§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in page 33, line 20, column 2, to leave out "Cupar, Fifeshire."
I know I shall have to give very substantial reasons in order to satisfy the Minister that these words ought to be omitted from the Schedule. As one Scotsman to another, I know that his loyalty and devotion to his fatherland or motherland, whichever he terms it, will be sufficiently strong to make him try to keep in being what has been proved to be a wholly uneconomic factory from its conception. Our reason for moving this Amendment is not to attack Scotland, but to safeguard the Treasury, and I hope the House will appreciate that that is our motive. I understand that the majority of the factories already in existence are running anywhere between three and five months in the year, according to the amount of sugar which they refine, and even a factory running for five months in the year requires a considerable subsidy from the Treasury to enable it to carry on business. So far the Cupar factory has run for only about 10 days in each year and has, therefore, been completely uneconomic. Hence the failure of the owners to liquidate their liabilities to the Treasury.
It seems to me that the new Corporation ought not to be burdened with this factory. The farmers do not produce sugar beet and the factory cannot, therefore, turn the beet into sugar. Consequently the factory is closed down for nearly 51 weeks in the year. I remember that the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) during the early stages of 2647 this Measure, and during the discussion of previous Measures dealing with sugar beet, told an extraordinary story of the quantity of labour required for the production of the beet, the transport, the working of the machinery and the performance of the multiplicity of functions connected therewith. He almost made the House believe at that time that if the sugar beet industry went by the board, East Fife would become a special area. The facts of the situation are entirely against the hon. Member. At the big mass meeting he held, there were obviously present many people who were engaged neither in the production nor the transforming of beet into refined sugar.
The simple fact is that this Cupar factory cannot obtain the requisite amount of sugar beet to enable it to run at a profit. If the Cupar factory remains part of the Corporation, it will be a perpetual burden on the Corporation, and if the Corporation has to be bolstered up by Treasury finance, including a reasonable profit for those who own the factory, it seems fairly clear that this factory ought not to be retained. For those reasons, and for reasons of sound Treasury finance, I hope the Minister, despite his homeland predilections, will see the wisdom of accepting this Amendment and allowing the factories which come within the Corporation to make the best of their efficiency, and to secure annually that 1½ per cent. extra dividend because of the efficiency they bring into the industry.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) regards this Amendment as being rather in the nature of a forlorn hope. I think nothing more curious has been seen since the famous reinforcement of ghillies which came up at the end of the Battle of Bannockburn than the reinforcement from the benches opposite for lower expenditure by the Treasury. I fear, however, that the outcome will not be the same on this occasion, because the first was a movement in favour of the Scots and this is a movement against them. I am sure the hon. Member will not expect us to admit that it is impossible for us to obtain efficiency in Scotland in the growing of sugar beet.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Naturally the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) believes it is, because he is very keen to extinguish the industry in Scotland. It must be remembered that the sugar beet industry in England went through an experimental stage of trial and error, and that in its initial stages it was subjected to the same objections on technical grounds as the sugar beet factory in Scotland is now subjected to. We in Scotland do not wish to see any more of our industries extinguished and taken South of the border. I would ask the hon. Member for Don Valley further to consider that this Amendment would completely extinguish the hope of any other distant area—a Welsh area, for instance—obtaining a factory at any future time. We have been pressed very strongly for factories elsewhere, and one was recommended by Lord Portal in the report on the distressed areas. It may in future be possible to develop the industry in areas where it is not now developed, but in the initial stages the industry is bound to be of an experimental character, and in those areas will bring by no means the same economic return as can be obtained by factories in the East of England, where there is skilled labour and where the factories have had long years of running experience. That is no reason why people who are working towards that position should be moved out of the industry. On all those grounds I would ask hon. Members not to accept the Amendment which was so plausibly moved.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
As this particular factory has been working approximately 10 days each year since it was established, has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to believe from his experience and his conversations with the farmers and factory owners that the farmers concerned are likely in the future to produce the requisite quantity of sugar beet to make the factory a going concern?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I would point out that I have the same desire for economy as the hon. Member and we have been reducing the rates for sugar beet in Scotland; but thre is every reason to believe that last year's acreage will be maintained and even exceeded this year. The acreage of something like 7,800 acres is by no means negligible, and there is every reason for supposing that the Scottish 2649 growers will be able to maintain that acreage.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
I agree with the very reasonable remarks made by the Minister. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was wise in pointing out that the Amendment he moved is not intended as an attack on Scotland, for had it been conceived as such, the results might have been disastrous! The hon. Member put forward his case as being one of defending the Treasury, and I want to deal with that aspect. I would point out that the sugar beet subsidy is not given from the State for nothing. It is something that is offered to the farmers of Scotland and other areas to enable them to maintain an industry, and the farmers must respond to that assistance. The next two or three years will be a testing time for the Scottish farmers, and I shall not stand here to defend my constituents in two years' time if they and others in Scotland fail to make the necessary response. During the last two years, very definite efforts have been made and there has been evidence that, given the right conditions, Scottish farmers will increase their acreage. As the hon. Member for Don Valley knows, and as the Report of the Sugar Beet Commission and other authorities have pointed out, the main difficulty in Scotland, from the North to the South, is the distance of various farmers from the factories.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Surely the hon. Member knows perfectly well that in very large parts of. Scotland, including the whole of the North-East, it is absolutely impossible under any conditions for the farmers to grow sugar beet. Why should the hon. Members' constituents and no-one else get a subsidy out of this?
My hon. Friend is talking without the necessary knowledge. Sugar beet is grown even in the North.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The hon. Member has accused me of not knowing what I am talking about. I challenge him to tell me of any parts of the whole northeastern area, Forfarshire, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and up to Moray and Nairn, where sugar beet can, under any circumstances, be profitably grown?
The hon. Member shows a still further lack of knowledge. In Forfarshire they have been growing sugar beet for many years and as far as Moray there are farmers growing sugar beet. In fact, less than 45 per cent. of the sugar beet grown in Scotland is grown in Fife, and more than half is grown outside of Fife. My hon. Friend ought not to worry, for it may be the time will come when his farmers will find it profitable to grow sugar beet. I want to point out that it is possible for farmers as far north as the Black Isle to meet the reasonable condition which the right hon. Gentleman suggested to the House was necessary. Distance has been the difficulty, but two years ago there was introduced the "free on rail" method and the effect was instantaneous. The area was quadrupled and since then has steadily extended. Last year there were 1,280 growers who produced 7,800 acres, and I am advised by those responsible for the industry in Scotland that this year they expect 1,800 growers to produce 12,000 acres. Last year there would have been many more acres but for the restriction on area imposed by this House. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and in other constituencies hundreds and maybe thousands of additional acres would have been growing beet, but for the definite instruction of this House that the area was to be limited.
It is not the fault of the producers or of the beet sugar factories. If there is any fault in that decision it is the fault of the House. I do not ask any more than that the Scottish growers, in these new conditions, should have an opportunity to show their paces and to justify their hopes. There is nothing whatever wrong with the Cupar factory. It is as economic and works as well as any other and the beet grown in Scotland has proved as valuable as any other. All we ask is that this new Bill shall not rule out of account the possibility of Scottish farmers justifying themselves in the years to come. I would remind hon. Members opposite that Lord Snowden when, as Mr. Snowden, he introduced the scheme, made it clear that 2651 it was a measure intended to help agriculture throughout the country.
Hon. Members opposite need not quibble about it. It. was started by Lord Snowden when he sat on this side above the Gangway.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member has now for the "umpteenth" time made a statement of that kind. He must know that the first Bill to deal with sugar beet was introduced by the present Lord Halifax when he was Minister of Agriculture.
The hon. Member is wasting tile time of the House and is quibbling. The first Government announcement of an intention to introduce a subsidy was made by Lord Snowden when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government and it was his scheme, his plan, his draft Bill, which was adopted by the next Government.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER rose—
No, I will not give way again. If any party is responsible for this so-called calamity, this utter waste of money as it has been described, hon. Members opposite are responsible for it. They ought not to attempt to ride away from that responsibility. But I would remind them that their own scheme was intended to develop agriculture as a whole over the entire country and every statement made by every Minister since has emphasised the national character of the Measure. I only ask that that feature of the proposals should be recognised in this House and should be continued as a vital characteristic of the scheme.
§ 4.50 p.m.
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) always speaks with a great deal 2652 of confidence as though he alone knew the facts of the situation. He does not hesitate to challenge facts given by hon. Members for other constituencies in relation to those constituencies as he did just now in the case of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), but when he is asked to give way to permit of a correction he is careful not to do so. The inconsistencies of the hon. Member have been amazing. He gave us no support when, in previous stages, we moved Amendments seeking to ensure that the subsidy in future should not be restricted to the existing acreage. He knows that we moved Amendments to try to meet the situation for the farmers over wide areas. We said that if the Government were prepared to lay down the maximum amount to be spent in a given year, they ought to have a scheme similar to that in the Wheat Act, under which the benefit would be spread over the whole country. But the hon. Member never gave us any support and it is no use for him to argue now that the farmers in Fifeshire are to be given a Heaven-sent chance—
In Scotland. There are only 46 per cent. in Fife and 54 per cent. in the rest of Scotland.
I do not propose to argue with the hon. Member on that point but the fact remains that the Bill definitely limits the acreage and that the hon. Member has refused, so far, to support us in seeking to have the acreage extended. Yet he comes here to-day and talks about the encouragement which is to be given, and about testing the farmers to see whether they are going to support the scheme or not. The hon. Member's arguments are completely inconsistent. But when he proceeds to talk about the responsibility for introducing an uneconomic subsidy then his history is lamentably short of the facts. He ought to know that as far back as 1922 the then Coalition Government was paying a subsidy of 25s. 8d. per cwt.—two years before there was ever a Labour Government in this country. But it is convenient for the hoc. Member to forget that.
That is not accurate. I repeat what I said before, namely, that the first Government scheme, properly 2653 considered, fully examined and officially stated, was that announced by the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Now let us have the facts. The facts are that the industry was only in operation in one factory before the War; that subsequently another factory was opened; that in the course of War developments, it became necessary, in the view of the then Government, to subsidise it; that there were negotiations by the Government of the day which finally led to a subsidy of 25s. 8d. per cwt. or far more than 100 per cent. of the value, even at the high prices of sugar then prevailing. Then there was a hiatus of 12 or 15 months because of the action of the Government—I think the Government of 1922–23. In 1924 the then Labour Government, under pressure, said that the position was such, as a consequence of economies effected by the previous Government, that something would have to be done. Then a Bill was introduced in 1925 by the present Lord Halifax and my hon. Friends on these benches opposed that Bill at all stages because it was inadequate to meet the situation and did not make those provisions in the public interests which we believed should attach to the granting of a public subsidy. Those are the facts and they are to he found in the records of the House.
As a Member with some little experience may I, Mr. Speaker, express my thanks to you for your courtesy and kindness in allowing me to reply to the irrelevancies of the hon. Member for East Fife. With regard to the Amendment, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has given the main reasons why we move to leave out the reference to the Cupar factory. It is uneconomic and the hon. Member for East Fife gave us no hope that enough beet would be grown in Scotland to keep the factory open for more than ten days in a year. The Minister twitted my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) as to his designs on the Brigg factory in the future. It would be much better to have the beet available for that area where it can be economically dealt with than to keep a factory at Cupar open for ten days in the year.
2654 Moreover, the climatic factor is an important one. I agree that there are certain areas where considerable success has been achieved in regard to sugar content but it is not the general experience that Scotland can compete with other districts in regard to sugar beet production and that is because of climatic conditions. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen admits that in a large part of Scotland the economic production of sugar beet is not possible. It would be much better, in my opinion, to leave this provision out of the Schedule and toy give the hon. Member for East Aberdeen an opportunity of getting a subsidy for-Scottish oats instead of a subsidy for sugar beet. I have never noticed, however, that either the Minister of Agriculture or the Secretary of State for Scotland showed any willingness to give way to the hon. Member in his great campaign for a subsidy on oats.
The other point we have to make is this: This is one of the factories which have been under the Anglo-Scottish Beet Sugar Corporation whose history we do not at all like. That particular group have been instrumental in looking after their own interests in the course of the negotiations for the amalgamation of the companies into one large corporation. They have got, in the view of many people, far more than they ought to have got out of the principle of that amalgamation. They have, apparently, insisted that the shares should be allocated not on the basis of the real value of the assets which they were transferring to the Corporation but on the basis of output. That output has been built up in the last few years, not by manufacturing sugar from sugar beet but by refining sugar from imported raw sugar at a loss, creating thereby a demand on their part for a quota of output which was fictitious. They are getting a transfer now of shares in the amalgamation which is considered, in many quarters, to be unjust and unfair. In regard to that point, it is apposite for us to test the feeling of the House by moving to leave out of the Schedule reference at least to that one of the factories controlled by the Anglo-Scottish Beet Sugar Corporation which is obviously uneconomic and is not likely to become economic because of the difficulties of producing sugar beet in Scotland.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Major COURTAULD
I should have been inclined to support this Amendment if it had not been for the Minister's statement that it would preclude the possiblity of setting up factories in the future, in other distant areas. Listening to the Debate I felt that we in the South were extremely unlucky that the Minister of Agriculture was not born in, say, Sussex. There is a sort of freemasonry among Scotsmen, and those of us who come from more remote places like Sussex or Wales feel that we have not the same opportunities as appear to be available in Scotland. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) said that the area of production in his part of Scotland had increased when the producers were given the benefit of the "free on rail" method. The same thing would have happened in other areas of the British Isles if producers there had had the same benefit. We in Sussex have been fighting continually against the difficulties of long haulage and of having to deliver our beet, perhaps 100 miles away, to the factories which put us, as producers—I refer to the farmers in the district which I represent—at a great disadvantage.
I have had an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he will make it his business to see that the Sugar Commission will look after the interests of Sussex farmers and also of other farmers who are affected. Scottish farmers do not need any assurance of that sort, because they are actually looked after in the Bill. Before the Bill finally leaves the House, I am in hopes that we shall get something more definite which will justify those of us who have supported the Bill in general through all its stages until to-day in supporting it to the end. I will not now try to go into the whole subject of the difficulties of the growers or the future of the growers in the more distant parts of England. I hope to be able to do so to better advantage at a later stage, but if this preference is to be given to Scottish farmers, and if this Amendment is to be rejected, it is a very strong argument in favour of giving equally fair treatment to other and more distant parts of the country.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) is very often so very sure that 2656 he knows all about everything, and that nobody else knows anything about anything, that I am bound to say that, while I do not oppose this proposition to have a factory at Cupar and would not vote for the Amendment, it is better that we should get the facts right. I would point out to the hon. Member for East Fife that I have been a Member of this House some years longer than he has. I remember very well the of origin of this whole sugar beet business, and I can say without the least hesitation that as far as the facts are concerned the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) is right and ray hon. Friend the Member for East Fife is wrong. The first practical proposition presented to this House was put up by the Minister of Agriculture, then Mr. Edward Wood, and I remember great opposition developing to it, not only from the Labour party, but even more vehemently from the Liberal party, and particularly from Sir Herbert Samuel. That Bill was fought at every stage. I myself was doubtful of the Bill at the time, and I am still doubtful of the whole principle of subsidising sugar, of which there is a world glut at the present time, especially in view of the interests of our West Indian Colonies, but, of course, I should not be in order in developing that point.
It must be borne in mind in this connection that there is in Scotland a very large number of rich, prosperous farms, stretching right across the North-East from round about Stonehaven, North and West to Inverness, covering the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, and Nairn—one of the richest and test tracts of agricultural country in the world, in which it is absolutely impossible to grow either sugar beet or wheat at remunerative prices, and always will be impossible, owing to soil and climatic conditions. I want to say on behalf of those farmers, some of whom I represent, and who produce the best meat in the world, that it is hard on them that the farmer who is capable of growing wheat and beet should be heavily subsidised, and therefore should be able to spend so much more money in cattle production and mutton production and so on, whereas our farmers in that area, who represent a great part of the agricultural community in Scotland, should, through no fault of their own, be forced to take prices for 2657 their cattle far below the cost of production. I want the Minister of Agriculture, when we back him up in this sugar business, which some of us have always regarded with great misgivings from the start and in which we think the money in any event has been wrongly directed for many years, to realise the unfairness of the situation as it affects the North-East of Scotland and to give us some assurance that their grievances, which are very legitimate, will also be remedied by the Government.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 35, line 27, after "period," to insert:(not being less than two months from the date on which the scheme comes into force).The purpose of the Amendment is to provide a minimum period which may be prescribed by an amalgamation scheme as a time limit for the right of appeal to the courts by shareholders or debenture holders aggrieved by the allocation of securities or other assets. Attention was called to the fact that it was thought desirable in certain quarters that there should be a, definite minimum period. Indeed, the next Amendment on the Paper, in the name of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot), suggests three months. The reason why I suggest instead a, period of two months is that a three months limit would be too long to secure that in the ordinary case the matter would be confined to a single Law Term, and by cutting it down to two months it should be possible to avoid running over a, vacation, and no harm is done to anybody. The matter may well be, in fact probably is, academic, since this part of the Schedule relates to compulsory schemes, and there is now little likelihood that compulsory schemes will be necessary. But, be that as it may, I suggest to the House that the proposed Amendment is an improvement in the Bill.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not propose to quarrel with the Lord Advocate as to the difference between two months and three months, but there is one question which I would direct to him. Will he make it clear that the period of two months which 2658 he has specified is the time within which the proceedings may be started?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I can certainly say that that will be made clear in any scheme. No one can possibly say how long it may take to complete the proceedings in an appeal.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Ramsbotham)
Since the beginning of February this Measure has been subjected to exhaustive discussion and prolonged criticism, but I do not recollect that at any time during our discussions it has been suggested in any quarter of the House, except possibly by the small party below the Gangway opposite, that assistance should be withdrawn from this industry, that it should be allowed to lapse and its life be terminated. The attitude of the Opposition is that, this House having approved on the Second Reading the principle that the industry should be continued, and therefore that assistance to it should be continued, they should confine their efforts to doing the best they can to make the Bill as good as possible. That does not prevent the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) and his friends from criticising practically every line of it, and I am not sure that I am exaggerating if I say that I believe that the only Clause in the Bill which has the entire approval of the right hon. Gentleman is the Clause which provides that certain calculations in the Bill shall not be carried further than one place of decimals. In fact, throughout the right hon. Gentleman has treated the Bill to what is described in the same Clause as the cold water digestion method.
I doubt whether any Bill in recent times has ever been approached in a frame of mind so suspicious. None the less, the Bill has come through unscathed, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman will admit that his reasons for suspicion are based, not so much on the contents or the prospects of the Bill, as on the past record and history of the industry with which it is concerned. He has time and again reminded us of the 2659 enormities committed during the last 10 or 12 years by those who have been charged with the direction and control of this industry, and I cannot think of any onslaught at all against persons engaged in commerce parallel to that delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, except perhaps that made by Charles James Fox against the directors of the East India Company.
At the same time, it may be contended, with a good deal of justification, that the history of this industry during the last 10 or 12 years has not given entire satisfaction to every member of the community, and it may also be contended that the assistance which was indicated some 12 years ago has, in the light of subsequent events, proved in certain cases to be too generous. The large profits and distributions made by certain of the more successful companies may make it difficult to deny that the rates of assistance suggested by Lord Snowden on the 30th July, 1924, were too lavish and that they involved the State in expenditure which was higher than was strictly necessary to produce the results desired by Lord Snowden. It is easy, of course, to be wise after the event. It is no part of my duty to defend Lord Snowden. He has plenty of friends opposite who can do that, but it may be fair to say in his defence that at that time there was a case for giving a very considerable stimulus in order to attract capital to this industry which otherwise would not have been attracted, and to encourage growers who, without a very considerable encouragement, would not have offered contracts to grow the beet.
A case has also been made in the course of our discussions in regard to the admission of foreign capital to this industry, particularly in its early stages. I would say as to that, in passing, that the foreign capitalist certainly entered the industry and made profits out of it, but at no time was there anything to prevent the British capitalist from doing the same, because he had precisely the same opportunity, but he was reluctant to take advantage of it. However, that is all past history and finished with. As regards the future, this Bill, while securing and maintaining as its primary object the interests of British agriculture, will make it extremely difficult in future for the right hon. Gentleman or any of his 2660 friends to allege that the consumer is being exploited.
I will detain the House for a few minutes in regard to the financial effects of this Measure, and I will deal with them under four headings. If we take the last normal year, 1934–35, the subsidy payable in that year, including the subsidy on molasses, was 7s. 3d. per cwt. For the current year, 1936–37, the raw sugar price is about 5s. per cwt., and if there is no variation in the standard conditions laid down in the Bill, the effective rate of assistance will be 4s. 9d. per cwt. Accordingly, the subsidy will be 2s. 6d. per cwt. lower, and, on the figure of 560,000 tons of white sugar which is the standard quantity laid down in the Bill, the saving will amount to no less than £1,400,000 annually compared with the normal year 1934–35. Secondly, as a result of limiting the quantity assisted to 560,000 tons of white sugar, it will involve a further saving compared with 1934–35. In that year the production of sugar amounted to 600,000 tons. The subsidy on the new standard quantity will be on the lower rate of 560,000 tons, and that saving, combined with the duty preference, will total another £500,000. Thirdly, there will be savings in factory costs consequent upon amalgamation and the incentive proposals contained in the White Paper. The estimate in the White Paper, which we hope will be realised, is that over 10 years these savings will amount to £235,000 per annum, of which the State will get on the average £160,000.
We are, therefore, in the position of being able reasonably to forecast a total saving as the result of this Measure, compared with 1934–35, of rather more than £2,000,000 per annum. The savings do not necessarily end there. In this Bill we have related the subsidy to the price of raw sugar, so that a penny rise or fall in the price of raw sugar will produce a penny fall or rise in the amount of the assistance. There is scarcely a country to-day where the producers of sugar are making a profit. Indeed, the Greene Report stated:under more normal conditions a rise in the price of sugar would appear inevitable.We cannot forecast the price; it would be very convenient to do so; but if the 1928 level of the price of raw sugar, 11s. 7d. per cwt., were regained, no subsidy would be payable. Even if the price were to go back to the lower level of 1929 2661 of 9s., the subsidy required would be only a few pence per cwt. I will not weary the House with voluminous details in regard to this Measure or endeavour to enumerate the complicated system of checks and counter-checks which have been devised to protect the public interest and for the control of public money. The Bill is admittedly very intricate and complicated, and we were at all times during the Committee and Report stages in some danger of not being able to see the wood for the trees.
On Third Reading, I think, we may now stand back and take a bird's eye view of the position. The kernel of the whole structure is the amalgamation of the 15 companies owning the 18 factories into a single corporation to take over the assets of those companies. I am certain that no other method of assistance would enable an adequate chance to be given to the high-cost factories without being unduly generous to the low-cost factories. That, in passing, was a serious difficulty in the original scheme for assisting the industry. The consideration for the transfer is £5,000,000, to be satisfied by shares of one denomination. This figure is arrived at by valuation and agreement as a result of protracted and difficult negotiations between the informal tribunal set up to advise the Government in this matter, assisted by the well-known accountants Messrs. Thomson McLintock and Company, and the Beet Sugar Factories Committee. The valuation has been made on the basis recommended by the Green Committee, namely, the written down replacement cost and not the written down original cost. It may interest the House to know that the original cost of these factories was £9,400,000 and that figure, depreciated at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, would give a present-day value of £6,100,000.
I take it that the figure of £9,400,000 includes the plant as well as the business. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary is not going to give the country the impression that a 5 per cent. depreciation is a right one. If he takes that line the value of £6,000,000 is quite a fictitious value.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
The right hon. Gentleman may have his own opinion, but I do not think that that is an unreasonable figure spread over the whole 2662 plant and machinery. The Chairman of the new Corporation and two of its members will be appointed by the Government. My right hon. Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Government, have invited Sir Francis Humphrys to accept the chairmanship when the Corporation is formed. I am happy to say that the invitation has been accepted. Sir Francis Humphrys has rendered distinguished service to the State in the past. He has had long experience in the work of the political department of the Government of India; he has been High Commissioner in. Iraq; British Ambassador in Bagdad; and during the last few months he has been chairman of this informal tribunal which has rendered great service to the Government in conducting negotiations and arriving at the result of which the House is now aware. The appointment of every original member of the board will be subject to the approval of the Government after consultation with the Sugar Commission.
Under this Bill there will be set up a permanent Sugar Commission charged with the duty of keeping under review the growing of beet, the manufacture, refining, marketing, and consumption of sugar; and of advising and assisting the Minister and the Treasury. This body will be entirely impartial and will have a surveillance over the whole area of the production of sugar in the United Kingdom. It will be no servant to the industry. It will keep the balance so that the interests in the industry do not conflict. It will be the watchdog for the community, and it will be able to secure that the Corporation's scope for self-government and for the exercise of initiative and enterprise shall not come into conflict with the interests of the public. The growers' interest will be in the hands of this Commission because consultation with the Commission is an essential preliminary to all contracts by the Corporation for the purchase of beet. Arrangements have also been made to stabilise prices to the grower as far as possible, and to mitigate loss either through excess of crop or deficiency of crop on account of adverse farming conditions. Arrangements have also been made in the Bill to protect the wages and conditions of employment of the workers in the industry. My right hon. Friend inserted a new Clause to carry out that 2663 object after consultation and agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite.
To return to the financial arrangements, there is no Treasury guarantee of interest. A rate of assistance sufficient to enable the Corporation to earn profits equal to the rate of interest which the Treasury consider reasonable is the rate specified in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend has indicated and as is stated in the White Paper, a reasonable rate is a basic rate of 4 per cent. per annum. There is no undertaking that that rate shall be the invariable rate, and it depends very largely on the Corporation and upon its efficiency as to what it earns and what the rate of interest will be. If, as hon. Members opposite have suggested, there were a 4 per cent. guaranteed maximum, it would almost inevitably follow that there would be a considerable degree of stagnation and inefficiency in the industry. The directors would be tempted to be content with a comparatively low level of efficiency and would have no inducement or encouragement either to carry out the full degree of economies or to embark upon new methods with the risks that new methods sometimes involve.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the directors, whom we hope will improve the efficiency of the industry, will not, as a result of the incentive proposals, receive an increase of salary?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I only put this question for the sake of clarity. Is it not the case, according to the terms of the Bill, that no matter how hard the directors work, the benefits go only to the shareholders and none to the directors, the technical staff or the workers?
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
That may be so, but the hon. Gentleman knows that a director is responsible to the shareholders and that he himself in many cases has a stake in the company which he is directing. The principle laid down by the Opposition would result in considerable detriment to the State, because the principle of this Bill is to aid the industry on a deficiency basis. When there is more efficiency and economy is exercised 2664 by this Corporation, the greater the advantage to the Exchequer, because the deficiency to be made up is correspondingly reduced by the greater earning capacity of the Corporation. That is the reason for the elaborate provisions set out in the White Paper for what are called the incentive proposals. The Corporation and the Treasury share in the proceeds of economy and efficiency in certain proportions. I am bound to say, after studying these proportions, that I think the Treasury are likely to do very well out of it.
On the assumptions in the White Paper, the Corporation is permitted to retain, on the average over ten years, 5½ per cent. per annum, made up as to 4 per cent. by the basic rate of interest and 1½ per cent. by the incentive proposals. I think that it, a fair arrangement, though it would be an abuse of language to call it generous. I would ask, To which of these proposals can the Opposition offer any effective objection? They want the industry to be maintained and continued, and they have made no proposal to confiscate it—the time of the big, clean sweep has not yet arrived. They want the beet crop to be grown, and growers to be encouraged to continue operations. I know they hanker after what they call a public service corporation, but there really is no analogy between that and what is proposed in the Bill as the method of carrying on this industry. For, among other reasons, in this Bill we have limited the production of the commodity by statute, and that would be quite impossible if we were carrying on the industry on the lines of a public service corporation. There is a great deal of criticism of both public and semi-public bodies on the ground that under them competition is eliminated and that we can no longer get the same incentive to efficiency. That criticism cannot be applied to this Corporation, for several reasons. The first is that though it has a monopoly of home-grown production it has no monopoly of sugar in the United Kingdom market. Secondly, it has, what too often public and semipublic bodies lack, a strong inducement to achieve economies. In our plan we shall not stereotype the Corporation on the dead level of a stagnating industry. We give it not only the liberty but the encouragement to progress, and we take advantage of that spirit of enterprise and 2665 initiative which, while human nature remains what it is, is not likely to be forthcoming unless it obtains some reward.
Therefore, I strongly recommend this Bill to the House. It will reduce the demand upon the Exchequer, compared with the position in 1934–35, by more than £2,000,000 per annum, and in time the reduction may be considerably more. In certain circumstances, which we trust will never occur, this industry will provide an important and substantial reserve of food. It will keep in use £5,000,000 worth of food-producing machinery, and keep in employment some thousands of persons engaged in operating it. It maintains a beet crop which to-day is an essential part of the crop rotation, and we have not at any time in our discussions heard any suitable alternative suggested. It will establish at home a beet sugar industry, once and for all, on firm and stable foundations, and it will preserve an asset created by the nation at great expense—some 400,000 acres of land in good cultivation, and indirectly many hundreds of thousands more—and keep in employment some 30,000 to 40,000 men. Without this Bill those acres might well go derelict and those men return to the towns and join the ranks of the unemployed.
§ 5.35 p.m.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst this House is desirous of promoting British agriculture, and the employment of labour in connection therewith, it cannot approve of a continuous expenditure of public money for the benefit of a private monopoly, with no provision for converting the sugar industry into a national undertaking, or ensuring that it shall become financially independent of State support.When the Third Reading of a Bill is taken on the same day as the Report stage there is no time to table for printing a reasoned Amendment, and therefore I must apologise to the House for having to submit this Amendment in manuscript form. If one could accept as real truth the statements made by the Parliamentary Secretary in his closing words—not the facts that he explained, but the statements he made—one would almost be inclined to vote for this Bill, but when one comes to examine those statements one finds they are little more than a few sentences out of the propaganda, of 2666 the British Sugar Beet Society. The hon. Gentleman has not bothered himself or his Department to find out whether or not those statements are correct. One would imagine, for example, that hundreds of thousands of acres of land would go derelict if no sugar beet were grown in this country, but the history of agriculture proves that to be utter nonsense. Until 30 years ago practically no sugar beet was grown in this country. Does the hon. Member think there was no rotation of crops in those days? Was there no alternative crop to the sugar beet crop then?
The Minister talks about wages 30 years ago, but does not that observation apply to every other commodity with which he is concerned as Minister of Agriculture? In the case of any specific crop with which he has to deal, he may have to ask for a subsidy, but that is no argument that sugar beet is the only crop which he can put forward as a rotation crop. It is sheer nonsense to say that it is; it is not backed up by agricultural science or experience. That statement is simply a repetition of the propaganda of the British Sugar Beet Society. Then the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Bill would keep in employment 30,000 or 40,000 people, and that would suggest that he meant they were being employed for 12 months, but he knows that is not so. It is true that in Committee he translated those figures into man-years or something of the kind, but in the Debates in this House in the last ten years it has been proved many times that of all the subsidies ever proposed none was more expensive in relation to the volume of labour employed than the sugar beet subsidy. Although the hon. Gentleman made a great deal of play with the fact that certain economies will reduce the direct subsidy to be paid, he did not tell the House that on the present price of sugar the direct assistance which will be given under this Bill, plus the amount of the Excise Duty which the Exchequer loses—that is, the amount it would have collected if we were importing the sugar—will still be over 5,000,000 a year. For that expenditure we shall put into the sugar market a 2667 maximum of 516,000 tons of sugar made from beet. As that will cost about £5,500,000 a year the subsidy will still be at the rate of over 100 per cent. of the present market value of the commodity. That is a very different picture from the one which the Parliamentary Secretary gave. Although the figures given by Sir Herbert Samuel three or four years ago in relation to the cost per man of the employment provided by the subsidy will go down somewhat, it is still true to say that by and large it would be cheaper to close every factory and to give a pension to every one of the workers employed in the industry than to continue the payment of this subsidy. If that is not true, perhaps the Minister of Agriculture will say so when he replies.
The Parliamentary Secretary is always industrious—I pay that tribute to him—but, as is the case with so many of us in this House, he does like to make a good political hit, and on the Third Reading of this Bill he could not avoid taking one or two "cuts." I think I have shown that the view he took in the closing passages of his speech cannot be justified, and that his rosy picture of the future of the industry will not be seen in reality. I must also say a word about his observations when dealing with the history of this industry. He referred to the rate of assistance which, he said, Lord Snowden was responsible for offering. I know that Departmental Ministers always like to cast financial responsibility upon the Treasury—it is a very old "gag"—but the hon. Gentleman and his right hon Friend must know from their experience of the Ministry of Agriculture that the rate of assistance then proposed was settled in the Ministry of Agriculture, just as it has been very largely settled in the Ministry of Agriculture at the present time. While I do not pretend to be a special defender of Lord Snowden, I do not feel it is fair to charge him with offering a rate of assistance which, I think, was settled in negotiation at that time by the Ministry of Agriculture. In any case, conditions in the industry were then different. The rate of subsidy was fixed on a declining scale, to be revised at three periods in the course of 10 years, and it was 'also indicated that it was done by that method so that at the end of 10 years the industry would be self-supporting. That 2668 was the distinct understanding—that at the end of 10 years it was hoped the industry would be self-supporting.
The speeches made from the Ministerial Benches from time to time have not sustained the hope that the industry wilt be self-supporting, and it is because no provision has been made in that direction that we have put down this reasoned Amendment. In his history of the industry the Parliamentary Secretary made the charge against me—well, I do not know whether he intended it as a charge or not—that not since the days of Charles James Fox had there been such an attack upon directors of industry as I have continuously made on directors in this industry. He compared it with the attack on the East India Company's directors. I make no apology at this moment for any attack I have made upon the management or the conduct of his shameful financial business. Let me tell the Parliamentary Secretary that I have written the charges and I have spoken them outside this House. I have written them in the Press and I have spoken them in the public inquiry under Section 9 of the Marketing Act. I have repeated them here in the House, but there has been no answer. Neither the Minister of Agriculture nor the Parliamentary Secretary ever deigns to answer in regard to the facts about which I have spoken. Therefore, it does not do him any good to make that sort of statement in the House. If he has any complaint to make, let him get up and defend the conduct of the industry. I have heard no defence from him at any time during the passage of this Bill, in respect of the way in which the industry has been conducted under the pouring out of this public money, now amounting to £50,000,000 in the last 12 years, and which apparently is to be carried on.
Before I leave the points alluded to by the Parliamentary Secretary, let me cover two other points He said, in what I think was the first explanation that we have had from the Minister as to the White Paper on the financial amalgamations carried out by the Bill, that the valuation basis was a very fair one because it followed the lines of the report of the Greene Committee. I thought 2669 that was a most amazing way of presenting the facts. I do not think that any managing director of a large business would approve a figure of this kind for depreciation of plant and machinery. If you had to deal with large buildings which were well built and properly maintained, I could understand a figure of 5 per cent., or even 4 per cent., depreciation on buildings, but when dealing with plant and machinery I would not, speaking personally, in any of the undertakings with which I have been connected, have allowed a penny less on the largest machinery than an annual rate of 10 per cent. for depreciation.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Surely the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that if you take in the figures for land and buildings you are allowing a figure higher than the 10 per cent. which he allows for machinery.
I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the £9,400,000 was the total for both buildings and plant.
§ Mr. ELLIOT indicated assent.
Then if it is the total, which, depreciated by 5 per cent., as he says, gives a figure of £6,100,000, my point holds good.
Certainly. I say that you ought to allow at least 5 per cent. depreciation on the buildings and at least 10 per cent. on the plant. I know—I do not need to argue about it—that the cost, included in that £9,400,000, on the plant, is a very large part of the total. If you allow for depreciation at least 10 per cent., it is no use trying to pretend that we have made a great bargain in the amalgamation of these concerns at a figure of £5,000,000. I do not want either the House or the country to be misled by that figure.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House. Let me say again that we are allowing a far higher figure than 5 per cent. for machinery. We are allowing nothing for the land. We are not writing down the value of the land. If we allow a figure of 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. for the buildings, that permits a figure of from 7 per cent. to 12 per cent. for the 2670 machinery. The right hon. Gentleman. knows better than anyone that great sums have been expended annually on machinery—hundreds of thousands of pounds, so that, in fact, these are very fair figures.
Most of the expenditure to which the Minister refers is included in that item. From my superficial knowledge of the industry—I admit that it is superficial—and from my information, in the figure of £5,000,000 that is being paid, having regard to the fact that last year three companies distributed £750,000 in cash bonuses, and that another seven companies distributed more than that from their total undertakings, which were not all in beet sugar, from the profits that they had made, we are not, on behalf of the public, making a good bargain.
With regard to the other point that the Parliamentary Secretary made, about the accounts in the White Paper, we on this side of the House welcome the announcement that the Government have been able to appoint a really neutral chairman of the amalgamated Corporation. In view of the public services of Sir Francis Humphrys, we think him a very suitable and trustworthy person to take this appointment. One would be more interested to find out what is to be the composition of the Sugar Commission, which is the body which in future will be able to say: "You may have a licence," or "You may not have a licence, to take part in this industry." There is nothing with which to quarrel in regard to the subcommittee of three who acted as a tribunal in making the basis of amalgamation. I do not want to be accused afterwards of not having expressed our views on the subject, and what I have said does not mean that we are satisfied or that we regard the selection of the personnel as right. I hope that the Minister will remember that if there is to be a completely neutral body, as I gather is the intention, then that must be so, and I have no complaint to make, but if we are to have upon it directors of industry in this country, we shall certainly have something to say about it. I hope that the Minister will take that into account. We welcome the decision to have a neutral chairman of the Corporation, and the appointment of Sir Francis Humphrys. We shall watch closely, and the Minister must expect us to watch 2671 closely, the selections which are made for the appointments to the Sugar Commission, which ought to be a neutral and impartial body.
We have no quarrel at this moment, on the Third Reading, with the suggestion made by the Parliamentary Secretary that we have conducted our opposition to the Bill on the lines that, the House having approved the principle that this industry has to be continued, we should do our best to withdraw the provision made for the running of the industry. It does not mean, because the whole of our side of the House has taken that point of view, that all of us necessarily agree individually that it might not have been the better course not to continue the industry. I want to make that plain, but, the House having decided that the industry must continue, we make no apology for having devoted ourselves to trying to improve the manner in which it is conducted. The country owes something to the Opposition in this matter, not merely during the passage of the Bill but during the last two or three years, for its opposition to that very blameworthy scheme, the marketing scheme, which was rejected some years ago, to the continuance of the subsidy proposals of the Government, as well as in the meticulous examination of this Bill on Second Reading and during the Committee stage. As the Bill leaves the House now, although many of us disagree entirely with it in principle, as continuing a grant to a monopoly for the purpose of maintaining a private body, we claim that we have been enabled to get the Government to make concessions which will be valuable from the point of view of the public.
We think it is a great gain that we have now provided in the Bill that no one who has had direct profit-making connection with the industry for the last five years can serve on the Sugar Commission. We also think it is a gain that, having regard to the public experience of the industry in the last 12 years, we are at last to have adequate accounts, or something like adequate accounts, of the Corporation in future, taking in both a balance sheet and a profit-and-loss account; and now, I think, the Minister is making provision for some measure of depreciation account. That is a gain from the point of view of the public. We have been able to lay down conditions 2672 under which licences are granted, although I have very little hope of seeing any new licences granted of any importance in this industry in the next few years. The existing organisation will go on with the production and manufacture. We can say to the public at large that we have done a piece of useful work in opposition to the Bill during the last three or four years. We continue to say that while we are prepared at any time to consider what best can be done to co-ordinate the efforts in agriculture for an improved standard of life for the workers in the industry and an improved standard of marketing for any suitable commodity in this industry, we are not prepared, as a party, to agree to the continuation of a cash subsidy, however direct or indirect, to an industry which sets up this rigid basis of monopoly and yet maintains the basis of private profit.
The Parliamentary Secretary said just now that while they had not been able to accede to our maximum of 4 per cent. being laid down in respect of the capital of the new Corporation, they were allowing a profit up to 5½ per cent., and he said that the 5½ per cent. must be taken over an average of 10 years. I gather from the White Paper that there are possibilities of its going still higher—that with the consent of the Treasury the profits may be 7 per cent.; and I am not sure that, with the consent of the Treasury, they might not go higher still. If that is not so, perhaps the Minister will tell us in his reply. From this point of view again I think our opposition is justified. If we on this side thought that it was necessary to continue the industry at all, we should have thought that, after all the tens of millions of pounds that have been expended on it, it should be made into a publicly owned industry. The Parliamentary Secretary seemed to think just now that that was not possible. Why is it not possible?
It was quite in order for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that what we wanted was not 2673 possible, but apparently it would not be in order to tell us why it is not possible. That seems an extraordinary way of getting over the difficulty. There is no reason at all why, if the Government thought fit, after all the expenditure of public money on this industry and the promise of future expenditure, they should not have taken over the whole industry as a public Corporation and worked it for the benefit of the whole community. The only reason really is that they are not prepared to go as far as that. As we pointed out on the Second Reading, it is not that the Minister of Agriculture himself is wedded to the principle of individualistic enterprise. I think that, as I said then, he is the great protagonist of the gradual advance towards a corporate State by means of sectional legislation. If the present Bill leaves the House of Commons with this Corporation set up as a close monopoly, the right hon. Gentleman will have added a substantial pillar to the structure of what he hoped to see—the corporate State, that part of the revolution about which he spoke on the wireless two or three years ago, and which I shall never allow him to forget. Undoubtedly, he has lost all faith in the individualistic doctrines of the Conservative party, the doctrines of private enterprise and private profit, but he is prepared to maintain for certain limited vested interests inside a corporate State whatever he can save for them by means of legislation of this kind.
We are entitled to argue strongly against the Bill on these grounds. We have been, at any rate, instrumental in extracting from the Government some concessions to one side of the workers in the industry, but I would remind the Minister that, in our reasoned Amendment on the Second Reading, we included as one of the reasons that the Bill made no provision for the agricultural workers in the industry, as distinguished from the workers in the factories. We have had no concessions in that direction, and, while we are alive to the concessions we have obtained from the Government in regard to the workers on the manufacturing side of the industry, we shall oppose the Bill on the ground that it gives no guarantee at all of an improvement in the status of the agricultural workers in the industry. 2674 Lastly, I would point out that behind all this vast and continued expenditure of public money there is one class in the country that sits quite tight and secure—the landlord class—for every penny of the public money that is expended on this industry goes to enhance or maintain the value of agricultural land. The Minister shakes his head. Apparently he has not chosen to remember our experience, in connection with hops, of the effect upon the value of land of having a monopoly, but he knows perfectly well in his heart that the closing down of this industry by licence to a total of 375,000 acres puts a quota premium on the value of every acre of land that is likely to be used for sugar beet.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me how it is inaccurate. It is based on our experience of the licence system in the case of other similar commodities. The same thing is going to apply to sugar beet now that a wall is being put round the industry and it is to be worked as a close corporation through a monopoly, while at the same time public money is to be used to keep up the value of the commodity produced. I do not believe that any economist would be able to argue against that proposition. It is true that the Minister has taken many devious paths in economic studies since he left the Fabian Society of Glasgow University, but I do not think he will be able to answer that argument. This scheme is going to redound to the benefit of the landlords who are behind it, but it will not redound to the general benefit of the country. It may be that it will provide a certain amount of employment in certain parts of the country, but every additional ton of sugar grown here will keep a ton out from a place where the sun produces the sweet sugar, where you can grow four and a-half or five tons of sugar per acre while it is a great thing to grow one or one and a-half tons an acre here. Moreover, as a consequence of shutting out that sugar you will begin to break down other classes of international trade, and in the ultimate you are bound to lose on the swings what you make on the roundabouts in any such policy. While we agree that the House has determined in principle to go on with the Bill, it must not be assumed 2675 that it will be wholly beneficial either to agriculture or to the economy of the country at large. Having regard to the fact that it sets up a monopoly, creates a vested interest, enhances the value of landlords' property, and refuses, at a time when the matter might well have been taken in hand, to give proper guarantees to the agricultural workers in the industry and to proceed to its public ownership, we must oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. WHITE
In following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) in opposing the Third Reading of the Bill, I do not wish to follow him in any speculations as to the form of State that the Minister of Agriculture may seek to establish in this country. The only observation I would make on that subject is that, if it were a State built up by Measures such as this, its constitution would be very rickety, and not likely to give satisfaction to him or to anybody else. It is not necessary that I should speak at any length on the Third Reading. I think the whole House knows the views that we hold in reference to this Bill, and have held consistently since the Sugar Subsidy first began to engage the attention of Parliament. We have regarded it from the outset as a gross misuse of public funds. No answer has ever been given, so far as I know, in the House or out of it, to the devastating analysis of the financial results of the Bill which has been made by Sir Herbert Samuel on several occasions over many years. Our views on the general outlines of the scheme and its economics have been expressed on every appropriate occasion in the House of Commons.
We regard the Measure as analogous to many of those arrangements by which uneconomic crops are bolstered up and industries fostered in other countries, leading to a disorganised state of production and uncontrollable surpluses which are at the root of much of the economic distress of the world at the present time. The Parliamentary Secretary said he believed that we were the only party in the House who were in favour of the withdrawal of the subsidy. Whether that is so or not I do not know, but our position in that regard was made clear on 2676 the Second Reading. We are not without sympathy for the Government in this matter. They have got caught up in the toils of the vested interests which have grown up over the last ten years, and which, so far as they find expression in this House, are, I believe, perfectly legitimate. They find their sponsors in all quarters of the House, and there is also the vested interest of labour, of which certainly we should never be unmindful. It was explained on the Second Reading that, while we accepted the Majority Report of the Greene Committee, which endorsed the views we have always expressed here and which have been supported at all times by much public opinion and by the Press, we recognised, being as much concerned as anyone in the House with the question of unemployment, that it would be unreasonable and disastrous to throw out of work some 40,000 agricultural workers who find their employment through the operation of this subsidy. We made it quite clear that we were prepared to support the suggestions of the Greene Committee or any other practical suggestions to meet the hardship that might arise for these men.
Parliament having decided that the subsidy was to continue, we have taken the course of trying to aid and abet the Minister in his attempts to find the right way of doing what we believe to be a wrong thing, and I should like to express our gratitude to him for the way in which he has met the points that we have tried to raise in Committee. He has given them consideration, and for the concessions he has seen his way to make we should like to express our thanks. We recognise that in setting up a novel piece of machinery of this kind, which establishes a monopoly that is permanent so far as anyone can see, certain essential things must be brought about by Parliament if the public are to have any patience at all with schemes of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough has already mentioned some of them.
It is essential that there should be ultimate and adequate Parliamentary control, and that there should be complete publicity in regard to accounts and, indeed, in regard to all the transactions of the Corporation. That prevision is especially necessary in dealing with a matter of 2677 this kind, in which the suspicion and indeed, the antagonism of the public have already been aroused by some of the financial transactions which have appeared in connection with the scheme. These matters are essential. We have pressed them in Committee and in the House to the best of our ability, and we are grateful for such attention as has been given to them. I must, however, express the opinion that, in all the forms of public concern, or semi-public concern, or public board, or anything else which Parliament may set up, Parliament will find that it has an absolutely insoluble problem in trying to devise a suitable body or scheme to which to delegate any of its duties, if it is a part of the scheme that there should be a subsidy of public money raised from the general taxpayers of the country and at the same time a distribution of funds to special interested people in the Corporation. I have given some thought to that matter and I do not think it is possible to devise an instrument of control in which the payment of dividends can be reconciled with the contribution of a subsidy. I can see no way out of it. The present scheme itself must be regarded as unsatisfactory from that point of view.
I was unable to share the Parliamentary Secretary's optimism when he referred to the saving of £1,000,000 or more. It seemed to me that "saving" was hardly the appropriate term. If he had referred to the diminution of the losses, it would have been a more accurate description. We shall certainly watch, and the country will watch, the operation of the scheme, but the ordinary citizen will have very great difficulty in understanding it. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, it is a, very complicated Measure, and it is probably only those who have made a careful study of it who will be able to watch it with any sense of appreciation. A system that is so complicated will not commend itself to the people of the country in the long run because they will have such extraordinary difficulty in understanding it. I rejoice that Parliament will have some relief from constant preoccupation on the subject of sugar. In the last year or two we must have spent weeks of Parliamentary time in discussions on sugar beet. We part from the Bill without any enthusiasm. I should like to remind nay right hon. Friend of the words of a former 2678 Prime Minister, Disraeli, in his life of Lord George Bentinck, written about 1846:Sugar was an article of colonial produce which had been embarrassing, if not fatal, to many Governments. Strange that a manufacture which charms infancy and soothes old age should so frequently occasion political disaster.I do not think for a moment that this Bill is going to occasion political disaster, but. I cannot think that the results are likely to lead to a strengthening of the position of the National Government.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I should like to take the opportunity on the Third Reading to make my peace with the Minister. I have not always been a great help to him upstairs, but it is arguable that there should be some at least among the supporters of any Government to keep that Government up to the mark in certain respects. It is, perhaps, a truism to say that opposition from an Opposition has little or no effect, whereas opposition from Government supporters very often has more. There are Members in the House who, like myself, were returned largely to represent the interests of producers of sugar beet, and therefore in the conduct of this Bill we have naturally been anxious to see that the grower gets as much of a square deal as possible. Now that we have come to this stage I should like to pay my tribute to the Minister, who must feel rather like the captain of the "Queen Mary" when she berthed at Southampton. He has stood with great patience on the bridge of this subsidised liner while it grounded on one or two shoals on its way down the river and, now that it has finally come to its graving dock for a general overhaul, it is found to be intact and almost ready for its maiden voyage.
When we examine this vast structure, from its keel of £2,900,000 and its Clauses of decks and Sub-sections of cabins, I am naturally inclined to look to see where in this structure the producer is placed. We find him at the bottom of the ship, in the Second Schedule, as a stoker pouring the sugar beet into the furnace to keep the ship going. Perhaps we in the sugar-growing areas feel that the officers of the ship, those who have the whip hand, are going to be the gentlemen in the First Schedule who represent the companies to be amalgamated in the 2679 Corporation but, nevertheless, it is, as is the case with any ship, the public who will be the first-class passengers.
In that respect I should like to say one or two words which will perhaps make the hon. Member who has just sat down sit up. He said there has never been any proper answer given to the case made by Sir Herbert Samuel about the subsidy paid to the industry. It is, perhaps, relevant to point out, first, that in nearly every country in Europe sugar is grown under a large measure of State assistance. The assistance given in this country is lower than in any country on the Continent. The State assistance, taken all in all, with the remission of Excise, amounts approximately to 12s. a cwt. in this country, in Spain 20s., Italy 16s., Poland 20s. 6d., Czechoslovakia 14s. 4d., France 16s. 4d., and Germany 15s. 11d. The rate of assistance is much greater in all those countries, yet the retail price of sugar is much higher. In England it is approximately 2½. a lb., in Germany 3¾d., in France 3½., in Czechslovakia 3¾d., in Poland 4d., in Italy 7d.—that was before the imposition of sanctions—and in Spain 6d. Further, sugar grown in this country pays a large Excise, which is the case in only one Continental country—Denmark. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. White), when he says the industry is getting a subsidy which is costing the State millions of pounds annually, ought to bear that fact in mind. In the current year the subsidy will be £2,9000,000 and the industry will pay £2,300,000 in Excise, leaving a balance of only £600,000 which the State will have to pay.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
That has no bearing on the situation. All the other countries have to pay duties on imported sugar and yet they do not receive any Excise on their own sugar. None of the other commodities produced by agriculture, such as wheat, potatoes and oats, which are in receipt of protection from a tariff, is paying Excise, and very few of the commodities produced by manufactures which have protection by duty pay Excise either. Therefore, it seems wholly unreasonable to say that the industry is costing the State millions of pounds 2680 annually when it is in a peculiar position and the removal of the Excise would enable it to support itself almost entirely. Another important aspect of the Bill is, that in a time when the horizon is shadowed with the fear of war, it is a source of no little reassurance that over a third of our sugar supply is now produced in this country. If it were not for the perpetuation of the industry by this Bill, we should find ourselves without any sugar whatever. When we are considering the reorganisation of our defences it is surely legitimate to consider the food supply as well.
I listened with some interest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) when he said no answer had been given by the Government to the frequent charges made by the Opposition against the handling of the industry in the past. This Bill is the answer, because it rectifies the injustices of the past. The administration of the industry in the past may well have given rise to severe criticism, and upstairs we have seen a great deal of crying over spilt milk, but the milk is now spilt and there is no getting away from that. The Bill is designed to meet most of the criticisms that were levelled against it in the past, and that is the Government's answer to the right hon. Gentleman. There is no doubt that some people would have preferred to see the industry preserved in some other way, and it is arguable that payment of the subsidy, which is perpetuated in this Bill through the factories, proceeds on the Oriental assumption that the shortest distance across a square is by three sides. But the fact remains that, in that form of payment of the subsidy, the Bill limits the profits that may be made in the future, and we shall not hear any more the old tale of cash bonuses ladled out to shareholders, because that will be impossible under this Bill.
Hon. Members of this House have always been in some little difficulty in the formulation of a policy for assistance to sugar beet, because whenever the subsidy was trotted out year after year they naturally would not like to look a gift horse in the mouth. Those who represent sugar beet constituencies must necessarily have been glad that a subsidy was to be paid to the industry in whatever form it was to be paid, so long as part of it eventually reached the producer. 2681 I think that now, in its present form, the abuses of the subsidy have been removed and there is to be a fair share between the factories, the producer and the Exchequer of the burden of continuing an industry which is of tremendous value to this country as a whole.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
We are now considering the Third Reading of this Bill, and those of us who have spent some time in Committee have heard a good deal about sugar recently. In many respects the Bill is a distinct improvement upon what it was when it was sent upstairs. Those of us who sit on this side of the House were particularly interested in seeing that trade union conditions should prevail in the marketing and the refining of sugar, and we should also have liked these conditions to have been effected in connection with the production of the sugar beet. The Minister met us handsomely by incorporating a Clause which met all the provisions of the Amendments in our name on the matter. That is an important step in the right direction. The one serious objection that we have to the Bill is that it does not set up a public Corporation.
There are many hon. Members on this side of the House who are not Victorian Free Traders like the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). There are some of us who have no objection to subsidies, provided they are given to industries which are controlled and run in the public interest. Our objection in this case is, that it is not a public Corporation and that the subsidy does not go to the benefit of the producers and the general consuming public. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) prided himself that upstairs the producers' interests were looked after. I attended every meeting of that Committee, and I did not notice that it was a very noticeable feature of the proceedings for the hon. Gentleman and the rest of his colleagues to show much concern about the interests of the producers.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
I thought that the hon. Gentleman said that I should 2682 execute him; I will excuse him all the same.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) misunderstood my remarks. My object upstairs was to fight the capitalists in this concern in the interests of the sugar beet growers. There was a strong feeling that growers were being pared down to a minimum, while the capitalists were getting a very fat share out of it. I was opposing them in the interests of the producers.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
It did not seem to be very noticeable while I was upstairs. [An HON. MEMBER: "You were asleep."] The hon. Member still confines the producer, the farmer and the farm labourer—to the stokehold. I should have thought that he would have joined with us and put them with the admiral on the bridge.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
That is where I should like to put them. That is my point. I complained that they were in the bottom of the ship, not that they ought to be there; on the contrary I would like to see them with the admiral on the bridge.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
All I can say is that there has not been much done upstairs for the producer. What I am pleased about is that the industry is becoming an organised industry and a Corporation. I have an objection to it being a private Corporation, but one day, perhaps sooner than most people think, we may be on the opposite side of the House. This Bill goes a step in the right direction. The word "perpetuity" has no meaning for a Government, for should we come into office, we could take this Corporation over as a public Corporation and work it for the public good. I see no reason whatever why that should not happen, and indeed I hope that it will happen. I should like to know the attitude of some of our orthodox Free Traders, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Birkenhead is absent at the moment. What would they do for agriculture to-day? There are 400,000 acres under sugar beet, and we cannot grow sugar beet unless there is assistance from the State. What would become of it?
I agree that as far as agriculture is concerned, it should, if possible, stand 2683 on its own footing, but under existing conditions and with world competition it could not do so. I have been converted from that old idea. Those who take that view should go to the countryside and preach that doctrine from one end of rural England to the other and see what kind of reception they would receive from men dependent entirely upon the industry for their livelihood. I remember the time when the party below the Gangway were in power, when the countryside was always sacrificed to the great urban and town populations of this country. Those of us who were brought up in the countryside and who shared all the fruits and blessings of small wages and very low standards of life are no longer content to put up with an economic or Free Trade system which makes slaves of those in the countryside in order to provide cheap food for our large town and urban populations, and thus maintain cheap labour. The Liberal party can claim what advantage they like from this sort of thing. [An. HON. MEMBER: "What about the Labour party?"] The Labour party do not believe in Free Trade or Tariff Reform as such, but in the transformation of a system which exists for private gain into one of public utility and use.
I am exceedingly pleased that, as far as the interest on capital is concerned, the Bill has limited it to a great extent, very largely owing to the work which the Opposition did in Committee. The Parliamentary Secretary with his charming manner and tone captivated us in Committee, but I should have liked his speech better to-day if he had told the House frankly that the difference between the Bill now before the House and that which was originally introduced was very largely due to the ten days spent upstairs over the Measure. We are pleased that the rentier class are at least to be limited in the amount they are to take out of it. If they make certain economies as a result of the operation of the Bill and make additional profits, who is to share in them? The hon. Member for North Norfolk was there when some of us tried to include the producer in the sharing of the amount of money, but there was not a single voice raised in support of the producer getting increased prices for his beet in order to give better wages to his labourers.
2684 I regret that the producer is not also to share in it. It is two-thirds to the State, and one-third to the rentier. Trade union conditions of labour and pensions for those employed in the industry have been incorporated in the Bill, and I should have liked these provisions to have been extended to those working on the farms. I know that that would be a difficult problem, because they are only engaged for a certain part of the year. The Bill is a distinct improvement, due to the work which was done upstairs. The Minister has met us fairly in a lot of our Amendments. We had to fight very hard in order to get improvements, and as a Member of the Committee I am grateful to him for the way he has met some of our Amendments. The Bill is r tremendous improvement and will be a blessing to the extent that it provides for the reorganisation of the industry, and when we occupy the benches opposite it will be easier for us to make this industry a public concern.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Major COURTAULD
I listened very attentively to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and I did not get a single ray of hope. He painted a picture showing the benefits that this Measure would confer upon agriculture, but those benefits are going to accrue only to the producers within the magic circle of East Anglia and the East Midlands, and another still more magical circle drawn around the town of Cupar. Nobody outside is apparently going to be left with any assurance other than that the Minister will in due course make it his business to point out to the Sugar Commission that something must be done for the more distant areas. The Parliamentary Secretary also drew a very gloomy picture of what would happen to agriculture if this Bill were not passed. He painted a picture of many acres going out of cultivation, the dislocation of the rotation of crops, and increased unemployment in agricultural areas. I suppose that most of us could agree with that picture. That is a picture the painting of which areas such as Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Pembroke-shire will have to look for, unless a definite statement can be given before the House finally passes the Bill that something really will be done, and that they will not have to depend merely upon an 2685 obviously well meant but vague promise from the Minister.
Speaking for the area which I know best, West Sussex, it will mean that unless special provision is made, 4,000 acres will go out of cultivation, with the attendant loss of employment. If equalisation of rates is impossible, as it apparently is, and is equalisation of rates is not to be considered, then the only other alternative is that some special arrangement must be made for giving preferential treatment, as has been provided for the Scotsmen, or a factory must be put up somewhere in West Sussex and Hampshire, and probably in Wales to deal with producers in those areas. I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that that is the obvious solution. I can undertake that if a factory were put up in West Sussex enough acreage could be provided to keep that factory busy. There is no doubt about that. There would have been a factory there years ago if any encouragement had been given with regard to the future of the sugar beet industry, but they were told on every application that they must wait until the long-term policy of the Government had been decided upon. Therefore, the acreage has been very considerably curtailed, but it could be very largely increased.
As far as I see, the Bill puts a definite limit on the amount of acreage which can be cultivated for the production of sugar beet. If that maximum acreage cannot be increased, then to increase the acreage in an area like West Sussex would only mean that some other area would have to have a decreased acreage. I can well understand that that is a difficult problem. I can also understand that it was not easy to embody in the Bill provisions for the more distant areas. I have attended almost all the Debates on this subject, including the Debates in Committee, and I have thought very earnestly on the question of being able to include a new Clause or an Amendment that would cover the point, but it was not easy as the Bill was framed. That being so, I ask, and I think I shall have the House with me in asking, that those other areas which have cultivated and are cultivating sugar beet should be given equal terms with those in East Anglia or in Scotland. It can be done. If we can get that assurance it will be something, but even that does not go the whole way, because there 2686 is the question of the current year to be considered.
Embodied in the Bill are prices to be paid at the various factories in the Midlands and East Anglia, and the prices to be paid to the sugar beet producers in the area which supplies the factory at Cupar, but no price is included in the Bill which deals with the other areas. The House must realise that unless some provision is made for the current year, obviously the acreage under cultivation in those more distant areas is bound to fall. Sugar beet will be produced at a loss, and when it comes to the following year, with the possibility of the Sugar Commission meeting the farmers in those districts and also consulting with the Minister of Agriculture on the subject, it is probable that a good deal of this acreage will have already gone out of cultivation.
I hope that I have made by point clear. I cannot support the Bill unless I get some assurance to the effect that I desire. I have listened to the Debates in the House and upstairs with hope, but I have heard nothing which I can really call adequate for the needs of the farmers I represent and the needs of other farmers in other areas equally important. Unless I can get some assurance which will definitely mean something and not be merely a rather pious hope, I shall be unable to support the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J. HALL
I wish to call attention to the workers who are employed in the industry. The discussion so far as it has gone, particularly from the participants on this side of the House, has tended to show that as far as the agricultural workers are concerned we have no desire to do anything to hamper or hinder the development of the sugar beet growing industry. The point of view that we have taken in Committee, and the kernel of our objections to the methods that have been adopted, has been that we say when public money is being put into an industry that industry should be brought under public control. The cost of growing sugar beet and the development of the sugar industry this year will be somewhere in the vicinity of £6,000,000. Despite all that has been said, it is a fact that the industry is being publicly assisted to an enormous degree. In Committee the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) said that the Bill 2687 meant that we are placing this industry on the dole. There is to be a direct subsidy this year to the extent of £2,750,000, if market conditions remain as at present. The loss to the revenue through the rebate of Excise Duty is in the vicinity of £3,000,000.
The sugar refining agreement has yet to be published. Up to the present time those of us who were Members of the Committee have no knowledge of the terms of that agreement, but as it is likely to bring about further expense it is fairly safe to assume that the total cost for one year will be £6,000,000. In other words, the country is to be expected to pay £6,000,000 more than if that quantity of sugar had been purchased abroad and had been introduced into the country that way. Roughly, the £6,000,000 is the amount that will be paid by the combine to the growers. Therefore, it is true to say that in this industry the combine will have the sugar handed over to it free of charge. My point is that each section of the industry has been protected. Despite the fears of the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), it is a fact that the sugar growers have been given a measure of protection, because the amount of acreage upon which sugar beet can be grown has been limited. The amount of white sugar that can be produced in one year is 560,000 tons, or the equivalent in raw sugar. Therefore, a close Corporation has been provided for growers of sugar beet and there is very little chance of new entrants so far as sugar beet growing is concerned. Only those who are now engaged in that particular branch of agriculture can expect to be participants in the work of producing sugar beet.
The factories have been saved from failure. Although the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture laid emphasis on the fact that when a 5½ per cent. or 7 per cent. dividend was paid there would be a saving to the Government, the fact remains that under the Bill a 4 per cent. dividend has been guaranteed. If the earnings fall below a figure that would earn a 4 per cent. dividend the Commission has the power to communicate with the Government or to recommend to the Government that for the following and succeeding years there shall be certain financial assistance so that the 4 per cent. can be guaranteed. 2688 We are giving to the combine a gilt-edged security, which is something far better than they anticipated a little while ago. With regard to the port refiners, they have been classed by the Bill in a protected industry. For some time past they have been assisted by means of rebates of taxation, and now they are to be registered and licensed and are to be given all the advantage of a monopoly.
I am particularly concerned with the position of the workers in the industry. When we were discussing the Bill in Committee the White Paper on the amalgamation of the beet sugar manufacturing companies had not been issued. It has been issued since, and I discover in it, on page 15, aMemorandum on incentive proposals.That memorandum states:The effect of the proposals set out in Part 3 of the arrangements for amalgamation would be that the earnings of the Corporation would be Largely dependent on the improvements in efficiency which it may be able to secure. It is believed that substantial savings can and should be made, although it is not possible to make any close estimate of their amount. It is assumed … that economies amounting ultimately to £300,000 per annum can be gradually effected within six or seven years.I suggest to the Minister that there is an indication, as I stated in Committee, that through reorganisation and rationalisation a number of people may become redundant. We have to be very thankful to the Minister for the very generous way in which he met the representatives of the workers and trade unions by introducing a new Clause and giving to us completely the things for which we had asked; but there was one outstanding point, and it has been emphasised by the production of the White Paper, and that is the question of the workers who may become redundant and may be threatened with dismissal. I know that the Minister in Committee met that point with generosity by a statement in which he gave us to understand that he would use his influence on behalf of the men who might become redundant, so that the Corporation would act as a good employer. In view of the fact that the White Paper seems to presage the possibility of an even greater number of redundants than we had in mind when this Bill was in Committee, I ask the Minister if he will implement the promise he made and 2689 see that there shall not be any difficulties created for the workers in these factories by reason of the new methods introduced under this Bill.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
The hon. Member for West Sussex (Major Courtauld) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) are under a serious misapprehension that the only part of Scotland where sugar beet is grown is round about Cupar, which is in my constituency. I tried to point out previously that was not so. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen challenged my statement, and claimed that in no part of Scotland north of Forfar could sugar beet be grown. I have refreshed my memory, and I have here the agricultural statistics for Scotland for 1934. Of the 33 counties in Scotland, no fewer than 25 grew sugar beet, and these included the districts which my hon. Friend stoutly declared could not grow sugar beet—Aberdeen, Moray and Nairn.
Not very much, but I repeat that we can grow it. Of the 7,000 acres grown in 1934, 43 per cent. were grown in Fife. The majority were grown in Perth, Forfar and other parts of the country. I repeat my claim that under a reasonable system of payment free on rail Scottish growers can make the Cupar factory an economic proposition. I claim that this House has no right deliberately, and without notice, to cut off such assistance until the farmers have shown that they have failed. I do not ask that the subsidy should continue for ever. I support the Bill on the clear understanding, and in the belief, that under these new conditions in five years' time there will be no need for such a subsidy. That is my belief, and I shall be very disappointed if in five years' time any subsidy is needed. May I deal now with the challenge offered by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). He tried to make out that it was not true that the first great subsidy scheme introduced by a Government was introduced by a Labour Government. He said that was not true, and quoted instances of assistance of one kind or another that had been offered to the industry before. I have here the report of the Greene Committee, and I would 2690 refer the right hon. Member—who I am sorry is not present—to pages 18 and 19, where there is put very shortly the history of State assistance to this industry. There have been three steps in the history of State assistance. The first was before the War. The report states:Meanwhile, endeavours had been made to secure some measure of State assistance to the industry, without which it appeared that successful commercial development would be impossible. A grant of £11,000 was obtained from the Development Fund in 1913 in aid of experiments in the cultivation of sugar beet.That is the first note we have of State aid. A little lower down on the same page it is stated:Money was advanced from the Development Fund for the purchase of the Kelham Estate in Nottinghamshire, but the decision to provide the further assistance necessary for the erection of the factory was delayed until 1919.And later, in paragraph 61, it is stated:At the same time the owners of the Cantley factory, which was operated at a loss during 1920 and 1921, intimated that they would be unable to carry on unless the excise duty was removed, and this proposal was supported by important agricultural interests.That is the first notice of that particular form of State assistance.As has been explained in Chapter 1, the difference between the excise and customs duties was then 6s. 3d. per cwt.It goes on:The Government, after consideration, agreed to the complete remission of the excise duty, and as a result, the Cantley factory was able in 1922 to operate for the first time at a profit.That was the third step in State assistance, the Excise Duty step. In 1923 the Cantley and Kelham factories were operated and the erection of a third factory was undertaken at Colwick in Nottinghamshire. Up to the time of Mr. Snowden's statement there were only three factories, two built and a third in course of building. To show the importance of the step taken by the Labour Government under Mr. Snowden, we have on page 19 of the report a paragraph with the heading "The Initiation of the Subsidy." What does that mean but that it was the Labour Government which initiated that subsidy? Of course it was. It is no use quibbling over what it was done for. The big thing was the subsidy, and here you have the initiation 2691 of the subsidy. I am obliged to quote this sentence:It was evident, however, that the protection afforded to the industry was dependent upon the maintenance of the customs duty at a level which might not always be justifiable on revenue grounds, and representations were therefore made that if this were reduced some other form of State assistance should be granted. The import duty was, in fact, reduced by the Budget of 1924 to 11s. 8d. per cwt., but in July of that year it was announced that direct assistance would be granted to home produced beet sugar,I have here the report of the Debate in which Mr. Snowden introduced his new Bill. It is obvious in reading the Debate that here was an entirely new, big step, and the proof is that whereas there were only two and a half factories when the Labour scheme was introduced, there are now 18 factories.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Why does the hon. Gentleman not go back to the original statement, which he knows he cannot justify, that the Labour party introduced the first Bill to give a subsidy to this industry?
I do not want to detain the House on it. I was challenged, and I think I have the right to reply. I think I have made a reply which will satisfy the House. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), who speaks with a first-hand knowledge of the growing of sugar beet, calls this "a good Bill." The justification for it is that no Government dare at this time sign the order for the sudden cessation of this industry and order such wanton destruction. That is the justification. All of us have in the past, myself included, criticised and condemned the immense and unjustifiable profits made by the beet sugar companies. I have taken my part in condemning such a system. Were it not for the fact that agriculture is in an extremely difficult position at present I would not be standing here in support of it. This is a Bill to meet the criticisms which I and others have levelled against the beet sugar companies in the past. While it may not go all the way towards 100 per cent. Socialism, the corporate State as they call it, which they offer to the House on occasions when it suits them, although we do not hear 2692 about it on others, this is a practical method of controlling and limiting the profits which the beet sugar companies can make, and for that reason I support it. I know my hon. Friends the Opposition Liberals do not like this Measure. We seem to have changed. Either they have gone back or I have gone forward, I do not know which, but we have drawn apart. As my hon. Friend behind me pointed out, the fact is that if you take the Excise Duty and set it against the subsidy, there is nothing in it. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough said, "Of course, but the point is, look at the benefit you would give to the Exchequer if you imported this sugar instead of making it at home." Why do not hon. Members apply the same argument on other occasions? Why does not the right hon. Gentleman apply that argument to steel, to motor cars? Why do not Liberal Members apply it to wheat, the subsidy for which they introduced? Nobody in his senses would say, "You have an Import Duty on motor cars, therefore you are losing so many millions a year."
I am aware of that, but it is an antiquated difference. The beet sugar industry is to-day no different from any other protected industry, and I see, therefore no logical reason for objecting to this Bill. I would have gone a long way with the Labour party towards making this a public concern like the Central Electricity Board. The day for that may yet come. I believe in that kind of structure in certain eases. It may be the right structure for sugar beet in four or five years time. Here, however, is an effort to maintain a great national industry, giving employment to large numbers of men; this is a Bill to maintain that in conditions of financial soundness, and for these reasons I am here to support it.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. PRICE
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has tried to prove that the party of which I am a member has been responsible for starting this subsidy on sugar beet. I have no objection to the use of subsidies in industry, but I take the view—and this is where I differ from many hon. Members opposite—that where a subsidy is used it must always be used 2693 for the purpose of gaining public control. I am not satisfied that even now we have that full control over this industry that we should have in view of the considerable sums of money that have been spent. The Bill is the first offspring of the Minister of Agriculture in this Parliament. It looked somewhat unpromising when it first appeared, but as it passed through the school of the Committee stage and the university of Report stage, thanks to the efforts of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) and the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), it has gradually acquired a more promising appearance. I believe, however, that this offspring will not stand the rough-And-tumble of the world outside, and I am looking forward to the time when the right hon. Gentleman will be on this side of the House and we on the benches opposite when we shall have an opportunity of making this Corporation more like the Corporation we desire, and thus bring this offspring to full maturity. In some eases it is desirable that a parent should be removed from his offspring, where the parent's influence is not of the best. That is so in the case of this Bill. The time will come when we shall remove his offspring from the care and control of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that his offspring should be sent to the lethal chamber, but that his education should be continued in the direction we desire.
We are all agreed that this industry cannot go on without a subsidy. In fact, sugar beet cannot be produced in any country except Java and Peru without some form of public assistance. When the subsidy was first introduced it was thought that world prices would remain where they were then, and that it would be possible to get the industry on its feet. Then came the great slump, when every country started subsiding sugar beet. This utterly altered the position, and we had to consider whether we would let the industry drop or continue the assistance. We still feel that everything is not quite as satisfactory as it might be because too much public money is being pledged to support the Corporation, and that if action had been taken earlier it would not have been necessary. We still feel that if action had been taken to prevent this ramp we should not have to find all this money in order to get these 2694 million debentures floated. I also agree that this grant of public money will make an investment in this industry practically a gilt-edged security earning about 5½ per cent., 4 per cent. plus 1½ per cent. when the economies take effect, while trustee stocks can only get 3 per cent. on the Stock Exchange at the moment. That is not a satisfactory position.
However, it all boils down to this. Hon. Members are being slowly educated up to it and little more effort on our part will enable them to realise that public control has to come. Already they are taking steps in that direction, but even now this Corporation will be able to hide its profits behind its reserves in spite of all the provisions of the Bill, and we shall never really have a satisfactory position until we get a public corporation. I am not impressed by the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary that this is not a case like electricity and gas, where the production is limited. That argument does not appeal to me. We shall get all these corporations under public control, and then we shall get a satisfactory position. All the same, this is a step forward compared with the conditions of the past, and when the time comes we shall make the other steps which alone will give it a permanent and satisfactory position.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
I should like to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and the Parliamentary Secretary for having brought the Bill to its last stage in the House of Commons. I appreciate the opportunity given to me to speak, probably for the last time in this House, on sugar beet. Every year for about 14 years I have taken part in discussions on sugar beet. It has been called a ramp. If it is a ramp, then I take the responsibility on myself for having introduced the ramp into this country. Long before 1922, when a sugar beet measure first came before the House, I was responsible for getting agriculture together to impress upon the then Government the good that sugar beet industry would be for British agriculture. In this matter I have always taken the part of the producer. It is interesting to know that Germany dates her agricultural revival from the establishment of the sugar beet industry, and it is on behalf of the producers that I have supported the industry 2695 for the last 14 years. On the Bill itself there is only one point I want to bring to the notice of the Minister. In Clause 5 of the Bill there is a provision:limiting the quantity of home-grown beet that may be sold by any person to the Corporation, or by arrangements made by the Corporation limiting the quantity of homegrown beet that may be purchased by the Corporation from any person.I understand that that does not limit the purchase of any beet grown on any acreage in this country. I should like the Minister in reply, to state clearly whether that is so or not. In conclusion, on behalf of British agriculture, I congratulate the Government on the Bill. The hon. Member for Brigg and I have worked on behalf of the producers, and he and I are glad to know that at long last the Bill is to become law and so set British sugar beet industry on a permanent basis.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. C. S. TAYLOR
I apologise for keeping the House but I cannot let the Bill go through without registering my insignificant protest against it. I join in the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Major Courtauld) to the Minister for a factory somewhere in the South of England, in Sussex or in Hampshire. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite do not welcome the Bill with open arms. To my mind it is more Socialistic than any Bill they themselves would have dared to introduce. We are told that it will not create any precedent for the future owing to its peculiar nature, but hon. Members opposite have pointed to the Bill and have said how they will use certain Clauses in it as useful precedents. I represent neither the manufacturers nor the growers. I have endeavoured to keep an open mind and see that both parties get a fair and square deal. It has always been my contention that the manufacturers do not get all the benefit of the subsidy; they merely pass it on to the growers. I am not complaining about that. I am delighted that British farmers should get some benefit from the Government in the face of world competition, which is unfair owing to the low wages and much longer hours which obtain abroad.
I look upon the Bill as establishing a very dangerous precedent, which will not only be followed by this Government but may be followed with drastic results by 2696 the Opposition when and if ever they get into power. I can see the accusing finger of hon. Members opposite pointing to us and saying flat we established the precedent and that they are only following the excellent example which we set before them. With regard to the so-called voluntary amalgamation, I know that the Government have held the big stick over the manufacturers and said, "You must amalgamate or we will make it hot for you; you will do what you are told or you will not get such a good deal." The manufacturers have made great efforts to amalgamate in order to make the best of a very bad deal. So much for voluntary amalgamation. There is to be no appeal. It has been said that if an appeal was allowed it might upset the whole principle of the Bill but, on the other hand, I submit that it takes away from the individual a right which British citizens have enjoyed from time immemorial.
Let hon. Members consider by what means the industry started. Interested parties in sugar-beet tried to get money in the City of London and were unable to do so. Thereupon they endeavoured to get in foreign countries money with which to finance the industry, and they were successful. This is a most important point, and I think those who had the courage to invest money in an industry in this country which the City of London did not think would be a financial success should be entitled to reap the benefits. There is then the case of the debenture holders, who are having their rights abrogated. Machinery which could not be manufactured in this country was supplied from abroad, and in payment the foreign manufacturers of machinery were prepared to accept debenture stock. Under this Bill their prior rights are to be taken away. Suppose the Argentine Government sail that, in the case of British money invested in the Argentine, the prior rights of the holders of debenture stock were to be taken away, what would be the attitude of the Government with a view to protecting those debenture holders? I ask hon. Members to realise that which they are doing when they allow this Bill to go through. I can only say that I am perfectly certain it will have a very serious effect on British credit in the future.
2697 I am delighted that this industry is to be continued, and there are obvious reasons why it should be continued. During the last War there was a very great shortage of sugar, and the fact that we are able to produce in this country some part of our sugar will be a very great help in our line of defence in future. But I would warn hon. Members that this particular Bill, which reorganises the sugar industry, savours most unpleasantly of Socialist principles, of principles of nationalisation and, what is more important still, because no right of appeal to the courts has been allowed, it savours very unpleasantly of principles of communistic confiscation.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
As this is the last occasion perhaps for a long time when sugar will be dealt with in this House, I would like in a few sentences to sum up the Bill as I see it. It is perfectly true that in the case of all subsidies, when the problem of their continuance or their removal is discussed, hon. Members have a good deal of pressure upon them. As one hon. Member sitting below the Gangway said, hon. Members representing the various divisions which are to participate in the largesse of the Minister, or of any Ministers, do not mind from where that largesse arrives so long as it arrives in some way. I have condemned the action of the Government time and again in regard to their sugar legislation, but lurking at the back of my mind there has always been an element of sympathy with those who were obliged not only to satisfy their own conscience, but to satisfy at the same time the pressure put upon them by hon. Members in all parts of the House.
There is this to be said for the final Bill; it is a very definite step forward. It does not go as far as I would like to see it go, and my opinions on the sugar subsidy have been well known for a long time. One step has been the establishment of a Corporation, and I hope this will lead to another step. We have placed on the Corporation three gamekeepers to see that the poachers do not get away with too much Treasury finance. We have established a Commission to watch the Corporation. In everything that it does the Corporation must proceed to the Commission to get its approval, and, having secured the Com- 2698 mission's approval, it must have the approval of the Minister, the Treasury, and so forth. It seems to me that it would have been far better, perhaps much less complex and probably a good deal more efficient, if the right hon. Gentleman had taken one step beyond the point to which he has already been forced, with the Corporation and the Commission and the multiplicity of gamekeepers to watch the poachers. I am, however, accepting that one-step-at-a-time principle here, and I am glad, despite my general opinion about the wisdom or otherwise of a sugar beet subsidy, that so much progress has been made.
I am not sure, however, that I can agree with the Parliamentary Secretary's summing up of the situation with regard to the profits that are to be made available for the owners of the Corporation. He told us that unless some incentive proposals existed over and above the 4 per cent. guaranteed annually, the industry would stagnate and would become inefficient, and that unless there was the inspiration given by the incentive proposals, that is to say, an additional profit to the shareholders, he did not think the industry would be efficient. I cannot understand the Parliamentary Secretary's reasoning, for in this scheme there is an undertaking to employ as many directors drawn from the various companies as are necessary to run the Corporation, and all the factories are to pay them the salary they hitherto received from their individual companies. There-fore, there will be the same directors receiving the same salaries, the same technicians, the same engineers and employés generally, with or without the incentive proposals.
The Parliamentary Secretary does not suggest that unless you give the incentive to the directors, the technicians or the employés, stagnation will come over the industry. He does not promise any additional income to them, but promises it to the shareholder. What inspiration is the shareholder to have on the activities of the directors? If there is no guarantee of an increased fee for the director, what inspiration will he have? It may be that this 5½ per cent. annual profit, almost guaranteed, is too much; it may be that 4 per cent. is far too much, in view of the history of sugar factories in this country. At all events, it seems to me 2699 that if there is a real need for incentive proposals, clearly they ought to apply to the directors and right down to the average workman in the factory, and not merely to those who are shareholders in the Corporation. I cannot understand that side of the finance.
The annual cost is still to be £5,000,000, either in direct payments, in remission of Excise Duty, or in the Treasury forfeiting what otherwise might have been received. In one way or another the cost will be approximately £3 per week for every person employed in producing, transporting and transforming sugar beet into refined sugar. I do not think there are many Members in this House who, if they had at their disposal a sum of money large enough to give £3 per week to every person employed in any industry, would have any difficulty in solving the unemployment problem. It would be a comparatively easy thing to do. The value of the Bill to agriculture is a value to a small proportion of agriculture. After all, there are only 39,000 farmers producing sugar beet, and many of them are small producers growing small quantities. On the whole, it may be said that 40,000 farmers produce sugar beet out of a total of 385,000 farmers, and when it is said that this Bill is a great contribution to our agricultural life, I will say that it is a great contribution to a small portion of agriculture, but that broadly and generally speaking it has not that effect.
I do not wish to waste the time of the House any further, for sugar has been debated long enough in this House and so frequently that it has almost become sour. There is, however, one point I would like to emphasise before I conclude, and it concerns the employés within the factories. I refer to compensation. If employés, as a result of the efficiency imposed on the Corporation under the new régime, should be displaced, they ought to be catered for. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will as far as possible use his influence to see that that does take place. There will then at all events be some satisfaction for those who have been hostile to sugar subsidies from the commencement, who have watched the complete transformation of the original situation as we knew it in 1925 to the new Corporation 2700 in 1936, in that we shall know that displaced workers will be treated fairly and squarely.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure there is one sentiment that has been uttered to-night with which those of us who have been in close contact with this problem and this Bill for many months will heartily agree, and it is that sugar has been debated long enough in this House. Tonight we ask the House to come to a decision, and we ask that that decision should be in favour of maintaining the sugar industry in this country. The Debate which has taken place has ranged over many points both large and small. Hon. Members who support the Government have asked certain questions. The hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) asked to be reassured as to the position of the growers of a certain tonnage of beet on a certain acreage, and I gave him again the assurance I gave in Committee that there can be no doubt that it will be lawful under the Bill as drafted to have contracts so as to provide for the quantity of beet to be purchased from a stated acreage no matter what tonnage that acreage may produce. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), from whom I was delighted to have the pledge of support for the Bill in the Division Lobby, raised one or two questions.
§ Mr. C. S. TAYLOR
I said I supported the continuation of the industry, but I did not like certain Clauses in the Bill.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
If the hon. Member supports the continuation of the industry, he supports this Bill for a vote against the Bill to-night is a vote for the discontinuance of the industry. If the Bill is defeated to-night, the hon. Member will be so far responsible for it. Let hon. Members on the Opposition benches also grasp that fact I am sure that they fully realise it, say what they will about the desirability or not of some particular machinery The decision as to that machinery has been hammered out in Committee and in the Report stage, and now we come to the Third Reading. It is for its now to continue or discontinue, to kill or to keep the industry, and a vote against the Bill is a vote for killing the sugar beet industry in this country.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
One might hold the opinion that the Bill did not go far enough and vote against the Bill because it did not go far enough.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. Member should, by this time, have enough experience of Parliamentary procedure to know that a vote which destroys a Bill, destroys the project of the Bill, whether you think it does not go far enough or whether you think it goes too far. The only reason for voting against the Third Reading of the Bill is that you have the object of killing the Bill and stopping the industry and those who vote against the Bill to-night take that responsibility.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is not the big stick. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I know, does not flinch from a. decision on a Parliamentary point. He knows that when he votes against the Bill he votes to end the Bill.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. Member is now raising the further question of confidence in the Government. I am prepared to take up both issues. I am certain that, as a result of the vote which is to be taken to-night, the sugar beet industry will be continued in this country. The hon. Member for Eastbourne dealt with the question of an appeal to the courts. That was dealt with at great length upstairs. It was made clear by the Lord Advocate that the Bill in no way limited any rights, but merely kept in the hands of Parliament a task which Parliament alone was fit to accomplish. It was pointed out that the Bill did not ask the courts to decide a question which they could only decide if given minute and meticulous directions by Parliament, which would have amounted to Parliament itself deciding the case in advance. Those points were thoroughly considered in Committee. We have, at any rate, to congratulate ourselves upon this fact—that praise for the Bill has come from many quarters of the House, not merely from the Government side but from the Opposition side as well. We have had support from regions far outside the normal area of support for this Government. We have had the admission that the Bill is an improvement on what has, gone before and that it has been 2702 modified, in accordance with the will of the Standing Committee and the House, and not merely presented, either to the House or to the Committee, in a "take it or leave it" fashion by the Government of the day.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) concluded by saying that he had a lurking sympathy with the Minister. I think that lurking sympathy of the hon. Member does come out of its lair at times and we appreciate it very much. We know the careful examination which the hon. Member has made of agricultural problems and that arouses a feeling of sympathy on our part for him. His power of mastery of these questions has been a credit to himself and to the work which he has devoted to these problems—all the more so, since it has left him with the feeling which was, I think, reflected in the report of the Executive Committee of the Labour party to their Brighton Conference in 1935. After all, it was that conference and not anybody on this side who said that the sudden withdrawal of all State assistance would be attended with serious consequences to agriculture and would expose sugar consumers to risks that could not be ignored.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It was a resolution passed by the conference. I think a certain divergence of opinion was shown on the benches opposite as the Debate proceeded. Nobody would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) or the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) had any of that lurking sympathy for the Bill which displayed itself in the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley. They drew their swords and advanced and gave no quarter. Their votes, at any rate, will be cast against the Third Reading of the Bill with full knowledge and with the desire to kill the Bill, even though it should bring the industry to an end.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough, although starting with the theory that the Bill continues employment in agriculture which he was glad to see continued, wound up with 2703 the full-blown Free Trade theory, asking why should we grow sugar beet at all at home when cane sugar can be grown abroad at 4½ tons to the acre Why produce goods at home when, by not producing them at home, we can stimulate oversea trade and keep up the commerce of the country? The hon. Member for East Birkenhead even quoted the words of Disraeli, used in the Sugar Debate in this House nearly 100 years ago, but I wonder whether he remembers the context of his quotation or what those Debates were upon, or the case which Disraeli was making then and the opposition to it. The case which Disraeli was making was that, after we had freed the slaves in our British Colonies, it was hypocrisy for us to continue to buy sugar, grown by slave labour elsewhere, thereby encouraging the continuance of the institution of slavery. The line of argument then used against Disraeli, and on which he was defeated, is the line of argument which has led to what is in the minds of hon. Members opposite, below the Gangway, and has led to the condemnation of their attitude which the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) reiterated to-night. It is not the fit-St time, and it will not be the last time, that such condemnation will come from Labour against Liberal on this question of the employment of labour.
The argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough boiled down to this—that nobody had defended the finance of the sugar companies up to now. When you have a proposal for a subsidy starting at 19s., with the object of bringing people quickly into the industry, a subsidy which does not taper off to the point to which we have found it possible to bring it in 10 years, it inevitably means that those who start quickly, who are efficient, those, if you like, who come from abroad and who have had great experience, make large sums of money compared with those who enter the industry more slowly. I am not ashamed of proposals which have resulted in the establishment of £5,000,000 worth of food-producing machinery in this country and the maintenance of 400,000 acres under a remunerative crop. Those arrangements reflect no discredit either on those who originated them or on those by whom they have been carried out. In that experimental, pioneer 2704 period, no doubt, large profits have been made by certain pioneers, though not by all. What the Bill does is to bring that period to a close. Those profits will no longer be gained and those advantages will no longer be secured. The industry has been reorganised, and if this Bill gets a Third Reading it will go ahead on a new basis. The experimental period is over, but there is no reason why this country or the House should be ashamed of the steps taken to bring the industry into operation.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead argued strongly against any proposal of the kind and said that nobody had answered Sir Herbert Samuel. But Sir Herbert Samuel was answered and answered most eloquently, more by the absence than by the presence of one hon. Member. Where is the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. J. de Rothschild) to-night? Where does his party stand upon this question? Where did they stand upon it at the General Election? Did not the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely, in his constituency, wholeheartedly defend the continuance of the subsidy? Where is he to-night? He is outside arguing with Sir Herbert Samuel and I presume convincing him, because the hon. Member is now in this House and Sir Herbert is outside it. The fact that even the old guard of Liberalism cannot give a solid vote against this Measure shows that the arguments advanced by Sir Herbert Samuel do not appeal to the majority of people in this country and not even to the whole of the Liberal party.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead, of course, said he was willing to support practical measures proposed for softening the blow to Labour. Those were the measures proposed in the majority report. Does he remember what those steps were? Does he remember that the practical steps proposed were, that those turned out of work by the stopping of this industry, would be helped by unemployment insurance in agriculture which it was hoped would then be on the Statute Book? That was the proposal which this House would have had to face if it had accepted the position indicated by the majority report and which would have had to be faced by Sri Herbert Samuel also, if he had convinced the House and if the industry had been brought to an end. It is that which has brought the 2705 hon. Member for Brigg and the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) in to the state of mind indicated by their speeches to-night. They say in effect, "This machinery is not what we would like, yet we stand along with the majority of the House in desiring that sugar beet growing should continue and that the agricultural worker in East Anglia and elsewhere should not be thrown on the dole."
I do not wish to speak at length because we have already argued long and deeply on this question. The question of whether the protective duty should be reckoned up month after month and year after year and finally added to the total cost of the industry to the community is one on which, I suppose, we shall never come to any agreement. All I can say is that we on this side do not accept that argument and we never shall accept it. This proposal is for the maintenance of the industry. The machinery has been fully described by the Parliamentary Secretary and fully discussed by hon. Members since.
To-night we are launching a big new industry in Great Britain. We are turning from a temporary to what we hope will be a permanent basis. We are continuing a great agricultural experiment which has already proved of the utmost value in preventing the depression which otherwise, without any doubt, would have settled upon the Eastern Counties. We are completing the rescue of the Eastern Counties which was begun by the introduction of the turnip crop. When "Turnip" Townshend introduced this root crop into the rotation, he revolutionised the agricultural industry, but that achievement would be jeopardised if it had not been possible to keep the root crop in this country on a remunerative basis and as part of the arable rotation, as it will be under the provisions of this Bill. No practical agriculturist will deny that we have made a bold new experiment. We inlay be blamed by some for
§ going too far and by others for not going far enough, but it is an experiment which has been boldly conceived and vigorously executed. We have started with a chairman who is acknowledged, even or especially by the Opposition, to be an admirable man, free from all bias, and one with great experience in the service of the State in other capacities. Sir Francis Humphrys is a man who can well be put forward as the best man we could have chosen for the post of chairman of this Corporation and a man under whose auspices no sharp practice of any kind will find the slightest countenance.
§ I hope very much the House will give us a majority to-night, and a good majority. I hope very much that beyond the majority it will give us its good will, its good feeling, its encouragement, for a departure in agriculture which has now, after 10 years, passed its experimental stage. We are, after all, launching a British enterprise to-night. Let us Hunch it with a good heart. Let us launch it with support, not from one side only, but from every side of the House, and let us hope that hon. and right hon. Members opposite, who- have given us their sympathy in speech, will even go so far to-night as to carry that sympathy into the Division Lobby and give us their support for the Third Reading of the Bill.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
Could the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance as to what the position of distant growers will be, seeing that this year will not be affected under the Bill?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am not able to go beyond the assurance which I gave in Committee, that that would be one of the first matters to which the Commission would give its attention.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 125.2709
|Division No. 144.]||AYES.||[8.3 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Bull, B. B.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Belt, Sir A. L.||Burghley, Lord|
|Albery, I. J.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Blair, Sir R.||Butler, R. A.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Blindell, Sir J.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Assheton, R.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Carver, Major W, H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cary, R. A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G,||Cautley, Sir H. S.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkinson, A.||Pownall, Sir A. Assheton|
|Cobb, Sir C. S.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Radford, E. A.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hulbert, N. J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs)||Hunter, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Jackson, Sir H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Critchley, A.||James, Wing-Commander, A. W.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rowlands, G.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salt, E. W.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Latham, Sir P.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lees-Jones, J.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|De la Bère, R.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Scott, Lord William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Levy, T.||Selley, H. R.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lewis, O.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R, H.||Liddall, W. S.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Drewe, C.||Lindsay, K. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lloyd, G. W.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Loder, Captain Hon. J de V.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||MacAndrew Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Eales, J. F.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Spens, W. P.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Elliston, G. S.||McKle, J. H.||Storey, S.|
|Emery, J. F.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Magnay, T.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Maitland, A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Markham, S. F.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M,||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Furness, S. N.||Maxwell, S. A.||Touche, G. C.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Train, Sir J.|
|Gibson, C. G.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Gledhill, G.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ward, Lieut.-Col Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Moreing, A. C.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morgan, R. H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Wells, S. R|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Munro, P.||Willoughby de Fresby, Lord|
|Hannah, I. C.||Nail, Sir J.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Hannon, Sir p. J. H.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harbord, A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wise, A. R.|
|Harvey, G.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||peake, O.||Wragg, H.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Peat, C. U.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Penny, Sir G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hepworth, J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Captain Walerhouse and Mr.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Petherick, M.||Cross.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Bellenger, F.||Dalton, H.|
|Acland, R, T. D. (Barnstaple)||Benson, G.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Broad, F. A.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Day, H.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Buchanan, G.||Dobble, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Burke, W. A.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Cluse, W. S.||Ede, J. C.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cocks, F. S.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Compton, J.||Fletcher, Lt. Comdr. R. T. H.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Cove, W. G.||Foot, D. M.|
|Batey, J.||Daggar, G.||Frankel, D.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Leonard, W.||Short, A.|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||Leslie, J. R.||Silverman, S. S.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Logan, D. G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Maclean, N.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Mander, G. le M.||Stephen, C.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Marklew, E.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Groves, T. E.||Marshall, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Mathers, G.||Thorne, W.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Maxton, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Messer, F.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Montague, F.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Owen, Major G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Hicks, E. G.||Paling, W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Holland, A.||Parker, H. J. H.||White, H. Graham|
|Hollins, A.||Parkinson, J. A.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Hopkin, D.||Pethlck-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Jagger, J.||Potts, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Price, M. P.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pritt, D. N.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Quibell, J. D.||Windsor, w. (Hull, C.)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Riley, B.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Ritson, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Lathan, G.||Rowson, G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
|Lee, F.||Shinwell, E.|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.