HC Deb 25 June 1934 vol 291 cc929-35

Question again proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.7 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I do so in order to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman how long he expects to go with this Measure. It is now after 11 o'clock, a time when hon. Members are more or less semi-prostrate. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I mean those hon. Members who are not here, and I think that we should know exactly how far the right hon. Gentleman intends to go to-night.

11.8 p.m.


I can only speak in the absence of the Patronage Secretary, but I think it is not unreasonable to ask that we should proceed with the Bill now. We must get on with the Bill if the House is to adjourn at a reasonable time this summer, and it has been on the Order Paper for so many weeks that I am beginning to feel there is a danger that we shall not get a Debate at all. I am anxious to make a statement with regard to the appointments, a matter which is of interest both inside and outside the House. The hour is not late and, as I hope we shall proceed amicably, I think we ought to make good progress.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.9 p.m.


It is possible to cover again in some respects much of the field covered on the Second Reading because Clause 1 is almost the whole of the Bill. I do not propose to detain the Committee in going over the arguments we have already heard on the Bill and on many other occasions as well. The delay in proceeding with the Measure has been of advantage in that it enables us to have with us again my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), whom we are glad to see back invigorated by his holiday and resplendent in purple and fine linen. I am anxious to deal with the point raised, that there was some, I will not say under-hand, but some bargain between the sugar industry and the Government, and that it had been withheld from the knowledge of the House. There is no agreement or understanding in any form whatever between the Government and the industry as to any levy scheme to provide assistance for the home-grown sugar industry, or as to any form of assistance which may be granted to the industry after the expiry of the subsidy period covered by the Bill. The Government has not arrived at a decision on the question of future assistance for the industry. That question is one on which the Greene Committee has been asked to report, and the Government will not come to any decision until the recommendations of the Greene Committee have been received and considered.

I have been asked to make some statement as to the questions which were discussed when the Committee of inquiry was going into the proposals for a marketing scheme which were brought forward by the industry. In January of 1933, I invited representatives of the refining and beet sugar interests to confer with a view to finding some measure of agreement in the national interest on those questions which in the previous nine years had been a source of acute difference between the two sections of the United Kingdom sugar industry. The representatives succeeded in arriving at a basis for a reconciliation of interests, and I invited them to formulate proposals to secure the more efficient operation of the industry, and I inquired whether the industry had any suggestions to make as to the form which future assistance from the State might take, if any. The fact that the refining and beet sugar interests were meeting was announced in the House in reply to questions on 7th February, 16th March, and 25th May, 1933.

In the spring of 1933 the industry informed me that they were prepared to organise under the Agricultural Marketing Acts, and as to the form which future assistance should take they submitted proposals. The industry's proposal to reorganise under the Agricultural Marketing Acts was regarded as broadly satisfactory by the Government, but the industry was informed that, without any commitment on the principle of a levy, in any event the scheme on the lines put forward was unacceptable, and that any future assistance to the industry must be part of a comprehensive plan satisfactory to Parliament. As stated previously, the question of future State assistance to the industry has been referred to the Greene Committee, and the industry placed before me at a later date revised proposals for a levy scheme which it is understood have now been placed before the Greene Committee by the industry. I cannot, of course, say what action the Committee will take, but they will no doubt examine that scheme in all its bearings.

There is no understanding between the Government and the industry as to the form in which the Sugar Marketing Scheme should be submitted. As the House was informed on 27th July last, the introduction of the present Sugar Bill was conditional upon the refiners and beet sugar manufacturers, on the one hand, and the beet growers on the other, submitting schemes under the Agricultural Marketing Acts for regulating the marketing of sugar and sugar-beet respectively.

The promoters of the schemes were free, under the democratic procedure of the Marketing Acts to submit their own proposals for marketing reform. It would be improper at the present juncture to discuss the merits or demerits of the sugar marketing scheme as submitted, but an inquiry into objections has been held and the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland have a statutory duty to consider those objections and the report of the commissioner who held the inquiry, before any further action can be taken in regard to the scheme. Of course, a scheme cannot come into force unless both Houses of Parliament by affirmative resolution decide that it should be approved and nothing could be smuggled through Parliament against Parliament's will. If it is decided to proceed with the sugar marketing scheme, either with or without modification, after consideration of the objections and the commissioner's report, the House of Commons will have full opportunity of considering it. In view of the misrepresentations which have been made recently in regard to the levy proposal, I thought it desirable to take this opportunity of making this statement on a matter which has previously, in my opinion quite properly, been regarded by all the parties as confidential. I hope that my statement has laid the ghost of this extraordinary "corrupt bargain" which, it was said by certain parties, had been come to and was being smuggled through, against the interest of the consumer and without the knowledge of Parliament. Like other candle and turnip bogies, that bogy is found, on examination, to have no reality.

11.17 p.m.


I do not think the Minister has disposed of the main point which was raised in the former Debate with regard to this question of the subsidy. As I recollect it, the Government undertook that before the subsidy was continued, an inquiry would be entered into by some committee or other body, to deal with the whole question, in order that the House of Commons might have full information on the merits and demerits and the incidence of the subsidy, when discussing this Bill. The Minister has told us that as long ago as January, 1933, he invited various bodies to meet him to discuss the possibility of an arrangement between those parties under the Marketing Acts, or some other arrangement, and that in the Spring of 1933 they carne to a provisional agreement as regards a common basis. In other words, as long ago as the Spring of 1933 the parties had already come, together with the Minister and a line upon which to work had been laid down. Why was it that the committee was not then set up in order that the House of Commons might have the report before considering this matter? As it is, for some reason which is wholly unexplained, the committee was not appointed until fairly late in the present year, when it was too late to have the report available before we were asked to consider this Bill.

The gravamen of the charge against the Minister and the Government is not that they entered into some conversations with the interests concerned in this matter, but that, having entered into these conversations, they held up the appointment of the committee upon the report of which the House of Commons was relying in order that it might have the material necessary to enable it to discuss the continuation of the subsidy. The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with that at all, and I ask him to give an explanation why, in view of the promise which was given, the committee was not appointed in time for us to have its report before discussing this Bill.

11.20 p.m.


The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has gone back to ground already covered exhaustively on the Second Reading of

the Bill. On this Clause 1 I was being pressed for a statement as to the position of the sugar marketing scheme, and the question as to whether there had been undue delay in the appointment of the Greene Committee was, I recollect, canvassed entirely on the Second Reading, because it was on that occasion that the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said he was pointing out that advantage was being taken of the innocence of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and his party. I was not expecting criticism of that kind levelled at me or at the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, and so it was stamped on my memory, all the more because the right hon. Member for Darwen animadverted, not on the matter, but on the manner of my reply and said it was elephantine humour unworthy of my position. So the matter was not merely gone into, but it was gone into with a certain amount of acerbity. The general question of the delay in the appointment of the Greene Committee was thoroughly explained then, and I do not think I can add anything to that statement. I was most anxious to confine myself on this occasion to a statement in answer to a charge, made quite legitimately, that the Government should do something to explain the position of the sugar marketing scheme, and it was on that point that I was pressed to make a statement.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 191; Noes, 37.

Division No. 302.] AYES. [11.24 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Butt, Sir Alfred Edmondson, Major Sir James
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.) Campbell-Johnston. Malcolm Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Caporn, Arthur Cecil Elliston, Captain George Sampson
Aske, Sir Robert William Carver, Major William H. Elmley, Viscount
Atholl, Duchess of Castlereagh, Viscount Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Entwistie, Cyril Fullard
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Christie, James Archibald Fermoy, Lord
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Colfox, Major William Philip Ford, Sir Patrick J.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Fraser, Captain Sir Ian
Bateman, A. L. Cook, Thomas A. Fremantle, Sir Francis
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Copeland, Ida Fuller, Captain A. G.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Courtauld, Major John Sewell Ganzoni, Sir John
Borodale, Viscount Crooks, J. Smedley Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Bossom, A. C. Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
Boulton, W. W. Crookshank, Capt, H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Gower, Sir Robert
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Graves, Marjorie
Brass, Captain Sir William Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham) Drews, Cedric Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Drummond, Wolff, H. M. C. Gunston, Captain D. W.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Duckworth, George A. V. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H
Browne, Captain A. C. Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Hales, Harold K.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Dunglass, Lord Hanbury, Cecil
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Morgan, Robert H. Shute, Colonel J. J.
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Morrison, William Shephard Skelton, Archibald Noel
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Munro, Patrick Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Somervell, Sir Donald
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) North, Edward T. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Horsbrugh, Florence Nunn, William Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Howard, Tom Forrest O'Donovan, Dr. William James Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Spens, William Patrick
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Patrick, Colin M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Peat, Charles U. Stevenson, James
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Penny, Sir George Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Perkins, Walter R. D. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Jamieson, Douglas Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n) Strauss, Edward A.
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Procter, Major Henry Adam Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Ker, J. Campbell Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Sutcliffe, Harold
Kerr, Hamilton W. Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles) Tate, Mavis Constance
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Ramsbotham, Herwald Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Leckie, J. A. Rankin, Robert Thompson, Sir Luke
Leech, Dr. J. W. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Lloyd, Geoffrey Remer, John R. Tree, Ronald
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Rickards, George William Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Loder, Captain J. de Vere Robinson, John Roland Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Loftus, Pierce C. Ropner, Colonel L. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Ross, Ronald D. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Mabane, William Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
McCorquodale, M. S. Runge, Norah Cecil Whyte, Jardine Bell
McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
McKie, John Hamilton Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Magnay, Thomas Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Wise, Alfred R.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Salmon, Sir Isidore Womersley, Sir Walter
Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Salt, Edward W.
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Dr. Morris-Jones.
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Attlee, Clement Richard Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Nathan, Major H. L.
Banfield, John William Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Pickering, Ernest H.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W). Rathbone, Eleanor
Buchanan, George Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Rea, Walter Russell
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Harris, Sir Percy Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Holdsworth, Herbert Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Daggar, George Janner, Barnett Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jenkins, Sir William Tinker, John Joseph
Dobbie, William Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Edwards, Charles McEntee, Valentine L. Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wilmot, John
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.