§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time".
The Bill is based upon the Financial Resolution which we considered in Committee last Monday, and it provides for the continuance until 31st July, 1937, of the subsidy which has been payable since 1934 on certain classes of cattle sold for slaughter in the United Kingdom. This Bill is the last of a series of interim Measures which have been presented to Parliament since it became apparent in the Summer of 1934 that on account of the serious state of the cattle industry special steps had to be taken. We make no apology whatever for this series of measures or for their temporary nature. The essential feature of the Government policy—a policy involving that the subsidy should continue, in the words of the recent statement,so long as and to the extent that the situation may requireannounced in the White Paper of July, 1934, and repeated in the White Paper of March, 1935, is still the essential feature of the permanent policy announced by my right hon. Friend in the statement of 6th July last. Other aspects of that policy—the extent to which regulations of oversea imports will have to be made, the extent to which Exchequer payments can be set off or should be set off by the proceeds of a levy or Customs duty—those aspects have necessarily been subject to negotiations with the Dominions and the foreign countries with whom we have trade agreements.
I would like to make this point absolutely clear—that until agreements have been reached or until existing trade agreements have run out, no permanent proposals in any shape or form have been possible.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and his friends have put down an amendment for the rejection of 2410 this Measure. I recollect that the hon. Member when he spoke on this subject last Monday stated that he did not wish it to go out from this House that he and his friends were unsympathetic to the farmers. I can appreciate the anxiety which he naturally feels, having voted against this subsidy on 29th June, and, as far as I know, against every previous Measure to bring relief to the agricultural industry, lest the farmers should not attach that value to his sympathy which he imagines it to merit. How does he justify his arguments towards the farmers? His first point, as I understand it, is that the farmers are not to be assisted until they have put their house in order. We heard in the last debate that beef prices to-day are no better than they were in 1934, but the hon. Member goes on to say that in the meantime the farmers ought to have put their house in order and ought to have submitted marketing schemes, or that my right hon. Friend presumably ought to have imposed marketing schemes upon them.
May I put this case to him? If it had been his duty to meet the farmers' representatives and explain that policy to them, surely he would have had to say, "I am bound under an agreement with the Argentine Government until 7th November. I have for a long time been doing my best to get another agreement in substitution for that agreement, but I have not yet got it and I cannot tell what the terms of such an agreement will be. But one thing I can tell you, that not one penny of assistance do you get from me until you have put your house in order; and even then I cannot tell you the definite terms of the assistance or the competition which you may have to meet." Surely the farmers' representatives would say in reply, "How can we base a long-term agricultural policy on a short-term commercial policy? You could never expect another industry, the iron and steel industry or the coal industry or any industry to lay down fresh plant, to embark on new expenditure, to engage in far-reaching schemes of reorganisation upon such a problematical and speculative basis." The farmers' representatives might well say "It takes us two or three years to finish a bullock and at the end of that period we have no guarantee from you that we shall get any profit from our work and labour." On the hon. Gentleman's policy his reply then to the farmers 2411 must be "I cannot help that. I shall force reorganisation upon you. Even if you have no market you shall have marketing schemes. Even if you have no industry to organise, you shall have a scheme of organisation—a scheme on paper, printed alongside my expressions of profound sympathy."
What, is his second justification for this policy? It is best set out in the words which he used when we debated the last Cattle Order on 29th June. This is what he said:I shall vote against this subsidy, not because I feel that the producers of beef in this country are not entitled in existing circumstances to some relief, but because I feel that the long delay on the part of the Government to obtain a real and lasting agreement has tended completely to upset the balance of agriculture in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1936; col. 183; Vol. 314.]I would remind him once again that the agreement with the Argentine Government, an agreement which he did not oppose, cannot be terminated before 7th November, and that a long time has been spent by the Government in negotiating a fresh agreement in substitution for it. Those negotiations are not yet completed, and it takes two to make an agreement. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) could have made another agreement in substitution for the current agreement at an earlier date? He is much too modest to say that. Indeed he told us quite properly in the last Debate that he did not mean to imply that he or his right hon. Friend or two dozen of his friends, if they had been engaged in these negotiations, could have made a better or a worse job of it, That being so, his argument amounts to this: "The Government has been negotiating with the Argentine Government. The Government has not compelled another agreement. The Government has therefore delayed a real and lasting agreement; it has unbalanced agriculture, and I am going to vote against the subsidy." Well, the farmers may not be very good logicians, but I think most of them will easily recognise the false premise and the non sequitur in that argument.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen Central (Sir R. Smith) must, I think, have been rather misled by the 2412 plausible argument of the hon. Member for Don Valley, for he complains of the further delay before the introduction of the long-term policy, and he cannot understand why it has not been introduced forthwith. May I point out to him that the period of extension proposed in this Bill has no special significance and that it is the Government's intention to introduce legislation embodying permanent proposals as soon as possible after the Recess? I hope that such legislation will be in operation long before the end of July, 1937, but my hon. Friend will realise that one cannot foresee the exact date on which it will be possible to bring the legislation into operation, and, that being so, I am sure he will appreciate that it would be wise to adopt, as a precautionary measure, a generous and, I trust, far too ample margin for contingencies. He goes on to say, "Why not make provision now for the increased assistance which you feel will be necessary later?" The answer to that is quite simple. The Government do not propose that the increase foreshadowed to the House shall be so applied as to enable a higher flat rate subsidy to be paid on all cattle. I am sure I shall have my hon. Friend's agreement on that. I would refer him to the statement of my right hon. Friend on 6th July when he said:The Government are desirous of providing that the payments made to the home producer of fat cattle under the permanent scheme shall be so adjusted as to give further encouragement to quality production."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1936; col. 844; Vol. 314.]That being so, I am certain my hon. Friend appreciates that the practical aspects of this proposal must be fully considered with all the interests affected before the scheme can be set in motion, a scheme which is of particular interest to hon. Members who represent constituencies in the North East of Scotland. I am also sure that he will have no difficulty in appreciating that it would unquestionably prejudice the long-term scheme if payments were now to be initiated at a higher rate of flat rate subsidy. I trust that with that explanation my hon. Friend will now be more reconciled to the position.
While I am on the question of quality production, may I dispose of an allegation which, I think, was made on the last 2413 Occasion, namely, that cow beef is subsidised by our proposals and that the subsidy was encouraging cow beef? What are the facts? The subsidy is only payable upon steers, heifers, or cow-heifers, and cow-heifers are defined, in the 1934 Act, I think, as:Any female bovine animal which has calved but which has not grown more than six permanent incisor teeth.These cow-heifers are selling at beef prices and not at fat cow prices. But in any event—and this is the most important point—the sales of these animals have only constituted 3½ per cent. of the total number of beasts certified for the subsidy. I hope that with those figures in mind when hon. Members hear the allegation repeated they will be able to refute it.
Now I will return for a moment to the bon. Member for Don Valley, who complained that this was the sixth extension of the subsidy. Why not? Obviously it was the right method for the Government to have adopted under the circumstances, because if at any time during the negotiations during the last year or more an agreement had been reached, a long-term measure would have taken the place of a short-term subsidy. I would ask the hon. Member this question: Does he think that in 1934 we ought to have voted there and then for a subsidy to continue for three years? Not only might that have prejudiced any possible chance of agreement during the interim period, but the hon. Member for Don Valley would have been the first to protest against a measure which took away all possibility of reviewing and revising this particular subsidy. Had he taken the opposite view, he would have got into grave trouble with his. hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), who dislikes a long-term policy for that very reason, for as he says, it buriesit in some legislative act which makes it permanent so that public opinion cannot follow it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1936; col. 1771, Vol. 314.]One other point before I pass from the hon. Member for Don Valley. He criticised these emergency proposals because, he said, they have a happy knack of becoming permanent. If the emergency conditions become permanent, and if then the measures taken by the Government in the emergency prove to be so well-founded as to form a proper 2414 basis for a permanent policy, it seems to me that it is not a matter for criticism but for congratulation.
I will now say a word in regard to the working arrangements in the past year or so. This period of temporary subsidy bas been a period of very considerable value as a preliminary to a long-term policy, and the work of the Cattle Committee has given us and all the interests concerned in the cattle industry very useful and important experience and knowledge and a proper basis for securing that greater efficiency and improvement in quality of stock which every Member of this House desires; in other words, the period through which we have passed and the period which we shall inaugurate next Session are organically connected. I will illustrate that by a few words on the working of the subsidy. In Great Britain there are 730 approved live-weight certification centres, and at each of these centres the animals are sent for certification on specific days, usually market days, approved by the Cattle Committee. In November, 1934, the Cattle Committee appointed five full-time inspectors and 28 part-time local supervisors, and their duty was to visit the centres and ensure that the provisions of the Act and the regulations laid down by the Cattle Committee should be observed and that the standard of grading should be uniform. All these gentlemen are carefully selected for their specialised knowledge, and in 20 months they have paid over 8,000 visits to the live-weight centres, and full reports of each visit—8,000 reports—have been submitted to the Cattle Committee.
I have a specimen report form here. It contains meticulous details of the information desired, such as details in regard to the procedure, accommodation, lay-out of markets, penning and tying facilities, ear-punching, grading, weighing and general remarks. I think we can be sure that the information which the Cattle Committee is getting from these sources is exhaustive, accurate, and exceptionally valuable. In the great majority of cases the procedure and the grading have been highly satisfactory, and in a very small proportion has inspection shown that the grading was too low. Where that has been shown, the policy has been to follow it up with frequent and careful inspection. The Cattle Committee are satisfied, as a 2415 result of the returns which they have received, that standard grading throughout Britain is as uniform as we can expect. In very few cases has it been necessary on account of bad grading to withdraw approval of a centre or to remove any of the three members of the certifying authority. Altogether, I think, in the last 20 months five centres have been closed for bad work and 25 members of certifying authorities removed. Therefore, we can justly claim that the work of these inspectors and supervisors within their districts—and we are most grateful to those who have undertaken it—has raised the standard of all the centres to the level of the best.
In Northern Ireland there are 71 live-weight centres. In these the work of certification is carried on by permanent Civil servants under inspection and supervision. In their case no problem in regard to standard grading has arisen. There are 36 dead-weight centres, and at most of these certification by full-time Civil servants is carried out, and at others it is done by officials of the local authorities owning the abattoirs. The work at the dead-weight centres is inspected by the higher officials of the agricultural departments of England and Scotland, and no difficulties have arisen in maintaining the standard at those centres. The expense of administration falling upon the Cattle Fund has amounted to no more than £70,000 per annum. I think it can justly be said that this is a small expenditure in relation to the amount of nearly £4,000,000 distributed. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) suggested that graders should be transferred from one part of the country to another. That would be impracticable, mainly because the members of the certifying authorities are local people with their own local businesses, and it would involve us in immense expense to have to transfer graders from one part of the country to another. My hon. Friend can be assured that the uniform grading which he desires is ensured by constant visits of the inspectors.
This Measure effects a necessary transition from the emergency provisions of the last two years to the permanent policy announced by my right hon. Friend. The permanent provisions will 2416 be laid upon this foundation. The main provisions will be these: (1) a healthy beef market secured by a rational flow of supplies through the medium of the International Meat Conference; (2) the home producer will be assisted or safeguarded by an exchequer subsidy; (3) the production of good quality beef will be encouraged by the suitable adjustment of subsidy payments; (4) measures for the promotion of efficiency in marketing and slaughtering will be undertaken; and (5) a Customs duty on imports of foreign beef will be imposed. These are the main features of the policy which Parliament will be invited to approve in a few months. Only if Members are perfectly satisfied in their minds that the cattle industry can stand by itself while Parliament is drawing up and carrying through this detailed, difficult and far-reaching plan can they justifiably vote against this Bill. It must surely be admitted—it is admitted on all sides of the House—that our live-stock industry, as things are at the moment, cannot be left to face the present conditions unaided. If that be so—and I cannot see how it can be denied—I confidently recommend the Bill to the House.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three, months."
After the brilliant speech I have just made through the mouth of the Parliamentary Secretary I hardly recognise myself. I am not at all used to the logic used by the hon. Gentleman. The conclusions he reached are scarcely in accordance with my general conclusions after having dreamt about the cattle subsidies. I had intended to say that, like a well-known ex-Parliamentary figure, I have explored every avenue in the hope that I may be able to find something new to say on cattle subsidies. I find it extremely difficult to do so, and perhaps it is as well that the Parliamentary Secretary has put words into my mouth to which I may be able to reply and thus make a speech such as I had never anticipated making. We were discussing this question on Monday this week, and I am bound to confess that the Minister on that occasion, although he made two speeches, was as unconvincing as the Parliamentary Secretary has been this morning. The hon. 2417 Gentleman asked me what I would have done if an agreement had not been made with the Argentine within a certain period of time. The hon. Gentleman must know that if I had been in the position which he assumed for me I should have had my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) at the Board of Trade, and not the present President, and the agreement which I should have been searching for would not be one that imposed duties on imports and dislocated trade with the Argentine, or anyone else if that could be avoided.
When the hon. Gentleman suggests that I did not oppose the 1933 trade agreement with the Argentine and that I was contemplating opposing the forthcoming agreement, surely he must know the justification from my point of view for doing that. In the 1933 agreement the President of the Board of Trade not only arranged for the mutual exchange of goods to help facilitate our trade with that country, bearing in mind the Dominions and the home producers of food, and so on, but he went so far as to grant concessions to municipal organisations in various forms which we could not only support but heartily welcome from these benches. The agreement of 1933 and the contemplated agreement of 1936 are two totally different things. I put to the right hon. Gentleman on Monday one or two questions relating to price organisation, and may I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that I make no apologies for returning to that subject? I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's reply, particularly with regard to the fixation of a fair and reasonable price, was very unconvincing. The right hon. Gentleman said, in a rough and ready manner, that if you find production of a certain commodity going down it seems to be conclusive evidence that it is not a paying proposition to continue production on the normal scale. That would hardly satisfy either the House or the country as a means of determining the proper price for any agricultural commodity, nor can the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that production is slowing down be regarded as a conclusive argument.
From 1909 to 1913 the average production of beef in this country was 820,000 metric tons, but by 1924 to 1928, when a Conservative Government was in office, it had slowed down to 579,000 metric tons. 2418 There was a very steep decline in the production of beef, but there were no subsidies, and in all probability at that time livestock producers were doing reasonably well. That seems to upset completely the right hon. Gentleman's argument that the fact that the output of a commodity is slowing down is conclusive evidence that it no longer pays to produce it. There is the other point of view. The National Government, in office from 1931 to 1935, having subsidised so many other branches of agriculture, is it not conceivable that there was a transfer from the production of beef to the production of the subsidised commodities? Wheat was given an annual subsidy of £6,000,000. Every grain of wheat had a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price—not a uniform price, I know, because beyond a certain output the sliding scale operated and the subsidy per quarter was slightly reduced; but there was a guaranteed market and an almost guaranteed price, which was probably 50 to 60 or even 100 per cent. higher than the world price of that commodity. There was also a guaranteed price for sugar. No matter what the output, there was a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price. Then the right hon. Gentleman provided a temporary subsidy for milk. Every gallon produced had a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price, though not necessarily an economic price, according to the farmers' view.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
There was a guaranteed market for every gallon of milk produced, and a guaranteed price which could only fluctuate according to the surplus which had to go into manufacture. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] That does not alter my proposition very much. There were three commodities for which there was a guaranteed market and almost a guaranteed price, and it could be no cause for wonder if the production of some other commodity slowed down and the production of those subsidised commodities increased. There is not an hon. Member opposite who will deny that thousands of farmers have gone in for milk production and that has tended to unbalance agriculture, and it may be that that is the more likely explanation of the situation than the suggestion put 2419 forward by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech on Monday. I still feel that if we were to utilise the services of the agricultural colleges and the Agricultural Statistical Department at Oxford to ascertain what really is a reasonable price to the producer and the consumer, paying due regard to other commodities produced on similar farms, we might reach what could be termed a reasonable Measure which all parties in this House would support.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten completely the law of compensation in agriculture. It is generally recognised that the farmer always has something about which to complain. If it is a very dry Summer he complains that his root crops are not doing very well, but he makes no mention of cereals If it is a wet Summer, such as the present one, he will have a grumble in some other direction. For generations, for centuries almost, the law of compensation has operated to some extent to equalise things in the agricultural industry, but the National Government, and the present Minister of Agriculture in particular, divorces every agricultural commodity from all the rest and declares that that commodity alone must have a specialised price all to itself without any relation to the other commodities produced on our farms and the prices obtained for them. That is a new agricultural orientation in this country, and the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), who finds it difficult to sit quiet while agriculture is being discussed, would not dare to deny that the law of compensation in agriculture has always been a saving factor for the farmer. But the right hon. Gentleman has completely forgotten the law of compensation, and every agricultural commodity, almost down to watercress, has to be subsidised in one form or another to satisfy the farmer.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
Does the hon. Member say that the law of compensation operates only in the agricultural industry, and not in any other?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
At the moment I am, for my sins, speaking about agriculture, and I am not going into other industries. Whenever the Minister finds himself in a hopeless fix for an argument he always descends a coal pit. He makes curious 2420 observations regarding coal quotas, selling agencies and other matters, and tries so to befuddle the minds of hon. Members that they actually believe that Parliament has been as generous in its gifts to mining as the right hon. Gentleman has been to agriculture. So far he has failed lamentably in his efforts to convince us about that. At some time in the near future we shall return to those old arguments about agriculture and coal mining, and I do not think it will take long to "blow him out of the water," to use his own phrase, on the mining question. Despite anything that hon. Members sitting on those Benches may say, I persist in my statement that the two National Governments have so completely unbalanced apiculture that I do not wonder they find it difficult now to restore prosperity to it without imposing burdens upon the rest of the community, or, alternatively, creating a situation in the countryside which will be an embarrassment for every Government, Conservative, Liberal, Labour or National for the next 40 or 50 years.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the unbalancing of agriculture was due to the fall in prices below an economic level. I beg leave to differ. I regard the unbalancing of agriculture as being wholly due to the piecemeal policy of the Government, to their dealing with the wrong commodities first and leaving the more important commodity to the final stage. That being the case, they are responsible for unbalancing agriculture and for the "permanently temporary" subsidy referred to by the hon. Member who moved the Second reading of this Bill. We have given from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 a year towards the production of wheat. There is not an hon. Member opposite who will not agree that the production of beef in this country is of far greater importance than wheat, and yet, wheat came first. We gave—£5,000,000, direct or in remission of duties, to beet sugar. Is there any hon. Member who would argue that sugar is as important as beef. I am sure that no hon. Member would dare to do so, and yet £5,000,000 was given, in one form or another. We did not come to beef until 1934.
Whatever hon. Members may say about my sympathy or lack of sympathy for farmers, may I remind them that I have been fairly consistent in my point of 2421 view upon agricultural questions since 1931, and as a result of my consistency the electors in Don Valley, where there are many more farmers than in the Division represented by the Minister, have, equally consistently, sent me to the House of Commons, while the right hon. Gentleman actually came back only by the skin of his teeth on the last occasion. have heard the right hon. Gentleman use the argument more than once that because an agricultural expert, one who really is an expert, has contested a Parliamentary seat on two or three occasions and has failed, that is conclusive proof that he knows nothing about agriculture. Taking the right hon. Gentleman's argument, I know all about agriculture, and there is very little that he knows about it, judging by the last Election campaign. That is riot a logical argument, but it is one of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman puts forward.
I want to return to the right hon. Gentleman's references to prices in Monday's Debate. He used certain figures, and said that every penny of the subsidy had gone into the pockets of the farmer. I am sure that that is not the case. He said that in July, 1934, the price was 38s. 1d. per cwt. and in July this year the price was 38s. 0½d. I do not know how he squares that with a reply he gave to a Question in the House this week. One of my hon. Friends asked him the price each month for the six months preceding the subsidy and the price for the six months subsequent to the subsidy. One of the prices he gave—they are printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT—was that in August, 1934, it was 44s. 6d. per cwt., not 38s. 1d. If, as the right hon. Gentleman stated in the House on Monday last, the price is 38s. 0½d., he will see that all the 5s. subsidy has been absorbed by somebody.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
At least the price is there, 44s. 6d. before the subsidy and 38s. 0½d. after the subsidy. I may be wrong, but I am using the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave, and they are in the OFFICIAL REPORT for Monday of this week in column 1684. I leave it at that. They are cold figures—in July, 1934, 43s. 4d., and in August, 44s. 6d.; first quality, every time. I am assuming 2422 that the right hon. Gentleman referred to first quality in his speech on Monday.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
That is the fallacy. It is first and second quality. The figures are strictly comparable. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that even if I were to make a mistake my very efficient Department would not supply me with figures that could not stand up to examination.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have a lot of confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, but I have a lot more in his Department, naturally, when it comes to figures. For the first and second quality, the prices in August, 1934, were 44s. 6d. and 38s. 5d. The average of the two would be 41s. 6d. in 1934, as against 38s. 0½d.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. There the figures are—first and second quality, 44s. 6d. and 38s. 5d. I will let him work out the sum for himself. I do not intend, anyway, to dilate upon the point. It is one of those simple things which do not matter very much, but the figures are used by the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Gentlemen sitting on those benches will believe anything. The point is that the right hon. Gentleman argued that all this subsidy had gone into the producers' pockets. At least there is a deficit of 3s. 6d. per cwt., since the commencement of the operation of the subsidy, taking average price for average price.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is a little difficult. I may, perhaps, warn the hon. Gentleman that that is not the case, but I do not want to interrupt his speech. I will go over it in my answer.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is in the interests of the House to have the truth. We do not seem to have got it yet. There is another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman showing how the action of the National Government had definitely increased the output of beef in this country. He said that as a result of the subsidy from September, 1934, there was an increase of not less 2423 than 10½ per cent. in sales. In another part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument he declared that beef production was so uneconomic that no store cattle were being sold, our herds were being reduced and there was a danger of their going out of existence altogether, and that unless something were done it would be disastrous for this country. The right hon. Gentleman cannot claim that the subsidy had attracted to the market a 10 per cent. increase in sales, which was a virtue which should be recorded to the credit of the Government, and then, a few minutes later, declare that cattle were being sold so young that there were dangerous consequences to our likestock industry. When the subsidy was being introduced we said that it would be bound to attract far greater sales on the market in the early days, and that it would be for years ahead to determine whether the subsidy had actualy helped to stabilise the industry in this country.
Another argument which the right hon. Gentleman put up was the wonderful gift made to the consumers of this country by the National Government. He said: "We have allowed cheap meat to come into this country in such volume, that, taking prices in 1929 and prices in 1936, we have given to the consumer £50,000,000." I do not quite know why the right hon. Gentleman should claim such credit. We know that in 1929 we paid Argentina £22,250,000 for beef, and that in 1935 we paid Argentina only £11,500,000 for beef, but the National Government cannot claim credit for that. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it has not been for 100 years the policy in this country to import cheap food from all parts of the world? Has it not been the policy of every Government to buy cheap food at any time, and to bring it here so that the wages of our industrial workers could remain small and industrial profits could remain very large? [An HON. MEMBER: "Cobden."] Cobden or no Cobden, it. went on for 100 years, and whether there were a Conservative or a Liberal Government they did the same thing. It is only a very recent discovery, one of the scientific discoveries of the right hon. Gentleman, that he and the Government alone are allowing the people of this country to eat cheap food. Really, the 2424 right hon. Gentleman must know that we have had 100 years' experience of that. I am not attempting to justify that we should completely ignore our agricultural industry for the industrial interests in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—but it is hon. Members and their party who have been doing it for 100 years. Now this House is confronted with the problem that has grown up under Liberal and Conservative administrations for 100 years.
We come back to organisation. The right hon. Gentleman said that the first thing we had to do was to have fat stock production in existence, implying that the fat stock industry is a very recent one. It has come in only like a tubercular being and will begin to fade away unless we import artificial sustenance into it. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in 1861 there were in this country 8,695,000 cattle—not yesterday, or the day before—and that by 1935 we had 1,000,000 cattle fewer, although we had 10,000,000 more mouths to feed? Therefore, it is not a question of what the Reorganisation Commission reported in 1934, but of holding on to the fast fading away livestock industry in 1936. We have had that industry for 70 or 80 years, but there has been no organisation, because, apparently, circumstances were such that farmers could fix their own prices and get a reasonable return without any organisation at all. But 1936 is very different from 1856 or 1866. Modern requirements demand of agriculture the same sort of organisation which other industries are obliged to adopt, and it is a little late in the day for the right hon. Gentleman to say that in 1936; it is not a question of organisation, but a question of the stabilisation of our livestock industry. There ought to have been some organisation—perhaps not modern organisation in 1861, but certainly between the years 1861 and 1936 there ought to have been some organisation such as we find to be absolutely necessary to-day. Despite the hon. Gentleman, who made a brilliant speech on my behalf which had no relation to my feelings at all, my sympathies with agriculture are, I think, as profound as those of the hon. Gentleman, and, if he can persuade the Minister and the Government to deal with agriculture, including sugar, wheat, milk and beef—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
And oats, if he cares to include oats and barley, for which there is no likelihood of any extended market, he will find that we are ready and will[...]ing to look at a comprehensive scheme for Agriculture, which does not dissect each commodity from all the rest, but holds all together; and if the Government are going to provide a direct financial basis for agriculture, we shall have a point of view as to which branch of agriculture ought to receive subsidies. 'But I should be no more justified in voting with the Government for a subsidy in this particular fashion than I should be in voting for unlimited supplies of war materials with the same Government, who have no foreign policy and do not know just where they are going in such matters. Our sympathy for agriculture, however, is just as profound as that of the hon. Gentleman, despite his satirical references to myself.
I do not charge every farmer in the country with being anti-trade union or anti-anything except the receiving of subsidies, but the right hon. Gentleman is by no means so sympathetic towards the agricultural labourer—who, after all, tends and feeds the livestock, and performs all other functions for them, up to guiding them to the market—as he has been towards the farmers of this country. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman on Monday of this week, but no hope was forthcoming from his reply. It related to farm labourer who complained to one of his own inspectors that he was not being paid according to the law. The inspector turned up, the man was immediately dismissed, and he was immediately given notice to leave his house; and during the week this farmer, for whom the Government are now legislating, among the rest, has gone to the man's house and taken every door off, because he claims that the man, being no longer employed by him, is a trespasser on the property. He has taken every door off the house, and left the man and his wife and family inside meeting the four winds.
We want to see a Government who will not only think in terms of agriculture as a whole, who will not merely follow a policy of negotiating an agreement for two or three years with Argentina to impose burdens on somebody else, but who will try and look at the problem 2426 through a pair of glasses giving clear vision—who will look at every commodity and see what the soil and climate of this country are most suited to produce. We shall be prepared to following the Government along those lines. We also, in 1936, as we were in 1922, are anxious to help farming, as distinguished from some farmers and all landowners. We want a firmer basis upon which to build, and it is because the basis on which this Government have been building for the past five years in particular has been a hopelessly inadequate one that we are obliged to persist in our opposition to this piecemeal, hopelessly inadequate policy for agriculture.
§ 12.1 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
There are one or two matters arising out of the debate earlier in the week that I should like to take up with the Minister. He quoted, with regard to the connection between imports and prices, and quoted, I think, with approval, a passage from what we used to call the Lane Fox report—Lord Bingley's report. He quoted this sentence:The downward course of 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 1931–32.I think it was Bishop Stubbs who advised historical students always to verify their references. It is well to verify other people's references also, so I looked up the figures with regard to beef, which is what we are really discussing. I am not controverting the fact that, as regards, all meat, there is justification for what the Lane Fox Commission said, but it is an interesting point with regard to beef that the peak years of imports were not 1931 and 1932, but 1926 and 1927, and the same figures were very nearly reached in 1924 and 1925. The years in which we had far bigger imports than we have had in any year recently were the last two years, in which beef prices per live cwt. exceeded 50s. It is equally interesting to note that the year of lowest imports was 1933, which was also a year of very low prices. On the whole, it is truer to say that imports and prices have tended to move together in the same direction, rather than that when one goes up the other comes down. 2427 I do not wish to go in any detail into the subject of marketing, to which we shall come in the autumn when we consider the practical proposals for which we are hoping from the Government, but it was rather interesting to listen to what was said by the Minister and by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith), who has the honour to hold the high office of President of the National Farmers' Union. The Minister said, as he was perfectly justified in saying, that it was impossible for him under the last Marketing Act to impose a marketing scheme on the industry, and he quoted the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield as having said something which came to this, that he was prepared to play his part as soon as he knew what the proposals were. There is a certain nervousness about marketing schemes now, which is a great contrast to the state of affairs when the Act was passed. It rather reminds one of the well known lines:The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn,Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;And Strachan, longing to be at 'em,Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham.We talk about it, but there is no real prospect of anything very much being clone. I remember I said, when that Bill was before the House, that the saying, "Duties first, pleasure afterwards" was very sound, but the principle "Duties and subsidies first and reorganisation afterwards" was not so sound, because once the industry got the duty or subsidy, reorganisation somehow tended to lag behind.
The real feeling that I have about subsidies whether temporary, as now, or permanent, as they are intended to be, is that, unless you can anchor them in some way, they will sooner or later prove to the industry a very unstable reed upon which to base its prosperity. You must either anchor them to some scheme of marketing and show that you are giving the community better supplies, or to some specific measure, such as the excellent plan of giving cheaper milk in schools, which is popular all over the country, and which will show that, as the result of definite schemes undertaken, people who otherwise would not buy your supplies at all are able to get them. Unless you can anchor your schemes in the esteem and appreciation of the great mass of the in- 2428 dustrial population, you may sooner or later have what some of us remember, the great scheme started under the Wheat Production Act and then thrown overboard a year afterwards, leaving the industry in a worse position than before. I do not want to oppose this now—we have got accustomed to these things—but unless you can anchor your subsidy by showing that it is going to give benefit to the people somewhere, so that you may not have the working of that obvious piece of arithmetic of 93 out of every 100 of our people wanting to have our food cheaper and only the remaining seven wanting it dearer, this subsidy may some day betray you, and the agricultural industry will be once more thrown into the depths of depression.
§ 12.8 p.m.
Colonel Sir EDWARD RUGGLESBRISE
I am glad to find that the right hon. Baronet is not going to oppose the continuance of the present subsidy. With the exception of hon. Members above the Gangway, it is clearly the desire of the whole House that it should continue at least until the long-term policy is brought into full effect. We all hope that it will not be necessary for this particular Measure to continue in force for a year, and that the long-term policy may be in full swing long before the year is out. The Parliamentary Secretary was at some pains to explain why the Government had not introduced a Bill extending over a longer period in the first instance. He was replying to a criticism of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in the Debate last Monday, when the hon. Member reminded the House that this is the fifth occasion upon which we have debated this matter within the last two years. I feel some sympathy with the hon. Member in his complaint, because, in view of the fact that the agreement with the Argentine should not be denounced earlier than 7th May this year, it seems rather unnecessary for the Government to have come to the House five times in the space of two years. Surely it would have been wiser to pass a Bill which might well have terminated a few months in advance of the possible denunciation of the Argentine agreement with the proviso that, if necessary, its life could be extended for a few months. My hon. Friend has hardly given a convincing reply on that point. 2429 I regret that, as it has been necessary to come to Parliament again on this subject at this moment, the Government did not take the bull by the horns and introduce at least one part of the long-term policy. This is merely the prolongation of the existing Statute and, the money available under the Bill is the same as that which has been available hitherto. We know from the Minister's statement on 6th July that the Government intend to give a larger total subsidy than is given at present. The subsidy under the existing Act is just under £4,000,000. The Government have announced that they intend to increase it to £5,000,000. I think there is no justification for any delay whatever in bringing that extra remuneration into play at once. The hard-pressed beef industry has been going through long lean years and, if the Government have made up there mind that it is right and just that the subsidy should in a few months time be increased, they missed the opportunity of increasing it when they found it was necessary to bring in this Bill.
I come now to a far more fundamental criticism. The Minister in last Monday's Debate claimed that the Government had reduced the price of meat to the consumer, and he said the benefit of the consumer of £50,000,000 had been given by the producers of meat in this country and oversea during the two years since the subsidy came into operation as compared with 1929 and 1930. In other words, the policy of the Government has been cheap food for the people. I take no exception whatever to that policy and, as the hon. Member for Don Valley reminded us, it has been the policy of almost all Governments for nearly 100 years. But, if that is to be the accepted policy of this or any other Government, it must have its necessary corollary. After all, the Government stand pledged to raise the wholesale price to the home producer, and to give him first place in the home market.
We get, then, this picture. On the one hand the Government reduce the retail price to the consumer and admittedly, in so doing, have to reduce the whole-sale price to the home producer. The policy which achieves that end is, of course, by allowing imports to come into the country either completely unrestricted or only partly restricted, but the result 2430 of it is obviously that the public is getting cheap meat and the home producer is getting a cheap wholesale price level in consequence. The result of the policy, as we see to-day, is that the home producer is in danger of being driven out of business. But, say the Government, that will never do. We do not desire the home producer to be driven out of business. If that were to happen, the consumer would be at the mercy of the foreign exporter, and as soon as the home producer had been put out of business, obviously the foreign exporter would put up his price, with the result that the Government policy of providing cheap food would fail. But the Government say "We must do something to preserve the home producer, if only that he may be a make-weight, in order to keep down the price of the foreign exporter. Furthermore, we are already pledged to raise the wholesale price level of commodities to the home producer. So the Government say "We must obviously do something to bridge the gap, which we have deliberately widened, and which exists between the level at which we desire the consumer to enjoy his beef and the level of the cost of production which falls to be met by the producer of home beef." The Government admits that it has deliberately widened the gap. It also I think will not refuse to admit that apart from keeping the price to the consumer low the State has taken already artificial steps which have raised the cost of production to the home producer.
We all know that the level of cost of production is not strictly economic but is fixed to-day on a social basis. A wide gap exists between the price at which it is desired to give this meat to the home consumer and the price at which the home producer can produce this meat. It is an artificial gap largely contributed to by the action of the Government. I do not think that anyone will dispute what I have said. If it be admitted that that case stands, it is clearly the duty of the State to bridge the gap. The State is recognising its duty in the fact that we have already a cattle subsidy in existence. But whilst the Government are recognising the existence of the gap, recognising their duty to do something to bridge the gap, they are not in fact going far enough to bridge it. That is the funda- 2431 mental point of criticism that I have to make.
The Government have two courses open to them. They can make the taxpayer subsidise the consumers' food by grants from the Exchequer, or they can make the exporter of foreign meat to this country pay a duty for the privilege of entering this country's market, such a duty, however, to be kept at a level which will make the duty fall to be borne by the exporter and not at such a level as to raise the price of meat to the consumer. The Government have adopted both those plans. On the one hand we have in existence a cattle subsidy paid by the taxpayer, and now there are proposals to be brought forward in the Autumn for a duty on foreign meat imported into this country. This Bill prolongs the subsidy period and we have the promise of a new Measure which will impose duties in the Autumn.
I invite the House to a little arithmetic, so as to see whether by these two methods a sufficient sum of money is available efficiently to bridge the gap and to give the home producer his due. The existing Cattle Bill makes it necessary for the taxpayer to find £4,000,000, and on the assumption that a three-farthings duty is levied on foreign imports there is a further £3,000,000 which we are told that levy will produce. Adding those two sums together we get a total of £7,000,000 available. If this total sum of £7,000,000 were allocated to the cattle producers on the existing basis it would give a subsidy, not of 5s. a cwt. or 6s., but of 8s. 9d. a cwt. The present price of meat has been mentioned as 38s. 0½d. per cwt. If we add that 8s. 9d. to the 38s. 0½d. we get a total sum available to the home producer of 46s. 9½d. per cwt. Now we are beginning to get somewhere near, if not the whole way towards, that standard price which is the home producer's due. It is accepted that 48s. a cwt. is about the lowest level at which it is possible to produce first quality beef in this country. I do not think that that figure has been seriously challenged by anyone.
My point is that there is the money available from two sources, £4,000,000 from the taxpayer, and the prospective £3,000,000 from the exporters of foreign meat to this country. But I regret to 2432 say that I do not find it is the intention of the Government to allocate the whole of the £7,000,000 to the home producer. I find instead that the Government proposals are to allocate only £5,000,000. I ask the House to consider the question, where is that other £22,000,000 going? It is going to the Treasury. The Treasury's total liabilities to-day stand at £4,000,000. Under the new proposals they will stand at £5,000,000. But the Treasury is going to scoop in a new sort of revenue, some £3,000,000, which will be deducted from its net liability, and the Treasury will provide actually only £2,000,000 under the new proposals instead of the £4,000,000 provided now.
It is necessary that we should be perfectly clear as to the net result of the proposals. They mean that the taxpayer is to be relieved of payment of £2,000,000 a year subsidy towards the consumers' food. Who is going to bear it? The home producer of cattle; he has to bear that £2,000,000. I ask the Government, is this their final idea of bridging the gap? Is this really their long-term policy? Is this fair to the cattle producer? I regret that I have to say "No". I do not think that it is going to be an adequate way of dealing with the problem of beef. The State having embarked on a policy of cheap food for the consumer is making the home producer of cattle foot a large part of the bill. I warn my right hon. Friend the Minister that there comes a point where it is necessary to put this pertinent question—"Desirable as it may be, and is, that the consumer should be given cheap food, is the consumer to have his food below the cost of production and live by the sweat of the brow of the producer for ever?" If it is right as regards food, why not in regard to fuel, furniture, cooking utensils, and the other necessities that go to make up the household belongings of every consumer in the country? If the principle is right for the one, it is equally right for the other.
We have had an example of what happened as regards fuel only a few weeks ago. We found that the producer of coal, the miner, was dissatisfied with his reward for producing the coal. Was he told "You must go on subsidising the coal consumer at your present level of wages"? Not at all. He was told "No, we will ask the consumer to pay more for his coal in order that the producers of coal may receive a higher reward." 2433 No one can deny that that is a reasonable proposition. We find that in the case of coal it was the consumer who had to foot the bill. I am not arguing whether it was right or wrong, but the fact is that he did, and he is doing so to-day. I suggest to the House that what is sauce for coal should be sauce for cattle, and I cannot believe that a different principle should obtain in relation to cattle or beef than that which the Government have decided should obtain in the case of coal. If the consumer is not to pay the necessary price level for beef, about which I am not arguing, it is clear that the difference should be made good by the whole community, that is to say, by the taxpayers, and that the difference should not continue to fall upon the shoulders of the home producer.
I beg of my right hon. Friend to give further consideration to his long-term proposals before he brings them before this House in the autumn. I hope that I have said enough to demonstrate that they do not go far enough in fairness to the producer of beef in this country. I believe, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Don Valley, that we must have a standard price fixed, and that would give us something to work upon. There is not the slightest doubt that the fixing of a standard price would go far indeed to raise the general quality of the cattle produced in this country, and that in the absence of any question of a standard price the proposals of the Minister fall far short of what is necessary to get the beef industry in this country on to its feet. Therefore, I close by asking my right hon. Friend to give his proposals very much further consideration before he brings them before the House.
§ 12.27 p.m.
§ Mr. HOPKIN
Over the week-end I took the opportunity of obtaining the views of the farmers of West Carmarthen-shire on the proposals of the Government regarding live-stock. It is not only our views on this matter that we ought to consider, but rather that we should look at this question through the eyes of the farmers themselves. Whatever else we may say about the farmers, particularly those who follow dairy farming as their chief form of farming, we must say that, anyhow this summer, they must have been going through very difficult times. 2434 I am bound to tell the Minister that, from my conversations with the farmers in my constituency, their views coincide very largely with the views which have been put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise). They are very keenly disappointed that the Minister has thought it necessary to come to the House once again in the way in which he has come now on the question of the beef subsidy, because they remember that in 1932 a White Paper was published in which the following sentence occurs:It was essential to take steps to raise the wholesale prices of frozen meat in the United Kingdom market to such a level as will maintain efficient production.They further remember that in 1933 another White Paper was published in which it says:The returns from the feeding of cattle have continued unsatisfactory.That White Paper was followed by another in 1935 in which this sentence occurs:It is clearly impossible for the United Kingdom Government to acquiesce in a situation which threatens ruin to the United Kingdom livestock industry.They feel that this subsidy, put forward in this way, is wholly inadequate for the purposes for which it is intended. They are very greatly disappointed that the Minister had not thought fit to explain and to expound much more fully his long-term policy. The farmers really are bewildered by what the Minister has been saying, and, further, they rather suspect a letter, which was sent by the Prime Minister, I believe, to the National Farmers Union, on 19th May of this year, in whichMr. Baldwin agrees that the home producer should have first place in the home market and he will certainly be given it wherever practicable,I would ask hon. Members to notice the phrase "wherever practicable,"but both the Ottawa and other declarations have recognised that other producers must also have a place.The Farmers desire to know what exact significance is to be attached to the words "wherever practicable," because they feel that many Governments have given lip-service to the principle of giving the home farmer the first look in of the home market, and that from that point of view they have now been hopelessly let down. I would remind the Minister of a speech 2435 which he made in July, 1934, when, I believe, he first introduced the question of the beef subsidy. This is what he said:Difficulties of the home producer are great and are increasing and insistent, and unless we deal with the case of the home producer we jeopardise the whole industry of agriculture."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1934; cols. 803–4, Vol. 292.]I desire, on that speech, to ask the Minister two questions. Have these difficulties decreased since 1934? Further, is the competition which the home farmer has to face when he goes into open market a fair competition? As regards the first question, I would remind him that in 1935 the imports of meat were: chilled beef, 8,489,000 cwts.; frozen beef, 2,980,000 cwts.; frozen mutton and lamb, 6,699,000 cwts. and bacon, 6,925,000 cwts. I am not a farmer, but I have tried to get what information I can from the farmers themselves, and it seems to me that the position is that, whenever the home farmer goes into the home market, he is met by this tremendous competition either from the Dominions or from foreign countries.
Reference has been made to the year 1861. Is it not the case that, owing to the fact that imports have increased to such an extent in recent years, a new technique is necessary, and further, as regards competition, is it or is it not the fact that the dairy exports of every producing country in the world coming into this market are subsidised without a single exception? Surely it is not unreasonable for those of us who represent farmers—and I represent more than 20,000 farmers, their wives and their children—to ask the House to say that, as long as that competition goes on, they should not be without some protection. I was astonished to read in Monday's Debate, this statement by the Minister:I think it is true that"—He was referring to the store cattlemen of Wales.the assistance is now passing more to the store man and, indeed, that he is getting at present all and more than all that he is entitled to."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1936; col. 1787, Vol. 314.]
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. Member will remember that we were in debate at the time, and I said that the graziers consider that he is getting all and more 2436 than all that he is entitled to. The OFFICIAL REPORT did not include the words, "the graziers consider", and I shall correct it later. It was in answer to an interjection made by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith).
§ Mr. HOPKIN
My right hon. Friend will remember that the index figure, and I have proof here, shows that although he said that this subsidy would come down and help the store cattle producer, in fact that has not occurred. I hope to prove that that has not occurred, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give more consideration to the store cattle producer. I make that appeal for the reason that the farmers of West Carmarthen are mostly producers of store cattle. Those farmers do riot get one penny piece from the beef subsidy. They do not get one farthing from the wheat subsidy. They do not get anything from the beef subsidy because they send their cattle to the Midlands, where they become fat cattle. It is not the farmers of West Carmarthen who have the subsidy. The index figure in July, 1935, for store cattle was 94 and for April, 1936, 94 again. The number of calves in 1934 was 1,255,000, and in 1935 1,166,000, representing a decrease of 88,000. Side by side with that we have had a very great increase of store cattle from Ireland.
It seems to me that it is the popular thing now, and the right thing, to emphasise the fundamental work which agriculture will have to do in the case of another war. That has been expressed in language, which I cannot possibly improve upon, in a letter to the "Times", signed by Lord Ernle and others. With permission, I desire to read one section of that letter:It may be possible to switch industry suddenly into providing war material at a very rapidly increasing rate. It is quite impossible to hurry nature. Almost all crops take a year to sow, grow and harvest. If war broke out in the late spring it would be 18 months before any increase would become apparent. With livestock the situation is far worse. If you have not a requisite head of breeding stock in the country already you can do little during the period of any modern war. But even if you had, it would take a year with pigs, two years with sheep, and 3½ years with cattle to increase our output materially.It is for that reason that I desire very respectfully to offer one suggestion to 2437 the Minister, and that is, that the subsidy should be paid only on home-grown cattle. I note that of the £4,000,000 subsidy last year, £1,000,000 was paid for Irish store cattle. If the paragraph which I have just read from the letter adequately and properly represents the Position of agriculture in regard to war, then there is a greater duty cast upon the Minister to see that the livestock industry is put upon a sound basis at the proper and the right end.
There is another side to this question that is of vital importance to Welsh farmers, and that is that they want to know how it affects the milk industry. One thousand million gallons of milk are produced now. How long can that go on, with about one-third of it being paid for manufacturing prices? We are bound to put the livestock industry on a sound basis first, and that certainly must have the effect of easing the milk market as well. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill referred to the long-term policy, and I desire to ask the Minister two questions, to which I and the farmers in my Division would like a specific answer—(1) who will represent the home producers at the conference and on the council? Will it be the Minister of Agriculture, or the National Farmers' Union, or, if I may so describe him, will it be just an ordinary farmer? (2) Should a question be referred to the Minister from the council or the conference, which can be done even if an objection is made by one delegation, will the Minister act in the spirit of the White Paper? This question of the livestock industry touches every part of the country, and in particular the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and I hope the Minister will see to it that the long-term policy, which, if I may say so with respect, was very ably criticised by the hon. Member who spoke before me, gives a fair show to the men who produce the livestock of this country.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mr. DREWE
I am sure that all of us on this side of the House will welcome the speech that has just been delivered, because it shows that hon. Members even from the Opposition when they are in close touch with agricultural constituencies realise the difficult conditions which farmers are going through at the present time. While we all of us appre- 2438 ciate the knowledge which the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has worked up about the agricultural position, I cannot help thinking that if he would come to the countryside and take a farm himself for two or three years he would be endorsing the same sort of sentiments which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin). It is my intention to support the Bill, because I realise that if it does not go through, chaos will be brought to the livestock industry. At the same time, I cannot say, and nobody can say, that if the Bill goes through prosperity will be brought to the beef industry.
We welcome the fact that, at long last, the Government foreshadow a long-term policy which will make, for the first time, the foreign beef producer pay for the privilege of coming into our market. What we had hoped for was that that long-term policy would have been on the lines of the Wheat Act, which has been so successful, and that it would have brought about a deficiency payment to enable a standard price to be paid for beef produced in this country. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) that, as we understand the long-term policy at the present time, the assistance will not be sufficient to be at all satisfactory to the industry over a long period. I am sure that farmers would have much preferred the import levy system; and it would have been more acceptable to public opinion as a whole in this country.
There are two matters which cause me the greatest concern with regard to the future of agriculture. One of them is the question of agricultural wages, which has not been referred to so far in the debate. I cannot understand why the agricultural worker of this country should have to put up indefinitely with a wage which is inferior to wages paid in industry. A mechanic in the towns has to be a highly skilled man at his own job, but an agricultural worker has to be highly skilled at several jobs. There is ploughing, hedging and ditching, and all the other things which an agricultural labourer has to do, and they are all highly skilled, leaving on one side altogether the question of mechanisation which one now finds on modern farms. It is true, however, that young men are not attracted to 2439 agriculture, they are being more and more attracted to the towns. Anyone who understands farming conditions knows that it takes many years to produce a really skilled agricultural worker. I want to see agriculture taken branch by branch and put into a position whereby farmers can make a profit in each branch of the industry and be able to pay a wage which will be attractive to those men who are highly skilled and who have to work long hours.
In recent years it has been the policy of the Government to frame their agricultural policy merely with the view of keeping the farmer just out of bankruptcy, just to keep his head above water. The time has come when that policy must be reversed. We must have a long-term policy in beef, and in other branches of agriculture which will enable a farmer to make a profit and be able to pass on a much larger share to the men he employs. Farmers are only too anxious to raise the standard of living of the men they employ, but under existing conditions it is absolutely impossible for them to pay a higher wage. I am looking 10 and 15 years ahead in agriculture, and I am certain that if existing conditions remain in another 10 or 15 years time agriculture will break down because of the shortage of skilled labour in the country. That is why I make an earnest appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to use all the influence he possesses with the Goverment that in framing his long-term policy he will frame it in such a way as not to nibble at the problem, just to keep the farmer's head above water, but will see to it that he is in a position to be able to afford to pay proper and attractive wages.
Another point in regard to our long-term policy is that we must make it sufficiently attractive to get the farmer who ought to produce stock back to stock production instead of milk production. In all parts of the country you will find farms which are not suitable for milk production producing milk, because farmers have been driven out of stock production. The hon. Member for Don Valley suggested that this was because the Government have given assistance to the dairying industry, to the wheat industry and to the beet sugar industry. Wheat and beet sugar are not in competition with beef production at all, and, 2440 so far as milk is concerned, under present prices the man who is producing milk is not making profits. The only reason he is staying in milk production is that he can do no better in beef production. If he remains in milk production he gets the fortnightly cheque and has ready money, which he cannot get in the beef industry. We want to see the milk industry relieved from those producers whose farms are more suitable for beef production, and that is the second reason why I appeal to the Government to make the terms of their long-range policy more attractive than we have reason to believe they will be.
There is one other point, and that is with regard to cow beef. It is quite true that with the increase in dairying there is a large amount of cow beef on the market to-day, which has a certain depressing effect on the market and also gives a bad name to certain butchers' shops selling British meat. We want to see the best possible meat put on the market, and I ask that the Government will consider most carefully whether they can introduce some scheme, or give assistance to a scheme which will enable factories to put up for processing cow beef in order to get it off the market and not remain there in competition with the high class beef we can produce in this country.
I want to make one reference to the speech made by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). I cannot agree with him that farmers are not ready to organise themselves under existing conditions. I think that farmers in recent years have shown clearly that they are only too anxious to do anything to make their industry more efficient. When the milk scheme was introduced the farmers supported it by an overwhelming majority, and when the pig scheme was introduced the same thing occurred. But the experience that farmers have had under the milk scheme and under the pig scheme is not such as to make them too anxious to rush into another scheme until they know what the future conditions of the industry are likely to be. If farmers are put in a position that there is a hope of making reasonable profits and paying reasonable wages then, if a scheme is brought forward which they are satisfied will improve the efficiency of their business, I am sure they will not be backward in giving it their support. I hope the 2441 Minister will use the whole of his influence in the Cabinet to show them that the long-range policy, as we understand it at the present time, is a disappointment to meat producers in the country, because we had hoped that this problem would be now tackled once and for all, and that farmers would be put in a position to make profits themselves and pass on a better share of the profits to their men.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Mr. PRICE
There is, I think, a feeling in the House that it is high time we got a general settlement of this matter, and did not have continuously these cattle subsidy extensions coming before us. The question, however, that we have to ask is whether the money which it is proposed to spend is being spent in the right manner. I am not one who takes the view that we can afford to leave an industry in distress and refuse Government aid when it can be shown that the industry is important for the economic life of the country. But this House, as the guardian of the public purse, has to see that the money is spent in the right way. All of us who have anything to do with agriculture, either personally or through contact with our constituents, must be fully aware of the serious condition of the cattle-raising industry in this country. There is a serious danger at the present time that, owing to the low prices of fat stock, the cattle-raising industry will suffer to such a degree that the breeders will cease to go on with their particular branch of the industry, I maintain that the social consequences of the breakdown of stock-rearing, particularly in the West of England, would be very serious. My hon. Friend, the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin), has made a very eloquent plea for the stock-raisers in Carmarthenshire. I do not share many of his views, but clearly he speaks with knowledge of those who are in his constituency and are deeply concerned in this matter. Therefore, I think it is clear that something ought to be done.
It appears to me that we have applied our marketing policy in this country to certain sections of the agricultural industry, but not to others. We have schemes for controlling milk prices, and marketing schemes for potatoes, bacon and hops; but just because we have an organisation for the marketing of milk, 2442 which is doing something to give a sound basis to the milk industry, and have done nothing whatever to assist and organise the marketing of stock, whether fat or store, we are in danger of getting a lopsided development in agriculture. We are in danger of attracting—and it is happening now—people into the milk industry and making that industry top-heavy, while cutting the bottom out of the stock-raising industry. Therefore, it is time that something was done in this matter. It is because I am afraid that the government are simply following the line of least resistance and handing out public money without proper control, that I think they are not really tackling this matter in the right way. I have strong reasons for believing that not all of this subsidy during the last two years has gone to the fat-stock producer. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) raised this point in his speech, and I raised it in connection with a question I put to the Minister a few days ago in regard to the price of fat cattle for the six months prior to the giving of the subsidy and the six months after the giving of it. I shall listen with much interest to the Minister's reply; but it seems to me unanswerable that some of the money must have gone where it was not expected to go.
For the six months prior to and the six months after the application of the subsidy, there was a three shillings difference on an average between the price of second quality beef, and a larger difference of 4s. for prime beef, in the case of which it was, in fact, half the subsidy which appeared to have been lost. As one who is engaged in the industry, I remember noticing that my returns during that time were the same before as after the subsidy. The price had gone down on the local markets almost by the amount of the subsidy. It may be possible for the Minister to argue that that was due to large imports taking place at that time, and that world market conditions were such that they wiped out the effect of the subsidy; but I know that during that time, in several cattle markets with which I am acquainted, it was the general opinion that the butchers and dealers were taking advantage of the situation and were intentionally depressing the price in order that they might share the advantage which should have 2443 gone to the farmers. There is, of course, no proof, but in view of the generally known fact that there is no smoke without fire, I think there is every reason to believe that there was something in that.
Under present conditions, therefore, there is no guarantee that the producer will get the full advantage of this subsidy, and certainly not the public. I am strengthened in my statement by a very important publication which was issued by the Standing Committee of the Central Council of Agriculture for England to inquire into the meat situation and a scheme for marketing fat stock by national grading and dead weight. That Committee issued a report in November, 1935, which was reprinted in the journal of the Ministry of Agriculture in January of this year. The Council of Agriculture is a very important body, consisting of men drawn from all those parts of industry connected with agriculture, and I would like to read one or two quotations from the report. On the first page it is stated:It appears to the Committee that the position will never be satisfactory until an extensive system of central slaughtering can he adopted. Then, and only then, will the farmer be practically certain of getting a full and fair return for his meat according to its dead weight, and the proper values for hides, skins and offals as well.Further on it is stated:The Committee would therefore strongly advise that the number of wholesale meat markets at which the Ministry provides an official grader should be increased, so as to cover a much larger area of the country. In order to encourage sales by grade and dead weight it would be advisable for the National Farmers' Union or other local bodies to establish area organisations or committees for the purpose of disposal of stock.The report then gives a series of recommendations in which, while advising a levy and subsidy in the case of imported meat, it argues for the extension of the national grading and dead-weight scheme to several more markets so as to cover as many as possible of the districts in which it can be of use. I should like to know what the Minister is going to do about that. I think that recommendation of the Council of Agriculture is one that ought to be very seriously considered. Central slaughter houses are things about which so far we have done 2444 nothing. It is true that we have several very important and very useful—as far as they go—meat-grading centres where it is possible for the farmer to send livestock to be sold on the spot and weighed up, and for payment to be made on the basis of dead weight, so that there is not likely to be any wastage or any unfair treatment due to market rings and so forth.
I have had experience of the dangers of local markets. Not so long ago I had to send a consignment of bullocks to a local market. When they were being removed from the van one of them slipped and broke a leg. The animal had to be slaughtered on the spot. There was no means of taking it away and selling it elsewhere and the butchers of the neighbourhood got into a ring and gave a couple of pounds for an animal which, if it had been sent to Birmingham or London and had met with a similar accident in one of those centres, would have fetched a much higher price. Had the animal met with the accident in one of those centres it would have been killed and cut up at once, the damaged portion removed and the remainder sold for a decent price though probably something less than the ordinary market price. It would certainly fetch a higher price than the scandalous blackmailing price, for that is what it is offered in the local market.
That case shows the importance of the work done at the Ministry's grading centres, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has done well in continuing the policy of his predecessor Dr. Addison in developing, or at least carrying on those centres. But I think more must be done. There are few of these places and it is difficult for small farmers to send cattle long distances when they have only two or three animals to dispose of. To fill one of these big transport vans, it is necessary to have at least five or six fat beasts and that is not possible for the small man. It is opportune now when we are considering this subsidy to ask the Minister what can be done. Does he intend to extend this useful method of meat marketing of which we have at least the skeleton organisation?
I agree that it is not possible to settle the question completely by means of marketing reform important though those are. My complaint is that the Government give us no indication of how far 2445 they are prepared to go now, in connection with this subsidy, on the question of improved marketing of meat but I agree that we have also to consider imports and prices. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley to-day and on Monday asked the Minister what was known about the cost of production of fat stock in this country. We do not know what a reasonable price would be, and we have no statistics published by the agricultural experimenting stations or the University experimental farms where they go in for the study of the economics of agriculture. I have seen no reliable figure indicating the cost of production of beef. We know a great deal about milk production and we know too that the cost of production varies considerably not only according to efficiency but also according to different types of soil and climate. We know a little about the cost of production of milk, but we have no figures as to the cost of the production of beef and I support the request of my hon. Friend for some information on that point.
I know from my own experience that it is possible in certain districts to fatten cattle without cake or with very little cake except just at the end and to produce absolutely prime beef. It is true that the rents in such districts may be £3 or £4 an acre, yet a man can get along there quite well. At any rate there is a margin which just enables him to carry on even under conditions as they are at present whereas on the sub-marginal lands where it is necessary to buy feeding stuffs for a large part of the time, even though rents may be no more than £1 an acre, the cost of production is very high. Thus we know that there must be wide margins, but we want to know more about them and I think there is a case in favour of taking steps towards increased research on meat production costs. Before we can do anything we must know the facts. But we cannot stabilise prices at home without taking steps to stabilise the prices of imports. I am not one of those who think that we can get along without insulating our market at home or controlling the price of imported products, but there again we have to be very careful because as has been pointed out imported chilled beef from the Argentine supplies a large part of the meat consumption of the poorer section of our people. There is as a rule a difference of 2446 about 2d. a lb. between the imported chilled beef and the home grown product.
There is no guarantee, however, that if we raise the price of imported chilled beef the consumer will thereupon turn to home grown beef. He may turn to something else, such as pork, bacon, mutton and lamb. Indeed, there is evidence which leads one to think that for some years there has been in progress a steady decrease in the consumption of beef due to change in consumers' habits generally. Beef is not so popular as it was. The demand for the small joint gives preference to mutton, bacon and pork. The introduction of labour saving machinery means that there is not such a demand for strong meat like beef among a large section of our people. Therefore, we must be careful about raising the price of the imported product, even by a little, because unless we are careful there may be a consumers' strike which would undo all the good that might otherwise be achieved. There is this point also to be considered. The price of fat cattle and of beef for the consumer has fallen by 35 per cent. since 1925. The general level of the prices which the consumer has to pay is considerably below that of 10 years ago, therefore, when we produce a long term policy for dealing with imported beef and home production it is not unfair to take steps if necessary to stabilise the price at a little above the very low levels of recent years.
I am not one of those who fall down and worship at the shrine of the goddess of eternal cheapness. I do not hold the old Cobdenite Free Trade views. I wish to see neither Free Trade nor unregulated Protection. I wish to see regulated trade and stabilised prices, with public control over the operation of imports. For that reason I take the view that the Government, or some Government, ought before very long to approach the question of setting up import control boards. We ought to have some kind of body like a statutory trading corporation, on which the various interests would be represented, the big importers, the consumers, and the State, a board which would have the monopoly right to purchase imported meat coming into this country and to stabilise the price by means of bulk purchases and not necessarily unloading to the consumer entirely at the world market price. I should like to see a scheme whereby that 2447 body could build up a fund, say by a small levy. My objection to a levy of the type which is being brought forward is that it is not regulated or properly controlled. An import control board could also make a levy, and it would be very much more controllable and scientific, and we should know where the money went. By an import control board, you could build up a fund which could then develop our home cattle industry. But I am not in favour of financing entirely by means of a levy on imports. I think that the general taxpayer must also contribute, and, therefore, I have no objection to a subsidy also being given to build up this fund for the development of our home livestock market.
The last speaker opposite referred to the necessity of doing something to deal with the cow-beef problem, and I entirely agree with him. It is a serious problem which affects all cattle-producing countries. I understand that the difficulties in this respect are the same in the Argentine as here and that five-sixths of the cattle produced there do not go for live export but have to be slaughtered and turned into canned beef. There is a very large wastage in that way. It is all the worse here, in view of the tremendous extension of dairying. My point is that if you have an import control board financing a fund for the development of our home livestock industry, you can easily use a portion of that money for the purpose of setting up or financing industries and assisting them to deal with this cow-beef business.
I believe we have the material at hand for the setting up of a body of this kind. We have a very admirable body called the Market Supply Committee, a kind of hybrid body, I understand, between various Ministries, which watches over the world market prices and advises the Ministry on questions of quotas, tariffs, etc. It seems to me that that body might be extended for the purpose of dealing with this matter, or that they might have nominees upon an import control board on behalf of the Government. In any case, I think those are the rough lines along which our development ought to run. We want more scientific treatment of this matter. My main objection to the way in which we are going on at present is that a levy is not 2448 likely to fare any better than a subsidy. We do not know whether it will really go to the farmer or how much of it will be wasted or frittered away in the hands of middlemen and dealers.
I do not oppose the use of public money, as I have said before, to assist an industry in distress, and the cattle industry is certainly one which needs helping. For that reason I cannot agree to oppose the continuation of this subsidy until such time as the Minister brings forward his long-term policy. I cannot see my way to going into the Lobby against the Government in this matter, but I warn them that when they bring forward their long-term policy, they must do something very much better than they have done hitherto and very much, I hope, along the lines which I have indicated to-day. Years ago there was much talk about continuity in foreign policy, but that has all gone to-day. There is something to be said, I think, for a continuity of agricultural policy, but in order to get it hon. Members opposite must get out of the groove, into which they have all too easily fallen, of just trying to raise prices by artificial means, by keeping foreign produce out, without any sufficient organisation of the market or public control over prices and crops, which we on this side say is so important in agricultural policy. Agricultural policy, if there is to be continuity from Parliament to Parliament, must be progressive and scientific and, first, last, and all the time, must keep its eye on the public interest.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) thought that we on this side would believe anything but it strained our credulity rather far wren he said he was returned to this House by the votes of the farmers in his constituency. I notice that nearly 15,000 electors voted against him last time, and I cannot help thinking that that number must have included a large number of farmers. I think the Minister may be fairly well satisfied with the debate to-day. Most people have realised that in the present situation there is nothing to do except to continue a subsidy. I think the speech most thoroughly in opposition to it was that of the hon. Member for Don Valley, but he rather gave me the impression that he had made up his mind to vote 2449 against it and then tried to find a good reason for so doing. It is undoubtedly very much to be regretted that there has been such a long delay in getting the Government's long-term policy into being, and the Minister himself has told us some of the unfortunate effects of that. He said that until the farmers see some prospect of permanence in their industry, they are disinclined to go in for any measure of long-term organisation. A farmer in my constituency the other day told me the only really good thing the Government had done for the livestock industry was to pass the Act dealing with scrub bulls, and there may be a certain amount of truth in that, but I think there were good reasons why other branches of the agricultural industry were dealt with before the cattle industry.
When the present Government came into power undoubtedly the wheat industry was that branch of agriculture which most needed help, and as regards sugar beet, to which the hon. Member for Don Valley also referred, if any blame is attributable in regard to that, I think the party opposite should share it with us. Although it is true that the sugar beet subsidy was first introduced by the Conservative Government in 1925, it was in continuance and fulfilment of the undertaking given by Lord Snowden on behalf of the Socialist party in 1924 and continued by the Socialist Government in 1929 and 1931. It seems to me that at the present time there is nothing to do except to continue this subsidy, because the Minister has told us that unless that assistance had been given the supply of home produced meat could not have been kept up and it cannot be kept up unless the assistance is continued. That makes me ask why it is not possible to bring in, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) suggested, part, at any rate, of the Government's long-term policy sooner than the full policy. We have had a statement of what the long-term policy is to be and I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that it really is not going to be enough to put the beef industry into a satisfactory position.
The Parliamentary Secretary touched on various points of the programme, but there are two points which he did not mention about which I should like the Minister to say something. The first is the omission to do anything with regard 2450 to mutton and lamb. I am afraid that that omission will spoil the effect of the rest of the policy to a large extent. The other point is in reference to that curious phrase that there is to be no artificial expansion. At what point does expansion cease to be natural and becomes artificial? For instance, if those men who, have been drawn out of beef production into milk production are brought back to producing beef, will that be natural or artificial? Why should not assistance be given to every form of agriculture, because it is surely a vital necessity at the present time that we should produce more food in this country, not only from the point of view of agriculture, but from the point of view of national defence? There was a curious phrase in a letter in the "Times" a short time ago in which it was suggested that a supply of food from the Argentine would be a necessity in time of war. It would be very convenient if we happened to be engaged in a war with a country that had neither a navy nor an air force, but if we engage in war with a country that had a navy or an air force the prospects would be very serious if we had to depend on overseas supplies.
The more we produce at home the less demand there will be on our merchant shipping, and there is less merchant shipping than we had in the last War. The more we can produce at home the less demand there will be on the Navy for escort, and we have fewer cruisers than we had in the late War. Then, too, there is the menace of aircraft. For all these reasons it is of the utmost importance that every possible means should be taken to increase the supply of home produced food. For that reason I hope the Minister will give some further explanation of the phrase "artificial expansion" which at the moment is very ominous, and not very reassuring.
§ 1.30 p.m.
I feel that the observations of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) about rearmament are very much on a par with his observations about agriculture. He desires our forces to be adequately equipped but votes against any money being spent on equipment. He has great sympathy with agriculture, but speaks and votes against the subsidy which will help it. It never seems politically possible to do the economically sound and 2451 sensible thing for agriculture, but I suppose that owing to the complications of Imperial and foreign trade, owing to the position of the National Government and to the difficulties of agriculture itself, it has been possible to put through a sound long-term policy which would do something for our livestock industry. I hold the view that a duty on all imported meat, with a small preference for those countries that give preference to our goods and a large preference to the Dominions, would have been the sound policy. It would have given the Treasury means of subsidising home livestock, and would have avoided many of the difficulties which we have encountered in this problem. However, I welcome the introduction of the long-term policy and the present Bill as merely something with which to pass the time before that policy comes into operation. We have heard a good deal about marketing. It seems to me that it is dangerous to rely on marketing alone to raise the price to a satisfactory level. Marketing should reduce the margin between what the producer gets and what the consumer pays. Better and increased marketing will mean increased control, however, and the farmers are naturally nervous of having any further bureaucratic control over their industry.
The question to be debated to-day is whether £3,000,000 or £5,000,000 is sufficient. It is difficult to say what sum is enough. I represent a milk-producing constituency, and I welcome this Measure, because I know only too well that one of the reasons we have such difficulty in disposing of our milk supplies, and why the surplus milk which has to go for manufacturing purposes is increasing month by month, is because such a large number of farmers in recent years have turned from fat stock to milk. They cannot afford to wait. for six, nine or twelve months for a gamble as to whether their livestock will show them a profit, and they have to turn to milk which brings them in a monthly cheque which pays their wages and rent. They are perhaps not so concerned as they ought to be whether milk prices are depreciating the value of their farms during the time they are receiving these monthly cheques. It is very difficult to say what is the right sum. All farmers are in different positions. They pay 2452 different rents. Some may have sons to help them, their farms may be situated in advantageous places, and there are a thousand different circumstances connected with various farms which make it impossible to say what is the exact sum which is suitable for livestock or any other aspect of the industry.
The latest figures of the annual production of agriculture in this country is in the neighbourhood of £2200,000,000. Livestock accounts for £60,000,000 of which cattle accounts for a little less than one-half. Therefore, if we tackle it on that basis, the subsidy from the Treasury of £5,000,000 for what constitutes between 12–15 per cent. of the agricultural produce of the country is not an unfair offer on the part of thc Treasury, although I am not saying that other circumstances should not be taken into account. It is not always realised what the fall in prices has been. On the whole we may take it that prices to-day are very nearly the same as they were in 1913, in spite of the fact that the cost-of-living has gone up by 44 per cent. Were the farmers to-day getting an increase of 44 per cent. in the price of beef, they would be getting about 95s. per cwt. instead of just under 70s. There are other reasons outside the control of the Government for the fall in the price. To-day the taste of the public has changed. The Sunday joint has gone. Old couples go out on Sunday in char-a-bancs and young couples on bicycles made for two, and even if they stay at home it is tinned food and other things which they eat, and not the old-fashioned joint.
I welcome this temporary subsidy, and I welcome on behalf of my constituents the long-term policy outlined by the Government. If the Minister can manage in the future to get a little more for agriculture we shall be grateful. For many years past agriculture has been drained of its capital. Formerly the countryside was very largely supported not alone on what agriculture produced but by money coming into it as an artificial stimulus from outside. Owing to heavy Death Duties and heavy taxation, and the low prices farmers have been able to get for their products in the last few years, the countryside has been deprived of that measure of wealth and prosperity which formerly it enjoyed. The 2453 policy which the Minister and the Government are pursuing is bringing back to the countryside some measure of security and of prosperity, and I am grateful for this subsidy as part and parcel of that policy. I believe it is sound, because above all things it is necessary in an agricultural policy to consider the interests of the consumers as well as those of the producers.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ Captain DOWER
It is very remarkable that during the Debate on the Financial Resolution and to-day not a single word has been said by any of the Members who oppose this Bill about the importance of the home production of foodstuffs in the event of war. In Debates on foreign affairs Members of the Opposition are always very voluble about being as equally concerned for national defence as hon. Members on this side, and therefore they ought to realise that food supplies are a most vital part of national defence. I promise hon. Members to make my speech extremely brief, and I will, therefore, refer to only one or two points. This subsidy is a temporary measure only. Nobody likes it very must. The farmers do not like it very much, but it was put into operation when the cattle industry was in a desperate condition, and it was the only thing to be done at that moment. I have risen particularly to deny a statement made by a Member from those overflowing Liberal benches which we see before us, my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). I gave him notice that I was going to draw attention to it. He said that cattle producers in Cumberland had become so prosperous under the subsidy that rents were being raised to pre-slump prices. My information is that the position is just the reverse. The cattle industry in Cumberland is in a parlous condition and very grateful for any help which the Minister can offer. In July, before the subsidy was put into operation, the average price for cattle per live cwt. was 37s. and to-day it is 35s. I cannot see any evidence of increased prosperity there.
My right hon. Friend has been criticised for the delay in bringing forward his long-term policy, but when we remember the tremendous importance of the trade between this country and the Argentine we can hardly be surprised that negotiations have gone on over a long period. 2454 Ninety per cent of the Argentine beef exports are sent to Great Britain. Of the beef consumed in this country 50 per cent. comes from the Argentine, 35 per cent is home-produced and 50 per cent. comes from the Dominions. When that is realised one can hardly blame the Argentine for wanting to maintain things as long as they can. It has been suggested that we on this side are opposed to an agreement with the Argentine. We certainly are not, but we want to see an agreement which will be fair to British agriculture, and if we get an agreement that is fair we shall be as interested as any other Member of the House in safeguarding our export industries.
In the last House I had the honour of being a representative of an industrial borough, and now I represent an agricultural constituency, and I can say with absolute sincerity that if while I was at Stockport I had said that the agricultural interest did not count I should have lost a good deal of support, and it would be the same now if in Cumberland I said that it was not vital to the interests of this country to encourage our export industries. The fact of the matter is that the prosperity of the countryside and of the town depend on one another. If we can get agriculture right we shall get the best market for home manufactures, but however good that market may be we must always support our export industries, because we must have money to pay for imports of raw materials and imports of foodstuffs of a kind which will always have to be imported. I do not believe that industrialists will deny to agriculture help and assistance such as they themselves have asked for and received, and by that I mean a regulated market.
One of the most welcome signs of recent years has been the revival of trade and the reduction of unemployment. There are more than a million more men in work, and when we are considering this Bill we are entitled to ask how many of them are agricultural labourers. The answer was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert) when he pointed out that in the 15 years between 1921 and 1935 employment in agriculture had dropped 20 per cent. One out of every five agricultural labourers has drifted into the towns to look for work, very few to find it and many to swell the 2455 ranks of those already unemployed in the towns. That is a most deplorable state of affairs, indeed it is a tragedy, and it is the duty of the Government to do their utmost, and at the first moment, to stop the decline from proceeding further.
I hope my right hon. Friend will get his majority on this Bill. At the same time there are one or two criticisms to which I hope he will pay attention. I am not going to ask him any questions, but there are one or two points which I hope he will consider. The first concerns increased efficiency in the cattle industry. Time is not available to allow me to go into the Report of the Reorganisation Commission on Fat Stock. I had hoped to have such an opportunity, but I can see that this is not a suitable occasion. But there are recommendations in that Report which I hope my right hon. Friend will assure the House will be put into operation when he considers the right moment to do so has arrived. On Monday and to-day hon. Members have asked "Where has this subsidy gone?" It has become a kind of will o' the wisp. Everybody in the industry—rearers, feeders, auctioneers, butchers and consumers—has been indicted in turn, and yet we are told from the Treasury Bench, "It is all right; there is nothing to worry about; it has all gone to the cattle producer." After listening to the Debate to-day and on Monday many hon. Members on this side and the other side, and perhaps the Minister himself, may think there is a possibility that a proportion of it, and perhaps even a substantial proportion, has gone in directions in which it was never intended that it should go. I cannot help feeling that it is rather like sending cheques to some social charities: if they arrive at the desired destination you are lucky!
Like other hon. Members who have expressed their opinion, I hope that, when the long-term policy is brought forward, it will set at rest many of the doubts which have been expressed in this House, and that my right hon. Friend will do his utmost to see that the levy upon Argentine imports will go to the man to whom we want the levy to go, that is, the cattle producer. Then we shall be giving to the cattle industry the help and encouragement that many hon. Members who represent agricultural and industrial 2456 constituencies have long desired that it should have.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
Like many hon. Members who have spoken this morning, I rise to support the. Bill, but I do so with a considerable feeling of disappointment. The long-term policy put forward by the Minister fails completely to fulfil the hopes which we founded upon Command Paper 4828. We 'all expected, as the result of that Command Paper, that there was to be a levy subsidy, and we hoped to get a guaranteed price and that a levy would be practicable to cover deficiency payments. We have not got the guaranteed price, nor the levy to cover deficiency payments. The whole scheme falls very far short of what we expected. The most successful Measure for agriculture which this and the last Government have operated has been the Wheat Act, which has worked smoothly and well, and has been very successful. The Government should have been able to bring in a similar Measure in regard to cattle. In some ways, perhaps, a straight tariff is better than a levy, but on the whole I prefer the levy system. It is also more likely to be permanent than a, direct tariff or a subsidy. Under the levy, effective help can be given, and there is less expense to the consumer. It is more likely to be permament than the subsidy which we have under the present scheme. The subsidy will have to be considered annually, and every Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he has difficulty in balancing his Budget, will be tempted to say, "Let us take a, bit off the subsidy to agriculture." The Minister has chosen the worst method.
We cannot criticise the scheme in detail until we know more about it, but I am certain that it is a mistake to allow Dominion meat to come in free, and that mutton and lamb ought to be taxed. As there is no levy, it does not affect the farmer as much as it affects the Treasury. The stabilising of imports of cattle at the average of the last three years is too high. Then there are those very ominous words:While not stimulating an artificial expansion of the home industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1936; col. 844, Vol. 314.] This probably means that there will be artificial limitation of production. Unless his policy is going to lead to increased production it will not fulfil its2457 purpose. We must have a balanced agriculture, and one of the things necessary to get it is that farmers who, in despair, have turned from meat to milk, should go back to meat and start producing meat again. We cannot get a balanced agriculture until we have the meat and the store cattle trade prosperous, and I very much doubt whether the Minister's scheme will go far to do this. The Government must recognise that increased production is essential for our defence. We have been told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that if we had no Navy we could be starved out in six weeks. That shows how essential it is to increase our production. We believe that production can be increased by about £100,000,000 per annum without doing damage to the Empire or to our export trade. There is no doubt that the cattle industry can do a great deal towards helping that expansion, but I doubt whether the Minister's scheme will go far in that direction.
I understand that the Minister proposes to have varying degrees of subsidy to be given to various grades, in order to encourage the best production. I am all in favour of encouraging the very highest class of production, but I think the proposal will cause considerable difficulty in our markets. Grading will be difficult and may cause ill-feeling. It may have to be done by graders from outside, because local people will do it only with a considerable amount of misgiving. Another point I wish to raise, which has already been mentioned, is that beef produced from stores not bred in the United Kingdom, but coming from Southern Ireland or elsewhere, should receive a very much reduced subsidy than is given to beef produced from stores bred in this country. The money thus saved by the reduction in the subsidy could be used to increase the amount of the grant to the highest class of beef.
I hope, when the Minister is setting up the two councils, that representation will be given to the producers of cattle. This is a matter of importance. The producers feel keenly that they have not been taken into consideration by the right hon. Gentleman and by the President of the Board of Trade, in the making of trade agreements which have a vital effect upon the industry. In his speech on Monday last the Minister laid very great stress upon the consumer; I think he laid a great deal too much stress 2458 upon the consumer, coming from the Minister of Agriculture. If the Government have decided that cheap food is to be their policy let them say so frankly. They must then decide whether they propose to allow agriculture to die and our countryside to be depopulated, or whether they are going to keep agriculture going by means of a subsidy or a levy; but if they want cheap food and also want to help the industry, they must have a sufficient subsidy or a sufficient levy to cover the gap between the prices which can be received by agricultural producers in this country, and a fair remuneration to the producers. The subsidy of £5,000,000 suggested by the right hon. Gentleman will not do that. If he wishes to have cheap food and a prosperous agriculture he must give a larger subsidy, a larger levy or impose increased Tariffs.
Another point in the policy with which some people do not agree is that the right hon. Gentleman does not propose—and I am very glad—to force any marketing scheme upon the industry as a condition of giving the subsidy. Marketing must, of course, be improved, but the success of the marketing schemes which we have had so far has not been so great as to make agriculture anxious for more. It has made agriculture very suspicious. Many of us feel that we have been let down badly by the scheme put forward by the Minister, after what we were led to expect from the Command Paper of last year. There is no doubt that there will be very keen disappointment in the cattle-raising districts that more has not been done to make the industry more prosperous. I do not blame the Minister, but I blame the Free Trade elements in the Cabinet.
The Minister has recently had to introduce two Bills, neither of which is liked by anyone. The first was the Tithe Bill, a compromise which apparently satisfied no one. In this case I think it was inevitable. I think that, having to introduce this Bill, he might have done more in it to get the meat-producing side of the industry back to prosperity. Compromises of this sort do not remove the opposition of those who do not wish to see agriculture helped. All that such compromises do is to estrange supporters on this side of the House and in the country, to disappoint them, and to make them feel that not enough is being done. I 2459 beg my right hon. Friend, between now and the autumn, to see whether he cannot revise his scheme and bring forward something which will really be effective in restoring the cattle section of the industry to prosperity. Above all, I beg him to make sure that, in any agreement which may be made with Argentina or any other country, his hands are not bound as they have been in the past. In past years it has been impossible to do what we know ought to have been done, because of these agreements. I beg him to make sure that no agreement is entered into which will so bind his hands as to prevent him from helping agriculture with a much better scheme than this.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
Like most other speakers in the Debate, I shall support this Bill, because it is the only thing that is possible at the moment. For some four and a-half years I have been one of the not very large band—I am glad to say that it is a growing band now—who have tried to press upon the Government the fact that this situation will never be dealt with satisfactorily until the method of import duties is effectively applied to it. I do not rule out, particularly during a period of abnormal depression of general prices, a subsidy as well. I am not like most of my farmer friends in this House who pretend that a levy is not an import duty, but a subsidy. The one is a plain tariff and the other is a plain subsidy, so do not let us humbug ourselves by calling it something different. A levy will be an import duty, and I think that an import duty is desirable. It is an infinitely more honest and fairer method of regulating imports than any other device that has yet been discovered. It does not interfere with the freedom of trade; it does not confer special privileges on special bodies of Empire producers; it does not do any of the undesirable things that result from quota and licensing systems.
Let us be logical on this question of import duties. As an ardent advocate of the development of inter-imperial relationships, I see no reason against a duty on Empire meat, and we shall never get a satisfactory policy for the livestock industry until it is applied. In 1932, my hon. Friend the Member for Leo- 2460 minster (Sir E. Shepperson) moved that meat should not be on the free list. If he had been reinforced, not merely by the 46 or 47 who went into the Lobby that night—we were abused enough for doing it, but we have recovered—but by those who would gladly vote that way now, and if we had started first of all with a 10 per cent. ad valorem duty on foreign and a smaller duty on Empire meat, we should have been carrying out an obviously sensible thing which the Conservative party have always stood for, namely, Imperial preference, instead of following the dictates of Lord Beaver-brook and going in for Empire Free Trade, which was a fatal error both from the point of view of industry and from the point of view of agriculture.
Since the decision, apparently, is that for the time being there is to be no duty on Empire meat, a long-term policy will not be a success. There is no chance of its being an effective success as long as there are gaps in it. It is true that the Ottawa Agreements run for five years, so that we cannot, until some time in the autumn of next year, unless there is a special agreement in the meantime which apparently is not forthcoming, put a duty on Empire meat. But I hope that the Government are not going to abandon the possibility of imposing a duty upon Empire meat—beef and mutton. There is no reason for leaving mutton out of the scheme of import duties. I am going to face up to the issue that, whereas most of the industrial tariffs have had no adverse effect on prices, but, indeed, in most cases have led to reductions in prices, I honestly believe that, if there is a duty on Empire meat and a higher duty on foreign meat, there will be some rise in price. I sit for a constituency which is essentially urban and industrial. It is true that there is a branch of the National Farmers' Union in Croydon, but it does not appear to be a very strong one. The community in my constituency is an urban consuming community, but I am prepared to face those whom I represent and tell them that it is their duty to purchase their meat on such terms that the agricultural labourers of this country can have a square deal.
We have done it with regard to coal. When we had a debate on coal recently, I expressed the opinion that the wages of the men who work underground are 2461 approximately double those of the agricultural labourers. There was some dispute as to the exact proportion, but, taking these two classes of workers, it is fair to say that it is about two to one.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the wages of all mineworkers, as given by the Secretary for Mines this week, and certainly the figures given by the Ministry of Labour, show that the average wage is round about £110 per annum, as against the figure of 34s. 1d. per week given by the Minister of Agriculture?
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I am not unaware of that fact, but the figures quoted included the wages of the whole industry—all the surface workers and all the people on short time. They are valueless for the purposes of the comparison which I made which was between the miner working underground full time and the agricultural labourer working full time. Taking these two classes, the ratio is two to one. This country is now going to pursue the policy of raising the price of coal, which is already, as compared with pre-War, far higher than is the case with meat prices. At this moment those who produce coal are exploiting those who produce meat, if the pre-War, situation is regarded as representing justice, even without the increases in coal prices that are shortly going to take place. Therefore, the last people who can object to any policy calculated to raise meat prices to a level that will make it possible to give the agricultural labourer a decent standard of living and to give the farmer some chance of survival are those who come to this House to grind the axes of the coal-mining community of this country. I hope that the Minister will before long be in a position to introduce, not the long-term policy that is promised next Autumn, but a real long-term policy, which, I imagine, will have to be delayed until the autumn of 1937.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I rise to support the Bill. I support it merely because it is a temporary Measure, to tide us over the period between the present time and the time when the long-term policy comes into being. I represent in this House one of the greatest meat-producing counties in the country—the 2462 county of Hereford. I was very pleased to hear the Minister state that this new scheme is to give a greater benefit to the better class beef, because Herefordshire is producing the best beef in the country. During the Debate on Monday, and also to-day it has been stated that the assistance to agriculture is necessary because we are less efficient than our competitors in the Argentine. I deny that assumption emphatically. The British agriculturist producing meat is as efficient as any of his competitors in other parts of the world. In fact, our competitors in the Argentine come to Herefordshire to buy their pedigree stock. Hon. Members opposite have said that they do not like subsidies Neither do I, and neither does British agriculture. I should prefer a straightforward, direct tariff, but I realise that my right hon. Friend is not merely the Minister of Agriculture but is a member of the Government, and he has to consider the interests not merely of agriculture but of the whole country, and it may be that it is for the good of the whole country that they should have cheap food. A subsidy lowers the price of a commodity to the consumer by increasing the production. A tariff, if it were to be any good to the British farmer, would probably unduly raise the price. There is ground, therefore, for the application of both levy and subsidy, and the Minister is going to do that in his long-term policy.
Four years ago I moved an Amendment to bring meat under the Import Duties Bill. It was turned down. Since that time a great deal of water has flowed under London Bridge, and to-day I am in the happy position of seeing the policy that I advocated four years ago accepted. I am gratified that the Minister has taken that course. I congratulate him upon this. I believe that our Walter has converted the other Walter to his way of thinking. I believe the present subsidy will not bridge the gap between the cost of British meat production and the cost of imported meat, and I am sorry to say I do not think the long-term proposals themselves will bridge the gap. I should like to supplement the appeal of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) the Minister to go a little further than he has done in the policy that he advocates. He will get kicks from the Opposition. They will kick as hard as 2463 they can. I ask him to consider his own personal feelings as well as those of agriculture, and go further with his policy so that he can have his wounds healed with the ointment of a gratified agricultural community. I would suggest that he should not bind himself in any agreement that he may make in future against the principle of the levy subsidy carried out to the full, and that there should be a meat fund which can pay to the British producer a guaranteed standard figure, which fund should be kept solvent by a flexible levy which can be raised and lowered upon imported meat.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I wish to controvert the spurious arguments of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) in connection with his remarks about the increased price of coal. The miners were demanding an increase of wages and threatening a strike. The Government persuaded them not to strike, and promised that in setting up selling agencies and securing increased prices consideration would be given to miners' wages. The miners agreed to withhold their strike and to wait and see if wages were increased. When the price of coal was being raised the big corporations were approached to see if they were agreeable to pay increased prices. The hon. Member is very good at examining figures, and he said that in the case of a miner and an agricultural labourer each working a full week, the miner has two to the agricultural labourer's one. Wonderful! I am glad to know that the hon. Member is so concerned about agriculture. I had not seen any evidence of it before. Has he tried to compare the amount that the poorest of the poor would have to pay for meat with what they have to pay for coal? It is out of all proportion. What you are levying on the poor in the increased cost of meat is entirely different from what you are levying on them in connection with increased coal prices. But the support given was on the basis of the pledge that the increased price would be used for increasing the wages of the miner. Let the Government come forward with definite proposals for increasing this or that, for the purpose not of subsidising those who already in many cases have sufficient, but for the purpose of giving 2464 a definite increase in wages and an improvement in living conditions to the agricultural workers, and we shall be prepared to support them. Yes, but where is there such a proposal? Where is the proposal of the hon. Member for South Croydon?
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
There is already machinery in existence for the regulation of agricultural wages, but account must be taken of the prosperity of the industry.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I do not want machinery for regulating wages. I know that wages are regulated; they are regulated to starvation point in the case of the agricultural workers. I want the Minister of Agriculture to get up and not to claim the support of the hon. Member for the Communist International, because I repudiate all support of the Minister of Agriculture, but to get up and say that the Government propose to bring in a Measure to do away with the tied cottage, which is one of the most abominable things in a farm workers life. We have had the case quoted of a farmer having the door taken off a man's house. What sort of situation is that? Do we hear the hon. Member for South Croydon expressing indignation about such a thing?
§ Mr. GALLACHER
The tied cottage should be utterly impossible. Do away with the tied cottage. ensure a home for every farm worker, and guarantee a minimum wage for the agricultural worker, and then let the Minister bring forward his proposals for increased prices, if necessary, and an increased income for the agricultural industry, and we shall be prepared to give the proposal the most careful consideration and the most cordial support if we find there is to be a raising of the standard of the agricultural workers. But we are not prepared in any circumstances to support a proposal that will place this terrible burden on poor people when agricultural labourers are to get nothing out of it.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
I was hoping for a moment that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, my neighbour in the representation of Fife, was about 2465 to tell us that he had repudiated the Communist International, but I found that it was another cause that he repudiated. Knowing that there is other business to follow I would not have intervened but for a very important meeting which took place within, the precincts of the House yesterday. A very strong deputation from the Scottish Farmers' Union met Scottish Members of Parliament of both parties. I have been associated with Scottish farmers all my life and in the last ten years closely connected with their official organisations, and I say quite seriously I have never known Scottish farmers more concerned about their future position than they are to-day. I feel bound, therefore, despite the pressure of business, to put their point of view in this debate.
We all recognise that what the Minister is now doing is a big and bold effort to restore prosperity to the beef trade, and everyone joins in congratulating him on his efforts. The whole question is, will this long-term policy of his, the tariff and subsidy, do that which it is intended to do? Five million pounds is a very large sum of money. The farmers of Scotland believe that, if distributed wisely and under proper safeguards of the market, it would be adequate to make the livestock industry prosperous. But I would be less than frank if I did not say that in view of the experience of the last two years Scottish farmers are very sceptical as to the Government's ability to observe either or both of these conditions in the letter as well as in the spirit.
The first condition is that the weight of imports of overseas beef shall not destroy the price level in this country. That is obvious. The Minister gave us an assurance in his statement of 10 days ago that he proposes to continue the present quota policy. Of course we accept that statement. But when we look at the trend of events in the last two or three years we find it difficult to believe that the Minister, with the best will in the world, can maintain his policy of quotas strictly enough. Despite all his regulations we have seen increased supplies coming from various parts of the world and upsetting the market. I do not myself think it is possible further to restrict the imports, but it is fair to ask for a complete assurance that the Minister will provide machinery so that in 2466 fact such regulations as he applies shall be effective. Otherwise if the market were flooded it is clear that the whole of this £5,000,000 might be dissipated.
The second condition is the distribution of the subsidy. There are two points under that head. The first is that the subsidy shall in fact be retained by those for whom it is intended. I believe that in the course of the year we import something like 630,000 cattle from Ireland and it is estimated that the subsidy has been used to increase the price paid for Irish store cattle to the extent of not less than £1,000,000 a year. There is not much sense in handing over a great sum of money like this if so large a proportion of it is to go to store producers in Ireland. The Minister will perhaps give us an assurance on that point.
The second thing is what I advocated on Monday last, that is, obtaining a balanced assistance. It is obvious that the subsidy, if it is to be successful, must have some regard for the type of agriculture as well as to the quality of the meat. In Eastern England, where they grow mainly wheat, sugar beet, and potatoes, there is almost 100 per cent. assistance from the Government. If you go to other parts of the country you get the exact opposite. As to Fife, I have no special complaint to make, for difficult as is the position of many farmers there, Fife is, comparatively speaking, better off than most districts and I pay a grateful tribute to the Minister for what he has done in this respect. In Fife we are growing 18,000 acres of wheat. We can grow sugar beet, of which there are 3,000 acres; and there are 16,000 acres of potatoes. Those are three groups which are paying reasonably well now. But the trouble of my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), the hon. Member for Banff (Sir E. Findlay) and the counties up there is that those counties cannot grow any of these paying crops at the present time.
Let us quote some figures. Wheat in Aberdeenshire is 154 acres. There is not much subsidy earned there. Potatoes in the whole of Aberdeen are 7,000 acres, and sugar beet 82 acres. The same thing is true of Banff, Elgin and other districts. That is why I ask the Minister for some kind of balanced assistance in arranging his machinery for distributing subsidy. He has told us that he is going to consider 2467 quality. That is right, but he must also consider the kind of agriculture. I submit that it might be possible to create some kind of formula for the counties where the only important thing is meat or corn. Obviously these counties deserve, and need, a greater measure of assistance than a county, like say Fife, where we have other means of livelihood. That is all that I desire to say at this time. These are practical points which cause considerable disturbance to farmers in Scotland, and, I am safe in saying, to all Scottish Members of Parliament who represent agricultural divisions. I stand up in admiration of the energy, resource and pluck shown by the Minister in the course of the last few years. I should like his policy to be successful, and I have put these practical points to him in that spirit.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am glad to say that I have given no pledge to anybody either not to make a speech or to limit the duration of my remarks, but I shall not detain the House very long. As a Member of Parliament for what is generally admitted to be the leading beef-producing constituency in Scotland, I am, on an occasion like this, a little too old a Parliamentary hand to be had in that particular way. At the beginning of the Debate I heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary and that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and I have listened to a great part of the debate, and there are one or two things which I must say. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) pointed out that in our part of Scotland we are suffering in a very particular and acute degree from that lack of balance which was referred to by the hon. Member for Don Valley, and it is to that which I particularly want to direct the attention of the House this afternoon.
There is a lack of balance in agriculture in this country at the present time, and the hon. Member for Don Valley was perfectly entitled to draw attention to that fact. The balance has been upset, and why? Because during the last five or six years or more there has been no fundamental principle underlying the subsidy policy of His Majesty's Government. I feel it my duty, in spite of any temporary dislocation of business which may be 2468 involved—and I do not think that there will be very much—to draw attention to the fact that my constituency is suffering as it is at the present time. Hon. Members have pointed out that the Government first chose sugar and then chose wheat, and subsidised each of those commodities. The beet sugar subsidy amounts to the sum of £6,000,000 sterling a year and the wheat subsidy to £5,000,000. Of these two commodities there is a known world glut, and they are not the two commodities which this country is best fitted to produce. Livestock, which is the foundation of agriculture in this country, has been left until the last to be handled.
I believe that agriculture would have been very much better off if, instead of asking for the subsidy of £5,000,000 today, His Majesty's Government had come down long ago and had asked for a subsidy of £10,000,000 for the livestock industry of this country, which is the basis of solid, sound British agriculture, and had left wheat and sugar to compete at world prices as best they could. Agriculture would be in a very much better condition at the moment. if that were the case. As against hon. Members opposite, I think that £5,000,000 is by no means an excessive amount for the livestock industry, especially in view of the fact that wheat growers, who represent a comparatively small proportion of the agriculturists in this country, are getting even now under the new proposals a larger subsidy. These Measures begin by being temporary, and they are rapidly becoming permanent. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have to ask themselves from the long term point of view, Are we spending the money which we are spending on agricultural subsidies in the best way, and are we getting real value for the money we are spending at the present time? My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, in his speech in the House on Monday, said two things. I will quote one sentence:The subsidy is now passing entirely to the producers.Five minutes afterwards he said:Who … gets the benefit of the subsidy for meat? The consumers. This is a consumers' subsidy."…[OFFICIAL REPORT: 13th July, 1936; cols. 1698–1700, Vol. 314.]This is a consumers' subsidy, my right hon. Friend says. I am not quite satisfied with these two things. I admit that 2469 they are not entirely contradictory, but I do not think that they completely tally, and before I sit down I would ask my right hon. Friend to examine that question when he comes to reply. The hon. Member for Don Valley referred to the cost of production and has rightly asked what, in the estimation of the Minister of Agriculture, is the cost of producing beef, because until we have a clear idea of that we cannot gauge the extent of the subsidy necessary. Let me compare the farmer who mainly produces good class livestock like my own farmers, and who can, in fact, produce very little else, with the farmer to whom the production of livestock is a complete byproduct, and who is mainly engaged in producing wheat, milk, sugar beet and so forth. We cannot grow sugar beet in North East Scotland. No one would deny that, and the Minister himself would not deny it.
Take the case of my constituency, which has a tradition for the production of the very best grade fat stock that you can find in the whole world. We have supplied the bloodstock for the Argentine for the last century. The prices of fat cattle to-day are lower than in 1934 when the subsidy policy was started. The farmers have made continuous losses. Their only proper crop is oats, upon which they get nothing at all, and which they are selling below the cost of production. The worse quality beef they produce under the recent scheme, the less loss they make. In so far as they lift up the quality of beef production their losses are bound to increase. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House, is that a wise policy? It is an insane policy. The best thing that we have heard today was the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture that the greater part of the increase of the subsidy was to be used for improving the stock produced and would go in the production of better stock. That is a really good piece of news, which we did not properly grasp before. But is it surprising, in view of what has happened in the past, that the quality of stock in this country has deteriorated steadily during the last three or four years, and that the volume of cow beef is no less than one-third of the total supply of home-fed beef at this time?
I now come to a point which has been referred to by hon. Members on both sides 2470 of the House, namely, the question of efficiency. The criticism of the right hon. Gentleman—and it is a real one—is that his policy in this matter, as in much else in agriculture, has been directed towards restricting production and raising prices in the midst of a great deal of poverty. It is a criticism from which he cannot get away, and he knows it very well.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
In every form of agricultural produce. The main theme which my right hon. Friend has been pursuing is primarily a producers' policy designed on the whole to restrict production and raise prices at a time when there is a great deal of want and distress in this country.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Common fairness demands that my hon. Friend should not make these statements which are utterly without foundation in the face of the well-known fact of a decline in price and the increase of supplies to the consumers of this country.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean wholesale prices or retail prices? This is very important. The consumers of the country are not at all sure that prices are falling.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
That is the practical point that I was making. I said that the criticism of the Minister was that this policy was too much directed to restricting production. That is a perfectly fair statement. It is the producer who is being criticised in every industrial constituency day in and day out, and it is against that criticism that we have to find an answer. I should be the last man to complain of what the right hon. Gentleman has done for agricultural producers. I represent agricultural producers, but I want to see that everybody in this matter is given a fair deal. The criticism by hon. Members opposite can be effectively answered, but I have maintained in this House before, and I say it again, that that criticism cannot be effectively answered until we are satisfied that the gap between the whole price paid to the producer in this country and the price which the housewife has to pay to the butcher, is more fairly covered.
I would direct the attention of my right hon. Friend to the Report of his 2471 own Fat-stock Reorganisation Commission. Whenever I raise this point he accuses me and says that I want him to impose an order on the beef industry under the Act of 1933. I do not. I am not concerned with the Act of 1933. I want him to read the Report of his own Fat Stock Commission, which he appointed, under the chairmanship of Lord Bingley. That Commission examined this question and pointed out that there is:Lack of basic data. A lack of liaison between producer-controlled national organisations and the distributive system; lack of intelligence, lack of knowledge of markets and of the demands of markets.The report also referred to the necessity forthe further centralisation of slaughtering facilitieswhich it described as being inevitable. There are 36,000 proprietor-manager butchers and 16,000 slaughter houses in this country. Do hon. Members opposite think that that is right or that we have the best system of marketing that we can possibly get? I represent producers of cattle, and I want them to get the best price, but I also want an increased consumption of beef. I believe there is too wide a gap between the price paid to the farmer who produces the meat and the price demanded by the butchers.
The right hon. Gentleman has not only the Report of the Bingley Commission but he has the Reports of the Elgin Committee. one of the most interesting Reports on agriculture since the war, which recommended the centralisation of processing depots in respect of every class of agriculturel produce. I know that these things cannot be done in a moment, but when my right hon. Friend comes to the House and asks for a £5,000,000 subsidy for the producers of beef he ought to give us some assurance that he is going to tackle the question of distribution and efficient marketing.
§ Captain DOWER
Is my hon. Friend aware that although the Commission pointed out the advisability of what he has recommended, it also said that rationalisation is essential? I should like him to read what appears at the bottom of page 81.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I have read it, but if we are going to carry it out effec- 2472 tively, the sooner we start the better. It may take four or five years before we establish efficiency in marketing. The people who know best in my constituency say that they are not satisfied about these things. They are not satisfied with the control by Smithfield over prices. I think hon. members want to see as efficient a system of marketing and of livestock as is possible. The right hon. Gentleman should really, in the interests of agriculture, look over a period of prices for 10 or 15 years ahead and have a long-term policy based on the principle of a levy-subsidy, which I think is a good principle, covering the whole of the cereals and the whole of the livestock, not picking out one commodity here and another commodity there, and subsidising it at the expense of other commodities. That policy should be accompanied by a comprehensive but gradual reorganisation of our distributive system. I say this, not out of any spirit of hostility to my right hon. Friend, but, because I believe that the policy pursued during the last two or three years has simply brought my farmers, who are among the best in the country, to something very near ruin.
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. EVERARD
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few minutes, but as a representative of the Midlands which is very closely associated with this question, I think it right that I should say a few words on behalf of my constituents. For several years we have been passing Acts similar to the one before us to-day, and on every occasion they have been opposed by the party opposite. When we have had a Division they have shown clearly that they have no wish to be associated with a subsidy to the beef industry, and no doubt they will show the same disposition when we have the Division to-day. It is for that reason that those of us who live in the Midlands feel some difficulty in being satisfied with the long-term scheme which the Minister has submitted to us.
We have always been told that the essence of the long-term scheme would be a subsidy from the amount which had been collected from Dominion and imported foreign meat, and we hoped and believed that the direct subsidy from the Exchequer would come to an end when that came about. Now we find that that is not to be so. Although there 2473 is to be some small import duty on foreign meat, there is to be none on Dominion meat, the fund is to be very small and the bulk of it is to come out of the Exchequer, which is practically the same as the Bill we have before us to-day. The reason we feel rather perturbed is that although the Minister calls this a long-term policy, we are afraid that it may prove to be a short-term policy, having regard to the attitude of hon. members opposite. If the party opposite come into power, which, by the normal course of events, is likely at some time, then this subsidy policy will be one of the first things that will be cut off, and those who have invested many millions of pounds in keeping going the livestock industry in this country, which takes a long time to organise and bring up to its full time of being able to sell the produce, we shall suddenly find that when we have the largest number of cattle in the country the Socialist party will come in and say: "These subsidies, of which we have always told the House we disapprove, are to be turned down." Therefore, the farmers will be infinitely worse off than if we had never brought in a so-called long-term policy.
That is one of the particular reasons which turns me very much against the policy which the Minister is pursuing and in favour of the policy which I always believed was the White Paper policy, that of a cattle fund derived entirely from the moneys from Dominion and foreign meats entering this market, and not at all from moneys from the Exchequer. I am convinced that if the Socialist party were returned to power to-morrow, they would not interfere with the Imports Duty Advisory Committee, and that there would still be a system of import duties. I am also sure that they would not interfere with the Wheat Subsidy Act, but I am certain that they would interfere with a considerable number of the subsidies from the Exchequer which we see to-day. It is for these reasons that I believe the present method of increasing the subsidy direct from the Exchequer is a very dangerous one for the agricultural community, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to see whether some alteration cannot be made.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
In a few words I should like to say that I consider that it is deplorable that, five years after the advent of the National Government, we are debating the furtherance of temporary emergency assistance for this great basic part of agriculture. It is the one thing upon which British agriculture has been built up. It is the one side of British agriculture about which we were told that if we set about it in the proper way we could make ourselves more or less self-supporting. While everybody knows that it is not possible or practicable to be self-supporting in wheat, so far as the live-stock side of the industry is concerned we have an opportunity of putting things right. Instead of talking about the roast beef of Old England we shall have to talk about the roast beef of old Argentina. The Government have not kept the definite promises they made to the agricultural community. I wonder what the iron and steel trade would have said if the Government had done for them what they have done for agriculture; if they had given them so little protection that they could not carry on their industry. If the coal mining industry had not had fair play from the Government, a great deal more would have been said from the Benches opposite.
The position of the livestock farmer is most unenviable. He does not know where he is going to start, or where he is going to finish. He does not know from day to day the prices he is to receive for his commodity. He is up against violent fluctuations, which everybody must realise if they listen to the radio prices. That is not the sort of policy upon which we can build up a satisfactory basis for the livestock industry, which has suffered more severely than any other section of agriculture. During the War it was greatly depleted in order to give the country food, and it has never had a chance of building itself up again. I was hoping that the National Government would give us a basis upon which to work. I have been trying to find out whether the Government have taken any notice of the report of the Livestock Commission. We are competing with the highest organised agricultural production in the world, in Argentine and in America, an organisation such as we have not got in this country. I was hoping 2475 that the Government when they received the report of this Commission would have started an organisation to compete with the formidable opposition in other countries. If we do not have something of this kind, our farmers cannot compete.
We ought to have an organisation for marketing our meat supplies the same as that of our competitors. The trade in general would not suffer, and large buyers would be better pleased if there were some such provision. Farmers cannot afford to set up their own organisation because they have lost their money in livestock. Some help will have to be given by the Government. We consider, from a producing point of view, that the subsidy provided under this scheme will not be sufficient to provide a substantial profit for the industry. My hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned this point, and has calculated that there will be a deficit on the present rate of production of about £2,000,000. He also made the point of the money getting into the hands of the Treasury. We want this money to be in the hands of the farming community, not in the hands of the Treasury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may vary his agricultural opinions, but the Minister of Agriculture is responsible for this industry, and if he has control of the money we know that it will go directly to build up and strengthen this side of the agricultural industry.
I hope this is not the last word in the Government's long-term policy. It will be a long time before we meet after the Recess, and I hope that in the meantime the Government will consider the best means of helping this side of agriculture. If you are to get confidence back again into the industry you must treat this branch of it more generously. Farmers are not children. They have known their business for hundreds of years and do not want to be treated like children. If you give them an opportunity of producing at a reasonable level of prices our farmers will give you the production you desire. Therefore, I hope when we come back in the Autumn we shall have from the Government a long-term policy which will put this important branch of agriculture on a satisfactory paying basis. We were promised by the Government a rise in the scale of wholesale prices. It was one of the first pledges they gave, but this promise is still 2476 unredeemed, because the scale of prices is lower at the end of the five years than it was at the beginning of that period. I ask the Minister to remember that farmers are counting upon him to produce a long-term policy such as will give them a satisfactory basis for their industry. I am going to support the proposal to-day because this subsidy is the lifeblood of the livestock industry, and we do not want it to collapse. I hope the Government will concentrate on livestock production, which is the foundation of British farming, and let us have a long-term policy which will give more security and more confidence to the farming community.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
I did not intend to intervene in the Debate, and should not have done so but for the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) and the hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite), who must have been talking with his tongue in his cheek when he referred to the roast beef of old England which must now, according to him, be the roast beef of old Argentina. I suggest that the Government are largely responsible, in one respect, for the fact that the British Army and Navy and Reserve Forces are not able to rejoice in having the roast beef of old England. My memory goes back a few years when the hon. and gallant Member used to criticise us for not fulfilling the promise we made to give the roast beef of old England to the forces of the Crown. I am not entirely satisfied that a subsidy is the right way of solving the difficulty. It is a note which has not been struck on this side of the House, but, nevertheless, I believe in the stabilisation of prices. I know that farmers cannot produce meat any more than they can grow wheat unless they receive an economic price for their produce, but my view is that there is a better way of achieving that result. The grading and marketing of meat is very out-of-date, very primitive. Anyone who has practical experience knows that it is much easier to put meat into its proper grade when slaughtered than it is when it is alive. I believe in central slaughtering and grading and the fixation of prices.
I believe that at the present time the consumers are paying a big enough price if only a proportionate amount of it went 2477 to the producers of fat cattle. Alongside the depression and the low prices which the producers receive, there has been growing prosperity for the butchers. In many markets there are undoubtedly rings made by the butchers. The farmer takes his beef to the market, and then decides to take it away because the price offered is not adequate. He then goes to another market a few miles away and finds that the same thing is the case there. He is in the grip of the ring. My view is that stabilised prices for properly graded meat and central slaughtering would solve that difficulty.
I must enter a protest against the suggestion which has been made several times during the course of this Debate that the livestock grower should be given a subsidy at the expense of the poorest consumers in this country. The suggestion has been made that the people who are so poor that they have to buy the cheapest imported meat should have to bear a levy in order that the producers in this country should have a better price for their cattle, or that the people who can afford to buy the best meat produced in this country should have cheaper joints. That is a policy to which we on these Benches cannot subscribe, and I venture to say that it is a policy which would not be received with much satisfaction in the country, even by the farming community. I believe that the solution of the difficulty lies very largely in marketing and in a stabilised price. I know from personal experience that great profits have been made by the butchers in this country particularly during the last few years.
I must admit that I do not think the agricultural industry can complain of the assistance they are being given here. Certainly they cannot complain of the assistance which the Minister is giving them. But there will soon be a conflict between the consuming interests and the producing interests, and it is this House which will receive the major portion of the blame; indeed, it ought to take entire responsibility for allowing such a condition of affairs to exist. I venture to say that the new name which the Minister of Agriculture will get will be "Dear Meat Elliot." Sooner or later we on these Benches may change places with hon. Members on the other side, and if we were on the other side we should have means of dealing with this 2478 matter which would be more practical and would certainly give greater satisfaction to the consuming and producing public of this country.
§ 2.59 p.m.
§ Lord WILLOUGHBY de ERESBY
I cannot agree with all that was said by the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell). I rather feel that we may be heading for real danger if we have payment of the subsidy on a dead weight basis. I think one of the advantages which the producers of this country have over the Argentine is that they produce fresh meat, and if there were a possibility of that advantage being done away with, it would represent a great setback to the livestock industry. I was also a little amazed by the attitude taken up by the hon. Member in opposing the Bill now before us. One of the main planks of the platform of hon. Members opposite is the nationalisation of the land and the taking over of farming, but I believe they would view with very grave alarm the prospect of having to take over the livestock industry in its present parlous condition. I am further fortified in that belief when I hear the champions of that policy promise that when they take over the farming of this country they will pay all agricultural workers a minimum wage of £3 a week. I admit that that wage has come down £2 since before the last General Election, when it was £5. Nevertheless, this is a very praiseworthy objective, although I do not think I would be so rash as to make any promises on that score. It is, however, an objective for which hon. Members on this side are working just as much as hon. Members opposite. It is for that reason that this Bill has been brought forward.
Since I have been in the House I have spoken on many occasions in support of my right hon. Friend in his efforts to procure more satisfactory conditions for the livestock industry. I think my right hon. Friend has shown, like his compatriot, Robert Bruce, that he will not admit defeat, and that if he is not successful the first time, he will go on trying. I am sure that all of us who have supported the right hon. Gentleman in the past hope with all our hearts that he will receive the reward which he well deserves when he brings in his long-term policy. It is because I have some slight doubts on that score that I wish to say 2479 a few words to-day. I have in the past spoken in support of various restrictions on Irish cattle entering this country, and I have supported the right hon. Gentleman on various occasions when he has brought forward subsidies, in the hope that he would bring about an improvement in prices. Unfortunately, the reverse has so far usually been the case. I am not blaming my right hon. Friend for that. His hands have been tied, but he has done his best, and no one can do more. Soon his hands will be free, and when the long-term policy is brought forward we want to have no doubts about the results. I will willingly give up my annual speech in support of emergency measures if we can find a final and satisfactory solution to the problem which has been so vexatious for such a very long time.
To my mind, it is impossible to say how effective will be the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman for his long-term policy. I think he attaches a little too much importance to the two bodies which he is setting up to regulate imports into this country. I am afraid I cannot share his confidence on this score. It seems to me that the majority of the people on those boards will be prejudiced parties. It is only human nature that they should be slightly prejudiced towards the importing countries. Unless we have effective restriction, I cannot see that we are going to have any improvement in prices. As regards the subsidy part of the long-term policy, we know from all-too-bitter and expensive experience that it rather tends to depress prices than to stimulate them. We have been waiting for a very long time now—and I think it must be admitted that the farmers have been waiting with a very commendable patience—for a long-term policy. Now that we are to have it, we require to be more certain than ever that there is no possibility of a mistake.
At one time I thought the Government were endeavouring to fix an average price over the whole year of about 45s. for average quality beef. That thought may have been erroneous, but I hope that the Government are prepared to give some kind of standard or guaranteed price. To my mind a guaranteed price would be worth more to the producers than any amount of subsidies, restrictions, or duties accom- 2480 panied by pious hopes of what the producers are to have when those measures are put into operation. I suggest that it is not too much to ask. I cannot think of a single industry which does not, more or less, work on a contract basis. No steel producer would consider undertaking a large order unless he had some idea of the price he was to get, and though not acquainted with the coal industry I do not imagine that anyone in that industry would undertake to meet a large order for coal unless he knew what he was going to be paid when he had got the coal out of the pit. I do not think, therefore, it is an excessive demand in this case, and I ask my right hon. Friend whether he cannot include in his long-term policy some kind of guaranteed price.
As to how the money is to be raised—by levy, subsidy or duty, that is a matter of Government policy which I shall not venture to discuss at the moment. But, if my right hon. Friend thinks he cannot find sufficient money to give a 45s. average guaranteed price, let him make it 40s. or 35s. or even 30s. The important thing is to let us know where we stand and if we know that we cannot produce at 35s. or 30s. or whatever the price may be, we can abandon that line of farming and try our hands at something else. After waiting so long it is only fair that we should know exactly where we stand at the moment and where we are likely to stand in the future. I think it would be a serious thing if people did go out of the livestock industry at this moment when food supplies, from the point of view of national defence, occupy so much of our consideration. I submit that it would only be common justice to give this guarantee, instead of offering further hopes which may well fail to materialise, and I ask my right hon. Friend, when bringing in his long-term policy, to give some consideration to the suggestions which I have, with all humility, made to him.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
We have had a fairly long Debate on this Bill, and I wish to say at the outset to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite that the responsibility for any failure to conclude the Debate earlier must not lie at our doors. We were willing to take a Division earlier, 2481 and that would have been done, but for the pressure of hon. Members in other parts of the House. With regard to the Debate as a whole, I think the Minister has probably had as much criticism from his own side of the House as from this side, if not more. While there were points of criticism in the speeches of some of my hon. Friends on this side they did, at least, show rather more sympathy with some aspects of the policy adumbrated by the Minister than others who have spoken in the Debate. I think the Minister will see from the views expressed in all parts of the Chamber to-day that he will have to do a considerable amount of intensive thinking between now and the introduction of his long-term policy, if he is to get anything like the support which he desires for his cattle policy.
The more I hear of these Debates upon agricultural subsidies the more I feel that the Minister, however good his heart may be towards agriculture, is getting himself into deeper and deeper waters. He cannot go on as he is going, taking sections of agriculture stage by stage and satisfying nobody, with each stage of his policy only creating new difficulties within the industry with which he is afterwards faced. It seems to me, looking back over his policy in that connection, that it has almost been like a policy of Alice in Wonderland. The Minister makes one of his most characteristic grimaces at that remark. I am not complaining. These particular characteristics are Most useful to the caricaturist, and I have seen evidences of that fact in print more than once.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) was insistent that apparently all the various sections of subsidy in agriculture that the Minister has followed have had no guiding principle. That is a charge that is made in the main from these benches. Not that I, personally, think that subsidies at any time are good for industries of this character. I think they are only artificial and only composed, as it were, of dope, and that the more dope you give the patient, the more dope the patient wants. While that is so, if you are going finally to embark upon a policy of subsidy, surely you ought to have a guiding principle in relation to that subsidy which is applicable to the whole of the 2482 industries affected. That certainly has not happened. If you take the actual policy of the Government in that matter, what do you find? You have subsidies on sugar—a very heavy subsidy—on bacon, by indirect means—and a very heavy subsidy, which does not go to the British farmer at all, but to the foreign exporter to this country—on milk, and on wheat. The last, as I gather, is about the only one of the whole lot which conforms to the principle laid down by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), and that is that it carries with it a stabilised price for the actual article which it is intended to subsidise, but in the case of the other subsidies there is no guiding principle at all. In the end you find the agriculturists throughout the country looking askance at each other, with very great jealousy in some cases, with great resentment against the Government in other cases, and with no satisfaction.
I think that is a very great pity, because, remember, first of all the taxpayer is being charged. Do not for a moment think that this policy of subsidies is going on without the Exchequer having to pay. Make no mistake about that. The second thing is that the consumer in certain cases is also being asked to pay, and pretty heavily, and in these circumstances what I warn the Government representatives in this House to-day about is that the way they are going on, the way they are backing their Government in little bits of make-belief in agricultural policy, will drive the agricultural industry into exactly the same position as it was in over the Corn Production Act, 1920. What is really happening is that, by unsatisfactory stages of subsidies to agriculture, you are getting a charge made upon the Exchequer in some cases and on the consumer in other cases. Finally, you will get such an outcry from the two sources, from the consumer and from the taxpayer, that unless you get, as I hope you will, a Socialist Government in, the meantime who will approach it with a proper majority and be able to reconstruct the whole business, you will get a cry, not from these benches but from the capitalists, on exactly the same lines as the cry that went up for the setting up of the Geddes Committee and the scrapping of all the special methods of subventions from the Treasury or from the consumer; and you will get a 2483 Geddes committee in its modern form destroying all you have done.
Agriculturists themselves ought to see at once that that can be of no lasting benefit to them. They ought to see something else about this matter. This policy of subsidy to a particular section of the industry is only a part of the mad economic policy which the Government are following. One would think, to hear some of the hon. Members who represent agriculture, that this giving out of money here and there, either directly from the Treasury or indirectly from the consumer, to the agriculturists is all that is going on. The more you examine the position of the farmer to-day, however, the more you see that he is as much handicapped by other sections of the Government's economic policy as he is helped temporarily by the policy of subsidies. I know full well from my own experience of the Government's fiscal policy in other matters that the farmer is having his costs of production put up on the one hand while being handed a dole on the other. He is getting direct impositions of taxation on his foodstuffs and on the essential ingredients of his oil-cake. He is having heavy taxes on all the machinery that he uses. A White Paper is at this moment before Parliament asking for an increase still further of the tax upon the most modern type of tractor.
It does not matter which way you look, whether at artificial manures or at seeds. There are some exceptions in the case of seeds I am glad to see, but if you look all round it is seen that every ounce of benefit that the farmer thinks he is getting from direct subventions and subsidies, or from contributions from the consumer, is being offset by the other contributions which he himself has to make. It is so with all the other subsidies. The farmer was relieved of a large part of the rates upon agricultural land and the like, but the agricultural community as a whole are gradually having what they gained in that way taken from them by the Acts of the Government. They have now an increased charge for all the secondary roads because of the raids on the Road Fund, a fund earmarked for that particular purpose. The more I look at the policy of the Government, the more mad I think it must be on the part of any in- 2484 dividuals who in this House represent private enterprise and the ultimate triumph of private profit to continue to support the present Minister of Agriculture. From the point of view of maintaining the principles of private enterprise and private profit, it seems to me that every day he continues in that important office the Minister of Agriculture is making it more impossible for the system ever to have a lasting basis. The Minister may be the first to say that should suit me, because I want to see this system of private profit ended altogether.
What I do object to is that the general taxpayer and the consumer should be charged with this special subsidy, not for the purpose of making the great change-over to a decent and normal basis of organisation for agriculture, but for the maintenance temporarily of the private profit system, however uneconomical that may be. A good deal was said in to-day's debate and the debate on Monday as to the futlity of giving subventions and subsidies before there is actual reorganisation of the industry. I do not join with those who have criticised the Minister because he has not, as it were, forced a marketing scheme of itself upon the farming community. Under present legislation If do not think it is possible for him to force a marketing scheme on them, but I do complain that there has not been enough drive towards the reorganisation of the central slaughtering arangements and marketing arrangements I think that while the administration of this subsidy scheme which we are continuing was excellently carried out by the officials in detail, there has been a tendency towards keeping back sound and well organised marketing for the future.
With the statements made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen about markets I entirely agree. I remember when some of us were asked, as representatives of both the consumers and of the butchery trade, to collaborate with the Ministry in setting up the machinery that we protested strongly against the enthronement of the auctioneer in the administration of the scheme. What my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg said about auction markets applies not merely to people who make a "ring" against a particular lot of bullocks which have been brought to market, but to the whole system of 2485 having to rely on the highest bidder at any particular time in order to get a price. If you are to have a definite basis of organisation of marketing you ought to eliminate the auction principle and have a definite marketing arrangement between the main distributive trades and the consumers' organisation and the producers themselves. It may be that you cannot get that working effectively until there is a system of centralised slaughtering. I do not go so far as to say that the remarks of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) with regard to slaughtering arrangements in the debate on the Financial Resolution are fully justified. I should say he went a little too far in criticising the lack of progress in centralised slaughtering. I could take him to a centralised slaughtering place at Leytonstone in which the whole economic lay-out could justify itself, from the meat as finally presented to the consumer down to the use of the last ounce of every by-product from the beasts.
I do not think he could say that in some parts, at any rate, there was not progress, but seeing that this subsidy has been going on for two years, and in spite of repeated warnings from myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), there has been very little progress made in this matter. Perhaps while I am speaking a plan for centralised slaughtering in the South East of London is being considered, and local vested interests are being allowed to oppose it being set up. At present there are no adequate powers on the Statute Book to enable the Government to come in behind us and see that the improvement is put into operation. In the light of this temporary subsidy, we have a complaint against the Minister for being so slow in moving towards that reorganisation of slaughtering, and therefore obtaining an economic price for the producer for his finished product.
I am conscious that time is going very rapidly. After the length of the Debate to-day, the Minister ought to have adequate time to reply. I hope that he is not going to get away with that quick, short sort of speech which he gave us on Monday. [Interruption.] I am not complaining, and perhaps I did not put it quite fairly. He did give as much as he could to all hon. Members, but there were specific questions put to him on 2486 Monday, in regard to what was the price factor to be operated in the long-term policy, and how he was going to base his policy of quality production, to which we ought to have had some answer. We ought to have an answer this afternoon to specific questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley as to the effect of the subsidy, which we are asked to renew to-day, upon the price. I am still in a quandary on that figure, as to what is the real average of the prices six months before the operation of the subsidy and six months after, when you average them between first and second qualities. I accept, from the printed paper at any rate, the view of my hon. Friend, which supports the general view which I have had in examining our business from week to week, that, since the subsidy was introduced, prices have, in the main, fallen very nearly to the amount of the subsidy.
While you have the auction market, and rings which operate in the market, if, for the last year or two before the subsidy came in, they were accustomed to get for their first quality about 42s. or 44s., what is the natural psychological reaction in the market? When they come to bid in the ring for a beast, they will say; "We gave 38s., but he will still be getting the same 43s. as he was getting three or four months before", and the tendency will be to bid upon that basis. This is, therefore, not a good plan for assisting agriculture. My hon. Friend's question, put both on Monday and to-day, about the price, therefore seems very important indeed, and we ought to have some answer about it. If that is the position, there is a strong case for the Minister to answer. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen put the point that if you must have subventions you ought to arrange that the subvention goes to the people whom it is intended to help, and they must either be at a fixed price, or if it is impossible to have a fixed price, you must arrange that they are not going to aggravate the consumer. If you aggravate the consumer, you lose your market.
Let me say, in conclusion, that here is the pouring out of money on no organised or decent basis, and without any means test. We hear of the dire state of this or that section of the agricultural in- 2487 dustry, but every month the "Land Worker" prints, as regularly as clockwork, lists of farmers who have passed beyond and whose estates have been proved for probate. They are in such a poor state that they are always on the point of financial bankruptcy, and always ready to come to the Government hat in hand; let us see how they have turned out. Here is one estate in Essex, valued at £71,000—not bad—[An hon. Member: "What did he start with?"] Some of these people started with a great deal less than they finished with. Here is another in Perthshire—I give the localities to show that the distribution is fairly wide—of £55,000. Then there are others in Lincolnshire, £38,000; Argyllshire, £35,000; Midlothian, £35,000; Lancashire, £30,000; Hertfordshire, £27,000; Lincolnshire again, £25,000; Huntingdonshire, £22,000, and so I might go on reading from that trade union journal's lists every month of probate returns of farmers in this country, showing that they are by no means that down-trodden, submerged tenth of the population who need to come cap in hand to this House for special subventions.
It is perfectly true, of course, that, as in every other industry, you will find some farmers who go in quite the opposite direction and file their petitions, but I am pointing out these facts because here we have another proposal to vote £3,000,000 this year, and £5,000,000 next year, on the top of all the other millions, absolutely without any means test, without any question of checking up what the income is or what the final result will be, while at the same time you have regulations imposing the meanest possible test upon every working-class family who unfortunately suffer from their unemployment benefit running dry—a mean family test, on almost every penny that they spend. At the same time we are to be asked willingly and without hesitation to hand out behind the Government these millions month after month to this and other industries. Indeed, I think that one of the great Bills which this Government ought to bring in before it comes to the end of its existence is a Consolidation Bill. It ought to bring in a Bill for the consolidation of all the subsidies passed by and voted by this Government. If all the subventions and 2488 subsidies of this Government, a large proportion of which we are asked to renew this afternoon, were put into a Consolidation Bill, the country would at last begin to weigh up and understand how rotten indeed is "the state of Denmark" in this matter in this country.
We were turned out in 1931 on the plea that we had let the country into a financial crisis. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear that cheer, for there is not a single element, from the purely Exchequer point of view, in the financial position in this country today, on which all the charges made against Labour in 1931 could not be made against the present Government—a very adverse trade balance, a mounting adverse trade balance; reckless expenditure in subventions and doles given out every day to all classes of industry: heavy increases of taxation; 4s. 9d. in the £ Income Tax; £80,000,000 a year increase in Customs and Excise duties; taxation mounting day by day; unlimited expenditure proposed. Every item in the count against the Labour Government exists in the present state, but because on this occasion the doles are being given to the friends of the Government all is well. I believe the country will yet wake up to the fact that they are being once more duped because, as the Minister said on Monday, he would manage the Division on the Money Resolution and he would also manage the Election as he had managed it before. If he goes on in the same way, his tiny majority at Kelvingrove will be gone altogether.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I have been cudgelling my brains during the right hon. Gentleman's speech to see how he was going to reply to the damaging attack by Members of his own party—the hon. Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) and the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). I ask him to direct his arguments towards them in the first place. When he can convince them, let him try to convince us. When he can get the hon. Member for Carmarthen into the Lobby against this Bill, as he did not get him against the Financial Resolution, he will have a right to ask us to refrain. But a house divided against itself shall not stand [Interruption]. The pressure from my hon. Friend the Member for East 2489 Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) was for more assistance, just as the pressure from the hon. Member for Carmarthen was for more assistance. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to complain about assistance being given unless he can muster 100 per cent. of his own supporters in the Lobby. We all know that on this subject the Opposition is split wide open. The supporters of the co-operative societies, the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), on all occasions say how ridiculous it is that assistance is being given to the agriculturist and, on the other hand, Members for agricultural constituencies say that we are to blame because sufficient assistance is not being given and that Codlin is the friend and not Short.
Let me deal with one or two points to which I was asked specifically to reply. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), pointing to an answer given on 13th July to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, asked how I squared that with my statement in the previous Debate that the wholesale prices now of fat cattle were at the level that they had been before the grant of the subsidy, and that the whole of the five shilling subsidy was going to the producer on top of that. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean asked for the price at Smithfield. That, of course, is only one region out of all the regions in the country. We could not give the figure for Smithfield itself, because there is not a fat cattle market there. We therefore took the Metropolitan cattle market, which is the nearest. The prices I was giving were the prices which covered the whole of the markets of England and Wales, from which we take information, and the average was 38s. 1d. for August, 1934, and 38s. 0½d. in the first week of July, 1936. I hope that that statement reconciles the difference that existed between us as to whether the subsidy can be said to be inuring to the benefit of the producer. I hope that the hon. Member for Don Valley will take that as an explanation.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I quite appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's reply, but from the reply that he gave on Monday the Smithfield people did appear to take advantage of the subsidy granted to cattle producers.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is as broad as it is long, for in some markets the producer is getting more than all the subsidy. If there is a fall in some markets and the average is as stated, the average must be made up by a rise in other markets. Therefore the contention of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) as to rings against the producers does not hold good. From these figures alone it is clear that in some cases an even greater rise than that represented by the subsidy is inuring to the benefit of the producer. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough said that the policy of the Government had actually injured the farmer by raising the price of the things he used, such as fertilisers and feeding-stuffs. I have taken the opportunity of getting out the prices of these things, because the right hon. Gentleman's statement has been repeated from the Liberal benches. Take the case of fertilisers. The index figure in 1925 was 114. In 1929 it was 100, in 1934 it was 90, and in June, 1936, it was 89. There is no sign there of a protective tendency raising prices against the farmer.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The whole point is that the protective policy of the Government has prevented an adequate fall in prices to the primary producers of agricultural products, whose prices for their products are also falling.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The' accusation of the right hon. Gentleman was that our policy was raising the prices of these articles. He says now that there has not been an adequate fall in prices. Take the case of feeding-stuffs. In 1925 the index figure was 152. In 1929 it was 139; in 1934 it was 91, and in June, 1936, it was 87. Therefore the specific charge against us, that by our policy we were raising the prices of commodities, is not borne out in these two specific instances. As I have not very long I shall not reply in detail to all the questions that have been asked. We are not to-day debating a tariff on beef. This Bill is not a Bill for a tariff on beef. We are not debating to-day a long-term policy, for this is not the long-term policy and, therefore, it would be entirely out of order for me to go in detail into the questions which have been asked upon these detailed points, which I have said will have to be worked out through the coming Summer Recess. 2491 Let me take one specific point which was raised, the question of organisation, and another specific question, that of quality. Only yesterday the Scottish National Farmers' Union representatives came down and interviewed hon. Members in this House on the question of the quality subsidy, whether it would be adequate, and under what terms it should be given. All these are matters which, within the time afforded by this temporary Bill, we shall have an opportunity to discuss with them, and they desire and demand that it should be discussed with them, and rightly so. If I were to announce here and now, that everything had been definitely decided, there would be no more use for argument and debate or even for the debate now taking place. We intend to have still more discussions with the producers' representatives and with the representatives of the distributive trade between now and next Autumn. Clearly a discussion with auctioneers in this country will have to take place. The auctioneers have considered the quality suggestions brought forward and, in the case of England and Wales, have raised certain objections to them which we shall do our best to meet in the further hammering out of the long-term policy.
The objection which is brought against us to-day that we have not sufficiently completed our long-term policy is one which is contrary to the desires of the producers themselves. The producers desire to have a share in the framing of this policy, and they are entitled to have it. If hon. Members opposite had their way and we came down here with a fully framed policy they would not have the opportunity that they desired. When hon. Members say, "That should have been done long ago," they leave out of account the important fact, that not until one had some idea of what sums would be available in gross for the carrying out of the policy would it be possible for the producers really to get down to business and indicate what they thought would be best done with the money. Certainly, if that was difficult before, it is still more difficult after the attitude taken up more particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough, when he says, "Do not rely upon this assistance. If we come into power we shall sweep it 2492 all away." [Interruption.] I understood him to say that they would approach it from an entirely new angle. Did they merely mean approaching the money box from the back instead of the front? It was difficult to grasp what the right hon. Gentleman did say. I understood him to say that they would approach the problem from an entirely different angle, and that either his Government or some other Government would be in grave danger of being asked to produce a Geddes axe and sweep away this assistance altogether.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
What I said on that point was much more likely to come from a capitalist Government who complained of the heavy drain on the Exchequer.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The right hon. Gentleman can leave us to deal with a capitalist Government, if he can reassure us against a Socialist Government. We remember that the whole desire of our people is that the countryman, and particularly the employee in the countryside, should have a fair deal. Unless you give him a remunerative price for his product he cannot get a fair deal, and every hon. Member who votes against this Bill to-day votes for the cutting down of the wages of the agricultural labourer. He mentioned "The Land Worker" and gave some very interesting quotations from it about the estates left by people interested in agriculture. We could quote him other interesting little extracts from "The Land Worker," where they have passed resolutions of thanks to the Government after the passage of the Unemployment Insurance Act, coupled with the statement that the Labour party had failed in this matter. We are quite content to put our agricultural record against their's in all these matters. When the right hon. Gentleman attempts to stir up prejudice by quoting statements about the estates of people who are interested in agriculture and he talks about the pouring out of public money, I would ask him whether when he was First Lord of the Admiralty he insisted on a means test for every contractor who got a contract from the Admiralty. Did he insist on a means test for everybody who got a contract under his administration?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Does the hon. Member deny that? Will he go to Smithfield market and look there? Will he go to the countryside and look at the wheat crops? Will he go to the sugar factories and look at the sugar? Of course, they are contracting in regard to sugar, and pigs and these other things, and the right hon. Gentleman merely attempts to stir up prejudice when he complains that the means test is not applied in every case where public money is involved, when he knows the truth not merely from his Admiralty experience but from experience of the Ministry of Health and the house building subsidy.
We have had a speech from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) who informed me that if the Government would raise the status of the agricultural worker, and give him higher wages and benefit the industry as a whole, he might support me as a member of the Third International. On this occasion, however, he seems to object to the beef subsidy. Therefore, I must be content to see him go into the Lobby and cast his vote against the hon. Member for Carmarthen, who I should not think will vote against the Government to-day.
I want to say something with regard to the general accusation which has been brought against us by hon. Members from various quarters, and more particularly by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, who complained of a lack of sufficient plan, thought and care in our agricultural policy. When we are asked on what system the Government are proceeding I would say to hon. Members, and particularly to the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, who has never bred a beast, never fed a beast, never bought a beast, and never sold a beast—.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I certainly make the breeding of beasts my concern. Has it ever been the concern of the hon. Member's life?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
They know that the hon. Member never put his hand to the plough, that he never forked a load of hay, that he never pulled a turnip and never cleaned a byre.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I suggest to the hon. Member that it is rash of him to dogmatise as confidently as he does about the steps which it is necessary to take to reorganise agriculture. I would appeal to the experience of years of agricultural production in this country. When the hon. Member says that we should do away with the production of wheat in Great Britain, he is asking us to scrap something which has lasted, as long as civilisation in this country. In the days of the Romans this country—
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The arguments of the hon. Member can only be justified on the ground that it is rash and ill considered to give this assistance. He suggested that the subsidies for wheat and sugar should be entirely withdrawn. I do not say that our agricultural policy is yet complete, but I do most strongly defend the principle that we should work commodity by commodity and not over-organise the industry at the beginning of our policy. The danger of putting agriculture into a bureaucratic white jacket in Whitehall is far greater than the danger of temporary measures.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I must deal with the criticisms which have been addressed to the House by hon. Members opposite. I will deal with two specific points. The hon. Member for Carmarthen asked me what would be the position of producers in the Councils which are being set up; how the representatives on these Councils will be chosen, and whether the Minister will have power to act in the case of differences arising on these Councils The answer is that the representatives will be chosen by the Governments to represent the producers in general of the various 2495 countries, and if they do not succeed in obtaining unanimity the responsibility will return to the United Kingdom Government, and the Government will have no hesitation whatever in exercising their responsibility. Because for the first time all the producers of overseas countries will have been brought to general agreement as to the levels upon which their consignments shall be sent to this country; consequently, the danger of producers stealing a march on each other will no longer exist. We shall have many opportunities of discussing these matters in the future.
§ We shall take into consideration every-think that has been said to-day. We are at work on a policy which affects livestock, one of the fundamental considerations in British farming. I do not believe that on either side of the House time or money will be grudged in order to secure a proper solution of these difficulties and the maintenance of agriculture in the countryside.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 162; Noes, 69.2497
|Division No. 291.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Everard, W. L.||Peake, O.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Petherick, M.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Pilkington, R.|
|Assheton, R.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Grimston, R. V.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Guy, J. C. M.||Remer, J. R.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Ports'n'h)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Honeage, Lieut-Colonel A. P.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Blair. Sir R.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hopkin, D.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Jackson, Sir H.||Scott, Lord William|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Keeling, E. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Bull, B. B.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Burghley, Lord||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sinclair, Cal. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st),|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Latham, Sir P.||Smith. Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Cary, R. A.||Lindsay, K. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Lloyd, G. W.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver(W'm'I'd)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Christie, J. A.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Strauss, E. A (Southwark, N.)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||McCorquodale, M. S.||Srauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Macnamara, Capt J. R. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|De la Bère, R.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Markham, S. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Denville, Alfred||Maxwell, S. A.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Donner, P. W.||Mellor. Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T.(Hitchin)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Drewe, C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Duggan, H. J.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Captain Waterhouse and Mr. Cross.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Banfield, J. W.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.||Bevan, A.||Cove, W. G.|
|Amman, C. G.||Broad, F. A.||Dabble, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Chater, D.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Ede, J. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McEntee, V. La T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Frankel, D.||Maclaren, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Maclean, N.||Thorne, W.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Maxton, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Messer, F.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Moreing, A. C.||Viant, S. P.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Walker, J.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Paling, W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Parkinson, J. A.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|John, W.||Potts, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pritt, D. N.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rowson, G.||Young. Sir R. (Newton)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Groves.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2498
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 20th July.