery that is functioning now and looking after the conditions with regard to general quality. As to the fears expressed by the Minister in his statement to-day, that if the Department interfered any further, through the form of inspection, it might belittle or reduce the activities of local authorities—I hope that that will not weaken in any way what is already within the power of the Ministry.
A few words with regard to the sum that has been directed to educational work. I look upon that as desirable work. I was pleased to hear an hon. Member give some details as to the response farmers were making to the advantages gained from the research department. I think that the research work of the department should be pushed ahead. When farmers have received from the Government advantages such as price stability and subsidies, and when research has been applied to their problems, we are entitled to expect that the results of that research will be applied by the farmers, and that if they are not prepared to apply the new methods they are not entitled to receive much recognition in future. Then there is the sum of £180,000 for the prevention of disease. I look upon that also as an extremely important section of work. Up to the present any references that have been made to it have in the main been directed towards the cattle section. I do not know whether much has been done with 109 regard to poultry. Quite recently I went through Glasgow's meat market under the guidance of the veterinary surgeon there. I saw fowls in such a condition as would appal anyone. I think something should be done to help those who are in that industry, so that they may understand the diseases of poultry. We could then reduce to the minimum such things as are taking place to-day. Many diseased fowls are being sent for sale, not through the medium of an abattoir, but direct to the shops. The birds are sent to market to a great extent through ignorance and because of the breeder's inability to ascertain what is wrong with his birds. I hope that something will be done in that matter.
I listened with great interest to the Minister's statement upon wages. He stated that conditions were better as far as wages were concerned. I would have liked to have received a little more details as to what advantages have accrued to the men and women working in this industry. I am aware that if the fall in prices and other problems with which the industry is faced had continued, it would have been logical to have expected wages to come down further, but as far as I know anything of agricultural wages they are so low at the present time that they could not come down any further. In some parts of the country the conditions are deplorable. In view of the advantages that are being given to the farming industry, I hope it will not be very long before we see some of those advantages percolating to the people who do the actual work. If that happens more speedily much of the criticism that one hears to-day would not be voiced at all. If we are not to have the advantages that are given to the industry percolating through to the people who do the work, there will be greater opposition than ever in future to subsidies and other advantages being handed out.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. RAIKES
I have been interested to hear hon. Members opposite pay benevolent tributes to their interest in agriculture, especially their interest in the lot of the agricultural labourer. There was one gibe, spoken by one hon. Member opposite, which ought not be allowed to pass. The hon. Member is not present, but I think I am correct in saying that the substance of his observation was that while he desired to assist the agricultural 110 labourer to the fullest possible extent he looked with very deep suspicion on the agricultural landowners. Yet if there be one class of people in the country to-day who have little cause to be condemned by their record it is the class of agricultural landowners. That is a class which at the present time in spite of depression, high Death Duties and heavy taxation in other directions, continues to carry on with its job and is very often farming its land at a loss for the benefit of the countryside. I think this unselfish conduct in times of difficulty such as have been experienced by the agricultural industry, is in strong contrast to the sort of gibes which one hears from people who are not really conversant with the facts of the case.
I wish to reinforce what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in regard to the poultry industry. The poultry industry at present is in a parlous plight, though it is an industry which, at its best, should be among the most profitable branches of agriculture. It represents a very high rate of employment per acre, and as far back as 1930 the annual value of its produce came to more than that of wheat, oats and barley combined. Its output has increased considerably in the last four years. Nevertheless, it is not selling its produce at a profit and this applies particularly to eggs. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister say that when the Reorganisation Commission reported he proposed to take steps to see that the small man was not squeezed out of the industry, but I fear that unless we get some report from the commission before very long, or unless some drastic steps are taken in advance of the report to enable the industry to tide over its present difficulties, there will be very few of the small men left to enjoy the fruits of that commission's work when it does report. Even this year we find that eggs are selling at 2s. per long hundred less than they were selling at this time last year, and last year prices were low enough in all conscience. At Southend new-laid eggs are being hawked around from door to door at 1s. a dozen. That may seem very pleasant for the time being to the consumer, but with prices of that sort it is impossible far the industry to subsist and pay a decent wage to those who work in it.
111 This is a question which has to be faced and I admit that it is not merely a question of importation. I realise that through lack of proper marketing you get undercutting and the hawking of eggs in the manner I have described. It is no use pretending that the difficulties of the poultry industry are entirely due to foreign importation. They are not, though they are in part attributable to that cause. But the actual importation of foreign eggs has to some extent diminished in the last year or two. This year, generally, importation from the Dominions has diminished, although there are increases in the quantities coming from Poland and other countries which produce a very low-valued article. But the danger of importation is not simply in the matter of quantity. Another point which is sometimes overlooked is the price of the imported article and although slightly fewer eggs are being imported this year the price value has fallen heavily.
Comparing 1933 with 1931 we find that the total importation of eggs in shell has fallen by roughly 29 per cent. but at the same time the value of the imported article has fallen by about 47 per cent. Taking the first four months of this year compared with the same period of 1932 we find the same story— a decrease in importation of about 18 per cent, and a decrease in the value of the imported article of about 42 per cent. If the value of the importation is steadily falling, it will knock the bottom out of the market more surely than a larger importation at a higher price. One realises the difficulty of getting a report from the Reorganisation Commission in a short time because the whole problem has to be examined with a view to the interests of all sections of the industry, but if the commission is not going to report for some time, it will be necessary, as I have said, to take some steps to tide it over the present situation, so that when the commission does report the industry will still be working and will still have its head above water.
There are two minor matters to which I would draw attention. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton that it is hard on the home producer that it should be permissible to mark imported eggs as" new laid." It 112 is true that the country of origin has also to be indicated but people do not often look at that. They see the mark" new laid" and they do not trouble much further. If it were compulsory to mark these eggs" chilled" instead of" new laid the housewife would realise that she was getting a product totally different from the new laid egg of this country. Further I would agree that there is no necessity whatever in this country to-day for importing liquid eggs, having regard to the increase in our home production. The real danger and trouble to this industry however is that while we are awaiting the report of the Commission the industry may find itself in such a position as a result of the prevailing low prices that it will not be able to take advantage of the Commission's recommendations when the time comes. I ask the Minister therefore to bear in mind the special difficulties of the poultry farmer. I suggest that he should be given a helping hand at this juncture and enabled to secure a greater share of the home market in the coming months even though it should not be found possible immediately to get a report of the Commission and put it into operation. Like other Members for agricultural constituencies I conclude by saying that we welcome the work which the Minister has done, both what he has done over the week-end and what he has done in many other forms and at other times for agriculture. We assure him of our continued support in his efforts to maintain this great and useful industry.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. PERKINS
I wish to ask the Minister three simple questions. The first has reference to an item on page 101 of the Estimates which indicates that the Minister received a sum of £875 as fees in respect of the granting of licenses for the export of horses. There has been a strong agitation for nearly 20 years in this country in favour of prohibiting the export of live horses, and from the pamphlets issued by those who are connected with that movement I get the impression that they have an almost unanswerable case. They allege that there is cruelty to the horses on this side, and on the boat, and also when the horses are unshipped in Belgium and Holland. Can the Minister give a simple and straightforward denial to these allega- 113 tions? Can he say that they are unfounded and that there is no atom of truth in any of them? If he cannot give us that assurance, I must then ask him why has he done nothing to stop this trade which in my view ought to be stopped at the earliest possible moment.
My second question is with regard to beef, eggs and milk. I wish to give the Minister full credit for the state of affairs now prevailing in British agriculture as a whole. It is without a shadow of doubt that in six or seven branches of the industry things are much better now than they were last year or the year before. The producers of oats, wheat, barley, sugar-beet, pigs, sheep—all these are better off than they were and this great wave of prosperity has been brought to these sections of the industry without any appreciable increase in the prices charged to the consumer. Unfortunately, these benefits have not reached the beef producers, the egg producers, or the milk producers, and the question which I put to the Minister is this. Has he cut down the imports of eggs, of beef, of milk and all subsidiary milk products to the minimum which he is allowed under the various existing trade agreements? Is it possible to increase the tariff on eggs, to put a tariff at all on beef, to put a tariff on milk and milk products? If not, is it possible to reduce the quotas on all these objects? I am one of those who believe that you will never succeed in bringing back prosperity to the beef producer, the poultry farmer, and the milk producer in this country until you bring about a very substantial reduction in the imports of these commodities.
The third question that I want to ask my right hon. Friend has to do with foot-and-mouth disease. I see here, on page 103, that the Committee is going to vote a sum of £16,500 for research into the cause and possible cure of foot-and- mouth disease. I understand that for 10 or 12 years past this sum of money has always been voted and that a great deal of research has been going on, but I want to ask whether the Minister has any progress to report, whether, after 10 or 12 years of a great deal of public money being spent, this Committee has found out anything, and, if so, whether he can tell us what it has found out. I am going to suggest that, instead of giving this sum of £10,500 every year to the various 114 Government chemists and chemists in his Department, the right hon. Gentleman should offer a large bribe, in the shape of a present of £250,000 or £500,000, to any individual chemist or biologist who can find out the cause of foot-and-mouth disease and bring forward a definite cure. I know that my right hon. Friend will say, "What is the use of my going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and asking for such a large sum of money, when I have no hope of getting it?" I would suggest that he should go, not to the hard-hearted Chancellor of the Exchequer, but to that kind-hearted gentleman the Home Secretary, and say to him," I am very anxious to get £250,000 or £500,000 to give a bribe to the chemists of this country to find a solution of the foot-and-mouth disease problem. Will you allow me to have just one national sweep' in this country and with the proceeds of it give this bribe to the chemists?"
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM WAYLAND
I think we can accurately describe the Minister of Agriculture as the cheerful optimist of the Government Benches. He is faced with enormous difficulties, and, although he is probably the best Minister of Agriculture who has been on that bench for many years, he has still only just touched the fringe of the agricultural question, as I think he himself would admit. There are only two points that I wish to bring before his notice. The last speaker touched upon one of them, and that was the sum of money allocated to research work. I am sorry to see that there is £1,000 less this year than last year for the eradication of disease in livestock, because, as the Minister knows, we are not tackling disease as we should do. Many diseases are still in such a state that we make no progress at all with regard to them, and I particularly want to ask him whether he has any information to impart about Johne's disease.
Johne's disease is a wasting disease, which is spreading throughout the country, as it is spreading throughout Europe. It means the loss every year of an enormous number of cattle. Cows particularly are attacked. It is such a disease that in its incipient stages it is not noticeable, and it is only when it has made so much progress that there is no cure that it is discovered, and then the 115 only thing you can do is to kill the animal. There have been attempts at making various anti-toxins, but they have not been successful, and I hope the Ministry will tackle this question, because think very little work has been done upon it so far, and, from all the information that I can obtain, what work has been done has not been of much use. It is the same with sheep. There are many diseases of sheep of which we still have very little knowledge. There are hundreds of thousands of sheep dying of disease, I will not say every year, but in the course of two or three years, and I think that if more money were spent upon research into the diseases of cattle and sheep, it would pay very well indeed, and we should not suffer the severe losses that we do every year at present.
I want to touch on the question of butter. The object of the butter marking order is to prevent fraud, that is to say, to prevent the blenders in this country from defrauding the public by foisting upon it blended butter with a description as if it came from English farms. Most of the Russian butter which comes into this country is not sold as Russian butter, but is blended, and so is most of the butter from North Europe. The recommendations of the committee which the Minister appointed were excellent, excepting the last one, which nullified the previous five. The last recommendation of the committee, which recommended that a butter marking order should be made, was that a blender should merely have to put upon his labels," Including imported butter." That means that a blender, as long as he has 1 per cent. of Empire or home-made butter incorporated in his blend, is able to put that ticket on his label, and deceive the housewife into the belief that she is buying mostly a British product. I certainly think—and I have approached three Ministers now in connection with this matter—that such a plain fact that the fraud is being committed and can be committed with such impunity should lead the Ministry to do away with this last recommendation, so that the other recommendations could be put into operation, which would decidedly prevent fraud upon the public.
In conclusion, I should like to say, with regard to the milk question, that I do not think it will be settled satisfactorily until 116 the whole of the recommendations of the Royal Commission are brought into operation. I believe that if we had a council composed, as the Milk Commission suggested, of the producer, the retailer, and the consumer, with a neutral chairman appointed by the Minister, we should not again see that state of affairs which has given rise to such a revolt among farmers as did the award of the last arbitrators in connection with summer prices. I sincerely hope that the Minister, in spite of the fact that he would have to ask Parliament for statutory authority, will consider this question, as I am confident, as are many others, that it will not be settled until the present board is altered in the way that I have indicated.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I congratulate the Minister on the way in which he is organising the agricultural industry by schemes of marketing and so on. I hope that they will be a success, as we expect that they will be under his administration. I want to put forward a plea to the Government. I want to ask them to let us know what the next step is to be. Suppose we organise as far as we can and production increases, how far is the agricultural industry to be allowed to increase its production? Already we see in eggs and poultry the effects of an increased production at an unexampled pace. Everywhere the small man is taking up that side of agriculture, and eggs and poultry are being produced at a rate that was not thought possible a few years ago.
I suggest to the Government that the time will come sooner or later when agriculturists will want to know how far they can produce in order to supply our home market. They will want to know in what articles this country can make itself self-supporting. It can be said that in some articles it would pay us to be self-supporting in 80 per cent. of what the population of this country can consume, and that it would not pay us to produce the other 20 per cent. because we could get it at a cheaper rate from the Continent. There are also some articles in which we can never make ourselves self-supporting owing to the size of the country and the amount of land which is taken up by the urban districts. Unless we know something of that kind shortly there will be during the next year or two 117 a tremendous amount of hesitation and want of purpose. People will say," Can I go into this line or that? What do the Government intend to do?" There are one or two pertinent observations which, I think, must be made on this point. In nearly every article we can take almost the full production in our home market. The industrial towns can take the lot. But, however, much we can produce in this country, with the possible exception of potatoes, we can still not fill the mouths of the industrial towns. Then, too, those markets are very close to the farms where the agricultural produce is grown.
That brings me to the question of the treaties. There has naturally been a good deal of doubt and anxiety in the minds of the agricultural producers as to what will be the effect, not only of the treaties that have been negotiated— and which I am bound to say can be terminated— but also of future treaties. This doubt is due to the fact that the question of agriculture is linked up to the export of manufactured articles. In the old days undoubtedly the manufacturers gained a tremendous victory over the agriculturists because they exported their manufactured articles and got in what they called cheap food from the Continent. They exchanged manufactured articles for imported food in order to keep trade going. It was one of the means by which other countries could continue to trade with us. That method of barter is now coming to an end, for foreign countries do not want our exports to anything like the extent that they did. They are themselves becoming more self-supporting. Then there is the economic crisis, which makes it difficult for foreign countries to buy and which makes our people realise that it does not pay us to buy from foreign countries beyond a certain amount of food which we can produce ourselves. The nation as a whole must decide the way in which the agricultural produce that we can produce is to be linked up with the manufactured articles which we propose to export and the importation of foreign food.
Five or 10 years ago manufacturers would not have dreamed of supporting an increase of agricultural produce in this country. They were satisfied to get cheap food from abroad. Now they have to realise that they have to support an agricultural population that is turned out of work. The more people are turned off
118 the land the more they drift into the towns, and the manufacturing population have to support them. The Government have checked that drift, and with luck they will be able to increase the number of people employed on the land. That flow back from the towns to the land will certainly be checked unless we get an announcement from the Government as to how far our agricultural produce is to be allowed to increase. Within the next two years, as the agriculturists see the wisdom of such a policy— and they are already beginning to see it—the Government will be well advised to let us in the country know that we can go right ahead and produce all the eggs and poultry, all the soft fruit, and all the potatoes and so on that we want; and that they will back up the producers, and, as they produce, will restrict foreign importation. If the producers get that assurance, I am sure the country will respond and prices will remain such as the industrial population can afford to pay.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL-JOHNSTON
I have listened all the afternoon to the oldest inhabitants of certain villages who represent agricultural constituencies teaching the Minister how to conduct his Department. I wish to attack the question from a different angle. I represent what is commonly known as a dormitory constituency in the great borough of East Ham. East Ham South is made up of people who work all over London, going out during the day and coming back at night. These people get some of the lowest wages of anybody in London. How does this question strike them? I was much impressed by the question—and a rhetorical question, and therefore rather a dangerous one—which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) put. He asked" How high are you going to raise your prices" The answer is very simple. I have worked among the workers of this country all my life. We have heard distinctions made between colliers and other people, but I do not think there is any distinction between them. I have worked many years among the colliers of Yorkshire, and have fought alongside them, land I know they are the salt of the earth. There are no distinctions among the workers of this country, they stand by one another, Land if we once convince the workers in even the 119 poorest constituencies, such as mine, that even if the price of food goes up that rise will mean a living wage for the workers in the agricultural districts, they are perfectly willing to pay. There is the test of the question.
I am not here to discuss agriculture in general, although I could do so, having been brought up in the country, but I represent the workers of this great town in which we live, land it is from their point of view that I wish to look at the question for a few minutes. We have heard this question discussed this way and that way, from the philanthropic point of view of certain workers and from the soulless point of view of the ancient Liberalism propounded by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). I want to make it clear, as la non-agricultural Member, that this is a question which affects us in the towns just as it does those in the agricultural constituencies. We are here to back up the Government on this question as much as any of the hon. Members from the agricultural constituencies, and for that reason I shall support the Government in any action they take.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
It is very refreshing to listen to the speech we have just heard from an hon. Member who represents a constituency which has no agricultural interests, but I am sure my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not follow him further. I do not often find myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), but with the first sentence only of his speech, in which he said that the Committee would be pleased with the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, I find myself in entire agreement. I think it may be said that not within living memory, or any other memory, has a Minister of Agriculture been able to stand at that Box and give an account of so much attempted in so short a time. My only object in rising is to refer to one point: if I may put it so, to return to the charge on the question of eggs. It would be churlish not to acknowledge what the Minister has done, and we thank him for it. He has arranged that the imports of eggs in shell to this country during the six months period, March to September this year, shall not exceed those in the corresponding period of last year, when the 120 imports were the lowest for 10 years. We acknowledge his action in that matter, but I beg leave to doubt whether even that will be sufficient to tide the industry over the present difficult period. We shall still have to wait some time for the report of the Reorganisation Commission, and it has to be remembered that production in this country has gone up enormously.
The Minister himself referred to the very much higher productive capacity of the hen. That, coupled with the increase of production which has taken place, owing to the hopes of the future, make it necessary, I think, for this position to be looked into again in order to see whether the present measures are really adequate to meet the situation. The Minister has earned, and rightly earned, the confidence of all agricultural Members and of the country in general, and, in fact, he has inspired confidence in the most unlikely quarters. I read in my Sunday paper that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had said in a speech dealing with agriculture that whenever he got a form under some scheme which was sponsored by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister he signed along the dotted line without further ado. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be inclined to look into that a little further before taking it as a compliment, for he doubtless remembers the Latin tag Quidquid id est tinteo Danaos et dona ferentes. Being a Scot, I look at the gifts of Welshmen with great suspicion. I do not wish to detain the Committee, but as I have said, the Minister has earned the confidence of the agricultural community, and I ask him to look very carefully in the egg situation to see whether the Measures which he has already taken and for which we thank him are sufficient. If he gives us an assurance that he will do that, our confidence in him is such that we shall rest content.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
After all the congratulations which have been showered upon the Minister I really do not know whether I ought to congratulate him or not, but as the right hon. Gentleman devoted a good portion of his speech to congratulating himself I do not see why I should not congratulate him too. The right hon. Gentleman told his friends who are supporting the National Government. 121 and told the universe as well, that prices were up, that values were up, that wages were up, that spirits were up, and that were it not for eggs and beef, and mutton, and lamb, and a few other odds and ends, agriculture would be "flying." After that, one can afford to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that the situation is as he suggested; and in view of the pliability of the right hon. Gentleman before the pleadings of the agricultural Members of this House and of the farmers, which has resulted in restrictions, regulations, agreements, subsidies and guarantees, I should not be at all surprised if, in odd corners of the agricultural industry, they are beginning to enjoy some tiny bit of prosperity. Those who produce wheat are convinced that one of the best things the Government ever did was to share £5,000,000 among them, and I am not sure that I should not be equally pleased were I a wheat producer. The farmers who are recipients of a share of the sugar-beet subsidy are equally pleased with the right hon. Gentleman, as they are entitled to be. What with these subsidies and the Customs duties— that unknown quantity—I do not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman has all these congratulations showered upon him; but I should like to throw a note of discord into the centre, and I would ask the Minister to take note of this fact, even if hon. Members will not, and to bear it in mind in the future.
The Wheat Act has been referred to as one of the best things this or any other Government ever produced, and the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown), who is a wheat producer, is appreciative of it, but I suggest to him, if he is the sportsman that I think he is, that he cannot feel that the Government were justified in compelling the poorest of the poor to pay the biggest portion of that subsidy. It may be that the hon. and gallant Member and his colleagues can make out a case for subsidising wheat, or for subsidising any other agricultural commodity, but I am quite certain that he cannot make out a case for a scheme under which the poorest section of the community are called upon to pay the biggest share.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That interjection only goes to show how little the hon. and gallant Gentleman has thought about the question. The agricultural wage is 28s. or 30s. Let us say that the agricultural worker is receiving 30s. per week. If the farmers in the East Riding of Yorkshire were not confronted with a Wages Board, the wage would not be 20s. 1 well remember the farmers' representative, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), stating in 1923 that if the Government would only give them per acre for all wheat sown they would very charitably increase their agricultural labourers' wages by 6d. per week.
§ Mr. TURTON
May I remind the hon. Member that Thirsk and Malton is not in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If it does not happen to be in the East Riding, at least it is adjoining the North Riding, and there is a close relationship between the farmers of the East and the North Ridings of Yorkshire. I was making the point that a case may or not be made out for the subsidy for wheat, but it is not sportsmanship to impose the biggest burden upon the poorest section of the community. If the wage be 30s. per week, obviously a family containing two or three children cannot afford to buy a lot of meat. When they are denied that privilege, the only other commodity to take the place of meat is bread; whether it be bread with jam, bread with butter or bread with dripping makes no difference; it must be bread. Therefore, the poorer the family the smaller the quantity of meat that they can afford to buy, and the bigger the quantity of bread that they must buy. They are consequently the biggest contributors to the £ 5,000,000 wheat scheme. Hon. Members may congratulate the Government upon a piece of machinery, but they ought not to congratulate them upon their exquisite method of squeezing the poorest of the poor.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had worked it out he would find that the Wheat Subsidy, plus 2s. per quay on imported flour, is equivalent to lid. per stone. Ho must not forget that there is also a 1¾d. duty on butter and cheese and many duties on 123 other agricultural and horticultural products which all sections of the community have to purchase. The point is that the poorest of the poor have to pay the biggest proportion of the wheat subsidy, about which agricultural Members are congratulating the Government.
The Minister said this afternoon that we were fast working to self-government in the industry. Unless we are careful, we shall be fast working to a, point where the industry is governed by selfishness. The Minister alone stands between that selfishness and the vast mass of consumers. We want to see organisation, and we want to see the industry as prosperous as circumstances will permit, without the exploitation of the industrial community. To-day is not dissimilar from any other day when agriculture is under review, and one notes that every National speaker seeks, not more organisation or more control, but more restriction and more prohibition. The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) said that we must deal with these prohibitions with our sleeves up and use the iron hand. We must take the boxing gloves off, as it were. I am pleased to note that the Minister is not likely to fall for his blandishments. He invited the Minister to keep out every agricultural commodity. He does not care if we do not export any more iron or steel or coal, and he appears to think that if agriculture is prosperous all the other 45,000,000 people will be prosperous.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
May I be allowed to say, after that misrepresentation of what I said, that I stated that agriculturists were very anxious to respond to the invitation of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) that there should be reciprocity of feeling between them and industrialists in the coalmining industry? I went on to point out that if the purchasing power of the agricultural community were increased, that inevitably meant more work and wages for those represented by hon. Members of the Opposition.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If the hon. Gentleman could actually work out in practice that beautiful theory we should be almost inclined to agree with him. We happen to have been able to compare the cost of living, and we know the difference 124 between the price of bread in this country and in other countries. At the present time in Fascist Germany they are paying ls. 8d. for margarine. I do not know what they are paying for butter. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to reach that state of affairs I am afraid that the good relations which already exist between the agricultural workers and the mine workers are not going to last very long. I want to see those relations maintained.
Hon. Gentlemen have been raising Cain with the Minister of Agriculture, not only to-day but day after day for weeks, on the question of the importation of milk products. They supported the Ottawa Agreements. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) also supported them and so did National Members almost without exception. If my recollection serves me well, I only spoke once during the whole of the discussions on the Ottawa Agreements, and I declared that if I could see clearly into the future we should find ourselves confronted with a problem that was disintegrating the Empire. The questions that are being constantly put to the Minister by National Members must be read with great dismay in all parts of the Dominions from which commodities are imported to this country. I am not arguing that we ought to leave our markets wide open to the Dominions, regardless of our farmers, but that hon. Gentlemen ought not to be like shuttlecocks, bouncing here and there and not knowing where they are. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to wave the Union Jack when it suits them to do so, and to talk what the Secretary of State for the Dominions calls "humbug" or "bunkum" or something like that, but, when it comes to hard facts, they have to retrace their steps, and that does not tend to improve our relations with the Empire, but rather to have the opposite effect.
We all know that what the Minister has said to-day is true, and that curiously enough we are suffering because of efficiency in the dairying industry. The old dairy farmers blamed the livestock producers for having transferred from the production of livestock beef to the production of milk. Milk production has gone up in a very few years from 1,200 million gallons to 1,400 million gallons, and that has been done because of an increased yield per cow consequent upon 125 improvement in grasses, in feeding-stuffs and in breed, and so forth. We agree that that sort of thing must go on, but ordinarily, when a manufacturer is producing any article, he tries to ascertain in advance if he is likely to get a customer for his products. Not so the farmers. They just produce as much as they can, and, when there is a huge surplus and they have knocked the bottom out of their own price level, they say, "You will have to subsidise us; we have too much milk, and the people of this country will not buy it." We are subsidising manufacturing milk, and the Minister tells us that we are increasing our production of skimmed milk, which is subsidised, and are increasing our exports bf skimmed milk, which is subsidised. I wonder what the foreigner is going to say about English subsidised skimmed milk being exported to his country. I would like to know whether the foreigner has complained to the right hon. Gentleman or not, and, if not, why it is that he has not complained, because hon. Gentlemen in this House are never tired of com- plaining about what they call subsidised imports into this country.
With regard to bacon, the right hon. Gentleman told us that not only have bacon prices increased, but the price of pork has increased, and the prices of store pigs have increased. Of course, he says, prices are up, supplies are plentiful, and everything is fairly sweet and smooth in the pig and bacon line. I am not at all sure that the right hon. Gentleman can justify that statement. I put two questions, one a week ago to-day and one to-day. Last Monday I sought from the President of the Board of Trade inform tion as to the reduction in the number of cwts. of bacon that would be imported into this country this year as compared with 1931, and the answer was that some- thing over 5,000,000 cwts. less of bacon will be imported this year than in 1931. To-day I asked the right hon. Gentleman the estimated output of bacon and ham in this country. The estimated output leaves a deficit, as compared with the consumption in 1931, of 3,900,000 cwts of bacon and ham. According to the Minister, the output in 1931 was approximately 1,750,000 cwts., while the anticipated output this year, based upon all contracts made by farmers with the bacon factories and so forth, is 2,910,000 cwts. Since the decrease in imports from 126 abroad is 5,085,000 cwts., we shall, therefore, have about 3,900,000 cwts. less than in 1931.
That only goes to show that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton was correct when he said that, so far as contracts are concerned, we are 100,000 pigs down. Many hon. Members will recollect the right hon. Gentleman saying at that Box that there were millions of pigs screaming at him from every angle. Those screaming pigs, apparently, have turned out to be dreaming pigs—merely a hallucination on the right hon. Gentleman's part. He said, both in Committee and in the House, when the Agricultural Marketing Bill was being passed, that it was not his intention to reduce imports without filling the gap by increased production at home, but he has failed to fill the bacon gap, and the result has been that, so the Board of Trade tell me, the price of Danish bacon in 1931 was 70s. 6ci., while on the same date this year it is 91s. 6d. These are wholesale prices. With the reduced quantities available, the price has jumped from 70s. 6d. to 91s. 6d. Obviously, the retail price has increased too, and it simply means that, if there is 3,900,000 cwts. less bacon to consume, it will be largely the poorest section of the community that will go short. In the first place, they cannot afford to pay the higher prices, and, secondly, if the price went still higher, those with bigger incomes would obviously get the first chance, and the poorer people would be wholly cut off from any supplies at all. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said that the farmers in his area could supply the people of South Yorkshire with as many good bacon pigs as they want. I hope that that is the case, but might I remind the hon. Member that, when the farmers of South Yorkshire owned a bacon factory of their own, they did not supply enough bacon pigs to keep it going?
§ Mr. TURTON
That was at a time when the Minister of Agriculture was not restricting imports from foreign countries. Could the hon. Member tell me the price of bacon when his Government was in office in 1930?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman told us in the course of his speech that when we were in office the price was as high as it is at this moment, so that that argument, as regards not 127 supplying the Doncaster bacon factory, is a very weak one. They were so disloyal to themselves that, although they owned the bacon factory and had contracted to supply it with so many pigs per farm during the year, they did not even supply their own factory, and it had to go into liquidation. I happen to know that that was so, because I came with the chairman of the bacon factory to the Minister of Agriculture in order to try and borrow another £ 10,000 to enable them to carry on. It is their disloyalty to themselves that has brought them to their present position. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware, and the hon. Member must be aware, that there is more than one screw loose in the agricultural industry. Two per cent. of the population of this country provide 50 per cent. of the population of the country with all their food, and yet, for some magical, mysterious reason, those two per cent. cannot make a decent livelihood without coming cap in hand to the Minister. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's efforts are going to succeed Where the farmers have failed, and that self-government, as he described it, in the industry is going to be a greater success than it has been in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman made a passing reference to potatoes. That branch of the industry, he said, quoting the present Chairman of the Potato Board, is working out its own destiny, and prosperity lies just ahead. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has read the Orange Book on potato marketing produced by his own Department? If he has, he will have found that potatoes are not so difficult as any of the other commodities that have already been dealt with by marketing schemes. The consumption of potatoes in this country is known in advance almost to a ton, and it is only when, after a season's crop has fallen short, and a big price has been obtained, with the result that the next year's plantings have increased proportionately, that there is an extra output and the price falls, and then the potato growers blame the imports of potatoes for their loss. If there is an agricultural commodity in regard to which sensible organisation would prevent the farmer from losing money or the consumer from being exploited, that commodity is potatoes. Now there is a duty of from £2 10s. to £4 per ton on imported 128 potatoes, and, as potatoes are a very bulky commodity, the transport of which for many miles over sea and land costs the exporters a great deal of money, potato production ought to be a prosperous proposition in this country.
We are informed that the trouble with eggs is that the hens are too prolific. They are laying too well. We have too many eggs; therefore, someone has to starve. It is a curious situation that there are demands from all round the House for the Reorganisation Commission's Report. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton was not quite fair to Dr. Addison. If he had listened to the Minister's statement, I am not sure that he would have reflected on Dr. Addison as he did. The right hon. Gentleman gave reasons for the delay in advancing that Report. I made an interjection, for which I apologise now to the hon. Member, during his speech. I have heard several Members to-day demand this report of the Reorganisation Commission on poultry and eggs, and I could not help wondering why it was that those same Members did not make a similar demand for the putting into operation of the Livestock Commission's Report. Not a single Member, as far as I remember, made a reference to it, except the hon. Member after 1 had made my interjection. Of course they do not want the Livestock Reorganisation Commission's Report put into operation. I think the cat is out of the bag. The money is already in their pockets so they are not going to talk about it. They know a, bit too much.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) asked the Minister when he will tell the poultry keepers what sort of market they have to supply, to what extent their output must increase and to what extent imported commodities will be withheld. That is a question which at some time the House will have to ask and supply the answer. This happy-go-lucky, slip-shod method of production, where no one quite knows whether there is going to be a serious surplus or a serious shortage, will have to be dealt with sooner or later, and while the industrial section of the population, I am pretty sure, wants to give agriculture a square deal, they will not do so if they stand aside and allow their interests to be sacrificed because other people will 129 not look after their own business. This poultry business is on a par with milk. Every backyard in the country is being used for the production of poultry and eggs. Apparently, no census has been taken. There has been no effort to ascertain how many English eggs we can consume or what price we can afford to pay for that quantity. Quantity and price will have to go together if there is going to be any respectable relationship between our agricultural and industrial populations. If the right hon. Gentleman merely falls to the blandishments of his supporters, just restricts and regulates and allows production to go on haphazard, it will reflect itself not to the credit of the Minister or to the comfort of consumers.
He made some reference to fishing as a justification for the Sea Fishing Industries Bill. Prior to the introduction of that Bill, as far as we can ascertain, the Government have taken no steps to Ascertain what profits were being made either by the fishing companies or by the people who were distributing the fish. A Sea Fish Commission was established. We learn that so far it has done nothing to ascertain where the leakage is in distribution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, a week or so ago, referring to agriculture, including, I presume, fishing, said:Our aim is to see that the producer has a market for his produce and that he gets a reasonable price for it without raising the price to the consumer so much that he will refuse to buy. It ought to be quite possible to attain that end because everyone knows that there is a very big gap between the price that the producer receives and the price that the consumer has to pay.We want to know why, when the Minister took power to establish the Sea Fish Commission, distribution was not the first problem that they examined instead of the last, for it seems to us that the Chancellor of the Exchequer for once is right, and to the extent that he is right it is some reflection upon the action of either the Minister or the Sea Fish Commission themselves if they had the power to determine where they should start.
With regard to meat, the evil day is put off for a time, but we know what is going to happen. The interests have been so pressing that they have succeeded in exacting indirectly a few more millions out of the taxpayers' pockets. However, we will deal with that problem when it 130 comes to hand. The demands that have been made to-day, which are not dissimilar from those made every Monday and almost every Tuesday when the President of the Board of Trade is replying to questions, imply that there is an easy solution to this agricultural problem. We are very suspicious of these easy solutions. We do not think that such solutions, as merely restricting, imposing Customs duties and providing financial guarantees or subsidies, are going to solve the problem in the right way, and we feel that these marketing schemes frequently credited to the 1931 Act are not quite consistent with the spirit of that Act. These marketing schemes have a relationship to it, but every one of them is definitely governed by the 1933 Marketing Act passed by this Government. There the producers have power not only to determine output, not only to determine imports, but absolutely uncontrolled power to determine the prices which we have to pay for every commodity. Sooner or later that form of control will be found to be too weak, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) suggested that it WAS to-day. If all,the power be left in the hands of the producer, and the consumer be nowhere and never gets a chance at all, it seems to me that a reckoning day is not far ahead.
The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Christie), pleading for more small holdings, said, "Fruit is all right, pigs are all right, and if chickens and eggs were all right, smallholders would be all right." The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton perhaps did not quote every commodity, but he said, "Wheat is all right, sugar is all right, bacon and barley and oats are all right, and, if only beef, mutton and lamb were all right, agriculture would be all right." We might as well say, "The banks are all right, the moneylenders are all right, electricity and gas are all right and, if only coal were all right, mining would be all right." Unfortunately coal is not all right and mining is not all right.
The right hon. Gentleman made a passing reference to wages. He and we were glad to hear it, that during a recent period 300,000 agricultural workers had had a slight increase in their wages. Not before time, for during the last year I should say that 600,000 or 700,000 agri- 131 cultural workers have suffered reduced wages and extended hours. If these slight increases which have been paid to agricultural workers recently are an indication of some sort of prosperity returning to agriculture, we are very pleased to hear it. What we fear, however, is that the 300,000 agricultural workers who are getting from 6d. to is. per week more are securing that slight addition out of the financial gifts that the Government have made to the industry, and we shall never rest happy until we see all labourers getting a bigger share of these gifts than they are getting at present.
There is one other observation that I wish to make with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's Estimates. I see a slight addition in the Estimate for agricultural education, some £ 40,000 more being allocated this year. Whatever our feelings may be towards restrictive regulations and subsidy policies, we are agreed that too much money cannot be spent on education, and there seems to be no end to its possibilities. We welcome this slight increase, and we hope that not only will it be maintained for agricultural education, but that the Minister will also see that no research establishment is starved for want of funds. I lament that the right hon. Gentleman has seen fit to give only £ 6,000 more for drainage this year than he did last year, when the funds were reduced to rock bottom. The problem of the Minister of Health is to produce more water. In due season, however, we shall have too much water in some areas, and then it will have been proved that if 1,000,000 can be spent on this commodity, it would be wise to spend an equal amount to drain the 1,750,000 acres of land in readiness for that happy day when all commodities have guaranteed prices in perpetuity. Those areas which badly need draining would then be ready for the unemployed to work upon. I should like to ask the Minister how many agricultural labourers are unemployed. If the machinery has not been set in motion I hope the right hon. Gentleman will put it in motion for securing unemployment insurance for agricultural labourers as quickly as possible. We recognise that unemployment among agricultural labourers is a menace to industrial workers, and we want to see them sheltered, therefore, by insurance.
132 This has been undoubtedly a year of agriculture activity. The right hon. Gentleman has been very generous to his friends, but they have not been so generous to him. I hope they will take a warning. We said years ago that agriculture would never prosper until it learnt to market its produce. When the scheme is in existence, producers will have full control. Consumers will have no chance at all. The danger is that selfishness will carry farmers over the bridge. We would prefer certain limitations placed on them. Industrial Britain is willing to see the farmer get a fair deal. It may revolt, however, against excesses such as were witnessed last year among those who produced hops, who saw an opportunity, pounced on it and exploited it. We do not want to see that with milk, wheat or potatoes. While we are ready to sacrifice a good deal for the farmers, we do not feel that England should be sacrificed to the landowners. We warn those people, and recall the squealing pigs that did not appear, the loans the Minister had to provide because the pig producers let him down, because they broke faith with him. I do not want to see further breaking of faith with him. The subsidies are most prolific, and I hope that the Minister will not be broken by the farmers with their urgent demands, financial guarantees and all the rest.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that, in addition to the general satisfaction with the course of the Debate, particular satisfaction is felt at the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). Rarely do we find that the closing speaker for the Opposition not merely supports the Government policy of marketing and suggests that I should be protected against all corners, including my friends, but goes to the length of promising in advance his support to a Government Measure. Referring to the hops scheme, he practically extended a pledge of support for the Government when that scheme came in. He said that there was danger in the potato scheme if it were not properly planned; that it was easy to determine exactly how much to produce in the way of potatoes and not more, and that this slipshod way of rushing into the market and producing more one year than the other should be done away 133 with. As, of course, all these things will be provided for in the Government scheme, I look forward to leading him into the Lobby against the protests of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), who means to divide the opposition forces on the occasion. I welcome support from whatever part of the Committee it comes. When the hon. Member carries out the pledges made to-night, there will be nobody more pleased than myself. I think there were many other points on which those on this side of the Committee found our selves in sympathy with Members opposite. I do not think the Debate this evening has shown any party division. Criticism and approval have come indiscriminately from one side of the Committee and the other, in so far as individual Members were convinced or otherwise of the soundness of the policy.
Many of the Government projects received severe, perhaps rather searching criticism, especially from the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). With some of his demands I shall have to deal. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who moved the reduction with his usual fairness and extraordinarily well-informed range, spoke, I think, more in sorrow than in anger of our occasional delinquencies. He has, with his comrade the hon. Member for Don Valley, the admiration of all of us. How they succeed in mastering this enormous range of subjects, working up a technical subject like agriculture without losing their senses or their temper, is difficult for us to understand. On any occasion that I or any of my Friends find ourselves in opposition, the orphans of some Labour storm, I am sure that our attempts to understand the mining industry will not be nearly so successful. I do not think he raised any particular question except to repeat the complaint of the right hon. Member for South Molton that the milk schemes were hard upon the urban producers, who, in the old days, had a nice little milk round and got a good return. I admit that that is so and that there are difficulties.
My hon. Friend opposite the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace) has made that complaint also on several occasions. There is no doubt that the small man with a well-established milk round finds the levy a very big tax upon his receipts. It is very difficult to explain 134 to him that the milk surpluses in the out[...] rural areas were on the verge of crashing the whole milk market. Although one could point to references in the Grigg Commission Report and to the statistical position, both of which prove clearly that disaster was about to occur, the position did not seem to be realised by the small man who said, "I had a useful business, and now that a heavy burden has fallen upon me, it is difficult to carry on." We realise his difficulty and must do our utmost to bring up the consumption of liquid milk so that these levies may be lightened in their incidence, and the small man near the towns is able to get a better share of the general returns than has been the case in the last year under the Milk Board.
Inevitably the advance of science is taking place in milk production as elsewhere, and it is difficult to see how the small man close to a town will be able to avoid the competition from the man a long way off who brings his milk in under modern transport conditions. One of the strangest discoveries in recent years is a system of milk production in which people find that cows can be run outside under conditions which previously were thought to be utterly impossible, and that milk can be produced at low cost and, by modern methods of transport, rushed into big industrial centres much more easily and cheaply than before. We are beginning to realise that it is quite probable that the reason why a cow is kept in a byre is not because of the health of the cow, but because of the safety of the cow. It is not like the old days when you locked up livestock at night because they would be stolen if left outside. It is probable that stock can be kept outside to a far greater extent than we have realised in this country.
We do not know nearly all that there is to know about keeping livestock or about any branch of agriculture, and it is difficult to forecast what changes may take place. Therefore, when I am asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) to give a forecast of what we can produce in this country, I find it very difficult to make a firm answer. At any moment a change may take place. It is only within recent years that it was found possible to keep sheep at all in the northerly parts of Scotland. It was considered that the weather was so inclement that no 135 sheep would be able to live there in winter; yet we all know that in the northern parts of Scotland there are now some of the greatest flocks in the country. We must allow for development, and the fundamental difficulty in all these organisations is how to strike a balance between security and development. At the present moment security is the ultimate demand. It is the most pressing demand. The danger of the whole ship capsizing is so great that we have, if necessary, to strike sail even if it means slower progress to our ultimate destination. Just as developments have taken place in the last 20 or 30 years, we must be prepared for developments in the next 20 or 30 years, while steadily providing adequate security for the home producer as the final goal to be kept in mind by anyone occupying the position which I occupy to-day. Almost every speech to-night has brought up that problem.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall said that he was greatly concerned about the smallholder and the tenure of the smallholder, and he gave some sound Tory advice. A welcome change has come over the opinion of my right hon. Friend. If there is anything more unprogressive than an absolutely uncontrolled freeholder, I have yet to see it. I rejoice in my right hon. Friend's Conservative spirit, but if he finds difficulty in getting tenant farmers to cooperate I assure him that the difficulty of getting a number of independent people to co-operate is greater still.
The right hon. Gentleman does me an injustice. He must recognise that I was referring to the urban allotment holder. I mean persons who have no chance of agricultural tenure at all.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am terribly disappointed. I apologise to my right hon. Friend. His reformation has not gone as far as I had hoped. The future years in this House which we all hope he will enjoy will no doubt bring him to a further support of the admirable principle of rigid freeholder's tenure from the small man to the not quite so small man, and from the not quite so small man to the somewhat larger man, and bring him back to supporting the cause of the large agricultural estate of which he himself is such a shining example. The diffi- 136 culties of smallholding land tenure are very great, and I agree with him that freehold no doubt would be the best. The pressure does not come only from individuals but from public bodies themselves, from the town which wishes to develop its housing estate, from the Playing Fields Association, which wishes to clear an area for playing fields, and even from the First Commissioner of Works, who desires to get a park cleared of smallholders because he sees that hundreds of small children will there be able to play and enjoy games. It is a difficult position, and the nearer you are to a crowded industrial centre, the more difficult it becomes. I assure my right hon. Friend that I am keenly conscious of the fact, and anything which J can do within reason to help in the matter, I will very gladly do.
I was asked by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Christie) whether it would be possible, in regard to the smallholdings of local authorities, to turn a lenient eye towards the proclivities of a local authority if it purchased a larger amount of land than was immediately needed for the purpose of a planned development of smallholdings. I would certainly do my utmost if a piece of land even larger than the immediate requirements of the local authority were bought for bona fide extensions of smallholdings to see that such development was not frowned upon by the Department. But we should need to examine each individual case upon its merits, and I cannot be taken as giving any general pledge. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall read a very interesting report from South Africa. I hope that he will not think me rude if I say that that report was brought before the notice of the House a day or two before by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin). He, like my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall, greeted this report on cooperation with joy. He said that clearly co-operation had been reported upon in South Africa and was a failure and that, therefore, such co-operation would be a failure here. He said that we should do nothing to encourage it, and that we should in particular not endow any organisation with the power of roping in a minority which, of course, is essential if you are going to get any sort of watertight organisation. I do not know that, 137 necessarily, South African conditions apply here, I certainly do not agree with my right hon. Friend that we should give up all attempts to make a small minority come into any given scheme.
I do not know how my right hon. Friend, if he were again Financial Secretary to the Treasury, would expect to get in taxes if he were to allow that principle to operate in the case of the nation's affairs. If there were a number of conscientious objectors to taxes who declared that they desired to be left out from the national scheme by claiming that they did not want to be educated or that they did not want an Army, a Navy or an Air Force, and that they would not pay any of the levies proposed for those purposes, I am sure that my right. hon. Friend as Financial Secretary to the Treasury would launch against any such objectors the utmost rigours of the law. You must have a certain amount of organisation in these days. Take the case of motoring. Are you to allow motorists to go along at the utmost speed and with the utmost disregard of the rights of other users of the road? When I am going in a hurry to the station or elsewhere, all this organisation of traffic may cause an outburst of ill temper on my part, ill temper which we must all have experienced, but we recognise that -unless we bear with each other in this crowded modern world we shall never get anywhere. If I were to allow conscientious objection to prevail, I might ask to opt out of the scheme when there were red light traffic signals in order that I might get across the road without interruption, but if I did so no one would more heavily condemn me for my unsocial action than my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) again took as one of his texts the point of view of ultra Conservatism. He said that he wished me to resume the full fiscal freedom of this country and to put on duties which would be devoted only to the one purpose of making sure that the producers in whom he is interested should get the due reward for their labours. We all, of course, desire that, but, we have to consider that the produce from the country is sold in the towns and unless the towns are busy the countryside will not be able to sell its produce. We have to strike a balance in all these cases between what 138 will make the towns busy and what will keep the countryside employed. It is not an easy balance to strike, and it is not struck by neglecting one section of the community for another. The trade agreements are not negotiated by the President of the Board of Trade with the object of crushing out the last remnant of British agriculture. They are carefully weighed up and balanced in order to obtain the utmost advantage for all sides, not merely for the sake of the town dwellers, but because the town dweller is the customer of the man on the countryside. You have to weigh up one thing with another. If we merely took our own side of the position and shut our eyes to the other, then, clearly, we should do the greatest amount of harm not merely to the other side but to our own side also.
No hon. or right hon. Member needs to urge me to greater vigour in favour of the agricultural producer. I have a certain amount of hereditary connection with the agricultural industry and I have a connection to-day as an agricultural producer myself. To urge me to be more and more rigorous against the foreign importer is like asking the cat to be more and more careful of the cream so that no other cats can apply. I have to weigh up my responsibilities as a Cabinet Minister against my responsibilities as a Departmental chief. No Departmental chief would be a good one if he forced the interests of his Department to the complete exclusion of the interests of the country as a whole. In all these trade agreements I go wholeheartedly with the President of the Board of Trade. He has a hard task to perform and it would be very much easier for him if he in his turn could shut his eyes to one side of the ledger altogether. He cannot do so. He has to weigh up the interest of British trade as a whole, and in my way I have to do the best that I can for agriculture. I beg the House not to be led away by the cry of traitor that is continually raised against leaders. The President of the Board of Trade and those who are negotiating the trade agreements, the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary and others, are all interested in agriculture, even from the point of view of industry as a consumer. They have to consider the export trades of the country as well as the home trade. Let us not, as agri- 139 culturists, imitate the terrible errors which the industrialist committed in the 19th century. Let us not blind ourselves now to the interests of industry as the industrialists then blinded themselves to the interest of agriculture.
There were several other points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton which were of general interest. He brought up the position of the milk award and asked if the award could be set aside. He must agree that I have no power to set that award aside. He stressed in particular a great desire that I should appoint a committee on costing because he said the Milk Marketing Board was not the authority to do that. He quoted some interesting results from the University of Bristol and the Wye Agricultural College, and declared that it would be easy to work out a scientific figure for milk costings. That point was also taken up by other hon. Members. I have looked at some of those figures. An average is an extremely misleading thing. It reminds one of Stephen Leacock's statement about the average dwelling of the inhabitant of the British Isles, where he states that if you take in Ireland the average Englishman lives somewhere in the Irish Channel. It is not easy in milk costings, even in those worked out by the University of Bristol, to get at an average figure. Let me take two cases which are given. The cost per gallon for the whole year was given in the case of one producer at 14.5d. and in the case of another producer, 7.9d. Imagine the indignation of the man whose cost was 14.5d. if he were given an award based upon the cost of the other producer at 7.9d. Imagine the feeling of the producer with costs of 7.9d. if he were given an award based on a cost of production of 14.5d.
One of the figures given was 7d. per gallon for the whole year. Another figure was W. per gallon for the whole year. If I were in charge of a committee, such as is suggested, or if I had appointed such a Committee, and it brought out any such figures for the whole year I should hesitate very much whether I could come down to this House with them; certainly if I did come to the House I should come in a shirt of mail and with a gas mask, for nothing else would be of any use to protect me against the indignant agricultural Members, who 140 would prove that it was quite impossible for any such figures to be brought forward. I hesitate very much to accept such statistics. Who were the three appointed members?
§ Major HILLS
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the price of £lid. includes interest on capital?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am not analysing these figures as to the gross amounts they represent. I am giving them as instances of relative amounts; they are on strictly comparable basis. Clearly the figure of 6.5d. and 7.9d. are quite out of propor4i on with 14.5d. and 14.9d., and you cannot arrive at a just result by adding these figures together and then splitting the amount. That it my point. Even an examination by the most skilled statisticians may lead us astray. But who were the three men who gave the milk award? The first was the Recorder of Worcester, who was in the chair. He had sat all through the inquiry into the milk marketing scheme and had judged in a way acceptable to both sides every one of the many delicate points which arose between the promoters and the critics of the scheme. He had thus undergone an intensive course in milk which can scarcely be paralleled in any other experience, and he was himself a high legal dignitary accustomed to weigh up evidence. The second was a skilled accountant who had sat through all the Grigg Commission. He was the accountant there and had spent a year and a half in the most careful examination of these intricate figures. He was one of those who helped to bring out the Grigg Report upon which so much of the scheme has been based. The third person was a business man of experience accustomed to handle liquid commodities in bulk. He was an expert from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, accustomed to deal with distribution costs. He was cognisant of the whole of the problems of distribution and in addition had spent a long time on milk costings from the time the scheme was mooted until the award was given.
These three were men of wide experience, special qualifications and special knowledge, and yet it is true that no award given in recent years has aroused such criticism and indeed such condemnation as the award they have given. The Scottish Milk Marketing Board 141 which blandly announced in advance that although it was willing to listen to evidence it intended that the evidence should make no difference to its decision has got away with far less criticism, although it has had the effect of raising liquid milk prices in Glasgow. It would appear that the wisdom of the saying that while the decision may be right to give the reasons is always wrong, applies to arbitration in the case of milk as it does to anything else. We have to work out these things by examination. We are learning every week by experience, and I do not think that any readymade solution will get us out of our difficulties. Whoever gives an award in a commodity like milk which is consumed by so large a proportion of the community and produced by so many people in such variety of conditions will be the most unpopular man in the kingdom, and I am only anxious that that unpopularity should not directly attach itself to Ministers or to hon. Members of this House.
The Milk Board has certainly taken a great deal of the time of the Committee this evening and I was more than glad to hear from one or two Members la robust defence of the actions of the Milk Board in a very difficult task, and particularly the defence of the Milk Board by the chairman of the Agricultural Committee of the House of Commons. If there be one thing more than another which heartens men who are exposed to such a strain as the members of the Milk Board it is the knowledge that there is expert opinion in a public body which does not take the easy course of attacking those in authority. I was more than glad that the Chairman of the Agricultural Committee found it possible to say what he did on that subject. We have had some criticism of a technical nature and some inquiries from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). He will forgive me if I do not deal with his technical paints and answer them later in a. letter as I propose to do in the case of other hon. Members whose points I am not able to deal with to-night.
The hon. Member spoke of the great increase in imports of canned beef and said that the quota is not working. Let me bring to his attention the fact that we had to move for a quota on canned beef because the tariff was not working. Enormous increased quantities of canned beef were coming through the tariff as if 142 it did not exist, and we had to deal with the matter rather late. We are only now getting it under control. The control of the Import Duties Advisory Committee is prima facie not control by quota regulations, but by a tariff. A 10 per cent. tariff on canned beef had proved ineffective and a change had to be made from control by a tariff to a control by quotas and this takes some time and indeed we are in negotiation about it yet. It takes a certain amount of time to get any of these regulations working; you cannot bring them in simply by putting la horseshoe in a boxing glove and hitting your opponent over the head. You must do your utmost to see that trade channels are not interrupted any more than is necessary and that those who are trading with us feel that their case is getting fair consideration just as we should like to feel that our own case is being met with fair consideration. I think that we shall get these quotas on a reasonable basis and that the hon. Member will not have cause to complain.
The potato situation was dealt with by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir T. Rosbotham) who was also anxious that the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act should be put into operation if possible and that the £ 50,000 contribution by the Government towards the unemployed men on the land scheme should be regarded as more or less an earnest of better things to come. We all sympathise with the hon. Member in his desire, and as I have said already the four heads of the Ministry's activities, land settlement and land drainage, education and research, prevention of disease, and general activities have been left out of my review because there were other critical affairs which were immediately present. But I have certainly not forgotten land settlement, and if we can get the industry on a remunerative basis we can then go ahead with extensive land settlement. Until we can do that it is clearly wrong for us to hold out the great hopes which a revival of the Land Utilisation Act would have. We have to feel our way in this matter and to be quite sure before we encourage thousands of men to sink the whole of their resources in the land and set up smallholdings.
Several hon. Members made a point as to the cost of distribution. There, too, I think the organised producer will be 143 better able to look into the cost of distribution than anyone else can do. In this House, if we set up a Commission to investigate the cost of distribution, it would be bound to lack the final answer to the final challenge "If you think you can do the job better than we can, go on and do it yourselves." It is that. challenge you will always have to meet. The organised distribute says, "I distribute this as cheaply as possible, and if you think that it can be done better you had better try." The organised producer will be able to take up that challenge if he wills. It is only by that that we can finally arrive at a just cost of distribution.
The hon. Member for Arid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) spoke of the danger of over-production. There again we come to the same difficulty as the House will have to deal with when the hops scheme comes on this week. When you regulate home production you will meet most of the objections which are going to be raised to the hops scheme. We can only hope that we shall have the same good fortune in this House as we had in another place where the objections to the hops scheme were finally withdrawn and it was passed without a Division. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said some flattering things which I do not wish to recall. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said, in effect, that I had thrown so many bouquets at myself that there was nothing for him to throw but brickbats. I think that a little hard. I was careful to say that I did not think everything in the garden was lovely, that I believed we were only at the beginning of our work, that it was no time for facile optimism, but that there were signs of a turn of the tide. I will swop brickbats for bouquets with my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley. If there are any of the brickbats he would like hack I will send them back to him and he can send me a bouquet in exchange.
There was only one speech on behalf of the fishing industry to-day, that of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law). I was glad that the fisheries raised a voice to-night because there are many great problems of the fishing ports which this House should not 144 forget. I think it is true that the fishing industry is in a better condition and it is possible that the improvement has gone so far that the limiting orders need modification lest there should be a shortage of fish. The Order was brought into operation at an early date because of the representations of the industry itself, but I shall be very willing to keep these matters constantly under review and when there is a market for more fish in this country no one will be more pleased than myself, and I will do my utmost to see that the demand is met. I must enter one caveat. I wish to avoid anything that would knock the bottom out of the market. It is easy to shake confidence by sudden gluts of fish coming in from far distant ports. If these things are to be done at all, the producers must have some assurance of continuity of policy. While I promise every examination that I can give to any points put to me by the industry I should not like that to be taken as meaning that I would at once grant a relaxation of the Order. I admit that the Order was experimental and I shall do my best to watch it carefully.
My hon. Friend referred to what he described as a state of tension off the Norwegian coast. I hope it may be possible to work out that problem by joint committees and by joint action. I hope the men on both sides will thus feel that they are having justice done. If we treat our Norwegian friends as comrades of the sea no doubt we shall find that they will respond. I would suggest that that is the right step to take before taking violent action against their imports on a point on which they feel keenly, as any inshore men feel the visit of big trawling vessels from long distances. We know in Scotland how bitterly the visits of long-distance trawlers are resented by the inshore fishermen. I should not like to think that we had taken harsh or hasty action in a similar case.
The difficulties of the milk scheme were raised again by the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard), but as that has been dealt with already this evening I will not speak of it again. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) raised the question of the poultry industry. I dealt with that at some length in my opening statement, 145 and the special points raised by my hon. Friend I shall endeavour to meet in the form of a letter to him. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) wished to know particularly about the Foot-and Mouth Disease Committee, whether they have found out anything, and if so, what. I cannot give him any definite information. It is a very intricate subject. It may be that the line which will give us a key to the problem is in some obscure research by some physicist who has no idea that he is working on anything that will be a key to some disease problem— like Gye and Barnard who, working on an ultra-red microscope, came to results of the greatest value. I am a little dubious of the project of offering £ 250,000 or £ 500,000 as a gigantic prize for someone who finds a solution of the problem.
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Wayland) spoke of the necessity for continuing research, and particularly of the necessity for work about Johne's Disease. I have taken a note of what he said. Sir Merrik Burrell, who has given us a great deal of assistance, is working with his committee on all these questions of animal disease, and I am sure we have in him as capable an advocate of research as the hon. Member for Canterbury would desire.
The hon. Member for Don Valley spoke of the willingness of the Committee and of his own party to do everything that could be done for agriculture. All he wanted was the reassurance that a reasonable part of the benefit would go to the workers on the land. I think the figures which I have already given indicate that a reasonable proportion of the benefits are going to the workers on the land. I do not wish to repeat the statistics which I have already given, but I would beg hon. and right hon. Members in al] parts of the Committee to study them closely. If the fall in values continued, the workers on the land could not secure a greater remuneration, or indeed even maintain the existing remuneration! The cost of living has fallen by 20 per cent. since 1926. Agricultural prices, even allowing for the wheat deficiency payments, are 22 per cent. less than they were in 1926. The average minimum wage of the ordinary agricultural worker in England and Wales is only about 3 per cent. less than during the period 1926–31. That seems to show, in a sentence, the danger 146 which the remuneration of the workers has avoided. If conditions had continued to prevail with a continued fall in the price of agricultural produce, it would have been impossible to have reached a position in which one of the major costs of the industry, namely, the wages paid to the workers, has only fallen by some 3 per cent.
I do not wish to weary the Committee further. Those criticisms which have been made to-night are criticisms such as any Minister would be honoured to receive because they indicate not merely the friendly attitude of the Committee but their close and informed interest in the problem of agriculture. We have had a most interesting Debate which the Department and I have welcomed and I hope it will not be necessary for the Opposition to divide the Committee against this Vote. It seems to me that it would be a little ungracious of them to do so in view of some of the things which they have said, but, if they do so, I am certain that we shall be able to rally a sufficient number of votes even from Members who feel that the progress of events has not been altogether satisfactory, to ensure that on this occasion at any rate there will be no danger of a Government defeat.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I rise to supplement the appeal made by the Minister to the Opposition that they should not divide the Committee upon this Vote, and I feel confident that that appeal will find its way even to the heart of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). On behalf of my fellow-agriculturists I wish to say that we appreciate the sympathy given to the industry not only by hon. Members on this side, but by hon. Members opposite, and the great interest and attention which has been devoted during this Parliament to the problems of the industry. I have been a Member of Parliament for some 12 years and I have never known a Session in which more attention has been given to agriculture than the present Session and I have never known a Minister of Agriculture who has devoted such attention, time and energy to this great industry as the present Minister. On behalf of agriculture I wish to express my appreciation of his efforts. Great things have been done for agriculture, but there are great things yet 147 to be done. Certain sections of the industry have benefited, but there are others, and there is particularly the problem of meat. We ask him to give us something at the earliest possible moment so that we can go down to our constituents who are producing meat and give them some hope that they will get a return in the near future for their products.
We have during the last two or three years, under the marketing schemes, produced among the agricultural community a keen desire to produce the goods in the quality and the quantity that the consumers want. The agricultural producer is prepared to produce what the consumers want. If the consumers want a red potato, we are prepared to produce it; if they want yellow milk, we are prepared to give it them; if they want eggs from white Orpingtons, we are prepared to give them these too. We want to give the variety that they want. We ask for that information, and where better could we ask for it than from the Ministry of Agriculture itself? I suggest to the Minister that if within his Department he could collect information from the various re-
§ search stations that there are all over the country, so that the agriculturist could apply to the Ministry as to what was the best variety of pigs to keep, the best way of feeding the pigs, the best variety of hens to get his eggs from, it would be of great value to the agricultural producer.
§ We, as agriculturists, recognise and appreciate the work of the Minister, and we want to see the results of his efforts. Agriculture is prepared to do its best, and the Minister is prepared to do and is doing his best, and we are optimistic that with the efforts of both of us we shall have seen the worst of the agricultural depression. We are optimistic that the future will be rather better for us than the past, and we desire to express our hope that the Minister will continue strongly on the same lines as those on which he is proceeding, and fight for the great industry of agriculture. We have the greatest confidence in his ability to do so.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,174,034, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 152.149
|Division No. 326.]||AYES||[10.24 p.m.|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Harris, Sir Percy||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dobbie, William||Logan, David Gilbert||White, Henry Graham|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wilmot, John|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mainwaring, William Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Mr. Groves and Mr. John.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colfox, Major William Philip||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Conant, R. J. E.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)||Crooke, J. Smedley||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Drewe. Cedric||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hel[...]gers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Elmley, Viscount||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Buchan Hepburn, P. G. T.||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Burnett, John George||Fermoy, Lord||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Fox, Sir Gifford||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Christle, James Archibald||Goldie, Noel B.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Penny, Sir George||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Pike, Cecil F.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stones, James|
|Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Ramsbotham, Herweld||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Ray, Sir William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Loftus, Pierce C.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Templeton, William P.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ramer, John R.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Tree, Ronald|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Rickards, George William||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)||Warrender, Sir victor A. G.|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Salt, Edward W.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Munro, Patrick||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Scone, Lord||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Captain Austin Hudson and Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Pearson, William G.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the postponed. Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.