§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Elliot.]
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The object, of this Bill is to provide a free gift of £3,000,000 to the home producers of beef. The Labour party is definitely opposed to this method of dealing with agriculture. The Government is hoping to solve the agricultural problems of the country by manuring the fields with Treasury notes and fattening the bullocks with silver coins. This method of dealing with agriculture is one further indication of the confession by the Government of its failure to deal with the industry. It treats the farmer on all occasions just like the ignorant mother who hands a coin to the peevish child in order to get rid of it when she ought to take it to the dentist. The Bill, in our view, will do nothing for the provision of more beef. I have been a little astonished that the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to provide an incentive for the production of more beef by 1672 making a free gift of money to the farmers. I shall have something to say later as to the way the Government looks at the several industries of the land. Take the cotton industry of Lancashire. According to the right hon. Gentleman's arguments, the beef producers are in a bad way financially, but if a fair balance were held between the farming and other industries they ought to give the cotton industry not £3,000,000 but £30,000,000 and, if we turn to coal, they ought to give that industry about £300,000,000. The farmer is the darling of the Tory party and the right hon. Gentleman is the pet of the Farmers' Union. The Bill does nothing at all to deal with the fundamental issues connected with farming.
We have a right to complain of the way in which the Tory party throughout the centuries has always fondled the farming interest. I was in the House when they relieved the farmers of practically all their rates. Then they went a step further. When this Government came into power, they did all they could to prevent agricultural produce coming into the country from abroad, and now they are making this free gift. We have reached a, stage when the present Ministry of Agriculture is synonymous with the Farmers' Union. The Farmers' Union ought indeed to shift its central office and put it in Whitehall. They are very nearly one and the same body at long last. I regard this £3,000,000 as nothing but a free gift, almost in the nature of bribery. I shall be very interested to see how the Bill works out in practice. I shall be interested for instance to see how the cattle dealer fills up the forms to claim this money. It will be a sight for the gods. He will get it, of course, but I imagine that it would have been cleaner and more honest to have handed over the £3,000,000 direct to the Farmers' Union, and to have said, "Here you are. Hand it out to your members as you think fit, and let us have finished with it." We on this side of the House are assumed not to know, much about agriculture, but I have reason to know more about agriculture than some hon. Members who sit on the opposite side of the House. I do not want to deal with personal affairs, but I am sure that I know more about working on the farm than the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. MICHAEL BEAUMONT
I am prepared to take up the challenge of the hon. Gentleman. He is a great deal older than I am, but I am certain that I have worked longer on the farm than he has.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. Member may have worked longer, but he has not worked as hard. It is not the length of one's labour which counts but the intensity of it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not want to enter into a ploughing match with the hon. Gentleman. It would, as I stated, be much more honest if the £3,000,000 was handed over direct to the Farmers' Union. The negotiations which have been going on between the Farmers' Union and the right hon. Gentleman are such that it warrants me saying that much, at any rate, about this gift. We all know that the Government are preparing the way gently for the next General Election. it is a very nice way of doing things. They will not want motor cars, Union Jack's and election addresses. All they have to do is to plaster the hoardings of the countryside with posters with the words, "See what we have given you. £5,000,000 for this, £2,000,000 for that, and £3,000,000 for beef," and the rural votes, I suppose, will then roll in for the Tory party. What will happen when the Bill is passed 1 I suppose that the poultry producers will come next. I imagine that they will have a better claim for a subsidy even than the beef producers. There are lots of them in Lancashire in the Ribble Valley, who are complaining bitterly that they are not getting fair treatment from the Government.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I just wanted to bring the chickens home to roost. There is a point which the Minister has forgotten about this beef business. I do not know whether he has seen the returns which have been supplied to-day of the consumption of beef in Manchester for the year 1933. I have been interested in comparing these figures, and, of course, what Manchester buys to-day the whole of England will buy to-morrow. I want the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to tell 1674 us how comes it about that this incentive of £3,000,000 is necessary at all for the beef producing people of this country. The Manchester Markets Committee control one of the largest markets in the country in which there is probably as much meat sold as there is in any public market in the land. I notice in the returns of the Manchester Markets Committee that the carcases of beef exposed for sale in 1933 were 11,000 more than in the year 1932. The point I want to make is that in providing an incentive for the production of beef we ought to understand exactly the habits of the people in this connection. We see huge advertisements all over the land which say, "Eat more fish," "Buy more fruit," and "Drink more beer," and if the people are to buy more fish and fruit and drink more beer, they will not want to eat much beef. The people are buying other commodities instead of beef and consequently, in my view, nothing in this £3,000,000 will warrant us saying that there will be an incentive for the production of more beef in this country.
In the provisions of this Bill we are avoiding apparently practically all reference to foreign meat. The Government have got themselves into a tangle about foreign meat. As a matter of fact, the reason for the £3,000,000 is obvious. The Government have made a mess of things in the Ottawa and the Argentine Agreements, and it is because of this fact that we are now in this position. When the Government came into power the farmer in this country said, "Shut out the foreigner, and that will settle all our troubles." To-day there is a tendency to shut out the Dominions as well. They are competitors now, and all these agreements purporting to build up our great Empire trade are apparently going by the board. This Bill, therefore, is not even a slight contribution to the problem of agriculture and beef producing in this country. I will quote what some experts say about this problem. There is a gentleman by the name of Lord Essendon, who, at the 42nd Annual General Meeting of Furness Withy and Company, Limited, said:Furthermore, the Argentine trade, in which we are largely interested, has been seriously affected by the actual and the prospective reductions in the importation of meat, and, roughly speaking, I estimate that the loss of freight to our associated companies in the South American trade will 1675 be in the neighbourhood of £130,000 per annum when the restrictions come into full effect, that being the loss of freight on the reduced quantities that will be shipped under our contracts.This Nation is now faced with two alternatives. The more we give the farmers towards this sort of thing in our own country the more we lose in our shipping trade between this country and foreign lands. Frankly, when I see what is happening at the Ports of Liverpool and Manchester I am perplexed as to whether the policy of the Government is really the right one for the community as a whole. I am positive that the more of these Bills we pass, the more the ports of this country will become derelict as a consequence of our action. The producers of mutton and lamb will also probably come along later, and perhaps the dog breeders will say later on still that they have a claim upon the Government because the dogs are not good enough to go on the race course to please the betting public. In the end Whitehall will practically become a farmyard. Everybody will be queuing up to try and get some money from the Government. If they press them hard enough they will get their millions. If I want a comparison as to the attitude of this Government all I need do is to refer to the Insurance Act of 1932. If the Government had found £100,000 then they would have saved tens of thousands of old folk their contributory old age pension at 65. When we pleaded for £100,000 for the old working folk of this land we were told that there was not a penny in the coffer, but when the Farmers' Union come along they can obtain £3,000,000 within a few months in connection with this beef subsidy. Therefore, we are entitled to protest against the way the Government are handing out money to one particular interest.
There has been a great deal said in Debates on this Bill as to whether the distributor is not having more than his share out of the produce of the farmer. I heard an interruption by the right hon. Gentleman, though I did not catch it, but even in his mind there is an idea that the distributor is getting too much profit out of this business. I am not going to speak for the distributor, except to say that the community is demanding very much more service from the distri- 1676 butor than ever before. The beast of burden will walk two miles to the slaughter-house, and when it becomes a carcass my lady will order a joint over the telephone, and a piece of that same carcass is taken back by motor car. That increases the retail price.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will not try to trip me up and take an unfair advantage of me, because he refers, of course, to the horse, and he will know that horse-flesh is eaten in Belgium. I think I have now got my own back.
I want to conclude my remarks in opposing this Bill by quoting something else about shipping, and I am sure hon. Members who represent divisions round our ports will agree with me that this sort of legislation is, indeed, affecting adversely the shipping of this country. It is an astonishing thing that £2,000,000 should be given for tramp shipping in order to get back the shiping trade, and that £3,000,000 should be given to the farmers to see that the same trade is destroyed. I think that that is putting it very fairly by way of condemnation of the policy of the Government. This is what was said by the same Noble Lord who seems to belong to several companies. He was speaking at the 35th ordinary general meeting of the Houlder Shipping Line, and he said:If Biome production of meat is materially improved as a consequence of these restrictions, then we shipowners will feel that the sacrifices we are burdened with may be well worth while; as, obviously the shipping industry, important as it is, is of secondary importance compared with the national well-being. I must confess, however, to feeling considerable doubt, as to whether the restrictions on prime chilled beef, frozen beef, mutton and lamb from South America can to any appreciable extent assist our farming industry at home.When those gentlemen who are connected with the shipping industry are doubting the policy of the Government in giving doles to the farming interest, I am sure every man who loves his country and its well-being must be very much concerned about what our Government are doing.
I want to add one word about the farm workers. Where do they come in under 1677 this £3,000,000 proposal? I am told on good authority that the wheat subsidy to the farmers in this country was equal to about 3s. per week in the wages of every servant they employ, and that this beef subsidy is equivalent to is. 9d. per week in the wages of every farm servant employed. The relief in rates which the farmers have received from time to time is equivalent to 12s. per farm servant per week. Therefore, I say that when this money is ladled out in this way to the farmers, some of it, at any rate, ought to percolate down to the farm labourers. The farm labourers deserve from Parliament as much consideration as the farmers themselves.
I want to protest once again against the policy of giving money to the farmers in this country. Not only do I protest against the process of giving money away without any control over the industry which is getting the money, but I protest against the invidious comparison drawn by the Government between agriculture and cotton. If subsidies are good for the farming industry, why should not cotton in Lancashire get some money as well? Then, I suppose, if all the industries which are distressed get subsidies from the State, it will be just like taking in each other's washing, and all will be just in the same position in the end as at the beginning.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
Will the hon. Gentleman give us his authority for saying that the relief in rates to agriculture was at the rate of 12s. per week per labourer?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am informed that the relief of rates granted to the farmers— I will give my authority later on, but I am informed by a person capable of speaking on the matter—is equivalent to 12s. per week per farm servant employed.
§ Mr, DAVIES
The farmer will never agree with a representative of labour, and we must leave it there; but, at any rate, the person who gave me the information is an official of the Farm Labourers' Union, and I must, take his word for it. If my hon. Friend does not mind my saying so, I will take his word as an authority as I would take the hon. Member's word of honour.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys 1678 Davies) has made a very eloquent but somewhat discursive speech against the Bill, ranging, apparently, over the whole policy of the Government. What is the hon. Member's suggested remedy? I remember the Labour party had a booklet in one of the elections—" Farming must be made to pay." Well, farming cannot pay at the present prices. I dislike, as we all dislike, subsidies. This is a stop-gap subsidy, and, as an old Liberal, I dislike it very much indeed, but I do assure the hon. Member and his party that the need of the agricultural districts is very great. May I quote some official figures as to the price of beef? In 1925, the price of beef per live cwt. was 52s. 7d.; this June it was 35s. 2d. That is a 30 per cent. drop, and I ask my hon. Friend, and any other reasonable men on the other side, how can the farmers or the producers of beef go on paying their way, their outgoings and their labourers with a 30 per cent. drop in prices?
§ Mr. JOHN WILMOT
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the retail prices which have been charged to the consumer in the years he mentioned?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am sorry that I have not got them but I know the argument. May I put it to the mining Members here that the miners extract coal, and it is sold, but the miners do not manage, shall I say, the consumption of coal which they extract. Similarly, if the farming community produce efficiently and economically, you cannot expect them to be salesmen and market-men as well. It cannot be done. I do appeal to reason in this matter. The coal miners extract coal which goes into an engine, if you like, to drive a cotton mill or any other machinery, but the coal miner cannot be responsible for that. The same with the farmer. If he produces efficiently and economically, that is all you can expect him to do. As I say, there has been a 30 per cent. drop in prices. I have heard hon. Members opposite ask for the cuts to be restored. The cuts have not been, and will not be, restored by this Bill to the agricultural community because—
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I say that cuts in unemployment pay and other pay have 1679 been restored, but the cuts in the agricultural industry have not been anything like restored. Is not the drop of 30 per cent. in prices a cut? If any hon. Member were farming to-day as a smallholder, he would find that a drop of 30 per cent. was a very serious handicap to him.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The right hon. Gentleman talks of the drop in prices. I think the drop is serious, but does he not bear in mind that the drop in the price of textile commodities is more serious?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend must face realities. You want employment elsewhere for your textile operatives and those in the mining industry. Where can you find that employment better than on the land? I study these questions fairly calmly and impartially, and with a certain amount of experience, and I do not see where the employment is coming for the great mass of unemployed, for whom our hearts rightly bleed, except from the land. My hon. Friend mentioned the cotton industry. It relies OR the export trade. That trade is throttled by every kind of restriction, tariff and quota, and, therefore, if your export trade is throttled by the action of other Governments there is only one method you can pursue, and that is to increase the productiveness of your own national resources.
May I say to my hon. Friend that there has been a paralysis of employment in rural districts? My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture yesterday gave some figures which are very illuminating. In 1921, there were 996,000 agricultural workers. In 1933, they had dropped to 827,000. There is a proof of the paralysis of employment in the agricultural industry. I am sure that any of my hon. Friends opposite will realise and agree that if the farmer could profitably employ labour, he would do it. Instead of that, agricultural labourers have been reduced in numbers in the last 13 years by something like 20 per cent. I say that that is a matter of serious concern to the country as a whole. I know the agricultural worker. I have been bred with him, and worked with him all my life, and a finer set of men does not exist in this country. They are deserving of 1680 every encouragement. They have had wages fixed. I am glad of it. I am glad that their wages are higher than they used to be, but their wages do not compare with other industries, although they are equally skilled men.
I do ask the House as a whole, especially the Labour party, to think this out. You are destroying in the country districts the inherited skill of these men. They are going into the towns. They are now competing with your people. It is infinitely better for them to be healthy in the country, but unless you make it profitable to be in the country they will not live there. From what the Minister of Agriculture said yesterday, wages are low. In Devonshire they are 31s. a week. I am glad to say that in some cases they have been increased. In some counties in England they are low, but, if wages followed the course of agricultural prices, they would be to-day 23s. 5d. a week. You cannot pay wages unless the price of the product justifies them. We must have some kind of balance in our industries. We cannot rely entirely upon overseas supplies for our foodstuffs. During the War we had that lesson, and I had it burned into me. If you rely entirely upon overseas supplies that supply may fail you some day. What then? I assure hon. Members opposite that I am as much interested as they are in the welfare of the workers, but that welfare cannot be encompassed unless the employer is able to pay reasonable wages. As an old Liberal I probably dislike subsidies more than anybody else, but we have to face facts as they are. I came across an extract the other day from the July circular of the City Bank of New York. This is how it puts the problem as it is seen across the Atlantic:It is generally known that the fall in the price of farm products and the loss of purchasing power to the farmers has been largely responsible for the general depression, but it is not generally recognised that the failure of other prices to decline in company with the prices of farm products has been the principal cause of unemployment.That is the real trouble. If we could go back to pre-war, the farmers would be perfectly happy. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are never happy."] If anyone is happy in industry, I suppose they are stagnant. I have heard it said that discontent is divine, because it inspires you 1681 to make further efforts. In this country we have an enormous debt burden. Could we go back to pre-war days in regard to debts, pay, Army and Navy pensions, and so on things would be different but it could not be done. We have to deal with the disequilibrium in agriculture, com- pared with other industries. This is purely a temporary Measure. My right hon. Friend proposes to have long-term policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! "] I hope so. I have given figures which show that the price of beef in June was 35s. 2d. This Bill will add 5s. to the price, making it 40s. In 192.5 the price was 52s. '7d., without subsidy. Therefore, it will be seen that this Bill is not going to make fortunes for the beef producers. Let no one make a mistake about that.
We all know that my right hon. Friend is a real friend of the farmers and the agriculturists. In his position he is right so to be. We have a Minister who is a real driving power. I am not sure that he has not got off the rails once or twice, according to my ideas. I would ask him in his long-term policy to endeavour to recover as soon as he can our fiscal freedom. I am not much of a. believer in these agreements. The Ottawa Agreement was spoken of as a great triumph. It may have been a triumph for industry, but not for agriculture.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Yes, I voted for the Government. When I come into the House of Commons I try to work with a team. I can go to my constituents and say that I have kept my pledges. Some hon. Members opposite would not have been in this House to-day but for the support of the National Government. Although I try to work with a team, that does not mean that I have no opinions of my own and that I am not going to ex- press them here. The agreements with the Dominions, with the Argentine and with Denmark have fettered our freedom. I should like these agreements to be terminated as soon as possible. In the Dominions, Australia, New Zealand and also in Denmark there has been depreciation of currency, 25 per cent. depreciation as compared with sterling. We have this currency depreciation to meet, and it is not fair to the agriculturists that they should have to bear the brunt of it. I am prepared to make sacrifices for Imperial trade but the 1682 sacrifice must not be all on one side. The home producer must have the first preference in his own market. I know that my right hon. Friend has great difficulties to face and I can assure him that the agriculturists will give him support if he recovers his freedom.
There is one further point on which I would warn my right hon. Friend, and that is on the question of -the regulation of imports. I am very sceptical about it. There are foreign firms who control beef in Smithfield. Why we should allow foreign firms to control the meat supply at Smithfield and other places I cannot understand. I should like to know whether they pay their proper share of taxation. They do not pay Supertax. I should like my right hon. Friend to look into that question because, as I understand it, foreign meat importers are getting a closer and closer grip of Smithfield market. These firms have been in business all their lives and are always looking out for what is going to happen in the future. A Government Department, although it may be composed of very able men, may make mistakes. I would commend to my right hon. Friend a statement by one of the most experienced and one of the sanest commentators, Mr. J. A. Spender, who was at one time the Editor of the "Westminster Gazette." In his recent book, These Times," Mr. Spender says:The errors of individuals are' relatively small which cancel each other out without great hurt to the community, but the errors of the public planner desolate a multitude.This regulation of imports is a very dangerous weapon. We want to keep the good-will of the urban population, but if we make any mistake and so raise the price of meat and the urban population rebel against it, we may have a difficult situation. These subsidies weaken the Exchequer. They will not add to the value of the farm. I would put to my right hon. Friend the fact that in 1933 we imported 30,000,000 cwt. of meat. An import duty of 10s. per cwt. on that meat would have brought in something like £15,000,000. I think that is the better policy to pursue.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I can understand the right hon. Gentleman's approval of this Bill, although it is qualified. At the end of his speech he said that a subsidy 1683 of this character must weaken the Exchequer. I am quite unrepentant, speaking as a town Member. The Minister yesterday was inclined to protest that I, a Member for an East London constituency, should dare to speak on a Bill of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman is liable to the same charge. He is an excellent Minister of Agriculture. 1 am quite sincere when I say that he has proved to agriculture and the country that they have had no more devoted head of the Department of Agriculture, but he is a town Member. I do not know that he has a larger rural area in his Glasgow constituency than I have in mine.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
My hon. Friend says that he once sat for an agricultural constituency. So did I. I started my political career under the auspices of the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), who came down with me and made eloquent speeches for Free Trade and in favour of the reform of our land system.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
Yes, but principles do not change. Wars do not change economic facts. I do not object to the right hon. Gentleman stating his opinions or changing his opinions. He says that conditions have changed. My hon. Friend reminds me of the fact that the Minister of Agriculture once represented an agricultural constituency, and I have stated that I also represented an agricultural constituency. In those difficult years we had to tackle this very same problem of meat prices and the regulation of the meat industry. We have a common responsibility as Members of Parliament when public money is being distributed. The people who are to receive that money will, of course, accept it, but the House of Commons as a whole has a responsibility for the care of the public purse, and they must be satisfied that in the desire to meet all reasonable facts the in terests of the country as a whole are not sacrificed to the interests of a particular industry. 1684 I do not suggest that agriculture is not going through a bad time. Of course it is. There is not a country where agriculture is not depressed and feeling the pinch because of the general fall in world prices. If we go to the United States of America we find that they have had to exercise exceptional powers to restrict production and regulate supplies. If we look to the Dominions, we see that they have manipulated the exchange, not from any desire to indulge in bad finance but because of the acute depression which exists. There is hardly a country in the world which is not feeling the effects of world depression, which is due to the interference and clumsy experiments of politicians. The whole problem has arisen because of an indulgence throughout the world in what is called economic nationalism, and we are one of the chief culprits. We have, unfortunately, not been able to convert other countries in Europe to the principle of Free Trade, or countries in the new world, and this has had the result of dislocating the economic balance, with the result that there is a glut of supplies in various parts of the world while in the homes and houses of all working classes there is short commons, penury, want and general discontent. A significant and sinister fact is that at this moment, when we are indulging in a new policy of limitation of supplies and the imposition of tariffs and quotas, Germany finds herself short of potatoes and has to import them from other countries.
I beg the Minister of Agriculture to realise that he has a larger responsibility than Minister of Agriculture. He must look at these problems from a larger point of view. The country, I am sure, is satisfied that you are not going to provide a permanent cure for the present condition by policies of this kind. Ottawa has failed from the point of view of this country. One of the immediate results of restricting the imports of beef was that the firm of Vestey and Company diverted a lot of their ships to the New Zealand trade. Before Ottawa it was not possible to import chilled beef, it came in the form of frozen beef, and as it fetched a low price it did not seriously interfere with the consumption of fresh beef. But the inevitable result of Ottawa is that for the first time there has been a large importation of chilled beef from New Zealand—
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that the House will be interested to have the figures of this large importation.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
The figures are in the Board of Trade Returns; I had them with me yesterday, but I have not got them at the moment. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that for the last two years, and especially during the first six months of this year, there has been a considerable importation of chilled beef for the first time from New Zealand. Does he deny that? I do not know why he interrupts me at every stage and challenges my statements. I will give him the figures in a few moments if he will allow me to get them. But that is the in- evitable result. The fact is that the cause of the depression in meat prices throughout the world, and indeed the cause of the depression in all agricultural prices, is the reduced purchasing power of the bulk of the working classes due to unemployment, not only in this country but in America, where there are 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 unemployed. The decreasing purchasing power of such a number must increase the glut of supplies in that country. The same thing applies in the Dominions and in this country.
During the last three years there has been a steady decline in the consumption of beef, particularly of fresh beef. It may be due partly to a change of habits and the result of medical education and the progress of science, but a very considerable factor is the manual labourer, the dock labourer, the miner, not the clerk, the middle classes or the black- coated worker, who does not want his beef steak, who is accustomed to lighter diet, but the heavy manual worker, who is not able to buy meat on the same scale as formerly, and who appreciates and demands fresh beef whenever he has money in his pocket. If the right hon. Gentleman has money to throw about, I am not sure that it would not have been better, instead of giving a subsidy direct to this branch of the industry, to have given every unemployed working man a fresh Sunday joint of English beef every week. I think he would have done more to help the agricultural industry in this way than by putting one section of the industry in a privileged position as is pro- posed by the Bill. 1686 I do not like any form of subsidy or dole, or charity. They are all bad, whether they go to farmers or working men. They are all palliatives and cannot be a substitute for a permanent restoration of industry and bringing men back into employment. The real cause of the depression in agriculture, as it is in almost every branch of industry, is the decreasing purchasing power of the bulk of the people due to prolonged periods of unemployment and depression. I know something about this matter because I have taken trouble to find out the facts. I am assured by people in touch with the market that nothing is more sensitive—I have just received the figures of the imports of chilled beef with which the right hon. Gentleman should have been familiar.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I will give him the figures here and now. They come to less than 900 tons of chilled meat. Does the hon. Member think that that is such a large increase?
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I did not say a large increase. The right hon. Gentleman is putting words into my mouth. I only said that the natural corollary of Ottawa was to make firms like Vestey and Company look for other markets and to stimulate for the first time the exports of chilled beef from other countries. I am sorry that I have not the figures to hand. I did not say there were large importations of chilled beef, but after all they contribute to the glut in the market. As to the Bill itself, a short Bill of five Clauses, I took exception yesterday to the fact that some £3,000,000 of public money was being given away without any safeguards for the public purse and with no details as to how the fund was to be administered. The Minister of Agriculture was very self-righteous and indignant and took shelter, as he has done before, behind a committee. He said that he had no responsibility, it was not his funeral, he had done all that he could, and that if I read the Bill I should find that the machinery was set up. The right hon. Gentleman has to appoint a 1687 committee. How is the committee to be composed? Is it to be composed of farmers and auctioneers? Is it to contain representatives of the public? And what kind of organisation is to be used?
We are here setting up a new precedent in industry which can be applied to other spheres of industry as well as agriculture. It is a new departure to take money from the taxpayer and hand it to one privileged section of the community. It may be necessary, there may be an emergency, but before we part with this Bill, whatever may be the point of view from which we approach it, whether from the agricultural point of view or the taxpayers point of view, the urban, or the rural point of view, we are entitled to know how the money is to be distributed and what sort of an organisation is going to be set up. We are entitled to know whether it is to be a central organisation in London or whether it is to be worked in counties or through markets. If it is going to be worked through markets, are they going to be privileged, and are the small markets to have a chance? I know how vital it is to preserve the rights of small markets, and I think we should have full details as to the nature of this organisation, it should not be left to be worked out on the advice of a committee in two or three months time.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he could not give details until next October. He has had 18 months to think out his policy, and, surely, having at his disposal a highly trained staff he has had time enough to think out his proposals. We have already had some experience of this kind of organisation; we have the Milk Board. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has no responsibility for the Milk Board, they are responsible to the farmers. Has he ever been into the premises of the Milk Board? It is a remarkable place, a marvellous organisation. It has given employment to hundreds of out-of-work clerks and typists, and I am grateful to the Minister for the many men who have found jobs there. But how is the machinery under this Bill to be worked out? And how is the money to be disbursed? Before we part with this Bill we should know these details, and what safeguards there are. We have a responsibility, we are the guardians of the public purse. The 1688 right hon. Gentle man says that we should avoid waste and complex machinery. One of the inspirations of the last General Election was to sweep away the bureaucracy set up under the Labour Government. Now we are setting up a new bureaucracy, equally expensive, and which will be equally difficult to get rid of once it is established.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) delivered his customary long, and no doubt erudite lecture on economics, but he will forgive me for saying that it had little application to the Bill, except that four times he reiterated a question as to the machinery of the Bill which would have been more in place and would have had more chance of being answered yesterday when the Bill was in Committee. I prefer to turn to the arguments and the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). There was once a distinguished America business man who, if he was asked for a letter of introduction, invariably fulfilled the request by using this formula:While I have not an extensive acquaintance with Mr. So-and-So, I admire his nerve.I listened to the hon. Gentleman's speech and I felt that that formula was extremely applicable; I could not agree with his arguments but I admired his nerve, He twitted my right hon. Friend the Minister with being a henchman of the National Farmers' Union. That was from a Member of the Government which ran away from a, crisis which had been created at the dictatorship of the Trade Union Congress, a Government which produced two Members who resigned from a Parliamentary position at the dictation of the Trade Union Congress. The Labour Party is a party which throughout history has been the henchman in this House, and sometimes has been proud to be the henchman, of the Trade Union Cqngress. Because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, for the first time in history, does something for the only considerable union in this country which is not affiliated to the Trade Union Congress, the hon. Member for Westhoughton gets up and twits him with it. If my right ho n. Friend the Minister had done half as much for the 1689 National Farmers' Union as the Labour Government pledged itself to do for the Trade Union Congress, the party would be a much more prosperous business than it is to-day. The hon. Member for Westhoughton twitted those of us who support this Bill with looking towards the next election. He told us that at the next election we would say to the farmers, "See what we have given you." I sug- gest to him as a Member of the last Labour Government that that is a better cry than "See what we promised you."
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Would the hon. Member say what the Labour Government promised to do for the Trades Union Congress?
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I have not at my disposal all the volumes of Labour policy produced for the election of 1929, but if the hon. Member will read them through—I do not know that he ever did so, for he may have helped to compile them—he will see the pledges made at the dictation of the Trades Union Congress. But I want to turn from that argument. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite are making derogatory noises. One hon. Member among them delivered a most savage attack on a colleague of mine the other day, and when I interrupted he told me that I must take my medicine. Let the hon. Member now take his medicine. Every word I say is accurate, and no one knows that better than the hon. Member, who was thrown out of his seat at the last election.
Let me turn to the Bill. The attacks on the Bill have been based on entirely extraneous ideas. This is the situation with which the Government and the country were faced: It was necessary to do something for the farming industry or it was going out of business. The hon. Member for Westhoughton asked, "If the farming industry, why not the coal industry or the cotton industry?" Of the cotton industry I can say nothing, because know nothing; but I do know a little about the coal industry. I am the last person to say that it is not in very considerable difficulties, but you do not get in the coal industry what you get in the farming industry, practically the whole of the industry running at a loss. There are substantial concerns in the coal industry which are making a profit at the present time, but there is practically no 1690 substantial section of the meat-producing industry in agriculture which is running at anything but a loss. That is the reason for the Bill. It is not a question of who is most deserving of the subsidy, but the question is, do we want the farming industry to go on or not?
The hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin) the other day in a speech on the Financial Resolution faced frankly the alternative when he said: "If this industry cannot make a showing without this help it ought to go out." That is a point of view. But we on the Government Benches hold, and I think that the Minister holds, that, quite apart from economic considerations, for social considerations, we cannot run this country unless we have a working and efficient agriculture. If hon. Members opposite disagree with me let them openly say so. That would be a point of view which would be understandable, if wrong. What I cannot understand is the attitude of hon. Members who condemn this proposal and do not advance any constructive alternative in its place. The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green in his speech on the Financial Resolution put forward some vague suggestion about a different system of land tenure. That has been tried in other countries, and while I agree that the example of one country is not necessarily true of another, in every country where it has been tried since the War, Rumania and Czechoslovakia, for instance, that country is in a great deal worse state than we are. In no country irrespective of its system of land tenure is agriculture prospering at the present time.
It is because we believe that British agriculture must have some help that we support this Bill. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot), whom I always regard as one who tries to take a very reasoned and unbiased view of these matters, interjected something to the effect that a way might be found for dealing with what are roughly known as middlemen's profits. I hope he is right. I held the same view at one time, but I am bound to confess that my researches have led me to believe that in effect there is no overcharge in the distributive services sufficient to do the industry any substantial good if that overcharge were dealt with. I may be wrong, but that was the result of my investigation. No alternative proposal to the Bill has in 1691 fact been presented by any of its opponents, and we are faced now with the fact that we have to vote for the Bill or if we vote against it we vote for another blow, and probably the final blow, at the agricultural industry.
I agree with a great many of the criticisms that have been levelled against the Measure. The right hon. Member for South Melton (Mr. Lambert) put them very forcibly, and they have been put by various other speakers during the Debate. I recall what the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) said on the Financial Resolution, that we are paying the price for. among other things, the Argentine Trade Agreement, which some of us regard as the black pact, and for the conscience of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. But it is too late to argue whether the price paid is too high. At the time this House and the party agreed that these things were worth having, and it is no use haggling over the price now. A tribute that I wish to pay to my right hon. Friend the Minister is that he has faced up to the situation, and has not taken the attitude of countless Ministers of Agriculture by saying that because we cannot do a thing as we would like to do it we shall do nothing at all. That has been the history of too many Governments of all complexions. The right hon. Gentleman was faced with a situation and he knew that a subsidy would be unpopular in all quarters of the House. He knew that a subsidy for a short-term policy was the only thing that would save this trade, and he had the courage and the common sense to come down to the House and say so. If I may I would like to pay him and the Government the very highest tribute for producing unpopular legislation which in my submission was absolutely necessary.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton said in effect, "What is the good? You give a subsidy to agriculture to stimulate your home trade, and a subsidy for shipping to stimulate your export and import trade, which you destroy by your agricultural policy." But it is our proportion of the world shipping which has declined. That decline we owe partly to foreign subsidies, and it is that which we are endeavouring to recover. When we 1692 have got back our share of the world shipping trade it will be worth while considering whether we want to stimulate any further exports and imports in order to get more. The fact remains that agriculture now is on the verge of destruction. Socialists and Liberals have talked much about land settlement schemes, allotment schemes, and smallholdings schemes as a cure for unemployment; but you cannot settle people on the land unless they can get a living out of it, and at present prices they cannot get a living out of the land.
There is the old saying dating from the War, "If you know a better 'ole, go to to it." Can hon. Members opposite produce a better scheme than this? If so, I have enough faith in the Minister of Agriculture to be certain that he will be prepared to give it the most earnest consideration. But, open to objection as this scheme is, the answer is that there is no alternative scheme at all, and the proof of that is that no alternative scheme has been produced. If hon. Members vote against this Bill they vote for the elimination of agriculture as a working proposition in this country. If they believe, as we believe, that no country can be a healthy State without a prosperous and happy rural population, they must vote for the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Westhoughton that it is important to see that the labourers get a share, and a pretty big share, of the benefit, because they have had the worst end of this depression in agriculture. The benefits that have already been given to agriculture have been insufficient to keep a sufficient population working on the land even at their already too low wages. With the Wages Board I do not think there is any serious danger that any benefit given to the industry under this Bill will not eventually reach the workers. Farmers want to employ more men, and the minute they get the necessary money they will do so. If hon. Members believe that a happy rural population is of value to the country, they must support the Government and vote for this Bill.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I am sure the House has listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), but it is a pity that he does not inform himself upon the structure and functions of the 1693 trade unions of this country as thoroughly as he does about agricultural problems. If he did that, he would avoid the error of speaking of the Trade Union Congress as though it were a body with entirely different functions from those which it actually possesses. But that is not what we are here to discuss. When the hon. Member says that nobody has a right to vote against this Bill unless he can pro- duce a better scheme, he rather misunderstands the attitude from which we argue. We have not produced this scheme; it has been produced by the Minister. If you would take any industry and say of that industry, "It is depressed, the prices of its products have fallen, it is making no profits, its workers are being discharged," you would have an equally good case for asking the Government to grant a subsidy; and that could be said about nearly every industry in the country. If we followed and applied the hon. Member's argument, we should have a valid case for asking for a Government subsidy for almost every industry in the country.
Farming, like every other trade, has its good and bad patches. Some people are still making fortunes out of farming. I read in the "Times" almost every day records of bequests made by farmers running into five and sometimes into six figures, and we all know that the price of farming land is not showing the curve one would expect it to show if farming were the bankrupt industry some hon. Members would ask us to believe. The hon. Member knows more of agriculture than I do, but in some parts of the country and in some departments of farming I think there are still good profits to be made. The fact remains, however, that this particular branch of agriculture is depressed, and, if it were possible to produce some sort of horn of plenty and bale subsidies out of that, the hon. Member would be quite right. He has made out a case for a share of it. Unfortunately, this money which is to be paid over to the breeders or the dealers in beef has to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. It has to come in the first place, in this temporary Measure, out of the general taxation, which means that it is added to the very formidable list of subsidies to which this House has now agreed, and it is eating away any chance of a Budget surplus which in its turn will be reflected in the fact that the present crushing taxation of the working- 1694 class and the black-coated working-class will have to be continued in order to provide subsidies for agriculture and shipping and the rest of it.
Apart from the injustice of these proceedings, they have a very serious economic effect. The hon. Member said: what are we to do about farming? In the long run the farming industry depends upon increasing its market, and its market is the home market. What is wrong with English agriculture is that English people are not buying enough agricultural produce. English people are not eating English beef and English apples and English produce generally, because they cannot afford to buy it. That is the crux of the whole question.
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I cannot agree with the hon. Member's argument. If he examines this question, he will see that, owing to the trend of science, even when they have the money—I am not talking about the wage-earning classes, but 'the better-off classes—people prefer not to buy English beef because the chilled beef is rendered by science so nearly akin to it that they do not mind.
§ Mr. WILMOT
If it were true that English beef is now an inferior article, the whole case for the subsidy would go. I do not believe it is an inferior article. I believe that, generally speaking, English agricultural produce is for English people the best in the world; it has advantages and merits which cannot be equalled by imported articles. But the trouble is that the wealthy classes do not matter in this respect; they are so small a portion of the market. The great market for foodstuffs is found among working people, the workers by hand and brain. They provide the great market to which agriculture has to make its appeal, and it is obviously true that every penny that is taken from the workman or clerk in taxation is a penny less for him to spend on food and other things, and, if the hon. Member knows, as he may know, the sort of population that fills our great cities, the people who live in my constituency, for example, he will know that, when they have paid their rent and their travelling expenses and bought the clothes it is necessary for them to have, the overwhelming majority of them are at their wits end to make the balance of their income purchase the necessary food to maintain their families.
1695 It is a distressing and pitiable sight to see these people, purse in hand, flitting from one market barrow to another trying to get an article of foodstuff a halfpenny or a penny cheaper further up the road. That pathetic search for the cheapest possible foodstuff on which to rear a family goes on every Friday and Saturday night in every marketing street in every town and suburb of this country, and part of the reason why the margin is so small, why the women of these households are harassed and worried as they are, is that the working people and black-coated workers are paying a proportion of taxation out of all relation to the income which they earn. A large part of their taxation is being diverted in subsidies to one article or another. In the end we get back to the position, as was stated the other day, that every one of these subsidies is reducing the potential market; and, if this scheme continues and involves in the end a levy upon imported foodstuffs, it will be even more unjust, because it will tax the foodstuffs of the very poor, not the food of their choice but the food that they have to eat from necessity, the cheapest. By taxing it we shall make them buy less and all in order that you may attempt to bolster up the lack of markets created by the poverty of the purchaser.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the question of wholesale and retail prices. If I thought the only possible way of maintaining an agricultural industry in this country was by some sort of subsidy, I should support it, but I should only support it after the most searching inquiry into all the aspects of this industry. Surely it is proper to maintain that, when an industry is unable to pay its way, when it has to come to the taxpayer and ask for a dole out of public taxation, we, as the representatives of the taxpayer, should inquire into the circumstances in which that industry is asking for funds. It seems to me that one of the issues that we ought to inquire into in this case is this astonishing situation that the beef producer is getting only pre-War prices for his product, and sometimes I am told even less, whereas the beef consumer, my people in Fulham, are paying double the pre-War price. Nobody can justify a continuation of that 1696 state of affairs. Where is the difference going? I do not believe it is going into the shopkeeper's pocket. I do not believe the shopkeeper himself makes what must be a fortune out of the difference in prices. It certainly is not going in the wages of shop assistants, for, if there be one class of poorly paid people, it is the Shop assistants. Where is it going? That is a question I have addressed to the Minister three times in this House, and I have not induced him to take the slightest interest in it. Here is the situation which he does not deny. I have taken the trouble to check,up in London and outside, and I have inquired at many farms during the week-end what price they are receiving, and I believe it is roughly true that the consumer is paying double the pre-War price and the producer is getting less than the pre-War price. Until the Minister will deal with that question he has no right to ask the taxpayer for a dole.
It is obvious that, somewhere between the shopkeeper and the farmer, there is an interest which has a grip on this industry and is sucking away the difference between profit and loss. We are not subsidising the producer. These subsidies which we are going to wring out of the taxpayers' pockets will not go to subsidise the farmer. They will go to maintain the unjustifiable profits of those who prey on this industry, the middlemen. I do not know who they are, whether they are the same sort of people who have a stranglehold on the imported meat of this country, but it is obvious that somewhere in this industry the cream of it is being sucked off by those who neither produce nor distribute. I do wish again to ask the Minister to look into this question and to realise that the taxpayers are not content to have their money spent in subsidising some trust which is getting a monopoly stranglehold somewhere on the meat industry of this country between the farmer and the shopkeeper. Unless he can demonstrate by inquiry that there is some reasonable explanation for this difference in price we have no right to vote a subsidy of this kind. I feel it is due to the hon. Member for Aylesbury that I should point out that those of us who are voting against this Bill are not voting against British agriculture and are not bankrupt of any alternative. We say that before you raise the price of the food of the poor, 1697 before you impose taxation on the poorest class of taxpayer, we have a right to see, and the Minister has a duty to see, that no wretched trust is battening on the industry and battening on the product on its way from producer to consumer.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) has delivered a speech of the sort which shows that he is making himself one of the best debaters in the House. It is no mere flattery to say that the great merit of his speeches is that he tries to meet the arguments of the other side, and is not content just to give his own views as against what is urged from the Government Benches. I want to deal with two or three points in his speech. He objects to the subsidy because it reduces the purchasing power of the people. As he put it, "each of your subsidies reduces your potential market." I put it to him that there are three ways of assisting a producer whether of coal, or meat, or any other commodity. Either you can give a subsidy, or you can tax the competing product, or you can restrict the competing product. Of these three ways, far the best way for the consumer is the subsidy. It diminishes the price in so far as it operates, whereas a tax may increase the price and restriction is bound to increase the price because it reduces the supply while the demand remains the same.
I noticed that the hon. Member skated rather skilfully over that part of the argument. His argument, I suggest, would apply to a Bill to tax or to restrict foreign imports of beef, but it does not apply to the subsidy, because by a subsidy given out of the taxes the price is not raised to the consumer. As to who pays the price the exact incidence of taxation is always a very difficult question. The ablest economists differ upon it. But, on the whole, if you are to give a subvention to the producer the least onerous method on the poor is the method of a subvention from the taxes. It is so in operation, and I think it is so in principle. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said a few days ago, that if agriculture were in danger he would be prepared to vote for a subsidy. I put it to him that all the conditions of danger to agriculture exist now, and that if the hon. Member wishes to help agriculture the only way 1698 which would meet all the objections urged by himself and his friends is the method of a subsidy paid out of the taxes.
The next point made by the hon. Member for East Fulham, and a very fair point too, was "what are the special dangers and the special claim of agriculture?" Is not the whole world, he asks, disordered and depressed? Certainly it is, but the Minister who has to deal with this question cannot be universal. He cannot spread his activities all over the world. Here he has to meet a special claim on the part of agriculture. It has a claim not only on general grounds but on special grounds. I believe that the particular branch of the industry with which we are concerned now, namely that of stock-raising, is capable of very large extension. I believe it is capable of supplying a much bigger part of home consumption than it supplies now, and I believe also that with good organisation, proper State protection and intelligence on the part of the producer, it could be made to do so without any increase in price to the consumer. I believe that we could do what now seems an impossibility, namely to give a bigger profit to the farmer without charging any higher price to the consumer of the produce. It would demand, of course, a great deal of organisation.
I do not know where the difference between the retail price and the wholesale price goes. I have looked for that vanishing lady and have never even caught a glimpse of her skirt. Various commissions have sat and reported, various bodies have considered the question, economists have examined it, but apparently we cannot find out where that difference goes. It is no good fixing a standard price. We found during the War that that was not efficacious. All we can do is so to organise the producers, and so to deal with the "lag" between the price which the producer gets and the price which the retailer pays, as to diminish the great margin which now exists. The special claims of agriculture are first that in it we have an industry that can do its business, and secondly that it is a basic industry. One cannot conceive this country without it. It is rooted deeply in this England which we all know, the England which has existed for such a long time and which will 1699 continue to exist for a long time to come. Furthermore, I believe it is an industry which by Government action can be put into a fit condition without causing the consumer to pay any more for his food. Apart from these special claims of agriculture, there is the general consideration of the benefit of agriculture to the community. On all these grounds it has a strong claim to assistance.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) appeared this evening in a new role as a bucolic supporter of agriculture. He suggested that the subsidy was a bribe and that it ought to be paid to the National Farmers Union. I do not think the hon. Member really holds that view. I do not think he can imagine that it is the object of the Government to put money into certain pockets without asking for any return. I think he knows that the subsidy -is a payment not for the benefit of individuals but for the restoration of an industry. Indeed the hon. Member's only real point was, that if we assisted agriculture then by so much we depressed shipping. There is a certain amount of truth in that statement. Of course, if we produce 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. more carcases in this country, fewer carcases are imported from abroad. That is the issue in the struggle which is going on between different schools of thought in the country and I believe in the Government also. But I put this point to the House —that our own people have the first claim. In the discussions at the Ottawa Conference it was recognised on all sides that the home producer should come first.
I differ from some of my hon. Friends who take a more enthusiastic view of Dominion and Colonial development than I do. as regards the future of trade with foreign countries. Without appearing to be too optimistic, I believe that we are now on the eve of a big improvement in world conditions. The one real mark of progress which I see in the world is that any improvement in conditions now has to start from the bottom. The old civilisations which existed in the past were just as high as our present civilisation, and if any real improvement is to come it must start at the bottom. I do not see why the consumption of meat, of bread, milk, of butter, of cheese, should he regarded as a static figure. It is taken now to be a static figure. We 1700 are given certain percentages which we have now and certain percentages which we may obtain. I believe that we might have a very large increase of foreign produce, and yet at the same time a more prosperous British farming industry than we have at present. I believe that is going to happen. I have seen such extraordinary changes in my lifetime that that does not seem to me to be too much to expect.
Following that line of thought, we must consider to whom is the advantage of this subsidy going. It is to go to the profit of the farmer and in passing may I express the hope that the hon. Member for East Fulham is wrong in saying that machinery will be necessary to see that the middleman does not get the advantage. I hope it will go to the farmer and the farm worker. I hope part of it will go in wages. On the question of wages, my withers are unwrung. Many years ago, before some of the Members of this House were born, I helped the late Sir Mark Sykes to bring in one of the earliest Measures which proposed the setting up of wages boards for agricultural workers. It was thrown out by the Liberal Government which was in power about 191!) or 1911 and it received very little support from the strong and rising Labour party which was then in the House, but things have moved since then. I may say that a certain element even in the Conservative party were not very enthusiastic about that Measure but I pass from that.
I would ask, however, how do those who argue for better wages meet the point of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert)? He put his argument with his usual common sense and clarity when he said that you could not have good wages unless the industry was paying, and the more the industry was made to pay, the more chance there was of getting good wages. I hope and believe that wages will improve, but I am certain that the only chance of their improvement is to make the industry more profitable. I should like to be able to think that during my time in politics which now stretches over a good many years something had been accomplished, and that I was leaving the country rather better than I had found it. I think that is the only justification for a political life, whether one's activities are exercised in the distinction of the Front Bench or in the obscurity of the 1701 back benches. I believe if we are able to say that a profitable agricultural industry has been established without entailing undue cost on the urban population, we shall have had at least a part in a great work.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT SMITH
Representing as I do a constituency which is almost entirely dependent upon the fat stock industry for its livelihood, I want to congratulate the Government on this Measure. There is no doubt that stock-raising in my part of the country has been in very low water. There are certain Members on the other side who seem to deny that the industry is in low water. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) stated that it had not been proved that the cattle industry was in a parlous condition and that it was necessary for something to be done. It was rather unfortunate that his colleague, the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), had not spoken. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh might have believed him, for he says that the industry is in a serious condition. There is a great deal of lip service given by both parties on the other side to agriculture. They both say they want to see a profitable agriculture. Here we have a, Bill, which is admittedly an emergency Measure to put the industry on its feet, and they will not support even a Measure of this kind in order to keep the industry going until a long-term policy is worked out. It is unfair for hon. Members to take up such an attitude towards what is only a temporary Bill. Those who know anything of agriculture agree that the position of farmers is as serious as it possibly can be. Hon. Members opposite say that farmers have not given up their farms. It is because they are being carried by banks and marketing companies and other institutions, and, if the banks were to call in the money lent to the agricultural industry, the smash in the country would be so enormous that I believe every industry would be thoroughly upset for.a long time I congratulate the Government on the Bill, and I do it all the more wholeheartedly because I know that this proposal has brought hope to farmers in the north-east of Scotland and in my constituency.
One of the arguments which is raised in opposition to this Bill is that we must 1702 not produce more in this country, because if we do we shall not be able to import from foreign countries, And our manufacturers will not be able to sell their goods abroad. I ask hon. Members who put forward that argument whether they have any thought for the agriculturist at all. Does it not matter to the agricultural worker and the farmer? Another argument is that this Bill will help to smash shipping, because there will be a reduction of imports. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was in the House in 1931 when Dr. Addison introduced his first Agricultural Marketing Bill. The hon. Member would have been wise if he had gone to the Library and had got Volume No. 248 of the OFFICIAL REPORT and had carefully read the speech of Dr. Addison at that time. I would recommend it to other Members on that side of the House who were not in the House then, because it is very interesting. He said that the reason for the introduction of his Bill was that we grew about £203,000,000 worth of agriculported produce in this country and imported exactly the same amount from foreign countries. His argument was that we ought to be able to grow £100,000,000 worth more in this country. If that were so, shipping would surely have suffered. Why was it right for the hon. Member for Westhoughton to vote for that Bill and to support our producing more agricultural commodities in this country in order to help agriculture, when he now says that we must not do it, because, if we cut down the meat from the Argentine and other imports, shipping will suffer? Would it not have suffered in 1931?
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Surely there is a vast difference between voting for a subsidy and voting for the Agricultural Marketing Act?
§ Sir R. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman's argument was that this Bill would hit shipping. Therefore, I am perfectly entitled to reply with the argument that in 1931 he voted for a Measure which, according to the then Minister of Agriculture, would have the same effect as the hon. Member says that this Bill will have. Why should he support such a Measure in 1931, and object now to a Bill with the same object, namely, to encourage the production of agriculture in this country rather than import produce from abroad? Hon. Gentlemen are 1703 not really consistent in their arguments, and they would be well advised to read some of the speeches made in 1931.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
I intend to vote against the Bill. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), in an interjection during the speech of the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot), made an astounding statement. It was that the rich class to-day did not buy English beef, but preferred to buy chilled beef. I was astonished to hear such a statement from the hon. Member for Aylesbury, for he belongs to a party that has been preaching loyalty to the farmer for at least 200 years. Every time they open their mouths they say, "We want to be loyal to the British farmer, and the only way we can be loyal to him is by giving him this subsidy." Now the hon. Member for Aylesbury states that they are not loyal to the British farmer because they prefer chilled meat.
Lieut.-Colonel ALFRED TODD
On a point of Order. I was sitting here when the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont) was speaking, and I understood him to say that because the quality of chilled beef so nearly approaches—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
That is not a point of Order. If the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) chooses to give way, the hon. and gallant Member can interrupt.
If an hon. Member misinterprets another hon. Member, is not that a point of Order?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is not a point of Order to rise and correct another hon. Member on his argument. If the hon. Member for Hemsworth chooses to give way, the hon. and gallant Member can make such a correction.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I was stating that, irrespective of the quality, I should have thought that the loyalty of the Tory party to the British farmer was such that they would have preferred to buy English meat. Those of us who come from industrial constituencies will be loyal to the British farmer when we have the wages to buy his beef. I stated in the 1704 House last week that in my division the miners would sooner have one British beefsteak than two foreign beefsteaks. I have tasted both, and I believe that the quality of British beef far exceeds that of foreign beef, and, when I can get it, I have it. In my division this week-end I ran up against a few butchers. They are keenly interested in this Bill, and they have been reading what has been going on in the House so far as they can get hold of it. They state, "You as the Member for Hemsworth has put the correct point of view, namely, that, if the workers of the country had the wages, there is no doubt that we in the butchers' shops would be far busier than we are." It is all very well for the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon Major Hills) to talk about the agricultural labourer having his wages raised. I want to have his wages raised, but there are some hon. Members who speak as though the agricultural labourer took his wages home in a barrow at the week-end. The highest wage of an agricultural worker is 31s., and, if he has two or three youngsters, that will not go very far. I know that the wage of the town worker is low also. The fact that wages are low is the cause of the farming industry being hit as it is to-day. That is the kernel of the whole problem. If our wages had not been reduced during the past 10 years by £600,000,000, the farming industry would be far more prosperous than it is. The Bill states that the subsidy is to be 5s. per cwt. live weight, and Os. 4d. per cwt. deadweight. The latter amounts to one penny per lb. and you can look at it from any angle you like, but it will increase the price of beef in the shops.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
It will increase the price in the shops, because, as the Minister has stated, there is ultimately to be a levy, and when that levy goes on imported meat—
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
There is no levy in the Bill, but our point is that this is only just a start. The Minister stated yesterday that if it necessitated putting a levy on in order to collect the £3,000,000 subsidy, the Government would not squirm 1705 at it. Ultimately it will send up the price of beef, and people will not be able to pay for it.
§ 5.44 p.m.
As one who represents an important beef-producing constituency, I would like to add my warm thanks and praise to the Minister for his persistence and courage in bringing forward this Bill. We all agree that the Bill is a makeshift. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) referred the other day to pledges given on this side of the House with reference to a meat duty. I claim that up to date the meat producer has been paying the cost of those pledges. When I stood as a National candidate I remember saying that I understood the national pledge was that we would consider any and every means of putting our industries on their feet. Unfortunately, a Minister was put in a key position at the Board of Trade whose presence there caused very grave alarm, certainly among many of my constituents. I hope that to-day the House realises that the taxpayer is under- taking to pay a cost which up to date has been met by the producers of this country.
It was not a Tory pledge. There are various ways out of the difficulty of finding help for the meat producer. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) produced one scheme which I hope the Minister will consider very seriously. I believe the Food Council still exists—whether it is moribund or still functions I cannot say— but I am sure there is much food for thought in the remark of the hon. Member for East Fulham that some help could be found for the producer by reducing the wide margin between the price received by the producer of meat and the price paid by the consumer. Whether that can be done or not, it is clear that action must be taken against increasing imports. There is one point which I do not think has been dealt with which I should like to stress. The main imports of meat which come into competition with home-produced meat are not from the Dominions. There is a certain section of the community which always wants to put everything upon the Dominions, but the main competitor is chilled meat 1706 from foreign countries inside the American Continent.
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) tried to make out that enormous masses of chilled meat were coming from the Dominions. The truth is, I believe, that so far only experimental cargoes of chilled meat have come from the Dominions. Personally, I hope that the Dominions will find a way of bringing chilled meat here, because we would rather have chilled Dominion meat than chilled foreign meat. The problem today is that increasing supplies come from South America. We are tied up with the Argentine Agreement, but why do we go on importing increasing supplies of chilled meat from other South America countries which are not covered by trade agreements? I would like an answer to the question why, when we are having to find £3,000,000 from the taxpayers of this country, we are still importing increasing supplies of chilled meat from Uruguay and, I believe, from Brazil. I think perhaps one of those countries is covered by the rightly-abused most-favoured-nation clause, but I am certain that something could be done to check the very large imports of highly competitive meat from South American countries.
The long-term scheme is postponed, and this is only a makeshift Bill; but that scheme has been postponed by the direct action of the present Government. We have tied ourselves up with foreign agreements, and because of our own action we cannot bring in the very much desired and long-looked for long-term scheme for British meat producers. I beg the Government to consider before entering into any more foreign agreements—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. and gallant Member that we are discussing the Third Reading of this Bill, and that on the Third Reading we can discuss only the matters which are in the Bill.
I believe that in the action which the Government have taken financial interests have been the ruling factor. We have got to look after other industries. Surely, before further action is taken, I am in order in reminding the Government that there are far greater financial interests in British agri- 1707 culture than in our foreign trade. I urge that we should have no further agreements, that we should recognise that this Bill is a makeshift, and that in the future producers of meat in this country should be entitled to consideration as representing an enormous financial interest, agriculture being the biggest employer of labour in the country.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot), who is not now in the House, made what I thought was the best speech I had heard from those benches during the consideration of this Bill. He summed up the case against it, which I think is an extraordinarily weak one. One point with which he made great play was organisation. He said the price the farmer obtains for his beef is lower than it was pre-War, and the price the consumer has to pay is double the pre-War price. That is perfectly true, and I think the reason for that discrepancy is well worth examination by the Government; but there are some reasons for that state of affairs which are obvious. One reason is that wages all along the line, from farm workers up to shop assistants, though admittedly low in many cases, are incomparably higher than they were before the War, and those wages are represented in the price charged to the consumer. Railway freights, largely owing to the cost of wages, are also very much higher than they were, although it cannot be said that the owners of railway shares are getting very much out of them. If the hon. Member for East Fulham is looking for bogeys, for some middleman who is making gigantic profits and who ought to be got at and struck down, he might ask his own co-operative association whether they are making too high profits. I think the answer would be that the profits they are making are by no means excessive. There is very fierce competition in distribution at the present time and that competition tends to keep down prices to a certain extent, but still I do think there is cause for inquiry into these matters, and possibly the Food Council might undertake it. A strong line of attack on this Bill by the Socialist party has been the absence of a means test for farmers. That has been mentioned time after time by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) by, I think, 1708 the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and others.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not think that has been said this afternoon on Third Reading, and I would call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that he can only discuss what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I bow to your ruling. I was under the impression that it had been mentioned this afternoon, but I will not proceed with that point. Another line of attack has been that a subsidy has been granted without there being any need for it. One hon. Member, I think the hon. Member for East Fulham, said this afternoon that the farmers were doing very well, that they were leaving large fortunes, as we could see if we read the newspapers, but anybody who has the slightest knowledge of the agricultural industry knows that that is not the case, and that those engaged in the industry are in a very had way. The Government are trying to treat the various branches of the industry by different methods and this Bill represents one method. The Liberal party have, of course, attacked this Bill tooth and nail, but never have they suggested what should be set in its place. I am not sure whether I am in order in mentioning what happened on a previous stage, but the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), when attacking this Bill, said hon. Members might urge that he had no right to do so unless he had something to suggest in place of it. I was waiting agog for him to come out with the great Liberal agricultural policy, but nothing happened. He spoke for 20 minutes, and the first 15 minutes were devoted to general lines of attack, and only in the last five minutes did he mention the cattle side of the industry.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
If the hon. Member had followed my remarks on that occasion he would have heard me say distinctly that I was in favour of a direct subsidy, if it could be shown, as the Minister had not shown, that the industry was bankrupt. I was in favour of a direct subsidy, but not one with a financial memorandum which implied that a levy was to follow.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member say that a direct subsidy is necessary, because it looks 1709 very much as though that is what this Bill is going to make it. Unless the money is available by March, 1935—by a levy or some other method—it looks very much as though this will become a direct subsidy, and then I am sure we can rely on the hon. Member's support for a Supplementary Estimate. I think he would be wiser to eschew cattle and keep to currency. As to the Bill, I welcome it very sincerely, because I believe it will have a very good effect not only on the agricultural community but on the towns as well. Hon. Members who have spoken for both sections of the Opposition have given the impression that everything is being done for the farmers and nothing for the townspeople. The value of agricultural produce in this country has been put at £200,000,000 a year. That £200,000,000 worth of agricultural produce is bought by the towns. If it is calculated that every £1,000,000 of manufactures employ 2,000 men, it needs only a very simple calculation to show that if the towns buy more than £200,000,000 worth of agricultural produce and give £200,000,000 worth of manufactured goods in return we are providing direct employment for 400,000 men. That is a calculation which it is not very easy to upset, and I think it is a reasonable calculation and does definitely show how important it is that we should do everything we can, by different remedies for different branches, to put the agricultural industry on its feet.
There is a definite tendency in the House to-day to regard the various measures which are being put forward by the Government on their merits. There is much less tendency than there was for a Conservative Member of Parliament when he prays in the morning to ask Heaven to make him a good Tory, or for a Liberal Member to ask that he may be made a good Liberal. There is a very strong and proper tendency in the House as a whole, and certainly among supporters of the Government, to treat every subject that comes forward on its merits. We had a cry for a business Government during the War, which meant bringing in big business men from outside. That was not very successful. All these extraordinarily complicated problems have to be looked at from a strictly business point of view. I am very glad that the Minister has realised that it is essential to do something for the cattle 1710 industry now. We cannot wait for another six or seven months until the levy is brought in. Even though we find at the end of the financial year that the Minister has not been able to carry through the first stage of his long-term policy, he will be able at least to arrange some extension of the quantitative regulation. That is of enormous importance, and I am sure he will devote his extraordinary energy and his eloquence to persuading foreign countries and the Dominions that, if they cannot agree to a levy, they might agree to an increase in quantitative restrictions. For these reasons, I support the Government on this occasion, and I trust the Bill will go through with a very large majority.
§ 6.1 p.m.
Some of us have listened with great sympathy to the account presented by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) of the difficulties in which the poor housewife finds herself in making both ends meet. It is worth observing that in no other country in the world are the necessities as well as the luxuries of life so cheap as they are in this country. The hon. Member referred to the very difficult problem of who gets the margin which exists between the price paid to the producer and that paid by the consumer. The same point was referred to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), who spoke of that margin as the "vanishing lady." The answer to the point is a matter of investigation. One-can explain it to a certain degree by the fact that rings are operating, and no doubt between the time when a farmer puts his animals on the road to take them to market, and the time when the animals come under the hammer, various deals have taken place which increase the cost of the animals, but the farmer gets very little of the benefit. Another answer to the question is that in former times a butcher was able to dispose of the cheaper parts of the animal in the poorer parts of the country, but from the poorest parts of the industrial cities to-day there is a demand for the best cuts. Consequently the retailer has to make his profit on a far smaller portion of the animal than in former times. I do not suggest that those points wholly answer the question, but that they go some way towards 1711 solving the almost inexplicable problem of the vanishing lady, which is the margin between the price which the producer gets and that which the consumer pays.
The hon. Member who opened the Debate said that the Bill does not solve the agricultural problem. It does not attempt to do so. It sets out with a very definite purpose, and I believe that it achieves that purpose. He taunted those who support the National Government with bribery. It seems hardly apt for an hon. Member on the Opposition Benches, or perhaps for any hon. Member, to taunt another with political bribery. I should be going outside the limits of the Debate if I were to recapitulate some of the promises or bribes which hon. Members have held out at past elections. I represent an agricultural constituency, and I wish to say how deeply I and my constituents appreciate the efforts being made by the Minister. I sometimes think that he must be very clever to have got £3,000,000 out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor represents part of a thriving and prosperous city, but he understands the position in the country as well as anybody. He knows that it is absolutely essential for the social health and welfare of this country that we should build up a. prosperous countryside and he is prepared to extend to the industry of agriculture the same protection which he has given to industries many of which are located in the city which he represents. I would have preferred a tariff on meat from the beginning, but I understand that that was politically impossible at the time. I would rather have a National Government and no tariff than have had a tariff which meant the break-up of the National Government.
It is urged that you might put such a heavy duty upon meat coming in from the Empire as to ruin all possible chance of trade negotiations with the Dominions. A good many hard things have been said about the Ottawa Agreements. It is very easy to criticise them, but the returns of trade between this country and the Dominions and Colonies since the Ottawa Agreements were made leave no room for difference of opinion as to the advantage which those agreements have conferred upon the Dominions and upon this country. Without doubt the Dominions got 1712 the best of the bargain, and I think that was inevitable, but, as the years go by, this country will benefit increasingly as a result of the foundations that were laid at that conference. It is a matter for infinite regret that the Dominions have not yet seen their way to make some arrangement for the curtailment of the supplies of meat that they send to this country. I am certain that the Minister and the Secretary of State for the Dominions will be able to persuade them to take the steps which are necessary in their interests and in our awn. The Dominions will never find a Government in this country more willing to listen to their arguments or more sympathetic to their interests.
What has been the opposition to this Bill? The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said that it was no good tinkering with this industry, and that the difficulties would never be solved except by nationalisation of the land. The greatest optimist in the Socialist party cannot imagine that in six months, six years, or in any time calculable by mathematics, nationalisation of the land would solve the problem of agriculture. The chances of an effective measure of nationalisation are so far off that the poor farmer who waited for it would starve and go bankrupt. There is a far better chance of solving the problem during the six months period of subsidy than there was of a solution of the coal question when a subsidy was given to that industry in 1925. I should like to hear the views of Members of the Socialist party if the present subsidy were being given on behalf of coal. Their views would be very different from those which they have exhibited to-day.
Hon. Members are always accusing this Government of being a Conservative Government. It was a Conservative Government which gave a subsidy of £20,000,000 to coal, not one penny of which we got back. There is a far better chance—a very good chance—of the whole of this subsidy of £3,000,000 being got back by a levy. No one likes a. subsidy. I came across a quotation from Socrates the other day which seems relevant to this aspect of the Debate. In the translation which I shall give, it runs: 1713Get not your friends with barren sympathy and compliments, but by giving them sensible tokens of your love.That is very apposite in describing the agricultural policy of the Government, and in contrasting it with the policy of Members of the Socialist party. Their sympathy for the industry was a barren sympathy. Pretending friendship for the farmer has never solved the problem, and certainly will never make the farmers or the agricultural labourers believe that hon. Members are their friends.
There is another side to the subject. Farmers have to realise that an efficient slaughtering system combined with the erection of a canning industry would help to solve the problem. There should be better quality of meat and better treatment and presentation of carcases, as well as better marketing arrangements. Organisation and co-operation along those lines is essential, and are an integral part of the Government's subsidy scheme. The subsidy, as the Minister has said, buys time while reorganization is in process. We have always contended that the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, was useless unless it were accompanied by security. That security has been given in the form of quotas, duties, or subsidies. Reorganisation will mean sacrifices from the farmer, and will upset many long-held and cherished ideas, but I am certain that farmers will be prepared to make those sacrifices and to reorganise along lines which the Minister may suggest at a later date.
I represent a milk area. Although it is customary to talk about agriculture as one industry, it is a large number of separate industries with, in many cases, antagonistic interests. Hon. Members who represent milk areas have a very definite reason for being grateful to the Government. One of the main difficulties which have faced us in dealing with the milk situation is the sudden increase of production which has arisen from the fact that those who produced meat before, and who watched for a number of years their prices falling, transferred to milk production. I believe that a solution of the milk problem may help enormously to solve the meat problem. I support the Bill for the reasons which 1 have given, but also for the more general reason that it means £3,000,000 going into the countryside. I confess unashamedly that I would support almost 1714 any Measure and any subsidy—even an extravagant one—if it were to mean a restoration of prosperity to the countryside. We shall never see a prosperous countryside unless it is in some way artificially supported from outside. The processes of high taxation and Death Duties during the past 10 or 20 years have taken out that capital which was the life of the countryside. Under the administration of the Minister, the countryside is getting a little bit of its own back.
Before the Government have finished their agricultural policy, they have to do two things—stop the drift from the countryside to the towns, and, at some later date, inaugurate and carry through a big land settlement scheme. Much good work has already been done by the Government in stopping the drift of people from the country to the towns. That is the preparation for the second scheme, namely, the scheme of land settlement; but, until it is possible to give to those who live on the land a reasonable assurance that, if they pursue their calling efficiently, they will be able to get a living out of it, it will never be possible to stop the young people--men and women—drifting away from the countryside into the towns and creating an unemployment problem there. The corollary, of course, is that, unless more money comes into the industry, there is less chance of profits and of wages being increased. As a consequence of what the Minister has done already, wages have been increased in seven or eight counties, and the security of the agricultural worker is far greater to-day than it ever was before. I would recommend to hon. Members on the Socialist benches, when they go to their constituencies, a pamphlet issued by our party which will tell them the numbers of men in those counties who have had their wages increased as a consequence of the action of the Minister of Agriculture. I feel sure that they will be very popular with their constituents if they will only tell them that. I believe that to oppose this Bill is nationally, economically and politically a folly of the first order. I believe the Bill to be a necessary and a temporary step, and I support it because I believe it will do something to restore the balance between town and country in this land.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
I propose to introduce a somewhat daring innovation into this Debate, that is to say, to start by discussing the actual provisions of the Bill and the effect that they will have upon the beef producing side of the agricultural industry. To begin with, I think we may take it as a truism that the subsidy which is provided by the Bill is in itself repugnant to everyone in the House; but we differ a little further on, because we on the Government benches believe that it is making the best of a bad job to have a temporary subsidy, while hon. Members of the Opposition are not prepared,.apparently, to support it at all, although some of them, both above and below the Gangway, have given indications that they might do so if things were a little different. The subsidy proposed is 5s. per cwt. on each living beast, and 9s. 4d. on each dead one. Owing to the fact that joints are continually becoming smaller, most animals are marketed at weights of something like 10 cwt. to 12 cwt., and; sometimes as low as about 8 cwt.; that is to say, the subsidy payable in respect of each animal may in a few cases be as low as £2, it will usually be from £2 10s. to £3, and in a very few cases may approach £4.
Some figures have been published this week with regard to about 35 farms in Scotland, and those figures show that, taking the farms altogether, the apparent profit on each animal produced of late has been 18s. per head. But that was only an apparent profit. When other things, such as rent, were taken into consideration, that apparent profit was reduced to a very certain loss. This subsidy of from £2 to possibly £3 10s. or £4, although it is going to be of the very greatest advantage to the beef producing section of the industry, is certainly not going to do away with all loss in every case. It will be a great help, but it certainly will not make the fortunes of the farmers.
I quite agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. Smith) about the abilities of the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot). If the Socialist party are wise, they will put the hon. Member for East Fulham on their Front Bench at once, as he has as much debating capacity as the rest of them put together. But, having handed him that 1716 preliminary bouquet, I am afraid I must warn him to be prepared for a rapid fire of half-bricks. The hon. Member has tried to make out, as far as I can understand, both on previous occasions and to-day, that there is not really very much distress in the agricultural industry. All I can say is that, if his investigations have led him to that conclusion, they must have been confined to the agriculture within Fulham itself.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I hope the Noble Lord will do me the justice of quoting me correctly. If he will consult his memory again, he will find that I said that in certain areas, and in certain departments of agriculture, a profit was made. That is true.
§ Lord SCONE
Yes, but I think I am not being unfair to the hon. Member when I say that that way of putting it is not quite the way in which he put it before. It is perfectly true that profits are being made in certain departments of agriculture, and perhaps I may be allowed very briefly to say which departments those are. One is the fruit industry, thanks to the Government's tariffs. Another is the mutton producing section, thanks again to the Government's restrictions; and we hope that before long there will be a profit in the oat section, also thanks to the Government's intervention. There are, of course, other branches in which a few people are making a profit, but they are making a profit usually for exceptional reasons—perhaps because they are persons of such outstanding ability that they are able to make a profit no matter what happens, or because they are favoured with very good markets at their doors, or because of some other advantage which does not fall to the lot of most of their brethren. The hon. Member for East Fulham also alluded to the large sums left by various farmers, but it is surely a work of supererogation to point out to him and to the House that those fortunes were not made in the last few years, but were very probably the remnants of fortunes made during the War, increased by judicious investment. The number of men engaged in farming or beef producing who are able to make both ends meet at the present time is certainly very small indeed.
As regards the effect which the subsidy will have, it will certainly prevent a large number of men from going 1717 bankrupt altogether, and here I would like to amplify a, little what my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen very rightly said. If there were at the present time a collapse in the livestock section of the agricultural industry, it would be impossible for anyone to determine now how far the effects of that collapse would reach. It would be like a stone thrown into a pool; ripples would go out a great deal further than anyone would anticipate. At the present time there are not many beef producers in the country who really own the animals on their farms. Those animals, usually, are really the property of auctioneers or bankers, and if in any district a considerable proportion of the beef producers went bankrupt, the result would be that the bankers and auctioneers would not merely call in their loans to these men as fast as they could, but, in order to recover their losses, they would be obliged to call in other loans which they had made to the rest of those who were producing beef in the area, and probably to the mixed farmers as well. That would mean a large number of bankruptcies, which would spread from area to area, and no one could possibly foretell what the ultimate effect would be. Certainly it would be felt among city workers, because of the tremendous reduction of purchasing power which would instantly be caused in the agricultural areas. It must be remembered that the country areas purchase enormous quantities of finished articles and a certain amount of raw materials from the towns, and for that reason alone agriculture must be kept prosperous, because the market that it affords to the towns is a very valuable one indeed.
It is unfortunate that, although both of the Oppositions have attacked the Measure fiercely, they have not at any stage been able to produce any alternative. Of course, if they have one, it would not be in order to discuss it at this stage, but we are saved any such necessity because they have not an alternative. We have also had from the Socialist benches the very valuable admission that the panacea of nationalisation, which we have had drummed into us for so many years, is not a cure for the ills from which agriculture is at present suffering. That is something 1718 which we shall remember at the next election, when no doubt that same panacea will be trotted out by the same quack doctors. Before either Opposition attack the Government for what they have done, they ought to consider seriously what would be the effect of leaving the industry in its present state. The effect of doing that would be, as 1 have pointed out, a series of collapses, the extent of which no man can foretell. What, then, are the Opposition going to do? The hon. Member for East Fulham suggests making an investigation into the difference between the price received by the farmer and the price at which meat is sold in the shops. That is all very well. The hon. Member admits that he has made some investigations, and cannot find out the whereabouts of the "mysterious lady," as one hon. Member called it. In the meantime, while he and everyone else are making these investigations and not succeeding in finding out anything, is it likely that agriculture is going to be able to continue? Is it likely that those who are already on the verge of bankruptcy will be able to keep going for an indefinite period, not necessarily only seven months, but it may be even seven years, while the "mysterious lady" is being sought? In that period the beef producing section of agriculture would in all probability collapse, and would drag down with it many other branches of agriculture, thus doing irreparable harm to the manufacturing industries in the towns.
Then there is the question of the agricultural workers' wages. We all know that these are very low in England, and not quite so bad in Scotland. The only way in which those wages can be maintained even at their present low level, not to mention raising them to the height at which we should all like to see them, is by agriculture being made reasonably prosperous again. We have had some very eloquent and, indeed, vehement speeches on behalf of the poor people in the towns and in the mining villages, who, we are told, are unable to afford British beef. With that we all agree, but it seems to be forgotten by mining Members that the miner who is at work—I am not referring to those who are partially employed—is receiving a very considerably larger sum in weekly wages than any agricultural worker, and if a hewer, a remuneration which is by 1719 no means to be despised. It is quite true that, unfortunately, many working people cannot afford to buy British meat, and, now that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) is again in his place, I would counsel him to read very carefully in the OFFICIAL REPORT what my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) really did say. The hon. Member for Hemsworth, if he does that, will find that there is not a shadow of justification for either of the charges that he brought against my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury.
We have had no alternative scheme put before us, and we have had nothing to show that this Bill is going to do any harm to anyone. We are told that it is going to increase the price of meat to the working classes so that they will no longer be able to buy it, but there is no proof that that will happen, and experience during the last few years has shown that a tariff or levy by no means necessarily raises the cost to the consumer. Therefore, I and all other Members on the Government benches are going to support this.Bill, not merely in the House but outside; and before those who occupy the Opposition benches are entitled to carp at us for supporting the Government, or at the Government for introducing this Measure, they ought to be able to show, on the one hand, that the Measure is going to do definite harm to some section of the community, and at the same time to show that they have something to put in its place.
§ 6.30 p.m.
I am glad to have the opportunity of following my Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone), who always puts forward such a sturdy and independent view on every subject on which he addresses the House. Before I pass to the general subject which we are now discussing, I would like to say something with regard to one remark that he made in the opening part of his speech, as to the debating skill possessed by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot). As a rule, my Noble Friend is not guilty of hyperbole, but I think he was in danger of erring in that direction when he said the hon. Member possessed more debating skill than all the Members of the Opposition put together. I think we 1720 all, in this quite exceptional Parliament, realise the heroic and gallant way in which the small Opposition has discharged its duties. I am very glad to be the third Scottish Member to take part in the Third Reading Debate on this highly important Measure and to reinforce what has been said by hon. Members opposite representing the north-east and central part of Scotland, and to back it up emphatically from the south-western corner. The Minister, when he introduced the Financial Resolution, alluded to the great part that livestock farming plays in agricultural economy in Scotland. He said it was 20 per cent. or thereabouts higher than in this country. It is evident for all to see the great interest and jubilation with which Ministerial pronouncements in this direction have been received in Scotland. Some hard things have been said about the National Government by Scottish agriculturists. I know that I am not being guilty of hyperbole when I say that, whatever unpleasant things may have been said about the Government as a whole, or individual Members of it, not one word of hostile criticism has ever descended upon the head of my right hon. Friend, as is indeed undoubtedly his due when we consider that he is a Scottish son of the soil. Whatever were to happen, even if his schemes were to fail—which they are not likely to do—the agricultural community of Scotland would stand solidly behind him. From Berwick through Liddesdale to the Mull of Galloway, from Ayrshire to the Lothians shore they stand behind him to a man.
Everyone connected with livestock farming has received this emergency scheme, for such it professes to be, with very great pleasure and keen interest. Most of us connected with livestock raising believe that this great central problem of agriculture is the one with which the Government ought to have begun, but it is always unwise to go in for recriminations and resurrections, and we have to accept the position as it is. The good wine has been kept till now. The livestock branch of farming is the crux of the whole matter. Unless you have the livestock branch of the industry taking its rightful place, the whole agricultural industry will be placed in serious jeopardy. A great deal has been said, I am glad to say, about the position of the agricultural workers. I do not think there has been a Debate on agricultural 1721 topics in this Parliament which has brought forward more discussion of the position of the workers than this. The agricultural worker is a very important factor in the well-being of the industry. After all, he is the descendant of those small farmers who were pushed out a century or two centuries ago by the application of enclosures. He is to-day landless, and has to rely for a living on the way in which he is able to sell his labour to the best advantage. This Measure is designed at first hand to promote the better being of those agricultural workers, to whom the Minister once referred as the bone and muscle of the land. There exists in the agricultural body politic to-day a better feeling and a more harmonious spirit than has ever existed before. All sections of that society, owner, occupier and worker, realise that their cause is one. I should like to enter a caveat to these employers of labour not for a moment to disturb those good relations. We are just now on the verge of expectancy. We are waiting for great things to happen, and we know they are coming. I very much hope that employers of labour will in every way hearten and encourage those whom they employ by keeping their remunerations at the present level and raising them as soon as ever it can economically be done.
There has been a good deal of criticism of this subsidy. It has mostly come, of course, from the two wings of the Opposition. They object to this pouring out of public money. They object to what they consider an inefficient industry being buttressed in the way the Bill seeks to do. But I do not think that snore than one Member has sounded the warning note that the subsidy may not be enough, and that it may be counteracted by a sudden fall during the autumn glut from a price of 35s. to 30s. or even less. I am not suggesting a larger subsidy. I do not like subsidies, but this is an emergency scheme and you are bound to have it. The right hon. Gentleman has power now, hand in hand with the authority which this Bill will give him, to use the loopholes in the Ottawa Agreements to curtail very drastically indeed if necessary—and I think it is necessary—the imports that are coming in from Dominion sources. More than one speaker has discussed the Ottawa and Argentine Agreements. I am not going to stand here as an agricultural 1722 Member and pretend for a moment that the Ottawa Agreements have been beneficial to agriculture. They have been prejudicial. They have not worked out to the benefit of our home agriculturists in the way we should have wished. What was wrong with the bargains entered into at Ottawa was not the spirit of those agreements but the way in which they have been applied. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), when he was asked if he had supported the Ottawa Agreements, said he had, because he believed in team work. I believe that, if he had developed his answer a little more, he would have said also that he had believed the Ottawa Agreements would have worked out very differently from the way they have. Of course, nearly all agricultural Members supported the Ottawa Bill in all its stages, but certainly not with the intention of jeopardising the interests of those whom they were sent here to serve. With regard to the Argentine Agreement, no opportunity was given of dividing the House, and we do not therefore know how many would have had the temerity to go into the Division Lobby against it. I have said that the spirit of Ottawa is right, and so I think it is. It is not the idea of Empire Free Trade so often enunciated by Lord Beaverbrook—
I was only going to say that what the agriculturist here wants is not a scheme of Empire Free Trade but a place where he will get the first share of the home market, granting Imperial Preference to all other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That has been enunciated over and over again as the policy of the Government. I remember the Under-Secretary for the Dominions being heckled about it in the Ottawa Debates and he said that was where the Government stood, and I have no reason to suppose that they have departed from that standpoint.
We have heard the usual talk about the taxation of the food of the people from the Opposition above the Gangway and from hon. Members behind me, who are so skilfully pursuing the policy of co-operation with them, no doubt thinking that, when they are entrusted with office, they will have to summon some of them to fill up the empty places. When 1723 we were discussing the question of what to do for meat in February, 1932, in Committee on the Import Duties Bill an Amendment was put down which would have had the effect of removing meat from the free list of imports, and some 44 of us had the audacity to go into the Lobby against the Government, and I would do it again. I made one of the small band, not because I wished to overthrow the Government and, certainly not because I was in love with the 10 per cent. ad valorem duty. Far from it. I simply cast that vote, in common with nearly every hon. Member who went into the Lobby, as an indication that we wished the Government to be up and doing. I do not wish to be self-congratulatory, but, after some two and a half years, we have the Government at last coming to the point of view that it is vitally necessary, late in the day though it is, to assist the meat producers both by a long-term policy which, of course, will involve delays, as the details have to be most carefully worked out, and by a, short-term emergency policy which is passing through its last stage here this afternoon.
I listened to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) with the interest which I always show to him when 'he addresses this House on any subject. The hon. Gentleman prefaced his remarks by apologising to the House that he, a mere Member for South-West Bethnal Green, an urban constituency, should venture to address this House on agriculture, and I think that he suggested that some of us rather resented that fact. We do nothing of the kind. This Parliament is a jury, and we welcome the hon. Baronet as much as anybody else to these Debates. At the same time, he showed in his speech how bankrupt of thought his party is as to what to do with regard to saving agriculture from the desperate plight in which it unfortunately finds itself to-day. As I listened to him, I pondered deeply how it was that for many years in the reign of the late Queen Victoria, so many agricultural constituencies entrusted their political suffrages to the party on whose behalf the hon. Baronet spoke this afternoon. It seems to me that in the present Parliament the Liberal party, by their continual very difficult middle course which they try to steer with regard to Protection generally and agriculture in 1724 particular, realise that they are like Samson, deprived, not by the same means, of their strength. They have been led away by many Delilahs. I do not know who these sirens are, but they realise, as did Samson, that they are deprived of their strength with regard to redeeming their position in the country as a, whole and in the rural constituencies in particular. They are praying now just for one more chance to bow themselves with all their weight and bring down the pillars of the Protectionist temple. The answer to that prayer is a long time coming. I think that my hon. Friends below the Gangway are addressing their petitions to Baal. The speeches of my hon. Friends here, and also of hon. Members above the Gangway, serve to throw into stronger relief the clear thinking and direct action which the Government, largely due to the guiding hand of the Minister of Agriculture, are pursuing. This is a time for clear thinking, and I was very glad to hear that the Lord President of the Council, when in Ayrshire the other day, addressing a most enthusiastic mass meeting at Culzean Castle, spoke about Conservatives and he warned us as Conservatives not to be hide-bound in any way regarding the way that we approach the problems of to-day. He said that we were not sacrificing any principles for the new policies, the new recipes and the new prescriptions to treat the drastic ills from which the whole country, and particularly agriculture, is suffering at the present time. I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity of saying how much I welcome this Measure. I very much regret that an old engagement. prevented me from voting for the Second Reading of the Bill. It will serve as an additional pleasure for me when I go into the Lobby to-night to support the Third Reading and thereby enable this Measure to go, unamended, to another place.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. GARDNER
My hon. Friend who opened this Debate deplored the absence of any kind of proposal to organise home production in the cattle industry, and I support his ground of opposition. I have no agricultural knowledge whatever. I was brought away from the country at the age of three, and I have not lived there since, but I sit at the feet of hon. and right hon. Members opposite and learn. The week before last we discussed 1725 the Hops Marketing Scheme, and I learned that the scheme confined hop-growing to a limited number of special and favoured people. I also learned that it was a scheme to set up a monopoly and to control and organise the growing of hops. I have learned from the first report of the Wheat Fund Commission under the Wheat Act that registered growers are entitled to a deficiency payment. A standard price is fixed and payments are made on anticipated supplies, shares in which are allotted to registered growers. Wheat in excess of anticipated supply is not subsidised, but again there is control and organisation. Under this Bill there is a loan and a subsidy, but nothing else. There is to be no attempt at organising the industry and no restriction on the number of beasts that may be subsidised or upon the hundredweights of meat that may qualify for subsidy. Agriculturists may laugh and say, "This is only a Bill for a short period covering seven months or thereabouts." But it must be remembered that it is the beginning of a policy. I may also be told that cattle do not grow in a night, I would add that a lot of public money may be spent in a very short time.
One of the remarkable conditions of this Bill is that cattle may be naturalised. After 13 weeks' residence, as the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) said yesterday, alien beasts become British, and some hon. Members may consider this to be something of an outrage. I should like further information on this point. I learn from the Trade and Navigation Report which has just been issued that in December, 1933, there was a 50 per cent. cut in fat cattle imports from the Irish Free State. The Trade and Navigation figures show that in the first six months of 1934 there were 204,000 beasts imported from Ireland, and that in the corresponding six months of 1932 the number was 314,000. That shows that that action has been very effective. I wish to find out from the Minister whether Irish beasts kept out by the present quota may ultimately suffer the indignity of becoming British beef. May they come in to this country to be naturalised and qualify for the subsidy? The imports of Canadian cattle have grown since 1932. At the moment the figure is not at its highest, but imports are increasing. Perhaps the Minister can say how many cattle are likely to be 1726 rushed across, before the St. Lawrence closes this year, and ultimately be allowed to qualify for the subsidy? No power is taken in the Bill to limit cattle imports. The 13 weeks' provision for foreign cattle, that is, the naturalisation provision, seems to be intended to encourage imports. If it is intended to encourage imports, then the Government must intend to subsidise imports.
Hon. Members opposite nearly become apoplectic about the imports of foreign typewriters, but do they consider what is to be done about a thing like this? I may be told that farming will benefit and that farm labourers may benefit, but what about the effect of the subsidy on trade? We all know that the beet sugar subsidy was put on at the time of the world glut in sugar. That subsidy has failed entirely to provide an economic price in this country, while the world glut of sugar continues. This Bill really repeats the beet sugar procedure. We have low meat prices, which indicate that there are large available supplies. The Government are subsidising a glut of meat. They are encouraging the production of still larger supplies, and the inevitable consequence will be the stabilisation of low prices. When once this policy has begun with regard to beef production, it will mean the establishment of a permanent subsidy for beef. It was said yesterday that this Bill is piebald Socialism. I do not recognise it as Socialism at all; it is simply capitalism all round.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Colonel R0PNER
After the congratulatory speech made by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) in such eloquent terms, I feel that any congratulations offered to the Minister by me will be almost superfluous. But, on behalf of a, large and important agricultural constituency, I want to say how glad 1 am that this Measure is to receive its Third Reading this evening. Before dealing briefly with the Bill before the House, I wish to touch upon a matter which has been raised on more than one occasion this afternoon, and that is the apparent conflict of interests between agriculture and shipping. I am sure that I can assure the Minister of Agriculture on behalf of the whole shipping industry that we do not take any sectional view of a question of this sort, but are quite 1727 prepared, if there is any conflict of interest, to make our contribution towards the restoration of prosperity in the agricultural industry. If shipping is an imporrtant industry, as I believe it to be, I think that every shipowner would admit that perhaps the most important industry in this country is agriculture. We hope that the Minister of Agriculture may tell the President of the Board of Trade what method he employs in extracting so generous a subsidy from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps I might suggest that if there is to be any reshuffling of Government appointments during the forthcoming autumn, the Minister of Agriculture might favourably consider any request which he receives to go to the Board of Trade. We feel that perhaps the lot of the shipowner might be a little easier if he employed his persuasive powers on the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I have listened to most of the Debates on this Bill, and there are one or two facts which seem to have emerged as being entirely beyond dispute. No one has questioned the vital necessity from the point of view of the welfare of this country of maintaining a prosperous agriculture, and no one has disputed that the production of livestock is an important branch of the agricultural industry, nor that that branch is in an extremely depressed condition to-day. In those circumstances, it was essential that the Government should do something. During the whole of these Debates I have beard no alternative from any Member in any quarter of the House, including the Opposition, to the short-term policy of a subsidy. I do not believe that there is an alternative policy, and I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on having adopted what may be an unpopular course and on bringing real help and new hope to the agricultural industry.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Debate to which we have just listened has been not without interest, and has been of interest particularly for several speeches of close application to the subject which have been delivered from hon. Gentlemen opposite. One of the encouraging features of the present agricultural situation is the interest taken by the Labour party in the plight of agriculture, and 1728 the determination which they show in their speeches not to down idly and see agriculture decay, but to take steps—and vigorous steps, if necessary—to put the position right. We quarrel, of course, with many of their remedies, but with their approach we all agree; and those of us who hope for continuity of policy in the future look on this as one of the best auguries for bringing it about. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who answered, in anticipation, a good deal of the speech of the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot), in which he devoted considerable attention to the great gap between what the producer claimed and what the consumer had to pay. But he omitted, perhaps, fully to appreciate the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton, who stood up manfully for the distributor, and pointed out the numerous new services which were demanded of the distributor, and I leave the hon. Member for East Fulham to commune with the hon. Member for Westhoughton before he demands the inquiry which was his main contribution to the solution of the problem which is now confronting not only the House but the country.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I think that it would be only fair to the Minister and to my hon. Friend to point out that I expressly stated that I did not believe that these abnormal profits were going into the retail trade, but somewhere between the retail trade and the producer.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
But the hon. Gentleman did not deal with the hon. Member for Westhoughton, who pointed out that there were abnormal demands being made on the retailer for which abnormal payments had to be made. It is true that he hinted at the existence of some mysterious cabal of middlemen, which finds no confirmation whatever in the experience of the co-operative societies or of any of the large organisations which handle the distribution of meat, but which he believes to be sucking the lifeblood out of the industry. The hon. Member for East Fulham was careful to say that it could not be the shop assistants, because they are constituents of his, nor could it be the butchers. It is someone in between who is succeeding in wringing all the profits out of the industry, although he was unable to give us any indication as to who that some- 1729 one is. It is true that there is a lag all the way along in the measure which each successive stage receives of what the consumer has paid for the meat. The price of beef retail is not double the pre-War price. It is 132. The price of meat wholesale is 110. The price of fat, cattle is 95 and the price of store cattle 88. These are familiar signs of a declining market where the lag spreads all the way through. As wholesale prices begin to rise, they will put cattle up without any large demands on the consumer, which answers yet another point in the argument of the hon. Member for East Fulham as to whether we could raise wholesale prices without causing such a demand on the consumer as to defeat our own purpose by bringing down consumption. It has been possible in the case of sheep, where wholesale prices were brought up by 34 per cent., but retail prices only 5 per cent.
I think it is true that the difficulties of the distribution of home-killed meat do not bear at all the signs of some highly organised trust which is wringing the profits out of the industry. They rather show the faults of small businesses. and there is inevitably some waste. I think that it is true to say that the Linlithgow Committee found that the cost of distribution had 'been increased by the popular demand for the smaller joints, and secondly, by an increase in number and a reduction in turnover of the butchers. If the hon. Member for East Fulham demands that the whole of the remedy shall be found in merely squeezing the industry, then a considerable proportion will fall on his constituents and on supporters of the hon. Member for Westhoughton.
§ Mr. WILMOT
So far from there being an increase in the number of retailers in the last year there have been three company flotations for the purpose of trustifying retail butchers' shops.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am not suggesting that there have not been flotations for the purpose of trustifying butchers' shops, but the hon. Gentleman asked me to quote any inquiries that have been made, and I was quoting one of the most careful inquiries that have been made, that of the Linlithgow Committee, who referred to the increase in number and diminution in turnover of butchers and to 1730 that attributed a certain proportion of the increase in the gap between the distributor and the producer. The shipping argument of the hon. Member for Westhoughton seemed to me to prove a little too much. He said that we should not attempt to produce in this country because it diminishes the amount which our ships would carry. Will he apply that to coal? Will he apply it to cotton? Why should agriculture alone have the privilege of maintaining all this trade that comes in from overseas? Let cotton say," We are willing to give away one-half of our markets so that freights may be brought in from Japan." Let the coal industry say that coal from Poland should be brought in to fortify the position of the shipping industry. I can well imagine the indignation which would burst forth from, the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) in those circumstances. He inveighs against agriculture because we seek to reserve a certain amount of the home market by this Measure, which is a waiver of the admitted rights which the Government possess to reduce imports by quota to a point where no such Measure is necessary. If we enjoyed a tariff such as is enjoyed by the product of the hon. Member for Hemsworth, if we could look forward to a tariff of 60 per cent. on competing products, as in the case of the duty on fuel oil, or of 230 per cent. as on motor spirit, we should be very pleased. But the hon. Member for Hemsworth carries his argument too far.
The hon. Member for East Fulham drew a picture of the housewife hunting up and down for the cheapest joint. It could be equalled by a picture of the housewife hunting up and down for the cheapest fuel. Would hon. Members opposite on that account abandon the coal legislation, the coal quotas, and allow cut-throat competition to drive down the price of coal to a much lower level? Not for a moment. Therefore, that argument, too, falls to the ground. The argument for regulation which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen press on this House, for a rigid restriction of supply in this country and for increasing tariffs on imported fuel oils, weakens and abolishes the argument which they bring forward that mere cheapness in price is the only think to secure in fundamental commodities such as fuel and food.
1731 The difficulties in which we find ourselves are fundamental to our position. We are for the moment feeling the impact of competing imports, and we desire to negotiate upon these matters and to secure the maximum of good will when the measures for the relief of agriculture are put into operation. For that reason alone we come before the House with a Measure to give us time, not on behalf of agriculture only but on behalf of the trade and industry of the country as a whole. This subsidy is not a subsidy to agriculture. We could, if we wished to apply the legislation which is upon the Statute Book, restrict the imports of beef which undoubtedly are having a great deal to do with the lowering of the level of the price of beef to a point which is not remunerative to those engaged in the industry. Specifically and obviously, for the purpose of working in with overseas suppliers from foreign countries, such as South America, and from Empire countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, we do not apply those measures, but we seek for time to negotiate, and we ask not one section of the House but all sections to support the Government in that object, and in the steps which we are taking to achieve it. It is not true that anything in this Bill in any way whatever will raise the price of beef to the consumer. The hon. Member for Hemsworth admitted that there is nothing whatever in the Bill to justify anyone voting against it, as such. It is true, as was said by one of my hon. Friends below the Gangway that he who votes against this Bill, votes against agriculture and against a Measure which will do nothing whatever to raise the price of one pound of meat to one single housewife in this country. Those who vote against the Bill take a heavy responsibility, because it is not as if they brought forward an alternative.
§ a great responsibility if he refuses to his fellow workers in agriculture the same assistance which he has demanded for his own constituents in shipping. It is not an easy thing to deal with the present situation, and when the Government bring forward a Measure which can deal with it as a temporary measure, without bringing an additional burden to a single consumer, we have the right to ask that it should be considered with an open mind and not merely voted against because of previous prejudice by hon. Members in different parts of the House.
§ Points were raised as to the administration of the Measure. I dealt with those matters As far as I was able to do on the Committee stage, and it would be undesirable to go over them again, although it is fair to say to the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. Gardner) that the feeding of cattle in this country will mean that if Irish fat cattle are being brought in as fat, they will not receive the subsidy, but if they are brought in as store beef and fattened, they will after three months become eligible. Another point was raised 'as to whether there is power to limit cattle imports. There is no power in this Bill, but there is power in the Act of 1933, and therefore the rush of cattle imports, which the hon. Member very properly desires to be avoided, will be avoided and no damage will arise.
§ I commend the Bill for Third Reading. It is a temporary Measure, admittedly a temporary Measure. It deals with an emergency which all of us recognise. If we had made no attempt to deal with the emergency, we should have been rightly blamed not by one section but by all sections of the House. It is an emergency Measure and it is an experiment. We ask the House to face the emergency and to make the experiment. We do not believe that they will regret it now, and we are certain that they will not regret it in the future.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 53.1735
|Division No. 347.]||AYES||[7.21 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Aske, Sir Robert William||Banks, Sir Reginald|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick||Mitchell Barclay-Harvey, C. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Wolfe Astor, Mal. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)|
|Albery, Irving James||Antholl Duchess of||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bllndell, James|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Boulton, W. W.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Brown. Ernest (Leith)||Hornby, Frank||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Burgin. Dr. Edward Leslie||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Burnett, John George||Hunter. Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Jamieson, Douglas||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Jennings, Roland||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||lesson, Major Thomas E.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Caralet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Clarke, Frank||Ker, J. Campbell||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Salt, Edward W.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lamb. Sir Joseph Quinton||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lambert. Rt. Hon. George||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Leckie, [...] A.||Scone, Lord|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salley, Harry R.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lees-Jones, John||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Levy, Thomas||Shepperson. Sir Ernest W.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lewis, Oswald||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovll)||Lindsay. Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Denman, Hon. R, D.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunllffe-||Smith, Louis W, (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Dickle, John P.||Liewellln, Major John J.||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine,C.)|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Loder, Captain J. de Vera||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Doran, Edward||Loftus, Pierce C.||Somerset, Thomas|
|Drewe, Cedric||Mabane, William||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Somerville. D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||McConnell. Sir Joseph||Soper, Richard|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Eales, John Frederick||McKie, John Hamilton||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir James||Macmillan. Maurice Harold||Spens, William Patrick|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Stones, James|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Templeton, William P.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morris. John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Thomson. Sir Frederick Charles|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Titchfieid, Major the Marquess of|
|Goff, Sir Park||Morrison, William Shephard||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Train, John|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Munro, Patrick||Tree, Ronald|
|Grattan Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Greene, William P. C.||Nicholson. Godfrey (Morpeth)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Nunn, William||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Guinness. Thomas L. E. B.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Palmer, Francis Noel||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hacking. Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Patrick. Colin M.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Hales, Harold K.||Pearson, William G.||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Peat, Charles U.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Penny, Sir George|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Perkins, Walter R. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Harbord, Arthur||Petherick, M.||Sir Victor Warrender and Lieut.-|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Pete, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Banfield, John William||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks,W. Riding)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Davies, Stephen Owen||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Buchanan, George||Dabble, William||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Edwards, Charles||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Harris. Sir Percy|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Curry, A. C.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Daggar, George||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Maxton, Jams.||West, F. R.|
|Kirkwood, David||Milner, Major James||White, Henry Graham|
|Leonard, William||Paling, Wilfred||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Parkinson, John Allen||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Lunn, William||Rea, Walter Russell||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wilmot, John|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Mainwaring, William Henry||Smith, Tom (Normanton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
Question put, and agreed to.