HC Deb 29 June 1937 vol 325 cc1815-925

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair].

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient—

(1) to provide for the making, in accordance with a scheme, of contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament towards the cost incurred during a period ending not later than the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-two, by occupiers of agricultural land in acquiring and transporting lime or basic slag for improving the fertility of their land, and for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred in connection with the said scheme;

(2) to provide that, in the event of the United Kingdom price per hundredweight of home-grown oats harvested in nineteen hundred and thirty-seven or in any of the four following years falling short of eight shillings by five pence or more, there may be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament a subsidy in respect of land in the United Kingdom which was under oats or under barley in the year in question, at a rate not exceeding one pound for each acre of such land, but also to make provision for securing—

  1. (a) that the total amount which may be paid by way of such subsidy by reason of land having been under oats or under barley in any year after nineteen hundred and thirty-seven shall not exceed the amount which might have been so paid if the acreage of such land qualifying for subsidy in respect of the year in question had, not exceeded by more than one-tenth the acreage of such land which qualified for subsidy in respect of the year nineteen hundred and thirty-seven; and
  2. (b) that deficiency payments under the Wheat Act, 1932, shall not be payable in respect of any wheat harvested in any particular year if the land on which the wheat was grown was at any time during the first eight months of that year comprised in a farm in relation to which the occupier elects to become eligible for the said subsidy in respect of that year;
and to provide for payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such sums as may be determined to be required for defraying expenses incurred by the Wheat Commission in performing functions in connection with the said subsidy;

(3) to raise the limit of the quantity of wheat in respect of which deficiency payments may be made under the Wheat Act, 1932, at the full rate;

(4) to provide for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of grants towards expenditure incurred during a period ending not later than the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-two, by drainage authorities in England (other than catchment boards and the councils of county boroughs which have not established agricultural committees) in the exercise of their functions in carrying out drainage schemes;

(5) to provide for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of grants towards expenditure by owners or occupiers of agricultural land in Scotland on the drainage thereof;

(6) to provide as respects Great Britain for the functions of veterinary inspectors (or veterinary officers) under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1894 to 1935, under any enactments relating to milk or to dairies and under any arrangements made by virtue of section nine of the Milk Act, 1934, being discharged by veterinary inspectors appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (hereinafter referred to as 'the Minister');

(7) to provide for expenditure out of the Cattle Pleuro-Pneumonia Account with the object of eradicating so far as practicable diseases of animals in Great Britain;

(8) to repeal section nine of the Milk Act, 2934, and, in substitution therefor, to provide for the payment out of the Cattle Pleuro-Pneumonia Account during a period ending on the first day of February, nineteen hundred and forty-one, of payments to the owner of any herd of cattle for the purpose of securing so far as practicable that the herd will be free from tuberculosis, and for requiring boards administering milk marketing schemes to make payments after the end of the period aforesaid to registered producers in respect of milk produced by them, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, for the purpose of securing so far as practicable that herds will be free from tuberculosis;

(9) to afford facilities for having poultry tested and examined free of charge with a view to promoting the breeding and distribution of stocks of poultry which are free from disease, and for the payment of any expenses incurred for that purpose out of the Cattle Pleuro-Pneumonia Account or out of moneys provided by Parliament;

(10) to authorise the Minister to make arrangements with any local authority whereby the services of veterinary inspectors may be placed for agreed purposes at the disposal of the authority and to make charges in respect thereof;

(11) to make provision for the superannuation rights of veterinary inspectors transferring from local authority service to the Civil Service;

(12) to provide for the payment to the Exchequer of fees received by any Government Department in connection with the matters aforesaid;

(13) to provide for adjustments as to the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament or out of the Cattle Pleuro-Pneumonia Account respectively of certain expenses under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 2894 to 1935; and

(14) to make provision for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

4.15 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

I am moving this Resolution to prepare the way for a Bill to embody the proposals which I recently outlined to the House for increasing the fertility of the soil. The proposals are intended to serve two purposes. The first is to have regard to the object of putting the land into such a condition that if an emergency should occur the land will be able to play its part in a worthy manner to provide food for our own people. Secondly, it seeks to achieve this object in a manner consistent with and, indeed, advantageous to the normal development and practice of agriculture in time of peace. There has been expressed in some quarters a tendency to rush into a campaign of a war-time character, but this, obviously, does not come from the farmers. They are well aware of the harm that is done by sudden jolts and jerks in policy to an industry for which a continuous policy is a first essential.

The proposals set out in the Resolution, which are further described in the White Paper, deal with various subjects. The first paragraph deals with a proposal to give assistance in applying lime and basic slag to the soil. Since I announced these proposals I have received a great deal of comment and some criticism of them, but it is a remarkable fact that no farmers have ever doubted the wisdom of applying lime to the soil. It is a remarkable example of unanimity, and it is so clear that this will be of great benefit to the land that I need not stress the point. There is not only agreement that it will be beneficial, there is also agreement that the benefit is likely to be of an enduring character. For that reason I commend it heartily to the Committee. Liming is a very old British practice. Pliny writing in the first century said: There is another way of nourishing earth by earth, which has been found out in Britain and Gaul.… The principal of those, reckoned the fat kinds, is the white; of this there are many. One very acrid.… Another kind is like a soft clay. It is found at great depth; the pits very frequently dug an hundred feet down, narrow at the mouth; but the vein, as in metals, widening within. This is chiefly used in Britain. It remains 80 years; nor is there an instance of any man laying it twice on the same field. The Committee will not expect me to enter upon the scientific basis of such a venerable practice. Suffice it to say that the scientist fully bears out the empirical knowledge of generations. It has been said, in the farmer's phrase, that lime sweetens the soil. Perhaps this is in simple language as apt a description of its functions as to say that it neutralises the soil acids, promotes a kindly medium for bacteriological activity, and restores to the soil the mineral constituents whose absence leads to feebleness and decay in plant life. Basic slag is, compared with the antiquity of lime, a newcomer. It is a by-product of the steel industry which is of recent growth in our country. It is also a basic substance and contains phosphoric acid. It is of great use in the improvement of pastures, and it is also long lasting in its effect.

The assistance to these two products is not an end in itself. It is to be given with the object of improving the cultivation of the soil, and particularly with the object of encouraging the improvement of grassland management. The impact of the agricultural crisis, which was world-wide, had two serious effects upon British agriculture. Not only did the low returns impoverish the industry, but, at the same time, the availability of copious supplies of very cheap imported feeding stuffs tended to make the agriculturists, short as they were of cash, rely upon feeding their animals on these imported stuffs rather than upon the produce of their own fields. This tendency was most noticeable among the specialist producers, and now, with the return of feeding stuffs to more normal price levels, they are feeling the impact of that situation. The return of normal prices to feeding stuffs is a sign of increased reward to primary producers, which is the aim and the policy of practically every Government in the world and is, indeed, the basis of real world prosperity. If this condition of dependency upon imported feeding stuffs were inevitable, there would be no more to be said. We should have to resign ourselves to dependence on the vagaries of the American climate, but I am by no means convinced that this dependence is inevitable.

I believe that we have in our own island a crop which we can raise better than anyone else in the world, and that crop is grass. Grass is really the foundation of our supremacy in the livestock industry, and its excellence as a crop is based upon the two permanent factors in all agricultural practice of soil and climate. I hope that we can develop this great resource to a degree that will decrease our dependence on imported feeding stuffs. We must come to regard grass as a crop, and not just as something to which you lay down land. The researches of the scientists have shown what can be done with grass, even on poor land, by extending the grazing season and thereby diminishing the expenditure upon bought feeding stuffs. The Government intend to combine this assistance to lime and slag with a policy of improving grassland management. I think that such a policy, if carried into effect, will do much to free us from our present dependence upon uncontrollable circumstances, such as the climate in foreign countries. It will also achieve one of the major objects of these proposals; it will store up fertility in the soil and provide us with land which can yield food at once if called upon to do so.

The Committee will, I apprehend, wish to be reassured on one point with regard to these proposals to assist the purchase of lime and slag, and the increased demand which will result. The question will naturally arise how that increased demand is to be prevented from manifesting itself in an increased price. In other words, what measures can be taken to prevent this subsidy from finding its way, in part, not to the land, but into the pockets of the manufacturers of lime and basic slag. This difficulty was foreseen, and, before any announcement of policy was made, I entered into negotiations of a confidential character with the suppliers of lime and slag. They differ from one another in the extent of their control of these two products. Slag is in relatively few hands, whereas lime is in many hands and in many more potential hands. The upshot is that the suppliers of slag have agreed not only not to increase the price agricultural crisis, which was world-wide, of their product, but to reduce the prices prevailing on 1st May by 6d. per ton on low grade, 9d. on medium grade, and is, on high grade, when the scheme comes into operation. I should like to express my appreciation to the producers of slag and to the British iron and steel industry for the way in which they met me in these negotiations. With regard to lime, there are many derelict lime kilns which might start into life again.

Mr. Tinker

What will be the price of basic slag when the 1s. is taken off?

Mr. Morrison

The 1st May price is, of course, the price that was fixed in ignorance that any such scheme as this was in the offing. The price varies greatly according to the quality of the slag, because it varies considerably in its content of phosphoric acid. Returning to lime, I should like to see these lime kilns start into life again. I can see them as the basis of a prosperous village industry, and I hope that something of that character may be developed. The matter has gone further than that. The Lime and Limestone Association, which controls the bulk of the lime used for agricultural purposes, have agreed to maintain the price on the 1st May level, despite the fact that a rise was due, as they told me, on account of the increased costs, chiefly of coal and wages. To them I also express my thanks. We thus have in lime the double check that the large suppliers have agreed not to raise their prices, and that there is a potential industry which can come into existence and act as a check to any undue rise in price.

Mr. T. Williams

Has the right hon. Gentleman the prices for 1st May?

Mr. Morrison

There are a variety of prices according to the particular class of lime. It varies a great deal in quality from building lime, which is the most expensive, down to the lowest grade, which is used for agricultural purposes. It is, therefore, impossible to give a figure which expresses the price of lime or slag. The result of our negotiations is that there will be no rise in price from the 1st May level, and in the case of slag there will be an actual decrease. Provision is made also that if, from unforeseen cause, a rise in price is necessary through increased costs of outside materials used for the production of these products, the matter will be subjected to an accountancy investigation before any rise in price takes place. The Committee can, therefore, be assured that so far as it is humanly possible to ensure it, none of this subsidy will go direct into the pockets of the manufacturers or merchants.

Mr. Westwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain whether the term "occupiers of agricultural land" would include crofters?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, it does. "Occupiers of agricultural land" is the widest phrase that we can use for this purpose. There is one thing that I would like to say about the smallholders and crofters. In order to prevent unnecessarily small sums being handed out to a great variety of applicants, two tons of lime is the lowest unit in favour of which a subsidy will be paid, but it is quite open to a group of crofters or smallholders to combine together to buy such a unit or such a group of units, and in those circumstances the assistance will become available to them.

Mr. Kirkwood

How much land does the Minister think will require two tons of lime?

Mr. Morrison

That again is a question to which one cannot give a categorical answer, because land varies very greatly in its requirement of lime, and I hope farmers will take advantage of the expert advice which will be available to them from the county agricultural education committees and experts and in other places to ensure that they do apply their lime in the most efficient and economical way. This result about fixing the price was only possible of achievement on two conditions. One was the co-operation in this work of the suppliers, and the other was that this assistance was given to products wholly of home origin, with whose suppliers we could negotiate with some certainty.

Paragraphs (2) and (3) arise from the fact that it is not possible to maintain the fertility of the soil and its capacity to play its part in an emergency without a reiteration of the old maxim "Speed the plough." Short leys, with cereals in the rotation, are essential in proper grassland management, and for that reason we are inserting these proposals dealing with wheat, oats, and barley. Our experience of the Wheat Act has shown that, given an assured price, even though it is, as it is now, lower than the world price, we can produce more wheat than the limit of 6,000,000 quarters which was placed in the 1932 Act. Paragraph (3) therefore proposes to increase the limit to 8,000,000 quarters, and this, at the present price of wheat, involves neither a charge on the Exchequer nor a levy on the consumer. The object is to provide a guarantee against prices falling to unremunerative levels.

So much for wheat, but there are many districts in this country where no wheat at all can be grown because of climatic conditions, and in these districts some resentment was felt, and indeed was expressed from time to time, at the apparent neglect of their only possible cereal and at what appeared to be an undue preference for wheat and for the relatively Southern people who grow it. Those districts are parts of Scotland and Wales and parts of North West England. It is to meet the necessities of these growers that paragraph (2) appears. It refers primarily to those regions where neither wheat nor malting barley can be grown. Their sole arable crops are oats and feeding barley. I am sure no man with land which can grow either wheat or malting barley—and, speaking roughly, the same land can grow both—will grudge this assurance against a fall in prices.

Oats, I might say in passing, are a portentous problem to any Minister of Agriculture. It was the fecundity of this crop which brought about the repeal of the Corn Production Act, and that in itself would induce caution in approaching it, but the fact is that at present we produce some 93 per cent. of our requirements of this cereal. In England and Wales and parts of Scotland this crop is grown mostly to feed on the farm, and only in certain parts of the island is it grown as a cash crop. The internal combustion engine has seen to it that we have only got a 7 per cent. margin before we are over the crop which we can consume in normal practice. Hence any general stimulus of oat growing applied to regions which have an unlimited capacity for this crop would lead to the possibility of over production and a collapse in the price, with disastrous effects on those who rely on this crop as their main cash crop. It is for that reason that two provisions are inserted in the Resolution—one, a standard acreage allowing for 10 per cent. increase on the 1937 acreage and, in the second place, the direction of assistance in general to those lands which can grow only oats or feeding barley.

But there are marginal lands where both oats and barley can be grown, with some wheat. In such cases a system of election is provided, by which a man may choose every year which form of cereal assistance he prefers, and as the election will take place about 4th June, there can be no question of a man being penalised through frustration of his sowing intentions by adverse weather. The crop is well in the ground, for better or for worse, by that time. We link the barley subsidy to the oats price because this form of assistance is to benefit the man who can grow only feeding barley. No average price for barley, taken over the whole range of the crop, has any real meaning. There is such a diversity and disparity between the prices of malting barley and feeding barley, that there is no true average for the crop at all. They are really, from the point of view of price, different commodities. There is, on the other hand, a close relation between the price of feeding barley and That of oats. They move in harmony together, and they are both conditioned to a great extent by the world price of maize.

I now come to the proposal which I adumbrated with regard to drainage.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Before my right hon. Friend leaves that subject, can he explain why the grower cannot have a subsidy for both wheat and barley and oats?

Mr. Morrison

I have tried to make it clear that if you extend a stimulus to oat production to those lands which at present can grow wheat and malting barley, you may find yourself producing far more oats than you could possibly consume inside the country, with disastrous effects on those growers of oats whose only crop on a cash basis it is. That is really the reason.

Major Mills

Can my right hon. Friend say why these prices of oats have to fall short of 8s. by 5d. or more before qualifying for subsidy?

Mr. Morrison

The real reason is for administrative convenience. Unless there was that gap of 5d., we might find ourselves in any year having to pay out a large number of very small sums, which would be of no real assistance to the grower, but would involve great expense and strain on the administration. The real reason for the provision, in short, is to ensure that by this gap assistance is paid out in sufficient sums to be of real value, when that assistance is really required.

In regard to drainage, I think the whole Committee is agreed that some improve- ment in this direction is desirable. It has been stated time and time again, and it is indeed obvious, because you cannot grow crops on waterlogged land. The present proposal, so far as England and Wales are concerned, is to give grants up to 33⅓ per cent. of the cost of approved works to internal drainage boards and to those local authorities that carry out the work of drainage where there are no internal drainage boards. I would only like to say that the object of this step of improving the drainage system of the country is to clean out that part of the drainage system which connects the fields with the arterial system of the catchment boards. You have to proceed step by step in the matter to ensure that the land below can carry the water which you propose to drain off the land above, and not start the other way, by draining water off the fields unless you are sure that it can get away.

There is one other point that I would like to make about that. Certain internal drainage boards have cast upon them not only the ordinary task of providing drainage works, but they are so situated that they cannot discharge their responsibilities in this direction without the construction of pumps and sluices and other apparatus of a relatively expensive character. In these cases approved schemes may have grants up to 50 per cent., where such additional works are required. There are other internal drainage boards which have cast upon them the duty of preventing the sea from breaking in, and sea walls are frequently an expensive item to maintain. In such cases an enhanced grant of 50 per cent. will be available to them, also for approved works.

I now come to the last, but by no means the least, of these proposals, and that is the inauguration of an attack on disease in flocks and herds of animals and in poultry on a scale greater than we have ever before attempted in this country up to the present time. We propose to use for this purpose the machinery of the Diseases of Animals Acts. The two essential features of that machinery are these: In the first place, it involves control at the ports, recollecting that Great Britain is an island and must be protected from infection carried from foreign shores. The second feature which is peculiar to this machinery lies in the fact that it proceeds by the designation of areas in the country which are infected and by orders controlling the movement of animals within these areas and out of them into other parts of the country. The sole criterion of an area which is the subject of an order is whether it has disease in it or not, and no account is taken of county or other borders.

In this way various diseases have been tackled with success. Sheep-pox was stamped out in 1850, and it has not reappeared; cattle plague was controlled, and finally eradicated in 1877; pleuro-pneumonia in cattle, a very devastating disease, was finally eradicated in 1898; rabies was stamped out in 1902, though it reappeared again in 1918, because, it is believed, people brought over dogs in aeroplanes and thus evaded control at the ports. It took four years to suppress it then, but since 1922 it has disappeared. Among horses epizootic lymphangitis was imported into this country in 1905 and was eradicated in the following year; there was the last case of glanders in 1928; foot-and-mouth disease, anthrax, sheep-scab, swine fever, and parasitic mange have all been kept under control. The feature of this machinery which has ensured its success is that it has been a Great Britain service, for disease knows no political frontiers.

The system has had success in the diseases which I have mentioned, which are all of a highly infectious character, but I regret to say that our position with regard to other infectious diseases of a more insidious spread, and to which other machinery has been applied, notably tuberculosis, has tended to deteriorate. This is due partly to the increased mobility of modern life. A greater number of animals has had to be transported from one part of the country to another, and there is development of dairying on the flying herd basis where a man buys cattle, which travel long distances and which come from a source of whose freedom from infection he is ignorant. The Gowland Hopkins Committee reported in 1934 and estimated that 58 per cent. of the dairy cattle leaving herds were disposed of on account of disease; that the average productive life of dairy cattle was under four and a-half years, or half what it should be; that 40 per cent. of the cows were infected with tuberculosis in various degrees and that about the same proportion were affected with contagious abortion. The total burden of the diseases among all kinds of livestock has been estimated at about £14,000,000 a year.

It is clear that the eradication of disease, if we were only half successful, would be a most valuable service to agriculture. So far we have tackled it in two ways. There was the Tuberculosis Order of 1925 under the Diseases of Animals Act. That is a Great Britain service and prescribes rules whereby cattle which are very badly infected with tuberculosis, so as to be visibly affected and dangerous, may be slaughtered and compensation paid; but that Tuberculosis Order does not touch cases which cannot be so described but are none the less reactors to the tuberculin test and may be conveyors of the disease. The second way in which we have tackled it has been by legislation directed to the purity of the milk supply as a public health service. This has been administered by local authorities in England and Scotland with varying results. It is now proposed to tackle this immense problem as what it is, namely, a problem of diseases of animals, by the diseases of animals machinery, with a single island service of veterinary officers for the purpose. It is not a problem which farmers themselves can possibly solve. It is the result of many generations of neglect, and one generation of farmers cannot provide a cure for it. But farmers can, if this service is provided for them and they co-operate with it, rid themselves by degrees of this heavy burden and toll of disease.

Nor am I convinced that this problem will be solved under the present system, whereby local authorities, with their varying resources and standards, are grappling with it. I should like to pay a tribute to the wholly admirable manner in which some local authorities are discharging their responsibilities under existing legislation. It is worthy of great admiration, the work of these public-spirited men of all classes, who have given their services free and given their interest to this great work. It is not the men but the system which is at fault. To put the thing as shortly as I can, what is wrong is the varying standards of administration, very often due to varying rateable values and resources. As a result of that variation we find that good work which has been done in one county may be hampered and destroyed by less good work in an adjoining county, bearing in mind the greater mobility of cattle and the flying herds to which I alluded a moment ago. The bacillus ignores county boundaries, and the division of areas by counties is not the same thing as the designation of areas on account of the amount of disease or absence of disease in them.

This variation has had a second bad result. It has led to complaints, which no one can deny are well founded, on the part of farmers that they have applied to them in some cases standards which are mere rigorous than those demanded of their neighbours living in a different county, and this feeling of dissatisfaction tends to dishearten farmers from co-operating as we should like to see them do in this great battle against disease.

There is a second fault in the present system. which is that the powers of local authorities, regarding the matter as a milk problem, are inadequate for the purpose. Dealing with milk, as they do, they deal only with cows, and this is a problem of the diseases of animals, whether they be male or female. What we propose is something bigger in scope than local authorities have ever tried to do before. It will have a beneficial effect on the milk side of the picture, because the surest way of getting tubercle-free milk is to get cows free from tubercle in the first instance. Healthy cattle are the logical foundation of pure, clean milk. The attack on tuberculosis has hitherto been carried out in detachments, with a local force sometimes getting out of touch with its neighbour and liable from that cause to encirclement by the enemy and to frustration. What is required is not so much a change in tactics as a more comprehensive strategy. These proposals in the White Paper seek to set on foot this more comprehensive strategy by the creation of a centralised veterinary service for the whole island to combat the diseases of animals and of poultry in all their manifestations.

This is largely a veterinary problem, and I am glad to say that veterinary opinion is in favour of it. The veterinary profession realise that the series of Diseases of Animals Acts provide the one way in which to tackle disease, and they realise, also, that in this way there is hope of real progress. Some apprehensions have been expressed, because we are setting up this centralised State service of veterinary officers, that in some way part-time practising veterinary surgeons will have their living interfered with, but there is no ground at all for that fear. Where veterinary surgeons are now employed on a part-time basis by local authorities it is certain that we shall have to employ them on the same basis to carry out tests and do other work similar to that which they are doing now. Indeed, it is true to say that by making the agricultural community more conscious of the importance of disease among livestock there is a greater prospect of these practitioners finding their services utilised. I hope to see from this a rise in the whole status of the veterinary profession in this country, and that will be of lasting benefit to agriculture and to the nation.

I have given an outline of the proposals for which I am asking the assent of the Committee. They have suffered to some extent by the application to them of epithets of a magniloquent character, which are not mine, and which seem to claim too much for them. In particular, I have often seen them described as "the Government's long-term policy for agriculture," generally as a preface to some remarks of a derogatory nature. The assumption underlying the use of this term is that we thought that when this has been done nothing more will remain to be done; but that is not my view at all. The problems of agriculture are many and various. The maintenance of remunerative prices along with ample supplies to consumers is the object of Government policy. Certain aspects of the policy have been dealt with, others remain for completion, but, after all, the foundation of the whole structure is the fertility of the soil and the health of the stock upon it. These proposals for which I now ask assent are long-term proposals in the sense that if Parliament agrees to them we shall have done something of lasting benefit to an industry which is vital to the welfare of the nation in peace as in war.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

This is one more instalment of the short and long-term agricultural policies of the National Government. I can readily agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that he has not reached the end of the journey yet. The Government asked for a doctor's mandate in 1931, and for six years they have been applying in the field of agriculture every known quack medicine. They have dealt with sugar, wheat, milk and beef, and now we have proposals for wheat, oats, barley and fertilisers. The right hon. Gentleman said that what agriculture requires more than all else is continuity of policy. There has been continuity of a certain kind since 1931, but nobody can recognise the sameness of the policy, no matter how closely one looks at it. It has varied almost from clay to day, as must be the case when dealing with agriculture. I hope the time will come when we shall have reached the end of the agricultural journey, but I am afraid, with the various policies enunciated by the three Scottish Ministers of Agriculture who now occupy and previously occupied that Ministerial post, that when we have reached the end of the journey it will be because we shall be meeting ourselves coming back.

This Money Resolution is good and bad in parts. Some parts of the Resolution are very commendable, although they have been long delayed. Other parts seem to imply that the Government are submerged below the problem and are making no effort to rise above it. This Money Resolution, assuming prices to be what they have been for 18 months, will over a period of five years cost the Treasury a further £17,000,000. I am not saying that the money is too much, but it is another nice gift to agriculture and those connected with the industry. With regard to the drainage proposals, which naturally follow in the wake of the 1931 Act, they will be welcomed by all Members sitting on these benches, and presumably by Members sitting in all parts of the House. Our only complaint is that through false economy from 1932 to 1936 this drainage scheme has been delayed, and it may be that not only have hundreds of thousands of acres of good fertile land remained dormant but that thousands of agricultural labourers have been deprived of employment. In my own division the internal drainage problem is very real and the burden almost intolerable; as much as 4s. or 5s. in the £ for internal drainage alone. It is of no consequence for the authorities to spend their money draining internally as long as the main channel is left unattended to, as has been the case for five or six years, although the necessary legislation is on the Statute Book.

We recognise that this is an indirect subsidy to the owner of the land, and that it is inevitable that the State must continue, in the circumstances, to water and fertilise estates that belong to somebody else, but we welcome the drainage proposals. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not stop short of the £150,000 per annum referred to in the White Paper, and that, if local drainage committees get on with the job and renew their machinery and their pumping apparatus, they will find a ready and willing Minister, prepared to approve and adopt their schemes, and provide the appropriate financial aid. We are also wholeheartedly with the Minister in regard to the eradication of diseases, which is not only a step in the right direction but a step which ought to have been taken about 30 years ago. The Gowland Hopkins Report, which was published in 1934, explained that an appalling state of affairs existed in agriculture, in respect of disease in the cattle of this country. There were approximately 50 counties which had not one full-time veterinary surgeon. As most of the counties were dominated by farmers, on the farms and as county councillors, they were wholly responsible for the unfortunate state of affairs within the animal kingdom.

The report pointed out that 40 per cent. of our dairy cows were reactors, and that there were no signs of diminution. The life of a dairy cow was about 4½ years when it very well might be 11 or 12 years, and that the annual loss due to the death of dairy cows sold for the meat market, lest they contracted tuberculosis in an acute form, when there would be a total loss, was round about £3,000,000. That is a hefty figure. If the first step that the Minister is taking will lead to the cleaning up of the herds of this country although it might take a long time, unless the Government's methods are much more vigorous than has been the case for many years, the saving to agriculture and to the health of the people, including the consumers of milk, will be enormous. Therefore, we welcome the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. We want to see in existence as soon as possible a national veterinary service with full power to act, so that no county which ignores its responsibilities will affect adjoining counties in which people are doing their best to clean up their herds.

The same argument applies to poultry. I understand bat the wastage of money in respect of poultry is enormous. If, instead of trying to restrict imports, as the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) would do, always taking the easy course, the Government would try to get new strains of poultry and eradicate diseases, they might save for the poultry keepers infinitely more than they will give them by the increased prices of eggs brought about by the simple process of restricting the imports of eggs from foreign countries.

Mr. Turton

As the hon. Member has mentioned my name, may I ask him whether his suggestions for helping to remove poultry diseases would have helped the farmer last January to make a profit on eggs?

Mr. Williams

When an hon. Member has put a question to a Minister and has subsequently asked Mr. Speaker whether he is not entitled to a reply, Mr. Speaker always indicates that the Minister can either reply or refrain from replying. I do not think that any reply I could give to the hon. Member would be helpful to him at all. I should require notice of that question. With regard to the proposition as to basic slag and lime for agriculture, that is another indirect gift to the landowners, but it has more merit than many of the Government's proposals. At least it will go directly to the soil, and to that extent will restore or maintain fertility in a form which many of the other proposals previously brought forward by the Government have not done. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the producers of lime have been extremely generous in their negotiations with him. They have actually accepted the 1st May fixed price and gone to the extent of reducing that price by 1s.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The reduction is in the case of basic slag.

Mr. Williams

Perhaps the producers of lime will guarantee to the Minister that they will not increase their prices. Since they are likely to sell two or three times as much lime as they have ever sold before, they will be able to manage on the price that existed on 1st May this year. The generosity will be not so much upon the part of the sellers of lime as upon that of the Treasury, who are putting up the money to increase their sales and enable them to do fairly well.

I have a letter from the Wigan and District Chamber of Commerce relating to a firm who produce slag phosphates. They inform me that if the Minister's policy of a subsidy for basic slag goes through the producers of slag phosphates, containing 40 per cent. of phosphates, will simply have to go out of business. I could not justify that complaint or make any sensible observation upon it not being acquainted with the technical problems involved, but the firm declare that they have just ordered 30,000 new bags in anticipation of forthcoming sales, and they suggest that the policy of the Government will put them clean out of business. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at this side of the question and see exactly what the reactions, if any, will be.

As to the possibilities of grassland in this country, with our peculiar and very useful climate, I entirely agree. To refertilise our grasslands will place us in a position of being able, at the call, to increase our output of agricultural products to an almost unlimited extent, but when the Government have subsidised production, what are they going to do, I would ask, about consumption? Certain well-known commodities are produced in this country, without an increase in fertility, in quantities that the consumers already cannot afford to buy. We are subsidising English beef to the extent of £5,000,000 per annum because British consumers, the poorer classes, cannot afford to pay the price of British beef. We are subsidising manufacturing milk, again because the British consumer cannot afford to pay liquid milk prices. Once we have refertilised our soil and placed ourselves in a position to increase the output of beef, milk, dairy products and the rest, will the Minister have any ideas, I wonder, about subsidising consumption?

The nutrition experts have informed the right hon. Gentleman and the nation that there are millions of people in this country whose incomes will not enable them to purchase an adequate supply of the right kinds of food. That is not a Socialist propaganda statement. Unless those incomes are increased, or unless the Treasury will subsidise the poorer families so that they may be able to consume the increased produce, what is to happen to the surplus products? Does this policy imply that when we have fertilised our grassland—

Mr. MacLaren

It is not our land.

Mr. Williams

Well, the other fellow's land.

Mr. MacLaren

That is better.

Mr. Williams

When that land has been restored to its maximum fertility, and when we have increased our livestock and our livestock prices, what is to happen to those goods, if the lower-paid workers cannot afford to buy any larger quantities of them? Shall we have to increase the subsidy for British beef and for manufacturing milk? Unless spending power is provided, directly or indirectly, I do not quite see what is to happen, when the land of this country is producing up to its absolute capacity. The right hon. Gentleman has given only one indication; he is prepared to subsidise cattle foods, but he is not prepared to subsidise the consumption of human food.

Paragraphs (2) and (3) differ fundamentally from paragraphs (1) and (4–13). They deal with barley, oats and wheat. The Minister provided little justification, except in one sentence, for either guaranteed prices, direct subsidising or indirect subsidising of the producers, of wheat, oats or barley, as paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Money Resolution do. I should think this country could not hope to compete with the rolling plains of Canada, the United States, Australia and South America in the production of wheat, barley or oats. Our land and climate are mostly unsuited to the production of wheat. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's fertilising policy has not been brought much nearer and made much more acute because so much of the land of this country has gone wheat sick, because farmers have been growing wheat on land totally unsuited to its production.

This proposal is to extend the guarantee of 45s. from 6,000,000 quarters to 8,000,000 quarters. That will be a further encouragement to farmers to grow wheat on land which is wholly unsuited to its production. The same objection applies to oats. We are a very small, thickly populated island. Not in our fondest dreams have we ever hoped to be able to feed ourselves. What can we produce in this country? What are our land and climate most suited to produce—animal food or human food? It seems to me that that question is very easy to answer. We are informed that in Argentina 3 lbs. of maize can be produced for 2d. or 3d. If the 3 lbs. of maize are fed to cattle or pigs in this country, they will produce a shillings-worth of beef or bacon. Apparently the Minister, by these proposals, prefers to produce the three-pennyworth of cereal here, and import the shillingsworth of beef or bacon; he prefers to subsidise the production of cattle food instead of the production of human food; for, after all, what is grown on the land is very largely fed to cattle, and then the human family consume the livestock or livestock products. The effect of paragraphs (2) and (3) of the Resolution is to make a special effort to deal with 5 per cent. of the value of our agricultural products. In the year 1935, corn represented 5 per cent. of the total value of agricultural products produced in this country.

Why should we encourage farmers to produce in abundance commodities for the production of which the land is not wholly suited, when they can produce other commodities which we must have, whether we obtain them from our own land or import them from other countries? I can, of course, provide a reply to that question. It is no use providing too large a volume of livestock or livestock products, because the wages of the work-people will not enable them to buy them. That is what seems to be lurking at the hack of the Minister's mind, as it was at the back of the mind of his predecessor, and probably in turn of his predecessor also in 1932, when the Wheat Act was passed. Paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Money Resolution might well have been omitted, and farmers, instead of being encouraged to produce certain commodities which are largely cattle food, might have been encouraged to put the land to its best use. Grass, after all, is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, one of our most valuable assets. When one sees a field of wheat in the middle of August waving in the sun, one regards that as the produce of the land, but when one sees a field of grass one regards it almost as a field of weeds, whereas in point of fact the grass field is of far greater value to agriculture and to the country than the field of wheat.

For once in a way, hon. Members opposite cannot complain of imports of oats. In 1935, only 9,000 cwts. of oats were imported from foreign countries, so that farmers are not suffering from the old problem of foreign imports in that case. Some 80 per cent. of the oats we produce here is consumed on the farm, as cattle food or as poultry food. 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? Although the number of horses used in agriculture has decreased by between 200,000 and 300,000, farmers insisted upon producing the same quantity of oats as before. There was not a ready market for them, prices fell, and, of course, the Scottish farmers in particular had some reason for grumbling after the Act of 1932 had been passed to deal with wheat, largely produced in England and Wales.

As regards barley, we understand that some 75 or 80 per cent. of the barley produced in this country is sold off the farm. Approximately 60 per cent. of the barley produced in this country is sold to the brewers, and another 15 or 20 per cent. is sold for animal food of some kind. If the brewers say to the producers of barley, "Your barley is not worth more than 6s. per cwt.," the right hon. Gentleman steps in and says, "All right, we will make it up to 8s., or to the price referred to in the White Paper with a maximum of £1 per acre." Thus the proposal of the paragraph relating to barley can be turned into, an indirect subsidy to the brewers of this country. They, poor fellows, are not too well off, and have need of it, and it may be that the right hon. Gentleman's generosity is not out of place. But I should not think that that was the object and purpose of the Government when they included barley in these proposals.

If one looks at the question from the point of view of war purposes, storage is comparatively cheap; grain will last for years; and I cannot quite see why we ought to encourage the production of cereals, which form so small a part of the value of our agricultural produce. Some wheat, some oats, and some barley will be needed, but in any circumstances the quantities will be relatively small. Before 1932, when the Wheat Act was passed, land was certainly going down to grass; agriculture was finding its own level. The Act of 1932 brought it up with a jerk. It guaranteed for wheat a price which was double the world price, and British farmers started to produce wheat. Every farmer, naturally, wants to grow what he likes. His concern is with his balance sheet. He is not concerned with agriculture as such, or with the nation, but with those particular commodities which he himself thinks will produce the best living for him. If we encourage him to grow the wrong commodities, we are doing the wrong thing, not only for the farmer and for agriculture, but for the nation.

I regret that on this occasion we cannot give the right hon. Gentleman our wholehearted support for every proposal embodied in the Resolution. We support his drainage policy; we support his policy for eradicating animal and poultry diseases; we shall not vote against his lime and basic slag policy; although I am not sure that we could not justify opposition to the giving of millions of pounds to private owners of land, we do not feel disposed to vote against that; but we do not feel that it is in the best interests of the nation that paragraphs (2) and (3) should form part of this Money Resolution.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. Lambert

The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) once came to Devonshire and visited our Agricultural College. I hope he gained some information there. I should like him to pay us another visit, because I think he would gain more information. When he tells us that the farmers of this country are planting wheat on land that is wheat-sick, I want to say that the average yield of wheat from the land, in England, at any rate, is 2½ times as much as it is from the rolling plains of Canada. I want to assure the hon. Member, and the Opposition generally, that farmers are not ploughing up poor land and planting it with wheat, but are only planting wheat on the most suitable soil, because, believe me, the price of 45s. a quarter will not encourage any farmer to plough up unsuitable land for wheat. There is another point on which I must correct the hon. Gentleman. He says that grass is our most valuable product. I quite agree that grass is a most valuable product for the maintenance of stock, but only in the summer. In the winter it is necessary to provide cereals and other feeding stuffs. Therefore, I do not want the hon. Gentleman to run away with the idea that grass is the most valuable crop, when we must have other feeding stuffs to keep cattle going in the winter.

To my mind, the most encouraging statement in the very admirable speech of the Minister was the statement that he proposes to maintain a remunerative price for agricultural products. I can tell him to-day that the situation in agriculture is not satisfactory. I know that the Government have good intentions, but they have proceeded along wrong lines, that is to say, by a continual application of subsidies. Despite what the hon. Member for Don Valley has just said, I am not in favour of subsidies. I would very much prefer that the Government should enable agricultural producers to obtain stable prices which would afford them a proper remuneration. Subsidies, to my mind, are simply temporary expedients. They can be repealed by Parliament at any moment; no farmer has confidence in them; and, therefore, I should have much preferred another method of dealing with the agricultural problem. I should have preferred to deal with it by guaranteeing to the farmers of the country stable and reasonable prices. The labourers' wages have been guaranteed. They are not too high; indeed, as I shall point out in a moment, they are not high enough; but those wages cannot be paid unless the price of the product justifies them. I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to understand that, when I am defending the agricultural position, I am defending it reasonably; I do not want anything unreasonable. During the last 15 years a great deal of agricultural capital has been lost; land has fallen in value, and the capital of the farmer has been lost. That cannot go on.

Sir Francis Acland

Can my right hon. Friend explain to us how it is possible to stabilise prices at a reasonable level without subsidies?

Mr. Lambert

I would do it by means of an import levy. That was the policy of the Government two years ago. It is precisely the principle of the Wheat Act, and it seems to me to be quite reasonable.

I was at the Devon Agricultural College on Saturday and met many representative agriculturists from Cornwall and Devon. They complained most bitterly that the position of agriculture was precarious because of an absolute shortage of labour. This flight of labour from the land shows that agriculturists have no confidence. During the last War we imported our foodstuffs largely from America and Canada. Now, we should not be in a position to import them from America. I read the other day some remarks by Lord Catto, the head of the Purchasing Board in the United States and Canada during the War and he said quite clearly that, while we had paid for them in the early part of the War by means of private loans, in the latter part of the War they were paid for by Government loans borrowed from the United States, that those loans to-day were in default and that by the Johnson Act no loans could be granted to any Government that was in default. Therefore, if trouble should come—pray God it may not—it will not be the submarine so much as finance which will prevent us getting foodstuffs from the rolling plains in America and Canada. I do not know how we are going to pay for imports, because the export trade will be stopped.

For £100 that we are spending on armaments, we are only spending a penny on provisions. The disproportion is tremendous. I was asked just now what my remedy is. It is precisely the same as the Government have applied to iron and steel. There are no subsidies there and no one complains that the iron and steel trade has protection. There has been great prosperity. The coal trade is not free to-day. The chairman of the Gas Light and Coke Company states that the coal trade is operating under schemes which enact that the control of coal, buying and selling, shall be vested in district coal boards, and all the boards are composed exclusively of coalowners. What would the hon. Member say if I asked that imports of food should be regulated by the landowners?

Mr. T. Williams

I do not agree with the mine-owners having monopolistic powers either.

Mr. Lambert

They enjoy it under an Act passed by the Labour Government. Sir George Milne-Watson says: The district coal boards are free to fix whatever prices they like for their coal and to discriminate as they please between one customer and another. Prices need have no relation to costs and profits are in no way controlled. When we come along and ask for a little help for agriculture, the miners' Members come down against us. I do not think it is quite fair. If we are going to be comrades, let us be comrades all along the line. I do not ask for anything like that, but I do ask for stable prices. If the control by the coalowners increased the price of coal by 2S. 6d. a ton, that would amount to something like £30,000,000 of subsidy, and I do not hear anything about it, but when some small sum is paid out to agriculturists, I hear a considerable amount. I will not pursue the argument. I only mentioned the matter in asking hon. Members representing mining constituencies to be a little charitable to their agricultural brothers. I have never said a word against the miners. I regard them as one of the most hardworking sets of men in the whole country.

The subsidy on lime and slag is good, but unless the crop that is going to be produced by the lime and slag will be productive, the lime and slag will not be used. The fertility of the soil is most important, but if the price that the farmer can get for his produce is reasonable, he will manure his own land. Farmers will rush to carry on any part of their industry at the earliest moment that they see a profit. Improvements are possible. I know it from my own experience in my own county, and even on my own farm. I have increased the productivity of the land enormously, not only by slag, but by good seeds, but it has not been done with any profit. If we could have stable prices, the whole agricultural condition would be transformed. I hope this is the last of these subsidies. I do not like them. They prejudice the farmer. It is always said that farmers get a million here and a million there but they are never satisfied. There is no body of men who work harder and know their job better and get such little remuneration as agriculturists. Look at the smallholders that one knows so well, working 10, 12 and 14 hours every day and five or six on Sunday, and they can only barely make a living. That is not fair play.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's proposals, but I think he is proceeding on the wrong lines. I had hoped that the Government by now would have given up this policy of subsidies. After all, they are weakening the Exchequer. If they had levies, as they had under the Wheat Act, which would enable reasonable prices to be maintained, the Exchequer would be relieved and the agricultural community would benefit. Yesterday we had a proposal to increase the Exchange Equalisation Account by £200,000,000. I do not know what is going to happen to the future of prices. The economists all differ. A large production of agricultural commodities is the best insurance against being bled by over-sea producers. I was in Canada in 1929 when the Canadians were holding up their wheat. They did not mind how much they made the British consumer pay. I do not want prices to rise as they did during the War—that would be intolerable—and I do not want them to fall so that the producer shall not be able to live. Those are the thoughts that come into my mind. What I wish the Government to do is to provide an ample supply of home-grown food at a reasonable price.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

The right hon. Gentleman has expressed himself very strongly as against subsidies, but the agricultural community has benefited from subsidies and, in brushing them aside, the right hon. Gentleman does not fully appreciate the value that agriculturists have obtained. I much prefer that the assistance given to agriculture should be by subsidy, because a subsidy out of taxation does, at least, weigh on the shoulders best able to bear it. The levy subsidy not only raises the price of imports, but the price of the whole commodity, especially in livestock products. The market for such articles as butter and eggs is very elastic and is easily reduced by increased prices, and a subsidy makes it possible for the consumer to have an ample quantity of these products while the producer gets a more remunerative price. That is one of the considerations which we hope the Minister really took into consideration in introducing this section of his long-term policy.

I shall have a word to say in a moment about the subsidy on lime and basic slag. That is certainly a subsidy of a rather different type, because it makes possible the production of food at a cheaper rate. It will assist the farmer to reduce his costs of production. The other subsidies which are proposed in this Resolution are of a different sort; they propose to guarantee a price to the farmer. I have very considerable sympathy with the farmer at the present time, especially the farmer in the North, where he has grown oats, and in other districts where he has grown barley right through the slump, in that, after the most insistent demands that his case should be met, the Government eventually gave way by guaranteeing a price which has already been obtained as a result of the general revival in prices all over the world. The oat grower and the barley grower may justly feel aggrieved that the Government have at last ceded his case of a right to some consideration at a time when his position has improved somewhat and the assistance has become not a subsidy but an insurance for the future against a fall in prices.

We on these benches feel that the farmer, as we often prophesied, has not received the benefits he expected to get from the adoption by this country of a protectionist system. We have always warned the farmer that he would not do so, that the real benefit of protection would go to the industrialists, and that his claims would be only very secondary to those of the manufacturer in this country. The whole history of protection in this country since 1931 proves that contention of ours up to the hilt. We feel that if that is true, the farmer is entitled to some other form of advantage and assistance. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the subsidy is not in that case the best way of assisting the farmer, that it increases his income, that it does not raise the price to the consumer and that it does enable him to keep up production. The outlook for farmers at the moment has somewhat changed, and it is only fair to note that prices have risen considerably in the last six months. I have no doubt that the Government will take the credit for this improvement when it is fully realised. I do not believe that this is due to the policy of the Government. The rise recently is demonstrably due to world causes, which have created a rise in prices in all primary raw materials as well as in other materials. Taking April of this year and comparing it with April of last year, the rise is about 17 points, and last year's April figure was approximately four points over the previous year. A study of the figures will show that there has been a slow but steady rise now for some time in wholesale prices.

It is worth pointing out that in addition to that the cattle and wheat subsidy only adds an additional three or four points to the index number. In other words, the rise in world prices is of infinitely greater importance to the farming community than the subsidies which will no doubt be claimed as the source of the slightly easier position in which farmers may find themselves shortly. I am convinced that the rise in prices which we are witnessing at the present time is mainly due to the increased purchasing power and the increased demand of the consumer. This is not an opportunity to go into the causes of that, but it suggests that the claim that we have so constantly made, that imports are not the only influence on the prices of home-produced farm produce but that purchasing power—and chiefly the purchasing power of the working men in this country—is of more importance.

I now come to the greater detail of the livestock policy, and I am not sure whether the Minister has stated how much the subsidy for lime and basic slag is actually estimated as costing. It may not be in order to express regret that the subsidy on basic slag is confined to this form of phosphates. In parts of England the mineral phosphates which are imported are of equal, and in many cases of greater, value as fertilisers than low-grade basic slag. The ingrained protectionist spirit of the present Government is going to prevent the farmer and the land having the advantage of cheaper supplies of phosphates from whatever source they come. The concentration upon basic slag alone may tend to encourage the farmer to use a type of manure which is not necessarily the most efficient manure for his job, and that public money will be used to encourage the use of the home-produced by-product of the steel industry when, from the point of view of agriculture, another manure would serve the purpose better. I regret that prejudice in favour of basic slag alone, because it is a home-produced product, should cause any such circumstances to arise.

Mr. Price

What are the alternatives which the hon. Gentleman suggests?

Mr. Roberts

The alternatives very largely used in the North of England, with which I am familiar, are mineral phosphates which are imported and in some circumstances super-phosphates. In many places these imported mineral phosphates give better results than slag in producing white clover.

I am going again to make a plea that the subsidy for tile drainage should be reintroduced. There is a feeling in all parts of this Committee that that should be clone. There is a subsidy in Scotland which is to be increased, and there are in the distressed areas subsidies for tile drainage, and there is to be increased subsidy for main arterial drainage to the lesser drainage boards. This may assist the south and east of England, but the west and the north want field drainage with Tiles. There does not seem to be any logical reason whatever why, if a farmer who happens to have land in Dumfries or Roxburgh or Berwickshire should be able to get a subsidy to drain the land, and the farmer who lives in part of Northumberland or part of Cumberland, which is not in a distressed area, should be able to get no subsidy to increase the value of his land. It is useless to encourage farmers to use lime and phosphates unless the land is properly drained; it would simply be throwing money away. I press again that this problem, which specially affects the northern and western counties, should be reconsidered by the Minister of Agriculture.

We all welcome the proposals for disease control, but the Minister rather surprised me in his remarks about the reorganisation which is proposed with regard to the veterinary services of the country. There are at present several types of authority or organisation which may in some cases deal with this question. There are the counties, some of which have veterinary officers and some have not; there are the farm institutes, which even though they have no veterinary officers do a considerable amount of research work, and take a very important part in propaganda for the general enlightenment of farmers on animal diseases; and, lastly, there is the Ministry itself. The local authorities have up to now had to carry out the administration of the Milk and Dairies Order. I do not fully understand from the Minister whether the administration of the Milk and Dairies Order under the 1922 Act is to be taken over from the local authorities and centralised under veterinary officers, who are to carry out the work on behalf of the Government direct.

The varying conditions to which the Minister referred could not, I thought, refer to anything else than the conditions with regard to cow byres under the Milk and Dairies Order. If I have understood him I take it that it is the new services under this particular Resolution which are to be carried out by a staff of voluntary officers directly responsible to the Ministry. On the whole we shall welcome that, and we hope that the new attested herd regulations will be more effective than the old ones. But in that connection I should like to ask a question. One notices that Section 9 of the Act of 1934 is to be repealed, and I am wondering whether, under the new proposal, it will be possible to do something which I and many of those who know the breeding districts of this country very much hope will be possible, and that is to give encouragement in some form to those breeding farmers who do not in fact sell milk.

Under the attested herd scheme the main encouragement is the 1d. per gallon which the farmer may get on his milk, but there are many farmers in the high-lying districts who concentrate on breeding stock, and some encouragement should be given to them to clear their herds of tuberculosis. The farms of Ayrshire are most of them in the milk business, but the farms of Cumberland and of the West country and the Welsh counties are reservoirs of breeding stock, and there ought to be some means of encouraging the man who does not sell milk to clear his herd of tuberculosis, so that he may provide the dairyman with cattle free of tuberculosis. I hope that under the new procedure it may be possible to give that encouragement. The Minister spoke with disapproval of the flying herd. Let me recommend for his encouragement the man who has had the same breeds of stock on his farm, sometimes for generations, not only of cattle but of farmers.

Another question to which the Minister referred calls for attention. He said that under the Diseases of Animals Act no account was taken of county boundaries. That reminded me of the fact that my county is still greatly inconvenienced by the fact that county boundaries are taken into consideration in the administration of a large part of the work under the Diseases of Animals Act, namely, the work in connection with sheep scab. I believe the Ministry's veterinary officers and the county veterinary officers have established beyond doubt that the county boundary is not really the right boundary for dealing with sheep scab, and I hope that under the new procedure the county boundary will not be taken into consideration.

I should like to support these proposals so far as they will encourage a better system of grassland farming and thereby encourage livestock, which some of us have always maintained is the backbone of British farming. Before the slump came, before 1930, there was a great campaign to get help for the arable farmers, the wheat growers, and some of us felt then as we feel to-day that it is the livestock farmer who should really be encouraged. With regard to the argument that livestock farming does not necessarily employ as many men as arable farming, I would point out that if we take Cheshire and Norfolk. per 100 acres, there are more men employed in Cheshire than in Norfolk, whereas in Cheshire the proportion of arable land is only one-half of that of Norfolk.

A good system of grassland farming does employ men. By a good system I mean a good system on rotation, under which you have temporary grass on which the cattle and sheep can be fed or grazed, and where milk and meat can be prdouced, and on which pigs and poultry can be kept, but which is ploughed up from time to time in order to grow arable crops which are required to be consumed on the farm. That kind of grassland farming is the type of farming which keeps the land in a high state of fertility, which employs a large number of men, certainly as large a proportion as mechanised arable farming employs, and it is a system which, as the Minister pointed out, can be made to grow cereals if necessary in time of war. The real trouble with grassland farming is that it is so unequal. The best grassland probably produces three times as much food as the average land and ten times as much as the worst.

I doubt whether these particular proposals which the Minister has put for- ward are going to do very much to deal with one of the greatest problems of British farming, and that is the enormous acreage of rough grazing, amounting to nearly one-third of the whole area. This could be enormously improved by the use of phosphates and lime, together with the use of the plough. The land could be ploughed up and resown straight away. In the last few days I have seen crops grown very successfully on land which was first broken by ploughing up and reseeding it with grass. The manures are only one side of the problem. There is now the problem of grass drying, which may or may not be a solution of agricultural difficulties. My feeling is that the artificial drying of grass is going to be a very valuable contribution to the redevelopment of British agriculture, but it requires its own difficult technique and there is not yet much known about that technique.

The man who is improving his grassland is up against certain difficulties, and one of those difficulties is that if he improves his grassland it will carry more stock and that will require a greater capitalisation of his farm. He will also need more capital if he is going to buy grass-drying plant. I cannot agree with the Minister that by encouraging the growth of good temporary grassland in this country we are going to diminish the amount of animal foodstuffs which are needed and which are imported into this country. The experience that I have had of farms goes to prove that as you improve the temporary grass you increase enormously the stock-carrying capacity of the farm. You must then carry more stock, which requires more capital, and you require to buy more feeding stuffs, some of which are imported.

That brings me to one further question, and that is that the farmer to-day has not the capital to stock his land properly, and no grassland policy is complete unless it includes much better facilities for credit than the farmer has at the present time. For these reasons I can give only a partial welcome to this policy. The Minister disarmed our criticism by denying that this is his long-term policy. If it is not his long-term policy, where is his long-term policy? Perhaps he will say that this is a section of his long-term policy and that he will be dealing shortly with pigs and the amendment of the milk marketing scheme, which are long overdue. We give a qualified welcome to the proposals, especially in so far as they will increase the efficiency of the grasslands of the country, but I do not think that this policy is really worthy of the great problem which exists. It is a problem which can partly be solved by Government help. But it also requires a great effort on the part of the farmers themselves. We can by the development of our grasslands and by modern scientific improvement produce more food for the consumer and more of those foodstuffs which the scientists tell us the consumer is most in need of at the present time.

Without going into the vexed question of whether or not there is widespread malnutrition in this country, I think one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that if the purchasing power of the consumer was raised, he would consume far more butter, eggs and beef, the product of the livestock industry.

Mr. Turton

What about home-produced eggs?

Mr. Roberts

He has not increased his consumption of foreign or Dominion eggs. In the last few years he has very greatly diminished his consumption of foreign and Dominion eggs and increased his consumption of home-produced eggs.

Mr. Turton

Is it not a fact that the increase in the consumption of foreign eggs last year was from 18,000,000 long hundreds to 24,000,000 long hundreds. The hon. Member wants that policy to be increased.

Mr. Roberts

I qualified my statement by saying, over a period of years. In the last 10 years—I have not figures by me—the consumption of home-produced eggs has greatly increased. Ten years ago the consumption of foreign eggs represented 50 per cent. and to-day only about 25 per cent. of the total supply. That improvement in the production of home-produced eggs was done without one single bit of assistance either from this Government or any other Government. It was done by the efficiency and enterprise of the British poultry farmers, built up by cheap feeding stuffs. A large part of the present Government's policy having been devoted to raising the price of feeding stuffs, the British poultry farmer does not find himself in such a good position to-day as he was.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Is it not a fact that feeding stuffs are bought in this country at well below the price of production in the countries from which they come?

Mr. Roberts

It entirely depends upon whose cost of production it is. Maize and wheat can be produced in Argentina and on the prairies of Canada and the United States at quite a different price from that at which it can be produced in this country. They are still producing maize and wheat at that price. We got the advantage for the British poultry farmer, with the result that we have seen the increase in the proportion of home-produced eggs which I have indicated. Now we have to face the fact that, partly as the result of the Government's policy and partly as the result of tariffs on imported feeding stuffs, the prices of imported and other feeding stuffs have gone up about 33⅓ per cent. I believe that the outlook for the livestock farmer is dark on account of the fact that he has adjusted himself to the low cost of feeding stuffs. The dairy farmer can perhaps just manage to produce milk at the present low prices when feeding-stuff prices are low, but cannot do so if feeding-stuff prices rise. This policy of the Government of raising cereal prices and taxing the imports of animal feeding stuffs is going to hit the majority of British farmers and one of the most important sections of the farming community in this country.

There are all kinds of fundamental issues still unsettled. I am glad, however, that the Minister has repudiated the suggestion that this is the long-term policy. The real problems still exist. There is the problem of land tenure, which is intimately connected with the question of credit. The old landlord used to provide the credit, but he does not do so now. There is the problem of distribution; and in many countries the costs of distribution are much less than they are in this country. There is the problem of providing the consumer with a really adequate supply of milk, eggs and vegetables. These problems are hardly touched by the proposals we are now considering, and, therefore, while we can give a qualified support to the proposals, we feel that there is still much which we hope the Minister will be able to consider in the future.

6.17 p.m.

Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey

I do not want to detain the Committee for any great length of time, but before I deal with one or two points in connection with the Resolution, may I say a word on one or two of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in his opening speech? I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but it seems to me that his attitude was, by all means let us produce cattle, poultry and pigs, because they are human food, but do not let us produce animal food. How can we produce animals in this country if we do not also produce something for them to live upon? He attacked the Government's proposal to give a guaranteed price for oats and barley. May I point out to the Committee that in the North-East of Scotland these are essential crops if we are to maintain the land in a proper state of cultivation? We cannot grow wheat, and we cannot put out our land to grass for long periods. The land must be ploughed up, there must be a rotation of crops. It is, therefore, necessary in my part of the country to grow more oats and barley than can be consumed on the farm. It is an absolutely sound policy, so far as Scottish agriculture is concerned, to put more land not less under oats and barley, because it will mean that the land is kept in good order. If it is put into grass it rapidly deteriorates in a few years. Therefore, I welcome a guaranteed price for oats, and in regard to what was said by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) I think 24s. is a good price and one with which we need not quarrel.

The hon. Member for the Don Valley said that 80 per cent. of the oats grown was consumed on the farm. I am not clear on what basis the hon. Member reckoned his percentage, but perhaps he was referring to the oats used as between one farmer and another. The man who uses oats as food for his poultry is not the man who produces it, and while it may be all very well for the poultry producer to get cheap oats, it is very unfortunate for the man who produces the oats to have to be content with a cheap price. About 40 per cent. of the oats and barley grown are consumed off the farm, and perhaps that is the basis on which the Minister has fixed the amount at two quarters per acre. We feel grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having done this for us. I have been in the oats battle as long as most people, and I am glad that we are going to get justice as between one man and another. I should like to be quite clear as to how the scheme is going to work. I think that it will rather react against us in Scotland, not for us. The price in the North-East of Scotland is usually some shillings per quarter lower than it is in England and in South Scotland, and if we have to wait until the average British price is ascertained, weighted as it is to be by the total area in each country with more oats grown at a higher price in England and less oats grown at a less price in Scotland, we may actually have to wait for our subsidy, although we require it most, until the price has risen to a certain level in England where the subsidy is not really so necessary. I regret that the Minister could not make a special price value for the North-East of Scotland, because that is a part of the country which needs it most and which should have it first. I am not saying that you can always ensure an exact and fair amount to each part of the country, but in that way you would give most to the people who are most in need.

As regards the question of animal diseases, I congratulate the Minister on what he has done. It is one of the most important things that have been done for agriculture for a long time. It has been hotly contested in Scotland as to whether it should be under central control in London or whether there should not be some control in Edinburgh. There is a great deal to be said on both sides, but I am much impressed by the arguments in favour of central control, and I think the Minister has done the right thing. But I should like to put forward a plea, with which I think everyone in Scotland would associate himself, that we should have a strong liaison in Edinburgh, because we want to feel that what is being done in London is done with the full knowledge of what is going on in Scotland. When one is a long way from London one is inclined to think that the control is in the hands of people who see things through entirely English eyes, and if we had a strong liaison officer in Edinburgh it would make us much happier, and we should feel that centralised control in the matter of the administration of animal diseases is absolutely essential.

I was glad to hear what the Minister had to saw about part-time local veterinary services. That has been causing us a great deal of anxiety for some time. In the County of Aberdeen we have an efficient veterinary service and I hope it will not suffer; indeed, I understand that it will not. In the White Paper there is a reference to the various animal diseases which it is proposed to tackle. I entirely support that suggestion, but I hope it is not exclusive. There is such a thing as grass sickness in horses, from which we have been suffering for a long time. It is one of the most devastating diseases which agriculture has suffered for many years.

The Minister made a reference to a grant being made for sea walls. When the Minister comes to reply I hope he will give us a little more information about that, because I can conceive several cases where grants might be made for a sea wall which would be of great value indeed to the community in the neighbourhood. May I say, in conclusion, that I think the Minister has tackled this problem in the right way? He is tackling what has been causing us a great anxiety, that is a feeling that the fertility of the land has been going down. He has attacked the problem from that end, and it is the right way. He has given us what is only a measure of justice in a guaranteed price for our oats and barley, and he is attacking the serious problem of animal diseases. The hon. Member for North Cumberland could give only a half-hearted support to the proposals because he says they do not go far enough. I can give them my wholehearted support. This is not a long-term policy. Indeed, I wish we could get out of the idea of calling for a long-term policy. You cannot have one policy for agriculture. It contains so many things under one umbrella that a policy which is applicable to one section of the industry is not equally applicable to another. Let us tackle each policy on its merits, and if we do not ask for the moon we can agree that the Minister has produced something which is worth while on this occasion.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. Price

I do not suggest that we should have a policy which will cover all the evils of agriculture in one Measure or even in a series of Measures, but I do feel that the policy which the Government have brought forward in this Financial Resolution, like much of its agricultural policy, is like Joseph's coat, a thing of many colours. It has bright patches in it, and it has soiled patches in it. I will say at the outset that there are several bright patches in the Financial Resolution. First and foremost there is the lime and slag programme, which deserves the support of this Committee and of agriculturists in the country. I think it may have important effects in fighting animal diseases, because there is very little doubt that many of these diseases are due to a lack of minerals, and the latest discoveries of veterinary science seem to show that many of these diseases can be eliminated or their incidence reduced by bringing to animals minerals in an organic form. It will take many years for the minerals to be absorbed into the vegetation; it is not a thing which can be dealt with in one year or two. It is a long-term policy and I think the Government have taken the right step. It is a very old problem.

Long ago there was a great Latin writer who evidently knew something about slagging. The Minister of Pensions pulled me up the other day when I ventured into the dangerous waters of a classical quotation. He was right, because I had got the wrong author, although I had the right quotation. But let me point out that 2,000 years ago Virgil in the "Georgics" knew something about slagging: "Arida tantum ne saturare fimo pingui pudeat sola, neve effetos cinerem immundum jactare per agros." I believe that it means, "Don't be afraid of feeding the dried soil with rich dung or of scattering grimy ashes over the exhausted fields." That was the kind of slagging known to the Romans in Virgil's day, and the right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on the fact that 2,000 years afterwards he is carrying on that policy.

With regard to slagging and liming, I agree with the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts) that it will raise other problems which the Government will have to tackle. The manuring of pastures will increase—indeed, improvements in recent years in the management of pastures have already increased—the yield of the pastures, and that will raise at once the question of restocking the land and increasing the livestock on the land. The yield from the pastures, as things are at present, is only a maintenance ration, and as every agriculturist knows, a maintenance ration, both for dairy stock and for feeding stock, is not enough, and must be supplemented by a feeding ration.

Unless there is some method by which we can convert grass from these improved pastures into valuable products which will compete with imported feeding stuffs, we shall not have solved the problem; we shall simply have largely increased the maintenance ration values of the pastures without having done anything to solve the problem of imported feeding stuffs. Consequently, it seems to me that the Government will have to go further into the question of what can be done to popularise and cheapen the conversion of grass into new products, such as dried grass, which can compete with imported feeding stuffs. If that is not done, we shall have an enormous quantity of hay produced in this country, and even if the problem of credits for the farmers so that they may increase the stock on the land is solved, there will still remain the question of the increased quantity of feeding stuffs which is imported.

With regard to animal diseases, to which I have already referred, I am glad that the Government propose to deal with bovine tuberculosis on the basis of areas. When in the United States of America three years ago, I was very much struck by the progress which they have made in this matter. Naturally the problem is different in America; they have very wide areas, and the cow population is less dense than it is here, so that infectious contacts are less. For many years past, the principle in America has been that each State should deal with this matter, and by this method they have in several cases completely ridded the whole State of any sign of bovine tuberculosis. In this country we have done practically nothing in this direction, but at last something is to be done. I am glad that the veterinary services are to be brought under a more central control, but at the same time, there is an invaluable private veterinary service in this country which is of tremendous assistance to farmers and which I hope will not be jeopardized in any way by anything which is done under this scheme.

I will deal now with the other side of the Government's policy. I have spoken of the bright patches, but I am afraid there are dark patches in that policy where my hon. Friends and I are not in agreement with the Government. On more than one occasion I have suggested that any State assistance to the agricultural industry must be accompanied by three conditions: first, efficiency of production; secondly, public control to see that there is efficiency; and thirdly, a guarantee of a steady improvement in the conditions of agricultural labourers. In regard to the last of these three conditions, we do not see anything in the Government's policy. As my hon. Friends will be moving an Amendment dealing with that, I will not enlarge on it now. However, with regard to paragraphs 2 and 3, with which I am more concerned at the moment, I think the time has come to review the whole question of whether, and if so, how, we should give State assistance to the growing of cereals in this country. Is it a sound policy to encourage a large amount of cereal-growing in this country? Certainly, from the point of view of making the country safe in time of war, I cannot see the wisdom of trying to grow large quantities of cereals.

Thanks to our climate, our agriculture is far better suited to livestock, which is dependent upon cheap imported feeding stuffs. We have a Navy on which we are spending a very considerable amount of money, and I believe that in the event of war, the Navy would be in a position to keep the big oceans open to our seaborne commerce. That would be the main task of the Navy in time of war, and if that task were carried out, it would mean that we should be able to have commercial contact with the Continent of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and it would be from these countries, particularly the American Continent, that we should be guaranteed our supply of cereals and a part of our meat imports. Our cereals will not be in danger, provided we have command of the seas.

There are then what are termed, I believe, the Narrow Seas—the North Sea and the Baltic. It is across those seas that we get our dairy produce, our bacon and our poultry produce, and it is here, I believe, that the Navy would not be so sure of being able to keep the seas open to our commerce in time of war. Therefore, it is all the more important that we should be able, in time of war, to depend entirely upon our own dairy produce—not only milk, but all the products which come from the milk—our pigs and our poultry. That means that we ought in time of peace to be building up large herds of livestock. In March of this year, there appeared in the "Times" a very interesting series of articles by no less an authority than Sir William Beveridge, who stressed the point which I am now putting to the Committee, that we should prepare for a time of war now, in time of peace, by being sure that we have a very large reserve of livestock, so that, if we were in difficulties, we could start to slaughter our dairy cattle in order to meet the emergency. All that seems to mean that we ought in time of peace to work for an increase in our livestock herds, and to enable that to be done by keeping our cereal prices low.

At the same time, I am willing to admit that a case can be made out for limited assistance by the State, under special conditions, to the cereal-growing industry. I am prepared to admit that there should be a minimum below which prices should not fall as far as the producer is concerned. There are parts of the country, particularly the light soils of East Anglia and the Downs of Berkshire, where the rainfall is low and the soil evaporation high, and there the costs are relatively low. In those parts the whole of the economy of the farmer is built up on the basis of a certain amount of cereal cultivation. Although the old four-course system has now been largely superseded, in certain parts of the country wheat is still quite an important factor in the agricultural industry.

There is, moreover, a social aspect of this matter. During the big slump from 1930 onwards, when the price of wheat was down to most abnormal level, the situation was very serious in places where the whole rural population was dependent on a certain amount of cereal-growing, and no Government could look on unmoved at a slump of that sort. Therefore, I feel that a case can be made out for what I would call a standard price for cereal products. I submit that in this respect there ought to be two guiding principles. In the first place, we ought to even out the fluctuations in prices which are due to world conditions over which the farmer has no control. Between 1930 and 1937, the price of wheat has fluctuated between 6s. 6d. a cwt. and 9s. 6d. a cwt. at the present time. That is largely due to world conditions. I think the Government should take some steps to stabilise prices and to prevent, or to even out, such fluctuations as far as possible.

The second guiding principle is that the Government should fix the price in such a way that it encourages only the best cultivators and only the producers on the land which is most suitable for wheat. That is precisely what the Wheat Act, 1932, does not do. I am afraid the price is fixed in such a way as to encourage all and sundry to grow wheat anywhere, and no premium is given to those who grow it on the most suitable soils and in the best way. It would not be easy to fix the price as I have suggested, but I think some attempt ought to be made. The Government ought to find out, first of all, what are the costs of producing wheat in different parts of the country. The costs are not static by any means, but vary very much, and new methods can reduce the costs very considerably in some districts. I understand that where tractors can be used over a very large area, the costs of producing wheat can be reduced to 6s. a cwt. I admit that that is only in a few favoured places, but even in the less favoured places the introduction of tractors has reduced by Is. and even by 2s. per cwt. the cost of production of wheat.

For 10 years past I have been growing wheat in Gloucestershire, and recently I looked up my costs of production over the last five years. I find that the cost varied considerably from one season to another. Last year it was 10S. per cwt., and with the aid of the subsidy I was just able to get home with a very small profit. In the year before the cost of production was 10s. 6d. and I made a small loss. In the year before that it was 14s., which meant a heavy loss but that was owing to the seeding conditions in the autumn. In the year 1933–34, on one patch, under very favourable conditions the cost of production went down to 7s. a cwt., which with the subsidy meant a very nice profit but in another year it went up to 12s. a cwt. owing to less favourable conditions which meant a heavy loss. All this worked out over the five years at an average cost of 10s. 6d. per cwt. which means a small loss even with the subsidy.

It may be that I am not managing properly, but I am more inclined to think that the land there is not really suited to wheat-growing as anything but a sideline. It may be that if I adopted other methods, I might be able to bring my costs down still further and I propose to continue trying, but I think that the land there is sub-marginal, as far as wheat is concerned, and that therefore the growing of wheat there ought not to be encouraged except as a side-line. There are two conditions on which we ought to insist in connection with the fixing of these prices. I think the farmer is entitled to be insulated against fluctuations of currency and of world supplies. He is entitled to be protected against conditions over which he has no control, but he is not entitled to protection against conditions over which he has control, and those conditions are the suitability or unsuitability of the soil, and the efficiency or inefficiency of his methods. I am not satisfied that the Wheat Act, 1932, was sufficiently discriminatory in this respect. The Government have at their command the means of getting information as to costs of production of wheat in this country. I have given an example in my own case, but there are research stations throughout the country which have a lot of information on the subject. I should like to see that information collated for the purpose of seeing whether it is possible to fix a price below which wheat will not fall. This is a good opportunity for dealing with the matter as the whole question is now coming up for consideration.

Moreover, I see no reason why conditions should not be attached to the fixing of the price. I would like to see deficiency payments based on a sliding scale related to the yield per acre so as to encourage the wheat-grower to increase the yield per acre. That would eliminate the person who cannot get his yield per acre above a certain figure. I see no reason why such a system could not be worked out and I suggest it, at any rate, as a line of research. When the Wheat Act was being considered in March, 1932, my hon. Friends on these benches took up the very attitude which I have indicated. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) moved an Amendment to limit the time of the operation of the quota and to introduce sliding-scale payments which would gradually come down as the years passed. He received important support from the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and according to the OFFICIAL REPORT which I looked up a day or two ago, the then Minister of Agriculture, who is no longer I think a Member of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh yes he is!"]—I beg his pardon—the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of Agriculture said: We desire to see the most modern methods of dealing with the problem pursued. We desire that the farmers should try by every means in their power, and we believe the Bill will encourage them, to market their produce under the most economical methods and to produce their wheat in the best form."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2IST March, 1932; col. 751, Vol. 263.] I fear those optimistic anticipations have not been realised. I cannot see that improvement in wheat cultivation throughout the country which the right hon. Gentleman indicated. I have noticed in several districts a tendency merely to get the deficiency payments, and not to trouble too much about methods. Agricultural labourers have complained to me that where they were formerly kept employed all the year round, they are now turned off for months in the winter-time. They are taken on casually for haymaking and harvesting and at seeding time but for a large part of the year they are unemployed. I think steps should be taken such as the one I have already suggested, to encourage proper cultivation. We should insist upon the yield being up to a certain standard. At present it is possible to get the subsidy without troubling about the yield.

There is another reason why I am not satisfied with the working of the Wheat Act, 1932, and why I oppose its extension in this Resolution. I am not satisfied that it is being worked properly in relation to the millers. There is no control over millers' costs and margins. I happen to know that before the Labour Government left office in 1931, Lord Addison had negotiated an agreement with the millers and intended to introduce a Measure to stabilise the price of wheat at a certain figure, while seeing to it that millers' margins were properly controlled and their costs examined. Unfortunately, he did not remain in office and had not the opportunity of operating the policy which he was then working out. Some of those who opposed him at that time supported the Wheat Act, 1932, although it did riot contain the necessary control over millers' costs and margins.

Referring to the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debates in March, 1932, I find that attempts were made by some of my hon. Friends on these benches to amend the Measure on those lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) moved an Amendment to secure the audit by Government auditors of the millers' accounts in connection with the Wheat Fund, but that Amendment was not carried. If the millers are given the advantage of a scheme which more or less stabilises prices as far as they are concerned, they ought to submit to a more effective form of public control than exists at present. The same thing applies in the case of wheat and barley. I understand that Lord Addison at that time was making a similar effort as regards barley. He was proposing to negotiate an agreement with the brewers, to stabilise the price as far as they were concerned, in order to stabilise the price for the farmer at the other end and to work generally on the principle of a standard price.

We have nothing of that kind in paragraphs (2) and (3) of the Resolution, and I fear that what happened in the case of the meat subsidy may happen again in this case. The meat subsidy was to a large extent dissipated by the heavy fall which took place in meat prices. The farmer never got the advantage which he ought to have got and at the other end the consumer got no advantage, and there was strong reason to believe that most of it went to those who handled the produce in its transit from the farmer to the consumer. I fear that in connection with this proposal to subsidise wheat and barley growing the same thing may happen. The price of Scottish oats may sag and although that would be very nice for the buyer of oats for feeding the Scottish farmer will not get any advantage because there is not that control over the corn trade which there ought to be, if you are to interfere with the natural course of prices. If you start on the principle of standard price it ought to be applied, not only to the operations of the producer but to all the various stages through which the product passes to the consumer. The Government have no water-tight agreement with the corn trade to stabilise oat prices, or with the brewers to stabilise barley prices. They have only "gentlemen's agreements," and the farmers have been complaining for a long time of the so-called "gentlemen's agreement" with the brewers.

For those reasons my hon. Friends and I cannot see our way to support paragraphs (2) and (3) of the Resolution. We wish to see something much more effective for the protection of the consumers' interests. Moreover, we do not think it wise at the present time indiscriminately to increase cereal growing in this country when many thinking persons are of the opinion that it is on livestock and livestock products that our main concentration should take place. If assistance is to be given to cereal growing, it should be discriminatory and scientific; and it should aim at giving just that relief which is needed to those districts where cereal growing is by reason of climatic and geographical conditions an essential part of the economy of the area. For these reasons, although there is much which is to be commended in the Government's policy, I should like to see the bright patches in this Joseph's coat of many colours brought out and the dark patches eliminated.

7.1 p.m.

Major Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith

These proposals must commend themselves to the Committee if only for one reason—that at long last, emerging from the experimental period through which we have been, we find a policy which has some real purpose, and that purpose is the health and the happiness of the land and those in the countryside. I was rather sorry that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) suggested that the farmers were not concerned with the health of the land, but only with so using the land that they could make the most profit out of it. I do not think that that is so. It was a most unfair criticism.

Mr. T. Williams

The hon. Gentleman is rather misinterpreting what I intended to put to the Committee. I said that the average farmer is more concerned with his own balance sheet than agriculture as such or the nation, and I was suggesting that the Minister could encourage or discourage the individual farmer, or tens of thousands of farmers, to produce the wrong commodity by subsidising the wrong commodity. I was not saying that the farmer thought only of profits, but merely that he is more concerned about his individual balance sheet.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I thank the hon. Member for that explanation, but I hope that he will agree to this, that nothing would please the farmers better than if the Minister would judge his policy by saying, "Will this policy enable the farmer to farm the land as he knows it should be farmed?" The farmers have the knowledge and the skill in order to use the land in the right way and I hope that the Minister in future will make that the criterion of his policy. If he can answer, "Yes, it will improve the fertility of the soil, and enable farmers to farm properly," he will be on the right lines, but if he says that he is afraid that this will not do much for the land, but will be a sop to the farmers and keep them quiet, he will not be on right lines. It may seem surprising to many people that at this moment the Minister is bringing forward a policy dealing with fertility. We hear people saying, "All these millions have been spent on agriculture, and here you have the Government bringing forward this policy of fertility." The reason which has made the Minister embark on this policy, is that for years past the consumer has been buying cheap food, but buying it extremely dearly, because with every mouthful of that cheap food which he has been putting down his throat he has also been putting down a bit of the fertility of our soil. Now that we have realised that, the Minister, by concentrating on getting back that fertility, is doing the right thing. To-day he is presenting to the Committee a small bill for the damage which has been done to agriculture. Unfortunately, one always has to pay for the damage done, whether it has been done wittingly or unwittingly. This bill will by no means of itself pay for the damage that has been done, but it is a start and a foundation on which we can build for the future.

I am very concerned that this money, small though it will be, will not be wasted, and I would rather like to address myself to one or two matters where we may have waste unless certain other things are done to make the scheme all-embracing. First, with regard to the lime and slag, I believe that that is a good scheme as far as it goes. It cannot stand by itself. Two things have to be done before this can be complete. First, it must be made possible for the farmers to buy the lime and the slag, to pay the 50 per cent. and 75 per cent. as the case may be. They can only do that if they have money, and at this moment they are extremely short of capital. I do not know that the Committee quite realises how greatly in debt the farmers are to a great many people—the auctioneers, merchants of all descriptions, not to mention the banks. The one old source of credit, their landlord, has gone. You have the farmers with this millstone of debt round their necks, yet this policy does not to any degree offer the farmer any means of turning his overdraft into a credit balance. It is going to put nothing into his pocket. If he is to take advantage of nearly all these measures, he has got to seek to increase that overdraft and get more credit from somewhere. Therefore, I hope that we are going to have some hope of so getting a profit out of the undertakings that confidence will come back to the industry and credit will be obtained, and that the Minister will listen to our plea for an inquiry into the whole of the credit situation, and so try to relieve us of that burden.

If we are to take full advantage of this and there is to be no waste, the farmers have got to be able to follow up this application of lime and slag. The one way is by an application of good old-fashioned dung. This is an all important point, and one which I am sure the Minister realises. I would like to quote one paragraph from the Ministry of Agriculture Journal, that very valuable journal: … though ample supplies of farmyard manure will cover a multitude of sins against the old established practices of good husbandry, in the absence of dung the maintenance of the productivity of the soil is a much more difficult problem. In the long run the fertility of the soil is a reflection of the farming system which, if not itself sound, cannot be made permanently successful by any system of manuring. I think that that is a very great truth. We have to get the livestock population there ready to produce the dung for us. The first Minister who will be able to claim real success for his policy will be that Minister who can say, "I got the sheep back on to the arable land, and I got the dung cart moving." If the farmers are to be enabled to grow three blades of grass where two are now, there will have to be the livestock there to eat that grass; there will have to be a profitable market for the extra produce, and the consumers must be able to buy that produce when we have produced it. The one thing that we want to avoid is seeing plenty of grass with a poverty of livestock. I believe that the Minister is fully aware of this, but perhaps we may have his assurance that he is going to deal with the question of profitable markets for our livestock, pigs and the whole range of goods which are still out in the cold.

As far as wheat is concerned, I am grateful to the Minister for what he has done in this line. I do not think that there is any doubt that a generous amount of land put down to wheat is absolutely essential to the welfare of the country both in time of peace and in time of war. I do not want to follow the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) in this, but I think he put forward a tremendous case for an increase in the wheat acreage, and also for an increase in the price. I was very pleased to hear the case coming from his side so strongly. Our one disappointment is that we have not increased the standard price. I do not think that the relation of 45s. a quarter to costs is a very real one. The costs of production have gone up considerably since 1932. Would the Minister consider calling together the Standard Price Committee with a view to trying to relate the costs and the amount which will be received in order to meet the present day needs? Probably that will mean an Amendment to the Wheat Act, but it would be one which would be most helpful to the arable districts.

As far as oats and barley are concerned, this is about the most disappointing of all the features of the proposals. The Minister started off this policy in such an extraordinarily good way. He said, "Let us away with all the tinkering, dealing with Agriculture in sections. Let us get down to fundamental things, the fertility and health of the land." Then error seems to have crept in, and the land is rather lost sight of. Those who qualify for wheat cannot also qualify for oats and barley. That seems as if it is going back to trying to give a sop to those who have not received in the past something which might keep them quiet, without reference to the land. I would have hoped that he would have taken the whole of the economy of the farm and linked it up, so that if there are abuses and farmers are doing wrong, they would be weaned away from bad practices and be enabled to get back to good husbandry.

I do not pretend to be able to speak about oats. Not being a Scotsman, I cannot quite appreciate the full situation there. But British barley growers feel that they have been forced into a mésalliance with Scotch oats, and they hope that they will get a divorce pretty early—certainly sooner than the five-year plan which may be coming out later. I can hardly believe that the Minister is satisfied with the proposals as they affect barley. I take heart from the fact that he realises, in spite of the Gentleman's Agreement with the brewers, that there is still a problem as far as barley is concerned which needs instant solution. In case anyone may think that the arable districts are doing too well, let me say that at this moment I believe they are facing one of the worst seasons they have had for years. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean has shown that there has not been much profit in growing wheat in his district. The Eastern counties can show that the 45s. has by no means enabled them to make sufficient money to stand the type of season they have had to face this year. The Committee will appreciate that when farmers get a bad season they must have some reserves on which to fall back and to carry them on to another season. The wheat position is not going to be good. The sugar beet situation is bad, too, and they are facing the prospect of a very bad crop. I think that the Eastern counties can look forward to a rather desperate winter.

Captain Briscoe

I farm in the Eastern counties and I look forward to one of the best years I have ever had. The prospects of the wheat crop are excellent.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I am speaking of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and I do not think they are very full of hope. I am glad to hear that in Cambridgeshire things are much better. I again ask the Minister to consider the question of the costs of production of this crop with the Standard Price Committee and see whether he can relate the price more to the actual costs which the farmer has to bear in producing it.

With regard to the milk regulations, I believe that the Minister is going to make it easier for milk producers to quality to come into the scheme for attested herds. If that be true and it eases up the conditions, it will probably mean that the Milk Board will have to face a formidable liability with regard to the payment of premiums and bonuses to those who qualify. I am not against getting the milk supply as fit as possible so that it will suit even the most fastidious of our doctor friends, but I suggest that the board can hardly afford to pay much more in the way of premiums because it can hardly afford to levy much more on the milk producers. The Government, I understand, intend to pay a bonus to the attested herds up to 1941, after which the Milk Marketing Board will have to pay it. The Minister, I think, has no idea how many producers may be able to come in to the attested scheme through the loosening up of the conditions, and it is rather unfair to expect the board to take on this unlimited liability, for it is certainly a thing the Government would never allow themselves to take on. If the T.T. producers, who have been outside the scheme and have contributed nothing to it, come in and get the bonus of 1½d. for being T.T. producers and 1d. for being in the attested scheme, they will be paying but little, probably nothing, towards the working of the milk marketing scheme, although they will have had great benefits out of it inasmuch as their liquid market has been saved from collapse.

Will the Minister consider extending the period of Government assistance to at least 1946, and will he, just before that period expires, review the whole situation of the attested scheme in the light of experience? It is too much to ask the board to impose more levies on the people who are not in the attested or the accredited schemes. The only way in which the board can pay these premiums is by making more levies. Owing to the Government's inability to deal properly with the imports of dairy produce, the board have had to get more out of the producers than any of us who tried to get over the milk marketing scheme ever expected. The Government have a great responsibility here, and I hope they will accept it. The proposal in regard to diseases of animals will be a grand crusade to which we can give the most hearty support. I can assure the Minister that he can rely on the co-operation of the farming industry. They believe that this is something well worth doing and they will do what they can to help.

I shall vote for all these proposals, and I shall do so with gratitude in my heart. It is not for the amount of money which is being given, but because I believe they show that the Minister realises the magnitude of the problem he has to tackle. He is going to seek to relieve agriculture of complete dependence on overseas supplies of feeding stuffs. We are in the most vulnerable position in regard to those supplies. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean spoke about cheap supplies of animal feeding stuffs, but you cannot always rely on them being cheap. Once you lose complete control over feeding stuffs the importers are liable to squeeze you hard. The hon. Member for North Cumberland talked about the tariff having a bad, effect on the price of animal feeding stuffs. If he will look at the course of prices, however, he will see that when the tariff was put on the prices came down, and I do not believe that if we took the whole of the 10 per cent. tax on feeding stuffs off now it would reduce the price at all. I am afraid that until we can get the independence which the Minister wants we shall be in a precarious position and we shall not be able to process imported feeding stuffs with the same joy as we have been doing in the last few years. I am sure that the Minister realises the position, and, realising it, will not fail to deal adequately with the oustanding problems of milk, pigs and poultry. I am sure that he will be able to deal with them and that in the near future we shall have a complete picture of what his policy is to be.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Hopkin

Hon. Members sitting in all parts of the Committee will willingly support the Minister's proposal for the eradication of disease from herds and, in particular, will welcome and support the part of his proposal which deals with voluntary attestation. This House can be no better employed than in dealing with and supervising the question of the purity of milk. It is highly important that we should see that every step that can be taken is taken to ensure that the milk sold in this country is pure. The success of the Milk Marketing Scheme depends entirely on the amount of confidence that the board can instil into the public mind that the milk that it is selling is pure. This principle has been recognised for a long time in the county which I represent. There are in the whole country 260 attested herds, and of these 83 are in the county of Carmarthen. It is for that reason that the Minister's proposals are of vital interest to the farmers of West Wales, because they have helped themselves. Up to the present it has been very difficult to have a herd attested. It meant the minimum of two clean tests and that meant in time a minimum of one year. The Minister intends to make it easier for herds to be attested in two ways: first, in helping the farmer with the cost, and, second, in reducing the time between one test and another. The result will be that an enormous number of herds will become attested and a greater number of people will become entitled to the additional 1d.

I desire to reinforce the question which has been put to the Minister whether he would extend the time from 1941 to 1946 and say that he will share a part of the additional 1d. I support the idea of the attested area, and I dare prophesy that Carmarthen will have the first attested area in the country.

May I make a suggestion to the Minister? I know now that it is not possible to provide attested milk for the school scheme, because there is not enough, but surely it ought to be the first claim on the Minister as soon as possible to see that milk of the best quality and the highest purity is obtained by the school children before anyone else. I am glad to see that this scheme is joined up with a planned attack on contagious abortion. The only criticism there that I have to make is that the amount of money to be spent to tackle his terrible scourge is far too little, because £50,000 spread over four years is, in my opinion, hardly enough.

To leave that particular question, let me say that farmers are still waiting for the Minister who will stand at that box and say, "I want the home farmer to produce as much as ever his land will bear." I do not think the present Minister can make that claim, because by his very proposal to-day he is saying, "I will encourage the home farmer to produce so much," and that "so much" is far below the maximum that he can produce. To take milk as an illustration, the Minister knows that up to 31st March of this year the farmers are getting 0.07d. less per gallon of milk than they had for the previous year, and costs have been higher. Why is that? It is simply because the farmers have been able to produce 20,000,000 gallons more milk this year than they did last year, and the result of producing this increased amount is that they must be satisfied with a lower price.

May I ask the Minister why, if oats and barley are required for this country, he should fix the national standard acreage at 11/10ths, on an acreage that everybody knows this year is lower than the general average? The truth is that the Government have not decided what part agriculture should play in the national economy, and until they make up their mind on that question we are going to have these series of policies of bits and pieces, which deal, not with agriculture as a whole, but with parts and parts alone. I, personally, would like to encourage the farmer to produce as much as he possibly can, and it is for that reason that I welcome the proposals which deal with lime and basic slag. These proposals will undoubtedly help the hill farmer of West Wales, particularly on land which needs lime. I am glad to note this, that I believe that the 50 per cent. reduction will be on the price at the farm.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

It is proposed to pay half the cost of the lime and half the cost of the transportation to the farm.

Mr. Hopkin

I am obliged. I understood that, because many of the farmers in my district have already asked me whether that is so. Otherwise, the man who lives 10 or 15 miles from the kiln will be at a disadvantage as compared with the man who lives a mile or so away from the kiln. May I ask the Minister whether these schemes can be extended beyond 1940? In our district we have a number of kilns, particularly in the Black Mountain, which have been closed for some years, and I doubt very much whether any man will think it sufficiently profitable to open his kilns if the Minister says that in 1940 this scheme will come to an end. There are standards of quality, as we all know, for basic slag. Does the Minister propose to set up a standard quality for lime? I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). He will not have forgotten that simply to use lime, and lime alone, will not do the land a great deal of good. I dare say the Minister will remember the couplet: Lime and lime without manure Makes both farm and farmer poor. There is one thing to which I would desire to draw the attention of the Committee, and that is that there is nothing in these proposals that deals with the question of price. I entirely agree with the point that was made by the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), when he said that the price that the farmer gets is the very essence of this problem. If the Committee will allow me, I think I can sum up what I have to say on this question by reading from the "Times" of last Monday a paragraph on the lines of which I cannot possibly hope to improve. The writer sets out quite clearly that these proposals, if taken alone and apart from price, are mere camouflage, and he states: The style of farming, either good or bad, that is practised by the majority will always depend on the incentive which market prices offer, and unless there is a reasonable prospect of a fair return on the production of milk and other livestock products, no amount of subsidy for liming and other soil fertility measures will ensure that the land is farmed to full capacity. It is important that this consideration, which is fundamental, should not be overlooked. Farmers over and over again have told me that they do not want charity. They do not want lime at a price different from anybody else, and if the farmer now is crying out for a tariff, it is very largely the result of things which have been said in this House. The finger of scorn has been pointed at the farmer, and he has been told, "But think what you are having," whereas the same finger of scorn is not pointed at people who profit a great deal more from tariffs, particularly in the iron and steel trade. In my judgment, the very essence of the problem regarding agriculture now, apart altogether from what these proposals can do, is that the price to the farmer should be put right.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Maxwell

I am very glad to hear a good agricultural speech, as we would expect, coming from the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat. Before I turn to the actual proposals before us, I would very much like to join issue with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe). He may have the good fortune to be expecting magnificent crops this year, but I can assure him that in Norfolk—and I am reassured by my hon. Friends from neighbouring counties—that is not in the least the expectation.

Captain Briscoe

I said the Eastern counties.

Mr. Maxwell

Shall we say then that he should have said one of the Eastern counties? The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) made some remarks about the encouragement of cereal growing. As I come from the Eastern counties and represent a constituency where we grow a great number of cereals, I would like to say that I do not think the Navy or those responsible for our defence would be at all pleased to hear him suggest that in time of war we could readily get our foodstuffs from across the Atlantic. That may be so. He said that we have the command of the sea and could easily do it, and I hope he is right, but at the same time it would be a great strain on the Navy to have to exert half its strength in convoying foodstuffs across the Atlantic, when it might be urgently required elsewhere.

I would like also to point out that it is certainly possible to encourage the increased production of livestock at the same time as having a policy for cereals. I know that the farmers in Norfolk are not in the least wedded to a system of mechanised farming and enormous areas of wheat. In fact, they very much prefer the system of the rotation of crops, and there is no doubt that many more beasts could be fed there than are at the moment. The only reason for the introduction of mechanised farming was that the price of beef cattle did not support the cost of producing it, and therefore they had to find other methods of farming. I join with many other hon. Members in supporting whole-heartedly the principles which lie behind these proposals, and I would not be second to anybody in that, but my admiration for the principles and for the Minister who introduces them should not prevent me from pointing out one or two places where I think they are, to say the least of it, inadequate. When it comes to fertilising and drainage and the eradication of disease, we can have no fault whatsoever to find. That is obviously quite sane, and although the Minister dislikes the phrase "long-term policy," it does not only affect the amount of production of the land, but it will also eventually, I hope, very much affect the cost of production of our foodstuffs, and in that respect as in others one must very much welcome it.

But there is another factor in agriculture which must be equally if not more important even than that, and that is that we should know that we are going to get an assured price which will cover the cost of production. I know the Minister has told us—and I entirely accept it—that these proposals are only an instalment of others which are to come. I was delighted to hear him say that, because I think there has been a good deal of misapprehension among farmers who regard this, as the Minister said, as the only long-term policy. Of course, it can be nothing of the sort. At the same time, I do hope that the Minister will realise that it would not be a bad thing if he could, so to speak, fit as much as possible into one set of proposals. I hope he will not take too many bites at the cherry. For one thing, the Government may get tired of being asked to produce more money on a number of separate occasions, and the public may get a little bit tired of the cherries. The repetition of proposals such as this affects the attitude of the public towards farmers, because they are inclined to feel, every time they see the announcement in the papers "So much more for farmers" that the farmer is being spoiled, and if we can, as far as possible, get things all over at once it will be all to the good of agriculture.

The present Minister of Agriculture has an extremely good chance. There are two important factors on his side which were not available to the previous Minister. There is a Defence programme which contemplates proposals for increasing the produce of the land, and, further, there has been a rise in prices, though this latter factor is not altogether due to anything which the Government can claim to have done. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir R. Dorman-Smith) said that these proposals do not amount to much in cash value to the farmer, and I want to support that view. The wheat payment is a valuable cash contribution to the farmer, but, apart from that, there is nothing here which will increase the amount of money going into the farmers' pockets, at any rate for some time. I want to thank the Minister very much for the grants to internal drainage boards. Some of us were very anxious that such grants should be made, and I think they will be of tremendous benefit. The proposals respecting lime and basic slag are excellent as far as they go, and nobody can find fault with them, but it does occur to me that they will not be of any great advantage to those farmers whose soil does not require that form of fertiliser, and I should like the Minister to tell us why he cannot extend his contributions to other fertilisers besides lime and basic slag. To confine the assistance to those two may encourage a man to use the wrong form of fertiliser, and in any case it is a discrimination between a farm with one soil and another with a different sort of soil.

I cannot speak with any knowledge of oats, but, frankly, I do not think the barley proposals will be of any great value to farmers, at any rate those in my part of the world. To start with, they cannot get the subsidy on barley if they already get a payment under the wheat quota Act. It happens that nearly every farm of any size grows both wheat and barley, and as the wheat quota payment is so much more valuable than that proposed for barley it stands to reason that farmers will take the wheat payment in preference to the barley subsidy, and therefore will not actually gain at all by this proposal respecting barley. It is as though we were holding out the barley subsidy with one hand and then snatching it back with the other. It is almost what the American divorce courts would regard as mental cruelty. It is a case of starving your prisoner and then going outside his cage and holding a nice juicy strawberry just out of his reach—though a strawberry suggests an exaggerated idea of the barley subsidy proposals.

Actually the value of the barley subsidy is low, whether farmers take it in the place of the wheat payment or not. It is based on a very low acreage, eleven-tenths of the present acreage, and, as is well known, the acreage of barley has gone down by something like 40 per cent. since 1914. Again, it is based on a price of 8s. per cwt., which nobody will pretend represents a price which covers the cost of production. Further, it is assumed that only six cwt. per acre are sold off the farm. My farming friends assure me that in my part of the country they sell about 14 cwt. off the farm. The average subsidy as paid for the past seven years is about 13s. 6d. an acre, which comes out at less than 1s. per cwt., and we cannot pretend this would be any use if prices were as low as they have been during the past few years.

The most important thing in connection with the Government's agricultural policy in the future will be to assure farmers by some means or other prices which will cover the cost of production. The most important reason why that should be done is that the labour problem is getting more intense every day. There is no question that agricultural wages will have to be higher in the near future if we are to keep enough labour on the land to produce the food we require, and I cannot see any other way of ensuring that than guaranteeing sufficiently high prices to cover the cost of production. The cost of production must be very clearly related to the cost of labour. It is all very well to fix a price for a commodity which is based on wages at a certain level; but shortly afterwards there is, quite naturally, a great agitation for increasing wages, and if they go up then the price fixed for the commodity no longer bears the same relationship to the cost of production. That is a problem which one meets every day in farming. If we want to see wages where they should be it will be essential to fix our basic prices in relation to the figure at which we wish to see wages.

There has been a feeling I know that farmers must not have subsidies. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) talked a great deal of his dislike of subsidies, but at the same time he was advocating a guaranteed price, and I cannot see how we can have a guaranteed price without some form of subsidy, State assistance, or whatever you like to call it, and whether you collect the money by a levy on imports or produce it from the Exchequer is neither here nor there. We are on all sides of the House more or less agreed that there is a national necessity for continuing agriculture and increasing agricultural production in this country and also that we must pay better wages to agricultural workers, and as we are agreed on those two points let us be logical and face the fact that in present circumstances we cannot secure those results without an adequate measure of assistance from the Government.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. Richards

The Minister made some references in the course of his speech deprecating the illusions which had been made to these proposals as constituting the long-term policy of the Government on agriculture, but it is inevitable that the question of the long-term policy should be brought up by successive speakers, and I agree with the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Maxwell) that it would be an advantage if the Minister could on some occasion adumbrate what he intends to do ultimately for agriculture. Hitherto we have had a series of proposals based very largely upon subsidies to assist different branches of agriculture, and this is another case in point. This is a further subsidy, and I presume we must agree that a subsidy is not a substitute for a policy. A subsidy is nothing more than a dole. If it is well handled a subsidy may be the foundation of a full-blown agricultural policy at some period or another, but so far it has not been made clear to us what objective the Government have in mind in introducing these successive subsidies. It is natural, too, that we should discuss this problem with an eye to the possibility of an international conflict. Recollections of the last one have not disappeared from the minds of many hon. Members; we think of the serious difficulties which were experienced during those four terrible years.

One fact which stands out clearly in the history of those four years is the absolute failure of this country to support itself in a crisis of that magnitude, despite the splendid effort that was made and despite the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister of that day, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Great efforts were made, particularly in 1918, to increase the arable area, but, unfortunately, by one of those natural accidents which do occur, it turned out to be a very bad harvest year, and having looked up the records I think I am correct in saying that, despite the most frantic efforts on the part of everybody, the quantity of foodstuffs raised in this country sufficed only to supply the needs of the people for just 16 weeks.

Consequently, I suggest that we dismiss from our minds when discussing the problem of agriculture the possibility of making this country self-sufficing in the case of a serious emergency. It simply cannot be done. The attempt we made then showed it. We cannot gainsay the fact that it proved, on the whole, to be a miserable failure. Consequently, when we are discussing agriculture and suggesting that we should have in view the possibility of a conflict in the future, we must recognise that the vast majority of the people in this country would have to rely, as we did in the past, almost entirely upon the efficiency of the Navy for our foodstuffs. It was the Navy and not agriculture that saved this country then; not home grown produce. We are Eying in a fool's paradise if we imagine that in the case of a conflict of that magnitude—which Heaven forbid should ever occur again—we could depend upon the resources of our own country.

If we regard agriculture not from the point of view of making the country self-sufficing in the event of a possible war, but as one of the primary industries of this country, the question then is, how are we to deal with it in relation to other industries? In the course of the Debate, very little attention has been paid to the relative claims of agriculture as against those of other industries. This is just where the danger of subsidies comes in. If we subsidise other industries to the extent to which agriculture, for example, has been subsidised, does any hon. Member think that those industries would not begin to flourish in a very decided way? We can produce all kinds of things in this country, but at a cost. Here is the vital factor. We can produce agricultural commodities, but some of us believe that they can be much better produced in other countries, where the cost of production is lower, and not because low wages are paid. In Australia, Argentina and the United States, wages are much higher than they are in agriculture in this country. It is the natural advantages of those countries which keep their cost of production down, and I do not see that there is any justification for a policy which puts up those costs against the teeming millions of consumers that we have in this country. If nature has benefited those countries in that way, it is our duty to recognise that, and we must review agricultural policy in the light of the fortunes of the other industries of our own country. Some of those foreign countries have very superior advantages in the production of the necessaries of life that we so much require here.

That fact does not do away with the possibility that we may be, for social or other reasons, very anxious to support a large agricultural community on the land in this country. That necessity will become a determining factor in the future history of this country. We are not going to repeat the period of prosperity which we enjoyed in the nineteenth century, when we were able to take full advantage of the natural fertility, for example, of the virgin soil of North America and to concentrate here upon the production of things which we could produce much better than they could, and which we could exchange for the goods which we required, and particularly raw materials. That period of history has very largely closed. Consequently, we have to consider whether we can readjust our economic life and cease to be—as we have very largely ceased to be, unfortunately—the great industrial power we were at the beginning of this century. We have to consider whether we can readjust our economic resources and our population, and in that way maintain on the land of this country a larger proportion of people than we are maintaining there at the present time. I am convinced that an entirely different type of agriculture is needed. Anybody who read that very interesting report recently published by the Carnegie Trust as to the possibility of settling families on the land of this country will have seen that this possibility, with which we are very much acquainted in certain parts of this country, involves something much bigger than the Minister has outlined to-day. It involves a reorganisation of the whole agriculture of these islands. I do not see that proposal among those which we have before us to-day. There is nothing quite so fundamental in them.

There is another problem. Having decided that we shall foster agriculture, we have to decide what type of agriculture. What the Minister has done today is to supplement a grant that he has made out of the Exchequer to a particular kind of agriculture, wheat growing, by making a grant to the more pasturable parts of this country. I welcome this step because it is redressing an uneven balance. It has been unfair on the part of the Government hitherto to regard only the big farmer, the cereal grower, the beet grower and the feeder. The Government are doing something to redress the balance by recognising that the pastoral farmer has had a very hard life. He is very often quite a small man who farms very largely with family labour. His workers are members of his family who spend all their time on their smallholding and end up by having nothing except the right to succeed to the holding. I know several families who have worked hard, generation after generation, on their land. They have established some title to the particular farm in which they have lived. It is the duty of the Minister to recognise the claims of such people. This is the country of the pastoral farmer. We are pre-eminent in the raising of stock, but the successful raising of stock depends, very largely, interestingly enough, upon this family type of farming. From that point of view I welcome the proposals. It is only right that the small farmers should be considered, after we have for so long considered the others.

We all welcome the attempt to rid the stock of this country, particularly our dairy herds, of that terrible disease, bovine tuberculosis. I understand that there is a great deal of misconception with regard to that disease. It is sometimes stated that as high a proportion as 40 per cent. of the cattle of this country is infected with the disease which, as we know, is causing a great deal of harm, particularly among the young children of the country. It was encouraging the other day to find that inspectors of the Ministry of Health reported that certain parts of my own country, Wales, particularly some of the hill farms, clear of this disease. If that could be established for other areas, although it might take a very long time to clean up all the herds of the country, it would result in a tremendous advance in public health.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Drewe

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, in the part of his speech in which he seemed to complain that the Government were devoting too much money and attention to agriculture at the expense of other industries, and that the other industries would become jealous and would ask for more subsidy. The farmers to-day see industry prosperous in the main, as a result, they believe, of tariffs. In agriculture, we have been denied the use of a tariff and we have had to rely upon subsidies. I would much prefer to see no more direct subsidies from the taxpayers and to get assistance from a levy-subsidy, in which principle I believe. We could then be upon equal terms with those who are enjoying a State tariff.

I welcome the proposals which the Government have brought forward to-day, particularly those for bringing back the fertility of the soil and attacking diseases in our herds. I think there is general agreement upon the necessity of these measures. During the last few months I have come across several cases of obscure disease in cattle, a sort of wasting disease, which, in several instances, resulted in death. It was diagnosed by the vets as lack of calcium in their systems. That proves that lime is urgently needed. Not only is the herbage of our soil becoming deficient in lime, but that deficiency is causing a deficiency of calcium in our cattle. I want to see every farmer take the fullest advantage of the proposals of the Government for increasing the fertility of the soil. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir R. Dorman-Smith) referred to this matter, and I agree with him that many farmers find themselves in very serious financial difficulties. It is the wish of the Minister of Agriculture that those farmers should take full benefit from the proposals, but I think that raises the general question of credit, upon which I do not propose to touch to-night. I would ask the Minister to consider a special arrangement of deferred payments, or any other scheme, arising out of the lime-slag policy, so that farmers who to-day are in debt to their banks, auctioneers or corn merchants, or whoever it may be, will be put into a position to reap the benefit of these proposals for increasing the fertility of the soil.

I do not want to ask for any general extension to other manures than lime and basic slag, but there are a few special cases which I should like to have considered on their merits. In my constituency there is an area of land about 800 feet above the sea level, which, up to a few years ago was completely and absolutely derelict. It had gone back to heather, bracken, brambles, and so on. A portion of this area was taken up by a progressive gentleman in the neighbourhood, who reclaimed it and brought it to complete fertility, and to-day it is an amazing example of what scientific reclamation can do. On this particular area of land, it is found that basic slag is useless, and superphosphate has to be used in order to get results and maintain fertility. I want to ask whether, in cases of this sort, my right hon. Friend would be prepared to extend the benefit of his proposals to other manures where he got, say, a certificate from the county agricultural organiser or some other reliable person showing that, in a particular, specific, limited area, some other manure could be used that would be of more lasting benefit than basic slag. I do not want for a moment to ask for any general extension, because I know the reasons for limiting the proposal to lime and bask slag, but where there are special cases I should like those cases to be considered on their merits.

Another point to which I should like to refer is one which arises out of the drainage proposals. It arises partly out of what the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said. He was referring to the North of England and Scotland, but in Devonshire also we have no serious problem of arterial drainage. I do not believe that any substantial arterial drainage is required in our county; all the water that comes, or could come, from our fields, can easily find its way unimpeded to the sea. But at the same time we have a great number of fields that urgently require drainage, and it seems to me that it would be complete waste if this public money were used in liming and slagging land that is continually wet. Indeed, my right hon. Friend, in his speech at the beginning of the Debate, said that you cannot grow crops on waterlogged land. That was when he was referring to his policy of going step by step with arterial drainage and so on. I quite agree that we cannot grow crops on waterlogged land, and there are a good many areas in this country, besides those referred to by the hon. Member for North Cumberland, where the land is urgently in need of field drainage. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he could not keep his hands free, and make arrangements for a responsible officer of his Department, or make use of the county agricultural department or something of that sort, to certify certain areas where, while no arterial drainage is required, there is urgent need for field drainage. If that question could be considered with an open mind, I should be extremely grateful. I believe that, if in that way we could get a move on with field drainage, we should be able to bring much more land into profitable use in the future.

I hope, also, that the Ministry of Agriculture will take this opportunity, in conjunction with their fertility programme, to bring up to date and revise the leaflets that they send out, and that they will take some steps to make those leaflets, and the results of scientific research, more readily available to the farmers themselves. Farmers are not very good letter writers, and are not very keen on writing to the Ministry of Agriculture for a leaflet on lime, basic slag, or whatever it may be. I suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture might perhaps have a stall at some of our principal markets, where these leaflets, and the results of the latest scientific research, could be made available to farmers, so that they could get the latest possible information. I know that farmers are very keen to do everything they can to increase the fertility of their land, and I think that if, in conjunction with these proposals, the very valuable information which the Ministry has at its disposal could be made more available to the farmers themselves, it would be a great help.

8.22 p.m.

Mr. Lansbury

I have listened to very many Debates on agriculture, and to many requests that the spokesmen of the Government should put forward a long-range policy. I rise, first, to say that the whole of these proposals, which are brought forward one after another, as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said at the beginning, do not touch the problem of agriculture at all. I should like to say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that, if this were a Socialist State, and if industry generally and agriculture—the foundation industry of the land—had to be subsidised, either by tariffs or by direct subsidies, in the fashion in which industry and agriculture are being subsidised to-day, I do not think that Members on the benches opposite would sit quiet without pointing out the futility of a system which landed us in the position in which we find ourselves.

The Government, and most people who talk about agriculture, continually talk about higher prices for the primary producers, and at the same time they ask for greater consumption of the goods produced, especially agricultural products. I wish to point out that you would have a very great market indeed for agricultural produce if the labourers who do the work on the land were paid proper wages to enable them to buy back the foodstuffs they produce. That is a part, and a very big part, of the problem, but very few of the speakers to-night have paid much attention to it. That is where a reform, or revolution, if you like, in regard to agriculture ought to start. The people who help to produce good butter ought, with their children, to eat it; those who help to produce good milk ought, with their children, to drink it; and so also with meat, and fruit, and everything that comes out of the land. As regards the exchange of goods with the townsman, one of my hon. Friends said that we could not use every acre of land, because we could not use the produce that would come from that land. I want to say that my constituency would get rid of a very considerable proportion of what could be grown on vacant land in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. Here again we are faced with exactly the same problem, namely, that we have not what the economists call an efficient demand; and we have not that efficient demand because people are not paid sufficient wages, and are not employed regularly enough, to enable them to buy the goods. Until those facts are faced—and they are not new facts—every discussion in this House on unemployment, on agriculture, or on industry generally, brings us right back to that problem.

You will not get this problem in proper perspective unless you think of it also from an international point of view. Why do we subsidise beef? Only because under present conditions the Argentine cannot pay their debts to the lending class in this country unless we take their beef. That is self-evident to any one who thinks about it. The same is true with regard to the Dominions. You cannot get payment of the debts that are due to you unless you have these imports from abroad, from our Dominions, from South America or elsewhere. Almost up to the date of the War the coming backwards and forwards of goods and the return for services, the invisible exports as they are called, enabled this country, or certain portions of the community, to have a standard of life such as, I suppose, never existed before in the world, but, even with that, ever since I have known this House we have always been told that agriculture, which ought to be the standing industry of the country, was going from bad to worse, and that was brought about because it paid better to lend the surplus money that came from industry abroad than to put it into agriculture and often into home industry. The return was larger and, up to a certain point, it was thought safer. But, when we come to ask ourselves how Great Britain paid for the War and various other things, they have been paid for sometimes by the service of our own people and the exploitation of others abroad and by turning our whole attention to the kind of industries that would produce sales, or by performing services, carrying goods in ships, and insurance and money-lending generally.

To-day we are up against a new situation altogether. The markets are less and the money that many people have paid us in days gone by, and would have re-borrowed, has been left in the banks and has not been used because those countries which were customers and which paid us huge sums yearly do not now want to borrow. One quite simple reason is that they are now very largely carrying on the same kind of industry as ourselves, and our customers in Japan and in parts of India and also in the Dominions have become our competitors. Everywhere in the world this sort of difficulty is being experienced and, when I hear Members ask for a long-range policy, I cannot help thinking that we shall never get it until the whole question of agriculture and the exchange of goods between nations is taken in hand and dealt with internationally. I said on Friday that it was an amazing thing that in South-East and Eastern Europe Governments are faced with the problem of how their people are to live. They have land and industrial resources, just like us, and in the end they are in much the same position. That is because the world has been organised, just as our agriculture and our industries are organised, on a competitive basis, which has landed us and the world where we are to-day. Here we are—it can be matched everywhere in the world—with a population as hard working, as thrifty and as willing to give to the common service as any people who ever lived on this island, and yet one has to sit here and listen to the story that we have listened to to-night, and we are so bankrupt of ideas as to how to deal with it that we are talking once more about providing lime and slag, which we are told was used hundreds of years ago on the land and has not been used since, and we are going back to the dark ages to know how to bring the land back to fertility.

It is time that the younger men in this House took a hand in this business. I said in 1931 that the problems that the world had to face were problems which the younger generation ought to think out and make up their mind how to deal with. If we merely nationalised the land and nationalised agriculture, we should riot get very far unless we dealt with all the other questions that I have hinted at, because in the end agriculture and industry generally are indivsible. They are part of the human life everywhere, and this generation ought to be facing up to the fact that we are living at a period unparalleled in the history of the world. When I go down, as I sometimes do, to Essex, which is very largely an agricultural county, in spite of the surge up from London, and when I see the hay, which used to be gathered in by men, women and children, gathered, tossed and piled in one operation by one man and a machine, I ask, Why should there be anywhere in the world poverty, misery and want? Why should we be arguing with one another as we are?

The younger men here have been heard on many occasions putting forward what at one time would have been considered by those sitting on those benches revolutionary ideas about industry and so on. Why should we not face up to the fact that we are living really in a new world when science and invention have scrapped all our old ideas, whether we like it or not, and realise that an entirely new approach to all these questions must be made? I know that it would be out of order to pursue this matter, and I will not do so, but they ought to discuss these questions in relation to the same problems in every other country in the world. It was amazing to travel through America and to find poverty in a great, marvellously rich country, but it is equally difficult to realise that in England, Scotland and Wales there should be poverty. It sometimes makes me almost despair of humanity when I think of these things, and although my hon. Friends and I are only going to vote against a portion of this proposition, I think the time is long overdue when all of us here should unite to face the economic problem of our time.

That economic problem is not one of how to produce. Everything that is said here to-night about production is subsidiary. The power to produce is greater and mightier than ever before. It used to be said that a man who could make two blades of grass grow where one grew before was a great benefactor of mankind. Why, to-day you can make a thousand ears of corn grow where only one grew before. You can grow fruit, and produce everything that man needs in superabundance, and yet we are talking as though that was a crime, and was something that should make us despair. I only got up to say these things because one cannot sit here without those thoughts surging through one's mind. This country led the way in the industrial revolution, and our people have probably done more than any other people to bring about the conditions that we see to-day which, if properly used, can give to mankind a better life. Let us start here and see that we do it in our own country first.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. Turton

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), in a very wise and sincere speech, has given us advice about agriculture, and with many of his major premises I for one will not quarrel at all, but I do not think that the policy of the Socialist party to-day, either earlier or later, has been carrying out the wise views of the right hon. Gentleman. We on these benches dislike to see poverty in the midst of plenty whether it is in an industry or in an individual, and it is because the agricultural industry, from the farmer down to the farm labourer, has been suffering from poverty in the midst of a better condition in other industries that this Resolution has been introduced. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would do all that he could to ensure farm labourers having an adequate wage, and yet in a very short time we are to divide against the proposal to give a guarantee of 24s. a quarter for oats.

I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling {Mr. Johnston) in his place, and I would ask him how are the farm servants in that part of the British Isles to be given a proper wage? How is the Agricultural Wages Regulation Act for Scotland to be carried out if there is not some sort of guarantee that the man who puts oats into the ground is going to be able to pay wages to the men he employs? I regret very much that the Socialist party have taken this opportunity to make oat growing and barley growing insecure by their attitude in this House. They are the same party who earlier decided that the poultry man should go to the wall. It would be out of Order to deal with that to-night and I do not wish to do so, notwithstanding the intervention of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who so forgot his statistics as to declare that the imports of eggs have not increased during the last five years. If the hon. Member will kindly look up the Trade and Navigation Accounts, he will find that he misled the Committee—I am sure by inadvertence—to this extent, that the imports of eggs from abroad have increased from 2,300,000,000 in 1932 regularly up to just a few eggs short of 3,000,000,000 last year. However that is a side issue which I do not want to carry on to-night.

Mr. W. Roberts

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether during that same period the proportion of home-produced eggs has not also increased? The statement I made was that the proportion of home-produced eggs had increased.

Mr. Turton

It is quite true that the hon. Gentleman, in a very liberal manner had two horns to his dilemma. He first of all said that we had produced more eggs—and that is perfectly true—and at the same time that the foreign imports had not increased.

Mr. Roberts

I did not say that.

Mr. Turton

The hon. Member challenges me and, if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning, I hope that he will correct the impression that he made on the Committee. The policy in this Financial Resolution is a logical consequence of the Livestock Bill by which the Government are endeavouring to make livestock a paying proposition and to encourage the breeding of livestock in this country. This should mean that there will be more cattle kept, and if more cattle are kept, then this policy must be justified. If we do not have more cattle, then I fear that the policy for the fertility of the land will fail. I want the Committee to realise the implication of the lime and basic slag policy. If you put lime on the land you have to follow it with manure, and if you do not do that you will not increase the fertility of the land. Similarly, it is the case with basic slag. If you put basic slag on your grassland you will get that much increase of grass, but if you do not have the stuff to put on it you will be doing not good but harm to your grassland.

I hope that the result of the Government's earlier Livestock Bill will be such an increase in livestock that the policy as announced in this Resolution can be carried out. I and my constituents welcome it, and those who are good farmers throughout England are anxious to see that their land is improved. It is a religion to farmers. They do not look at their balance sheets, as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) pointed out. Some of the farmers do not keep balance sheets—I keep a balance sheet but in that I am different from some farmers—but farmers all over the country know how their land should be treated and they treat their land well whenever they are allowed to do so by the Government in power, and whenever the prices are sufficient to enable them to do so. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the Socialists to laugh. We had a great confession tonight from the Socialist side. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) explained that Lord Addison was anxious to give a guaranteed price for barley, and I expect for oats, but he was prevented through disunity in the Socialist party. [Laughter.] Again, hon. Members laugh. If they will read the OFFICIAL, REPORT to-morrow they will read of that confession. Perhaps they forget the tangled history of 1929–31. If they look at what the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean said they will find that he said the plan had been worked out for a guaranteed price for barley and oats, but Lord Addison was prevented from bringing it about because some of his colleagues differed. When the Government bring down the same policy of a guaranteed price for oats and barley, we find the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean leading the Opposition into the Lobby to try and prevent the House from giving that subsidy.

I want to make one criticism of the subsidy for oats and barley, and that is that the subsidy has a limitation to an acreage of one-tenth more than the acreage of 1927. This year the acreage will not be as much as it otherwise would have been because it has been a most difficult year for working the land. For that reason, whatever the figures may be, although it is far too early yet to know what the exact acreage will be for oats and barley, we know that this year it will not be very big. We are allowed only to grow one-tenth more in acreage, and we know that the acreage under oats and barley has fallen tremendously in the last few years.

Mr. T. Williams

The hon. Member is surely aware that there is nothing to prevent them from producing as much oats and barley as they like?

Mr. Turton

That is true, but from the practical point of view we must have money to produce it. The hon. Member for Don Valley, would not like to work without wages. We have had a rise of 50 per cent. in our salaries. Would he deny the agricultural labourers a rise? Under paragraph 2 of the Resolution, it is provided that the subsidy on the guaranteed price shall be only on that acreage which has not exceeded by more than one-tenth the acreage of such land in 1937. I have not the figures for 1937, and the Minister has not the figures, but I have the figures for 1936, and they show a very large drop for oats and barley over previous years. If we want to get back no further than the pre-war years, we shall have to increase our oat acreage by 42 per cent. and our barley acreage by 75 per cent. The Minister said that he did not want an increase in the oat acreage at the present time, because we are already supplying 93 per cent. of our demand, but if we are going to increase our livestock it is essential that we should grow more foodstuffs in this country and that there should be a greater acreage under oats. With regard to barley, we are importing between 40 and 50 per cent. of our requirements from abroad. Why should we not grow that barley here?

Mr. J. J. Davidson

The landlords will not let you.

Mr. Turton

I have not found that restriction upon the cropping of land with barley. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. J. Davidson), whose knowledge of agricultural law is greater than mine, suggests that the landlords are preventing it. I know of no such prevention. The only prevention that I know of is the fact that when farmers have produced barley and the farm labourers have helped them to produce it, they have been getting only 24s. to 30s. a quarter for the barley, and you cannot grow it at that price.

Mr. Davidson

Is the hon. Member aware that in Scotland there are more than 3,000,000 acres of land, which could be used for productive purposes, in the hands of private landowners, who keep it for sporting purposes? Those landlords refuse to let that land be used for agricultural purposes. In my intervention I was suggesting that the hon. Member's party should take steps to see that the landlords do not prevent cultivation.

Mr. Turton

The hon. Member is going to vote against the very policy he believes in. I am anxious to get more land under agriculture, but he is going to vote against a guaranteed price for barley and oats. The reason why land in Scotland—Scotland is a foreign country to me, for I have very seldom been there, except in a caravan—is not under agriculture is because barley and oats are at an uneconomic price. We are trying to get a guaranteed price for barley and oats, and the Socialist party have declared that they are going to oppose that policy. Now, I should like to get back to my com- ments on the limitation of acreage. The hon. Member for Maryhill has given an added argument why this limitation should be taken off. I say in all seriousness that there is no reason why there should be a limitation of acreage under barley. The acreage of barley has dropped from a pre-War total of 1,500,000 to 811,000 acres last year. What we need to do is to encourage the farmers to bring more land into cultivation under barley, as in pre-War years.

I agree whole-heartedly with what the hon. Member for North Cumberland said about drainage. It is unreasonable that Scotland and the depressed areas should have a subsidy for tile drainage and that the average farmer should have no such subsidy. You cannot use lime on land that is ill-drained. Tile drainage is a fundamental part of the fertility of the soil, and whilst we welcome the grant of 33⅓ per cent. for arterial drainage, we regret that there has been no assistance given for tile drainage. Where land has been in the occupation of landlords there has been some tile drainage done in the last few years, but where farmers bought their land in the boom period after the War they cannot possibly, in the present state of agricultural prices, afford to drain their fields by tiles, and it is, I am afraid, that land which has gone back largely in the last few years. I hope the Government will reconsider their policy in regard to this omission and that they will enable tile drainage to be done, for which purpose a grant was given by the Socialist Government. Many landlords benefited by the one advanced policy of the Socialist Government when they gave a large grant for moor gripping and also for field drainage. It was a very good policy and it was the one policy where the Government might follow the Socialist Government. The Socialist Government were the real friends of the landlords in this matter of drainage.

Mr. James Griffiths

Why then did they turn us out?

Mr. Turton

Because in every other branch of their policy the Labour party were singularly inept. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the wisdom of his proposals. He is starting at the fundamentals of agriculture, and the matters to which I have referred as well as the assistance he proposes to give towards eradicat- ing diseases in cattle and poultry, will in my opinion build a far happier and far more prosperous agriculture in this land.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has said that tenant farmers bought their farms at a boom period, but I suppose he will not put that down to the Socialist party. He will know that the Corn Production Act was passed in order to give a guarantee to the farmers for a certain period of time, and then the Coalition Government repealed that Act and left in the bankruptcy court many tenant farmers who had bought their land at high prices. That cannot be put on to the backs of the Labour party.

Mr. Turton

I was praising the Labour party, not blaming them for giving large grants to agricultural landlords for draining land.

Mr. Smith

It is very nice to hear the hon. Member praising the Labour party, and we are to understand from his remarks that all that has gone wrong from 1931 has not been due to the Labour Government. We were not responsible for tenant farmers buying their farms at enhanced prices. The hon. Member said that Labour Members were going to vote against this subsidy to the growers of barley and oats. He is quite right; and I will tell him why. If there is one thing upon which hon. Members opposite are united it is that agriculture is in a bad way. I have never heard an hon. Member opposite say that agriculture is prosperous, and some of us are becoming suspicious of this constant plea of poverty. No evidence is ever produced. We are always told that agriculture is in a bad way. Before the War they got part of their rates paid, and after the War all their rates were paid. I admit that many farmers have had a bad time, but we are a little suspicious that agriculture is not in such a bad condition as hon. Members opposite would make out. Each month there is a list of wills published, and we notice amongst them some huge sums left by farmers. It may be that they did not make their money on the farms; they may have made it in industry, and then went on to the farm to lose it.

If this House is constantly to vote subsidies to agriculture, there should be some guarantee that the agricultural worker will get a decent wage. The policy of subsidies has certainly enabled farmers to pay landlords their rent and banks their overdraft; and it has certainly, for another thing, bought the countryside for Toryism. Hon. Members opposite seem to be proud of that. I remember a Debate in this House on the Unemployment Insurance Act when hon. Members opposite charged us with trying to get something from the Exchequer for our own constituents. Time and time again hon. Members opposite have voted for subsidies, knowing that they would themselves receive a part of it. There should be a guarantee that the farm worker is paid a decent wage. Hon Members opposite, when they talk about what the Government have done for agriculture, cannot deny the fact that in 1931 and 1932 the National Government discharged six wage inspectors.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown

Wages have gone up.

Mr. Smith

They went down in 1932.

Brigadier-General Brown

They are higher now than when the Labour Government was in office.

Mr. Smith

That is not so. I happen to have the comparative wages between 1929 and 1937. and there are still some at 30s. and just over.

Brigadier-General Brown

The average minimum wage is 32s. 6d.

Mr. Smith

The hon. and gallant Member is not right even in his average; it is a shade more than that.

Brigadier-General Brown

I know what I have to pay myself, and it is a good deal higher than I had to pay a few years ago.

Mr. Smith

The hon. and gallant Member knows what he has to pay. As a matter of fact, agricultural wages are not at their 1929 level yet.

Captain Heilgers

The hon. Member may be quite right, although I do not think he is, but may I quote what has happened in my own county? Under a Socialist Government wages fell from 30s. to 28s., and under the National Government they have gone up from 28s. to 32s. 6d.

Mr. Smith

There have been two Labour Governments, one in 1924 and one in 1929. Will the hon. and gallant Member deny that in 1923 agricultural wages had fallen so low and the conciliation committees had so broken down that Mr. Noel Buxton, as he then was, had to admit that wages of less than£1 per week were being paid? That was the reason why the Labour Government of 1924 brought in the Agricultural Wages Bill.

Captain Heilgers

Will the hon. Member deny that the wages of agricultural workers in this country to-day are higher than at any period except the period immediately after the War?

Mr. Smith

If we take the pre-war figures the wages which were paid in agriculture were an absolute scandal. The wages paid in agriculture to-day are higher, not because of what the National Government have done, but because the agricultural worker has been wise enough to organise in his own trade union.

Captain Heilgers

I did not refer to the pre-war period, and I entirely agree that wages were a perfect scandal. I was referring to the post-war period, and I say that wages to-day are higher than at any time since the immediate post-war period of 1919–20.

Mr. Smith

I am not going to quibble on decimal points. The fact is that agricultural wages are too low, and I repeat that the increase in some counties is traceable to the fact that agricultural representatives on the wages committee have put up a fight and secured an advance in wages, in many cases in spite of the opposition of the farmers' representatives. That cannot be denied.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Has the hon. Member ever heard any hon. Member on this side say that agricultural wages are too high? Will he not admit that the reason agricultural wages are at the present standard is that the Act itself says that the wages shall be what the industry can pay, and this is settled by the independent chairman on those grounds?

Mr. Smith

I know what is in the Act, but the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there is a good deal of mystery as to where agriculture actually stands. Will the hon. Member deny that? The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said that farmers do not keep balance sheets. I know some farmers, and I know that they are jolly good business men.

Mr. Turton

I said that some farmers do not keep balance sheets. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said that all farmers have more regard for their balance sheets, and I pointed out that that cannot be so in the case of some farmers, who have none.

Mr. Smith

The average farmer is not as dull as some people may imagine. He is a smart business man. Let that be said to his credit. Through the National Farmers' Union, the farmers have done very well for themselves. There is one aspect of the wages question which hon. Members will have to tackle sooner or later. It is the constant decline in the number of men employed in agriculture. In a letter in the "Times" on Monday last, it was suggested that men are leaving the land in order to work for local authorities. One cannot blame them for doing so if they can get more money by working for local authorities or by working in industries in the towns. The suggestion was made in the letter that local authorities should hold back some of their work at certain times of the year so as to force back on to the land the agricultural workers who have left it. In other words, the suggestion is that bigger wages should be withheld from the men so as to compel them through poverty to take a low wage. Is that the attitude of hon. Members opposite?

Hon. Members


Mr. Turton

We want guaranteed prices.

Mr. Smith

I do not object to farmers getting decent prices; I believe they have a right to decent prices for their commodities; but I differ from hon. Members opposite as to the way in which that can be brought about. Sooner or later the agricultural worker will have to be treated much better than he is treated now, otherwise still more men will leave the land. The agricultural worker is in a worse position than the town worker from every point of view—he has lower wages, rotten housing accommodation, tied cottages, and he is even in a worse position as regards unemployment insurance. Hon. Members on this side maintain that if subsidies are continually to be voted to agriculture, then accompanying the subsidies there must be a guarantee that the agricultural workers will get decent wages. That is the reason we shall vote against paragraphs (2) and (3) when we have the opportunity.

9.8 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I think that on the whole the Committee is in agreement with the Minister in the proposals which he has brought forward. Hon. Members opposite have been slightly sarcastic, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) treated us to a very interesting dissertation, which was a mixture of Karl Marx and John Stewart Mill; but no alternative proposals have been put before us. In Lincolnshire we are very satisfied with proposals concerning liming, becausing for many years we have been suffering from a shortage of lime. The right hon. Gentleman is the first Minister of Agriculture who has given any encouragement to the farming industry with regard to manuring, and I would like to congratulate him on it. Lincolnshire is a very difficult county from the point of view of draining, and it has not had much benefit from the subsidies to the catchment boards; but the latest subsidy for draining will be of great use in some of the more low-lying parts. I do not think the Committee has been very much impressed by the arguments that have been made by hon. Members opposite. It is the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley which chiefly interests me. All hon. Members naturally respect the right hon. Gentleman for his great experience in the House, and I hoped at one time that we were going to have from him a contribution on the subject of agriculture; but he started by sneering at the policy of tariffs and subsidies and asked what would have happened if a Socialist Government had proposed such things as tariffs. But every country which has tried Socialism has always had tariffs, and I do not quite see what the right hon. Gentleman means.

Mr. Lansbury

Evidently I did not make myself clear. What I said was that if a Socialist Government had come forward year after year acknowledging that agriculture, the primary industry of the country, was in the parlous condition which we have heard all through this Parliament and other Parliaments, hon. Members opposite would have said that that was the fault of Socialism. I say that it is the fault of capitalism.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Very likely both would be wrong.

Mr. Lansbury

But I am right.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

In every country, even in such a Socialist paradise as Russia, or in the aftermath of a Socialist paradise, such as Germany and Italy, agriculture has been the Cinderella of industries, and has had to be supported by the remainder of the industries of the country. It is of no use hon. Members opposite, talking as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley did, in an. extraordinary Karl Marxian fashion; the reality is that the other industries support agriculture. Perhaps I may remind the right hon. Gentleman of the story of a young lady who went to a fishmonger's shop in his constituency and when the fishmonger said, "What can I do for you?" replied, "It is not what you can do for me; I want a diamond tiara and a seat for the Coronation, but my mother wants a halfpenny haddock." It is the practical side of things that we look at on this side of the House.

Mr. Montague

The hon. and gallant Member said that other industries ought to be called upon to support agriculture? Does he know that 16s. out of every pound of the agricultural wages bill is paid out of subsidies, and that if one takes derating into account more than the whole of the agricultural wages bill is paid by the State?

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I am very glad that the hon. Member is at last studying agriculture. What I said was that in every country in the world other industries, not ought to support agriculture, but what is much more important, do support agriculture, because they have to do so. That is not the fault of either Capitalism or Socialism—it is the fact. Possibly the explanation is that agriculture is the oldest industry in the world. The other industries have all arisen later and far bigger profits are being made by them. Hon. Members opposite have talked about subsidising wages in the agricultural industry but in that respect do the farmers differ very much horn miners or mine-owners, and from those concerned in many other industries?

Mr. Batey

The hon. and gallant Member should withdraw the reference to the miners. The miners have never got anything on their wages.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I think the mining industry is doing very much better than agriculture. It is a highly organised and important industry, but the mining industry and the other industries did not attain the present position without attending to the smaller details and I think we have been remiss in this country, on all sides, in not attending to the comparatively small things in the agricultural industry. I am glad to see that the Minister of Agriculture is now by this Resolution recognising the importance of these smaller things in the industry. One thing for which I am thankful is that, at last we have got rid of the myth that this is the long-term policy of the Government. This is one instalment, but I believe it to be no more than an instalment which this Government and succeeding Governments, will have to make from time to time in order to enable agriculture to keep pace with industry generally.

There is one aspect of this question which has hardly been mentioned so far and that is the question of mechanisation. Mechanisation in agriculture is only in its infancy, but when it develops it will have the effect which it has had elsewhere. It will mean that less labour will be required on the land, and possibly one of the reasons why men are leaving the land is that there is less work for them to do on that account. On the other hand I agree with much that has been said concerning the low wages in agriculture, but I do not think that even hon. Members opposite, despite all the charges which they make about low wages in agriculture, really believe that in present circumstances the industry could afford to pay any higher wages. I do not think that would be possible even in a Socialist State. If they will agree with me as far as that I am sure hon. Members would also agree, that no matter what party or what Government may be in power, we will have to combine and work together for agriculture. You cannot solve the agricultural problem in one year or in 10 years. It is an industry which needs a very long time. I should like in conclusion to congratulate the Minister once more upon these proposals.

9.20 p.m.

Sir F. Acland

This has been a very interesting Debate. We have heard on this side an expression of the general feeling that parts of the Government's scheme are excellent, while from the other side the speeches have, for the most part, expressed the view that all the scheme is good but that hon. Members opposite would have been glad of more. That is common form, but I think the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Maxwell) went rather far in that direction. He told us of the extraordinarily heavy crops of barley which were grown in that part of the country. We know that some of the leading brewers go there for their malting barley, but although, obviously it pays the growers there, as things are, taking it year in and year out, to grow barley yet it appeared from the hon. Member that they were aggrieved because there were not some pickings for them out of this scheme, to give them still more on what must already be a paying crop. Another speech in which I was interested was that of the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir R. Dorman-Smith) who, as we are all glad to know, remains President of the National Farmers' Union. He took up a point which I made some time ago—not of course because I had made it, but of his own accord—namely that it was extraordinarily difficult to get farmers to take advantage of these new offers, unless you were able to do something with regard to their present indebtedness and freeing them from existing obligations. He asked that some special inquiry should be made into that matter. I suggested that a little while ago, and I repeat the suggestion now. I believe this to be one of the primary elements of our difficulty indeed one of the foundations of our difficulty.

With regard to milk, we are tending to pile up the amount of milk which has to go to the factories. I hope we shall see other branches of agriculture paying as well as or better than milk. Milk does not pay always, but people have to stick to it because milk is, comparatively speaking, a cash trade and people require the cash in order to pay the interest on their loans. Therefore they are not able to switch over to other branches of agricul- ture which might do better for them and tend to restore a true balance in the agricultural industry. I am very pleased to have heard that point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield, who carries such weight or ought to carry such weight in this Committee.

On the question of lime and slag I want to make only one point. There are parts of the country—I am glad to say rather small parts—where although lime is much required it is very difficult to get. I refer to those parts where the aqueous rocks disappear and you get the igneous rocks, as in Cornwall. There, in many districts, you may have to send 40 or 50 miles, or even further, to the nearest lime kiln or quarry. This point has been raised by the Farmers' Union, and I am bound to put it here to-night because my colleagues who represent Cornwall have not been, present during this Debate. They are all doing their best on the eve of the poll, in the by-election, in that county. I myself was asked to go there to counteract their influence, but I thought it was a more important duty to attend here and to support the agricultural policy of the Minister of Agriculture.

The point is that nature has provided lime for people in those parts of the country to which I refer, not in the ordinary way from quarries or works, but from sea sand. All round the Cornish coast there is sea sand containing lime, some of it to the extent of 80 per cent. or more. The people there know the analysis of the sea sand and they get their lime in the form of sand from the beaches. The question is, can they establish a system as water-tight as that which the Minister proposes so as to be sure that the people who collect and deliver the sand will no more put up the prices than the people who are to supply slag and lime under the Minister's scheme. Will they be able to get half the the expense of providing themselves with this sand containing lime, in the same way as farmers more favourably situated, in regard to lime supplies, in other parts of the country? There is another small point I want to ask about that. The Minister said that he had drawn his definition of those entitled to this subsidy as wide as he could. Am I right in assuming that the two-ton lots would apply to allotment societies as well as to smallholders?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in supposing that allotment holders, if they combine in taking a two-ton lot, will receive the benefit of this.

Sir F. Acland

I thank the Minister very much. That will be a considerable help. I think that I can say, in regard to the organisation of which I am President, that they will not be advised to get lime unless it is necessary and desirable that they should. With regard to oats and barley, f see on the one side the danger of piling up subsidies. I have always felt that, however desirable that might be for the agriculturist, those subsidies might be felt to be very heavy and that the ordinary consumer—the ordinary working man and the ordinary member of the unemployed for instance —might feel that although in one way or another he was paying his share he was not getting much back in the way of a better service in regard to his food supplies. But unless you are able to go fairly wide you are liable to unbalance agriculture, and once it is unbalanced—as I think it is now to some extent with regard to milk—it is extraordinarily difficult to bring it back.

From that point of view, if you want to have a balanced system, there has to be a certain balance between grass and crops and between crops like wheat and crops like oats. I see the connection between what the Minister is trying to do for grass and what he is trying to do for oats and barley. As he so rightly says, in many districts the improvement of grass crops is a matter of better management of the short leys. On the whole, on balance, because I dislike these subsidies, because I fear their general instability, in the long run, I think that there is a great deal to be said for the oats and barley proposals, and I shall support them.

With regard to drainage, under the schemes of the late Labour Government, in some districts a good deal was done; river courses were straightened out and the arterial drainage was considerably improved. It is not a picture that applies to the whole country, that nothing can be done, as the Minister said, unless you start at: the estuary and gradually work up. A great deal of that work has been done. All that we want is compulsory powers, because it is no good a man high up the stream doing something if there is a fellow down below who is doing nothing. Where that has been done, it is not so much this arterial drainage as apparently what they can have and administer easily in Scotland, the ordinary field drainage. It is not easy to see why in those districts where we have taken our chance to get our streams right we should not have a chance of getting our fields right, and I join with other hon. Members in bringing up that matter again.

With regard to the great drive which the Minister is going to make in the elimination of cattle diseases, in the long run nothing could be more important a part of his scheme than that. Maybe he has explained more fully elsewhere what he is going to do and I ought to have seen it. It is clear that he is going to make a great change in the administration of the Acts of Parliament which have hitherto come under our veterinary authorities, and I do not think that those of us who are concerned with county administration yet realise fully or clearly what it is he really intends. Will the whole-time county veterinary officers, for instance—he may be able to answer "Yes" or "No" straightaway—be taken away into a national veterinary service, and will Acts of Parliament like the Diseases of Animals Act be administered as part of a national service? I gather that the answer to that is "Yes." That is a big undertaking, and all I can say is, good luck to him, because it will be a considerable change from what we have known. Will the Milk and Dairies Act be administered in the same way? I think that probably is not so. That can be dealt with later.

My belief is that with the centralising of attention on these very important and vital matters of cattle disease we may be within sight of rather remarkable developments. As I had the pleasure of telling the Minister the other day, I believe I am acquainted with members of the medical profession who would be, with the present standard of knowledge existing, capable of preparing, not a live vaccine, which is itself dangerous, but a dead inoculum, which can be inoculated to calves at birth and will protect them from any risk of tuberculosis. If that system could be worked out and made generally applicable we could get rid of tuberculosis within one generation of cattle. We shall see how that goes. A friend of mine in the medical profession is to have the chance of trying out his discoveries in the case of foot-and-mouth disease, and no doubt, if he can establish his theories, he will begin to apply them in regard to tuberculosis as well.

This has been an interesting Debate. If we are convinced of one thing, it is that the Minister of Agriculture is very much in earnest and extremely sincere about the proposals he has made, that he explained them very clearly, and that we shall be in safe hands in following him through their complexities in the next few weeks in this House.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. T. Johnston

I rise only for a few moments to emphasise one or two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in his opening speech. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is not in his place after the very provocative speech he made. I should have liked to say one or two things to him in explanation of the reasons why many of us on these benches, being very sympathetic to agriculture, representing, as some of us do, large agricultural areas, and coming, as some of us do, from farming stock, still intend, and with a good heart, to go into the Lobby to-night against this Financial Resolution. I will explain why. It is not that we do not desire a prosperous agriculture. I go further and say, that I believe no State can survive unless the workers on the soil are prosperous, happy and contented. It is not that. Indeed, our colleagues in New Zealand, who the other day secured a majority in the New Zealand Parliament, took steps, as almost their first action, to guarantee such prices to agriculture as would give the farmers and agricultural workers a living. That is what this Government has not yet done. No Government in this country has yet gone to the length of giving a guaranteed price to the producers on the soil. It is not that we object to a prosperous agriculture—far from it. What we object to is the fundamental method adopted by the Government to bolster up finance and capitalism in agriculture. I should cheerfully vote with two hands in the House for subsidies, grants-in-aid, or anything that was required for agriculture, if I were certain that the producers on the soil would get it.

Where are these subsidies going? They will go partly to the private landlord. They may take some time to get there. In cases where there is an owner-occupier, these subsidies may not be seen until the land again changes hand. Sooner or later, however, the subsidies that are being poured in by the State to land in this country go, as long as the land is privately owned, into the pockets of private landlords. We believe that part of the subsidies will go to the financiers and will go to relieve bank overdrafts and middle-men financiers. I would cheerfully support the right hon. Gentleman if he would bring in measures to organise agricultural co-operation, aided with finance, if necessary, and to take agriculture as far away as possible from the exactions and extortions of the moneylenders.

We object to these subsidies also because they are being poured into an unregulated industry, and that no attempt is being made to organise agriculture and to see that the industry is being placed upon an economic basis. When the Minister of Agriculture, whose great felicity of speech we all commend, announced the broad terms of these proposals, I ventured to ask him in a supplementary question what he proposed to do with the increased production. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley asked it this afternoon, and I repeat the question once more. Suppose you increase the productivity of the soil, as you can, by 10, 20 or even 50 per cent., where are you going to dispose of the produce? We want to know. If you increase your poultry produce by 10 per cent., where are you going to sell it? It is an important question. Sir John Orr, the nutritionist, says that 10 per cent. of our people are so poor that they are living under the British Medical Association's minimum standard. These people are not going to buy your fresh laid eggs. I have great sympathy on nutritional grounds with proposals to stop the import of Chinese eggs, Polish eggs, or any other kind of eggs, on the ground that they are not fresh when they reach the human stomach. But what are you going to do with the increased production here? Who is going to eat it? All that will happen, unless you raise the buying power of the people, is that your increased productivity will tend further to depress prices. The bigger the glut of home produce in the market, the more rapidly the price falls, and the more rapidly the price falls, the more the agricultural class is in a morass of despondency and despair.

For these reasons we submit to the right hon. Gentleman that however technically efficient—and we do not dispute it—his proposals about liming, drainage, and so on may be, he is not attacking this problem from the fundamental end, which is that you must get the market for the produce of the soil and the market lies in the stomachs of our people. It lies in the hungry multitudes. It has been said well that science has again achieved the miracle of the loaves and fishes, but where we have failed is in our ability to distribute the loaves and the fishes once we have created them. The farmers are efficient. Do not let any of my hon. Friends be under any misunderstanding on that point. Our farming is efficient. Our farmers are as skilled as those of any other country in the world. They know their job. Our farm workers are not only skilled at one trade; they are masters of many trades, skilled, able, hard-working, conscientious men and women, living miserably from year to year on the verge of penury. They know their job, and we cannot blame them. What is wrong is that no Government in this country has ever yet declared that there shall be a minimum standard of food for all and, having got that standard laid down, seen to it that our agriculture is set the job of producing that food and distributing it.

I should like to re-emphasise a point that I made the other day on the Scottish Estimates, and I beg of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland not to fob me off to-night, as he did the other night, by telling me that part of my story had to be met in an agricultural debate, that part of my story required legislation, part finance, and all the rest of it, and then saying, "I will see you again some other time." What are you going to do about milk? Is this House any longer going to tolerate a system under which you have a great productivity of milk, so great indeed that 40 per cent. of your milk has to be diverted from the liquid milk market and turned into manufacturing processes, and under which you hand over that 40 per cent. of your liquid milk to wealthy chocolate manufacturers—to Fry's, Cadbury's, Rowntree's, to the Horlick's Malted Milk people, to cheese manufac- turers, to butter manufacturers, and, in a small way, to the makers of combs, umbrella handles, and so on?

You exported last year 12,000,000 gallons of milk in tins to Czechoslovakia. At what price? At 4d., 4½d., 5d., 5½d., and 6d. per gallon. You go to the schools where you take your children from five to 14 years of age, and you charge them 1s. per gallon, and you then go to your younger children and your mothers in the depressed areas, and you charge them 2s. per gallon. You actually, by your present policy, charge 2s. per gallon to the child of four, one year under school age, and Is. per gallon to the child of five at school. How do you justify that? It pays the farmer to supply any quantity of milk at is. per gallon to the schools. The Milk Marketing Board are delighted. The more milk they can pour into the schools, the less they require to give to the manufacturing processes.

Why cannot the Minister of Agriculture face up to it now and say that he will see to it to-morrow that this scandal stops, in the interests of public health if of nothing else? We wish that every mother of every baby who desires milk shall be able to get that milk by calling for it at any registered shop at Is. per gallon, the price at which you sell it to the schools. Why not? If you do that, you will make such an enormous change in public health as will be a revolution. The hon. Member for St. Alban's (Sir F. Fremantle), a medical man, has written a book in which he has proved that we spend £300,000,000 every year in the attempted eradication of disease. Why not let us do something to stop the necessity for that eradication of disease? When the right hon. Gentleman comes forward now and asks this Committee to vote blindly for more money for increased productivity, we do not endeavour to crab the agriculturist in getting a living. What we say is that the whole problem of agriculture, of life on the soil, of the cure of consumption, and so on must be faced from a new angle, that the production of foodstuffs must be for human use and not primarily for the making of a profit.

If we set agriculture and the Milk Marketing Board the problem of producing x y z quantity of necessary food, after an examination of what is required by the nation, they will produce it, and it will be our duty then to see that all who are engaged in the necessary processes for the production of food get an adequate remuneration for their labour and their services. I am perfectly certain that there is no one on these benches who, in circumstances like these, would hesitate for a moment to give assent to any Measure that the Government might bring forward to ensure that agriculture should get a square deal, but the mere pouring of additional subsidies into added productivity, without questioning where your markets are coming from, knowing that surely and certainly this added productivity will depress your prices and that subsidies are going to be drained into the omnivorous maw of landlordism, is a policy that we, on these benches, cannot be asked to and will not support.

9.53 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)

I think the Committee would desire that the general discussion should now draw to an end, so that we may have a little time left in which to deal with one or two of the Amendments that have been put on the Order Paper. My task in replying to the Debate is very much lighter than I expected, and I think that, in view of the very wide measure of approval with which our proposals have been received in every part of the Committee, it will not be necessary for me to speak at any great length. Of the four proposals which this Resolution contains, the only one which the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) declared his intention of opposing was that which related to cereals, and I shall return to that subject a little later. The other three proposals—that which provides for the provision of lime and slag, that which deals with land drainage, and that which deals with the centralisation of veterinary services—were accepted by the hon. Gentleman with only one or two qualifications. He said he was afraid that the price of lime might not fall as much as it ought, since the producers had done no more than guarantee that it would not be increased. He was also afraid that the producers of phosphates, who cannot receive a subsidy because most of the material comes from abroad, might suffer from the preference which is being given to other kinds of fertilisers.

In regard to lime, I think the real safeguard will be that there are so many potential new sources of production that if there is an increased demand competition will at once be stimulated. Indeed, I should have much less fear about the price of lime than about the price of basic slag the production of which is in fewer hands. In regard to phosphates we have taken note of what he said, but I do not think there is any reason to fear that our proposals will result in any diminution in their use. In New Zealand, where for some years the policy of liming has been carried out on a large scale, an increased use of phosphates has proceeded concurrently. Phosphates are suitable for use on land which has been limed, and ought not really to compete with basic slag, because the types of land on which these two fertilisers are suitable are quite different.

The hon. Member, and also the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) and the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), emphasised the necessity of increasing consumption in order that people might be able to purchase the increased produce which we desire to see. It is certainly our aim to increase the purchasing power of our people, and I think we are entitled to claim that the general policy of the Government has had that effect. In the last four years 2,000,000 persons have found work who were not in work before. The number of insured persons now earning wages has increased by 2,000,000, and that has meant an increase in our total wages bill of several hundred million pounds. At the same time a welcome rise in the level of wages has begun to take place. Last year the Ministry of Labour conducted an inquiry into the wages which were being received by something like 4,000,000 persons and found that the increases in the wages of those 4,000,000 persons alone amounted to £25,000,000 a year over the previous year. A similar inquiry has been made during the first five months of the present year, from January till May, covering about 3,000,000 wage earners, and that has revealed that in their case the further increases of wages amount to a weekly sum which is equivalent to about £19,000,000 a year. I think it is largely due to this rise in the volume of wages that there has been such an in crease in the consumption of food and particularly of home-grown food.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Has not that figure been more than offset by the increase in the cost of living?

Mr. Wedderburn

No, Sir. When I turn to the more general criticisms which have been put to me, let me first dispose of one or two particular questions. I think that most of the questions asked by the right lion. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) on the subject of veterinary surgeons will arise on two Amendments which are, I understand, to be called when we have finished this general discussion. My hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and West Aberdeen (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey) asked me three questions relating to Scotland. He asked whether grass sickness will be included among those diseases which are to he put under the supervision of the veterinary service. That is so. He asked also about sea walls. I am sorry to have to tell him that there is no provision whatever in Scotland for the construction or maintenance of sea walls by public funds. In Scotland we only have our tile drainage grants which they do not have in England. In England there are arterial drainage and catchment boards which we do not have in Scotland.

He asked one question, at rather greater length, about the calculation of the United Kingdom price of oats. He said he was afraid, and I have heard the same apprehension expressed elsewhere, that since Scottish oat prices are often slightly below those in England, the average price for the two countries may result in the Scottish farmer not receiving as much guarantee as he ought to have. My hon. Friend will have seen from the White Paper the method by which the average United Kingdom price will be calculated. He may not know the approximate acreages in each country which will qualify for subsidy. It is estimated that the oat and barley acreage in England which would have qualified for subsidy in the last few years would not have been much more than 600,000 acres, compared with over 750,000 acres in Scotland and 270,000 acres in Northern Ireland, so that in bringing about the average price the Scottish acreage will be predominant. I have some rather interesting figures for the last three years showing how the average United Kingdom price would have worked out. In 1934 the English price was 6s. 9d., the Scottish price 6s. 2d. and the Northern Ireland price 5s. 7d., the average price working out at 6s. 2d., which is precisely the same as the Scottish price. Last year the Scottish price was 7s. 1d. The average price in the United Kingdom was again exactly the same. In 1935 the Scottish price was 5s. 5d. and the average price was a little less, so Scotland would actually have gained.

Mr. Boothby

Is there not sometimes a large disparity between the price of oats in Aberdeenshire and the price in Renfrewshire?

Mr. Wedderburn

That is so, sometimes as much as one shilling difference between the prevailing prices in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, but I hardly think it would be practicable to have a system of regional prices. I do not think that could be worked. What we have done is to weight the price in such a way that the Scottish acreage will exert most influence.

The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) who spoke for the Liberal party, found himself, I thought, in some difficulty in reconciling the interests of those farming constituents whom he represents with the fiscal doctrines of the party to which he belongs. The hon. Member was at great pains to insist that the recent improvement in the price of cereals, which has considerably benefited the farming community, was not in any way due to the policy of the Government, but was to be attributed solely to world causes.

In the last eight years, since 1929, I have very often heard the phrase "world causes," on many occasions and in many different connections, and I have held the opinion for a long time that "world causes" means some very persistent and wholly impersonal factor which is responsible for all the ill-fortune which occurs when you are in office, and for all the good fortune which takes place when you are in Opposition. A rise in the price of cereals such as benefits the farmer is entirely due to world causes, but a rise in the price of poultry feeding stuffs, which has proceeded during the same period, and to very much the same extent, is entirely due to the wicked tariff policy of the Government. And yet maize is one of the commodities which has always been on the Free List. In the years to come, when hon. Members and their friends are in office and when, owing to their policy, the price of poultry feeding stuffs has fallen, I hope they will not be entirely ungrateful to us for having insured the farmer against that slump in grain prices which will take place at the same time on account of world causes.

To come back to the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley. He opposed the cereal part of the Resolution, as far as I remember now, for three reasons; one, that the oat-growing farmers did not often grow their oats other than for their own consumption; next, because he thought the barley subsidy might prove to be a subsidy to the brewers; and, more generally, because he was of the opinion that our soil was not really suitable for the growing of wheat and other cereals—he wanted us to concentrate upon the production of human food in the shape of animals, and not animal food in the shape of grain. On the first point, the whole reason why there has always been so much discontent among Scottish farmers is that for a great many of those farmers a large proportion of their oats must be a cash crop. To keep their land in proper arable rotation they cannot use more than a certain portion of their oat crop to feed their own beasts. They must sell a portion of their oats. We have taken an average of two quarters per acre, which we think is fair, but some farmers have to sell four quarters per acre, and they think that the proportion should be fixed at that figure.

In regard to barley, my answer to the hon. Member will be the same as that to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Maxwell), who wanted to know why the barley subsidy should not be given to those who grow wheat as well. There is no reason for giving a subsidy to the same farmer for two different white crops. In order to have mixed farms with a proper arable rotation, you must sell at least one white crop. If you grow wheat, you can arrange to put as much of your white crop as you must sell into wheat. Land which is capable of growing good wheat is also capable of growing good barley, which can be sold to the brewers. That barley has been selling at more than double the price in recent years of barley which has been used for feeding stuffs. It is practically impossible that the subsidy will apply to brewing barley, because the only people who will not avail themselves of the wheat subsidy are those whose fields, not being good enough for wheat, is not good enough to grow malting barley.

Finally, the hon. Member argued that we ought to go in wholly for grass. There may be some parts of the country where it is possible to keep land in grass for a very long time, but it is certainly not so in many parts of Scotland which I know, and I am sure it is not the case in a great many parts of England. We cannot keep land in grass for more than three or four years, and in some parts of the country for more than one or two years. If we want to grow more grass and use it for cattle, the land must be kept in arable cultivation, but if the land is kept in pasture for long, the grass deteriorates. A system of agriculture which consists purely of pasture and not of arable farming employs fewer people on the land, and would be less useful to us if it were necessary to grow more of our own food in time of war.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) said he did not like subsidies. He has not found very much agreement in the Committee, although many Members have qualified their approval of subsidies by saying that they hoped they were only temporary. My right hon. Friend did not like them because they might not be permanent and some other means of raising the money, such as a levy, might bring more stability. I wish he had told us how it was possible to apply a levy-subsidy, say to the oat crop, where we import only 7 per cent. of our own consumption. Whatever kind of method you adopt, no one policy is more permanent than another, because no Parliament can bind its successor. Whatever method we choose for assisting agriculture must depend upon one thing alone, and that is what the people of this country as a whole decide ought to be the position of agriculture in our national life. That will always be the determining factor.

It may be argued and indeed it used to be the dominating political theory, that it would be to the greatest general advantage if agriculture were left to the natural play of economic forces, even if land went out of cultivation or went down to grass and fewer men were employed upon the land, and that if we concentrated upon producing more manufactured goods to pay for the additional foodstuffs we should require, the aggregate amount of the national wealth would be greater. I have no doubt that it would, or, at least, that the aggregate amount of our claim to receive wealth would be greater. But if, for social reasons, or for reasons of national safety in time of war, or perhaps because we may wish to preserve that part of our national culture and tradition which is dependent on country life—or if for any reason we think it is a good thing for a nation to have roots in its own soil, and we desire to maintain or increase our present level of production, we must then give to the farmer some insurance against the uncertainties of modern commerce, which often put out agricultural life in a state of great dependence on the development of new lands abroad, or on the commercial policy of foreign Governments, or on changes of climate in some distant part of the world, or even on the operations of some group of financiers in New York, which certainly cannot be foreseen by the British farmer and cannot be controlled by the rulers of this country.

For the last 60 years arable farming in this country has only been able to continue, even at its very much reduced level of production and with a smaller number of agricultural labourers, becauseè it has been indirectly subsidised for reasons

which were other than economic reasons. It has been thus indirectly subsidised by the fact that owners of land have put capital into it for non-economic reasons, not expecting to receive any return—a method of subsidy which is very unequal and very unfair as between one piece of land and another, since it depends on the outside resources of the person who happens to be the owner; and very often those who have the longest connection with the soil are those who are least able to subsidise their own land. But the proposals of this Resolution do not consist of any unconditional subsidy. Indeed, the main part of them, which deals with cereals, will not in this year cost the taxpayer any money at all. They are not really a policy of subsidies; they are rather a policy of insurance, which will give to the cultivator some possibility of reliance, not on our dispositions to supply him with sums of money, but on his own ability to preserve the usefulness of the soil.

Mr. Price

I beg to move, to leave out lines 9 to 33.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 206; Noes, 121.

Division No. 245.] AYES. [10.18 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Colfox, Major W. P. Furness, S. N.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Colman, N. C. D. Fyfe, D. P. M.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Ganzoni, Sir J.
Albery, Sir Irving Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Goldie, N. B.
Apsley, Lord Cox, H. B. T. Gower, Sir R. V.
Aske, Sir R. W. Crooke, J. S. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Grant-Ferris, R.
Atholl, Duchess of Croom-Johnson, R. P. Granville, E. L.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Crossley, A. C. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Crowder, J. F. E. Gridley, Sir A. B.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Cruddas, Col. B. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Culverwell, C. T. Grimston, R. V.
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Davies, C. (Montgomery) Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)
Bernays, R. H. Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.
Blaker, Sir R. Dower, Major A. V. G. Hannah, I. C.
Boothby, R. J, G. Drown, C. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)
Boyce, H. Leslie Dugdale, Captain T. L. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Duncan, J. A. L, Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Eastwood, J. F. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Eckersley, P. T. Hepworth, J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Higgs, W. F.
Bull, B. B. Ellis, Sir G. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Burghley, Lord Emery, J. F. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.
Burton, Col. H. W. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Hopkinson, A.
Gartland, J. R H. Errington, E. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Carver, Major W. H. Erskine-Hill, A. G. Hudson, R. S. (Southport)
Gary, R. A. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Hunter, T.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Everard, W. L. Hurd, Sir P. A.
Channon, H. Fildes, Sir H. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Christie, J. A. Findlay, Sir E. Jones, L. (Swansea W.)
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Fleming, E. L. Keeling, E. H.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Fremantle, Sir F. E Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Pilkington, R. Spens, W. P.
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Radford, E. A. Storey, S.
Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Ramsbotham, H. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Lindsay, K. M. Ramsden, Sir E. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Rankin, Sir R. Stuart, Han. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Loftus, P. C, Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.) Sutcliffe, H.
Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Rayner, Major R, H. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Tate, Mavis C.
MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C, G. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Thomas, J. P. L.
McCorquedale, M. S. Raid, J. S. C. (Hillhead) Tree, A. R. L. F.
Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Remer, J. R. Turton, R. H.
Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Wakefield, W. W.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Ropner, Colonel L. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Row, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Rothschild, J. A. de Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Rowlands, G. Wells, S. R.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Russell, Sir Alexander Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Salmon, Sir I. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Salt, E. W. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Munro, P. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Nall, Sir J. Savery, Sir Servington Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Scott, Lord William Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Wise, A. R.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Owen, Major G. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Palmer, G. E. H. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Peat, C. U. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Perkins, W. R. D. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Major Sir George Davies and Mr.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Cross.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Muff, G.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Groves, T. E. Naylor, T. E.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, J. H. (Whiteehapel) Parker, J.
Ammon, C. G. Harris, Sir P. A. Parkinson, J. A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Harvey, T. E. (Eng, Univ's.) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Ridley, G.
Barr, J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Riley, B.
Batey, J. Holdsworth, H. Ritson, J.
Bellenger, F. J. Hollins, A. Rowson, G.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Jagger, J. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Broad, F. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bromfield, W. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Sexton, T. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) John, W. Silkin, L.
Burke, W. A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Silverman, S. S.
Cape, T. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Simpson, F. B.
Charleton, H. C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Chafer, D. Kelly, W. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cluse, W. S. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cocks, F. S. Kirby, B. V. Sorensen, R. W.
Cove, W. G. Kirkwood, D. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Daggar, G. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lathan, G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lawson, J. J. Thurtle, E.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leach, W. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. Leonard, W. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. Leslie, J. R. Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Logan, D. G. Walker, J.
Ede, J. C. Lunn, W. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McEntee, V. La T. Welsh, J. C.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McGhee, H. G. Westwood, J.
Frankel, D. McGovern, J. Wilkinson, Ellen
Gallacher, W. MacLaren, A. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gardner, B. W. Maclean, N. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gibbins, J. Marshall, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Messer, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Milner, Major J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F.
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I beg to move, in line 47, after the word "appointed," to insert "in the case of England and Wales."

The purpose of this Amendment, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends, is to retain for Scotland the general autonomy in administration which, under the Scottish Office, we now enjoy. The Amendment has for its second purpose—and this is the direct object—the preserving of the present high standard of veterinary services which we have in Scotland. It is unnecessary for me to say in this Committee that Scotsmen value very greatly their present separate administration. It took us a great many years and great effort to obtain that autonomy, and I do not think there is a Scotsman in this House, of whatever party, whether he represents a Scottish or an English seat, who would not hesitate to abolish that separate system. I do not wish to strain the point nor in any way to exaggerate, but it is scarcely too much to say that the scheme which is outlined in the Resolution before us strikes at the whole basis of separate administration in Scotland. Consider precisely what it involves. It proposes first to retain in the hands of Whitehall, that is to say under central control from London, the services now administered under the Diseases of Animals Acts, that is, services dealing with contagious diseases of a widespread and sudden character, necessitating emergency measures, diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever and so on.

A second proposal is to take over from the local authorities in Scotland, and the supervision of the Scottish Office, the various services now administered in Scotland under a series of different Measures, including the Milk and Dairies Act, the Attested Herd Scheme, the Milk (Special Designation) Order, Meat Inspection and other schemes. These services, by the admission of everyone who has any knowledge of them, are of a high standard, a much higher standard, I believe, than is to be found south of the Border. I will offer the Committee two tests in proof of that assertion. I will give first the test of the number of veterinary inspectors working under local authorities in Scotland and the number of inspections they carry out. Under the Milk and Dairies Act, 1914, the duty was laid on local authorities in Scotland to carry out at least one clinical inspection per annum of the dairies in the country. There is nothing comparable to that in the law of England. Local authorities in this country have no such duty imposed upon them. They have the power, which they may use as they desire. In that respect Scotland has shown the progress which we generally associate with it.

That is not all. In the course of years since 1914, under the continual pressure of the Scottish Office and of different Secretaries of State, the annual inspection has been multiplied by three, so that in 75 per cent. of local authority areas in Scotland there are no fewer than three inspections per annum of the cows and dairies. That is a very considerable advance in the direction that all of us desire, and I submit that it is proof of the high standard of our veterinary services. To carry out that inspection, our local authorities employ 42 full-time veterinary surgeons and 58 part-time veterinary Burgeons. I do not know what the figures are in England, but I hardly think the proportion can be anything like as high.

There is a second test that I would invite the Committee to consider as a proof of the high standard of our services in Scotland, and that is the fact that the process of the cleaning up of our herds had advanced to a very considerable extent. The scheme of the Resolution is designed to take away from Scottish authorities and the supervision of the Scottish Office the whole control of this and the other services which I have described. Therefore, it is not a small piece of work that is being transferred from Scotland to central control in Whitehall; it is a major part of our public health services.

If it is assumed that the system of separate administration for Scotland is wrong, then, of course, this scheme is logical and right, but if we are to maintain the present arrangements by which Scottish affairs are administered by a separate department, then this scheme is illogical and unjustified. I submit that it is no answer to say that disease knows no boundaries, and that emergency measures in such cases as foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever, make it necessary to have a single control to obtain lightning action. I cannot imagine that it is impossible to invent an administrative system by which instant action required in London cannot also be taken in Scotland. The telephone is there, and telegrams are available. Therefore, on the grounds of administration I contend that this legislation is wrong. My second argument in support of the Amendment is from the point of view of the services now enjoyed by Scotland. I recognise that our duty in this House is to take the broad national view, but at some moments in our daily work we are bound to consider the Scottish side, and I suggest that if this scheme is carried through, Scotland and Scottish services are going to suffer. I will try to explain why.

Mr. George Griffiths

We understand it now.

Mr. Stewart

I am not sure that the hon. Member does understand, and I hope he will do me the courtesy to hear my argument. This may be a matter of some hilarity to some hon. Members, but to Scottish Members it is a matter of great importance. I think it will be impossible—I have taken advice upon this—to bring the standard of the veterinary services in England up to that now enjoyed in Scotland within a reasonable measure of years, and for the reason that there are not the veterinary surgeons available to provide the whole country with the same intensive inspection which is enjoyed North of the Border. There are not veterinary surgeons available to bring the standard in the two countries up to the same level. What will be the effect of that? I can see only one effect and that is to draw away some of the services of the veterinary staff which we now enjoy in Scotland and, therefore, to lower our present standards. That is not for the good of our country, and as an unblushing Scotsman, proud of the services that have been built up in Scotland, I move this Amendment in the very earnest hope that my right hon. Friend—I hope he will consider that I have moved the Amendment reasonably and moderately—will meet the very natural, widespread and deeply-felt sentiments of my country, and by some slight adjustment in the administration of this scheme maintain that autonomy of Government of which we are so proud.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. James Brown

I beg to support the Amendment. I am very glad, Sir, that you have given another unblushing Scots- man the opportunity of seconding the Amendment. I do not intend to speak for more than one or two minutes. I think the case for the Amendment has been admirably put by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), and I am glad that he has put it so well, because as far as I am concerned, I hope that if the adjustment is not made, the hon. Member will press the Amendment to a Division. I am speaking as the representative of a very large agricultural constituency, and as late as six o'clock this evening I received a very long telegram begging me to support any Amendment moved with the object of preventing the services that we have in Scotland from being minimised in any way.

I have not the knowledge to say whether the services are better in England or in Scotland, but I know that we should be safer with our Department in Edinburgh, so that Scotsmen and Scots veterinary surgeons might have full opportunities and our services might not be in any way diminished. I trust that this Amendment will meet with a kindly response from the right hon. Gentleman, who is a Scotsman. He knows perfectly well that what I am saying is absolutely true. Too many things have gone to London from Edinburgh, and we wish to retain this one at least. I trust the Minister will give us the assurance for which we ask by accepting the Amendment.

10.43 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

On several occasions it has been stated that the policy of His Majesty's Government is more and more to apply a policy of devolution in regard to Scotland and Wales, but in this case we have the reverse process, and it is being operated at a time when the people of Scotland are increasingly feeling that matters particularly affecting them should be discussed more in Edinburgh under our own administration, rather than here at the national centre. If the Amendment is taken to a Division and only the Scots Members vote, it will be carried by an overwhelming majority. The difficulty we are in is that we are always up against masses of Sassenachs.

I ask that the Amendment should be taken to a Division and that English and Welsh Members on the other side should refrain from voting. I am willing to consent, if other Scots Members will agree, to English and Welsh Members on this side voting, but I emphasise the fact that if only Scots Members voted, the Amendment would be carried. Therefore, I ask the Minister to make a concession. If he does not do so, we will see to it, whether the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) wants it or not, that the Amendment is taken to a Division. Surely, after the speech which the hon. Member has made, he will not dare to rise and say that he wishes to withdraw the Amendment. We do not want anything of that sort. Either the concession is made or the Amendment will be taken to a Division, and if the Scots Members find that they are to be defeated every time, there is going to be trouble some time.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Wedderburn

I am sure my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown) and the hon. Gentleman for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will not suppose that the considerations which they have so reasonably advanced did not occur to us before these proposals were framed, or that we had not already given long and careful consideration to the arguments which they have now put forward. My hon. Friend supported his Amendment by two arguments. First he expressed the fear that the admittedly high standard of administration in regard to tuberculosis in Scotland might be reduced as a result of this proposal. Secondly, he thought that it might derogate from the independence of the Scottish services an independence which most of us, whether we are Sassenachs or not, would agree is generally desirable.

On his first point, it is true that the Milk and Dairies Act began to be applied in Scotland in 1925, whereas in England no similar steps were taken until the passing of the Milk Act in 1934. Therefore, for 12 years we have now had a very efficient service in Scotland for the eradication of tuberculosis which has resulted in there being more attested herds and a smaller proportion of tubercular-affected cows in non-attested herds, in Scotland than in England. There is not, I think, the slightest reason why the efficiency of that service should be in any way affected by this centralisation. On the contrary, I think that backward areas are more likely to be brought up to the standard of the more progressive authorities in Scotland than they would otherwise be. My right hon. Friend the Minister is very much alive to the administrative advantages of securing the closest possible connection between the Scottish veterinary service and Scottish opinion, and in order to secure this, he is prepared to consider the appointment of a separate permanent officer in Edinburgh to keep in touch with the Scottish officers. I can also give my hon. Friend the assurance that there will certainly be no reduction in the number of inspections yearly, but that on the contrary there will probably be an increased number of inspections in the minority of counties.

In regard to my hon. Friend's second argument, he is not quite accurate in representing this as a serious change. It is not nearly such a revolutionary change as that which would be brought about by the acceptance of his Amendment, because that would involve a separate service for all animal diseases in Edinburgh. The Diseases of Animals Act has been a United Kingdom service for the last 4o years. Under that service is administered not only such things as sheep scab and foot-and-mouth disease, but also the tuberculosis Orders in regard to the slaughter of beasts. All that is done at present by the Ministry of Agriculture, but if you are to have a separate tuberculosis service in Scotland it must involve removing the Diseases of Animals Act administration from the present United Kingdom service to a separate new service in Edinburgh. There are, I think, serious objections to that course. In the first place, it would take a long time to train the necessary staff; in the second place we should not have enough veterinary surgeons of our own in Scotland to deal with a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. At present when such an outbreak occurs, we can have "shock troops" rushed to the affected area from all over the country by the' Ministry of Agriculture, but we have not the resources in Scotland alone to do that kind of thing.

Let the Committee remember that Scotland is an exporter of cattle to England. It is very important that the exports of Scottish farmers should not be interfered with, and if you are to have separate centres it might involve the closing of Scottish cattle to England. It is to our advantage to have a centralised system. We must recognise that foot-and-mouth microbes most improperly refuse to acknowledge the political boundaries which man and history have established. At this late hour I do not think that the Committee would wish me to go as fully as I might otherwise have done into all the arguments against this Amendment, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept my assurance that we have given this matter long and careful consideration and that we arrived at this decision on a careful balance of the advantages and disadvantages.

Mr. Davidson

The hon. Gentleman stated that his right hon. Friend had decided to appoint an officer in Edinburgh. Will that officer he responsible to the Minister of Agriculture or to the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Wedderburn

No, to the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I appreciate the attempt which the hon. Gentleman has made to meet our fears and I recognise that he has gone a considerable way. But I am still concerned about two points. Will this officer and his staff be stationed in the offices of the Scottish Office in Edinburgh and, therefore, in intimate daily touch with other members of the Scottish Office? Secondly, will the hon. Gentleman give this clear assurance to the Committee, that this change will not in any way cause a decline in the services now performed by the veterinary officers in Scotland? If these two assurances are given, I should feel disposed not to press the Amendment, but not otherwise.

Mr. Wedderburn

In regard to the first question, certainly the officer will be in close daily touch with the officials of the

Scottish Office. Whether he will occupy a room in the Scottish Office depends entirely on how much rent the Ministry of Agriculture will pay us. With regard to the hon. Member's second question, I thought that I had made it clear that there would be no deterioration in the present standard of Scottish services, but that, on the contrary, it is our intention to raise the standard.

Mr. Davidson

I want to ask the hon. Gentleman two questions. I asked him about the duties of the officer stationed in Edinburgh. I want to ask him to state frankly to the House whether this officer will be in only an advisory capacity or will he have any powers? Secondly, will he be controlled by the central organisation here with regard to the schemes issued from the Minister of Agriculture?

Mr. Wedderburn

He will be one of the principal officers of the Ministry of Agriculture. His function will be to carry out the work in Edinburgh. In many services which are United Kingdom services there are branch officers, as is the case with the Ministry of Labour, for instance. This officer will supervise the Scottish part of the service. It will be a United Kingdom service under the Ministry of Agriculture and he will be there in an executive capacity under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

This short Debate has served to bring out assurances of the greatest value on particular points, and I accept them. I have the specific assurance that the services are to be improved rather than reduced, and I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.

Hon. Members


Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 111; Noes, 210.

Division No. 246.] AYES. [10.56 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Chater, O. Graham D. M. (Hamilton)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Cocks, F. S. Green, W. H. (Deptford)
Adamson, W. M. Cove, W. G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Daggar, G. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Ammon, C. G. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Dobbie, W. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)
Banfield, J. W. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Barnes, A. J. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Harris, Sir P. A.
Barr, J. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Batey, J. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Broad, F. A. Frankel, D. Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Gardner, B. W. Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Burke, W. A. Garro Jones, G. M. Hollins, A.
Cape, T. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Jagger, J.
Charleton, H. C. Gibbins, J. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Messer, F. Smith, T. (Normanton)
John, W. Milner, Major J. Sorensen, R. W.
Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Montague, F. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Kelly, W. T. Muff, G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Noel-Baker, P. J. Thurtle, E.
Kirby, B. V. Parker, J. Tinker, J. J.
Kirkwood, D. Parkinson, J. A. Viant, S. P.
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.) Walkden, A. G.
Lathan, G. Richards, R. (Wrexham) Walker, J.
Lawson, J. J. Ridley, G. Watkins, F. C.
Leach, W. Ritson, J. Watson, W. McL.
Leonard, W. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Welsh, J. C.
Leslie, J. R. Rothschild, J. A. de Westwood, J.
Logan, D. G. Rowson, G. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Lunn, W. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Wilkinson, Ellen
McEntee, V. La T. Seely, Sir H. M. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
McGhee, H. G. Sexton, T. M. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
MacLaren, A. Silkin, L. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Maclean, N. Silverman, S. S. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
MacNeill, Weir, L. Simpson, F. B.
Marshall, F. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mathers, G. Smith, E. (Stoke) Mr. Gallacher and Mr. Davidson.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Eckersley, P. T. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Ede, J. C. Lindsay, K. M.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.
Albery, Sir Irving Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Loftus, P. C.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Ellis, Sir G. Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Apsley, Lord Elliston, Capt. G. S. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Aske, Sir R. W. Emery, J. F. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Emmott, C. E. G. C McCorquodale, M. S.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Errington, E. McKie, J. H.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Erskine-Hill, A. G. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Barrie, Sir C. C. Everard, W. L. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Fildes, Sir H. Manningham-Buller, Sir M
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Findlay, Sir E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bernays, R. H. Fleming, E. L. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Boothby, R. J. G. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Furness, S. N. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Boyce, H. Leslie Fyfe, D. P. M. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Ganzoni, Sir J. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Goldie, N. B. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Bromfield, W. Gower, Sir R. V. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Munro, P.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Grant-Ferris, R. Nail, Sir J.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Granville E. L. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Bull, B. B. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Burghley, Lord Gridley, Sir A. B. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Butler, R. A. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Grimston, R. V. Owen, Major G.
Cartland, J. R. H. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Paling, W.
Carver, Major W. H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Palmer, G. E. H.
Cary, R. A. Hannah, I. C. Peat, C. U.
Castlereagh, Viscount Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Perkins, W. R. D.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Channon, H. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Pilkington, R.
Christie, J. A. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Price, M. P.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Radford, E. A.
Colfox, Major W. P. Hepworth, J. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Colman, N. C. D. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ramsbotham, H.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Higgs, W. F. Ramsden, Sir E.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Rankin, Sir R.
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Holdsworth, H. Rayner, Major R. H.
Cox, H. B. T. Holmes, J. S. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Crooke, J. S. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Crookshank, Capt. H, F. C. Hopkin, D. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Horsbrugh, Florence Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Cross, R. H. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Remer, J. R.
Crossley, A. C. Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Crowder, J. F. E. Hunter, T. Riley, B.
Cruddas, Col. B. Hurd, Sir P. A. Ropner, Colonel L.
Culverwell, C. T. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Keeling, E. H. Rowlands, G.
Drewe, C. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Russell, Sir Alexander
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Kerr, H, W. (Oldham) Salmon, Sir I.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Salt, E. W.
Duncan, J. A. L. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Eastwood, J. F. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Savery, Sir Servington
Scott, Lord William Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h) Wells, S. R.
Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Sutcliffe, H. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st) Tasker, Sir R. I. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Tate, Mavis C. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Thomas, J. P. L. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Turton, R. H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Spens, W. P. Wakefield, W. W. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) Wright, Squadron Leader J. A. C.
Storey, S. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.) Waterhouse, Captain C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Strickland, Captain W. F. Wedderburn, H. J. S. Major Sir George Davies and Captain Dugdale.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)

Mr. Boothby.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Boothby

Having made certain representations to my right hon. Friend, and having received very satisfactory assurances, I do not propose to move my Amendment.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.