§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I beg to move, in page 5, line 4, to leave out "any of the following four years," and to insert "the year nineteen hundred and thirty-eight."
In the discussion on the Financial Resolution, it was made clear that my hon. Friends and I did not approve of the general principle of this Clause. The object of the Amendment is to give Parliament more control over the expenditure of public money for the purposes of this Clause. It is felt that there is no reason why we should allow this public money to be spent for as long a period as five years when at the present time there is no real knowledge as to how the markets of the world are to go, or what is to be the state of the oat grower during these next five years. At present there would be no subsidy payable if this Bill came into operation, because the price of oats is such a figure as would make the subsidy inoperative. It is only in Scotland that any large amount of oats is out upon the market. I believe the figure is about 40 per cent. The rest, even in Scotland, is consumed on the farm. As regards England a very much less amount, probably not more than 10 per cent., is put upon the market, the rest being consumed upon the farm. Having regard to these circumstances and the fact that most farmers are really concerned with a high price rather than a low price for oats, because oats are their feeding stuff and the cheaper they get it the better, I do not see why we should put such a liability on the Treasury for so many years in advance, without having some means by which we can review the situation from time to time.
I think that two years is an adequate period for the running of this subsidy. At the end of that time we ought to see what is the position, whether the world price of oats governing to some extent the price in this country is above or below 8s., and then we can decide what is to be done. It is very unwise to pledge public funds so many years ahead without any knowledge as to what the ultimate liability is to be. If great financiers of a past generation, such men as Mr. Gladstone, and on the Conservative side Lord Beaconsfield, could see this kind of provision put into Bills by the Government, pledging public funds in advance 649 without adequate control, those great statesmen and financiers would turn in their graves. For that reason, and because I think we ought to protect the interests of the general taxpayer and the public Treasury to a far greater extent than we are doing, I move the Amendment.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
This Amendment raises the whole issue of the deficiency payments on oats and barley. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will resist the Amendment. I know that the proposal is generally opposed by hon. Members opposite. I took note of an observation of the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in which, speaking on the Money Resolution, he said:Why, then, guarantee the price of oats? Farmers only produce oats for their own use, so why guarantee them a price when the oats are not sold except to themselves?Later he said:I cannot see why we ought to encourage the production of cereals, which form so small a part of the value of our agricultural produce."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1937; col. 5835, Vol. 325.]The hon. Member who has just spoken agreed with those views. I want to put two points from the point of view of the part of the world which I represent, northeast Scotland. We do not produce oats merely for consumption on the farm. Oats is the only cereal crop that in Aberdeenshire, a great cattle raising county, we can produce at all. They can produce a little barley lower down the coast, but in my part of Aberdeenshire we cannot produce wheat and beet, which have been heavily subsidised by the State for several years past. Prior to this proposal, cheap subsidised wheat was being sold in local markets in Aberdeenshire as a feeding stuff in successful competition with the oats produced by the farmers in my part of the world. I want to say in reply to the hon. Member for the Don Valley when he declares that he cannot see why we should encourage the production of cereals, that it is essential if you are successfully and economically to breed good beef cattle, which nobody denies that we do in the north of Scotland, that you should have one white crop as part of the rotation, otherwise you cannot successfully conduct arable cultivation, and the only white crop that we can produce in my part of the world is oats. Do the hon. Member and the hon. Member 650 for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) think it is fair that the Government should heavily subsidise the wheat crop and refuse any subsidy on oats?
§ Mr. T. Williams
The Government never did subsidise wheat. It was the consumers who did that, and not the Government.
§ Mr. Boothby
I maintain, and shall always maintain, that that is a quibble. I never could agree that you could earmark any particular source of revenue and apply it to a particular purpose. The principle is entirely wrong. What you collect either by levies, taxes or import duties goes into the pot, and what you spend comes out of the pot, and to earmark particular revenue for a particular expenditure, as this Government and other Governments have done for the purpose of Parliamentary debate, is unsound. I agree with the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) that the simpler you can make your taxation and your expenditure the better. I believe in the principle of putting everything that you can raise from the taxpayers, in any form, into the pot, and taking your money for expenditure out of the pot. It has never struck me as fair to subsidise the grower of wheat because he lives in one part of the country and to enable him to sell his crop in competition with the farmer in the north-east of Scotland, who is just as good a farmer as the farmer in the east of England, and in some respects a better farmer. To subsidise his product with the assistance of the taxpayer in competition with the product of farmers who, merely because they live in the northeast of Scotland, can only grow oats as their cereal crop, is unfair.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows that some of us have been in this battle for a very long time past, and we are not going to allow the very modest blessing which the Government have conferred upon us to be whittled away in the slightest degree by any speeches of hon. Members opposite. I am delighted that the Government have at long last come down on the side of the hard-pressed oat growers. They might have done a bit more. I would point out that this is not technically a subsidy at all. It is an insurance, a deficiency payment. In case the price goes well below the cost of production in the future, the State has said that it will 651 come to the rescue of the farmers in the north-east of Scotland in order to enable them to go on producing the best beef the world has ever known. I welcome the Government's proposal as far as it goes, and for my own part, in the absence of some of my colleagues from Aberdeenshire, I say that we shall resist any attempt from the Opposition to whittle down in any way the benefit which the Government propose to give us.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
We congratulate the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) on his persistency with regard to this question since 1932. Ever since the wheat growers were subsidised indirectly by bread consumers he has been demanding a quid pro quo for Scottish farmers. He attacked, first, in 1932, a Minister of Agriculture who was a Scotsman. From 1932 to 1936 he attacked another Minister of Agriculture, who was also a Scotsman, and now he has got another Scottish Minister of Agriculture and he has succeeded, with the third Scottish Minister of Agriculture, in getting for Scotland what he has been wanting for a long time. But he has never been able to sustain any argument to justify the demand for this subsidy, guarantee or insurance, or whatever he cares to describe it, or even to justify a wheat subsidy.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)
The discussion is going fairly wide, and if it is to be allowed on this Amendment it must not be repeated on the Question: "That the Clause stand part."
§ Mr. Williams
I should prefer to make my case on the Question "That the Clause stand part." With regard to the oats and barley subsidy, I submit that the two years' limitation proposed in the Amendment is justified on four grounds. In the first place, two years is a sufficient guarantee of insurance for any Government to give to any body of farmers, who know full well that there is a limit to the market for their particular product. It is because they themselves very largely have provided more oats than they could sell at an economic price that the price fell below what they thought it ought to be. In every conceivable case where direct or indirect subsidy has been given since 1931 652 the subsidy has immediately attracted to the market a greater volume of that particular commodity.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is anticipating his speech on the Question: "That the Clause stand part." He must keep strictly to the Question before the Committee.
§ Mr. Williams
With great respect, if you had allowed me to conclude the sentence you would have seen how relevant it was to the Amendment. I was about to declare that within two years we shall know whether or not this guarantee, or insurance, or subsidy has attracted a greater volume of oats to the market than would have been produced otherwise. That is why we say that two years' experience, if any, is as far as we ought to go at this time. I do not think that on any grounds, either because British growers of wheat have been indirectly subsidised or for any other reason, is can be argued that for five years the producers of oats should be given a guaranteed price. For that and many other reasons which I shall give on the Question: "That the Clause stand part," I think the Amendment ought to be accepted.
§ 7.27 p.m.
The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) pointed out that in this year no subsidy will be payable under this Clause. That does not really affect the principle of the Amendment one way or the other, because it is conceivable that the price of oats may remain at its present level for the next five years, that is, for the whole duration of the payments under the Bill. It does not really matter from the point of view of this Amendment whether the subsidy is payable at the present price or not. This is, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) pointed out, a policy of insurance rather than one of subsidy. I was a little surprised when the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean supported his Amendment by saying that he had no real knowledge as to how the markets are to go in the next two or three years. That is precisely the reason why we think it necessary to introduce this policy of insurance. I do not see how any amount of experience can ever give us any certainty as to the course of markets in any given time. Hon. Members will recollect what happened in 1932. The price of oats before that year had 653 not been bad, but suddenly enormous supplies from Germany were dumped on the market and the price fell to 13s. a quarter. Next year it recovered, but the following year it fell again. It fluctuated violently up to the present price, but the figure has been as low as 12s. or 13s. I hope that the world price of oats will never reach such depths again. In view of the experience we have had I do not think anybody can say how the price of oats will go, and this Measure is to insure the oat farmer against such uncertainty.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and other hon. Members have contended that our purpose would be sufficiently served by limiting the duration of this insurance to a maximum of two years. What is our object in giving this insurance to oat-growing farmers? It is to encourage them to grow, if not more oats than they have been growing, at least to grow that quantity which is necessary to keep their land under proper arable cultivation and that quantity which it is desirable to grow in this country to provide us with additional sources of animal foodstuffs. Certainly, in the parts of Scotland of which I know anything, if you are to keep your land in proper arable cultivation—and if it is the kind of land on which you can only grow oats and not wheat—the usual thing is to have a five or seven years' rotation. You plough up your land and get a crop of oats, the year after perhaps a crop of turnips; then oats again, followed by potatoes; the year after another crop of oats sown together with grass seed, producing a hay crop the year after. Perhaps the land will not stand more than two years under grass and has to be ploughed up again.
If these farmers have to work on a five or seven years' rotation it is not going to be of much use to tell them that the price of oats is only going to be guaranteed for two years; that is only a small proportion of the rotation. From the point of view of Defence I have very often heard it argued that we are actually importing a greater weight of animal foodstuffs than the resulting meat. If we were to regard it simply from the point of view of Defence alone it might actually pay us better not to produce any animal foodstuffs at all, because we should then need less shipping and less naval pro- 654 tection. At any rate it is most desirable to encourage producers of cereal foodstuffs for the next five years to provide us with a substantial increase in production.
The hon. Member concluded by saying that these proposals would cause Gladstone and Disraeli to turn in their graves. I hope he will bear that consideration permanently in mind, because I feel that if they are ever confronted with the policy of the hon. Member and his friends they would not remain stationary. As far as Disraeli is concerned, the principles for which he fought in this House, against the repeal of the Corn Laws, were similar in many ways to the policy we are introducing, because the duty on corn was a sliding scale governed by the price of wheat, when the price of wheat was high the duty was low, and when the price of wheat was low the duty was at a high level.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Sir R. Ross
I desire to support the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) who put his case very clearly. There are other parts of the country my own constituency for example, which are in a similar position to that of the North-East of Scotland, they must grow oats in rotation, and it is perfectly true that if the Amendment was accepted it would be utterly useless from the point of view of the oat grower. He must have continuity, he must know ahead what the position is going to be, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that they need have no fear of people rushing into this business of producing oats in large quantities, because those people who will become millionaires by growing oats at 8s. a cwt. are very very few. It is not a profitable business, and the proposal of the Bill is made only with the desire of keeping the necessary crop going and giving some justice to the oat-growing parts of the country. Take the North of Ireland. Every year £250,000 goes to the wheat growers, and we cannot grow wheat in any quantities. We have to consider the position of the oat grower and the 655 constant fluctuation of prices. It is to avoid this that the proposal is made in the Bill. It should have been done some time ago, and in my opinion it will have good effect in those parts of the country which it is intended to benefit.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 155; Noes, 109.657
|Division No. 272.]||AYES.||[7.37 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Peake, O.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Petherick, M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Radford, E. A.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Grimston, R. V.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hannah, I. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Burghley, Lord||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Buller, R. A.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cortland, J. R. H.||Hepworth, J.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Spens, W. P.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Channon, H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Clary, Sir Reginald||Hutchinson, G. C.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Train, Sir J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Keeling, E. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Cross, R. H.||Kimball, L.||Turton, R. H.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lees-Jones, J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lewis, O.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Liddall, W. S.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Denman, Hon. R. O.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Denville, Alfred||McCorquodale, M. S.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Donner, P. W.||McKie, J. H.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Emery, J. F.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Morgan, R. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wragg, H.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Munro, P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Furness, S. N.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Captain Waterhouse and Captain Dugdale.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cocks, F. S.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Daggar, G.||Groves, T. E.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Dalton, H.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Dobbie, W.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Barr, J.||Ede, J. C.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Broad, F. A.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Frankel, D.||Jagger, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||John, W.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muff, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees. (K'ly)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Paling, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Leach, W.||Parker, J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Lee, F.||Parkinson, J. A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Leonard, W.||Price, M. P.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Logan, D. G.||Pritt, D. N.||Thorne, W.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Thurtle, E.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Ridley, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Maclean, N.||Riley, B.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Ritson, J.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Mander, G. le M.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Walker, J.|
|Marshall, F.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Maxton, J.||Rowson, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Messer, F.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Milner, Major J.||Sanders, W. S.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Montague, F.||Sexton, T. M.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Shinwell, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Silkin, L.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Riley
I beg to move, in page 5, line 15, to leave out "six times."
I think I shall be in order in dealing with this Amendment and the following Amendment in my name together, since the second Amendment is more or less consequential. As the Clause now stands, the standard price of oats is fixed at 8s. a cwt., and the subsidy can operate only if the price of oats falls below 7s. 7d. a cwt. It is only in those circumstances that the farmer growing oats will be entitled to claim the subsidy. The Clause is somewhat intricate, but it may be explained simply by saying that the amount of subsidy is to be fixed at six times the difference between the market price at the time and the standard price of 8s. If the price of oats fell to 7s. a cwt., I take it that the farmer would be entitled to collect a subsidy of 6s. a cwt. There is a saving qualification to the effect that in no circumstances can the subsidy rise to more than £1 an acre.
I would point out to the Committee that the market price of oats is now about 9s. a cwt., so that for the subsidy to rise to about £1 an acre would mean that the price would fall to something less than 5s. a cwt. As has been said already in the Debate, there is no likelihood of the subsidy being paid, because the standard price is now exceeded by 1s. a cwt. Only if there is a substantial fall during the next two or three years will the subsidy be paid. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this Clause, when it becomes law, will establish that the grower of oats shall receive a subsidy up to a maximum of £1 an acre in the event of prices falling. Let me say that in proposing to leave out "six times" in line 15, and to substitute "three shillings and sixpence" for 658 "one pound" in line 16, I have selected figures which are quite arbitrary. As a matter of fact, any old figure would do for the purpose, for my object in moving the Amendment is to oppose any part of the subsidy being operated. I confess frankly that I am an unashamed opponent of all forms of subsidy, either to the agricultural industry or—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is now making an argument which it would be more appropriate to make on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I thought that there was a definite reason for the figure in the Amendment, or I would not have selected it.
§ Mr. Riley
I will confine myself to dealing with the Amendment. The subsidy as provided for in this Clause will, in the absence of safeguards, inevitably transform itself in the long run into an enhanced value of agricultural land to the owner. I am moving this Amendment in order to do away with that iniquity. In saying that, let me emphasise that I am not indifferent to the practical suggestions put forward by the Minister in this Bill. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee are not indifferent to increased fertility of the soil.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member must confine himself strictly to the question of the figure in the Amendment, and reserve his present argument until the Question is put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Riley
I will bow to your Ruling. I submit to the Committee that the proposed subsidy is unnecessary, on the ground that the market price of oats is 9s., that the standard price fixed in the 659 Clause is 8s., and that, therefore, the farmer is already receiving for his oats 1s. per cwt. more than the standard price recognised in the Clause. Moreover, there is a protective duty.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I cannot see how that affects the hon. Member's Amendment, which deals solely with the amount of the subsidy, and not its purpose.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is not what the hon. Member's Amendment does. It merely deals with the amount of the subsidy, and not with the question of whether or not the subsidy is necessary.
§ Mr. Riley
I am moving to leave out "six times" because I consider that six times the difference between the standard price and such price as may be below 7s. 7d. is too much. Not only is the grower of oats receiving at the present time a price which is higher than the standard price, but he is protected by a duty on oats imported into this country. On those grounds, I submit the Amendment is perfectly justified, and that there is no need for the subsidy which is provided for in this Clause.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I think the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend would be much fairer in its operation than the scale provided in the Bill. I spent some time last night in mathematical calculations to try to find out exactly what would happen if this Clause became law in its present form. With the various scales of prices and the various yields per acre, it seems to me that there are rather serious anomalies. I have an open mind on the matter and I am prepared to be convinced that my mathematics are all wrong, but I will give three examples to the Committee. Let us assume that the price of oats is 7s. 6d. per cwt., which means that the subsidy is operating. Agricultural returns show that the yield of oats per acre varies from eight or nine cwts. to the acre in some parts of the West country to 20 cwts. per acre in the Isle of Ely. In a bad season, or as a result of bad farming, the yield is sometimes as low as five cwts. per acre. I have 660 worked it out that if the scale works as proposed, with the limit of £1 per acre, it will mean that the subsidy rate per cwt. will be 1s. per cwt. for a yield of 20 cwts. to the acre, 1s. per cwt. for a yield of 11cwts. per acre, and 1s. 2d. for a yield of five cwts. an acre. In other words, the subsidy will be higher by 2d. per cwt. on the lowest yield. That will mean that anyone who gets a yield of only five cwts. per acre will get the subsidy. Therefore, the bad farmer who allows the weeds to grow and gets a low yield will have a higher subsidy rate. I do not like that method. If we are to have a subsidy it ought to be on a clear basis. If the price falls to 7s., then it should be raised by subsidy to 8s. per cwt., but these complicated calculations give rise to all sorts of difficulties.
Again, I find that if the price is, say, 8s. 6d. per cwt. and the yield is 20 cwts. to the acre, there is no subsidy and the gross return in that case will be £8 10s. If the price is 8s. per cwt., again there is no subsidy and the gross return will be £8. If the price falls to 7s. 6d. per cwt. the subsidy comes into operation, again assuming the yield to be 20 cwts. to the acre, there will be a subsidy of £1 on the acre. The gross return then will come to £8 10s. or 10s. more than it was when the price was 8s. In other words the farmer will get more when the price is 7s. 6d. than he will get when it is 8s. There are further anomalies. If the yield is 11 cwts. to the acre and the price is 8s. 6d. per cwt., there will he a gross return of £4 13s. 6d., but if the price falls to 7s. 6d., the gross return, with the subsidy, will come to £5 2s. 6d., or 9s. per acre more.
I am sorry to weary the Committee with these calculations, but I think the matter is important. and I only hope that the Minister will be able to show that my calculations are wrong. But obviously, it would be better to have a simple rate of subsidy in place of this complicated system. If we decided to have a standard price and bring the price up to that level I think it would be a much better method. I support the Amendment.
§ 8.4 p.m.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) began by making a minor point which I had better dispose of at once. He asked why was it, although 8s. per cwt. was the guaranteed 661 price, it was not paid unless the actual price fell below 7s. 7d. The only reason is that if you allowed deficiency payments to be made on such small sums as 2d. or 3d. per cwt. the administrative expenses would be out of proportion to the total amount involved.
I thought the hon. Member had referred to the fact that the subsidy payment would not be made unless the actual price fell short of the guaranteed price by more than 5d. However, as I have said, the reason for it is that on very small amounts the administrative expenses would be disproportionate. I do not know whether I was right in thinking that both the hon. Member for Dewsbury and the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) were in some perplexity over their figures. It might be simpler if we dealt with this matter in terms of quarters instead of cwts., because there are fewer of them and the calculations are easier to make.
I know, and I am not complaining about the hon. Members having used cwts. in their calculations, but I think the figures would be more easily comprehended if we dealt with quarters. The effect of this Clause is to guarantee a price of 24s. per quarter on two quarters to the acre. Suppose that a farmer grows five quarters to the acre. He will get the guaranteed price of 24s. per quarter on two quarters out of those five quarters. If he has to sell the remaining three quarters, he must take the market price for them but the assumption is that in the case of the normal mixed farm the farmer ought not to have to sell more than two quarters per acre and would use the remainder for feeding purposes. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean sought to show that the heavier the crop grown and the better the farming, the less would the benefit be from this provision. He referred to crops of 20 cwts. to the acre. I do not think it possible to grow such enormous crops except on land which would be suitable for growing wheat and therefore would not qualify for this subsidy. The normal 662 crop in Scotland is anything from 14 to 16 cwts., or round about five quarters per acre.
I have been working out a few figures of my own and I calculate that if the price of oats falls to 20s. a quarter, that is to say 4s. less than the price guaranteed in respect of the two quarters per acre, the man who grows five quarters to the acre will, if he sells the whole of his crop, receive 108s. on the acre, that is to say 60s. for the three quarters which he sells at 20s. per quarter and 48s. for the two quarters in respect of which he also receives the acreage payment. If he grows six quarters to the acre he will receive for the whole crop 128s., that is 20s. more, and if he grows seven quarters he will receive 1485. So, on the assumption that he sells the whole crop it will be in all cases very much to the farmer's advantage to grow the larger crop whatever the selling price of oats may be. He gets the acreage payment on the assumption that he is going to sell two quarters per acre off his farm. That is the amount which we desire to guarantee and, as I have said, in normal cases it will not be necessary to sell more than that proportion off the farm, keeping the rest for feeding purposes.
Not on a proportion of his yield, but on a fixed amount of two quarters to the acre. Whether he grows four quarters, or six quarters, or seven quarters to the acre, he will still receive the guaranteed payment only in respect of two quarters to the acre. It is not based on a proportion of his output but on the fixed figure of two quarters per acre. My hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies are no doubt aware that in the case of the farmers in the North-East of Scotland—to remove whose grievances this proposal has largely been designed—many are under the necessity of selling more than two quarters per acre off their farms if they want to keep the farms in the proper arable rotation. The criticism has been made that the amount which is guaranteed under these proposals is not enough, but at the moment we are dealing with the opposite criticism, namely, that the guaranteed amount is too high.
The guaranteed price, as I was saying, is paid in respect of two quarters to the acre. If the price fell to 14s. the farmer in respect of two quarters to the acre would get it made up to 24s., but if the price fell to 10s. he would only get it made up to 20s. because the maximum is £1 an acre or 10s. per quarter in respect of two quarters to the acre. If you compare that with what the farmer has been receiving under the wheat deficiency payments, I do not think the comparison will bear out the hon. Member's contention that £1 per acre is, in all cases, an excessive payment, because at a time when the price of wheat was lowest the effect of the deficiency payments was that the wheat-growing farmer might be receiving £4 or £5 an acre.
The first reason which the hon. Member for Dewsbury put forward in support of his contention that the amount is too high was, that the grower of oats was now receiving a price higher than the standard price. I think it could, with equal logic, be argued that the amount is too low because for the last two years the grower has been receiving a price very much below the standard price. The fact that the price is now above the price which it is proposed to guarantee should be welcome both to the farmer and to the taxpayer. It will save the taxpayers this year and we hope, in other years, from having to make any payments at all. This is simply a policy of insurance. No payment is made when the price is above the standard level.
The other reason which the hon. Member gave was that there is now a very high duty on oats and that we imported only 7 per cent. of our requirements. The reason why the duty on oats is discounted as a factor governing price is that oats are used as a feeding stuff and compete not merely with other oats but with all kinds of feeding stuffs, particularly maize. If you wanted to draw a fair comparison, you would have to put a duty not only on oats coming in as feeding stuffs but on every kind of cereal feeding stuffs as well.
§ Mr. Stephen
If a man has, say, five quarters to the acre and uses four for feeding purposes on his own land, will he get paid on two?
Yes, he will get paid on two. On the other hand, if, as most Scottish oat-growing farmers have to do, he has to sell three or four, he will still only get paid on two.
if he does not grow wheat; but an arable farmer who cannot grow wheat has got to sell something. That is the whole point of this policy. A man who can grow wheat can use all the oats on the farm for feeding stuffs and can arrange to sell his wheat and to make that his cash white crop. That is what people in Fife can do, and they will not get the subsidy, but the unfortunate farmers farther North, in the North of Angus and Aberdeen, where they cannot grow wheat, if they want to keep their land in rotation have got to grow as much oats as we grow wheat, and it is for that reason that we are now trying, not to put them on an equality with the wheat farmers, but to remedy to some extent the disadvantage under which they have been for the last five years as compared with farmers who cart grow wheat.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland appears to think that in Scotland they can grow twice as much per acre of oats as in England. If the figure that he gives is the average, they do not grow more per acre in Scotland than we do in England. Where they could grow 5 quarters per acre, surely that land is good enough on which to grow wheat?
No. I was referring to figures given by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), who spoke of land growing 20 cwts. per acre, or about 6½ quarters. I think probably it would be good enough to grow wheat if it grew that, but I do not know anything about the general yield in England. My own knowledge applies only to Scotland, but I should call 5 quarters quite a usual yield and 6 quarters rather high.
§ Mr. Williams
Then it may be information to the hon. Member to learn that 665 the average output per acre in England is in excess of 5 quarters.
§ Mr. Williams
The yield for every county in England and Wales over the last 10 years shows an average output per acre of approximately 16 cwts., or 5⅓ quarters. That is taking all the counties together. It is quite true that over the last 10 years, from 1925 to 1934, the average output per acre of oats in the Isle of Ely was nearly 8 quarters.
That bears out my point. The Isle of Ely is the richest agricultural land in the country.
§ Mr. Williams
There is only one area that produces 8 quarters per acre, year after year, with unfailing regularity, but there are 18 counties in England, excluding Wales, where they regularly average more than 16 cwts., or 5⅓ quarters, so that perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at those figures and see how the oat productivity of this country compares with that of Scotland, because Scotland does not seem to me to be a world of its own so far as this matter is concerned. The figures which the hon. Gentleman gave to us rather tended to confirm the view which I held, but which I was afraid to express lest I might be wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of:Dean (Mr. Price) tried to put examples before the Committee to show that certain results would accrue from this particular formula. Will the hon. Gentleman agree with me that on a farm where the output per acre equals 5⅓ quarters and the standard price of 8s. per cwt. is obtainable, that farmer will receive £6 8s. per acre for his oats, whereas if the price of oats falls to 7s. 6d. per cwt., falls, that is, 6d., actually this formula would give the same person with the same output 18 per acre? In other words, if the price for oats is 7s. 6d. per cwt., he gets £8 per acre for his oats, but if the price for oats is 8s. per cwt., he gets £6 8s. per acre for his oats.
§ Mr. Williams
Let me work it back. If the ruling price is the standard price of 8s. and the output is 16 cwts. per acre, then, quite clearly, he will get £6 8s. for his 666 acre of oats, but if the price falls to 7s. 6d., he will get 7s. 6d. per cwt. for 16 cwts., plus £1 [HON. MEMBER: "No."] Well, as the Bill stands at the moment, the price having fallen 6d. below 8s. per cwt., the subsidy would be six times 6d. per cwt. [Interruption.] I am still not satisfied that I am not right. It is six times the difference between the set price and 8s., or at the rate of £1 per acre, whichever is the less. The hon. Gentleman did not allow me to get to the £1 limit. I started the calculation with the price of oats having fallen to 7s. 6d. If the price has fallen from 8s. to 7s. 6d., the farmer is now entitled to six times the difference between 7s. 6d. and 8s. Six times 6d. being 3s., and the output for that acre being 16 cwts., it would be 16 times 3s. but for the limiting words later on "not more than £1 per acre."
§ Mr. Williams
I confess that I am still in doubt and that I want clarification, but my reading of this first part of Clause 6 gives me the impression that it is possible, with this subsidy, for a farmer to receive more if the price is 7s. 6d. per cwt. than he would get if it was 8s. per cwt. I hope that neither the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), nor the Minister of Agriculture, nor the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will refer to these figures in terms of quarters, but in terms of cwts., the unit referred to in the Bill itself. There is no doubt about the "six times" meaning six times the difference between the standard price and the ruling price, with a limit of £1 per acre, and according to my reading of these words it would be the case in 18 counties in England where the output exceeds 16 cwts. per acre, that the farmer would receive more for his oats if the price was 7s. 6d. than he would if the price was 8s.
§ 8.26 p.m.
I am sorry if I misled the hon. Gentleman by quoting in quarters instead of cwts., which I did with the intention of making the thing more simple. Let us, then, go back to cwts. In the example that he gave, if you produce 16 cwts. to the acre, and if the price is 8s., you will receive 128s. for that crop. If the price falls to 7s. 6d. you will receive 120s. to begin with, that is, 8s. less. The price is 6d. below standard price, and you receive an acreage payment of 6d. multiplied by six, 667 which is exactly 3s. That is to say you then receive 3s. per acre, bringing the gross price up from 120s. to 123s. You will be 5s. worse off than if the price is 8s. The subsidy limit of £1 per acre cannot operate unless the price falls as low as about 4s. 7d. per cwt., that is, 14s. per quarter. If the price is higher than that, the subsidy will be less than £1 an acre. If the price falls to an even lower figure than 4s. 7d., the maximum of £1 will still be maintained so that the loss will be borne by the farmer.
With regard to the figures of acreage production which the hon. Gentleman gave, I think that he must have misunderstood me, because what he seemed to be saying bore out the point I intended to make. The counties where the production of oats per acre is highest are, I imagine, those like the Isle of Ely which have the richest land in the country, and which, in fact, grow a lot of wheat and will not, therefore, qualify for the oats and barley subsidy at all. Speaking from memory, I should say that in Scotland, on the type of land which will qualify for this subsidy, 16 cwts. an acre would be a fairly high production. It would, I think, be slightly less.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
There is a point I would like to put to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) I think that he is now satisfied with what the Under-Secretary said. It is not a question of the amount of oats that can be grown per acre either in England or Scotland. That has no bearing on this subsidy, because it is limited to a limited acreage of oats per farm. What does matter is whether the farmer concerned can grow another cereal crop or not. I would like to take the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) to a farm in the north-east of Scotland and ask him to show the farmer how he could make a profit on oats at 16s. per quarter when the wheat farmers of England were getting a subsidy of £5 per acre. Perhaps he will tell the farmers of East Aberdeenshire how to do it.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Did not the hon. Member tell us a short time ago that they did not try to make a profit out of oats?
§ Amendment negatived.668
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 5, line 27, to leave out from "acre" to the end of the Sub-section.
The words to which I take exception are:and where the said total area was not an exact number of acres, the odd fraction of an acre shall be disregarded.The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said earlier in the evening that he would not stand for these proposals being whittled down in the least, but I hope that he will stand for this kind of whittling down. There is a legal tag, de minimis non curat lex, which is sometimes translated as a schoolboy's howler as, "The law does not care about small men." This provision is a case in point. I am moving the Amendment in order to protect the smallholder. The man with the larger acreage does not mind if the last acre does not yield a pound, or whatever the subsidy is, but the small man does. The man with one or two fields, say, with an acreage of 5.9 acres, will draw a subsidy on only 5 acres. While I realise that it would be impracticable that every fraction, however small, should be included, I would like Inv right hon. Friend to consider this matter between now and the Report stage and try to frame this proviso so that where the fraction of an acre was more than half, the half could be counted. Perhaps he could devise some arrangement such as that.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I do not agree with my hon. Friend's rendering of the Latin tag which he quoted. I hope that he will not press the Amendment, because to carry out his wishes would involve a considerable increase in the cost of administration. The Committee can well imagine what it would involve if this payment had to be calculated upon fractions of acres up and down the country. The correct fraction would have to be ascertained, the correct calculation made, the expense of administration would increase, and a greater burden would be placed on the taxpayer as a result. The maximum payment is £1 an acre, and that only in the case of a very low price of something like 4s. 8d. an acre. If the price is 6s. a cwt., the subsidy would be 12s. If it were payable on less than an acre, we would have to calculate and ascertain the fraction of acre involved, the fraction of payment 669 involved, and distribute it. I can sympathise with my hon. Friend's anxiety to get everything he can for those who are growing oats, but I hope that he will see the administrative difficulty involved and the inconvenience and cost that would result. I trust, therefore, that he will not press the Amendment.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I listened to the Minister's explanation with the greatest interest, but it was the most extraordinary argument I ever heard from the Treasury Bench. Evidently the Ministry of Agriculture are not able to calculate in decimals. I have sometimes met friends who did not go very far in the elementary school who have had a holy horror of decimal fractions, having only got to the length of vulgar fractions—
§ Mr. Stephen
I still cannot see that the statement made by the Minister of Pensions is reasonable. What will be the extra cost of sending out so many postal orders for, say, 5s. 7d. instead of 5s. 6d.? It is a preposterous explanation that he has given us for not accepting the Amendment. An individual with 5.9 acres is to be treated as having only 5 acres. That is a most ridiculous attitude to take up. The calculation can be made very easily. There will be no increase in the number of people to receive money. It is only a case of inserting a different figure, of a person being paid some sum with a halfpenny in it or a farthing in it instead of a round sum. Halfpennies and farthings may come in even if the Bill remains as it is. We could have understood it if the Ministry of Agriculture had said that fractions of a penny were to be excluded in making payments, but if fractions of an acre are to be excluded it may make a difference of 7s. 9d. in the payment to be made to a smallholder. To a person like that 7s. 9d. is a big sum of money. It may not be much to a Member of the Government or to a member of the Civil Service—
§ Mr. Stephen
—or to a Member of Parliament, after the present increase; but to a smallholder it is a lot of money. The Minister has not persuaded me that 670 any real administrative difficulty stands in the way. If the Ministry of Agriculture have not got anybody on their staff who can do a decimal calculation some of the secondary schools will give them the loan of some of their pupils, or it might be a good experience for some of the children in the qualifying classes of the elementary schools to go to the Department and work it out for those civil servants. I hope we shall have a much more reasonable explanation. I suggest to the Minister that what was really intended was to get rid of fractions of a penny in making payments, and possibly between now and the Report stage he will agree to alter the wording of the Bill so that while fractions of a penny will be disregarded in making payments to the beneficiaries under this subsidy fractions of an acre will be taken into account.
It is not a question of not being sure whether it will be 5.9 or 5.8 acres. The measurements will be taken very accurately. The Ministry of Agriculture will know exactly the area of the land on which the subsidy is to be paid. The Department will be sure before they make the payment to the "subsidee." If Farmer John Thompson says it is 6.1 acres the Department will make certain that it is 6.i acres, and not 5.9 acres, and if the exact acreage is known there is no reason why the "subsidee" should not be paid the full amount of the subsidy, even if a decimal fraction of an acre does come into the calculation. The decimal part of an acre is of great importance to many small people, and I hope the Minister will see the reasonableness of this Amendment.
§ Mr. Turton
In the hope that between now and the Report stage the Minister will reconsider the arguments of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and myself, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I beg to move, in page 5, line 29, at the end, to insert:(2) The appropriate Minister shall not be authorised to make any subsidy payment in relation to any farm unless the occupier proves that during the year for which the subsidy payment is to be reckoned every adult person employed on the farm was assured of an average wage of not less than forty shillings per week671 This Amendment lays it down that no subsidy shall be paid unless a farmer can show that he has paid an average wage of not less than 40s. a week to his adult workers. Whatever the fate of this Amendment there are one or two things on which hon. Members opposite and ourselves are agreed. In the first place we are all agreed that agriculture does and must play a large part in our national economy, both in peace time and in war. I think, too, that we are all agreed that there is a serious decline in the number of persons employed in agriculture. In 1927 there were 774,000 workers on the land, but to-day the figure has dropped to somewhere in the region of 600,000. Another thing on which hon. Members will agree is that we have excellent land in this country, in England, in Scotland and in Wales, and that it yields some first-class produce, both crops and stock. Anybody who looks at the photographs in this morning's newspapers of some of the exhibits at the Royal Agricultural Show must agree that the land does yield first-class produce. But there is one thing the land of this country has never as yet given, and that is a decent wage to the men who work on the land. It is excellent land, it will produce anything, but it has failed as yet to produce a decent wage for the men who do the work.
That is as true to-day as it was in the last century. Historically, conditions for the agricultural worker were bad. The statistics of prices in the 19th Century show that, whatever the state of agricultural produce, the wages of the worker were low. If hon. Members would like to enrich their knowledge of agricultural conditions in the past I suggest that they might spend a night or two reading the "History of the Agricultural Labourer," by Green, which contains some very interesting information. Despite the fact that landlords got a good rent and farmers a good return on their capital, the conditions of the agricultural worker were always bad.
During the War, where everybody had seen how this country had neglected agriculture, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made that historic speech on the Corn Production Act and giving a guaranteed production price to the farmers, he talked at the same time 672 of giving the farm worker a guaranteed wage of 25s. per week. The land is excellent, but it has failed to provide a reasonable wage to the worker. Hon. Members on the other side have a great deal of sympathy with the farm workers—I do not say that facetiously or sarcastically. I can almost hear their perorations during the election, when they told the farm worker that he was the salt of the earth and a skilled worker in the oldest of industries, which came before coal. Men can exist without coal, but it does not matter whether you sell food in Grosvenor House or in a shack for motor drivers, it all comes from the land. I can hear hon. Members telling the farm worker what a great man he is and how, when returned to this House, they will do their best to see that he gets a square deal.
They know, and the Minister knows, that although there are wages committees in about 34 districts, the worker has not yet got a square deal and a living wage. It is true that wages during the last 34 years have been on the increase. They have increased in some districts, and we have got to about the 35s. mark. That is all to the good, but we still have districts on the 30s. level. Is there one hon. Member who will say that £2 a week is good enough for the agricultural worker? It is not enough, and we put it down only as a minimum. What are the answers? I know what will be the answer, which I have always regarded as the stock, historical answer. It is like this: "We would if we could, but we cannot, because it is not in the industry." It is the same argument that has been put up by other industries. I have had it put to me a thousand times, and I have pulled their legs and said it would not work.
We have a stream of complaints about the poverty of the farmer, but very little evidence is produced. We have no reliable facts concerning the costs of production. I am suspicious of this constant tale of poverty. I wish we had reliable evidence showing exactly what the position in agriculture is. I have been with farmers on farms, and those farmers have been perfectly frank and told me what the costs of production were but that was not in this country. It was in Australia. One of the differences between Australian farming and ours is that the Australian farmer frankly admitted that he was making money. I have never yet met an English farmer 673 who admitted that he was making money. The Australian farmer could tell me exactly what it cost to produce a pound of butter, and so on. How is it that we cannot get that information here? The reluctance to produce reliable evidence makes many of us suspicious. Nobody will deny that the State has done a great deal for agriculture. Where the subsidy has gone is another matter. For example, we have exempted agricultural land from rates. Then we have given subsidies, quotas and tariffs; subsidies for wheat, meat, beef and milk, and marketing boards for hops, potatoes and other products. The State has done these things for agriculture without any cost of production having been produced, and without any evidence as to the exact state of agriculture.
These direct subsidies have been given to agriculture without any means test. I am not going to make a comparison with the unemployed man, who is harassed to death if he does not disclose the source of what he gets, but I would say only that if the principle is right that, when the poor of the community get anything from the Exchequer they have to be subjected to a means test, the same condition ought to be attached to those who get money from the Treasury for agriculture. None can deny that the subsidies have permitted the farmers to pay the landlords their rent. We are opposed to subsidies for private enterprise, and to subsidising constantly first one branch and then another branch of agriculture, without exact knowledge of how it stands and without any conditions. What are agricultural wages to-day? They are not big. Although we are opposed to subsidies, we say that, if subsidies have to be given, the conditions should be attached to them of the payment of a decent living wage.
I wish one or two hon. Members who spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill were in their places, as I wanted to make a reference to them. I remember the hon. Member for one of the Norfolk Divisions saying that everything in the garden was Lovely in Norfolk. The agricultural workers were fine, capable men, getting 33s. 6d. per week.
§ Mr. Maxwell
It was not I who made that assertion, but, on behalf of my hon. Friend who did, I would say that all he 674 said was that there were competent men fighting the battles of the agricultural workers upon the Agricultural Wages Board.
§ Mr. Smith
I thank the hon. Member for the interruption, because it gives me the chance to say what I wanted to say. It is quite right about the competent men in Norfolk; in fact, I was with them only last Sunday, and one of them said publicly, that, in his opinion, the farms in Norfolk could pay a better wage than they are now paying. He brought about 100 family budgets before the wages committee showing the position of the agricultural worker in the countryside. This country has never yet faced the position of the agricultural worker, whose conditions are inferior in nearly everything that you can point to. His wages are lower than those in industry; his unemployment insurance is less than that of the ordinary worker; his workman's compensation is lower than that of the industrial worker because his average wage is less; and one hardly dare mention in the House of Commons the question of his housing. It is quite true that some rural districts are doing well in this respect, but others are doing nothing, and in the case of some houses, while people talk a lot about the roses round the door, that is the only beautiful thing that there is about them. Some of them are a scandal to the countryside.
In these days we are paying considerable attention to nutrition, and, indeed, the Minister of Health appointed a committee, who presented an excellent report. Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, Sir John Orr and others have dealt with the question of nutrition, but the average wage in agriculture to-day is not sufficient to maintain the standard of life that is advocated by Sir John Orr, Mr. Rowntree, or any responsible committee of inquiry that has gone into the question of nutrition. Mr. Rowntree states that in a town 53s. a week is the minimum that is required for a family of five, and in the country 41s. Therefore, I say it is about time that the House of Commons expressed a definite opinion that, if subsidies are to be continued, a decent living wage should be paid. I would ask hon. Members who represent rural constituencies not to bleat so much about the depression in agriculture, not to con- 675 centrate solely on the welfare of the landlord and the farmer, but to remember that the farm worker is an important factor in agriculture, and to see to it that he gets a better deal than he is getting now.
§ 8.57 P.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
If this Amendment did what the hon. Member wants, there might be something to be said for it, but, whereas his whole argument was in favour of giving a subsidy in respect of payments to agricultural workers, the Amendment itself is very different from that. It says that nobody who pays less than an average of 40s. a week in wages is to receive a subsidy in accordance with this Measure. That would simply mean that the people who would get the subsidy would be those who were able to pay these wages, and who did pay these wages. Apparently, from what the hon. Member said, he assumes that there are a great many people in agriculture who can pay these wages but do not do so. If this Amendment were brought into operation, the rich farmers might possibly pay these wages in order to get the subsidy; millionaires who run model farms would pay these wages and get the subsidy; and such landlords as have their own farms and are rich would get the subsidy. It is very extraordinary that hon. Members opposite should move an Amendment which would give landlords a subsidy and leave out the poor farmers, the people who cannot pay high wages, and people on smallholdings who do not pay any wages at all.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that an employer, because he was not paying 40s., would not get the subsidy?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
That is what the Amendment says. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nothing of the kind."] The Amendment would allow everyone to get the subsidy except smallholders and people who cannot afford to pay high wages. It is a most extraordinary proposal to be moved by hon. Gentlemen opposite. As regards the broader question of the payment of subsidies for wages at all, I should have thought that hon. Members opposite had had sufficient experience of the payment of a subsidy for wages in the coal industry to make them very care- 676 ful. We have not had such a subsidy in this country except just temporarily. but in other countries it has been tried, and it has always been found that the payment of a subsidy for wages means paying money in order to keep an uneconomic business concern going. It encourages a business to take on and keep in work more men than the business needs. If there must be subsidies, it is better to subsidise the business, because in that case, although it may possibly produce material at an uneconomic price, at any rate the business itself is economic, whereas a subsidy for wages makes each individual business an uneconomic concern.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that employers of labour take on more labour than is absolutely necessary for carrying on their business, merely because they get a subsidy?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
What I said was that, where this had been done abroad, that has been the actual effect. In this country, except in the coal industry, we have not subsidised wages, and I hope we never shall. I think I have said enough to show that the effect of the Amendment would be to subsidise the landlord and the rich farmer, and, that as regards the general question, it is not the right way to conduct any business. I hope very much that hon. Members opposite will press the Amendment and go into the Lobby in support of subsidies for rich landlords and rich farmers.
§ 9.4 P.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I think the Minister must have listened with astonishment to the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage). Let me take first the question whether this is an economic industry at all. If I had to define an economic industry, I should define it as an industry that could stand on its own feet, and could pay all its charges without the help of the Government at all. I consider it absolute impertinence for a Member who claims subsidies on every available occasion and runs into the Lobby every day and several times a day, to claim a subsidy for an absolutely uneconomic industry as it stands at present. I am not saying 677 that in criticism of the industry but, surely, an industry which is subsidised directly and indirectly to the tune of £30,000,000 a year is the last to claim to be on an economic basis.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
That makes it worse. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now acknowledging that it is an uneconomic industry. Then he turns round and says, "For goodness sake, do not introduce into this uneconomic industry a further uneconomic way of subsidising wages." You are arguing against a subsidy on wages—
§ The Chairman
I think it would be better if the hon. Member would remember that he is addressing the Chair.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I beg pardon. The hon. and gallant Gentleman addressed the Committee and suggested that it would be uneconomic to subsidise wages, but he never suggests that it is uneconomic to subsidise the profits in this industry. I do not believe the nonsense that is talked in this House about every farmer losing money. I have read about too many farmers' wills in the newspapers. I have no objection to profits being made in industry, but I do not believe the tale that is always told about the farmer, that he is never making any profits. Surely, the farmer should be the last person to talk about a subsidy on wages if at the same time he is perfectly willing to accept a subsidy towards any profits that he might make.
I want to make an appeal to the Minister, and may I give an invitation to hon. Members opposite, who are always almost shouting down the Minister of Agriculture, because he has a very unhappy time, far more unhappy from that side than from this on these questions. Would agricultural Members address themselves to the question whether they think 40s. a week is too much for the agricultural labourer? I understand that in the major part of the North of England that wage is paid, and I cannot for the life of me understand any man who would say that 40s. is too much for an adult person in any industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "No one has said it."] Hon. Members are very careful indeed to vote on a mere technical quibble against an Amend- 678 ment which would really assert in terms that 40s. is to be a minimum wage. I think it was the Liberal party who first brought in the Minimum Wage Act.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
It was a glorious death. Further, we set up trade boards in order to give a minimum wage to people engaged in different industries.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I am in an industry which is governed by the Trade Boards Act. If any master gets an employé who is worth more than the minimum wage, it is a very unwise policy indeed to make that a maximum. You are going to get in return for your labour what you pay for it. You will get better work and better results if you give people a wage on which they can live. It is astounding in this year of grace 1937 that people can get up and say they cannot afford to pay it. I do not think the Minister will make the contention that the mover suggested. I think he will say "There is machinery to deal with this. It is a shame to spoil this machinery which is agreed upon by both sides." I should like to appeal to him to put something into the Bill which will state that a certain minimum wage should be paid. My opinion is that the farmers really are not paying any wages at all. If you calculate the number of labourers employed in the industry and the average wage payment, the total is very little more than the agriculturists are receiving in the form of subsidies, direct and indirect. If you come to the House week in and week out and ask for all types of protection, quotas, and subsidies, there can be no justification at all for denying to the agricultural labourer a proper share of what you are giving to the industry. I hope someone opposite will address himself to the question whether he thinks 40s. should be laid down by the House as the minimum wage for the agricultural labourer.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
This Amendment raises a very important principle. With its object I have very great sympathy, and I was very much moved by the speech 679 of the Mover. If it were accepted I do not think it would in Scotland do very much harm to the agricultural industry, because I think they could afford it. I do not know enough to speak for England, but I know that, if you take the perquisites in the shape of housing and certain food that we have in Scotland, the average wage of the farm servant there is very much higher than the average in England. It is on quite a different scale. It is frightfully easy for the hon. Member who spoke last to shout across to Members on this side, "Do you think 40s. a week is too much?" It has been said many times on many electoral platforms. I do not think anything is too much. Almost everything is too little in wages, pensions and everything else. If I were asked if I thought old age pensions were high enough, I should say, "Certainly not." Therefore, that is no argument. If you take all the farmers at present, when agriculture is struggling back, particularly the smaller men and some without any capital at all, can the industry as a whole afford a minimum standard wage of 40s.? I question it very much. I think my hon. and gallant Friend was perfectly right and that to some extent, if you pass this Amendment, you will be handing over the subsidy to the landlord and to the farmer who can afford to pay, and who will pay of course, and the man without capital and the very small man employing two, three or four farm servants will be unable to pay the wage.
One of the most important points made by the Mover was in regard to nutrition. I think that is very much more important when applied to England than to Scotland. I have had a certain amount of experience, having represented a Scottish county for 14 years, and I assert that there is no malnutrition to speak of amongst farm servants, in that part of the world at any rate. They have bred a magnificent population for generations past and, if there is malnutrition coming, it will be because they have abandoned to some extent the good, plain, wholesome, cheap food that they themselves produce. There were the barrel of herrings and the sack of oatmeal and the bowl of milk which they used to get on every farm, enough to keep everybody, and most of these were supplied free. 680 They have now turned to this horrible canned stuff which is the cause of nine-tenths of the malnutrition in this country at the moment.
§ Mr. Boothby
I have averaged four herring a day for years. The result is for all to see. There is one point I would make in reply to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. It has been suggested that the Minister will try to ride off on the basis of the Agricultural Wages machine, but we are just about to start in Scotland an experiment to which I attach very great importance. It is the new Agricultural Wages Bill under which the wages of each district are to be settled by a committee with an independent chairman representing the local farm servants and farmers in relation to prices and everything else. I really entertain great hopes of that Bill, and of the cooperation which may result from it because—and here again it is not boasting; it is the truth—the relationship between the farmers and farm workers in Scotland for generations, for the past 200 years, has been quite different from, and, if I may say so, without offence to hon. Members, infinitely better, than the relationship in England—a far better and more cordial relationship. Nothing should be done by this House which might jeopardise that relationship in any way.
I have a fear—and it is a genuine one—that if you standardise wages and start laying down under statutory law what the wages in different districts should be, you will be prejudicing the chances of that Bill working well. I say to my hon. Friends that I have every confidence that in Scotland—I am not speaking about England—under the machinery we are setting up in this House, the new Agricultural Wages Bill, as it applies to Scotland, we shall be able to settle our wage problems satisfactorily, and in years to come the farm servant in Scotland at any rate will be paid the maximum wages that the industry can afford.
§ Mr. Leslie
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us the value of the barrel of herring, the sack of oatmeal and the bowl of milk the Scottish farmworker gets?
§ Mr. Boothby
It varies in each particular county, as the hon. Member knows, and I cannot give him the exact value, which varies with the prices.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Since my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) moved his Amendment I have had in mind the Biblical quotation,And they all with one accord began to make excuses.Immediately he sat down an hon. Member for one of the Lincolnshire divisions began to squeal, "You must not pay this 40s., and if you do so, you will ruin us all," and so on. I want to remind the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) of what the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) said. He stated that the Liberals passed the first minimum wages Bill in this House, and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen said that they made it the maximum. Trade unionism in the mining industry has been stiff enough and has had sufficient fight in it to prevent that minimum being a maximum, and it has not become the maximum. There is any amount of sympathy on the other side. They say, "We sympathise with you, but we are not prepared to vote with you." I have in my hand a book called "Human Needs of Labour" by Seebohm Rowntree, who has worked out scales. He has not had five months or only five hours on it, but has been doing it for weeks and months. He gives us the food and other scales based on 41s. a week for five persons—a man, wife and three children—in the country, and 53s. in the towns. The diet that he gives in respect of a wage of 41s. in the country, as far as I can personally see, will not maintain these five people. He gives a weekly diet, and I fall out at once with it because there is no—
§ Mr. Griffiths
—and no butter in it either. The diet is arranged for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. I will take breakfast. On Sunday morning they have bacon, bread and margarine and fried bread, and then they are finished with bacon until the next Sunday morning comes round. On Monday they have porridge and skimmed milk, bread and margarine and fried bread. Porridge again on Tuesday—
§ Mr. Griffiths
—and bread and margarine. They have not got any Aberdeen 682 herrings here at all. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen says that he has four daily; they do not get one between five of them in a week. This, mind you, is the diet which Seebohm Rowntree suggests is the minimum to keep these people in condition. I have heard the hon. Member for East Aberdeen talk about malnutrition and about the fear of it. He had tears in his eyes almost as big as snowballs when he said that we should look after the nutrition of these people for the sake of Defence. We must keep the people fit, and yet Seebohm Rowntree says that it costs 41s. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen says, "I sympathise with you, but if you have it we in Scotland will suffer." I hope that before the discussion on this Clause is finished at least somebody from Scotland who knows something else about Scotland will get up and make some statement on this matter. I am not going right through the week's dietary as I have not the time, but from one end of the week to the other Seebohm Rowntree does not state that there is any butter whatever; it is margarine all the way through the week. Hon. Members opposite are not satisfied with margarine. They are satisfied that somebody else should eat it; they will see that they do not eat it.
The dietary for the five persons for the week provides for 2½ lbs. of breast of mutton at 1s. 5¼d. That is the week's supply of meat. A little more than 3d. per person per week, less than a halfpenny a day as far as butcher's meat is concerned. That is the diet arranged on 41s. I see from the "Land Worker" that the minimum rates of wages of some agricultural workers are down to 33s. a week. In Essex they have had an increase in wages of 9d. a week. That is three-halfpence per day increase for a family, from 32s. 6d. to 33s. 3d. Someone said that the farmers had not got anything. They are always poor. I served on a public assistance committee in Yorkshire for six years and I never saw one farmer come to that public assistance committee. I know that they have nothing when they are alive, but when they die they leave a lot to someone else. I have a list of them in the "Land Worker." Eighteen of them have pegged out and they have left £500,000 between them.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Yes, farmers. I hope you do not think I am dreaming. I do not think I had better read out the names. One farmer left £129,859 out of his losses. Coming to the other side of the picture, they say, "We cannot grant a minimum of 40s." The nearer the producers of the commodities of life are to the source of things the worse they are paid. The agricultural worker is worse paid than the man who sells his produce in London. He is worse paid than the middleman. Take my industry, the mining industry, where we are having explosions almost every day and where men are being killed in threes, fours and fives. The men who produce the coal hardly get a living wage. They are starving. But the people here in London are making hundreds of thousands of pounds profit. The fishermen who produce the fish are starving, along with their wives and children. The people who produce should have the best standard in life and we say that the farming industry can grant a minimum wags of 40s. I have any amount of stuff in this book from which I have quoted to prove that what the worker requires is food, a living wage and at the weekend a little pleasure to bring some joy into his life, as well as slaving all the week.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I would not have intervened but for the speech of the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). The hon. Member supports the Amendment. I oppose it, but for reasons rather different from those given by some of my hon. Friends. The hon. Member for South Bradford supported this because it introduced a minimum wage. I am prepared to consider at any time the introduction of a minimum wage Bill for agriculture.
Yes, I am prepared to support it. I am prepared to consider it as a separate Bill, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will not feel that this is the right place.
I hope that hon. Gentlemen will allow me to proceed, I am trying to face honestly the facts of the situation. It is all very well to talk hot air, as most of us do sometimes, but we have to be brutally frank sometimes and face the facts. The fact is that this is not the way to introduce it. I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite should have moved this Amendment. Had it come from other quarters it might have been explainable, but hon. Gentlemen opposite only a few nights ago were praising themselves for the fact that it was they who introduced the Agricultural Wages Board system and the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) reminded us of that in an effective speech. Why was that done? It was done because in the opinion of the Government then—and it is my opinion—the right way to deal with wages is by the method of negotiation between the two sides. If the Labour party press this Amendment it will seem that they are saying that their old method is wrong.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to save himself from a charge of hypocrisy he will tell us whether if a Bill is brought in to provide for a minimum wage of 40s. he will vote for it or not.
As a matter of fact, if the hon. Member will make it £3 I shall be more interested in it. I hope that hon. Members will not laugh. I have said many times in this House that £3 a week is not too large a minimum wage for agriculture.
If a Bill is introduced in a proper way I am prepared to consider it, but I am submitting to the Labour party, as it was they who introduced the Agricultural Wages Board system and claimed credit for having done it, they have really no right now to go behind it and urge this new method upon us.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
Will you recognise also that the miners have a minimum wage and in addition wages boards in every district?
As I have said, I am perfectly prepared to consider a minimum wage Bill, but my point is that this is not the way to do it.
I do not want to detain the Committee, but a minimum wage Bill for agriculture is a matter which should stand on its own legs. It should not be tacked on to this Measure which deals only with a small section of the industry. It is not only that I sympathise with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment. I agree with him, but this is not the way to go about the matter. In Scotland, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) has pointed out, we have at last succeeded—I have been trying for years to get it—in obtaining a system of agricultural wages boards. I support that because I am perfectly satisfied that that is the only right way of raising wages. I have spoken to-night because I do not want to be unfairly charged at some later date with having voted against this Amendment. I am not only voting against it, but I think it my duty to speak against it and to explain my reasons. My reasons are that by the methods which the party opposite themselves introduced, and which have now been introduced to Scotland, I am confident that a higher wage can be obtained. The speech of the hon. Member was little more than a repetition of those rather discreditable perorations which he condemned at the beginning of his speech.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The hon. Member has tried to make out a case that you should not have a minimum wage, because there is a negotiating body to carry out that task. That was part of his argument.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The hon Member was critising the Labour party because, having set up the machinery of the Agricultural Wages Board, they now make this proposal, and he said that by the Amendment they were going back on the Agricultural Wages Board. May I put this point to the hon. Member?
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The hon. Member said that this is not the proper way to do it. Does he not recollect that at the same time that the Minimum Wage Act was 686 passed there was a negotiating body of the Miners' Federation and the mine-owners to carry on wage negotiations? Can he still contend that by the setting up of the minimum wage we should prevent other negotiations as to wages?
The hon. Member has not quite got my point. I have no objection to considering a minimum wage, if the proposal is made in addition to the Agricultural Wages Board. My objection is not to adding a minimum wage system on to the Agricultural Wages Board system, but rather that it should be proposed from the benches opposite in this way. If the Labour party desire to be fair and straightforward and to pursue matters in a Parliamentary fashion they ought to introduce a minimum wage Bill. If they do so it can be considered, but I submit that the party which introduced the method of the Agricultural Wages Board are not the persons to condemn us for abandoning that method now when its benefits are beginning effectively to show themselves.
§ 9.39 P.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I can generally follow the arguments of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), but to-night I can neither follow his logic nor his argument. He says that this is not the place to do what is proposed in the Amendment. Then he says that he is in favour of a minimum wage. Next he says that if we do not establish a minimum wage, the farm worker would get a higher wage under the Bill. Then he finished up by saying that he was prepared to consider a minimum wage. It is the famous old argument whenever one attempts to do a certain thing, this is not the place to do it. Why is this not the place? The hon. Member did not show us why it is not the place. The facts are briefly these: Certain people under this Bill are being given privileges. The farming community are being given privileges. The Coalition Government of 1918–22, which the hon. Member enthusiastically supported, established this principle. It was provided in some of their Bills that certain people should be granted concessions, and a definite guarantee of a minimum wage was given.
In this Bill the farming community are being granted certain concessions by the State, and all that the Labour party are asking is that in that guarantee, not 687 only should the farmer be guaranteed, but his farm servants should be guaranteed also. Is that not the way to do it? What better place could there be for doing it? If we tried to introduce it in a minimum wage Bill we should be told that the farmers have no guaranteed prices, that they have no subsidies and no way of recouping themselves. We should be told: "Give us the finance, give us the guarantees, and then we will do it." We have given the farmers the guarantee in this Bill and now the hon. Member says this is the wrong place to do what we ask. There never was a more desirable place. We are asking for a 40s. minimum wage. Surely, that is not an extravagant wage. The only argument I have heard is that some farmers cannot pay. If this Bill has any purpose it is to make the farmers able to pay.
§ Mr. Buchanan
It puts them pretty well on the road, and it will not be long before they get enough to pay 40s., if they cannot do it now. The landlords and the farming community are constantly securing concessions, but never have they guaranteed to their ordinary workers a decent minimum wage. Why cannot that be guaranteed?
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Member says that it only applies to a limited portion and that it does not include all barley. What would happen if the Amendment were carried? The Government would have to re-adapt the machinery to make it include the lot. Everybody knows that that would happen. In the past the Government have had to make concessions on far bigger things than this. They had to re-adapt the Budget, not because of a Parliamentary defeat but because of Parliamentary criticism. If to-night the Government accepted this Amendment, the simple thing for them would be to re-adapt their Bill to it. Here farmers are being given guarantees, and this system is being linked up with the marketing scheme and the whole range of legislation that they have recently obtained. The only criticism of the Amendment is that it is placing the 688 wage too low. Forty shillings is not enough. Then the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) tries to ride off with the old cry about making it £3. When you introduce a proposal that the allowance for a child should be 4s., you are told to make it 5s. If you want to increase the wages of agricultural labourers why not make a start at £2? If the farmers of this country are to do well, then the purchasers of their goods must do well also. The purchasers of farm products cannot purchase butter, eggs and other things unless they have the income to do it. Farmers if they want to have prosperous farms should set an example and pay their workmen higher wages. I am sure it would pay them well in the long run.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I am sure hon. Members will agree that we have had an interesting discussion and that most of the points have been adequately covered. There is a difference of opinion in the Committee, and I do not expect unanimity on this matter. At the same time, we have drawn into the forefront the salient points of controversy which surround this topic. The issue here is not whether there should be a minimum wage for the agricultural worker or what the amount of that wage should be. I would ask the Committee seriously to consider the real proposal in the Amendment. It is to select for this minimum wage one section of the agricultural industry, and that section is to consist of those people who grow oats and barley but do not grow wheat. The Amendment, therefore, leaves out the relatively prosperous section of agriculture and the proposal is that a 40s. wage shall be applied to those who are on the worst land in the country from the point of view of crops, and who are, consequently, least able to pay it. There is another point which has created in my mind great difficulty about this Amendment. Reference has been made to the smallholder, and it has been suggested that that is not a typical case. May I put what is a common case, particularly in the oats and barley growing land, and that is the family farm. The Amendment would mean that a man who grows oats and barley but who pays no wages to his family would not get the benefit of the subsidy.
§ Mr. Morrison
The occupier of such a farm would have toprove that during the year for which the subsidy payment is to be reckoned every adult person employed on the farm was assured of an average wage of not less than forty shillings per week.How can you say that a son who is working for his father on a farm and receives 5s. a week pocket money is not employed on the farm? The Amendment would hit an extremely deserving section of the community. Again, the subsidy will not be paid if the price of oats remains at something like the price now ruling; it is only when the price collapses that the subsidy becomes payable. That means that in times like the present, when prices are relatively satisfactory, the farmer would receive no subsidy at all because no subsidy would be payable, and therefore would not have to pay a minimum wage of 40s. per week, but as soon as the market collapses and the bottom drops out of the oats and barley market then along comes this demand. Surely that is the wrong way of approaching this very important question of the remuneration of agricultural workers. It is not a question of whether 40s. is enough. Everyone will agree that agricultural wages should be as high as possible and, in fact, they are a good deal higher than when the present Government came into office. We must also look at the Amendment against the background of the legislation which already exists. There is the Agricultural Wages Act, and a similar Bill dealing with Scotland is at present before Parliament. That is the method which has been adopted since 1924 as the appropriate way of settling these matters. There is no provision in this Bill to review that Act.
What is the effect of superimposing the Amendment which is now proposed on the machinery of the Agricultural Wages Act without repealing or altering that Act? It would produce a state of affairs in which the Agricultural Wages Act would be impossible to operate. How is the occupier to prove that a person employed on his farm is assured of a wage of £2 a week? I suggest to the Committee that the proper way of dealing with the matter is to let the Agricultural Wages Act operate. If it is desired to alter its terms that is a separate matter, but I feel sure that this piecemeal method of approaching what is a difficult problem will only bring confusion. As a matter of 690 fact, the Agricultural Wages Act has brought to the agricultural worker some share in this added prosperity. The General Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural Workers has said:The increase in agricultural wages in the above three years has given very important financial benefits to agricultural workers.In summarising the position he points out that in three years the wages in agriculture have increased by £2,300,000 per annum. That carries us only to the end of 1936, and although everyone will agree that there is much to be done—and I hope to have the co-operation of Members in all parts of the Committee in endeavouring to improve the conditions of agricultural workers—it is not true to say that they have have not benefited from the assistance which has been given to the industry. The minimum wage in 1933 was 30s. per week, and taken on the average it has now increased by 2S. 6d. per week for all adult workers. There are as a matter of fact £500,000 regular male agricultural workers and this means that farm workers have gained about £3,000,000 in wages. One hon. Member commented that this is not a large fraction of the amount of assistance which has been given to agriculture, but the calculations of that assistance are not the same on the opposite side of the Committee as on this side.
Whatever may be the amount of assistance, there is this to be said in general on the question, that if we wish to improve the wages conditions of the agricultural workers, the best way is to cooperate, as far as we can, in practical schemes which will give to the countryside a greater degree of prosperity. It cannot be said that the whole of the assistance which has been given has gone into the farmers' pockets, because a great deal has had to replace losses made at the time when the farmers supplied the industrial community with food below the costs of production. There is a great deal of slack to be made up in that direction before one can estimate how much of this assistance goes to the farmers. Let us co-operate together to promote the prosperity of the industry as a whole, and I am certain that although this may appear to be a long view of the matter, it will in the end prove the shortest cut to improved conditions for the agricultural workers.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I do not wish to prolong the Debate unduly, but I feel obliged briefly to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members opposite are very fond of referring to the improvement that has taken place in agricultural labourers' wages since 1933. They always fix their own starting point, and they never refer to the slump between 1931 and 1933. The figures of the National Farmers' Union show that from 1925 to 1936 there was an all-round increase throughout England and Wales of 1s. per week, or £1,666,000. Leaving out the downward tendency between 1931 and 1933, and the upward tendency between 1933 and 1936, during which period the agricultural workers were merely winning back what they had originally lost, over a ten-years' period they gained 1s. per week on their wages. Since 1936, I am willing to admit that there have been slight increases here and there, but they have been very small. If we compare the progress in wages between 1925 and 1936 with the increased output per person employed in agriculture, the agricultural workers' wages have been lagging behind, because investigators tell us that the output per person has increased in volume since 1931 by approximately 25 per cent. Really, there is very little to boast about as far as the wages of agricultural workers are concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman argued, perhaps correctly, that this is not the appropriate moment at which to deal with agricultural wages, but hon. Members on this side are entitled to ask what the Government are prepared to do to help the agricultural labourers to help themselves. It is recognised that in large areas of this country the agricultural labourers have done very little to help themselves, for they have been very badly organised. Their representation on the county wages committees has not been as efficient as it might have been owing to the absence of trade union representatives. In all those cases, there has been nobody to overrule the county wages committees' decisions which have left agricultural wages where they were. That is the reply to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). When county wages committees have been less than fair to agricultural workers, there has been no national wages board to step in and refer those decisions back to the 692 counties for further revision. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member is more optimistic than I am. My recollection is that since 1924, when the Agricultural Wages Act was passed, the Minister has not intervened in a single case. The National Wages Board as we know it might as well be altogether out of existence, for it merely records decisions taken in the various counties.
Therefore, we are entitled to ask the Government, which is caring for the farmers, for agriculture. or for our food, however one may wish to put it, when they are providing guarantees or subsidies or assistance, direct or indirect, in a multiplicity of forms, what they are prepared to do for agricultural labourers Is not this an opportunity to do something? It might cause difficulties of administration to say that only those farmers who grow oats or barley and get guarantees shall pay 40s. a week to their workers and that the remainder shall be left out; but my hon. Friends are justified, when guarantees or subsidies are being provided, in claiming that the agricultural labourer shall at least share somehow in what the State pays to agriculture. I suggest that this Amendment is fully justified on the facts of the case and that the agricultural labourer is deserving of more than sympathy from the Committee.
If the right hon. Gentleman would tell us to-day that he feels that there is a weak link in the Agricultural Wages Act, 1924, and that there ought to be a national wages board that could overrule the county decisions and in some cases refer back those decisions for further consideration, then I am not sure we should press Amendments of this description on every agricultural Measure that is brought forward, but in the circumstances we are entitled to say that if the Government are making further provision for one commodity or for another, for agriculture, for the farmers, for the landlords or for anybody else, jointly or separately, then something ought to be done for the agricultural labourers. For those reasons, I am certain that this Amendment is justified, and if for no other purpose than to protest against the treatment meted out to the agricultural labourers generally, I hope my hon. Friends will press this Amendment to a Division.
§ 10.4 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that this Amendment will be pressed to a Division in order to show up the hypocrisy of our opponents on this matter. I was interested, and rather ashamed, to note that most of the criticisms of the 40s. minimum came from Scottish Members. I was also interested to note the Minister's excuses for not accepting this Amendment, which proposes that the farm servants shall receive a 40s. minimum. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be dangerous to deal with only one section of agricultural labourers. My reply is that we are dealing with only one section because the subsidy deals with that particular section. It is because hon. Members on these benches believe that when the nation's money is given to the employers in any particular industry, not only should that money be given for the purpose of increasing profits, but it should give a decent minimum wage to the labourers employed in the industry.
It is a simple statement of fact that agricultural labourers, both in Scotland and England, are not receiving a decent minimum wage. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), as per usual, said he sympathised with the effort to give farm labourers decent conditions. We have often noticed young Members opposite buttoning their coats and declaring how they would like to do this and that and the other thing were it not for the fact that there is no money in the country. But they vote as one united body to give to particular industries millions of pounds in subsidy. The Minister referred to the family farm—to the small farms run by the farmer and his family, all sharing in the profits. I would be interested to hear of the number of such families who are in dire distress or whose members are living on less than a 40s. minimum. But is it to be said that because there are smallholdings, operated by farmers and their families, who can be considered as partners in the business, the wage labourers who have no such interest in the farms are to he denied a minimum wage of 40s.?
The point has been made that agricultural wages have increased. The average agricultural wage, according to the Minister's own statement, has only increased 694 during many years by 2s. 6d. and the increase has generally been in those areas where the agricultural workers are strongly organised. The Secretary of State for Scotland, on 10th June last, said:The average minimum rate in England during the period 1926–31 was 31s. 8d. per week; by 1933 it fell to 30s. 6½d. and then rose to 31s. 10d. in 1935."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1937; col. 2041, Vol. 324.]Then the right hon. Gentleman said the fall was greater in Scotland and in some instances very much greater. It is, I think, a decided impertinence for a man of such substance and means as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen to come here and say that he has four herring daily and that that is good enough for the agricultural workers. I am sorry that the hon. Members is not now in his place because I should like to ask him what else, besides the four herring, he has that the agricultural worker with 31s. to 33s. a week does not receive. That type of argument does not deserve much attention from those who are seriously concerned with the condition of the agricultural worker. When the hon. Member for East Aberdeen makes these bragging statements with regard to agricultural workers in Scotland, I would like to point out to him that the average wage in Aberdeen is 29s. 3d. per week. That was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnson) and appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and has never been denied. There are, of course, perquisites. Those perquisites in Scotland range from 3s. 3d. to 12S. a week. We desire that there should be a definite standard for agricultural workers; that these differences ranging from 3s. 3d. to 12s. in different areas should be abolished and a minimum wage established higher than the highest wage paid to agricultural workers in Scotland to-day.
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) said that this was not the time. Apparently this is the time to give the farmers a material subsidy which will be of great benefit to them. In our desire that the farming community should benefit and agricultural production increase, we have already agreed to marketing schemes and subsidies. We have met the farmers in every instance but when it comes to asking them to guarantee, out of what we have given them, a 40s. minimum to their employés, we are told that this is not the time and 695 this is not the place. If the same argument were applied to industry generally it would follow that we ought not to deal with factory legislation at all but leave it to the trade unions. But the hon. Member knows that the efforts of his friends and many like them against the trade union movement has made it necessary in many instances that the workers' conditions should be considered and dealt with in Parliament.
Reference was also made by the hon. Member for East Fife to the new Wages Bill. When a piece of legislation is about to be put into operation we are always told that we ought not to interfere with it. The hon. Member if he is alive to the conditions of farm servants in Scotland, knows that the new Bill has come into being because of the continuous decrease in farm labourers wages in Scotland during the last few years. That is an indisputable fact. A 40s. minimum would not in any way interefere with a single Clause of that Bill and even if it did, why should we not agree to say, from this House of Commons, to any Commission or body which has been given power to deal with agricultural wages, that in all future negotiations a minimum shall be laid down which exceeds any wage rate received by agricultural workers in the past. Hon. Members opposite have pleaded their great concern for the farm servants. I want to state emphatically that if they vote against this Amendment, which asks for a 40s. minimum for the farm servants of this country, they are voting against the interests of the farm servants themselves, and they are not representing the interests of those farm servants; and that applies to Scottish as well as to English Members of this Committee.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
If we go back to the very earliest industry in this country, we find that agriculture was the one and only industry. The old story goes that Cain murdered Abel because Abel refused to cease paying a decent minimum wage to his agricultural labourers; and, by the way, there are some Cains in existence who would murder any of their friends who paid a decent wage to their agricultural labourers. Later on, in the fourteenth century, we had in this country what was called the "Black Death," which killed 696 off many of the agricultural labourers, and for a time those who were left were in clover, because they could demand a decent standard of existence, but this was the place which prevented their getting beyond a certain maximum wage, because by the Statute of Labourers their wages could not exceed a certain amount; and there are Members of the Government to-day who would like a Statute of Labourers fixing a maximum wage for labourers no higher than 31s. or 32s. a week. Later still, in the nineteenth century, we had the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who stood nobly out and fought for an increase in wages, and we are very glad to be the inheritors of that cause for which they stood so boldly, and were transported for their pains. In this country to-day, in the twentieth century, we have a moaning constantly going on that there are fewer and fewer agricultural workers. Some 120,000 fewer agricultural workers are employed to-day than were employed in 1921. There is no incentive nowadays to become the farmer's boy, because they cannot all marry the rich farmer's daughter, so they are leaving this industry on account of the low wages that are paid.
I hold in my hand the Ministry of Agriculture "Journal," which gives us some of the wages for the present month of July, 1937. In Hampshire, I notice, the newest rate of wages is the magnificent sum of 32s. a week for a 51-hour week, which works out at 7½d. an hour, and female workers of 18 years of age and over in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are paid the abnormal sum of 5d. per hour for all time worked. If we come to Dorset, the home of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, not much improvement has been made there when we find that the rates there are only 33s. a week for a 51-hour week, or a fraction over 7¾d. an hour. These agricultural workers do not always get these rates of wages either, because I find, on turning the page in the same "Journal" of the Ministry of Agriculture, that during the month of June there were legal proceedings taken against employers because they had failed to pay even those miserably low wages. In one case arrears of wages were paid to a labourer of £36 13s. 7d., in another case £50 under-wages had to be paid, in another £14, in another £6, and in another £10. And what about the cases of those agricultural workers who did not get these rates but who dared not say so?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the hon. Member's argument had better be raised on the Vote for the Ministry of Agriculture rather than on this Amendment, because this Amendment does not deal with the working of the Agricultural Wages Board.
§ Mr. Sexton
I am quoting agricultural wages paid at present in support of this Amendment, which asks for a minimum of 40s. per week. If the figures are not palatable to some people, I cannot help that. They are the truth, because they are in the "Journal" published by the Ministry of Agriculture. At any rate, these agricultural workers are an indispensable part, not only of agriculture, but of this nation, and if war should come and these agricultural labourers should get even fewer, there would be a dreadful state of affairs owing to the shortage of food supplies. The old argument has been used here as it has always been used when we ask for the increase of wages—the industry cannot afford it. The same argument was used 100 years ago about miners' wages. I want the Committee to understand that agricultural workers not only "plough and sow and reap and mow," as they did in the days of the old song, but they have to be more expert now. Agriculture is becoming mechanised, and they are now skilled workers. They are not now the bottom dogs in industry. They have to be skilled in hedging and ditching and know a little about veterinary surgery, and all sorts of things. They are not just the menial people some people think they are. Yet with all the many accomplishments we are asking only 40s. a week for them, and the National Government are refusing it.
We have been told again and again that this is not the time and place for pressing this increase. When is the time and where is the place? On the Livestock Bill, when we tried to get compensation for the workers who are thrown out of work, we were told that it was not the time or place. There is always a differentiation between those who work and those who reap. All the arguments that I have heard from the other side are as thin as the argument in an old agricultural rhyme from the North country:Oats and beans and barley-o,You and I and everyone O,You and I and everyone O,Oats and beans and barley-o!698 Let hon. Members study that and see whether they can find any argument in it. That is the argument of the National Government.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
As I represent a constituency which has a considerable agricultural area, it is necessary for me to say a word to the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). Neither of them dare go to his constituency and put up such arguments as they have addressed to the Committee to-night. If this Amendment is passed there is not a farm labourer in Fife or Aberdeen who would not be happier. I do not know how the hon. Member for East Fife can get up and say that £2 is not enough, and that the agricultural worker is worth £3. If he believes that, will he not vote for £2. If the hon. Member for East Fife is poor in his arguments, what are we to say about the Minister of Agriculture? We used to be told that the Socialists were out to steal the widow's mite. Now the Minister of Agriculture comes forward, not with the widow, but with the family. The simplest thing for any farmer with ordinary intelligence is to pay his son 40s. a week. The Member for East Aberdeen said that our proposal would injure them in Scotland. The Member for East Fife said the Wages Boards would give higher wages in Scotland than we should get under a minimum wage Bill, but it is not true. The Wages Boards are going to operate. We accept the Wages Board as a slight advance, as the most we can get under the circumstances, but if we can get a further advance we will have it. A minimum wage Bill and Wages Boards—good. But the Wages Boards in Scotland are not going to provide a minimum for the Scottish agricultural labourer. Are they? If the hon. Member for East Fife says, "Yes," then he does not understand the Scottish Agricultural Wages Bill.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Surely the whole purpose of the Agricultural Wages Boards is to obtain in each district a minimum wage for farm servants.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I asked, is there going to be a minimum wage for Scotland? I say there is not, because there can be as much as 10S. a week difference between the minimum wage in one part of Scot- 699 land and another. There are such terrible conditions that at least 70 per cent. of the farm workers are living in homes which are not fit for human habitation. Is there any man who claims to be interested in the land who can tolerate such conditions? I could take hon. Members to places in East Fife and West Fife, indeed, all over Scotland, which are a disgrace. Bonnie Scotland—but what ghastly sights are to be seen in Bonnie Scotland.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Wages Boards will operate in various districts, and it will be possible for a minimum wage in the County of Aberdeen to be 10s. below the minimum wage fixed in Stirlingshire. That being so we have not a minimum wage for Scotland. Those who claim to be interested in the land and in agriculture must not think of the farmer only. There would be very little farming without the farm labourers. The House must face up to the fact that it is necessary to look after the interests of the agricultural workers. The Minister of Agriculture told us that. He told us that if this Amendment were passed the position would be that where the industry was in a favourable condition and the subsidy was not needed the farmers would not pay the wages.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I said that when the industry was comparatively prosperous there would be no obligation to pay the 40s., but that when there was depression and the subsidy was claimed the obligation would immediately arise.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I understand what he said—when there is no application for the subsidy the farmer would have no obligation to pay the wages, and therefore would not pay the wages. That was the idea he wanted us to have. [Interruption.] Surely it was the idea. If the farmers were prepared to pay wages when the industry was prosperous there would be no argument left about when the industry was not prosperous, because they would then continue to pay the wages and get the subsidy. The position is that the farmers will not pay the wages unless we are prepared to lay it down that they must pay the wages. If we lay it down that they pay while they get a subsidy, they will always be after a subsidy. The very fact that the Minister of Agriculture, from his wide experience of the farming industry, can come here and use such an argument as that the farmers will not pay unless under an obligation to do so, makes me say, Let us put the farmers under obligation to pay. We will deal with any anomalies that arise after we have established that position. I ask all hon. Members who are interested in agriculture to give some consideration to the men and women who are living such harsh lives, who work so hard and get so little of the pleasures of life, and to support the Amendment and guarantee those workers 40s. a week. Not long ago I read about a dinner that took place and which cost 38s. a head. If you can pay 38s. for a dinner, surely you can give the agricultural worker 40s. a week. I would warn some Scottish Members that if they vote against this Amendment they are going to hear about it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 116; Noes, 211.703
|Division No. 273.]||AYES.||(10.31 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Cluse, W. S.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cocks, F. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cove, W. G.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Daggar, G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Dalton, H.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Dobbie, W.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Barr, J.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Ede, J. C.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Holdsworth, H.|
|Broad, F. A.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jagger, J.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Foot, D. M.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Buchanan, G.||Frankel, D.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gallacher, W.||John, W.|
|Cape, T.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muff, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Oliver, G. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Lathan, G.||Paling, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Parker, J.||Stephen, C.|
|Leach, W.||Parkinson, J. A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Lee, F.||Price, M. P.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Leonard, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Logan, D. G.||Ridley, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Riley, B.||Walkden, A. G.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Ritson, J.||Walker, J.|
|MacLaren, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Maclean, N.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rowson, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Marshall, F.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Mathers, G.||Sanders, W. S.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Messer, F.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Milner, Major J.||Sexton, T. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Montague, F.||Shinwell, E.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Groves.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Silkin, L.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Duggan, H. J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Levy, T.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Dunglass, Lord||Liddell, W. S.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Eastwood, J. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Ellis, Sir G.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Fleming, E. L.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Furness, S. N.||Maitland, A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gledhill, G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Baker, Sir R.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Goldie, N. B.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gower, Sir R. V.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Morgan, R. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Munro, P.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Butler, R. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Cary, R. A.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hannah, I. C.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hartington, Marquess of||Petherick, M.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Pilkington, R.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hepburn, P. C. T. Buchan||Radford, E. A.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hepworth, J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Higgs, W. F.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Critchley, A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Holmes, J. S.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Remer, J. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Joel, D. J. B.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Denville, Alfred||Keeling, E. H.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Deland, G. F.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Salt, E. W.|
|Donner, P. W.||Kimball, L.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Drewe, C.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Selley, H. R.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Leckie, J. A.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Touche, G. C.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Spens, W. P.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Turton, R. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wakefield, W. W.||Wragg, H.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton (N'thw'h)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Warrender, Sir V.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Major Sir George Davies and Captain Hope.|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Thomas, J. P. L.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Before the Clause becomes part of the Measure, I should like to state the reasons why I think my hon. Friends ought not to support it. We have heard it said by the Minister and the Under-Secretary for Scotland, and, by hon. Members who represent Scotland, that it is grossly unfair to provide either a guarantee or a subsidy for wheat for British farmers without at the same time making similar provision for Scottish farmers. We always opposed the Wheat Act, 1932, and we shall continue to oppose the extension of the Wheat Act in Clause 13 of this Measure, and we are utterly opposed to Clause 6 for this very simple and understandable reason. It has been said that the Scottish farmer must have a guaranteed price, or an insurance, for his oats if he is to make agriculture pay. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) admitted that oats grown by Scottish farmers are very largely used as food for cattle and, as a result of that, they sell the finest quality of beef. Therefore, what he asks for in effect is that the Treasury shall provide a direct subsidy for a commodity grown as a feeding stuff, and another direct subsidy for the beef after having been fed on subsidised raw material. That seems to us to be wholly unnecessary, and an absolute departure from, and an innovation in, the capitalist system of society. You are to provide definite guarantees for the production of cattle food. Once the cattle are available for the market, you must provide a subsidy for the beef sold at a price less than it cost the producers.
For once in a way, there is no foreign competition in regard to oats. Last year we imported only 9,000 cwts. from foreign countries. There is a 3s. duty on imported foreign oats, so that there is no problem there. The only oats that 704 we imported came from Canada and they are a very small proportion of what we produced. In England approximately 80 per cent. of the oats grown are consumed by the farmers. In Scotland it may be 40 per cent., but in that case they are very largely sold from one farmer to another, and it does not make any material difference to the economics of the farm whether there is a guaranteed price or not. The Under-Secretary earlier in the evening made the statement which we have heard so frequently that Scottish farmers must have a white crop with their rotation of seven years. We entirely agree. But, that being the case, the white crop becomes one of seven and, if the six crops are soundly economic, it does not matter very much what happens to the seventh since the seventh is a side issue rather than being a fundamental crop. From that point of view, this new orientation of capitalist economics is a system for which they themselves are responsible and which they may live to regret.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen asked, "Why cannot we get a decent price for our oats in Scotland?" He replied that it was because subsidised wheat in England had been sent over the Border at such a small price for feeding cattle and the rest, that they could not get a reasonable price for their oats. That is not an argument for subsidy on oats but for taking off the subsidy on wheat. For that reason I suggest that this extension of guarantees, of subsidies or assurance, or whatever you may call it, for one crop in seven, a very minor part of agricultural produce, is a step in the wrong direction. We have been producing more oats than can be sold at what the farmer calls an economic price, and to guarantee prices or subsidies or to ensure a certain price is bound to attract a greater production in the future. That happened in the case of milk and of beef, and it has happened in respect of almost 705 every commodity for which a subsidy has been provided. It is bound to happen here, and it may very well be that in a year or two, as a result of the farmers producing a quantity of oats which they cannot sell surplus to farm requirements, they will find that the price is going down because of the guaranteed price provided for in Clause 6. For these reasons, and because I think it is a step entirely in the wrong direction, I am against Clause 6 standing part of the Bill.
§ 10.47 p.m.
I rather wish now that the Committee had accepted the opportunity of having a wider discussion on the Amendment which we discussed a few hours ago, instead of leaving it to the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill. I am sure that we are all most anxious not to have any repetition, but the points are really very much the same. The hon. Gentleman has returned to the point about the amount of feeding which the Scottish farmers do with their oats. Perhaps I can make the position clear as between the wheat-growing farmer and the oat-growing farmer by giving an example. Supposing you have two arable farms, one in the South of Scotland growing wheat, and the other in Aberdeenshire growing oats. Both farmers have cattle and they both want to grow feeding stuffs. Supposing the one growing wheat has to have 30 acres of his land under white crops and is under the necessity of selling 15 acres of the crop, he will arrange to grow 15 acres of wheat which he will not use for his feeding stuffs but sell off, and he will arrange to grow 15 acres of oats which it is not necessary for him to sell off. He, of course, will not apply for the oats subsidy.
The other farmer is in precisely the same position with regard to the necessity of having a certain amount of feeding stuffs. The only difference is that he cannot grow wheat, but has to grow the whole 30 acres in oats. He produces cattle to the same extent as the other farmer. The difference is that he has got his cash white crop in oats instead of having it in wheat. Therefore, whichever way you look at it. the present position is unfair as between the farmer who can grow wheat and the farmer who can only grow oats, in that in one case you 706 have a guaranteed price given and in the other case you have not.
The hon. Gentleman concluded by saying that this was bound to attract a greater production. It is one of the objects of these proposals that we should aim at a greater production of oats and barley. It is provided that if the increase is more than 10 per cent. of the standard acreage, the amount of subsidy per acre will be proportionately reduced. That, of course, is the same as under the Wheat Quota Act. The permitted quantity under the Wheat Act is now being increased under this Bill. At the same time, we are allowing for an increase of 10 per cent. of feeding oats and barley. If the increase should be greater than that, if people start growing more than they need, the general subsidy payments will be reduced all round.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Is there a chance that the Government will do with this what they are doing with wheat—extend the area?
What we want to arrive at is a good balance of all types of agricultural production. I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks that it would be far better if we had more grassland and far more meat and not so much cereals. I have already explained that that is not our view. We think that ideally it would be better to grow a greater proportion of our cereals, not only because it would be far safer in the event of war to have a greater proportion of our cereals produced here, but also because the plough is necessary to maintain agricultural life. We do not think that we have reached the level of cereal production which ought ideally to be maintained in this country. I think that that covers all the points which the hon. Gentleman raised and I do not think that he will desire me now to go further into the general question of policy, which is not so much a matter for this Clause as for the whole of the cereal policy which we have been pursuing for several years, and whose principles, whether hon. Members agree with them or not, are well known to the Committee.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 220; Noes, 108.709
|Division No. 274.]||AYES.||[10.53 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Furness, S. N.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P G.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Gledhill, G.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gluckstein, L. H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Asks, Sir R. W.||Goldie, N. B.||Peat, C. U.|
|Assheton, R.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Petherick, M.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Pilkington, R.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Radford, E. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Grimston, R. V.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Burnish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Remer, J. R.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Hannah, I. C.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hartington, Marquess of||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hepworth, J.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Higgs, W. F.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Butler, R. A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Salt, E. W.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Holmes, J. S.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Selley, H. R.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hutchinson, G. C.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Channon, H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Christie, J. A.||Joel, D. J. B.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Keeling, E. H.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Colfax, Major W. P.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kimball, L.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Critchley, A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Leckie, J. A.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lees-Jones, J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Levy, T.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Liddall, W. S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Turton, R. H.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lyons, A. M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Doland, G. F.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Donner, P. W.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Drewe, C.||McKie, J. H.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Macquisten, F. A.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Maitland, A.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Dunglass, Lord||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Wragg, H.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Emmett, C. E. G. C.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Morgan, R. H.||Major Sir George Davies and|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Mr. Munro.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Ammon, C. G.||Barr, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. F.||Bellenger, F. J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Banfield, J. W.||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Barnes, A. J.||Broad, F. A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Burke, W. A.||John, W.||Ridley, G.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Riley, B.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ritson, J.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kirby, B. V.||Rowson, G.|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Dalton, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leach, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, F.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Debbie, W.||Leonard, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Ede, J. C.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Stephen, C.|
|Frankel, D.||MacLaren, A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Gallacher, W.||Maclean, N.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Marshall, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Messer, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Montague, F.||Walker, J.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Groves, T. E.||Muff, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Paling, W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Parker, J.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Parkinson, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jagger, J.||Price, M. P.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|