§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to extend until the end of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, the period during which cattle or carcases of cattle must have been sold in order that payments in respect thereof may be made out of the Cattle Fund under Section two of the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1934, as amended by the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1935."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. Elliot.]
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
The purpose of this Financial Resolution is to enable a Bill to be introduced which will continue the cattle subsidy on its present basis and at the present rate of 5s. per cwt. until not later than 31st July, 1937. As hon. Members will be aware from the statement of livestock policy made on 6th July, this is purely an interim Measure. Legislation to give effect to the permanent proposals of the Government, which will take the place of the present arrangements, will be introduced early next Session. Therefore, no special significance attaches to the selection of 31st July as the limiting date. It is the intention of the Government that a permanent scheme shall come into operation as early as possible, but it is considered that the extension of nine months will obviate any need for resorting to any further temporary enactments. Hon. Members will be familiar with the situation which necessitated the introduction in 1934 of a subsidy for beef producers in the United Kingdom, and also with the reasons for the successive extensions of the period of temporary assistance.
These matters were reviewed as recently as 29th June by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary when moving the Resolution approving the Order which extended the period to 31st October next. He also made it clear that the subsidy arrangements were operating so smoothly as not to require modification at this stage. It was further demonstrated that the price situation justified continued assistance. In fact, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) 1694 recognised that fact when he stated that he was voting against the subsidy, not because he felt that the producers of beef were not entitled to relief, but for other reasons. Therefore, we are all agreed with the necessity for the continued relief of producers of beef, and I hope that we shall be able to show that the measures we are now introducing are the most suitable.
Perhaps a few words of review of the administration of the Act will be desired by the Committee. The number of certification centres approved at 30th June,1936, was 801, of which 519 were in England, 101 in Wales, 110 in Scotland and 71 in Northern Ireland. These are the liveweight centres. They occur in 742 towns. The deadweight centres were 36 in 27 towns. It is a very widespread piece of organisation and it has been carried through so smoothly as to call for no further review at this stage. It is inevitable that, in a new scheme of this nature covering some 800 centres throughout the United Kingdom involving decisions not merely on matters of fact, which are easy, but on matters of opinion, such as whether an animal has attained the necessary standard of fatness, a uniform standard of grading should be difficult to secure. That, of course, has been a matter of comment by agriculturists throughout the country—as to whether in fact the grading scheme is sufficiently uniform as between one centre and another.
The Cattle Committee directed their attention to securing uniformity as far as possible. For that purpose they appointed 28 part-time area supervisors and five full-time inspectors. The part-time area supervisors are livestock auctioneers nominated by their organisations; and here I would pay a tribute to the co-operation of the livestock auctioneers and the smoothness with which they have enabled us to operate this Measure. The five full-time inspectors are officers of wide experience of the meat trade, whose especial qualification is an ability to estimate killing-out standards of cattle. It is true to say that on the whole the graders have done their work with the approval of the agricultural community as a whole. It is also true that no undue expense has been incurred in remunerating them. Of course the local expenses of certification are not charged upon the Cattle Fund but are 1695 borne by the producers. The certifying officer (an auctioneer) is empowered to collect 1s. 4d. per animal, of which he retains 1s. for his expenses and pays 2d. per animal to each of the other two members of the certifying authority, that is to say to the butcher and the farmer. I do not think that the sum of 2d. per animal can be regarded as extravagant remuneration.
I do not think it is necessary to restate in detail the case for the present Measure. Some six days of Parliamentary time have been spent at one period or another in passing the original Act and the extensions. The hon. Member for Don Valley made some slightly satirical references to the extensions, but these extensions are necessary because of the intricate nature of the problem and the close way in which it is bound up with the necessity, first of all, for improving consumption in these islands, and, secondly, of throwing no burden upon international trade which would cause a falling off in our overseas trade. That was not an easy task. I make no apology whatever for the time which these negotiations have taken. I was astonished to see in one or two newspapers a complaint that the sums which had been expended by this House by way of subsidy would not be recovered by means of import duties on meat. I cannot suppose for a moment that that charge will be brought in this House by the hon. Member for Don Valley or by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander). In fact, it is very odd to see the quarters from which these charges have come. A demand by the "Manchester Guardian" that the duty shall be far higher than that proposed by the Government is one of the oddest proposals that this House has ever seen.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen any statement in any newspaper that I have said that the levy ought to be a high levy?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
No. The charge to which I have referred would not be repeated in this House, although ill-informed people seem to have made it in the country. I think it is worth while to review the general situation. I am asked for instance, whether this assistance is going to the producers or whether it is 1696 being intercepted by the middleman. It is clear from the course of prices that whatever may have been the case in the early months of the subsidy scheme, the subsidy is now passing entirely to the producers. The price of fat cattle was 38s. 1d. in August, 1934, that is the month before the operation of the subsidy, and it was 38s. 0½d. in the first week of July, 1936, that is after some two years of subsidy. The original fear that the subsidy was merely being secured by the middleman instead of inuring to the benefit of the producer is dispelled by that figure. The course of prices since the end of June has altered merely to the extent occasioned by the usual seasonal changes. Prices normally fall during the summer as grass-fed cattle begin to come in.
There are one or two general points which it may be desirable for me to review. The hon. Member for Don Valley criticised us on the last occasion when the extension proposal was before the House because of the delay by the Government in producing a long-term scheme. He said that the delay had upset the balance of agriculture. The long-term scheme having now been introduced, I hope we shall have the support of the hon. Member for Don Valley and his friends. The hon. Member suggested that the balance of agriculture would be disturbed I think the balance was disturbed before the announcement of policy was made two years ago. It was due to the fall in the price of cattle to uneconomic levels. The subsidy has tended to correct that balance, and the Government's measures have been justified. Another criticism of the hon. Member for Don Valley was that this levy on imported meat was a levy on lower priced meat, and that it would hit the poor. I have gone into that matter and it would he much more accurate to say that it would bear on the southern part of the island rather than on the northern, and the distressed areas which are mainly in the North. It is not true to say that a levy which bears more particularly on the southern part of the island is an unjust levy and that an injustice is done to the southern part of the island. Suppose that any interruption whatever took place in the supply of overseas imported meat, then the southern half of the island, London in particular, would demand, and rightly 1697 so, its due share of the supply of home beef. The maintenance of a supply of home-produced meat in these islands is of as much importance to London and the Home counties as to any other part of these islands, and the fact that they rely at present to a greater extent than the rest of the country on imported meat is no argument for allowing the home meat either to be forced out of existence or to be raised to a higher price in order to keep prices of imported meat low.
It has been suggested that marketing schemes should be introduced before any long-term policy is brought into existence, or as an integral part of a longterm policy. The connection between the organisation of marketing and the import situation does not require any emphasis. The first thing necessary is to have an industry of fat stock production in existence. The organisation of the industry must have the co-operation of, and if possible must be initiated by, those within the industry itself. Until farmers see some prospect of permanence in their industry they will be disinclined to go in for any measures of long-term organisation, but, given permanence, I am sure they will not be backward in initiating and co-operating in schemes of organisation. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. R. Acland) that in Scotland the organisation of marketing has gone a great deal further than in England. No one can say, however, that the Scottish fat stock industry is quite happy at the present time; no one can say that even with these great reforms there is no necessity for measures of assistance.
It has been said that the subsidy is a gift to farmers. The charge is made that lavish assistance is being made available for the agricultural industry, and it is added that in some way what is called a bounty is being heaped upon producers of fat stock. I wonder whether hon. Members who believe that statement follow the course of prices at all and realise how great the advantages to the consumers have been in the last two years, how surely the policy of the Government has advantaged the ordinary people of the country and how the supplies of meat have increased.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the Government are responsible for reducing the price of meat?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Certainly. No one suggests that they are not. Does any hon. Member deny that there has been a reduction in the price of meat?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
My memory is good enough for me to remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, standing at that Box and comparing imports of meat in 1931 with the imports of meat in 1930 and previous years, declared that it was a cardinal principle in Government policy to regulate imports so as to sustain prices and get them back to their original level.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Has the hon. Member forgotten nothing and learned nothing since 1930? Has he forgotten that we are now discussing a subsidy Act for meat? Who does he think gets the benefit of the subsidy for meat? The consumers. This is a consumers' subsidy. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but that is our contention and we shall prove it and maintain it. This is a Measure for the assistance of the consumer. I am glad to hear that cry opposite, because it explains the position of hon. Members. They would not suggest that the subsidy to the building industry was not a subsidy to the users of houses, who were continually pressing for more and more subsidies as a means of increasing the supply of cheap houses. Seeing that hon. Members deny my statement I shall blow them out of the water in two seconds. Since the subsidy was introduced the consumers of this country have been given £50,000,000 sterling. Does any hon. Member deny that? It has been given by the producers of meat in this country and overseas. During the two years since the cattle subsidy came into operation the fall in the prices of beef as compared with 1929 and 1930 prices has meant a total saving of more than £50,000,000 to the consumers in this country.
§ Mr. BARNES
What we should like to know is on which leg the right hon. Gentleman is going to rest. A moment ago he was proving that the producer was getting the benefit, and having made that argument he now proceeds to prove that the consumer is getting the benefit. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
My difficulty with hon. Members opposite is that I have to explain so many elementary things. I said, as every practical agriculturist knows, that unless that assistance had been given 1699 to home production of meat those low prices could not have continued. Does he deny that?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It will not take me long to shatter his case either. The whole of our case rests upon this: that the increase in home meat supplies which has taken place in recent years has, as again every practical agriculturist knows, begun to fall off. The number of young animals shown in the 1935 4th June returns, the importance of which the hon. Member for Don Valley well knows, shows a decline; therefore, unless assistance had been given, and unless that assistance be increased, as it is going to be increased by the Government, the supply of home produced meat could not have been kept up. The consumer has exacted such contributions from the producer as very nearly to force the producer out of business. That is common ground with everybody. I was about to give the amount of those exactions. Those exactions come to more than £50,000,000; the exaction in the case of home produced meat alone is £23,000,000. Does the hon. Member deny any of those figures?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The fact that the price of beef has gone down to uneconomic levels is shown by the fact that the production of beef is beginning to fall off. The retail prices of beef have been so low that consumers have in fact enjoyed very great advantages. Those are deductions which I do not think the hon. Member or anybody else will be able to deny.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
Does not the right hon. Gentleman attribute any of this fall to the fact that the world prices have fallen? The subsidy, as a matter of fact, has done very little.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Of course the fall is due to the fact that world prices have fallen. The ignorance of hon. Members opposite is shared by many prominent economists —[Interruption]—including, I agree, ex-Ministers of State. The fact that world prices have fallen and that the cost of living has come down in this country is due to the policy of the Government in allowing the cheap world 1700 supplies to come free to the consumer in this country. Of course everybody knows that to be true.
The catastrophic fall in prices took place in 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932, and the Government's policy was not introduced until 1932 and 1933, and the rise has come since then.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am always pleased to be interrupted by the hon. Member, because he honestly applies his mind to the subject, unlike some other hon. Members who merely apply the party whip to the subject. I hope to be able to prove to the hon. Member that there is nothing in what he has said which is in any way inconsistent with the case I am advancing. The position is this: There was a great fall in world prices and that great fall would certainly have extinguished producers in this country unless remedial measures had been taken. The remedial measures took the form of a very large subsidy which has allowed the producer of beef in this country to continue in production while allowing the benefit of cheap beef to get through to the consumer. That cheap meat was not automatic is shown by the fact that in the majority of countries throughout the world these cheap supplies have not been allowed to get through to the consumer, and prices there have been maintained far above world prices and the prices on the British market. This is the very grammar of the international situation, and I shall be astonished to hear any hon. or right hon. Member attempt to disprove any of those facts from inside the House. I am sure the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) will not attempt to disprove them.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The right hon. Member is going to try to disprove the multiplication table in due course, and we shall all listen with great delight at his attempts to do so.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
We shall handle the division as we handled the election, so as to get a satisfactory majority, and we shall have no difficulty in proving our 1701 case. I shall be interested in the course of the argument in the rest of the Debate. Our case is perfectly clear and definite, that in this country, and almost alone in this country, the supplies of low priced foodstuffs from the world market have been allowed to inure to the benefit of consumers in this country by means of Government policy. Furthermore, we say that if the great fall in the price of the home produced article has to be borne by the home producer alone, then the home producer will go out of business, home agriculture will come very largely to a standstill, and eventually the price of foodstuffs will rise so that the consumer will not even get the advantage of this fall in prices. The assistance which is now being given is only a very small fraction of the benefit which the home consumer has got from the fall in prices. We say, furthermore, that the assistance which is given will need to be increased in later years, so as to obviate what is now taking place, a diminution in the supplies of home produced meat. That is the case we make, and I do not think that case can be shaken. I shall await with great interest to see whether hon. Members succeed in doing so in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
On a point of Order. The Measure we are now discussing is admittedly a part of the general policy which the Minister announced a few days ago, and I should like to ask whether we are to be permitted to discuss that wider policy or, if not, how closely are we to be confined to the precise terms of the Motion?
I think it is quite obvious that one of the reasons for the introduction of this particular Motion is to prepare the way for the wider policy to be carried out, and, therefore, it must be to a large extent in Order to discuss the wider policy.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Hon. Members will understand, after listening to the Minister's speech, why the National Government won the last Election. His speech to-day was on similar lines to the speeches that succeeded in 1935 and 1931. For quite a long time during his speech to-day I found it extremely difficult to follow him. First he claimed that the 1702 Government had been responsible for reducing the cost of living tremendously. If Governments are to be judged by the fall in the price of certain commodities during their term of office, then the Labour Government was the best Government that this country has ever had, though the right hon. Gentleman would not subscribe to that view. We recognise that during the past six or seven years there has been a change in the price level, but if the right hon. Gentleman got away with the speech which he made last Wednesday night he cannot expect to do that sort of thing every time. He made reference to my last observations on these cattle emergency proposals. I said about three weeks ago that this was the fifth time these emergency proposals had been continued, always for a purely temporary period. In July, 1934, we extended the period of subsidy till March, 1935. In July, 1935, we extended it to June, 1936. In July, 1936, we extended it to July, 1937. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us whether these annual July nine-month subsidy periods are chosen expressly for the purpose of enabling the livestock producer to get on with the good work during the summer months, knowing that the Government are behind him. I cannot help feeling that, despite the delicacy and difficulty of the negotiations, there is some definite political significance in these July nine-monthly emergency proposals.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that no hon. Member sitting on these benches has contenanced the levy proposal to which he referred. We have said that if the English producer of high quality meat is unable to secure an economic price through the butchers' shops it is not the duty of this or any other Government to impose heavier burdens on the poorest section of the community so that the well-to-do section get their high quality meat at an uneconomic price. We have always stood there, and we shall be there when the right hon. Gentleman comes forward with his full-term policy. It is curious how the right hon. Gentleman's emergency proposals have a happy knack of becoming the permanent policy of this Government, and it was the same with the last Government, which was made up very largely of the same sort of Members. The great question of 1896 was purely a temporary proposal. There was another temporary 1703 proposal in 1923, and a permanent proposal in 1929, when the last vestige of rates on agricultural land and buildings went. The sugar subsidy of 1925 was a purely temporary Measure, but the right hon. Gentleman has adopted it as his own for a long-term period. The Wheat Act of 1932 was to be a five-year Act, but the right hon. Gentleman has already intimated that it is going on for ever.
On Wednesday last he boasted in this House that while the Labour Government were in office the fall in the number of workpeople, or in the output of wheat, had gone down by no less than 10 per cent., and that during the term of office of the National Government the output had increased by not less than 50 per cent. That is a really marvellous accomplishment on the part of the National Government. He went on to say that not only was that the case with wheat, but that during the term of office of the Labour Government bacon products went down by some 20 per cent. Since the National Government came into being in 1931 the production of bacon had gone up by 25 per cent. These things are strictly correct and undeniable. What the right hon. Gentleman did not tell the Committee was that the increased wheat output of 50 per cent. has cost the consumers in this country between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 per annum, and that the increase of output of bacon has cost the consumers of bacon about £8,000,000 per annum. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to suggest that that is a really marvellous accomplishment to which effect could only have been given by a National Government, he is stretching his imagination quite a long way. If the right hon. Gentleman would put £14,000,000 into the hands of 20 hon. Members in any part of the House, they could probably do a great deal more with coal, cotton, steel or any commodity produced in this country, having that money to start with. What could we not produce and what increase could we not get?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Because the Labour Government were in office for only a few months, and never had the power which the right hon. Gentleman has. They 1704 suffered from the other thing which the right hon. Gentleman has pleaded that he is suffering from, the collapse of world prices. The hon. Member must have known when he put the question what the answer was, quite as well as I can give it to him across the Floor of the Committee. The question of the increased wheat output—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I mentioned that only as an indication of the line which the Government always travel when they start emergency proposals. We have temporary beef subsidies now for the sixth time, and they are now to be continued until July next year. The permanent subsidy is to be £5,000,000 per annum. I recall that the right hon. Gentleman issued a document in 1935, in regard to the Government's long-term livestock policy. On page 5, in paragraph 19, the document declares:It must be understood that they have no intention either of continuing the subsidy indefinitely or of acquiescing in the ruin of the livestock industry.Already the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind. He has decided to have the subsidy indefinitely, and his long-term subsidy is temporarily increased from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 per annum, which is contrary to paragraph 19, which I have just read. I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman can argue that declaration out of existence, but I am looking at it as a plain, ordinary man, reading plain ordinary words in a common sense way. He has already declared that the subsidy is to be continued indefinitely, so we never quite know where he stands.
Those who watch Government policy are interested to know exactly where the Government stand in these matters. I do not want to imply that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), myself and two dozen others, were engaged in the negotiations, we should have made either a better or a worse show of it, but I suggest that the Government have turned their emergency and temporary policies into permanent direct or indirect subsidies, and have clothed them with the dignity of long-term policies calculated to help agriculture in this country.
1705 I am bound to confess the difficulty I have in opposing an extension of this subsidy of £3,900,000 per annum. If the right hon. Gentleman subsequently can justify a subsidy of £5,000,000 per annum, his job this afternoon is only two-thirds as difficult as it will be after the summer Recess. One finds it difficult to argue against this subsidy to-day, if there is to be justification for the long-term policy. I feel justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions, which will probably provoke another of those great orations from him, perhaps on Friday of this week, or, if not, after the summer Recess. He has never gone beyond this stage, when addressing the House upon the depression in the livestock industry. He has declared that the price in 1929 was (a), and that the price in 1935–36 was (b) and he is satisfied, by comparing those two prices, that there is a legitimate demand for a subsidy in one form or another to maintain beef production in this country. I would ask him, or the Parliamentary Secretary, a question to which either of them ought to be ready to reply: "What is a fair price for beef?"
Has the right hon. Gentleman invited anyone from the agricultural colleges, where they have demonstration farms, to give him some advice and guidance as to the really effective price for beef? I have listened to the Debates on cattle subsidies, but I never recall the right hon. Gentleman or the Parliamentary Secretary coming down to tin-tacks. The right hon. Gentleman said on one occasion last year that we had now got down to realities, but I have not yet noticed the realities. I repeat what I said. Despite what some of my hon. Friends might think, if it can be proved, upon the basis of ascertained fact, that the producers of beef as such are entitled to assistance, either directly or indirectly, we should not stand in the way of that assistance if, by withholding it, a calamity in the agricultural industry would result. Having gone so far we are entitled, on behalf of the consumers and on behalf of the producers of other commodities, to demand to know the exact basis upon which the right hon. Gentleman calculates a fair price. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the farmer who is producing wheat, on which he receives a considerable subsidy, sugar, upon which he receives also a considerable subsidy, 1706 and milk, upon which he is receiving an indirect subsidy, and who produces also some beef; what would be a fair price to that farmer?
Would the farmer receiving three different subsidies in respect of three different commodities, who sells beef more as a by-product than as a major part of his output, be entitled to the same subsidy as a farmer who produces practically nothing but livestock? The Committee is entitled to know. No hon. Member has yet been told, but it is high time, for the subsidy means that not less than £9,000,000 will have gone into this branch of the agricultural industry, although the right hon. Gentleman admits that we are just a halfpenny per cwt. worse off than when he started. I do not charge him with the responsibility for that, but I am pointing out that there is obviously not much improvement between the figures 38s. 1d. and 38s. 0½d. The right hon. Gentleman may argue that the Government have put a bottom into prices. I suggest that the beef branch of the industry has not materially improved since the subsidy commenced. We shall have given £9,000,000 in July of next year, and until and unless some really effective change takes place we shall be in July, 1937, where we were in 1934.
We are entitled to know something more about what is efficiency. The right hon. Gentleman makes no bones about his desire for efficiency. In the White Paper he says that the Government's policy must be safeguarding, with due regard to efficiency, the home industry. That is perfectly proper, but on page 5 of the same document, he tells us that the Government's policy is, among other things,to assure to the efficient home producer a reasonable return.The right hon. Gentleman stands up here and asks us, "Why worry about efficiency? It is the duty of the Government first of all to preserve the industry, and leave efficiency to look after itself later on." That may be good Tory politics, but I am not sure that it is good National politics, or that it is sound economics. I suggest that the Livestock Reorganisation Commission, which reported in 1934, has been pretty well ignored by the Department of Agriculture. Despite the fact that during the two years which have elapsed 1707 we have been giving a subsidy throughout the whole period, what did the Livestock Reorganisation Commission say? On the assumption that the benefit of the higher prices would not accrue to the producers without greater marketing efficiency, the commission outlined schemes for marketing reorganisation, and for the further provision of market intelligence.
They said that the faults of the existing system, excessive numbers of markets, auctioneers and dealers, the inefficient use of methods of sale, the lack of market intelligence and of knowledge of supplies of prices, the blind movements of stock in search of a reasonable market, the fluctuations in supplies and the credit problem, were common to both the fat and store trade. That is an extract from the Agricultural Register, on pages 140 and 141, summarising the recommendations of the Livestock Reorganisation Commission. When in 1935 we invited the right hon. Gentleman to demand from the beef producers a quid pro quo in the shape of organisation, the right hon. Gentleman used almost identical words with what he said to-day. On 26th June, 1935, referring to the Livestock Commission, he said:The scheme is before agriculturists, and they are examining it, but, clearly before they know where they stand as to that scheme, they will need to know where they stand with regard to the negotiations which are going on, and it would be unreasonable to ask them to come to a conclusion beforehand."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1935; col. 1170, Vol. 303.]It is unreasonable to ask beef producers to come to a decision with regard to marketing organisation and so forth until the Government's long-term policy is known, and they know that for all time and for ever they are going to receive an annual subsidy, either direct from the Treasury or through the collection of a levy.
The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, if I understand him aright, is that, as a result of the low prices, there was a danger that beef producers would go out of existence, that that would be a national calamity, and that therefore we must do something to put a bottom into the price; and a bottom was put into the price by means of an emergency subsidy. That subsidy has been con- 1708 tinued from time to time; it is to be further continued to-day, and £9,000,000 of Government funds are involved. I do not object to that as such if it can be justified, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is justified in declaring that it is unreasonable to ask the recipients of £9,000,000 of public funds to put their own industrial house in order. I do not think that that is an unfair proposition at all, and yet that is the Minister's point of view to-day, for he still declares that it would be unreasonable to ask the farmers to put their house in order until the long-term policy is known and is actually passed.
I asked the right hon. Gentleman, when he announced his long-term policy, under what authority did he apply regulations to imports of beef and that kind of thing. He quoted the Marketing Act of 1933. That is perfectly true, but when the right hon. Gentleman made that reply to me he justified every statement that we made in this House and in Committee when we said that, if someone whispered in Aberdeen that some marketing scheme might or not be thought of in Torquay, that would be justification for the right hon. Gentleman applying the weapon of regulation. He has been applying the weapon of regulation and restriction ever since the power was put into his hands, as the result of the Ottawa Agreement, to 10 per cent. of Argentine imports of chilled meat and 35 per cent. of their frozen meat. He has been applying regulation ever since, and he knows exactly what the imports are today and how they compare with what they were in 1931. We need not argue about that. But I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman is justified in using the weapon of regulation at all beyond the Ottawa Act unless and until the practical step or steps are taken with regard to a marketing scheme for livestock. He knows all about the question of market rings, about how the farmers are "diddled," how they are exploited mercilessly by these mercenaries who step in between them and the consumers.
We who speak from this Box or from these Benches do not want to to go out from this House that we are not as sympathetic with the farmer as the right hon. Gentleman himself, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot claim to be sym- 1709 pathetic with the farmers merely by giving them millions of pounds of other people's money unconditionally. Even the Tariff Advisory Committee, when they received an application from the steel producers in this country, told them, "We will do certain things on certain conditions, and we will give you a time limit." Not so the right hon. Gentleman. He says: "Give them the money, and never mind organisation. Let that remain for the remote future; do not worry about it." Is not that exactly the right hon. Gentleman's standpoint? We cannot go with him that far. We want proof of what is a fairly reasonable thing for agriculture, whether it be wheat, or meat, or milk, or bacon, or anything else. We shall be willing to concede to the farmer what we think he is entitled to, but we will prevent the sieve between the farmer and the landowner, so that Treasury funds do not filter through to that destination. We are unwilling, and I think quite rightly unwilling, to give to any branch of agriculture millions of pounds unconditionally, without its putting its own industrial house in order.
Then I think I am entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in 1936, he is still satisfied with what may or may not have been done in Leicester with regard to slaughtering. The Noble Lord who used to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture was the Chairman of the Slaughtering Committee, or whatever it may be termed, whose duty was to examine slaughtering methods in this country. Their recommendations have been available to hon. Members now for over 12 months. Last year the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied because someone decided to build a big slaughterhouse in Leicester, but that is not sufficient; it is necessary to go beyond that; when the committee tell us that there are 36,000 proprietor-manager butchers and about 16,000 slaughterhouses, there is room for great improvement. It does not matter whether the change takes place rapidly or less rapidly, so long as a change is taking place, but it ought to be taking place simultaneously with the assistance that has been or is being given by the Government to bolster up this side of the agricultural industry.
I shall have no hesitation in voting against the right hon. Gentleman to-day, 1710 and I can square my vote against the continuance of this subsidy unconditionally just as easily as the right hon. Gentleman can square his vote when he goes into an agricultural area. I know he is a very good friend of farmers, and anyone who knows anything about the political balance-sheet of farming knows that they are bound to recognise that the Minister is a very good friend of agriculture; but I am not so sure that the right hon. Gentleman is really, taking the long view, the best friend that agriculture could have. He made some statement in the course of his speech this afternoon about upsetting the balance of agriculture; but the National Governments between them have upset the balance of agriculture. When they gave between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 per annum for a commodity which forms an infinitesimal proportion of the value of the total output they started to unsettle the balance of agriculture. When they gave another subsidy or remission of £5,000,000 for an infinitesimal proportion of the output, again they tended to unbalance the industry. If they had given one-half or one-third of what they gave to sugar and wheat to livestock with marketing and slaughtering conditions attached, they would have stabilised the most important part of British agriculture. They have left livestock and beef to the last, and, therefore, they can be rightly charged with having unbalanced agriculture.
We know that this nine months' extension will be carried, and we know that the long-term policy, if the Government are still in existence, will be carried, but we shall still maintain that, where public funds go to any industry, they ought to go with definite, specific conditions, and it is because no specific conditions are attached, and because the Government have completely upset the balance of agriculture, that we are convinced that they are barking up the wrong tree.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
No one can complain of the merit of the skilful debating speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and, if I take some exception to his remarks a little later, perhaps he will forgive me. At the moment we have before us some very alarmist statements from Ministers about defence. The 1711 Secretary of State for War stated that conditions were as bad as they were in 1914, and only last week the First Lord of the Admiralty said that we were within six weeks' danger of starvation. These are alarmist statements, and, therefore, the hon. Member for Don Valley, must think, not only of questions of agriculture, but of the defence of the country—a matter of very deep importance to all of us, on whichever side of the House we sit. These warnings are really necessary or they are alarmist, but I cannot help thinking that the Government have every reason for endeavouring to increase the productivity of British agriculture, which really means increasing the defensive power of the country. We have an armaments drive to-day, and I suggest that it would be wise on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to have a food production drive. We have the material at hand.
I am sure that no Member would say that the cultivators of the land in this country are not as skilled as any cultivators in the world. They produce the finest crops; they produce the finest cattle. When the hon. Member opposite suggests that they should put their house in order, I say that they have done it pretty well, because British pedigree cattle go all over the world. We have some of the most skilled men in our agricultural labourers—some of the very best men. They cannot be replaced. In my judgment, the agricultural worker is one of the most skilled men in the whole country. I say that here, and I would say it in any industrial constituency. I would ask the Labour party, because, after all, at some time they will be responsible for the government of the country, to consider what has happened in the case of those absolutely irreplaceable men, the agricultural workers. In 1921, their number was 996,000; in 1935 it was 783,000. There has been a decrease of 20 per cent. I heard the hon. Member for Don Valley questioning the Minister to-day about wages and wages inspectors. If agriculture were in a profitable condition, there would be no need to ask questions about wages, for wages would naturally rise. If two masters are clamouring for one man, wages will rise. The very fact that agricultural labourers are drifting away into the towns shows that agriculture is not 1712 prosperous. Therefore, although I feel that we must be grateful to the Government for being the only Government that has taken any interest in agricultural matters—
In view of the fact that this Debate is on a Resolution introduced in order to give the Minister time to introduce his long-term policy, I pointed out earlier that a good deal of latitude would be allowed, but I must remind the Committee that we are not in Committee of Supply on Agriculture, but on a specific Motion.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I shall fall in with your very reasonable criticism of my remarks. I will take the question of the livestock industry, and here I must complain somewhat of the action of the Government. We have had, as was stated by the hon. Member for Don Valley, White Papers in 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935. There has been a long period of gestation, and from the point of view of agriculture I do not take the view of the hon. Member—I think that the Government are not going far enough in this question of agricultural production. What did my right hon. Friend announce the other day in his statement? That we are to have a regulated market. Then there is to be an Empire League Council. Then there is to be an International Meat Conference. Then there is to be a subsidy not exceeding £5,000,000. Are not these rather insignificant mice after such a long period of gestation? I have very little faith in Government regulation.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
The right hon. Gentleman says he has very little faith in Government regulation of imports. He seems to have great confidence in getting Government money.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I do not want Govrnment money. I want fair play for the industry, and we are as much entitled to demand it as the hon. Member is entitled to demand fair play for any other industry. I do not want doles. I resent them entirely. We are told over and over again that agriculture is having doles. I want only fair play, and agriculturists are not getting fair play. [An 1713 HON. MEMBER: "They are getting doles!"] That is not fair play. It is impossible, in my judgment, to forecast the supplies which will come into the country. I do not like regulation of imports. The White Paper published in March, 1935, stated that overseas producers were to be left free to regulate their exports to this market themselves. Now the Government are going to take a hand. I am sorry for it, because I do not think our Government can deal with this matter by regulation of imports. I am sorry that the Government policy of last year has been reversed. With regard to prices of livestock, the fall since 1925 has been calamitous. How can anyone expect, with expenses as high as they are and increasing, that the agriculturist can produce at the prices of to-day? The price of fat cattle in 1925 was £2 12s. 7d. a cwt. and it fell to 31s. 10d. last year. How can the agriculturist go on? How can he pay wages with such a calamitous fall as that? These are official figures. Suppose you ruin the producers and have to rely entirely upon foreign foodstuffs, what will be the prices that the oversea producer will charge if there is no competition from home products? We had that shown very clearly in Canada in 1929, when they did not hesitate to keep up the price of wheat. Even when it comes to Dominion preference, there is no sentiment in dollars and cents. They are out to get as much as they can, and so would all of us.
The hon. Member for Don Valley talked about marketing organisations. Marketing schemes cannot succeed until there is regulation of imports. The Milk Marketing Board is going on but it is not, and never can be, a success until imports are regulated. We have too foreign control. I am amazed that London Members do not look more closely into the supply of meat coming into Smithfield. That, again, largely is under foreign control. It is not only that oversea production is coming here, but foreign shippers are bringing it. The hon. Gentleman asked what is the cost of production. I think it wise that the Ministry should institute an inquiry into cost. The sale price is unreal. It is less than the cost price, and agriculturists are going out of the beef trade. I myself should like to find out the cost of production. I should be in favour of a tariff which would raise the price commensurate with the cost of the article. 1714 The hon. Gentleman said that the iron and steel industry had 33⅓ per cent. on condition that they reorganised themselves, but that went long ago. There is no question of the reorganisation of the iron and steel industry. Why cannot we have the same remedy for agriculture as we have for iron and steel? I understand that my right hon. Friend is going to admit Dominion products free, and that there is to be a duty of ¾d. on Argentine meat. Why are Dominion products to be admitted free? The Dominions tax our manufactures. It will not be a good advertisement for Imperial trade if you get the hostility of the agricultural interest.
I do not think anyone quite realises the competition that we have in cattle production. There are low wages in Argentina. I do not know what the wages are in Australia. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are higher than here!"] Perhaps the hon. Member will give us the information later. I know that Argentina, Australia and New Zealand have depreciated their currencies, and that gives them a considerable advantage. Is there any other industry which has to compete with low wages and depreciated currencies? Would the coal industry permit low wage coal to come into the country? We agriculturists, especially the meat producers, are asked to do all sorts of things. We may not tax Dominion meat, or we may not tax all imported meat with a preference to the Dominions. We have to provide food to feed the bodies of our people, and we have to provide tithes to save their souls. We had a Debate last week on malnutrition. One of the greatest imaginable advantages would be a supply of fresh home grown meat. We get any garbage that comes from abroad that is labelled "Food."
I ask the Government to reconsider this policy. It is inadequate to give a fair deal to agriculturists. I am sure there is no one more genuinely anxious to do justice to agriculture than my right hon. Friend. If there is one Minister in the Government who should have a full salary it is he. He is the hardest-worked Minister of the whole lot, and we owe him a deep debt of gratitude. I hope that his permanent policy will give us more than the present policy will produce. We accept all we can get, hut we do not think it is enough. If 1715 hon. Members opposite would go to agricultural constituencies they would find out exactly what is happening there. There is no industry that is so uncertain as agriculture. I came away from Devonshire this week-end, and there are hundreds of acres of very fine food for cattle absolutely spoilt because of the rain.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
No, rent does not spoil hay. The hon. Member must learn a little more about agriculture. One of the troubles we have is gentlemen who profess to teach us, but know nothing whatever about the industry. I regret that the Government are not giving us a more satisfactory policy. I believe if my right hon. Friend had had a free hand he would have done better. The policy of the Government does not and will not satisfy the agricultural industry, and I hope it may be remedied at no distant date.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. W. ROBERTS
We had a very interesting speech from the Minister, but I was wondering whether the farmers would regard it as a threat or a promise. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman explained in the first place the benefit that the subsidy was going to confer upon farmers, and explained, secondly, that the policy of the Government had succeeded in keeping down the price of beef. I could understand his saying that he had refrained from certain action which might have raised the price of beef and that therefore the consumer ought to be thankful to him, but how precisely a policy of quotas and subsidies is to keep the price of beef down, and how the positive action that the Government have taken had benefited the consumer, I did not altogether understand. He said, again, that a tariff would raise the price of beef all round and that a subsidy would not, but apart from that fact, and from having refrained from putting on a tariff, I cannot understand in what way the policy of the Government has benefited the consumer and how, in benefiting the consumer, it has also con- 1716 ferred these great advantages on the farmer. I think that it was not clear to other hon. Members in the Committee besides myself.
I want to examine for a few minutes—I do not think this is the opportunity for discussing the long-term policy of the Government—the situation as it is at the present time. Again, I did not understand the statement of the Minister when he gave the figures of 38s. 1d. and 38s. 0½d. as the comparative prices of beef. I find, basing my statements on the Agricultural Register issued by the Oxford Economic Research Institute that the price of beef to the farmer between 1929 and 1935 had fallen by 31 per cent. I believe, from my knowledge of agricultural conditions, that that is the trouble to-day. I have often heard or read speeches of the Minister in which he has pointed out that it is a question of wholesale prices to the farmer. According to my information, the fall of 31 per cent. in the price of beef included a fall of 8 per cent. last year. One's Protectionist friends always conclude that this sort of thing is due to some great increase in imports, and therefore I looked at the figures to find out if that were the case. In 1929–30 the total imports into this country were 12,866,000 cwts., and in 1935 they were 12,511,000 cwts. Imports had gone down in that period, as had also the price.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Imports from all sources of beef alone, not of other meat. They had gone down by 300,000 cwt. Home consumption has increased to some extent, but I do not think that that has been due to the encouraging effect of the subsidy, but largely to the by-product of milk, in other words, cow beef, which is a low grade beef and frequently compares in price with some of the lower qualities of imported beef. Consumption per head of the population has gone down. In 1926 consumption was 72 lbs. per head, and in 1935 it was 62.8 lbs. per head of the population, so that consumption has gone down practically 10 lbs. in nine years. That is a difficulty which the producer of beef nowadays has to face. It has partly been due, in the last few years, to lower purchasing power, especially in the north of England, where British beef is purchased, to an increase 1717 of unemployment compared with 1929, and also to a change in demand, the public not wanting to eat beef, and perhaps preferring mutton and other forms of meat.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Possibly some doctors, as the hon. Member suggests, recommend vegetables rather than beef.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
There has been a world fall in the prices of all commodities, and that makes it difficult to see how it affects beef directly, but the monetary cause has very definitely had its effect. When you have a more or less stabilised quantity of beef on the market and a serious fall in price and demand, the real central problem is one of marketing. That is the problem which the Minister has frankly said he does not propose to tackle at the present time, but to wait until suggestions have been put before him. Two years have been wasted. Some slight attempts were made to induce farmers to adopt a scheme which was not very successful, and the whole thing has now dropped. As long ago as 1933 the President of the Board of Trade gave this undertaking in connection with the control of imports from Ireland:Whereas it appears to the Board of Trade, after such consultation as aforesaid that all such steps as are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation by means of agricultural marketing schemes or schemes under the Act of the cattle industry in the United Kingdom are being taken, and that without this Order the effective organisation and development of the cattle industry in the United Kingdom under such schemes cannot be brought about or maintained?It would be interesting to know whether in 1933 all practicable steps were taken, because in 1936 there does not appear to be any vestige of such steps left either in organisation or on the Statute Book. The difference between the wholesale and retail price of beef has, if anything, widened. The retail price has fallen to some extent, but not commensurate with the fall in the wholesale price. I am not alleging that butchers or other middlemen are profiteering, though I believe that theirs is not an altogether depressed industry, but I am suggesting that, in the interests both of producers and consumers, the present system of marketing 1718 British beef is wholly inefficient and incapable of competing with the highly organised foreign and Dominion methods of supply. I do not believe that any system of protection, quotas or subsidies will be fully effective until a better system of marketing has been introduced and established in this country. The Minister also stated—and I could not follow his argument here—that there was clear evidence that the subsidy was going into the pockets of the farmer. There is a widespread feeling among farmers that that is not the case, that it is going in an increased margin to distributors, and that certainly a large part of it—and I speak with some knowledge being a landowner also—is going into the pockets of the landowners of this country. There is no question about that whatever. In my part of the country rents are returning to the pre-slump scale.
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that throughout Great Britain there is a tendency for rents to return to the pre-slump scale?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I can only speak of the part of Britain which I know, and I speak with definite authority when I say that the value of land has recovered very substantially and that rents are rising again.
§ Mr. ORR-EWING
I know the division somewhat slightly which the hon. Member has the honour to represent, and if my memory serves me right the production of beef in Cumberland has considerably declined. If there has been any increase in rents, it has certainly not been as a result of subsidising beef, but it may have been as a result of the milk policy.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
It is much too detailed and complicated a question to go into, but a large part of the agricultural industry maintains the landowner and enables the farmer to pay his rent. I would most certainly point out that, while Cumberland is not a very large beef-producing county, it used to be a very large store-producing county. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is sufficiently concerned with agriculture to know that that is a very important part of the beef industry, and that it is a part of the industry which feels that it has been very much neglected. I very much regret that, neither in the present continuation of the subsidy nor in the long-term policy, no direct assistance is to go 1719 to that part of the industry. The system of subsidies paid directly in cash to the farmer, there can be no question, enables the farmer—I am glad to find that it is the case—to pay his rent. There is no need to beat about the bush; it allows him to do that. If we had a more reasonable system of land tenure, I believe that assistance of this sort would go more directly to the farmer, and would not be absorbed by either marketing or other interests. It is exceedingly unfair that one part of that industry should be left without protection.
It has always been the belief and the contention of myself and my hon. and right hon. Friends who sit on this bench that protection could not be a scientific or a fair system, and that the weight of protection would depend upon the strength of the representations of any one particular industry. I do not believe that the beef producers of this country have had a fair share of the protection which has been meted out so lavishly by this Government. On those grounds I think that you can make a case that a subsidy is one way of meeting the fair and just demand of the producers of beef, but I am convinced that if that subsidy is handed out without any control as to methods and improvement of marketing, it will not be for the benefit of the producers in the end because some other interests will, as I have suggested, obtain the advantage. The only permanent basis of prosperity for any industry, whether under protection or not, is the efficiency with which it produces and distributes its commodities.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
I am not absolutely certain what line in voting the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) is going to take. I rather gather that he is going to vote against this Motion. I believe that he happens to be a member of a union to which I belong—certainly his father is—and it strikes me that if he votes against the farmers having this very necessary subsidy, some disciplinary action will have to be taken to deal with disaffection in the ranks of the union. He has not really suggested or given us any idea what he would do to save the immediate situation. He talks—and there is a lot of talk—about having a go at the distributor. That seems to be one 1720 of the main ideas at the present moment, because no one seems to be able to think of anything else. If you go for the distributor and do him in, all will be well. All I would ask is that, before we carry this idea much further, and before we lightly say that that is the solution, once again the Linlithgow Report should be studied, and perhaps a little more carefully. The Committee will see from that that the Linlithgow Report says quite specifically that although that is attractive as an idea it is not likely to solve all the ills of the farmers.
The question of marketing has been raised more than once to-day. From the producers' point of view there is no power for us to take over the distribution. We should be delighted to take over the co-operative societies and deal with the whole of the distribution, but at the present time this House has not granted us the power to do so. That is an enormous problem, but I can assure the Committee that so far as I can speak for my organisation we are fully prepared to play our part in any organisation which may be necessary, provided that we have some security of tenure. When we talk about livestock marketing, the producers of this country cannot but call to mind what has happened in regard to some of the other marketing schemes and the difficulties under which they have been placed under those schemes, and it is feasible to say that before we do put another part of our industry under any more bureaucratic institutions we want to know exactly where we are. Although hon. Members opposite may not think so, the farmers of this country are not very fond of bureaucracy, and we have to go a long way to persuade them that it is a good thing. However, we will play our part in trying to produce an efficient industry, or as efficient as we can make it, provided that we get some security.
As regards this particular Resolution, if it had been produced about a fortnight ago probably our course would have been a little bit different from that of to-day, because we should have still been in ignorance of the Government's long-term policy, but we should have welcomed it as a prelude to the inauguration of that long-term policy which we thought would have put the livestock industry back where it should be. The way we meet the position to-day is a little different because we know some of 1721 the terms of the Government's future policy, and we have to confess that we have some doubt whether that long-term policy will, in fact, give the new life which is so essential to the livestock industry, which is completely essential to the country as a whole. At the present time the livestock industry is a decaying industry. That sounds a horrible thing to say, but it has begun to decay, and some really new life must be put into it if that decay is to be stopped. I hope that on Friday we shall be able to hear that our fears are groundless, and that the Minister will be able to tell us that in fact his long-term policy will give that new life which is so essential.
To-day we have either to agree with or to reject this particular Motion. I do not think that there is anything else for the House to do but to accept it, although I join with the hon. Gentleman opposite in saying that I do not believe that it is sufficient at the present time. That may seem an ungrateful and ungracious way for me or for any of us on these benches to receive the Resolution. I know that hon. Members in all quarters of the House have come to the conclusion, which has been voiced on many occasions, that farmers as a whole are a truly ungrateful lot. I can well understand their point of view, and for this reason, that so far as most hon. Members are concerned all that they know is that they get some section or other of agriculture to consider and each section is getting some subsidy or some assistance, but the House of Commons never gets an opportunity of seeing agriculture as a whole. That is most unfortunate. If they saw the full picture of agriculture then probably they would have a different idea.
It has often been said to me: "You are getting all this money, £10,000,000, £20,000,000, £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. Is not that enough? Are you never going to be satisfied?" The answer so far as agriculture is concerned is "Not yet," and for the simple reason that the value of subsidies to an industry cannot be taken just on the amounts which are given. The only way you can be sure of the efficacy of subsidies is by answering the question, "Have they achieved all that they set out to do?" I submit that up to the present time they have not, and I do not think it is very difficult to see why. It is because no country can possibly for such a long period of years 1722 neglect any basic industry as agriculture has been neglected, by all parties in this House for so many years: denuded of capital, denuded of labour, denuded almost of enterprise—
The hon. and gallant Member is trying to present a picture of agriculture as a whole. This is not the suitable occasion on which to do that.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
I thank you for your Ruling, but I thought the question of subsidies as a whole was rather up for discussion. Certainly, the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) mentioned most of the subsidies, and I was trying to work out the real case for subsidies as such. Naturally, I bow to your decision. I agree with what has been said in regard to subsidies. The last thing on earth that agriculture wants is subsidies. We hate them. They are anathema to us. What we want is to have the opportunity to sell our goods at an economic price according to the standards of this country. We can compete with our goods if we lower our standards, if we get down to the Argentine standard or even if we adopt the Australian method. I think wages are higher in Australia, but if we were allowed to adopt the Australian method we should be delighted to carry out the Australian idea. They fix a very high internal price and export their goods at a very low price. If the House of Commons will allow farmers, as they do in Australia, to fix their prices to meet their needs, we shall be delighted to do that, and then probably we shall be able to increase our wages, but I do not think hon. Members opposite will give us those overriding powers.
I do not know whether I shall be in order in asking the Committee whether they will consider this subsidy in the light of present conditions. We do not know what is in front of us. It is going to be either peace or war. It is suggested that war may not be far away. If it is peace, then I submit that this subsidy will at least give us some hope of building up the agricultural industry and that that industry will be absolutely essential to the welfare of this country in a very short time. What the Committee thinks is going to happen when the building boom and the armaments boom 1723 is over, I do not know. Whether it is suggested that international trade will be so good that it can absorb our unemployed, and that economic nationalism will have stopped, I do not know, but I do not think that anybody would be rash enough to suggest that. Therefore, as I see the position we have to build up our agriculture, and we might well take note of what the Prime Minister said not long ago:As far as I can see, any idea that we can be the workshop of the world can no longer be held. It is untenable. Therefore, we have to devote our minds to a greater cultivation of the land than we have done for years past.I believe those words to be true, and it would be a most lamentable thing if at this juncture the Labour party carried their ideas about this subsidy, because it would give a setback to agriculture. I do not think they want to do that, or to see, so far as livestock is concerned, the decrease in our young stock, which is one of the most serious things that is going on. As the Minister said, the amount of our young stock is going down and down, because it does not pay to produce. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has said that some of the breeders there have begun to get a little bit better, but that is purely and simply because of the scarcity which has come along, and they are getting, as it were, famine prices. It is not what is wanted in this country—to solve the problems of the livestock industry by creating a shortage of stock. I have some Irish blood in me, and I believe it was once said of the Irish famine that it was a good thing to have the famine because it would solve the Irish problem by killing off, presumably, all my wretched countrymen. I am sure that that is not the way that this House would like to solve the livestock problem, by seeing the numbers go down to such a degree that the price factor would solve itself.
I believe that this subsidy is essential if we are to be prepared for the future and to provide for the future of those for whom we shall have to find employment in five or six years' time. If it is to be war, then I need not dwell long on that point, because the value of agriculture in such an eventuality is so obvious. It was stated the other day by one who has qualified to speak for the Government that at the present time 1724 agriculture is in a better position for immediate expansion than it was in 1914. That is an entirely wrong statement. It is not one to which any agriculturist would agree. Our ability to increase the supply of foodstuffs in time of war depends not on marketing boards or organisation so much as it does on the fertility of the soil. Any agriculturist will tell us that the fertility now within the soil is nothing like what it was in 1914; it is very much inferior, and there is good reason for that. The low prices agriculturists have received have been such that the consumers have not only been consuming agricultural produce at a cheap price but they have also been consuming the fertility of the soil, and you cannot eat your fertility and still have it. That is what has been happening. Somehow or other we have to get back more money and more profit into this industry.
It may be said that the Government are pouring out these subsidies, but I submit that agriculture can make out an extremely good case, because it has subsidised the consumers for an extremely long period of years by absolute direct subsidies. If the Committee would like to look at what happened in the industry during the years from 1925 to 1931 they would find that there was a complete capital loss of over £255,000,000—
I must remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman and other hon. Members that we are not in Committee of Supply. We are dealing solely with the cattle industry.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
All that I would ask is that the Committee will pass the Resolution and accept it as it is, in the hope that on Friday we shall have some better news for livestock producers.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) when he says that we have not many opportunities for looking at agriculture as a whole. The Minister has a happy way of coming down to the House on successive occasions either with a demand for the extension of a subsidy or for a further subsidy purely for temporary reasons. These subsidies, unfortunately, do tend to become part of a 1725 permanent policy, and it is important that we should have an opportunity of reviewing the position of agriculture as a whole, although I realise that to-night we are dealing with a specific subsidy for a specific problem. I want to call the attention of the Minister to the fact that there are some producers in this country who benefit very little indeed from some subsidies and do not benefit at all from others. It is extraordinarily difficult to work the matter out but I feel that certain sections only of the agricultural community benefit by the subsidy.
Take the part of the country in which I am interested. Nobody can say that that part has benefited at all from the wheat subsidy or from the sugar beet subsidy. It has got something out of milk, but very little. The industry there is entirely a cattle-raising industry. I think the Government ought to consider the situation of the cattle rearer. This policy is conceived entirely in the interests of the big men. The small man who undertakes the difficult task of rearing animals, bringing them up and disposing of them under the worst conditions, in many cases has hardly anything at all done for him.
I suggest that the small Welsh farmers whom I have in mind should be considered. They have suggested to the National Farmers' Union that they would like to get this industry regulated and controlled. They are prepared to undertake a marketing scheme, but the National Farmers' Union have not regarded the proposal with any great sympathy nor, I understand, has the Minister either. I think it is particularly hard. If the Welsh Farmers' Union are agreed amongst themselves upon a scheme that they would like to see introduced I do not see why it should be turned down. I do not want to impute wrong motives to the National Farmers' Union, but the information I have received from my friends is that their proposal has been turned down by the National Farmers' Union, who say that they have a scheme rather like the Welsh scheme but a little better, yet they have never shown it in outline to the Welsh farmers.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
The Welsh farmers have produced a scheme but the National Farmers' Union for England and Wales have to produce a very much wider scheme, and until we have some 1726 indication of the general policy of the Government it is not an easy thing to produce; it is not a simple matter to fit in one bit of a scheme. But the sympathy is there.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I admit the difficulty, and I think it is regrettable that something has not been done by the board or the National Farmers' Union to introduce a comprehensive scheme. These successive subsidies cannot continue in a country like Wales. Other industries have their claims. Here is an opportunity for the Minister not merely to have regard to the big rearer, but to the smaller man who finds life very difficult. If the right hon. Gentleman did something in addition to what he has suggested and made some provision for the rearer as well as the feeder, there would be something to justify the subsidy.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Sir MALCOLM BARCLAY-HARVEY
Like the right hon. Member for Southmolton (Mr. Lambert), I shall most certainly support the Motion, but I do so with a considerable amount of hesitation. I agree with him that it really does not go far enough. The subsidy was originally put on in 1934, because it was considered—the Minister said so—that the cattle industry was in such a bad state that it required some assistance. In July, 1934, when the subsidy was put on, the average price of cattle in my part of the world was 45s. 6d. per cwt. The last figure I have obtained is for the end of last week, and it is 41s. 6d. per cwt. During the winter when prices are higher the average price in 1934, before the subsidy, was 42s. 6d., this year it was 39s. 6d. It is fairly obvious that if 5s. is enough when summer prices are 45s. and winter prices 42s. 6d., it is not enough when summer prices are 41s. and winter prices round about 39s. We have had a plea from the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) for the small man. I sympathise with him. I am very sorry for the small man in my part of the country. He depends not only on producing store cattle but on producing other crops, among them oats, for which he is denied any assistance whatever. That is one reason why we should give better assistance to the cattle industry; in my part of the country we receive nothing else from the Government. Indeed, the representatives of the 1727 North-East of Scotland feel rather bitter about the way the cereal crop has been dealt with by the Government.
If any figures are wanted to prove the inadequacy of the present subsidy, I will give one or two which have been submitted by the North of Scotland College of Agriculture. I have the records of the results of bringing up cattle from the weaning stage to the sale. In the case of 16 home-bread cattle the loss amounted to £8 11s. 6d., that is including the subsidy. In the case of 32 Irish stores the loss, in spite of the subsidy, was £34 5s. 8d. In the case of 10 home-bred cattle the loss was £25 12s., and in the case of eight home-bred cattle the loss was £8. Obviously, the subsidy is not sufficient, because we are showing a loss. That may be of some interest to the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) who asked the Minister what he thought was a reasonable figure at which he ought to aim. The figure we are getting is not sufficient, and I think we should be given some figure which the right hon. Member thinks is reasonable, at which cattle should be produced. I am afraid that we should not agree when we got it. There has been some mention of the question of agricultural rents. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) that agricultural rents have been going up. That is entirely untrue so far as my part of the country is concerned. Rents have been falling, and are continuing to fall.
We really cannot go into the question of agricultural rents on this Motion. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) was entitled to say that part of the subsidy went towards rents, and any hon. Member is entitled to contradict it, but we cannot go into the whole question of agricultural rents.
§ Sir M. BARCLAY-HARVEY
I hope it will be possible on another occasion to deal with that matter. The question of agricultural wages has also been raised, and it is germane to the present discussion. They depend largely on the prices which farmers can get for their cattle. The Minister in an interesting speech to which I listened referred with some pride to the fact that agricultural wages had been stabilised. There again, 1728 in my part of the country that is not the fact. Looking at the figures for 1932 I find that the average wage in Aberdeenshire for a married cattle-man, including all perquisites, was 34s. 7d., and last year it was 31s. In Kincardineshire it was 36s. 4d. in 1932 and 25s. 9d. in 1935. It is true that this year there has been a slight increase, but it is not due to any improvement in the cattle situation. Cattle prices have been falling, and the truth is that farm servants are not prepared to go on working for the miserable pittance they have had during the last few years. One of the reasons why I am anxious to see better prices provided for cattle producers is to be able to give farm servants a reasonable wage, which they cannot get at the moment. We have nothing else to do it with but the cattle subsidy. We get nothing out of other subsidies, and we look to this cattle subsidy because we have nothing else with which to make up to the farm servants a reasonable standard of living. I submit that the present scheme is not sufficient to achieve that object, which I am certain is the object of hon. Members opposite as well.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Is the hon. Member advancing the argument that the Government should give more subsidy in order to pay the wages bill of Scottish farmers?
§ Sir M. BARCLAY-HARVEY
Unless we can get reasonable prices for cattle direct or through Government assistance we cannot pay a proper wage to Scottish farm servants. That is my point. It may be that I am a little ungracious in criticising a gift, but I should be doing less than my duty to my constituents if I did not do so. This is my last criticism. It is rather disappointing that on this occasion the Government are once again coming forward with a subsidy such as this. The Minister says that the scheme has worked well. No doubt it has, but during the last two years, when all these interim schemes have been produced, some comprehensive scheme might have been devised which would have encouraged the producer of the better quality of cattle. It is a great disappointment, because I think we have missed a great opportunity. We do not know what the Government's long-term policy is going to be. I hope it will do something, but I look upon the scheme with considerable suspicion. I am not at all 1729 satisfied that it will be sufficient for our requirements. If the Minister cannot alter this subsidy I hope that when the long-term policy is brought in it will provide proper remuneration for those people who are producing good class cattle rather than for those who are producing cow beef. One of the reasons why so many farmers have gone into milk, with so much cow beef as a result, is the fact that prices for fat cattle have been so low.
If there is to be a reduction in the production of cow beef in this country, a reasonable price must be given for good beef. Many people who ought never to have gone into the production of milk would then go back to the production of fat cattle. I speak for a district which has been very hard hit during the last few years and which has got very little, apart from the cattle subsidy, out of the things which the Government have done for agriculture. That district has just had the blow of being told that its one and only cereal will receive no assistance from the Government. I hope that when the Minister comes forward with a long-term policy he will do something to revive the agricultural industry as a whole, and particularly the cattle industry in the North East of Scotland. If something is not done to assist it, that fertile and magnificent part of the country will have to give up that industry.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I would like to differ to a certain extent from some of the hon. Members who have spoken this evening, and who have criticised the long-term policy as being inadequate. I must confess that on agricultural matters I am usually to be found on the side of the heretics, but this afternoon I suppose I am on the side of the Inquisition. At all events, I certainly welcome the statement made by the Minister on Wednesday last, because I think that it ends a period of great uncertainty in this industry, and brings a promise of some measure of profit to it. I differ from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in his reading of the long-term policy. His complaint seemed to be that these periodical subsidies have become a permanent policy. If that were the case, I would vote against such a long-term policy, but as far as I can see 1730 there is a very considerable difference between this temporary emergency subsidy which we are voting to-night and the long-term policy as foreshadowed by the Minister of Agriculture. To begin with, the subsidy is to be 1s. 3d. a live hundredweight higher; and it is to be coupled with a tariff of three farthings a pound on Argentine beef and a standardisation of imports at their present figure. I think that is an enormous improvement on the position as it is at present.
I only hope that the temporary subsidy which we are voting now, theoretically until the end of July of next year, will, in point of fact, be able to cease earlier and that the long-term policy foreshadowed by the Minister will be introduced at an earlier date. I was certainly beginning to wonder, like the hon. Member for Don Valley, whether the periodical repetition of these subsidies meant that the old French proverb that it is only the provisional which endures, was beginning to exercise an undue fascination on the Minister. I am happy to know that he is not going to continue the provisional subsidy which we are voting, but is going to introduce a permanent subsidy. To give a temporary subsidy is like throwing a lifebelt to a drowning man; but that will be inadequate unless the lifeboat of a more permanent policy is sent to him in time to save him from drowning. It is because I believe that the permanent policy foreshadowed by the Minister will prove a lifeboat to save the producer that I give the Minister My support to-day.
I know that as it is at present the subsidy is not enough for the cattle industry. Hon. Members opposite have frequently said that it is sufficient in the sense that it is a great burden on the Treasury. That is one of the greatest objections to it. It has always been a great grievance on the part of the Treasury that they have had to provide this large sum which at the same time was apparently not sufficient to maintain the industry in a profitable state. Every time this temporary subsidy comes up for extension there is another groan from the harassed taxpayer, and the heart of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like Pharoah's, is hardened, if that be possible. It is to put an end to that state of affairs and to end that prejudice in the public mind 1731 against the industry that we are to see the conclusion of these temporary extensions of the subsidy and the introduction of a permanent policy. I agree that it is better to have a, permanent subsidy on a set scale than to have these small extensions, but I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last, that if it were possible, it would be better for this money to be paid to the industry in a different form. I think it does attach a stigma to an industry, in the public's mind, if it has to be kept alive indefinitely by a subsidy pure and simple, and for that reason I was sorry that the Minister was not able to put forward a scheme of deficiency payments, as he had originally foreshadowed, in making his announcement of the long-term policy. However, one should not look a gift horse in the mouth, and I do not propose to do so.
The main point I wish to make is that at last a tariff on imported beef is promised in this long-term policy, and I believe that tariff is something which the majority of the people in the industry want. Like a rainbow, it has always been receding, with the Board of Trade in between, and we could not understand, as month after month of negotiations with the Argentine passed, why it was not possible to place a tariff on the imported article straight away. We wondered whether or not our market had suddenly ceased to be a vital necessity to the Argentine, and whether or not the Argentine had perhaps found some big new meat-eating population somewhere else in the world. We thought that perhaps the Italians had forsaken macaroni for beef or that Signor Mussolini might have suggested they should change their habits in that respect and had notified the Argentine accordingly. That was not the case, however; the Argentine continued to cram the mouths of Britain on Sundays with the roast beef of old Argentine.
One wondered whether by any chance the difficulty could lie nearer home and whether there might perhaps be some difference of opinion on this matter between the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade. We agricultural Members have always said to our constituents: "Our Minister is all right; his heart is in the right place." "But of what avail is a valiant heart" said my farmers in reply, "if it is always crossed in its advances?" Apparently 1732 it has taken the Minister two years to get agreement on this point and to place a definite tariff on the imported article. There were two points raised by the hon. Member for Don Valley upon which I would like to comment. In the first place, he challenged the Minister's statement that the subsidy that had been paid so far had benefited the consumers. He said that £9,000,000 of subsidy had been paid and that it had been a dead loss to the consumers. I think the Minister pointed out clearly that the fall in prices to the consumers had been £50,000,000, of which £23,000,000 represented the fall in the prices to the consumers of home-produced beef.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I think the hon. Member must have misunderstood me. I did not say that the £9,000,000 was a loss to the consumers. My only reference to that sum was that it was given unconditionally. I certainly did not say it was a loss to the consumers.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I thank the hon. Member for his explanation, but his remarks did imply that the consumers had not benefited by the payment of the subsidy. In point of fact it is clear that if the Government were paying a subsidy of £9,000,000, and the consumers benefited to the extent of a reduction in prices of £23,000,000, the country as a whole benefited by the balance between £9,000,000 and £23,000,000. The only person who did not benefit was the producer of beef, who was unable to make it pay. It prevented him from being completely ruined, but he was the only person who did not get any profit from the bargain. I was particularly glad to hear the Minister draw attention to the improvement that he hopes to see in the grading of cattle. I agree with him that very painstaking work has been done by the graders up to the present, but it seems to me that grading will be the pivotal point on which will depend the success or failure of the new subsidy. If we want the public to appreciate British beef, we must produce beef of a high standard quality. One of the complaints made against English beef is that it is not of an even standard of quality, whereas the Argentine is able to pump into this country week by week a uniform standard quality of chilled beef. I think that the graders locally have been in great difficulty during a time when the 1733 industry has been very depressed. When cattle are brought to them for grading, they naturally feel it is hard not to grade certain cattle belonging to Jack or John when in point of fact those cattle ought not really to be graded for the subsidy.
It would, I think, greatly strengthen the position of the graders in future if they were to be transferred to different parts of the country, and if, for instance, a grader from the North were sent to grade cattle in Lancashire and a Lancashire grader sent to Somersetshire, and so on. It would then be easier for the graders to reach an impartial decision as to the merits of the cattle coming up for grading. It is important that in grading a real measure of efficiency should be established. We are at present in the great difficulty that an enormous amount of cow beef has been coming on to the market as a result of the low level of prices for fat beef, and this has prejudiced the English consumer against English beef, because the quality of the beef has not been uniformly good. The Argentine only sends us its very best beef. There was a letter in the "Times" this morning in which it was stated that for every one bullock sent to England from the Argentine, five bullocks of an inferior type had to be consumed locally. On that assumption, the writer pointed out that even if English beef production were on the same lines as that of the Argentine, five-sixths of the production would be of second quality. Therefore, we have the very hard task before us of supplying a high class English beef, and I think that grading, if it can be introduced, will do an enormous amount to strengthen our position.
In conclusion, I would like to join with the hon. and gallant Member for Peters-field (Major Dorman-Smith) in saying that at a time such as this, when the threat of war is closing round our shores and menacing us with starvation, as it did once before, the Government are right in placing every inducement they can before the livestock industry to expand. Livestock represents 75 per cent. of the whole of our agricultural output, and until you have dealt with the livestock industry, you have only been nibbling at the fringes of the agricultural depression. I do not say that the long-term policy foreshadowed by the Minister will mean a great expansion in the livestock industry, but it will certainly restore the internal 1734 balance of agriculture. I am happy to say that in this respect the Norfolk Farmers' Union has taken a very favourable view of the long-term policy, and when the Minister gets credit from the Secretary of the Norfolk Farmers' Union, believe me he has earned it; Mr. J. F. Wright said that at long last it looks as though the beef farmers' turn is coming, even if only to a modest extent. For that reason, I welcome the statement of the Minister as sounding the tocsin of an advance in agricultural protection.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir R. W. SMITH
I am afraid I have not the same hopeful outlook as the hon. Member who has just spoken with regard to the beef situation. He told us that the permanent policy of the Government promised some measure of profit to the meat producers. It may be that in South-West Norfolk a subsidy of 6s. 3d. per cwt. is going to bring a profit to a large number of meat producers, but, if so, they must be more fortunate in Norfolk than we are in North-East Scotland. This is a matter of vital importance to the part of the country which I have the honour to represent. My hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey) has already raised the case of the Scottish farmers and I do not intend to deal further with the points made by him than to say that I thoroughly agree with him in regard to the operation of the subsidy in the past as affecting Scottish producers. The question of wages was also referred to, and I would like to emphasise the point that the wages of our farm workers have not gone up to anything like the same extent that wages in England have increased. I would also like to press the question which was put by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) as to what the Minister would regard as a reasonable or a remunerative price for the producer of fat stock. Until we have that figure we cannot view this question in the proper manner.
Several speakers have said that they intend to vote for this proposal because it is a case either of voting for the Resolution or against it. I suggest that there is a third alternative and that is for the Government to withdraw the Resolution and introduce another Resolution under which the emergency assistance to the industry would be increased. I think we are justified in making that claim. The Government, by their own long-term 1735 policy, as outlined by the Minister, admit that if adequate provision is to be made for the United Kingdom cattle industry the aggregate financial assistance now given to it must be increased. The Government have stated their desire to make adequate provision to the industry. They admit that the present 5s. subsidy is inadequate because they propose to raise it to 6s. 3d. My argument is that, on the Government's own showing, this inadequacy of assistance has gone on for some years now, certainly since 1934 and during all that time the livestock producers have been losing money. Yet here we have the Government proposing to extend that system for another nine months. Why for another nine months? Why should not the long-term policy be brought in immediately, when the present Argentine agreement comes to an end?
We are told that a new agreement is being made with the Argentine and that the present agreement will end on 7th November. The natural supposition is that the new agreement will begin as from 7th November and we understand that there is to be a levy on Argentine meat coming into this country. The Exchequer is to receive that amount. The Exchequer is at present giving 5s. per cwt., up to some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, and they propose to give in the future £5,000,000. I submit that as from the ending of the present Argentine agreement, instead of a temporary emergency measure continuing the 5s. per cwt., we should get the 6s. 3d. per cwt. I appeal to the Minister to consider that very reasonable request. We have been put off with these emergency measures time after time. I am not raising this point suddenly or taking the Minister unaware, because I raised it on the last occasion when the emergency regulations were extended and I would now press it very strongly and ask other hon. Members of the Committee to join me in pressing it very strongly on the Government.
As I say, the Government themselves admit the inadequacy of the present subsidy to meet the loss suffered by the farmers, and the farmers are entitled to get this relief at once. They have waited for it long enough, and if they are impatient they are not to be blamed, because to them it is a matter of life and death. The farmers in my part of the country have already been turned 1736 down on the question of assistance for oats. In a reply given by the Secretary of State for Scotland we were told that the farmers in the North-East of Scotland, who do not receive any advantage from the wheat or sugar beet subsidies, and who have not a single commodity which is receiving a direct subsidy at the present time, except meat, are expected to make up their losses on oats out of what they are to get in respect of meat. The Government at the present time are giving them a meat subsidy which is admitted to be inadequate, but they are asked to carry on for another nine months with an inadequate subsidy on meat, losing all the time on their oats, but unable to make up that loss on their meat.
It is hard for people like them who produce a very high quality of meat to make anything out of it even with assistance and under the Government's full scheme it will still be a very serious matter for them. They will have to charge a larger amount for their meat in order to make up for the loss on their oats and naturally when they come to compete in the market, that fact must tell against them and the cheaper Argentine meat will probably be bought in preference to their superior product. In asking the Government to bring in this assistance of £5,000,000 or its equivalent at once or at the end of November, we are not asking for anything unreasonable. We are asking for something which, on the Government's own showing, is requisite for the industry.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not take the desperate view of the Government's proposal which was taken by my colleagues in the representation of Aberdeenshire, but I also wish to emphasise the serious position of agriculture in the north-east of Scotland. I was amused and interested by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). I fully approve of his appeal for a great food production drive in this country. He said that it would be impossible for the agricultural industry to get any method into its system of marketing or indeed any long-term policy at all, without adequate protection, but a few minutes later he said that he was strongly opposed to Government interference of any kind and particularly to protection. I do not know, therefore, how 1737 he expects his own particular agricultural policy to be made effective.
If I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's policy, I am bound to say that I should feel a little happier about this subsidy if I could see any sort of general governing principle, or method, or indeed sanity, underlying the present agricultural policy of the Government. If we take the general position of subsidies at the present time—and this is the latest instalment of the policy of subsidies—we find we are reaching a state of things which does not bear inspection. There is, to my mind, no clear principle underlying the granting of subsidies to agriculture at the present time. Why do the Government take a particular product at a particular moment and subsidise it up to a particular amount? We have had first the beet sugar subsidy. I am not going into that question now because it would be out of order to do so. Then we had the wheat subsidy. I mention these two commodities in passing. They are commodities in which there has been a world glut for several years past and we subsidised them. Then somewhat late in the day we turn to the commodity upon which agriculture primarily depends and we subsidise it as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said, in a completely haphazard and unthought-out fashion. About every nine months or so the Government throw a Bill at the House of Commons and issue a sort of S.O.S., asking us to put out a life-line to the beef-producing industry of this country. They tell us, "The position is desperate and we must help these chaps over their difficulty at once, but we intend to produce a long-term policy in due course." Now the long-term policy has been produced, and while I do not regard the amount involved as being so small, it seems to me that the method proposed leaves a good deal to be desired.
Hon. Members have spoken about the cost of production of livestock, and that is a vital factor in the granting of a subsidy; but surely they see that the cost of production of beef in existing conditions must vary in different parts of the country. I think it will be admitted that in our part of the country we produce probably the best class of beef in this country. It is the centre of the breeding of Aberdeen Angus cattle and it produces nothing or should pro-1738 duce nothing but prime fat cattle. It is not a country made for cow production or dairy farming. Compare the position of the farmer in North-East Scotland who ought to be producing the best beef and only the best beef, with the position of a farmer in the East or Midlands of England who is already getting the advantages of the wheat subsidy, the sugar beet subsidy and the milk subsidy. The farmers in North-East Scotland cannot produce any one of those three commodities. The Government last week turned down the suggestion that there should be some kind of deficiency payment on the only cereal crop which they can grow, namely, oats. Therefore, our farmers in future, as far as cereals are concerned, will be confined to a crop for which they cannot hope to get anything like the cost of production. In other words, they must incur severe losses on the only white crop they can grow year after year. Is that not bound to make a tremendous difference to the cost of production of the best beef?
I appeal to the Minister once more to get this subsidy on to a sane basis instead of allowing it to continue on the present completely haphazard basis. There is only one way of dealing with the cereals problem. If you are to subsidise cereals, then you should treat the whole lot together. Thus you would put all your beef producers in the same position and you would be able to estimate, far more accurately, the approximate cost of production of beef all over the country and produce a beef subsidy which will apply fairly to all producers. As things are, I agree with my colleagues who have spoken that the system is unfair to the farmers in Aberdeen and that those farmers ought to be given an extra subsidy for producing the best beef instead of the same subsidy as that given to farmers—who are already getting all the other subsidies I have mentioned—for producing cow beef which nobody wants us to produce.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
My answer is that the farmer who produces cow beef in the Midlands and the East of England in such quantities is able to do so because of the subsidies which he is getting upon 1739 wheat, and milk and sugar beet. That enables them to put the cow beef on the market at almost any price because he is already making a profit upon all these other products.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
My right hon. Friend knows that milk is not produced in any large quantity in the North-East of Scotland. It is not a country suited to the product of liquid milk or the maintenance of dairy herds. It is primarily suited to, and should, in my judgment, be confined to the production of the best fat cattle. Why should it be turned over to the production of dairy herds for which it is unfitted? Why should not the Minister concentrate on getting from a particular part of the country the agricultural product which that part of the country is best fitted to produce, instead of subsidising farmers to produce what they ought not to produce in order to try to get a subsidy, and thereby creating a glut? It is part of the same fundamental problem, and my right hon. Friend cannot stand up in this House and justify the method by which the Government give subsidies to agriculture at the present time. I am not blaming my right hon. Friend for the whole thing. He was not responsible for the beet subsidy, and he was not entirely responsible for the wheat subsidy, but these subsidies have grown up in the last 10 years in an entirely haphazard way, and it is time the Government reviewed the position as a whole and brought before this House a long-time agricultural policy, not only to cover beef, but to cover the whole field of agriculture and of agricultural produce in this country.
There is one specific question which I would like to put to the Parliamentary Secretary and that is with regard to this international conference. In announcing the policy, the Minister said it was the Government's desire at the earliest possible date that the responsibility for securing stable market conditions should be assumed by producers in the various countries concerned and exercised in the light of joint discussion of the problems involved, and with this object in view an international meat conference would be set up, composed of representatives of 1740 this country and also of those countries supplying substantial quantities of meat to this market. Could he tell us something about the powers of this international conference? Will they control the exports of meat to this country, and to what extent will they be able to control the prices of meat sold in this country? I think this House will be reluctant to see any large measure of control, over prices at any rate, handed over to an international conference of this kind.
In conclusion, I come to one last point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Don Valley, and I am bound to say that with most of what he said I am in entire agreement. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has tackled production very well in the last two or three years and has established some sort of control over production, but he has not yet touched even the fringe of what many of us at any rate believe to be a far more vital, though much more difficult, problem, the problem of distribution. One of the great criticisms of this scheme—and it is a criticism which is voiced on the Labour side and accounts to some extent for the hostility which exists between the urban masses and agriculture, and which, in my opinion, should not exist—is that they have the feeling that the policy of the Minister of Agriculture is to restrict production and raise prices in the midst of poverty. I believe that is the root of the problem, and it is not a side of the question which has been resolutely tackled by my right hon. Friend. I quite agree that it cannot be solved all in a moment, but I want to know from my right hon. Friend why it is that he should treat references in this House to the organisation of marketing almost as a personal affront. Why is it that when an hon. Member asks him to take steps to see that the beef industry is properly organised on the marketing side, he rises at that Box, bangs it, and says, "Certainly not"?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
My hon. Friend will remember the question he asked me, whether I would impose a scheme under the Act of 1933. I have repeatedly said to my hon. Friend that it is not within my power, nor is it desirable that it should be within my power, to impose a scheme under the Act of 1933. Nobody would come down more quickly and bang, not on the Box, but on his notes, with 1741 greater indignation than would my hon. Friend, if I attempted to do any such thing.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I have never suggested that my right hon. Friend should impose a scheme under the Act of 1933. Leave that out of it altogether. The right hon. Gentleman is coming down and asking for a subsidy of £5,000,000 a year for the livestock industry of this country, and I think hon. Members will not suspect me of being purely selfish if I say, as representing one of the leading meat-producing constituencies in this country, and taking all responsibility for what I say, when I say that unless the right hon. Gentleman is much more satisfied than he has reason to be to-day with the marketing of beef and the organisation of the marketing of beef in this country, he ought not to come down here and ask for so large a sum of money; and many of the cattle and beef producers, or the best of them, in our part of the world fully agree with that point of view. They know the control that Smithfield exercises over prices, they know exactly the inefficiency of agricultural marketing at the present time, they know the innumerable number of butchers and slaughter-houses that exist in this country, they know that the gap between the prices paid to them and the prices charged over the counter could be closed if agricultural reorganisation was taken in hand, and some of these innumerable middlemen—not the small butchers; we are not out against them, but some of the unnecessary middlemen—were swept out of the way.
I do not believe you can do it except by means of that recommendation which has been before my right hon. Friend for two or three years, namely, some sort of central slaughter-house system in this country, some sort of processing centre where the Government would be able to keep a watch upon the prices paid to the farmer for beef sent into the centre and the prices charged to the retailer who gets his beef from that centre. I am quite certain that this question of the reorganisation of the marketing of beef, this question which I claim to have studied for the past 12 years fairly closely, is one to which the right hon. Gentleman might direct his attention. He cannot claim that the marketing of beef in this country is efficient, and if he cannot claim that, I question very 1742 much whether he has a right to come down to this House and demand a large subsidy for producers; and I say that, bearing full responsibility as a Member representing a beef-producing constituency. Why do I say that? I say that because I want to see the consumption increased, and I want to see my own farmers getting the full benefit of the subsidy and that part of that should not go into the pockets of people who have little or nothing to do with agriculture.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has been, as he has said, for a long time closely interested in the better marketing of beef and has a better right, perhaps, than most of us to speak on that subject, because the constituency which he represents is in fact the leading producer of cattle in any part of the country. We all listened to the hon. Member with very great respect in that regard, but I also have studied the marketing of livestock, and indeed 10 years ago—the hon. Member said he had been studying this matter for 12 years—I was responsible, with some of my hon. Friends opposite, for producing recommendations very close to those which the hon. Member has mentioned here to-day. I cannot remember whether my hon. Friend at that time supported them or not, but I am glad he does to-day. I believe profoundly in the necessity for the better marketing of livestock, but I am very sceptical—the longer I examine it, the more sceptical I become—as to the effect of that better marketing in any measurable way upon prices. I do not really believe that if you had the best marketing system started now, it would have a very marked effect on prices for a good many years. I do not think so. Even though you had your central slaughter-houses and the other things which I regard as essential, it would take perhaps five years to get out of that system as much actual cash as this subsidy method is able to produce for farmers now.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not want to give the impression that I am not advocating a subsidy on beef as well as better marketing. I want both.
It is admitted in all parts of the Committee to-day, as it has been all the time, that the position of the livestock industry is bad and needs very close attention, and it is further admitted that the difficulty is the question of prices. Prices have fallen, and therefore prices must be restored. The whole problem is, how can we improve prices? There are two ways. One is by the imposition of a drastic tariff at the ports. That would raise prices considerably, of all kinds of meat, for the poor people as well as for the rich, and the farmers of this country would benefit accordingly. That is one way, and that way has not been accepted, for the reason, which I can very well appreciate, that the Government do not want to raise the price of Argentine and other meat to a great extent, because that is meat which is used mainly by poor people. So the Government have adopted the other method, of a subsidy. I agree with everyone who has condemned subsidies. No subsidy can possibly be made to work fairly. It is not within the range of subsidies to work other than unfairly, but the Government and Parliament have accepted that method.
This is the problem: If subsidy is your method, it is the responsibility of the Minister to see, first of all, that the subsidy works properly, and, secondly, that it works in the right places. Take the first point. Is this subsidy working properly? There have been complaints today, and very sound complaints, that the method of grading is unsatisfactory and that under the present system the producers of first-class quality beef are not being encouraged as they should be or recompensed as they are entitled to be. There is room there, I suggest, for the Minister to examine the matter afresh. But it is upon the second point that those of us who represent Scottish agricultural divisions feel most anxious. As well as ensuring that the subsidy machine works fairly, it is necessary for the Minister to see that its effects are spread as evenly as possible over the country. When I speak of subsidies, I am speaking of subsidies for all manner of agricultural products.
The Minister has applied a fairly even distribution in England. He recognised that there was a necessity for controlling the wheat industry—my hon.
1744 Friend here drew attention to the advisability of encouraging in any one district that which the district best produces, and that is quite right: the Minister has adopted that principle in England—he has encouraged wheat in England, he has encouraged sugar beet in England, he has encouraged milk in England. We ask him, as Scottish Members, to apply the same principle to Scotland. Our chief industry there is neither wheat, nor sugar beet, nor milk. It is beef. In England livestock represents 36 per cent. of the total agricultural produce. In Scotland the corresponding figure is 54 per cent. In Scotland beef alone represents 32 per cent. of our total production—nearly the same figure as the total livestock for England. That is what makes the difference in our country, and I am here to appeal to the Minister to apply to Scotland the principle of even distribution that he has applied to England and to take, as my hon. Friend has properly asked, not a narrow, one-product or one-district view, but the wide view. It is all wrong to produce one subsidy now and another subsidy to-morrow. It is time that we took into our sweep all the subsidies that we are giving to agriculture and produced, in fact, a balanced system of Government assistance.
As the Committee knows, some time ago I did my best to preserve for Scotland such small part as she had of the sugar-beet industry. It was not because Scotland was perfectly suited to the growing of sugar beet. My only desire was to secure for our poor country as much of this Government assistance as was going. I do not think that there was anything unreasonable or unnational about that, but I agree that sugar beet is not our product at all. If the Minister would regard Scotland, as it is, as the prime beef-producing part of these islands, taking the broad view of the benefit received by consumers of all parts of these islands, and would apply to Scotland such assistance as is necessary to preserve our special form of production, then, indeed, he would he doing something worth while that all of us could support.
Many hon. Members to-day have shown a certain amount of what I can only describe as ingratitude. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) rather chided the Minister for the delay in coming to an arrangement 1745 with the Argentine. If the hon. Gentleman will reflect a little, I think that he will be able to imagine some of the difficulties with which the Minister is faced. It is not only a matter of the Argentine selling its meat here. That country is a valuable market for our exports. From my own division we are sending goods to the Argentine and the Minister is bound in his negotiations to think of British exports. How many thousands of tons of coal and of steel do we export to the Argentine? It is not as easy as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk thinks to come to an arrangement that will secure a balanced return for producers of goods in this country. Therefore, I do not complain that the Minister has taken an inordinate time in coming to agreement with the Argentine. But having come to that agreement, and having got the Argentine to promise that they will pay what will be a considerable sum to assist our Exchequer, and thereby to assist our cattle industry, I beg the Minister to review his whole method of applying assistance to agriculture and, even at the cost of some delay, to come to the House with such a new plan as shall satisfy us that all parts of the country are being treated fairly, and that, indeed, the support, the assistance and the encouragement of this House shall be on a planned and balanced basis.
§ 6.49 p.m.
I am glad that the question of marketing, in which I am interested, has taken a prominent part in this discussion, and I want the Committee and the Minister to realise what is the position in which we find ourselves to-day. We find ourselves, I think, in the absolute certainty that nothing whatever on the lines of improving marketing will be done at any time within, say, the next 12 months. I would ask the Minister to consider the statements which he has made and the statements which have been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith). The Minister says, as far as I understand him, that he is not prepared to impose a marketing scheme, but that he will be willing to play his part in putting into operation any scheme which the industry may be prepared to bring forward. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield, however—I wish he were in 1746 the Committee now so that he could confirm the impression that I gathered from his speech—as representing the industry in a more special way than any Member of the Committee, tells us that the industry is prepared to play its part, but cannot be expected to bring forward a scheme. Are we not, then, left in the position that the Minister is waiting to back up the industry, and the industry is waiting to back up the Minister?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I understood the hon. and gallant Member to say that he was prepared to play his part as soon as he knew what the proposals were.
Are we to take it that the industry is proposing to introduce any scheme of its own? Looking through a publication of the National Farmers' Union recently, I found that they stressed the need for further subsidies and further production, but from start to finish I did not detect that, from the National Farmers' Union point of view, any reorganisation was necessary. It is all very well for the Minister, or the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), or others to say that nothing can be done along the lines of reorganisation until a subsidy becomes permanent, but is it not more certain that nothing will be done by the industry along the lines of reorganisation when the subsidy has become permanent? We are told that marketing alone cannot solve the problem, and that even if we had the best breeds of cattle and the most efficient marketing scheme that could be devised, a small subsidy might still have to be given. There was a time when we heard the cry, "No taxation without representation," and I feel that we are entitled, on behalf of consumers and taxpayers, to raise the somewhat similar cry, "No subsidy without efficiency."
I am not going to accuse the whole of the distributing trade with being profiteers and extortioners, but it is a fact that the producers are in the hands of the distributors. They are held, in both small and big markets, in a grip of iron. It is a fact that foreign meat is manufactured in factories which take advantage of every possible by-product which can be derived from the carcases of cattle. Our beef is produced in conditions which are very slightly different from those which would have been found at the time of William the Conqueror. 1747 We have, it is true, slaughter houses. At Islington there is a large slaughter house, and a big percentage of our beef is slaughtered in what we choose to call large slaughter houses. These large slaughter houses, however, are very little better than a conglomeration of minute butchers' slaughter houses such as might be found in any country town. One really might just as well get a collection of hand-loom weavers and put them to work in the same building and call it a cotton factory. Conditions are entirely other than those obtaining in foreign countries. Foreign countries have improved and are improving their breeds. Are we doing all that we could do on those lines? It has been held in many parts of the Committee to be an almost intolerable idea that a farmer should ever go out of production. Of course, it is an intolerable idea that the whole industry should go out of production, but the industry which we want to preserve is an industry which is producing the best, and our industry, with few exceptions in certain areas, such as that represented by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), is not producing the best to-day.
We must face that fact. Our breed of cattle, on the whole, is not the breed which the consumers require. Is nothing to be done to face that fact, and will the Minister tell us whether anything is to be done to make sure that it shall be really profitable to produce the best breeds and to produce them to the best state of development, and that it shall be unprofitable to produce the worst breeds and the breeds which the public require less? Why should public money be spent in order to make it possible to carry on production without improving the breeds? I hope that the subsidy will be given in a form which positively encourages the improvement of the breeds and which actively discourages the production of breeds which are not required. I hope the Minister will realise that the improvement of breeds, the factory production of meat, the real control of the distributive side of the industry by the producers, and the freeing of the producers from the grip of the distributors, are things which will not be tackled by the industry itself in its present temper. I may be wrong about that, but I hope the Minister will at least assure us that if these things are not tackled, or if the 1748 business of tackling them has not been begun, say, within six months by the industry itself, he will change his ground upon the question of imposing a scheme. If he finds that no scheme is forthcoming from the industry, will he do what is necessary to begin to remedy the difficulties from which the industry is suffering?
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
We are asked this afternoon to agree to the extension for a further short period of the subsidy for beef production. Before we come to a decision whether that is a reasonable request or not, we have to consider the difficulties with which the Minister of Agriculture is faced. It is well known that for a long time he has been endeavouring to hammer into shape a more permanent policy for dealing with beef production. He is faced with four different interests. He has to consider the interests of the consumer, the home producer, the Dominions producers and certain foreign producers. These interests are largely conflicting. They are, moreover, each in its own way of great importance.
The consumers' interest is of first-class importance, and we have to consider in what we are doing and in the further proposals which the Government have in mind how they may affect the price of one of the principal articles of food. The home producers' interest, too, is clearly of first-class importance. Livestock production must always form the principal part of our agricultural economy, regardless of what the Government may do, because it is independent of climatic conditions. It also tends on the whole to pay the best wages in agriculture, and, on the whole, it affords the best opportunities for the small farmer. Then the Dominions' interest and certain foreign interests are, in their way, of great importance to us, the Dominions' interest because of the development of the Empire and of Imperial trade, and foreign interests because of markets that are open to us in such countries as Argentine where there are considerable investments When we consider the importance and complexity of these various interests we cannot reasonably grudge the Minister this further short period for which he asks. But I am becoming apprehensive whether this further period is to be put to the best possible use. It is little more than a year since the Government issued a White Paper (Command No. 4828) 1749 described as "Imports of Meat into the United Kingdom. Statement of the views of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom." Towards the close of that White Paper the intentions of the Government were clearly set out in the following paragraph:The policy which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom desire to bring into operation as soon as they are in a position to do so is to assist the United Kingdom livestock industry, according to the needs of the market, from the proceeds of a levy on imports (with a preference to the Dominions), overseas producers being left free to regulate their exports to this market themselves.That was in March, 1935. Until the Minister made his statement on 6th July I had thought that still held the field. Apparently there has been a considerable weakening in regard to that policy. The Minister to-day was most careful to emphasise that the date to which we are asked to extend the subsidy has no special significance. Hon. Members know that that is the last day on which we are prevented by the Ottawa Agreements from putting a duty on meat imported from the Dominions. What the Minister meant by that was a further indication that he has no intention in his more permanent policy of putting an import duty on meat coming from the Dominions. I would urge the Minister to reconsider that in this further period for which he is asking. I can see no reason why the original proposal of a levy on all imports with a preference for Dominion producers should not be adhered to.
There is a further important side to that, and it is the question of cost. I understood from the proposals as outlined a year ago that the scheme was to be self-balancing; that we were to endeavour to get the best of both worlds to this extent, that we were to have the advantage of these great supplies of cheap meat from oversea and yet we were to protect our home producers; and that we were to accomplish these two things by a small levy on the great amount of imported meat, which was to be used to guarantee the price or in some other way to assist the home producer. Apparently, in the Government scheme as now outlined, that is not to be the case. There is to be a gap which the taxpayer is to be asked to fill. When the Measure is laid before this House there will be a 1750 good many hon. Members who will see reason to object to it. It will be a fatal flaw in the more permanent policy which the Minister is shortly to introduce if it is not to be a self-balancing policy. I hope the Minister will go back to his earlier proposal, that the levy will be widespread, and the proceeds used for the home producer—not, as is now proposed, to make some arbitrary payment out of the Exchequer and only partly to recoup that from our imports.
In agreeing to this Financial Resolution to-night, I hope we shall not be thought necessarily to agree with the proposals for the more permanent policy outlined by the Minister on 6th July. There are many of us who feel that these proposals are not as good as the proposals made in March, 1935, and which until recently we thought would form the permanent policy of the Government. I ask the Minister to keep his mind open to the idea that this question of the maintaining of beef production in this country, and at the same time of securing the advantage of cheap imports of beef from abroad, should be attained by the self-balancing method of a levy on the imported article providing the funds for the protection of the home article. We should secure the advantage of a healthy industry of beef production in time of peace, with the benefits in employment and so forth that would follow, and also the immense advantage of the existence of that industry in time of war.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. CLEMENT DAVIES
I am glad we have reached the last of the temporary requests of the Minister before we come to his permanent policy. I was surprised at the suggestion of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. R. Acland) that the farmer could not produce the best type of animal. I can assure him that the farmer in this country does produce the best type of animal, and that is why it is in such great demand all over the world. I suggest that he should look at his own division. He will probably find that they are producing there the best type that can be produced. As stock breeders we stand alone in the world.
§ Mr. DAVIES
And the average as well, because the average is all the time improving. The average to-day cannot be compared with the average of 30 or 40 years ago. The real trouble is, how can we stabilise and standardise prices? We shall be able to standardise quality very quickly afterwards. I want to approach this question from an angle rather different from that of many hon. Members. Hon. Members from Scotland were all the time emphasising the beef side, but we are general farmers, and I was glad to hear so many say that they would like to see a scheme of balanced farming, so that the farmer would not rush into sugar-beet because there was a subsidy, or into the production of milch cows because there was a scheme for milk.
The emphasis in dealing with beef should not be laid so much on beef production, as on cattle rearing. Undoubtedly, since the milk scheme was introduced and since this beef scheme has been brought in, cattle rearing has gone out of balance. At present most of the farmers are keeping their heifer calves but are slaughtering the bull calves as veal. The Minister will find that the number of young cattle two years old and under, and especially one year old and under, has gone down during the last two years. That is a serious matter. It means that the farmer is not rearing cattle, and that you will get a shortage of stores. We have brought this matter to the Minister's attention on several occasions, and his answer has been: "You cannot settle your differences among yourselves; the National Farmers' Union cannot make up its mind which is the better policy."
The suggestion made by those of us who are not beef producers but are cattle producers, was that the subsidy should be confined to cattle raised in this country; or, if that was not possible, that cattle imported from abroad should not get the benefit until they had been here at least six months. We suggested another alternative, that the cattle produced in this country should get the 5s. per cwt. but cattle from abroad should get only half. None of these suggestions has been accepted. The result is that so many farmers have gone into the milk market that a tremendous quantity of milk is being produced. Everyone now is making a fuss of his heifer calf, but is selling the 1752 bull calf as beef. The scheme will kill itself if it is pursued in this way. It does not matter how much subsidy you give to beef if the store cattle are so short or so dear that it will not pay the farmer to finish them off. I hope that when the long-term Measure comes it will be a balanced Measure dealing with agriculture in general.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The Government have not learned their lesson from what happened in regard to the Tithe Bill. This Resolution is being rushed through for the same reason as the Financial Resolution in connection with the Tithe Bill. The Government are adopting methods by which they will in every way cripple not only the rights of every Member of the House but the rights of the House as a whole. That is serious. This is a specialised subject, but in addition to all the special interests which have been expressed to-night there is another and a greater one, and that is the interest of the consumer, which seems to be something that may come in by accident somewhere, but in no other way. We know as consumers that when a subsidy is put on anything it increases the price of it. You are by this subsidy making poor people, who themselves cannot afford to buy home-grown stuff, but have to be content with chilled beef, contribute towards giving rich people cheap home-fed beef.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I think the hon. Member is getting beyond the scope of this Debate. We are not here creating a new subsidy. It is clearly a case of renewing an existing subsidy.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
This point was raised with the Chair at the outset of the Debate, and what the occupant of the Chair then said was that the purpose of this Money Resolution is to continue the present subsidy arrangement for a definite period in order that the Government may then introduce a long-term scheme. He thought, in the light of that position, it would be difficult to rule out of order any reference to the new scheme. I do not want to be in any way in conflict with the Chair, but I do not want my hon. Friend to be put in a different position from the rest of those who have spoken.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is no conflict between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. If the hon. Member had been discussing the new scheme I should not have intervened, but instead of going forward he is going too far back.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The way to get at the basis of anything is to go back, and I thought I was in order in going back. I have never been outside the fact that we are dealing with a subsidy. We have seen this afternoon what occurs under this system of subsidies. It is a race between two subsidies, the milk and the wheat subsidies. When we give a subsidy to milk, beef producers say, "I am going to raise milk," and when we give it to beef then milk producers say, "I shall stop raising milk, because I can get more from beef." The evil of crushing this Resolution through in the way we are doing is that it makes it difficult to get the Debate on what I may call sequence lines, because everything that relates to the subsidy on beef has a direct bearing on the subsidy given to milk. We have had the recipients of these subsidies fighting each other for a while, but now they are asking to come together in order that they may assist each other to get a little more. The whole basis of subsidies rests upon an evil, and that evil always comes out when we find the recipients of the subsidies asking for a little more.
Do the Government really think they will help the beef-producing industry in Scotland by giving this subsidy? They are begining at the wrong end. If they wish that Scottish beef should be brought in Scotland they should see that the people get wages which will allow them to buy it. Why is it that in towns like Glasgow and Edinburgh we see the meat with the thistle stamp on it left hanging in the shops. Because none of the wage-earners can buy that meat. If the poor people want meat all they can purchase is chilled meat, and one reason for that is that more money is being taken from them by indirect, if not by direct, taxation, in order to subsidise home-produced beef for the rich. The whole position from the Scottish point of view is most distressful, especially when we remember the numbers of people who, through the stress of times, have been forced to resort to vegetarianism. Every time the attempt is made to effect a certain purpose by levying taxation on particular 1754 foodstuffs it is followed by a diversion of public consumption to some other article. When the price of tinned peas was rising the public stopped buying them and bought something else. If the Minister had logic running through his head would he really think it necessary to give the famous Aberdeen beef a subsidy in order to help farmers? All he need do is to see that the working classes get better wages, and then they will buy the beef at a price which will give the farmer a sufficient return to enable him to carry on.
We have already seen the swindle of subsidies in the case of sugar beet. We have seen the same thing in the case of bacon, when we handed over £7,500,000 a year to the Danes for nothing. The Minister of Agriculture thought he was doing a good thing for the country, thought he was increasing trade. He was decreasing trade in the grocers' shops and decreasing it in the pig-rearing business. Now he thinks he is going to do something for meat. All he will do is to reduce the consumption of home-produced beef, because the subsidy will make it all the more impossible for the mass of the people to buy that beef. I hope that the Government, instead of going on with this subsidy policy, this policy of "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours," as between one trade and another, will take a common-sense view, and that all this swindling and other methods of robbing will be left to the robbers, and when they come to the country as robbers we shall know what to do with them.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) says that by giving these subsidies we are making it harder for consumers to buy beef. The bald fact, as explained to us by the Minister—I expect the hon. Member was not present when the Minister spoke—
§ Mr. TURTON
Since 1929, when the hon. Member had some share in the membership of the Government, prices of beef have fallen by £50,000,000. That means that the consumer has been getting his beef cheaper and that the farmer has year by year been producing it at a greater loss.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member is forgetting about wages. If he is going to discuss economics he must take the purchasing power in relation to markets.
§ Mr. TURTON
Wages in agriculture have risen, as the hon. Member knows. At the end of the Labour Government's term of office in 1931—fortunately for agriculture the end came then—wages had dropped and were to drop for the next year. Under the policy of the present Government wages have risen and continue to rise. Unfortunately there have been lower prices for beef, and to bolster up those lower prices we have this temporary subsidy. It is no good the hon. Member talking about a race in subsidies. The farmer cannot produce beef profitably to sell at 35s. or 38s. per live cwt., and, equally, he cannot make large profits out of milk at 1s. a gallon for liquid milk or, if it gets down to the pool price, 8¾d. per gallon. If you are being beggared you try to see where you will be least beggared. As to the position of consumers under this temporary subsidy there is nothing to be said, but as regards producers the subsidy has some drawbacks. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) made the most amazing speech I have ever heard in this House, a speech which was most unfair to producers and butchers and a gross injustice to the actual breeders of this country. That speech requires an answer. He first said there ought to be no subsidy without efficiency, but if you are producing at a loss how can you keep efficient? When you are losing £1 or £2 per head on your beasts how can you continue to produce the beef?
§ Mr. MacLAREN
The hon. Member is saying that producers are not realising prices which cover the cost of production, and if that is so does he not see how essential it is to advance arguments to show that they are producing the beef at an economic price?
§ Mr. TURT0N
I think I understand the point put by the hon. Member. One of his arguments would be that if a man 1756 is not producing at an economic level he should stop producing.
§ Mr. TURTON
Knowing the hon. Member I should expect that argument from him. The argument would be that we should turn men out of employment up and down the countryside in order to take chilled and frozen beef from the Argentine, and from every other conceivable country, so that consumers might get cheap beef, though the labourers in the countryside would starve. Knowing the hon. Member's land policy I quite understand that that would be a natural argument from him, but I want to get away from his single tax policy, which would mean decay for the countryside.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. The point he has been making is that the farmers cannot realise a sufficient price for the cattle they are producing. Before we discuss prices it is necessary to discuss the costs of production, and the hon. Member ought to tell the House what are the factors in the costs of production. That would enable the Committee to judge the influence of the various factors in the costs of production and why prices do not equal the costs of production. That is the point I am putting to the hon. Member. I may have fanciful notions in other directions, but I am trying to be logical on this point.
§ Mr. TURTON
The costs of production are made up of rent, wages and the costs of feeding stuffs. In most parts of the country the rent scale has gone down since the time when the Socialists came into power in 1929, feeding stuffs are at about the same level, and wages are slightly higher; but the price of beef has dropped from something like 50s. per cwt., in my constituency getting down to 30s. per cwt. last winter. For that reason, we say that common justice demands that we should be given a subsidy—nay, more than a subsidy, a proper price for our product. Knowing the logic of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), I should hardly think that he would deny that.
I was trying to deal, at the moment, not with his arguments but with the Liberal argument advanced by the hon. 1757 Member for Barnstaple, who said he wanted no subsidy without efficiency. But you must have some chance of making a profit before you can be efficient. If you were getting 48s. for good quality beef on the average, there would be no question at all about the efficiency of the product or the quality of the beef. The hon. Member made a monstrous attack upon butchers' shops when he said there had been hardly any improvement in them since the time of William the Conqueror. I understand that he is a practising lawyer; he ought to understand that the Public Health Acts require butchers' shops to be licensed, and secures that the animals are all properly, efficiently and cleanly killed. It is very wrong to throw such an aspersion on such a very large section of the community who are trying to carry out their obligations in regard to cleanliness and efficiency.
I felt even more deeply the last statement he made, when he said that we were not breeding the beef that the consumers required. I personally breed Shorthorn. One Scottish breeder has been paid 3,000 guineas for a bull to breed the beef that is coming into this country at later stage. How can the hon. Member say that our Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus breed are not producing the quality that is required? There is no country that does not have to come to England and ask for better blood for its agricultural strains.
§ Mr. TURTON
No, not only Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman will come to Yorkshire I can show him breeds as good as in Scotland. Scotland also has to come to Yorkshire, although we in Yorkshire do not talk so much as the Scottish. It is regrettable that there is to be a further delay of 12 months. The Government announced their long-term policy on 6th July, and we are enabling this temporary subsidy to be drawn until the end of July next year. I know it is, to a certain extent, merely a token extension, and that the Minister himself hopes that before that date his long-term policy will be in operation, but I can assure him that the delay is causing a great deal of disappointment. Livestock producers thought that some time this winter they 1758 would get a remunerative price for their product, through the operation of the Government's long-term policy.
Apart from their disappointment, I am the more concerned because, although the Minister has said that the present subsidy system is working smoothly, the one thing it is not doing is to encourage quality production in beef. The sooner that quality production is encouraged, the better it will be for agriculture. At the moment it is not economic to improve your beef production. You will lose far less money by producing poor quality beef. The temporary subsidy system does, in my view, enable beef to be passed by the graders acting perfectly impartially. I would contradict what was said by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) about the graders not acting impartially. My knowledge of grading centres in the North of England shows that the statement is quite untrue. Grading is entirely impartial.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I did not wish to give the impression that graders were discriminating between one breeder and another in grading for the subsidy, but simply that it is difficult for graders in a local area to reject certain cattle for subsidy when they know that the man is having a hard time through no fault of his own. We have to pay great attention to this subject of grading in the future if we are to produce the best quality beef in England.
§ Mr. TURTON
I am glad of the correction of the hon. Gentleman, if I said anything that he did not say. He did speak of the difficulty of passing cattle. In my county that does not occur. I have watched grading taking place, and the graders pass the best quality of cattle. There were many that I should have rejected if I had wanted to see good quality beef in this country. How are we to get good quality beef? The Minister talked of payment being adjusted so as to give encouragement for good quality production. Where is the money to come from for that quality production? From the £5,000,000? Or is there to be extra assistance in order to encourage good quality? Another question is, how are you to encourage good quality? Is it by dividing your cattle into two grades, having one at a higher level, say a 10s. per cwt. level, and the other at a 4s. per cwt, level? Or 1759 how is it to be done? Farmers in this country are turning from store raising, or beef production, to milk production. The bull calves that are going into beef are not so good, partly because the type of cattle which is being bred tends to become dairy cattle rather than for beef.
§ Mr. TURT0N
I agree with some of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. It is also partly because cattle, when they are young, do not get that assistance from their mothers that we, who specialise in beef production, like them to have; they are not being fed from the cow, and the milk is going into the milk factory, eventually, perhaps, becoming dried milk. There are parts of this country which are suitable for dairy production, and other parts which are suitable for beef production. The importance of the Minister's long-term policy is that we shall, I hope, get a readjustment so that all the farmers who have gone into milk production from beef will come back to beef production.
The Minister made one statement that filled me with a good deal of doubt, and a certain amount of dismay. He said he would make provision for the payment from the Exchequer of a subsidy to producers of fat cattle in the United Kingdom, which,while not stimulating an artificial expansion of the home industry, will continue for so long as and to the extent that the situation may require."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1936; col. 843, Vol. 314.]What does "not stimulating an artificial expansion of the home industry" mean? Is it going to stop farmers who have turned to milk production from going back to beef production? The Minister must face that question in his long-term policy for beef. You have to turn those milk producers back to beef production. When you do that, you will solve not only the problems of the beef industry but a good many of your problems in the milk industry. I hope that the Minister will give us an explanation of those words.
It is too early to say what the longterm policy of the Government will do for beef. People in the country believe that the Minister has attempted a sensible way of encouraging beef production without harming the consumer or 1760 the Exchequer. It is a fair method of regulation of imports, combined with a low duty and a subsidy. I hope that the duty will correspond fairly with the subsidy. The Minister has not told us, and he could not tell us, what the level of duty is, but I hope it is not so low as to make it necessary for the subsidy to be increased as the years go by. There has been very little opposition to the Minister's scheme. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) told us that he must vote against the temporary Financial Resolution to-night because, as I understand it, his party introduced the beet sugar subsidy in 1924, and the Government have continued it.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Gentleman, who is posted in all these fine points, be good enough to tell the truth about this matter? Is he not aware that the Beet Subsidy Bill was introduced by Lord Halifax, who was then Conservative Minister for Agriculture?
§ Mr. TURTON
I was not aware that I had made a mistake. If Lord Snowden did not introduce a Bill for the assistance of beet sugar, I naturally withdraw my remark, but my record of the history of the matter, and I think other hon. Members will bear me out, is that the first Socialist Government were one of the parties, if not the party, to give that assistance to beet sugar. I give them full marks for it, but I cannot understand, when the two Governments which the hon. Gentleman supported in 1924 and 1929 both voted for the beet sugar subsidy, why the hen. Gentleman should now say that because of the beet sugar subsidy he has to vote against the Financial Resolution for beef. That is not the kind of logic that I should expect from him.
The Liberal party, represented by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), said he had to vote against the Resolution because, under the temporary scheme, he had to put up the rents of his farm. I quite understand, if he has been tempted to commit an illegality because of the present temporary subsidy, that he may want that temptation to be withdrawn, but, as the Committee knows, under the Agricultural Holdings Act rents cannot be put up. If the hon. Member has put up his rents, may he be forgiven, and 1761 may he realise what the Act of Parliament is. I shall vote for the Financial Resolution, not because I am content with it, but because I realise that the Government's long-term policy will come soon and will help to make a more prosperous rural England.
§ 7.44 p.m.
I feel somewhat embarrassed at following the hon. Gentleman, because of the interruption from the Socialist benches made by a colleague who is a Scotsman. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said that Yorkshiremen did not speak so much as Scotsmen, but perhaps, upon more mature and careful reflection, he may reverse the hasty verdict upon those of us who come from Scotland. It is true that Scotsmen, when they have something concrete to say, say it, but the Committee will agree that Scotsmen think a great deal before they speak.
I have no wish to transgress, because I realise that the point we are discussing is a very narrow one, namely, whether the subsidy shall be continued or not; but, when the point was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), your predecessor in the Chair did say that it would be in order, in discussing this narrow point, to refer to the long-term or permanent beef policy which the Minister announced in the House a few days ago. I do not wish to detain the Committee, and, indeed, I have great reluctance in addressing the Committee at all, because I only wish I could support with much greater alacrity than I can at present the proposals of the Minister so far as they have a bearing upon a permanent beef policy for this country.
Already four or five speeches have been delivered by Members representing Scottish constituencies, including four Scottish rural constituencies; and three of those speeches were delivered by Members representing Aberdeenshire. That was quite right and proper, in view of the very high quality of the beef produced in that north-eastern county of Great Britain, which has been repeatedly referred to in the Debate. I do not know, Sir Dennis, whether you heard those 1762 speeches, but some of them went far beyond the question of a permanent beef policy, and even included attempts to discuss agricultural policy in all its varied aspects. None of those speeches received very favourably the proposals to which the Committee are asked to assent tonight, or the long-term policy so far as it has been already divulged by my right hon. Friend and those associated with him.
I do not wish to suggest for a moment that Scotland is ungrateful for what my right hon. Friend has already done with regard to agriculture, and I should not be in order in doing more than merely refer to it, but I do not think anyone will seriously dispute that beef is the crux of the whole position, not only in Great Britain as a whole, but more particularly in that part of it called Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) gave us some very illuminating figures, which have been quoted many times in this House before, showing how much greater is the proportion of production of livestock in Scotland than is the case in South Britain. I hope that hon. Members both on the Liberal and on the Labour benches will consider that very carefully before they cast a hasty vote this evening. We have been waiting for a permanent policy for beef for something approaching five years. Agriculturists all over the country hailed the advent of the National Government as giving the farming industry a greater chance than ever it had had before of getting something done. I have already referred to the fact that a great deal has been done, but the fact remains that the cardinal factor, namely, the beef side of the livestock industry still remains practically untouched.
I know I shall be told, in answer to that statement, that subsidies have been continually voted and prolonged for something like 24 months with regard to this most vital matter, but it has also been repeatedly stated by Members of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and especially by Members representing agricultural constituencies, that they have no love for subsidies or doles whatsoever. It has been repeatedly stated, ever since the ill-timed Ottawa Agreements were entered into, and the Argentine Agreement, which followed speedily upon the agreements entered into in Canada in September, 1932, that 1763 the Government aimed at bringing about a state of things with regard to agriculture generally, and beef in particular, whereby the home producer should have the first place in our own market, that preference should be given to the Empire—the Dominions and Colonies—and that the third place, if there were a third place, should be reserved for foreign countries, particularly in regard to beef from Argentina, which desired to have trading or commercial relationships with us.
So far as the long-term beef policy has been divulged to us, I do not think it fulfils statements such as these. It might be much more correctly summed up, I think, as a Dominion and Imperial preference policy, and that is why, no doubt, it was hailed with such delight in the Beaverbrook and Rothermere Press. But we have been repeatedly urging upon the Government, ever since the Debates which took place in October, 1932, that we did not wish for a policy such as this, but for one which would give our home agriculturists in very truth the first place in the home market, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend, when he comes to reflect, will not expect us to receive it with the hearty admiration with which we should have received a policy such as was enunciated by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) in his most interesting speech a few minutes ago.
Many hon. Members who have criticised these proposals have at the same time said, with the singular exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. Smith), that they saw no other way but to support the prolongation of this subsidy to-night. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen made a particularly interesting suggestion. He suggested that the Government might see fit to withdraw this Financial Resolution to-night and bring in one which, in November of the present year, would give the home producers the benefits of the policy which it is proposed should become permanent in July, 1937. That was a very interesting proposal, but I do not suppose that the Government will see fit even to consider it, must less to introduce it in the House before we adjourn for the Summer Recess; and I must say that, even if they did, I do not think they would be pursuing the best course, or one which I 1764 could possibly follow, because I am not satisfied that the long-term policy which has been adumbrated in the House, and which it is proposed should take effect in July, 1937, will meet the requirements of the home producer. Therefore, I see no other way but to support this policy to-night, and to urge upon the Minister and the Government as a whole the most careful reconsideration of their long-term policy with a view to seeing if they cannot produce a policy which will meet more nearly the requirements of the home producers of beef.
Hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have repeatedly gibed and sneered at the farming community, and have said that this was a policy of doles and subsidies, with no concern whatsoever for the consumers, and more particularly for the wage-earners. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) talked about wages. I hope I shall not be trespassing beyond the Rulings which have been given by the Chair if I say that the hon. Member approached this matter from the point of view of the artisans in large towns and industrial centres, who, as well as being wage-earners, were also purchasers and consumers of beef. I am fully prepared to admit that it is perfectly right to have proper concern for these large classes of people, but I must say that one is bound to have concern also for the men and women on the land, and, unless industry generally can be raised to an economic level and put upon a productive basis, there is no doubt whatsoever that the wages both of agriculturists and of industrial artisans will continue to decrease. Therefore, I hope very much that hon. Members on the Labour benches who think on the lines of the hon. Member for Springburn will reconsider their attitude on this point.
There is one other thing that I want to say before I sit down. 1 listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), who speaks on these matters with a life-long association with agriculture, and, therefore, with a great deal of weight. He received this proposal and those which, as we presume, will follow it, somewhat coldly. He said that he had no love for Governmental interference, a point which was also dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). The 1765 right hon. Gentleman went on to indicate that he would prefer a direct tariff with regard to agriculture, and especially with regard to beef. In February, 1932, a Division took place in the House with regard to removing beef from the free list. There were only 44 of us, all Conservatives, who went into the Lobby on that occasion with a view to securing that meat in general should be subject to the 10 per cent. ad valorem duty. Of course, we were heavily defeated. I think there were only five Members from Scotland, three of them representing industrial constituencies, who had the temerity to oppose the National Government so early in the last Parliament. I only mention that to show that throughout these years, ever since the astounding results of October, 1931, we have been attempting to put matters on a sound and lasting basis for the beef producers of this country, and, therefore, I very much hope that some long-term proposals of a very much more favourable character will be put before the House before we come finally to settle this great and important matter.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has repeatedly referred during the last four or five years to the necessity for placing our agriculture on a sound and lasting basis, and during the past few months he has returned to the charge and insisted that, in the overhauling and strengthening of our defence forces, the question of agriculture and meat production should be taken into the reckoning. The right hon. Gentleman always lays great stress upon Parliamentary criticism, and I hope that throughout the next few months we shall see his great energies devoted to impressing upon the Government the fact that the long-term proposals, so far as they have been announced, are inadequate and unlikely to solve the question of beef in the way in which it ought to be solved.
§ Mr. TURTON
May I be allowed to make a personal explanation? The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) challenged the accuracy of my statement that a Socialist Government introduced the beet sugar subsidy. On referring to the OFFICIAL REPORT, I find that On the 30th July, 1924, Lord Snowden—then Mr. Snowden—said: 1766The Government have accepted the policy of Exchequer assistance for the sugar beet industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; col. 2110, Vol. 176.]It is true that, owing to the General Election, Lord Snowden could not carry out that policy, and Lord Halifax introduced the Bill.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
It is true that Philip Snowden made a speech, but the Bill that commenced the beet subsidy was introduced by the Conservative Minister of Agriculture in 1925.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. BARNES
If the Minister is satisfied with this Debate, he is very easily pleased. I have listened to all the speeches that have been delivered and not one has fully supported the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. BARNES
I should have said that I missed two speeches, and I regret that one of them was the hon. Member's. But I am fortified in still holding that view owing to the dispute that developed between him and his colleague with regard to methods of grading and measures of that character. It is true that hon. Members opposite have all intimated their intention to accept this subsidy, but not one of them has expressed satisfaction either with the policy of the Government during the past two years or with the proposed long-term policy. I think the Minister should at least have satisfied the Committee that this £11,000,000 has been efficiently administered and disbursed. We have had no information beyond a general statement that the sum was justified as a stop-gap measure. We have had no information that it has been disbursed in a businesslike fashion. The Minister gave us no evidence that any tests are uniformly applied throughout the country or that the recipients of the money have had to accept any obligations in return for the grant. We have had no evidence that any steps have been taken to increase either the efficiency of the cattle industry or the quality of its production. I should like the Minister to address himself to these very legitimate questions and to state, yes or no, whether there has been a deterioration in quality and whether there has been a tendency to pass low-grade beasts 1767 through for the purpose of getting the subsidy.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to state whether there is any justification for discriminating between producers who dispose of their beasts on the open market and companies and organisations which produce their own cattle for their own sale, and therefore have a direct inducement in maintaining the quality of production. The whole purpose of the subsidy is to produce British beef and to obtain a market and a sale for it. But those organisations which have expended capital and improved their farming output are compelled to go through the roundabout and expensive method of providing intermediary machinery, which adds to the cost of the article to the ultimate consumer for the purpose of getting the subsidy. Can the Minister tell us whether it has raised the quality of production? Has it prevented a fall in beef prices? Has it prevented farmers from turning over to milk production? Is the cattle industry more prosperous as the result of this subsidy? Can he prove that there is more employment on the land as a result of the subsidy and is there more land in actual cultivation? These are the material points that the Committee should consider if we are to expend large sums of public money in this way.
With regard to the long-term policy, I understand clearly now that the Government proposal, as expressed in the Minister's statement on 6th July, is that this direct subsidy to cattle breeders, which falls upon the taxpayers, is to be replaced by a levy on imported frozen and chilled meat. The cattle breeders are to be guaranteed £5,000,000 a year and, if the levy does not reach that sum, the Treasury is to make up the difference. It is grotesque to describe that as a long-term policy. It is merely a more vicious form of subsidising the industry. It introduces a new principle into the taxation system of the country. Let us examine whether the treatment that we are according to agriculture is justified by results. As a measure of comparison, the annual assistance that Parliament is giving the agricultural industry, mainly by direct grants to the farmer-owner side of the industry, amounts to, roughly, £40,000,000 a year. In other words, a small group of farmers 1768 are getting a larger sum from the State in direct grant, without any conditions whatever, than the 620,000 persons who are receiving public assistance. That is an outrageous and monstrous situation and is absolutely indefensible from the standpoint of equity or the national wellbeing. The total amount of relief disbursed to those in receipt of public assistance, most of whom are heads of families, only amounts to £39,000,000 a year, yet Parliament calmly continues a policy which is disbursing £40,000,000 a year to a limited number of recipients without any obligations being imposed upon them, without any test as to their need or as to the desirability of this grant, and without any provision whatever that any part of this huge sum goes to the agricultural workers or in any way protects the consumers.
There must be something radically wrong with such a policy. We are confronted with a proposal to bury the subsidy of £11,000,000, in, roughly, three years, which is to come to an end in July, 1937. That is what is happening with regard to all these subsidies. They start first of all as payments from the Treasury, and then the Government cannot avoid the necessity of coming repeatedly before Parliament for a renewal of the subsidy, so the policy of public doles to well-to-do persons without any test continually comes under review and receives public attention. These subsidies create such a sense of scandal in the public mind that the Government's position becomes increasingly intolerabl and, after a period, the Government proceed to bury the subsidy by bringing in legislation to avoid repeated renewal.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
The hon. Member is making the claim that the public receive no benefit whatever from the subsidy. As a matter of fact, the public have received large quantities of food at less than the cost of production.
§ Mr. BARNES
I was not dealing with the question of public benefit, though I shall be delighted to deal with that later on. I was dealing with this problem from the angle of the public interest. I was endeavouring to prove that the policy upon which the Government have always originally commenced in regard to these matters, that is, the payment of a grant from the Exchequer, requires 1769 repeated renewal in this House. It becomes a public scandal. The policy of the Government, expressed in this instance in a long-term policy, is to bury it in some legislative act which makes it permanent so that public opinion cannot follow it. In this case Member after Member has referred to the fact that it is to be a levy on imports, and it is very difficult for the average citizen in this country to grasp what a levy on imports means. In this case it is a direct levy upon the British housewife. That is what the scheme amounts to. It is the transferring of a burden of £5,000,000 a year from the taxpayer to the British housewife. It does not even rest there. It is a transference to the poorest type of British housewife, and it is to that which I object.
I venture to suggest that there is not a Member in this House who eats frozen or chilled beef. Our incomes are sufficient to enable us to purchase English beef when we want that commodity, and here we are transferring a burden of £5,000,000 a year from the taxpayer by passing it on to a specific section of the trade—the frozen and chilled meat imported into this country ostensibly from foreign countries. The legitimate business question here is: Who is it in this country who purchases this frozen and chilled meat? That is the material question, and you will find that it is the poorest wage-earner and the poorest type of person who purchases frozen and chilled meat. Therefore, we are transferring this burden of £5,000,000 a year to the people least able to bear it. Although in the early days of petrol and motor taxation there were undertakings given that the sum raised from motor taxation would be used, in this case, for the public service of road development, in the last Budget we reversed that principle, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by hon. Members opposite, established the principle that there should be no earmarked taxation in this country for a specific service or a specific interest. We are familiar with taxes for revenue purposes and with tariffs for the purpose of reducing or equalising the cost of production, to increase profits and at the same time produce revenue for the Treasury. But this is the first time that we have been confronted with a proposal in this House in which it is suggested that we should impose a revenue tax upon a food 1770 commodity consumed by the poorest section of the community to reduce the cost to another class of the community, and that the revenue derived from that tax should be earmarked as a personal gift to a limited number of individuals in this country. If that revenue tax does not reach the sum it is designed to produce, the Treasury will make up the difference to ensure the income to the individuals concerned. That is a policy which should be strongly opposed on this side of the Committee.
The Minister in introducing the Financial Resolution tried to convince hon. Members on this side of the Committee—his own supporters might be more easily convinced on this matter—that the policy of the Government had reduced the prices of foodstuffs. The President of the Board of Trade admitted in this House a few weeks ago that in regard to milk, potatoes and fish, three commodities governed by the action of Government legislation, the level of those prices was far in excess of the level of food prices prevailing in this country. If you take those three specific commodities, the action of the Government has substantially increased prices to the consumers in this country. I have had 25 years' experience of the largest food organisation in this country, and I speak without hesitation in saying that the factor which causes a person to decide whether he shall purchase British beef or foreign beef is entirely one of income. This commodity, perhaps more than any other article, is the selected choice on the part of the consumer. In many manufactured lines, packing, variety and matters of that kind enter as well as the price when you compare the foreign article with the British-made article. But with regard to beef, if the whole of the consumers of this country—I make practically no exception for effective purposes—were able to exercise a free choice in the purchase and the consumption of British beef on the one hand, or frozen or chilled beef on the other, there is not the slightest doubt upon which side their choice would fall. It would be on the side of British beef every time, because in quality, nutriment, taste and everything else, it has an apparent and unquestionable advantage as far as the consumer is concerned. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members agree with that position, and 1771 we can decide that from our own experience.
Therefore, that brings rue to the next point. We are considering the prosperity of the British cattle industry, and I do not care from whatever angle you take it, every Member in this House, and the general opinion throughout the country desires a prosperous British countryside. You never will get a prosperous British countryside until you harmonise the interests of the industrial towns with the countryside. I have stated publicly in other places than on the Floor of this House that I, as a representative of one of the largest food organisations in this country, accept completely the position that the agricultural wage earner and worker is entitled to exactly the same standard of living as his colleague in the town. I make that submission without any qualification whatever. The producers of foodstuffs and raw materials, still represent the majority of the populations of the world, and you will never get any balanced economic system until the purchasing power of that vast mass of the community can equal the productive power of the industrial side.
Having made that position clear, I come now to the policy that we should be supporting, instead of these inevitable doles to the farmers. The policy of the Minister of Agriculture, whether we like it or not, whether the farmers want it or not, is making the farming community the greatest spongers of this. age, and I submit that any policy that does that is wrong. The policy of subsidies of marketing boards, licensing and such like, is leading agriculture in the wrong direction. We have had proof of that fact to-night. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) admitted that agricultural labour had declined in this country from 1921 to 1936 bp 20 per cent. Seeing that in our industrial communities we depend for the continual replenishment of the virility of the race by drawing on the countryside population, a decline of 20 per cent. in agricultural labour is serious in another direction apart from the angle from which I am arguing. Who is responsible for that decline of 20 per cent. in agricultural labour? The Labour Government cannot be blamed for that situation.
§ Mr. BARNES
In that period of 15 years the Conservative party has held power in this House for 12 years. Therefore, if there has been a decline in the agricultural labour to that extent, the party opposite is responsible. I am opposed to this policy of subsidies and levies for the reason that it puts the producer into antagonism against the consumer; it puts the seller against the buyer; there is conflict between the producer, the manufacturer and the distributor; there is antagonism between the home producer and the Dominion producer, and also between the Dominion producer and the foreign producer. Finally, it produces a psychological antagonism between the industrial towns and the countryside. Despite all the irritation that the Minister of Agriculture has set up by this policy of subsidies and doles, the fact remains that in this House and throughout the country there is general good will towards the agricultural industry.
I would appeal to the Minister to change his policy and to stop the policy of handing out public money, with no return to the nation as a whole. I would suggest that he ought to follow an entirely different policy. He should seek to bring in and mobilise this good will towards agriculture. He should bring into consultation and effective collaborative machinery those who produce the cattle—this applies to other commodities as well—and bring into consultation the distributive side of the industry, and proceed along those lines. Admitting the point that I made earlier, that the farmer, like everyone else, is entitled to a fair return for his commodity and that the agricultural wage-earner is entitled to a standard of living comparable to that of the worker in the town, that places upon the industry as a whole and not on a section of the industry, the obligation of seeing that the total product of that industry should provide the economic fund from which to meet all the costs of the industry, including the wage costs. We do that in regard to 80 or 90 per cent. of 1773 other commodities in this country. Instead of using £40,000,000 a year on a policy of subsidies that brings us nowhere at the end of each successive year, if the Minister would call the whole trade into co-operation and consultation, and develop the machinery by which each trade element would accept the obligation of finding the fund whereby the industry would become economic, we should be getting to a reasonable situation.
I think the hon. Member has forgotten that we are not in Committee of Supply, and that we are not dealing with general agricultural policy.
§ Mr. BARNES
I thought that I was within your ruling, because you said that we could deal with the long-term policy involved, and I was suggesting to the Minister that, instead of introducing this policy of subsidy and levy, he should follow the lines that I have endeavoured to indicate, because it is only by a policy of co-operation between all the elements in the industry that we shall get the fund. The whole discussion of the subsidy today has revolved round the question whether this means an obligation on the cattle industry. I am opposed to subsidies of whatever character for providing that fund. Anybody who produces, sells or buys a commodity has certain obligations to meet. Employers have certain obligations to meet. We must accept the obligation that those who produce a commodity are entitled to a proper standard of living. Speaking for a consumers' organisation, we are never afraid to face the problem of a standard living in any industry that produces a specific commodity. If the Minister would explore that view I am convinced that there is sufficient good will prevailing generally towards a solution of the problem.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
The hon. Member says that if some co-operation or arrangement took place between the producers, the manufacturers and the distributors, a higher fund would be created and that the price to the farmer would he increased. How is that to be arrived at? It must be either by raising the price to the consumer or lowering the profit to the retailer.
§ Mr. BARNES
No. We have had an illustration in the House to-day. The 1774 Postmaster-General announced a drastic and universal reduction in telephone charges. That is an instance where by enormously increasing the service to the consumers the great volume of increased business will cover the cost involved. That is a policy which is being followed by a State Department. By extending the use of telephones, by a greater consumption, you reduce the cost of the whole. I do not accept the position that co-operation of this kind can only be obtained either by raising prices to the consumer or reducing the wages of the worker. By proper co-operation and efficient methods you should be able to raise a fund by which you can reduce the price to the consumer, give him a better quality article, and at the same time provide a better standard of living for the producer.
The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) is, I believe, President of the National Farmers' Union. I do not know whether he was speaking as the President of the Union, when he said that he would be delighted if the powers of the marketing boards could be extended to take over the co-operative societies of the country. I do not know whether he was speaking jocularly or seriously, but there is a large body of opinion in this country who should know whether the hon. and gallant Member was speaking seriously or not, because a statement of that kind affects the largest body of organised consumers in this country who have been of considerable assistance to the agricultural industry in assisting them to raise prices, where they could be legitimately raised, in marketing standard beef and in various other ways. That body of consumers is entitled to know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was making a declaration of his real mind or whether it was a jocular remark.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
I was, of course, not speaking as the President of the National Farmers' Union but as Member for Petersfield. The hon. Member will recollect that the speech before dealt with powers to take over distribution, and I merely said that we had not powers to take over distribution, but that I should love the opportunity of taking over such an efficient organisation as the Co-operative Society.
§ Mr. BARNES
If any organisation is to take place in the field of distribution I submit that it should not be a question of removing the efficient in favour of the inefficient organisation, but to replace private enterprise, which has lamentably failed in all directions, by a co-operative and public system. That is the longterm policy which, if the Minister does not, we hope to carry out.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
It is a little presumptuous that one like myself should intervene in a Debate on agriculture, but I submit that economics are involved, and they are very important. I represent people who will have to contribute to this large amount of money which is to be paid and, therefore, it is important we should consider what is going to happen. I never listen to these discussions on doles without my memory going back to what happened in Denmark, where the farmers held a mass meeting and passed a resolution calling upon the Government to give them no subsidies of any kind They did not want them. All they asked was that the Government should leave them alone, remit taxation on their industry and they were willing to meet world competition. In England the position is just the opposite. Hon. Members have asked the Government to be good enough to change their mode of action. That is an appeal which will fall on deaf ears. The Conservative party are determined to dig themselves into the agricultural areas by the corrupt method of doling shoals of money out of the Exchequer into the pockets of the agricultural interest.
But let us be fair. It is true that farmers arc getting a large amount of money from the State, but we should distribute our indictment over a wider area. Many farmers are not getting the full enjoyment of the doles which they expected to get, and there is a positive ramp among the retailers of the country who handle the commodities upon which they know farmers have received a subsidy. How long are British farmers to remain in these seventeenth century conditions? Look a6 Denmark. The Danish farmer farms his soil, pools his produce with other farmers in a co-operative method, and sells his stuff under a co-operative system, but the British farmer is too often to be found 1776 in the market-place looking for the next day's hunt rather than for the next day's business, and he finds himself done by the retailer. When one looks at the archaic methods in which British farming is carried on, one is positively ashamed. We are going to give another £40,000,000 by way of dole. Where is it going? The difficulty is to know where it is going. One hon. Member after another has said that the farmers are not getting it. Who is getting it? Two or three champions have said that the very suggestion that the landlords are getting it in increased rents is an awful suggestion. They say that the landlords are not getting it.
The farmer is not getting it, and the landlord is not getting it. Who is getting it? It can only be the labourer. Have the wages of the labourer increased by £40,000,000 per annum? Where is this large chunk of subsidy going? Will any hon. Member opposite have the decency to get up in his place and tell me—because I am in rather a quandary—where this subsidy is going? We all know that ultimately it goes to rent. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members opposite rather object to that statement. I remember sitting in this Chamber listening to Lord Thankerton on the Derating Bill. Let me recall that evening to the House. I had been battling on the Bill so far as the English section was concerned, but when Lord Thankerton introduced the Scottish section I asked him, "As a Scotsman, you will be logical: If rating relief is given to agriculture, who will get it in the end?" He said—how could he speak otherwise after that flattery?—"Tenants come and go; the final claimant of all reliefs and advantages attaching to the land will be the person who gets the rent." That is where these doles are going, and they cannot go anywhere else. The tenant farmers, when their leases run out, will find out where the doles have gone. The pouring out of these millions ostensibly for the purpose of helping to maintain agriculture is the greatest farce there ever was in this House; it is the greatest insult to human intelligence.
Take any other industry in the country as an illustration of what is happening; industry X, let us say, is not paying; it cannot afford to pay proper wages; so 1777 the best thing to do is not to worry, but to send some people from the industry to the House to impose upon the Government for the purpose of getting a subsidy. That is where we are going in modern administration and modern Government. It is not now a matter of going into the industry, putting one's back into it, and organising it properly; everybody is now concerned to get into the House of Commons such a considerable element of influence as will compel the Government to give a subsidy. The agricultural industry has done that extremely well since the debacle of 1931. I asked a question to-day as to the cost of production—
I think the hon. Member's speech would be more suitable on the Vote for the Minister's salary.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
We are an Opposition fighting subsidies on principle, and in fighting this vicious thing as a principle it is extremely difficult not to correlate it to other things that are going on. However, I will try my best to keep within the strict ambit of your Ruling. I asked a question to-day as to the cost of production. That is very essential, because the whole argument advanced in favour of the subsidy this afternoon was that the prices paid did not cover the cost of production, and that therefore it was necessary to have a subsidy from the State. Surely, it is necessary that those responsible for this policy should make to the House a statement as to what is the cost of the production of beef in this country and what are the factors that enter into the cost of production, in order that we may analyse the various elements that cause an increase in the cost of production. I submit that in relation to that we should discuss why it is that the consumers cannot pay enough to cover the fair costs of the production of beef in this country. Those points have not been discussed to-day. It is an imposition on the taxpayers for the Government merely to ask for an extension of this subvention without giving reasons and facts for the demand they are making on the taxpayers of the country.
Before I sit down let me say to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) that we have come to this chronic state 1778 in modern civilisation. The Government raise taxes, and have the power to do what they like with them. Everybody, except a few on these benches, is against Socialism, but to-day we have been told that the Government raise taxes, or has the power to raise money to grant subsidies to any industry in the country, for the purpose, as the hon. Member for Stone said in an interjection, of giving cheap food to the people. That is the lopsided condition of civilisation in this country and in many others.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member has not quoted me correctly. I said that the subsidy had enabled the public to have a great amount of food at less than the cost of production.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
First of all the workers have to be thrashed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay taxes and this reduces the income they have to spend on the things they want. These taxes which are wrung out of the working classes—£800,000,000 this year—and which reduce the income which the workers might have with which to buy things they want, are taken by the Government so that they can be given to the farmers in order that the farmers will be able to give cheap food to the workers. Hon. Members opposite may not like Socialism as preached from these benches, but I submit that the kind of Socialism which I have been referring is the most insane form of Socialism of which I have ever heard. In two or three cases we were assured to-day that food is being given to the workers at less than the cost of production. The argument was that subsidies from the Government were to help farmers to give the workers food at less than the cost of production. It would be far better to leave the workers of the country with wages in their hands which would enable them to pay like men and women for the things they want, and to pay in true equation to the full value of the things they buy. The working classes of the country do not want your damned charity. Furthermore, they do not want Governments that lay a heavy burden of taxation on them, extracting out of them the millions that go to the farmers and the vested interests of the country. It is becoming nauseating and disgusting to see every day in this House hon. Mem- 1779 bers rising and demanding a subsidy, some new tap on the State at a time when the Budget is rising to a point that may intimidate the development of the country. £800,000,000 in the Budget and £165,000,000 in local rates—and day by day somebody appeals for more subsidies to the vested interests which are sucking the people of the country! Let us be done with this cant and humbug.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
There are times in this House when genuine indignation should be expressed, and I think I am keeping within your Ruling when I say that here again we have evidence of vested interests abusing this House. Another £5,000,000—another £500,000,000—agriculture in this country should be damned well ashamed of itself—
If the hon. Member cannot restrain his indignation, I hope he will restrain his language.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
It gave expression to what I meant. The agricultural industry ought to be ashamed that it cannot stand on its own feet. But the agriculturists have not the courage to do so and to throw off the parasites—and there are many—that are on the back of the industry to-day. The Tory party may think that by this process they are doing well. They may think that they are securing more votes in the agricultural districts by this form of corruption—by pilfering the taxpayer to corrupt the country voter. I am aware that no appeal from this side will ever move them from that course. They can go on with it, but there will be an end to it when the industrial section of the country begin to find that, despite these subventions from the State, the cost of living is not going down and taxation is rising. It would be well for statesmen in this Country to try to correlate the lives of the people in the country with the lives of the people in, the cities and to remove vested interests, rather than to pile up difficulties for future Governments. It would be far better to have an independent citizenship in this country than to have vast sections dependent on doles, and charity, and subventions from the coffers of the State.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is a very severe strain on a Scotsman to have to remain silent, while listening to so much argument with which he passionately disagrees, and it is clear that. we are still at some distance from agreement on this subject. I doubt whether it would be possible for me to resolve our differences this evening, and it would therefore be desirable that a certain amount of our argument, at Any rate, should be left over to the Debates which will take place later on this Bill and on the long-term policy. It may seem a work of supererogation to remind the Committee that we are not now discussing in detail the long-term policy. We are not discussing a tariff on imports to-night except by way of reference, and the suggestion that the subsidy is, in some way, a tariff on imports is one which is not borne out by the facts. The Committee will excuse me, therefore, if I do not attempt to-night to use arguments to justify A tariff on imports, when we are discussing a narrower and entirely different point.
As I say, there is clearly some difference between us and it arises, I think, from the fact that we have not yet fully appreciated each other's point of view. It is true that no wholehearted support of the Government's proposal has been brought forward because, on this side, the complaint is made that the assistance offered is so small that it will fail to carry out the object which we all have in view, whereas on the other side it is argued that this is a lavish and unconscionable pouring out of what hon. Members call public money, and that it is a scandal which ought to be ended at the earliest possible moment. The truth must lie somewhere between those two extremes, and I think it lies somewhere along the line which the Government have chosen. I shall have great pleasure in arguing that point later but I do not propose to do so to-night and I am sure the Committee does not expect me to do so. Many of the speeches to-night were made because honest indignation, seizing a Parliamentary opportunity, found a useful outlet or because of a feeling that this was a good opportunity for making a speech which would go down very well with one's constituents, and I cant of he expected to cover all the points which were raised in that way. But I think it ought to 1781 be pointed out that there is a reply to questions such as that of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) who asked where all the money paid in these subsidies is going. It is not difficult to answer that question.
The hon. Member said the money was not going to the landlords and was not going to the farmer and he asked was it going to the labourer. Has he not thought of a fourth party? Has he not thought of the consumer? Has he not considered that the fall of £150,000,000 since 1929 in the annual cost of food alone more than swallows up all the sum voted by this House in the way of assistance? No, it is not at all difficult to say where the assistance is going and it is all the easier when figures are slashed about in an irresponsible way by the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), and sometimes by the hon. Member for Burslem, who was not sure in one case whether a figure which he used by way of illustration was £5,000,000 or £500,000,000. As the hon. Member himself said, his speech was an outburst of honest indignation and he finds it possible to work up as much honest indignation over £5,000,000 as others would express over £500,000,000.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
As long as the hon. Member puts it down as a slip, I accept his statement, but the hon. Member for East Ham, South declared that £40,000,000 had been given in subsidies. I have checked the figures, and the total does not amount to half that sum. He can only get the figure up to that high level by bringing in the whole of the derating relief which is given to industry as well as to agriculture. Indeed a far larger sum is given by way of derating in industry than in agriculture. If he seeks to bring in also all reliefs in Income Tax and other taxation, I must remind him that people get very large sums in remission of taxation and that in the House of Commons we do riot regard remissions of taxation necessarily as subsidies. Apart from the honest indignation, I think the question as to where the subsidy went was the only question which the hon. Member for Burslem put to me and I hope he will take that as my reply.
1782 The hon. Member for East Ham, South asked several definite questions, and as I take it that he was winding up the Debate for the official Opposition, I desire as far as possible to give him specific answers. He asked if there had been a deterioration in quality, and whether low grade animals were being passed for subsidy. I should not say that there has been a deterioration in quality on the average. I think low-grade beef has been brought up, though high grade beef may have been brought down to some extent. There may have been a certain lowering in the quality of high grade beef put on the market but it is known to those who have watched the operation of the subsidy that there has also been a raising of the quality of the lower grade beef put on the market. The hon. Member also asked what steps were being taken to deal with possible fraud. The certification of animals is carried out, jointly, by three persons in full view of the public and surprise visits to the certification centres are made by inspectors and local supervisors. During the period of the subsidy up to 30th June last 34 cases have been investigated in which it appeared possible that fraud existed. I can give particulars of the types of cases now or at another time if required.
§ Mr. BARNES
When the Bill is introduced will the Minister give us some idea of the reports of the inspectors?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Certainly, and I will run over the figures as to the cases I have just mentioned. In eight cases proceedings were taken; in two of these cases fines were imposed, while two cases were found to be not proven and four cases were dismissed. Of the remaining 26 cases, in 15 instances there was insufficient evidence on which to prosecute, in 10 no evidence was offered and one case is still under investigation. I think a reasonable effort is being made to keep a check on the process and in many cases into which investigation has been made no actual fraud was found. The hon. Member asked further as to the position of the producer butcher. That has often been a subject of controversy between myself and the co-operative societies, The point was brought to my notice by the St. Leonards Society of Scotland and I have said more than once that I am not ruling out of consideration this matter in connection with any further scheme 1783 which might replace the existing arrangements. I am glad to give that assurance again. He asked me whether the subsidy had prevented a fall in prices. I think it has. I think no practical agriculturist would deny that, lacking a subsidy, the cattle producers of this country would be in very much greater difficulties than they are to-day. He asked if it had started farmers turning over to beef. I do not think the effect has been sufficiently great, and that is one reason why I think assistance will have to be given. He asked: Is there more production? Between 31st May, 1934, and 31st May, 1935, production went up by 1,300,000 cwt., or nearly 10½ per cent., so I think it is clear that production has gone up coincidentally with the assistance which has been given. Those were the main arguments which he made, apart from the general case, which I do not wish to open to-night.
I will say. in passing, that there was never any question that a considerable proportion of any relief would be passed on to the workers, the employed people, in the industry, as is proved by the fact that the agricultural industry in this country only lost a small proportion of its 1929 level of wages, and that the whole of that has since been recovered, whereas the agricultural wages in other countries, even countries such as Australia and the United States of America, fell by 30 and 40 per cent., and those falls have not yet been recovered.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) made the point whether I could say what was the fair price for beef. It was repeated by hon. Members from various sides of the Committee. I think it is clear that the ultimate test for maintaining the price of beef is this: Is the price such that producers are continuing to produce, or are they giving up the production of beef? I do not think it would be possible to work out and commend to this Committee some actual costings figure in order to get the production of beef. So many factors go into it. That was mentioned by one of the hon. Members for Aberdeen and repeated by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). Clearly it would be a task almost impossible to work out, unless you also had wages—which are one of the most important factors in the cost of pro- 1784 duction—fixed. If you clamp agricultural wages at their present level, the cost of production would be such and such. If you cut wages to the pre-war point, it would certainly be very much lower, but I think the simplest way is—given all the existing factors, given the cost of feeding stuffs, given the level of wages and the possibility of a rise in wages—are the producers continuing to produce or are they beginning to go out of business?
The reason I am commending this arrangement and other arrangements to the Committee is that, with the present level, the producers are beginning to go out of business. It seems, therefore, that the price is below the fair cost of the article, and when the hon. Member for Burslem asks, "Why not let the thing stand on its own feet"? that seems to me to omit altogether the enormous question o the importations from overseas. If, of course, we were allowed to cut off all imports from overseas, immediately prices would rise considerably, and we should not require a subsidy, but surely the hardship which that would inflict on the great industrial population in our towns is far greater than the relative inconvenience of this method, whereby the whole of these matters are fully debated before the House.
The costings were brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey). One could bring down to this Committee a number of costings. I think every agriculturist would say that the only danger of doing that would be to show that the present rate of assistance was so small that in fact it should be £10,000,000 instead of £5,000,000. Whether that would please hon. and right hon. Members opposite, I do not know, but, judging by many of their remarks to-night, I fear it would lead to a great deal of condemnation from that side of the Committee. Hon. Members from the Opposition Liberal Benches, the hon. Members for Cumberland, North (Mr. W. Roberts) and Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) laid an undue weight on marketing. If they will read the report of Lord Bingley's Reorganisation Commission for Fat Stock, they will find that although he did attach a great deal of importance to marketing, yet—I am quoting the opening paragraph: 1785Our study of the meat supplies of Great Britain has shown that the downward course of live stock and meat prices has been closely associated with the rapid increase of meat imports in recent years, an increase which was accelerated with devastating effects on the meat market generally in 1931 and 1932.Their main conclusion was that imports should be further regulated and that the machinery should be tightened up. I do not think that you can quote the report of the Bingley Commission, which, by the way, included experts of all sections of opinion in this country, including Sir John Orr, in evidence as proving that marketing reform alone would bring about a solution of this problem.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
In 1931 and 1932 imports were held at or about that level, but the great increase which took place before 1931–32, which, as the Bingley report said, had a devastating effect on the meat market, has not been taken away, for the reason that we desire the maximum supply to consumers in the towns. It is for that reason that we must approach the matter by another route, and if we do not cut down supplies, we must give assistance to the producer in some other way, and that way is the way which I commend to the Committee to-night. There have been thoughtful speakers, such as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters-field (Major Dorman-Smith) and the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), whose contributions to the Debate I especially welcomed because they brought up the question of the store man in Wales, who has had a difficult time. I think it is true that the assistance is now passing more to the store man and, indeed, that the graziers say that he is getting at present all and more than all that he is entitled to.
I think the arguments which have been brought forward from the North-East Coast bring us up against the very difficult position of the producers in that particular area. I think it is true that the quality production, which was commended not merely from North-East Coast Members, but from others, is at present jeopardised by the course of events, and 1786 I think it would be necessary to ensure that in any scheme which we bring forward to this House quality production shall receive assistance and that the high grade of the North-East Coast and elsewhere should not be crushed out by any scheme of assistance to general cattle production. But I hope that in the scheme brought forward we shall not hear too much of assistance being given only to the rich man's luxury speciality, for, believe me, the poor man does buy quality beef, and among the biggest consumers of quality beef are the very co-operative societies of which the hon. Member for East Ham, South, and the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) have often spoken. Let them not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. When the poor man buys quality beef, they cannot say that anyone who assists the production of quality beef is giving assistance only to Members who sit on this side of the Committee and those who dine at the Ritz.
I shall not go into the organisation arguments, but I should like to deal with the simple question whether, indeed, any assistance given to the home producer is assistance given to the rich man and not to the poor man. That is not borne out by the facts. I said at the beginning that it was more a question of the south end of the island against the north, and that is what the statistics bear out. Thirty per cent. of the beef sold in London is home-produced, but 70 per cent. of the beef sold in Glasgow is home-produced. Are we to be told that Glasgow is a great booming city in a burst of prosperity, where everybody is rich, and that London is poor, ragged, down at heel and is being penalised by our present proposals? It is not so, and I am sure that we shall be able to prove, as these Debates go on, that we are bringing forward a policy which we can commend confidently to all sections of opinion in the House, and which still holds the field as the only practical way of dealing with the great difficulties in which agriculture and livestock production find themselves to-day.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 222; Noes, 114.1677
|Division No. 284.]||AYES||[3.45 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Cranborne, Viscount||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Crooke, J. S.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Cross, R. H.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Crossley, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Culverwell, C. T.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Davison, Sir W. H.||Hunter, T.|
|Assheton, R.||Dawson, Sir P.||Jackson, Sir H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||De Chair, S. S.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||De la Bère, R.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Denville, Alfred||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Balnell, Lord||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Donner, P. W.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Drewe, C.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Duggan, H. J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Levy, T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dunglass, Lord||Lewis, O.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Ellis, Sir G.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Entwistle, C. F.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Furness, S. N.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Butler, R. A.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Cary, R. A.||Gluckstein, L. H.||McKie, J. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Goldie, N. B.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Maitland, A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. [...]Br.W.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, R. V.||Maxwell, S. A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Clarke, F. E.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hannah, I. C.||Mitchell, Sir W Lane (Streatham)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Moreing, A. C.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Hepworth, J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Holmes, J. S.||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Munro, P.||Salmon, Sir I.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Sandys, E. D.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Patrick, C. M.||Scott, Lord William||Touche, G. C.|
|Peake, O.||Selley, H. R.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Petherick, M.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Pilkington, R.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Plugge, L. F.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Smithers, Sir W.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Remer, J. R.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Sir George Penny and Lieut.-|
|Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Hardie, G. D.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||John, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Barr, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shinwell, E.|
|Batey, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Short, A.|
|Bellenger, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Benson, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Dagger, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dalton, H.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Thorne, W.|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marklew, E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mathers, G.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr, R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Potts, J.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Groves.|
|Divison No. 285.]||AYES.||[9.16 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Everard, W. L.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Fildes, Sir H.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Furness, S. N.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Peake, O.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Assheton, R.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Petherick, M.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Goldie, N. B.||Pilkington, R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Grimston, R. V.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rankin, R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hannah, I. C.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hepworth, J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Bull, B. B.||Holmes, J. S.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hunter, T.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Scott, Lord William|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Jackson, Sir H.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Joel, D. J. B.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Kimball, L.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P.||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Latham, Sir P.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Leckie, J. A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Spens, W. P.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Storey, S.|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Levy, T.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Craven-Eills, W.||Lewis, O.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Liddall, W. S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lyons, A. M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|De Chair, S. S.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Denville, Alfred||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Touche, G. C.|
|Dodd, J. S.||McKie, J. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Magnay, T.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Maitland, A.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Drewe, C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon H. D. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Markham, S. F.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Maxwell, S. A.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wells, S. R.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Eaies, J. F.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Emery, J. F.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Munro, P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Nall, Sir J.||Sir James Blindell and Commander|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Bellenger, F.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Benson, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Barnes, A. J.||Broad, F. A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Barr, J.||Bromfield, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Batey, J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan Caerphilly)||Ritson, J.|
|Chater, D.||Kelly, W. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lawson, J. J.||Shinwell, E.|
|Daggar, G.||Leach, W.||Short, A.|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Silkin, L.|
|Day, H.||Leonard, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Logan, D. G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Ede, J. C.||Lunn, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McEntee, V. La T.||Stephen, C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Frankel, D.||MacLaren, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Maclean, N.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Marklew, E.||Thorne, W.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Marshall, F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Mathers, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Messer, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Montague, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Moreing, A. C.||Walker, J.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Paling, W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Parker, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Jagger, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Potts, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|John, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Riley, B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
That it is expedient to extend until the end of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, the period during which cattle or carcases of cattle must have been sold in order that payments in respect thereof may be made out of the Cattle Fund under section two of the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1934, as amended by the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1935.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.