HC Deb 08 July 1937 vol 326 cc709-12

11.2 p m.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 6, line 39, to leave out "at the beginning of," and to insert "on."

This is a simple but very necessary Amendment. To those who like legal technicalities the law takes no regard for a portion of a day, and this introduces a new principle into the drafting of Acts of Parliament. Those who do not like legal technicalities but like common sense will find if they read the Clause that it does not make sense. What the Clause says, as it is drawn is, that if you have a farm which is a wheat and oats farm someone must be in a position to say whether they are going to get the wheat subsidy or the oats subsidy, and it deals with a case where a different man is in charge of a farm at the beginning of a day and another man at the end of a day. In other words, if the owner of the farm dies at the beginning of the day the man who has to make the election is not the man who is alive at the end of the day, but the man who is dead at the beginning of the day. That is the only meaning that can be made out of the Clause. It says that a man may leave his farm on the 4th June and that a new man can come in. The man who is to get the subsidy is not the man who has farmed the land, but the man who has taken the farm on the 4th June. I do not want to weary the Committee with the ludicrous position which can be got out of the words of the Clause. They cannot make sense in any other way.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

I am stirred, almost hurt, by the hon. Member saying that the words of the Clause do not make sense. I will try to show what we have in mind and why we prefer our phrase to his. The words "at the beginning" provide for a possible change of occupation on the critical day, that is 4th June. It is possible that the farm may change hands at noon and we do not want to have two persons relating to the same tenancy claiming assistance. We have put in the words to be absolutely on the safe side. If the farm changes hands at noon the claim must be made by the person who was the tenant in the morning. This is not a very big point, but in order to be on the safe side, we prefer the wording in the Bill to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member.

Amendment negatived.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move in page 6, line 41, after "period," to insert "ending not earlier than the first day of December."

I am moving this Amendment chiefly to get some information from the Minister as to the sort of period he envisages. It is most important that the farmer should have some idea of what the yield of his crop is going to be before he makes his election. Those hon. Members who, on Monday morning, spend a few valuable hours reading the "Times" crop forecasts will have noticed how even the agricultural editor of the "Times" can be very sadly out when the crops are sown compared with what he is just before harvest. Therefore, it is very important that the period should be as late as possible.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

I will explain briefly to the Committee certain reasons which make it impossible for us to accept this Amendment. If hon. Members will look at Sub-section (3) of this Clause, they will see that the Minister has to furnish the Wheat Commission with a list specifying the farms in respect of which persons have elected in accordance with this Clause. If they did not make their election until after 1st December, it would be very difficult for the Minister to do that. That would make advance payments under the Wheat Act impossible until late in December at the very earliest. It would also make it quite impracticable for the Minister to know whether those who have elected have elected for the oats or the barley subsidy, because in December the land would be under the plough, and there would not be the necessary indication as to whether the applicant intends to grow oats or barley. I think the hon. Member will agree that those are practical reasons why we cannot accept the Amendment. As for the hon. Member's question to me, I cannot give him the precise period, but I can assure him that it will be as limited a period as is reasonably possible.

Mr. Turton

On that undertaking, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.