§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Hurd
I beg to move:That this House recognises the helpfulness of Government policy as applied to some branches of agriculture and urges that, in the general national interest and as part of the national defence, there should be an extended use of the principle, where appropriate, of assuring such a level of remuneration to producers as will cover the costs of efficient production, including improved wages and conditions for agricultural workers, and also of the method of regulating imports as agreed upon by the Empire Producers' Conference at Sydney.When I was fortunate enough to draw the place in the Ballot which has enabled me to bring forward this Motion to-night, I was greeted with the remark, "Now, you agricultural Members will be able to demand the head of your Minister on a charger." I never had any such intention or any such desire, nor, I believe, had any one of those Members who are usually associated with me in agricultural matters in this House. Our hope and our expressed desire was that the Minister of Agriculture of that day, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) should be given the opportunity to carry to full fruition the declared intentions of His Majesty's Ministers. But that is not to be. He has been called to a more urgent task—more urgent, because, without adequate defences, all our domestic services, including agriculture, would be at an end.
We appreciate warmly what my right hon. Friend has done and has tried to do. We know that he would have done more had it not been for the inordinate demands which were made upon the time of the House last Session by foreign affairs. But if my right hon. Friend had done no more—and he has done a great deal more—than initiate the land fertilisation scheme, his name would live in agricultural history. That scheme is a landmark in our agricultural progress and I am sure that as agriculture regains its position the value and importance of that policy of fertilisation will be realised more and more. My right hon. Friend, I main- 276 tain, has paved the way for the new forward policy of seeing that agriculture is given its true and proper place in the national life, and seeing moreover that it takes its true place in our defence system. It is no small thing that he should now be in a Cabinet position which will enable him, in the pursuit of that defence policy, to take care that agriculture is truly regarded. So, we say "goodbye" to my right hon. Friend as Minister of Agriculture with regret. We thank him for what he has done and we wish him success in the new sphere that is open to him. I am certain that public life is enriched by men such as my right hon. Friend, with his ability and his gracious manner, and those of us who know him, whether we are friends or opponents, are certain that he still has a great place to fill in the public life of this country.
What about his successor? Our best wishes go out to him and, may I add, our sympathies. The task of a Minister of Agriculture in this country is always a most difficult one. He has, somehow or other, to fit agricultural policy into a framework of quite another character, a framework which is concerned with exports, and therefore with imports, with Empire development, with cheap food and with that internationalism which is the basis of our banking, finance and shipping interests. It has proved in the past to be a task beyond the powers of most Ministers of Agriculture, and it is rather a melancholy procession that we have in mind of Ministers of Agriculture who have come into office acclaimed loudly at the beginning of their task and then dropping away from public favour. All that we can say to the new Minister is that lie brings to his task exceptional experience and exceptional ability. He has had a contact with farming opinion and with farming practice that has been denied to most of his predecessors, and for my part, knowing something of it, I should say that any man who can drive that team at 45, Bedford Square, and can drive it so successfully that he is called to the Chair for a second year, is a man of mark.
My hon. and gallant Friend should know what can and what cannot be done in this highly industrialised country, and his experience in this House and in agriculture will help him to sound conclusions in the discussions in which he is now 277 about to engage with farmers, owners, and farmworkers. He has been called a poacher turned gamekeeper. Whether we think of manner or of method I do not know anyone less like a poacher than my hon. and gallant Friend. I am sure he will, in his new duties, take a broad national view. He will remember two big considerations. He will remember especially the workers on the land and their desire for the raising of their status and their wages. He has always shown a great sympathy in that direction. Furthermore, he will not forget the consumers, who must be a great factor in the development of agricultural policy. A policy that is not tolerable to the consumers is not worth having, because it cannot last. We wish him a prosperous journey, and we can assure him—those of us who are particularly concerned in agriculture—of our hearty support and, I may add, our prayers.
I maintain that the time is ripe for a decisive move forward in this matter of agricultural policy, and I am glad to think that my hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister has two advantages in the pursuit of that policy. He has, first of all, the co-operative sympathy of his colleagues in the Cabinet. That is a great thing. I am sure that the Prime Minister would not have appointed the hon. and gallant Gentleman to his post unless he was concerned for the position of agriculture to-day and determined that, in the broadest national interest, agriculture must be made prosperous and the countryside restored to a position of strength instead of weakness in this country. It has been said: you cannot plough the land by merely turning things over in your mind. Your thoughts and your wishes have to be translated into action, Cabinet action and legislative action, and I am sure that the Prime Minister, in choosing my hon. and gallant Friend, and the Cabinet in supporting that choice, are determined that the pledges of Ministers shall be fulfilled and that agriculture shall be given its essential place in our national economy. I am sure also that my hon. and gallant Friend would not have accepted the position unless he had had assurances of that kind. It is more than lip-service that is needed to be given to agriculture, and I am confident that my hon. and gallant Friend enters upon his post in that respect in a very favourable way.
278 There is another advantage that my hon. and gallant Friend has, and that is the compulsion of world events. We see aggressive militarism, especially in Europe and in the Far East. We see a new development of economic nationalism, and we know that these together must cut deep into our old and accustomed export markets. Part at least of our old export supremacy has gone, and we have to look elsewhere for its replacement. I believe that that replacement can best be found now in our own countryside. There are no tariffs in the way, no currency manipulations. There is the open door between the farmers and consumers. Furthermore, there is the possibility of a great expansion in the production from the land of those fresh foods which are especially essential if we really mean business in this National Fitness campaign. It is our own English land that can most potently help us in that respect.
There is another consideration, and, unless I am much mistaken, this has been very much in the mind of the Prime Minister in the choice that he has made, and that is the place of agriculture in National Defence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke the other day at Durham on the matter of financial strength as a weapon of defence, and he said:When we assess the position of Britain in the world to-day, do not let us make the mistake of measuring everything by armed power alone, formidable as that is. Our financial strength has often been a decisive influence.I suggest to the House that a prosperous British countryside may also be a decisive influence in the matter of defence. We ought never to forget that one of the influences that most certainly brought Germany to her knees in 1918 was the break-up of the German home front. We must remember that and see that our agriculture and our countryside play their true part in our national life. I am sure that these wider considerations have been in the minds of those who have chosen my hon. and gallant Friend, that is to say, the importance of a prosperous countryside and its place in National Defence. That is now generally accepted among all classes and all parties in this country. The old conflict between country and town has lost most of its sting, and Ministers, ex-Ministers, political 279 leaders, and industrial leaders have come to the conclusion that the time is ripe, and over-ripe, to put agriculture on a proper footing.
Recently the Federation of British Industries passed a resolution on this subject, supporting any reasonable method of safeguarding British agriculture. But there is something more remarkable than that, and that is the report, which I have by me, of a Committee set up by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of this country. They appointed a special body to consider this matter of the relation of industry to agriculture. The Chairman of that Committee was my hon. Friend the Senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson), the Vice-Chairman was one of the hon. Members for Oldham, and included on that Committee were representative industrialists from all parts of the country. It is a remarkable document that they have issued as their report, and perhaps the House will allow me to refer to it in short detail. They deplore, as we all do, the reduction in the area of arable land and cultivated grass by 2,000,000 acres and the lessened employment on the land by 500,000 men, and they point out thatGreat Britain by her policy of opening up agricultural areas overseas and enabling her debtors to pay in goods and services, has helped herself to sell her manufactures abroad, her population to live better and more cheaply than ever before, but has for two generations exposed her farmers and agricultural landowners to fierce competition. This competition combined with the increase of population and spread of towns and the steady improvement in output by agricultural workers hasbrought about the deplorable results that we see to-day. They go on:Our population requires food at a low price and of best quality and in the large quantity which the low price enables us to consume. In particular, we might with advantage consume more fresh and home grown vegetables, fruit, milk, butter, eggs, and meat.Furthermore, they point out how essential is the British countryside to manufacturing industry as an export market.In the home market the farming population is itself one of the largest customers and sets in motion demands for many other customers. To maintain a healthy home market for British industry, it is important that British agriculture should be prosperous and progressive and that its wage earners should live on a good standard relative to their neighbours in towns.Therefore, they call for national support for agriculture.
280 It becomes a question of the form that this national support should take. I speak for myself alone in this matter, but after 20 years' experience as a representative of agricultural constituencies, I would suggest that no new commission is needed. Heaven knows, we have had commissions enough. What we need is action, and I suggest to the House that action may best be taken by a persistence in and a development of what we have found to be practical and fruitful by our method of "trial and error." I know, as we all know, especially agricultural Members, that the formative time while these matters have been under trial and error has been very difficult for farmers. They have been confused by the various expedients that have been put forward. I see that my hon. Friends on the Liberal opposition benches have put on the Paper an Amendment of regret. Looking back over human affairs, there are always regrets. We wish that we had not done this and that we had done the other, but I would ask that it should be remembered that by these expedients agriculture has been saved from complete collapse. The position of agriculturists to-day would be one of despair if it had not been for these expedients.
Moreover, we know that by these methods we have maintained cheap food for the masses, and we have maintained higher wages—in my constituency pretty well double the wages as compared with what they used to be when I was a boy. These things are no small achievement. I know that it is said, "Well, after all, it is only a patchwork quilt, this policy of the Government." I dare say many hon. Members have, like myself, derived comfort from a patchwork quilt and have not worried very much about the different sizes and shapes of the pieces that made the quilt or about the colour of the pieces. We have asked ourselves, "What is the object of a quilt?" It is to cover the subject. If the policy of expedients has done that and kept us going so that we might conceive and develop a permanent policy for agriculture, we say, "God bless the patchwork quilt."
Now the time has come for expedients to give way to a national policy, and a national policy that has about it some stamp of continuity. I know that many of my farmer friends say to me, "Why don't you give us a thumping, all-round 281 tariff such as you have given to the steel men and the motor men? What is the matter with that?" I see that one of my hon. Friends has an Amendment on the Paper which points in that direction. I do not know what other hon. Members may think about it, but I am sure that if that attempt were made, it would result in a long series of dog fights, and I ask, "What would become of agriculture during those dog fights?" We do not need more dog fights, we need more unity in the way of direct action. Experience has shown that a high tariff policy for agriculture does not work. Foreign countries simply put on export bounties and undertake currency manipulation, so that the British farmer is almost as unprotected as he was before. There is no useful line of progress along that way.
Farmers were told to put their house in order and Parliament would see that they get fair-play. The farmer is a highly individualised person and it has been astonishing to me that he has conformed so readily and with such a large volume of unanimity to the policy of the reorganisation of his industry. There are the Milk Board and the other boards, and I do not know any bodies of the same character that are more efficient. Their efficiency is stamped on what they do. The Milk Board for instance, deals with a turnover of £50,000,000 a year and it does its work remarkably well. I beg hon. Members to remember that these boards are the farmer's own creation. They are evidence of his willingness to conform to the necessity of better organisation. Nor, I think, will anybody who knows agriculture belittle the craftsmanship of the agricultural worker. He is as skilled as any man in the town. I have no doubt that it is that idea which has led the New Zealand Government, in bringing in their price guarantee scheme, to link it up with wages. I can understand the attractiveness of that from some points of view, but I will ask hon. Members to consider whether, as a matter of fact, in view of the infinite variety of our agricultural production, our more flexible method is not yielding better results, not only for the industry, but especially for the farm worker. I know that is so in my own county, and I believe it is so generally in England. We have had some notable rises of wages and they will continue. If 282 we get a prosperous agriculture it will be reflected in the wage position of the worker.
It is by the united efforts of farmers and workers that agriculture in this country, in the quality of its production, has touched the top mark in the world. I am thinking, for instance, of our yield of wheat, of the character of our livestock, and generally of agricultural production. Where in the world will you equal English roast beef? Where in the world will you get the flavour of Cox's Orange Pippin?
§ Sir P. Hurd
I used the term in the way in which it is usually used, but I know how hotly many Scottish Members resent the inclusive term, and I withdraw it. The same applies to other classes of our agricultural production. There is, for instance, Wiltshire bacon. Its fame has gone all over the world and it has found imitations everywhere. The other day I was at a rural conference at Chester and the chairman spoke of the fitness of a gathering of that kind in a county like Cheshire which was world famous for its agriculture. I went away from the gathering feeling cheered, but then, passing along the main street, I saw the chief provision shop of Chester, and what was all over its window? "We guarantee that the bacon sold in this establishment is Danish only." Will the time come when that same shop will be labelled with a huge notice, "We guarantee that the only Cheshire cheese sold in this establishment is imported from abroad."
It is obvious that part of the remedy for our troubles is to be found not only in organisation, which we are getting, but also in publicity. I welcome the course which is being followed by the Milk Publicity Council. Its success is evident everywhere. I am delighted to see the 283 initiation by the board, in conjunction with the trade, of "cheese weeks." I hope that that example may spread. We are accustomed to the slogan, "Beer is Best," but there are other things besides beer that are best in our British production, and I want to see these high grade products better known and better advertised. I saw the other day that a former Member of this House died and left £116,000, which was made in advertising. It is an indication that advertising pays the advertiser as well as the advertising agent, and I hope the time is coming when we shall realise that more fully in agriculture. We have been troubled in the West country with a long-continued outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. When we came to consider the problem of lamb prices, one of the leading farmers said to me, "I think you are omitting one important factor. Foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks shut us out of our accustomed markets. The housewife becomes accustomed to taking Canterbury lamb in a very convenient form. The butchers and traders have also to take that fact into account. When the foot-and-mouth disease had gone and we were able to enter the market again, we found it was occupied by others." That was the time when the art of advertising ought to have been exercised to bring those fine quality products of the English soil to the knowledge of the housewives and traders.
This is a matter upon which we are reaching very near complete agreement in all parties; that is to say, the time has come when we should create the conditions which would enable the competent farmer to make farming pay so that he may put all his initiative into his business and bring wages to a level which will keep his workers in the countryside instead of their flocking into the towns. I think that our experience of the past decade can help us to a policy which will secure that end. I refer to the policy of guaranteed prices. In the Labour Amendment that policy is also endorsed, as I believe it is in the Labour agricultural programme. We already have its partial application in various forms in regard to wheat and bacon, and also to milk in that Bill which was hustled back into the Whitehall pigeonholes before it was explained or fully understood. I suggest that we should extend this principle to food products 284 which are essential in the national interests. We may then see agriculture thriving once again on efficient production—efficient because the industry must be organised to qualify for the guaranteed price. In that way I believe we shall give a solid foundation to the market and a new confidence to the producer to use his skill and initiative without fear of those violent fluctuations which have so often meant his ruin.
When I put this Motion on the Paper I had intended to analyse those experiments, those methods, which we have adopted in regard to guaranteed prices, but I feel that that will now no longer be necessary, and perhaps not helpful. The right hon. Gentleman who was then the Minister of Agriculture carried his review of conditions very far, and that review is to be followed by consultations between the new Minister and the leaders of the industry, including the farm workers. The purpose of my Motion will be served if the Government will accept the principle of guaranteed prices. Let these consultations with the industry be given their full weight with the certainty that if an effective plan is evolved we shall have no Parliamentary or other difficulties put in the way of its execution so far as the central Government is concerned. In my view, the most effective agency for working guaranteed price assistance is the industry itself. That has been proved in the case of wheat in the arrangements between the farmers and the millers. I hope it will be proved in the case of barley, as I think it will, in the arrangements between the farmers and the brewers and distillers. I know it has proved successful in the case of bacon in the arrangements between the farmers and the curers. Self-management is a great possession of the Englishman, and I want to see as much self-management as possible brought into the regeneration of the agricultural industry.
These guaranteed prices should be as-certained by an independent authority. We have a large volume now of authoritative costings covering a large part of agricultural production, and I do not think it should be impossible to strike a fair average of costs of efficient production so that it can be made the basis of a policy and give that inducement which is needed in order to restore confidence to the industry.
285 I know that it is said that this policy may upset the balance of agriculture, but I would remind the House that in the Wheat Act that difficulty is met by limiting the area of production coming under the Act. Many of us have memories of the ill-fated Corn Production Act and do not want to see over-production to a point beyond the capacity of the Treasury repeated in this new policy. The balance in agriculture must be preserved.
The second point raised is this: May not the gap which has to be filled by the Treasury be too great? In a year of low prices may not the amount which the Treasury has to supply prove to be intolerable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I would recall that the Wheat Act makes no charge upon the Treasury and adds nothing appreciable to the cost to consumers. At any rate I have lately been travelling a good deal in foreign countries and have not found any country in which bread is as cheap as it is here. The difficulty to which I have referred may be avoided especially if the charge is adjusted within the industry itself. Of course, the Treasury must retain the power of recouping itself to some extent by moderate import duties, and experience shows that this can be done without hardship to the consumers.
Lastly, I wish to touch upon the Empire side of the problem. Anybody who has relations with the overseas Dominions realises what a vital part they have in our policy. We face the world as a united Empire, as an Empire in working partnership. The strength of that position comes home to you when you look back upon this country from other countries, and see how public opinion abroad appreciates the fact that in times of crisis and in times of peace the British Empire stands together as one community. We cannot afford to do anything which would imperil that imperial partnership, and I am glad to think that the conference in Sydney which was attended by my hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) who, I hope, will speak in this Debate, has shown a way by which, in a co-operative effort with the producers in the Empire, this part of the problem may be solved. I myself attach the greatest importance to the proposal to establish commodity councils on the model of the 286 Empire Beef Council and the International Beef Committee, a system which is now being extended to lamb and mutton. We must try to get the Dominions to realise that gluts benefit nobody. A depressed price hits everybody; and the consumer is not advantaged, because it is only a very temporary benefit which he gets. The proper regulation of the market benefits all. I attach importance to that point and I hope the Government also do so. I would ask them to give the House an indication that they mean to pursue this matter with the Dominions in the spirit of partnership, so as to bring about, if we can, a working method which will meet the situation.
In short outline those are the arguments by which I would seek to support my Motion. I think it would give agriculture a real chance and also put Empire unity upon a new basis, doing it very largely by a new co-operative effort between producers, processors, distributors and traders. Why not follow our own precedents?
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Drewe
In rising to second the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) I should like to take the opportunity, as he did, of congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir R. Dorman-Smith) on his appointment as Minister of Agriculture. I would assure him that I believe all in this House appreciate the courage he must possess to accept that position, and I am sure that he will receive the good will of every Member in the great and difficult task which he has set himself. I should also like to associate myself with the remarks which my hon. Friend has made about my right hon. Friend who has recently left the Ministry of Agriculture, I believe that time will show that the legislation which he has been able to pass through this House in the interests of agriculture has resulted in laying a really solid foundation on which can be built up real prosperity for the industry which we all have so much at heart. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend for using his place in the ballot this evening to initiate this Debate upon agriculture. I believe that in all parts of the House there is a greater understanding than there used to be of the fact that all is not well with 287 the agricultural industry, and that in the country as a whole—apart altogether from the rural districts—there is a fuller understanding of the fact that British agriculture is capable of playing a much greater part in our national economy if only it is allowed to become prosperous. In these days of economic nationalism, self-sufficiency and shrinking export trade, there is not the slightest doubt that if agriculture regained a real measure of prosperity she could play a great part, through the increased purchasing power of her people, towards helping British trade and industry.
I am not one of those who are unmindful of what the Government have been able to do for agriculture during these past years, and I want to pay a most grateful tribute to my right hon. Friend who has been Minister of Agriculture, because if it had not been for the Measures dealing with meat, wheat, pigs and sugar, and the land fertility scheme, which he has passed through the House, I do not know what would have been the position to-day of farmers or their workers. All of us who are in touch with the countryside are, I feel, really grateful to him and the Government for what they have already been able to do, but I must say that my feeling all through has been that when the Government have been framing their agricultural Measures they have had too low a standard in mind. It has always seemed to me that their object has been to try to stabilise the industry at its existing low level, rather with the idea of just keeping farmers out of the Bankruptcy Court. Those of us who come from the countryside and love our land know the position of the land to-day. We know that if the loss of fertility, the loss of working capital, the dilapidations which are piling up on the farms, and, most serious of all, the constant drift of labour, particularly the young men, from the countryside to the town, continue at the pace of the last few years the real crisis in agriculture will come in quite a short time, and it will come through the lack of skilled labour on the land. I am sure that is what is really going to cause a crisis in agriculture.
I believe that the Government are really in earnest to-day in their desire to save the agricultural industry, and I make this appeal to my hon. and gallant Friend and to the Government, that in 288 framing their agricultural policy they should adopt a rather higher standard, bringing the industry on to a higher plane than it has occupied in the past. In my opinion they ought to start framing their agricultural policy on the basis of a wage of at least £2 a week for men employed in agriculture. Let them start on that basis and let everything else fall into its proper place. I know that wages are not the only cause of our young men leaving the land. Going about the countryside I have noticed with a good deal of pleasure the improvement taking place in rural housing. I want to see that improvement continued and spreading all over the countryside. I should like to see a determined drive to get electricity into our more remote rural areas, a better water supply, and better drainage. If those things could be done at the same time, a proper wage in agriculture would be sufficient to get back our young men who have been driven from the countryside into the towns.
The whole question hangs on how can you bring prosperity back to agriculture. There is no alternative to the proposals outlined in this Motion. Farmers have not asked for favours but only for fairplay, and for equal treatment with industry, and that is what they ask for today. British industry has been saved, in the main, by tariffs and by the impartial working of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Many farmers realise that no Government could put on a sufficiently high tariff against foreign countries to be effective in agriculture. They realise that no Government ought to put on a tariff against our own Dominions, and that you cannot solve the problem which faces us to-day by restriction of imports alone. They say that if it is not possible to use these measures, some alternative policy must be brought forward which will give them equal benefit.
Their policy is price insurance. I believe that that policy will command a considerable amount of support in the country to-day. I do not believe that it is the desire of our people, whether from the town or the country, to see farmers go on producing certain commodities year after year either at cost or below cost of production. If, under a system of price insurance, the general price level were to rise sufficiently to make possible the pay- 289 ment of a reasonable wage and to give a fair return on the capital invested on the land, there would, of course, be no charge on any price insurance scheme. The policy of price insurance hangs on the setting up of an impartial committee to investigate the average costs of production. The duty of such a committee would be to ascertain, commodity by commodity if necessary, the average costs of production to-day and to inform the Government. If those costs left no margin of profit for the farmer it would be the duty of the Government to bridge that gap.
That brings me to the second part of the Motion dealing with the British Empire Producers' Conference at Sydney. In the past the hands of the Government have always been tied because they have never been able to get any agreement with the Dominions for the regulation of imports from Empire sources. I had the privilege of being a member of the United Kingdom delegation which went out to that conference. The delegation was led by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir R. Dorman-Smith) who is now the Minister of Agriculture. I am bound to say that if we met with a measure of success there, which I believe we did, it was due almost entirely to the leadership and personality of my hon. and gallant Friend. He made a very great reputation for himself out there, and I believe that he will back up this policy and bring in to a successful conclusion. It was the first time in our history that there has ever been a conference in the Empire of primary producers, and very important agreements were reached at it. There were at Sydney accredited representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Southern Rhodesia, and the United Kingdom.
As the United Kingdom delegation it was our duty to point out to our friends in the Empire the great importance of British agriculture to the national economy of this country and to show that our market was not unlimited; that, in fact, in certain directions it already had reached saturation point, and in other directions regarding certain commodities it was rapidly approaching saturation. It was also our duty to point out to Empire farmers that British agriculture must, of necessity, play an important part in the 290 defence preparations of this country. After we had been able to show the real importance of British agriculture to this country and had been able to point out that, although this country is often looked upon as an industrial country, we actually employed more people in agriculture than are employed in agriculture in Australia and New Zealand put together, that, in fact, Great Britain was still the greatest agricultural country under the British flag, the conference recognising those things, was prepared to agree unanimously that it was right and necessary that we should have an unqualified first place in our own home market for our own agriculture. That was the first important agreement that was reached there.
Secondly, the conference agreed unanimously that an Empire organisation should be set up by producers to regulate the flow of Empire primary products into this country through commodity councils financed and controlled by the producers themselves. Those were the main recommendations of the conference, and many of us greatly welcomed the announcement that was recently made that mutton and lamb from Empire sources should be regulated on the model of the proposals set out at Sydney. Once more I should like to thank my right hon. Friend, the former Minister of Agriculture, for adopting that policy and that proposal, as he announced to the House a short time ago, just before we rose for the Recess. It was recently seen in Tasmania at the request of the producers' organisation, that the Government of Tasmania set up and passed marketing legislation enabling marketing boards to be established. Similar legislation has, I believe, been passed in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The conference to which I have referred was one of producers. It was not in any sense political, and we left it with producers pledged to do all they could to give effect to that policy. In some cases their Governments have not, perhaps, been quite as keen on the proposals as the producers themselves, and it is in this direction that I think the Minister of Agriculture could help us very much. If he can use his influence with those Dominion Governments which have not yet given effect to these proposals, and which would have to pass legislation before effect could be given to these producer organisations, he would be render- 291 ing a very useful service to our farmers, and would pave the way to getting this policy carried out in its entirety, on which, I know, he is just as keen as anyone else in this House.
I do not believe that price insurance by itself could be a satisfactory policy, because, if price insurance alone were relied upon, there is no doubt that the charge on public funds would be too great. Nor do I believe that a system of regulation or restriction of imports could by itself solve the problem. I do not think that either of these methods would work by itself. I maintain, however, that if the Government would use a system of regulation of imports on the lines I have suggested, as far as the Empire is concerned, to maintain a reasonable price level and stop the fluctuations in prices which are so harmful to agriculture, the charge for price insurance would not be found to be unduly high. Anybody who has had the opportunity of meeting farmers in the Dominions and seeing something of the conditions of Empire farming can have nothing but admiration for these men, who are trying to make a living from the land and to maintain the fertility of their own land in those Empire countries. Nobody would want to do anything to make their position any more difficult than it is; I believe that their conditions are in many cases no more favourable than the conditions which our own farmers have to put up with in this country. But the farmers in the Empire realise, as we do, that saturated markets mean unremunerative prices, and they would prefer to see a regulated market and a stated price level rather than haphazard marketing and constant fluctuations in prices. I believe that, if we concede this policy of regulation of imports on the one hand and price insurance on the other, it will restore British agriculture to its rightful place without doing anything to hurt or damage our brother farmers in the Dominions.
The question is an urgent one, and I know the Government realise its urgency. Professor Stapledon told us recently in one of his works, that there are 16½ million acres of land in this country either in a derelict condition or not giving anything like their full yield. Those 16½ million acres represent, I believe, about 43 per cent. of the land surface of England and Wales. That is the chal- 292 lenge that we have to meet, and it is a very urgent one. I do not think it is beyond the power of this House to bring forward a policy which will prove to the world that in this country, under our system of democracy and freedom, we are just as keen on getting the maximum yield from every acre of our land as they are in any other country under any other form of Government. That is what we have to meet. My hon. and gallant Friend the Minister knows the problem. I can assure him that he will have the whole-hearted support and co-operation of the farmers of this country, and I believe also that he will have the whole-hearted support and co-operation of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House," to the end of the Question, and to add in stead thereof:regrets that the policy hitherto pursued by His Majesty's Government has failed to deal with all the many problems confronting agriculture and the continued drain of skilled labourers from the countryside, and is of opinion that measures establishing guaranteed prices, a comprehensive scheme for the reorganisation of the existing system of distribution, together with provisions for securing proper equipment of the land and an improved standard of wage for the agricultural labourer, can alone restore prosperity and confidence to the industry.Before speaking about the Amendment and the Motion before the House, I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating the new Minister of Agriculture on his appointment. I do so with all the more pleasure as one member of the National Farmers' Union speaking to another. I am sure we are all glad to see this honour given to him as a past-President of the Union to which both he and I belong, and I, for one, wish him every success in his new position. He will have a difficult task, and may I add that I think he will need much courage and resolution to stand up to well-meaning people who cannot see far beyond their noses. He will get a lot of advice, to much of which I hope he will not listen. Further, I believe his character is such that he will be able to sift the advice which is given to him. May I also say how much I regret the fact that the late Minister of Agriculture is not now there. As a Gloucestershire Member like himself, I am certain that he will be much missed 293 in that largely agricultural county. I have an uneasy feeling, somehow, that he has been sacrificed. I know too well what kind of campaign has been carried on against him in certain organs of the Press, and perhaps the unfortunate experience of the Milk Industry Bill, with which he was closely associated, has also played some part. I very much regret the loss of that Bill. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman had the courage to bring it in, and am sorry he was unable to carry it any further. I shall have occasion to refer to it, perhaps, a little later.
The Motion before the House seems to me to be more significant for what it omits than for what it contains. The speeches of the Mover and Seconder seemed to me to be very much better than the Motion itself. The hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) did recognise the fact that this country is a great industrial country, in the national economy of which the export trade is a very important factor, and that somehow agriculture must fit into that framework. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe), I am glad to see, also recognised the limitations of tariffs and restrictions on foreign trade as an aid to agriculture. I only wish that that had been indicated in the Motion. No one can quarrel with that part of the Motion which proposesassuring such a level of remuneration to producers as will cover the cost of efficient production,nor with the remaining parts of the Motion, except that perhaps—the method of regulating imports as agreed upon by the Empire Producers' Conference at Sydneyindicates an over-emphasis on the mere restriction of imports. The Amendment I move goes a good deal further, and is, I suggest, much more comprehensive. There is a welcome reference in the Motion to the question of improved wages for land workers. It has been recognised, I think, by every one now that if we are to retain the workers on the land they must be given better conditions, better wage conditions, and, let me add, better conditions for leisure and holidays with pay on a far more generous scale than is permitted under the very poor Act which was passed last Session.
Now I come to the Amendment. It contains three main points. It agrees, of course, with the Motion that guaranteed prices are essential, and with the extension 294 of that principle, while in regard to milk, bacon, wheat and other products it must be continued. But it also goes on to indicate that the working of the existing schemes are not satisfactory, and that certain amendments and alterations, and, indeed, additions, are necessary. It suggests, in fact, that reorganisation of our system of distribution is essential—and that is not referred to at all in the Motion. The Amendment also refers to the need for better equipment on the land, in order to enable the farmer to produce efficiently. This is a matter of very great importance, because landowners to-day—very often, I admit, through no fault of their own—are unable to provide the necessary equipment to keep going efficiently.
Let me take that part of the Amendment which deals with guaranteed prices. I have no doubt that the new Minister will be bombarded before long, if he has not been already, with requests from the barley growers and sheep owners in different parts of the country to deal with those branches of the industry. It is true that there are catastrophic conditions in those parts of East Anglia where these are the most important products of the industry. It seems to me that there is an opportunity for seeing what can be done in regard to price insurance there. Is it possible that there might be something like a Barley Marketing Board, to pool the prices of barley, something on the lines of the Milk Marketing Board? We have to be careful, because what might be suitable for the farmers in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), who are barley producers, would not be suitable for the farmers in my constituency, who are mainly barley consumers. We do not want high prices for feeding barley. But, much in the way that we pool prices under the Milk Marketing Board for manufactured milk and liquid milk, cannot the new Minister work out some means of assisting the malting barley growers without making it difficult for those of us who are concerned with feeding barley.
In regard to sheep, the position has been very serious for some months, but I think we have touched bottom. Not so long ago I was working out the prices I have received for sheep in the Gloucester market over the last five or six years. I found that we are back to the low prices we had in the last big slump, from 1929 to 1932. We have come down with 295 a bump. It is a very unpleasant process to have to revalue your stock down to meet those conditions. It is time something was done to even out conditions. Of course, fluctuations are not always due to human causes: Nature takes a hand. But fluctuations of that kind ought to be evened out. Is it not possible to deal with the prices of sheep in some way similar to that in which the price of beef cattle is dealt with? Could we not somehow apply the Livestock Industry Act to sheep? Could there not be some kind of efficiency payment based on quality, such as is provided under that Act? I suggest that the new Minister should look into that. The idea of guaranteed prices is certainly very much in the air these days. Not only has it been suggested by the Empire Producers' Conference at Sydney, which advocated the setting up of commodity boards, but in the very important and interesting document "Agriculture, 1938," published by the National Farmers' Union, the principle was put forward.
The principle is undoubtedly sound, but I would make this reservation: that producers' boards cannot fix prices. It is the consumer and the general public who must have the last say, not the producers' boards. That is one reason why there is difficulty in the milk industry. The Milk Board tries to fix prices and is unable to control the retail prices. Consequently, the consumers have to pay much higher prices than they should. Surely, this is a case where commodity boards, if set up, must have over them independent commissions, or the Minister himself must revise those decisions of the boards and be the final arbiter of the prices to the consumers. Let me come to the next part of my Amendment, relating tore-organisation of the existing system of distribution.It is a fact that, taking agricultural produce all round, 60 per cent., on an average, of the retail price goes in transport and distribution. This is far too large a share to go to them, and the producer himself gets far too little. It has been estimated that throughout England and Wales, in regard to milk, the producer gets 10d. a gallon on the average, winter and summer, transport 5d. a gallon and distribution 11d. a gallon, and the average price is 2s. 2d. retail. There are a 296 number of causes which I cannot go into here because it would take too long, but the Milk Industry Bill, which was brought in by the Government last Session but which did not, however, come before the House, took some steps in the direction of dealing with that problem. It is true that it was very hesitant, and it did not go as far as I should have liked to see it go, but it went a certain way. I am one who, if I cannot get a whole loaf, will take half a loaf, and then ask for the rest. I much regret the withdrawal of that Bill, and I hope that the new Bill, when it comes, will deal with the question somewhat along those lines. I believe that that Bill was defeated by an unholy alliance of the Milk Marketing Board, the producer-retailers and the distributors coming together.
In the last resort, it is the consumer who determines the prosperity or otherwise of the agricultural industry. As the Mover of the Motion stated in his remarks, we are still dependent upon our export trade. We must export to live, and we must import in order to export. Nevertheless, I believe that there is abundant room for a revived agriculture within the framework of our foreign trade system. I will quote a few figures in order to show the connection that exists between agricultural wholesale prices and the buying power of the people. In April, 1933, the average agricultural wholesale price, as given by the Ministry of Agriculture, was an index figure of 105. In 1937 the average price was 140, the highest point reached, and throughout 1938 the price was down to 124, and agriculture felt the pinch in consequence. I would remind the House that between April, 1937, and April, 1938, 350,000 more men in industry were unemployed owing to trade depression. They were put upon Unemployment Benefit instead of having industrial wages. Immediately, owing to that large additional army of unemployed, there was a drop in purchasing power, and I maintain that part of the drop in price to 124 was due to the additional 350,000 unemployed industrial workers. That was the cause of the trouble in the main and not imports. In actual fact, during that time, when there was an increase of unemployment in industry, there was slightly less corn and flour, mutton and lamb, and bacon, and only a little more beef imported into this country. It could not possibly be the 297 imports that caused that slump, but the lowering of the purchasing power. In other words, the success of the agricultural industry is only possible within the framework of a prosperous industrial population, coupled with such measures of price and import control, and elimination of waste in distribution as is foreshadowed in the Amendment which I have the honour to move.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Quibell
I beg to second the Amendment.
I desire to associate myself with the kind words of congratulation that have been given to the new Minister of Agriculture. I, along with others, have heard him deliver one or two speeches in this House, and he has now got a fine opportunity of transforming his ideas with respect to the policy and restoration of agriculture into concrete acts. We wish him every success in his endeavour to put agriculture upon its feet.
I desire to detain the House only for a few minutes in order once more to call attention to two or three subjects, which would, I believe, really restore agriculture to its proper balance and would not involve the imposition of tariffs which cause an increase in the price of essential feeding-stuffs. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has said, no one can gainsay the fact that the barley grower has had a very bad time indeed. While it may be true that in the division which is represented by my hon. Friend who has moved the Amendment that cheap barley is essential, I want to apply the same principle to his part of the country as I do to the agricultural labourer, and say that the urban populations ought not to have cheap food at the expense of the agricultural labourer, nor should his division have cheap barley at the expense of the barley growers. [Interruption.] That is a united front.
I am going to express my view to the House on this matter as I did nine years ago. There is no reason why a low price for barley should obtain at the present time. I sometimes look across the House at some of my hard-headed friends who are farmers because they know something about the difficulties, but they are really more hard-headed than I would expect them to be. I find from the farmers records that last year the brewers made 298 £3,000,000 additional profit chargeable to Inland Revenue, out of which their own Government take 5s. 6d. of every £. The Government take £725,000 additional revenue because the brewers and maltsters have paid an uneconomic price to the growers of barley. What are the Government doing? Despite all that, the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion have said (in their hearts they know that the Government have not given the farmers a square deal), "Now that you have grown 400,000 acres of barley, we are going to be generous with you. We have taken £725,000 additional taxation, so we are willing to give you 10s. an acre on 400,000 acres of barley. It will cost us £200,000, and we shall keep £525,000 for ourselves." I wonder who would not be a burglar in these circumstances. They have rifled the pockets of the barley grower and have used the brewer in order to do it, and then they say, "We will give you 10s. an acre back again." Anyone who knows anything about agriculture knows that the Government are playing with the subject.
To-night we have a new Minister and everybody wants to hand him bouquets. I want to do so, but I shall not hand him any bouquets in regard to the Government's policy at the present time. Where does the brewer stand? He is all right. He has a stabilised price, but not so the farmer. So far as the farmer is concerned, and he is beginning to realise it, the Government have had no regard what ever to his interests. They have an agreement with the brewers. Two years ago I spoke on this subject and I was told there is a gentlemen's agreement. I leave it to the House to guess how far the brewers and the maltsters are gentlemen, when they are paying 23 shillings a quarter for barley and they know that the farmers have been having an exceedingly bad time. I know one man who was a farmer when I was a boy and whose father was a farmer before him. He failed the other week, and he has not sufficient stamps at the age of 65 to get a pension. He is worse off than any of the labourers who ever worked for him. That is not a rare case. I have written to the Minister about it and I have no doubt that I shall get a sympathetic reply, but I doubt whether I shall get a pension for the man.
299 Let me say a few words about wheat. I want to help the Minister out of a difficulty. We are told that he needs sympathy. I think he needs help. What is wrong with the wheat position? Why should the farmer be growing wheat in this country at a price which is uneconomic, which does not enable him to pay proper wages and to make a decent profit? It is because the great milling firms, Spillers, Ranks and the Co-operative Wholesale Society, who control nearly 90 per cent. of the milling industry in this country. So far as the local farmer is concerned in my county, if he has 20 or 30 quarters of wheat, they tell him to take it to the chickens. They care nothing about it. They can get wheat in thousands of tons at the great ports, where they import it from the foreigners much more easily. When the local farmer goes to the market with his 20 or 30 quarters of wheat they do not want to look at his samples. I attended market regularly every Monday before I came to this House and I know what happens.
In regard to both barley and wheat, which are in the hands of a few big buyers, I would take drastic steps. I would compel them to give an economic price for their barley. I would compel them to take 80 or 90 per cent. of good malting barley and to give 50s. a quarter for it. You cannot make beer any weaker than it is, and you certainly cannot make it any dearer, because it is one of the dearest things one can buy. If we could make barley a paying proposition we might, to some extent, remedy the sheep problem. If we put those two problems right we should go a long way to deal with the potato problem, because the people growing barley and rearing sheep would do that instead of competing with those who grow potatoes. I would stabilise wheat in the same way. I would stabilise an economic price for these main products, and if we did that we should go a long way towards putting agriculture on its feet.
It is high time the Government exercised sufficient courage to deal with the matter. What is the position to-day? We find that 4s. 5d. per cwt. is being given for wheat, and yet they are charging for flour, not of the best quality, 1s. 6d. a stone. Offals cost more per stone than is given for the wheat. It is 300 an outrage and a scandal, and the Government know it, and steps ought to be taken to deal with it. One of these big milling companies had an issue the other day and hon. Members know at what price the 5s. shares were issued. They were issued at a tremendous premium, simply because it pays to mill the wheat, but it does not pay the poor fellow who takes all the risks in growing the wheat. It is our duty to remedy that state of affairs.
There is another matter to which I would draw attention. Some time ago the Minister of Agriculture stated that there was a surplus of 300,000 tons of potatoes. We hear of people suffering from malnutrition, and yet we are told that there are 300,000 surplus tons of potatoes, one of the cheapest and best foods grown in this country. It is a crying shame. So far as these surplus potatoes are concerned, I suppose they will be told to throw them back or leave them to rot. It is no wonder that at the meeting in Lincoln which was attended by the late Minister for Agriculture the farmers there were incensed, and showed it in no uncertain way, because the Government had taken no steps to deal with the position. The Potato Marketing Board's job is to promote a scheme for taking the surplus potatoes and manufacturing them into some of the products of which we so sorely stand in need. So far as my knowledge goes, they have only made one development, and that is the Farmers' Marketing Supply Company at Wisbech, whose managing director comes from the great milling firm of Spillers. I thought the producers would have known better than to have a managing director from one of the great milling firms to preside over them and educate them into making potato flour, when, as a matter of fact, he does not want any such manufacture from the surplus potatoes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, the fact is that it has not been done.
The price they are paying for potatoes is about 20s. per ton, and the Potato Marketing Board are making a contribution of 10s. to 12s. 6d. a ton as subsidy to the F.M.S. Company in order that the surplus potatoes may be dealt with. The maximum amount that they can deal with is 10,000 tons per annum, and yet the surplus is declared to be 300,000 tons. I leave hon. Members to guess 301 whether that company is getting on with the job. The Potato Marketing Board does not seem able or willing to erect the necessary factories for manufacturing the surplus into potato flour and so improve the national loaf. Potatoes went into our bread during the last War but not in the proper way, because the proper machinery was not available for making them into potato flour. It was done by the mashed potato process. The market value of this flour is £30 per ton, and it requires four and a half tons of potatoes to manufacture a ton of potato flour. It is fetching even more to-day in Germany and in the United States of America.
The Potato Marketing Board commenced operations in 1933. They imposed, as I suppose they were entitled to impose, a limit on acreage, riddle regulation and on the quantity of potatoes reaching the market. But this year, owing to the huge surplus, their efforts at limiting the quantity has been absolutely useless and futile. The reason why we have this tremendous surplus is that given by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, who congratulated the Government on having improved the fertility of the soil. They have given producers facilities for obtaining basic slag and lime, by which they have been able to produce this enormous crop of potatoes, and then the Potato Marketing Board proceed to make an order by which at least 50 per cent. of the crop is unsaleable, while at the same time the Potato Marketing Board have not erected any factories to deal with the surplus which would provide us with many of the potato by-products which we import at the cost of an enormous amount of money. And yet the farmer is expected to contribute to the Potato Marketing Board in order that they may be able to find new means of dealing with this surplus. So far scarcely anything has been done by the board with the levies which they have made on the farmers.
I think the Board should turn its attention to the manufacture of such by-products as farina dextrine, glucose, potato flour and soluble starch, because we are importing these products to the value of £800,000. Our annual import of potato products above is equivalent to between 300,000 and 500,000 tons of potatoes. While that problem remains and while we import these by-products it is an insult to the men into whose hands this information 302 goes to talk about a surplus. I maintain that this is a matter which should receive attention, and the Government will have no more ardent supporters in finding a solution than hon. Members on this side of the House and in the rural districts of England. The Potato Marketing Board have subsidised one factory, but it deals with only 2 per cent. of the surplus. That is infinitesimal. It is really playing with the question. The Board has been meditating for four years—"meditating," I think, is the best word. When will they erect the promised chain of factories—to deal with what we are now pleased to call the national surplus? During the last War the price of potato starch rose from £12 per ton £80 per ton and other products from potatoes were almost unobtainable in the country. We want to be helpful in these matters, and if we have anything to contribute we want to make it in a practical way but, before we can apply the remedy, we must know the disease, and I am somewhat sceptical as to the composition of these various boards, and whether they are doing the best to remedy the genuine grievances of the farmer. As far as I am concerned, I think I shall have to meditate again and really consider what my future attitude should be towards these boards.
What are the economics of putting potato flour into the British loaf? Taking the average price of potato flour at £12 10s. per ton—it is worth more than that—potato flour is worth from £25 to £30 per ton to the baker. Actually, as a bread improver it sells in America for £30 per ton, in Germany for £50 per ton, and in small quantities for a rather inferior product a market is found in this country at £60 per ton. To remove 300,000 tons of potatoes annually as a 2½ per cent. admixture in the loaf, it would be necessary to reduce the price to the baker to £25 per ton, and to make the wholesale price at £15 per ton. The cost of collecting and manufacturing by existing commercial processes is 67s. 6d. or, if we allow for intermittent working through seasonal effects, the cost is 75s. per ton. It takes 4½ tons of potatoes to make one ton of flour. Therefore, the return for potatoes at farms is as follows: wholesale price realised for one ton of flour 300s.; cost of collecting and processing, 75s.; residue for 4½ tons of potatoes, 225s. 303 The value of one ton of potatoes at the farm is 50s., which means that the farmer would receive a price for his surplus equal to the price he is now receiving for his wares.
There are cheaper processes capable of producing better products, and therefore a slightly higher return to growers. I sometimes wonder whether the Potato Marketing Board is really capable of dealing with this problem. It has neither dealt with it itself nor has it made way for some private firms who would have put up the money to erect factories if they had had a sufficiently long guarantee to enable them to see a return on their money. It has done nothing itself nor allowed other people with imagination and enterprise to deal with a problem which is so vital to the countryside. The board had applied for powers to manufacture. While this move of the Potato Marketing Board has deterred private firms from manufacturing themselves, important questions have been raised as to whether the board can successfully handle this manifold task of utilising in industry to the best advantage of the nation this 600,000 tons annual surplus.
Can it, for instance, master the ever-increasing mass of technicalities necessary for manufacture, let alone those necessary for the development of industry? Can it handle the delicate negotiations required to market against such well-rooted businesses as the flour milling industry? Can it override and circumvent the artifices of the foreign invested interests actively at work in every nook and cranny of the potato product industry—the very interests from which it must obtain its technical and sales information? Obviously it cannot, and proof of this lies in the small success it has made from its choice in the barley meal substitutes industry, that is, but a 2 per cent. consumption of the surplus at only one-half the minimum compensation acceptable to growers for the enforcement of the riddle regulations. This having been the outcome of five years of the best efforts of the Potato Marketing Board, one may justly assume that it will require 50 years of Potato Marketing Board organisation to correct the present plight of British potato growers.
This matter, I know, has been raised before, but only for a few minutes on the 304 Adjournment, and I am quite certain that the present Minister may not have had time to look into it, but he knows the problem just as well as I know it, and he knows that it is a very vital problem. It is not only vital for the big man, but it is vital for the little man, and it applies to so many growers in this country that they could defy this so-called order, which it is doubtful whether the Potato Marketing Board has really the legal power to enforce. If they were all to stand against it they would break it down to-morrow. I was talking to a farmer a week last Monday, and he told me that he dared not open his potato pie—they call them "pies" in Lincolnshire—because there were so many potatoes on that particular farm above one pound in weight that he was keeping them in the hope either that the regulations would be withdrawn or that there would be such a shortage, and consequent demand for good potatoes, that he could get rid of the whole of his crop in the spring.
So far as the Minister is concerned, if he goes in for standard, stabilised, economic prices on the lines indicated by my hon. Friend and myself, we shall lend him all the aid we possibly can. I, personally, hold the opinion that neither tariffs nor subsidies are necessary to agriculture if you will only give it the same square deal that other industries have, and stabilise the price for its products. In conclusion, I should like to say that the appointment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman as Minister for Agriculture will give farmers renewed hope that this Government will put the stable products of agriculture on an economic foundation, and if he does that there will be no one better pleased than myself.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Acland
I would like to join in congratulating the Minister on his appointment, an appointment which makes me feel very old, because I remember that in the opening words of his maiden speech, in accordance with the courteous custom of this House, he made a few kind remarks on the closing sentences of mine; and now, while I and many of his other colleagues occupy seats on the humbler benches of the House, he has risen to Cabinet rank—a meteoric rise all the more remarkable in view of the fact that he is not one of the members of the party of the Chancellor of the 305 Exchequer. Then I think there is a point in which I agree with the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd). It is a point that indicates, I think, that the Government is turning its mind in the direction of the words which the hon. Member has put on the Paper, and from this bench I would not seek by speech or vote to condemn the Minister in advance for what he may have in his mind. But I do fear that some of his hon. Friends behind him may have made the task a little bit difficult for him, because over these last 10 years in the agricultural constituencies they have held out to the agriculturists such dazzling promises of what can be done, first through tariffs—which were deserted—then through subsidies—which were deserted—then through guaranteed prices.
I cannot but congratulate the hon. Member for Devizes on being honest and calling this solution guaranteed prices—in which he was not followed by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe), who called it price insurance. I wish he would drop that expression, because insurance means paying money into a pool in good times in order to draw money out of the pool in bad times. There is nothing of that in the suggestion which is put before us to-night, and I suggest that we return to the expression "guaranteed prices," which does accurately describe it. That is going to be a very grave problem.
Another problem was foreshadowed by the hon. Member who has just spoken, who indicated that as soon as you have guaranteed prices, as you have in the case of potatoes, you immediately come up against the problem of restricting output and what to do with the surplus. If you guaranteed prices for all of us it would run you into bankruptcy.
§ Mr. Acland
If you mean a scheme to hold up the price for potato growers as a whole, you immediately come up against difficulties in the volume of output. Then, of course, if you guarantee a price, the money has to be raised, and I think the House should recognise that it is all the same whether we put this burden on the Exchequer, where the public can see it, or whether you try to get it out of the public in some other way which does not enter into the national budget, and the straight thing is to put it right on 306 to the Exchequer where we can see it. That means, of course, that the Minister is going to have to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he who sups with the Devil must have a long spoon, and the Minister, of course, has not a long spoon; and unless something is done a great many seats are going to be in jeopardy.
We have talked about this matter without mentioning figures, and I would like to be so bold as to mention actual figures. How much is my right hon. Friend going to get? Suppose that he gets £20,000,000. Suppose that he got £20,000,000 a year more than is being given now, and it was spread over agricultural produce, it would mean that wheat would rise from 4s. 5d. to 4s. 10d. a cwt., bullocks from 40s. to 45s. a live cwt., and that oats would increase by 7½d. a cwt. and lamb by 1d. a lb. I do not sneer at those increases, for they would be very welcome and very useful; but does anybody pretend that such prices—prices which we remember as prevailing not in the days of prosperity but in the days of adversity—would enable the farmers to drain their fields, would arrest the drift from the land, add substantially to wages, or attract new capital to the industry? Would such prices make agriculture flourish? It is important to remember that once the Government begins to guarantee prices, a very dangerous process starts. Suppose that a price at present is 45s. and the Government say they are going to guarantee 50s., immediately the market would react, because as soon as there was a guaranteed price, the inducement to withhold supplies would have gone, and the market which was paying 45s. would begin to pay 40s., and then 35s. It would be found that to guarantee a price of 50s. would not cost £5,000,000, but possibly £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. Therefore, to guarantee the minimum prices which I have suggested would cost, not the initial £20,000,000 which one might think, but a substantially greater sum.
§ Mr. De Chair
I know that the hon. Member does not wish to mislead the House, but the figures he has given are fantastically inaccurate. Will the hon. Member give the source of his information, because the Minister of Agriculture has given information on the Floor of the House showing that at a cost of £6,000,000 a year the average prices ruling from July, 1937, to July, 1938, 307 could have been very substantially increased?
§ Mr. Acland
I got the prices in the following way. The to al value on agricultural produce in this country is £200,000,000 or thereabouts, and £20,000,000 would represent an increase of 10 per cent. Of course, I am assuming that it is spread evenly, although I quite agree it would not be spread evenly, but would be concentrated on some things, while others would be left aside. However, if it were spread evenly, there would be a 10 per cent. increase. Do not let us think that we are going to start a boom of prosperity along the lines of the Exchequer guaranteeing prices. I hope that simultaneously with any policy on these lines the Minister will work on other lines which will have a permanent value apart from the money contributed by the State.
The lime scheme is doing good, but it is a poor shadow of real land improvement, such as Professor Stapledon talks of and practises. He says that one can invest £7 an acre in agricultural land, get it written off in seven years, and still draw a dividend on the capital. Of course, the farmer cannot put £7 an acre into his land and wait seven years, nor can the landlord; only the State could do that. I commend to hon. Members opposite the need for a large-scale experiment, not in farm owning, but in land owned by a land corporation. The time has come when the Government should encourage and undertake such an experiment. I hope the Government will consider whether something cannot be done on these lines with the acres and acres of class "B" or class "C" pasture throughout the country.
I beg the Minister not to reintroduce a scheme which contains a little board for every interest, each board becoming an organisation paying its secretary to fight for its own interests against everybody else. I beg the Minister to transform the Milk Marketing Board into a Milk Commission of independent persons, with expert advice, charged with the function of administering the industry in the public good. When he makes the experiment with regard to reducing the costs of distribution of milk, I beg him to keep that experiment in his own hands, or to put it into the hands of a commission, and not leave it in the hands of 308 private interests, which may run the experiment with a view to concealing rather than revealing the greatest possible amount of information.
I would like to say a word or two about rabbits. It is a question of hard cash—and we are dealing with hard cash just now. I have received my information from somebody who knows a bit about the matter, but I have not taken his estimate: I have doubled it, and then added five. I am convinced that I am not wrong when I say that at a capital cost of £15,000,000 and an annual cost of £250,000, rabbits could be virtually eliminated. One could then ask the farmers to pay £3 for 100 acres of arable land and 10s. per 100 acres of rough grass for the benefit of being free of rabbits. That would bring in £1,000,000 a year. This would mean that after paying maintenance, you would earn 5 per cent. on your money, and would have got rid of a vermin which costs British agriculture, as some say, £10,000,000 a year, but as I believe £20,000,000, although some believe even £70,000,000 a year.
There is another parasite on this industry; it is the big monopoly. From manuring fields to buying barley to distilling whiskey is one industry. In the past, the way in which they divided up the profits between them was nobody's concern but their's, but now that part of the industry is coming to us for help, the profits, and how they are made, in every part of the industry are our concern, and we have a right to say what those profits shall be. Suppose that we found that the raising of store cattle paid very well, whereas the stock fattening side of the industry was going bankrupt, we should adjust the price of stock cattle. What is the difference between the buying and selling of stock cattle and the buying and selling of malting barley? A profit of £30,000,000 was made. There you have a guaranteed price for barley, without a subsidy from the taxpayers.
In conclusion, I would remind the Minister of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) over 13 years ago. It is still true. If we are to take steps to restore prosperity to this industry, we must take steps to see that that increased prosperity, after it has reached the farmer, goes to the farm workers in increased wages, and not to the landlords in increased rent. I have 309 not heard from any hon. Member opposite a vestige of recognition that that is the fundamental problem in our agricultural industry, to be solved before we can see prosperity again.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Major Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith)
I am sure hon. Members will realise that it is something of an ordeal for me to come from the shelter of darkest Back Bench land to this extremely exposed spot, but by extending to me their accustomed courtesy, as they always do to a new Minister, in such full measure as they have to-night, they have made this first appearance in public much easier than I thought would be possible. It is a rather remarkable coincidence that it was after the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) had spoken that I made my maiden speech in the House. I hope that is a good omen. I fully realise that this kindness to-night is merely a respite and that soon I shall be confronting very much sterner faces than are before me now, but to-night I would thank the House very much for their kindness and forbearance to me. The House will not expect me to-night to say very much or to attempt in any way to make a detailed statement of Government policy. As the House will remember, on 22nd December last my predecessor announced that the Government were undertaking a review of the agricultural situation and that it was intended to consult with the National Farmers' Unions of England and Wales and of Scotland in connection with the considered views which had been advanced by those bodies. Until that review and those consultations have been completed, I am sure the House will not expect any statement from me.
Perhaps I may be allowed to make a few observations on some of the points which have been raised, so far, in this Debate. First, it is absolutely clear to me that there is a wealth of good will towards agriculture and its problems in this House—a good will which I think truly reflects public opinion. I believe that the country now is rightly insistent that all practicable steps shall be taken as quickly as possible to enable our own soil permanently to play its full part, both in times of peace and—indeed more especially—in times of emergency. In principle there is general agreement that 310 "something must be done." How often have we heard that phrase. We all deplore the facts of the situation. We all deplore the drift of men away from the land. We all deplore the loss in our arable acreage, and we all deplore the loss of fertility which has occurred in our soil. But, clearly, if the present situation is to be remedied—and I am sure that I shall have the House with me here—there is no good in just going on deploring it. We have to take the necessary action to set things right and I recognise that, while it is moderately easy to agree in principle that something is wrong, it is when we come to discuss the precise methods which we ought to adopt, and what we ought to do to put things right, that there arise the real differences of opinion which occupy so much time in this House.
Differences as to the right methods to be used have been made apparent to-night. The party opposite favour guaranteed prices because they are in the fortunate position of not having to tell us what level of prices they would be prepared to guarantee. I would like to say this: I draw a great distinction between the system of guaranteed prices, as carried out, for instance, in New Zealand for butter, and the policy which we in this country have adopted for wheat and which I look upon as price insurance. There is a very distinct difference between the two, as I am sure the hon. Member for Barnstaple will agree. In any case there is one way in which the party opposite suggests. They also suggest that there should be a comprehensive review of the problems of distribution. The hon. Member opposite, I am sure, will not think me unkind if I say that he apparently would solve the difficulties of the position by arithmetic. I will go into those figures which he gave us in his speech and will try to see whether I can possibly carry out anything on the lines which he has indicated, but I confess that I found it rather difficult to follow some of his figures. Nevertheless obviously the Liberal party have got different ideas from us as to what methods should be applied.
I have no doubt that other hon. Members would have advocated straight tariffs and that some would have advocated levy subsidies. The Motion suggests the extension of the price insurance policy which has already been initiated—and this is important—by the Govern- 311 ment, for certain commodities. The Motion says that this policy should be coupled with the proper regulation of imports by bodies representative of producers in all the producing countries which are in fact concerned with supplying our markets with food. The Opposition in their policy have got something like the same idea, but not quite the same. They would prefer that the Government should regulate imports. Our view is that it can best be done by the producers. That is a fundamental difference between our two policies.
On all sides, one can see that there is a genuine desire to achieve the same object as that which the Government have in view, namely, the completion of their task of safeguarding the health of the land and through the health of the land, safeguarding the prosperity of all those who are concerned with the production of our food. But it is clear that the day is far distant when we can expect complete agreement on the methods to be employed to complete that task. Unfortunately, as I think the House will agree, agriculture cannot wait for that happy day when we shall all agree in this House. In more than one department its needs are really urgent. If we are to achieve that expansion of food production from our own soil which is necessary in the interests of the land and of the country as a whole, I believe that our action must be swift and direct. If we are to expect farm workers to remain on the land and indeed to return to the land in the numbers which I would like to see, we must leave no doubts in their minds that they will receive a square deal. If we are to expect those whose duty it is to do so, to maintain the health of the land and to store up the essential reserves of fertility within it, then I believe that immediate steps must be taken to enable those men to fulfil their duty to the soil.
I have good reason to know how conscious all those engaged in agriculture are of the particular duty which they owe to their own soil. My experience is that they do not look on the land so much as a means of acquiring wealth, but rather as a national heritage which it is their duty to preserve. I have been vastly impressed—I could not help being impressed—by the letters which I have received since my appointment from farmers 312 all over the country. Nearly all those letters say, in one way or another, that they expect no miracles—which is lucky for me, as I am sure the House will agree—that they do not expect to carve out any privileged position, that they do not expect to be placed in the privileged seats, but that they do expect to be allowed to farm the land as they know it should be farmed. Surely that is a reasonable request insomuch that our land is, probably, the only lasting asset which this country possesses and is an asset, therefore, which must not be wasted.
I hope the House will accept the Motion which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd). I believe that it is only along the lines indicated in that Motion that action sufficiently swift and sufficiently direct, can be taken, having regard to the conditions in which we find ourselves to-day. I refer more especially to our commitments under trade agreements and such like. I hope that along these lines we shall in fact be able to formulate a policy which will meet, or at any rate go a long way to meet, many of the points which have been raised by various speakers to-night.
The first part of the Motion is a recognition of the work done by two of my predecessors and by Members of this House in two Parliaments to bring very much needed assistance to many branches of agriculture. All farmers, in my experience, recognise the value of the measures that have been taken and realise that in the difficulties which have faced primary producers throughout the world during the last seven or eight years farming could not have been carried on in this country at all, and that our countryside would probably have been derelict, had it not been for such measures as have been mentioned—the cattle subsidy, the Livestock Industry Act, and various other Measures which have been given us to help many branches of agriculture. No one recognised better than my predecessor how much remains to be done. I know that he had plans and hopes for this current Session. As has often been said, agriculture has to make a contribution to defence, and I believe that agriculture has made a great contribution to defence by allowing my right hon. Friend to go to a Ministry which will be closely concerned with the problem of defence. [Laughter.] I rather anticipated that 313 that laugh might come, but I did think that after the kindly references which have been made to my right hon. Friend, perhaps my remark would have been treated in the spirit in which I meant it. It will be my right hon. Friend's duty to deal with defence in its very widest aspect, and I am very glad to know that I shall have the benefit of his sympathy and help in the difficult task which I have before me.
The Motion goes on to suggest that further measures are needed. We all know the difficulties which the farmer still has to face—they have been recounted to-night—but surely the fundamental difficulty is that any profit which he may make on some of his products may be swept away by the price of some other staple product of his farm collapsing, and collapsing for reasons over which he him-self has no control. More than this—and this is an important point, I think—owing to the depression of agriculture over so many years, many farmers simply have no reserves with which to recoup their heavy losses, and unless there is a greater measure of stability in prices, farmers cannot possibly maintain the fertility and the productivity of their land. I am sure it is the wish of every Member in this House that that fertility should be improved and that that productivity should be increased; but it cannot be, unless both farmers and farm workers get a square deal, and they cannot have that square deal if they are in fact subjected to the instability and the fluctuation of prices which have been revealed during 1938 in such great staple products as barley and sheep.
§ Sir R. Dorman-Smith
There is one observation that I would like to make about the Motion. The Motion recommendsan extended use of the principle, where appropriate, of assuring such a level of remuneration to producers as will cover the costs of efficient production.It is notable that that is a rather different definition of objective from that which is contained in the National Farmers Union statement of policy. The National Farmers Union advocate the adoption of price insurance plans to operate wherever unduly low price levels are shown to exist, and they have not as yet attempted a precise definition of price insurance. 314 This difference does bring out one of the difficulties which is inherent in the case and to which we shall have to face up. It is not an easy thing to ascertain the costs of production in farming. I have every desire to examine this problem, a desire which is shared by farmers, because they know that they have nothing to lose by putting their cards on the table—nothing at all. I have also a great desire to see a fair level of wages included in the costs of production, and I intend to examine what means can be adopted to bring about such an inquiry as this, but it is inevitable that it is hound to be a lengthy and somewhat laborious process, and I feel certain that the House would not wish that the Government should delay all action until such an inquiry has been completed. Further, I would hesitate to try to define what exactly an efficient farmer is. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) has on more than one occasion told us how some people would define the efficient man as the man having merely tractors, petrol engines, and the like.
§ Sir R. Dorman-Smith
I am satisfied in my own mind that our farmers are the most efficient in the world, and what we shall seek to do is to ensure to the ordinary man on the land that he will in fact be able to carry on his business with confidence and to maintain his land in good heart.
The second part of the Motion deals with the regulation of imports, and the House will remember that the Government have already expressed, in July last, their general approval of the principle of the regulation of supplies through commodity councils, as proposed at the Empire Producers' Conference at Sydney. Recently the Government have given concrete evidence of their desire to encourage the formation of commodity councils by the enlargement of the Empire Beef Council to deal with imports of beef, mutton, and lamb. The House, therefore, can rest assured that the Government favour this method of control of imported supplies and other suitable commodities. But it will be realised that the general intention of the Sydney Conference was that the initiative for the formation of such commodity councils should come from producers themselves, and while we will give every possible help and en- 315 couragement to their formation, I hope this initiative by organised producers throughout the Empire will in fact be forthcoming.
Many other important points have arisen. The position of consumers has been mentioned, as inevitably it would be, and I can assure the House that, in my experience, farmers are extremely interested in the ability of consumers to buy their products, and thoroughly realise that the mere raising of prices, by itself, would be no solution of their particular problem, but they suggest that in the long run it is not in the interests of consumers that producers of food throughout the world should be compelled to sell at a loss. I think that the party opposite thoroughly appreciate that fact, as Lord Addison certainly appreciates it. When all is said and done, we have only to look at the direction of our export trade, which mostly flows to those countries which rely upon primary production for their prosperity; and we have only to realise the enormous importance of agriculture in this country to make quite certain that, in the interests of our own country and of our own people, there is a fair level of prices throughout the world. Other things have been mentioned, and I am sure other things will be mentioned before the Debate finishes. There is, first, the question of how we are to improve the quality of our home production; second, how we are to improve the processing and marketing of our home production; and, third, advertising. Mention has also been made of land drainage and credit facilities, which are important points.
I believe that all these matters, which by no means exhaust the points to be dealt with, are bound to play a really important part in any permanent scheme which we may devise for agriculture. I can assure the House that in the review which the Government are undertaking none of these points will be neglected. It must obviously be our object to enable home agriculture in all its branches to achieve the maximum degree of efficiency so that it can meet competition under the most favourable conditions. The benefits which can accrue through the points I have mentioned, however, come rather slowly, and I believe that the first thing we have to do is to provide our farmers and farm workers with real confidence in the future.
316 The Government have made good progress with their review and they expect to meet the National Farmers' Union to discuss their proposals next week. The invitation went out to them because they had, in fact, submitted definite proposals, but before we have completed the review I hope to have the advice both of those who represent landowners and those who represent the workers' interests. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the consumers?"] The consumers are very well represented. I can hear somebody saying that this is a hope which arises out of inexperience. I do hope, however, that as a result of these consultations and with the co-operation of all concerned in the production of food we shall be able to evolve proposals which will allow agriculture to face the future with that degree of confidence which is essential in any business both for its prosperity and for its efficiency. It has already been announced that whatever legislation is found to be necessary as a result of this review will be proceeded with as quickly as possible.
All I would do now is to ask the House to believe that I do not under-rate the difficulties and the complexities of the problems which still remain to be settled, and I am fully aware of the responsibilities which are attached to this office. At this moment we are striving to make our country completely secure, and I know of no more important task than that of ensuring that in all circumstances there will be adequate supplies of food for our population in times of emergency. However heroic they may be, no people can fight on empty stomachs, and I am conscious of the fact that home agriculture must play a leading part in providing our country with the assurance that they need not worry about their stomachs. More than that, I believe that in all our citizens, whether they dwell in towns or whether they dwell in the country, there is the knowledge that no nation can possibly remain as strong and as virile as we intend to remain if it allows the land from which it derived its strength to decay. One has only to study the columns of our newspapers to realise the depth of the desire of our nation to recreate a healthy and prosperous and a more numerous rural population. That, too, is the desire of the Government, and I hope that with the help of the House we shall be able to make some further real contribution to the fulfilment of that desire.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
May I express my regret that the ex-Minister of Agriculture is no longer Minister of Agriculture and echo the sentiments which were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd)? I want to congratulate the new Minister, not only on his appointment, but on his first ministerial speech. Whether we agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's observations and policy or not, I hope it will never prevent us from expressing the hope that he will succeed in his new office. On my way to London I read the various newspapers in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman's appointment was announced. It was described as "a surprise," as "unexpected"; he was referred to as "a dark horse" and the appointment was described as "very ingenious." I do not know which of those descriptions fits the hon. and gallant Gentleman, although I think I can say that for the sake of the industry we are all hopeful that he will succeed in fulfilling the expectations which he has thrown out in his speech. We know that the Prime Minister moves in very mysterious ways. He has been credited with slowly retreating before the dictators. His most recent appointment to the Ministry of Agriculture is a headlong dash before the farmers of this country. After all, it is not to be wondered at. There was the redoubtable Jimmy Wright of Norfolk, who was sent to London by the Patronage Secretary to become a messenger boy between one room and another; there was the danger in the Holderness by-election; and there was the threatened farmers' march on London.
The Prime Minister had farmers to the right and left of him, and all round him. What could he do but bring in a farmer and place him in the front line trench? I think it was the only thing the Prime Minister could do in the circumstances. My only regret is that the ex-Minister has been sacrificed in the process. We know that for seven years the National Government have been doing something, but my characterisation of what they have been doing is that largely they have been fiddling with a big fundamental national problem. They have "sacked" three Ministers in five years and almost destroyed their political reputations. When the hon. and gallant 318 Gentleman was appointed I wondered whether it was intended as a compliment to him—and I hope it is—or intended to allay the anxieties of agriculture or whether there was a possibility that this was intended to dig an early political grave for him. I am not at all sure that the last-named may not be the case. However, the "Yorkshire Post" gives us some clue to the real reason for this appointment. Its headlines this morning state:£15,000,000 MORE FOR BRITISH FARMERS. STATE AID TO BE DOUBLED.It goes on:FROM OUR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT.Westminster, Tuesday.British farmers are to get an extra £15,000,000 a year from the State. That was the condition upon which Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, former President of the National Farmers' Union, accepted the office of Minister of Agriculture last week.I should like to know from the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he did lay down a condition to the effect that no less than £15,000,000 extra per annum would have to be paid to agriculture. The hon. and gallant Member quite wisely, and in the most perfect Ministerial fashion, strictly avoided any reference to that condition. We know that the new Minister does know something about the problem confronting him. He has told us just now exactly what the farmers think, what the nation is thinking and, at long last, what politicians are thinking about this problem. If the "Yorkshire Post" correspondent is strictly correct—and he does not seem to hesitate; he is in no doubt about it—in saying that £15,000,000 extra is being granted, I want to ask why that £15,000,000 was not granted before? Why was it necessary to revise Ministers if the money was there and it was necessary that it should be handed over? Perhaps history alone will tell us why.
We know that the new Minister possesses a first-hand knowledge of the industry. We know that he has helped to produce most of the policies of the National Farmers' Union for quite a number of years, and by now he should know what is the solution for the problem. I do not see the need for deputations next week. For deputations to come to London from Leeds and elsewhere, spending their hard-earned money to tell the ex-President of the Farmers' Union what the Farmers' 319 Union really wants, is merely a work of supererogation. In any case, from that point of view, the hon. and gallant Gentle man is perhaps the right kind of person to fill his post, if only the policies promulgated from the National Farmers' Union are worth a moment's examination. I read in the "Times" of Monday morning their leader referring to the new appointments, in which they made some slight reference to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. They said:As ex-President and delegate of the National Farmers' Union, we may yet hear him saying in the best Mikado manner, 'I suggest—nay, I insist—that the Government should guarantee simultaneously more profits for the farmers, better wages for the workers, and cheaper food for the masses. As President of the Board of Agriculture, however, I conceive it to be my duty, first to express my heartfelt sympathy with myself over the unhappy condition in which I find myself, and then to meet my own proposals with an uncompromising negative.'I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not going to experience the conditions laid down by the writer in the Times."
I come now to the Motion before us and to the Amendment which has been moved. The hon. and gallant Gentleman tells the House that the terms of the Motion are not quite identical with the proposals of the National Farmers' Union, but that the difference is so slight as to be almost unnoticeable. In any case, the Motion calls for a guaranteed economic price which will enable the efficient farmer to meet his costs and to pay better wages to agricultural labourers, and goes on to ask for commodity boards to determine the regulation of imports. The policy of the National Farmers' Union simply asks for what they call very simply, a price insurance policy. A brief reference was made to it by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I have examined their proposals very carefully, because I hoped that they did provide the basis for a lasting solution of this agricultural problem.
The more I look at their proposals—that is, the proposals of the National Farmers' Union and not those of the Minister, since he is no longer President of the National Farmers' Union—the more they look so delightfully simple as to be almost impossible of acceptance by a hard-boiled House of Commons. They simply ask that a committee be appointed and be empowered to fix a price and that, with changing circumstances, they can 320 vary the price; that commodity boards can regulate imports as and when it is necessary to enable the British farmer to have first place in his own market. In the interests of the farmers, and particularly in the interests of the Minister, who has now to consult and satisfy not only his late colleagues the farmers, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his colleagues on that Front Bench and finally this House of Commons, before he proceeds to further negotiations, I want to ask him one or two questions.
He made reference to wheat and to the wheat policy at present applicable to this country being an insurance policy, but it does not appear to me to be quite a form of insurance when only one partner in the concern can receive any benefit. Suppose, for instance, in the price insurance policy propounded by the National Farmers' Union and by the great conference convened by three Conservative Members and held in Yorkshire last week, which they said was strictly an impartial conference of farmers, auctioneers, merchants and the rest—although I noticed in the document they circulated that they actually pinched out of this National Farmers' Union statement of policy a full page containing the National Farmers' Union proposals—
§ Mr. Turton
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? He has made a statement which is not quite accurate. The conference did not circulate that document; it was circulated by the farmers in the conference, which was composed of industrialists and farmers. Invitations were sent to Members of all parties.
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, but on the frontispiece the words are, "Conference convened by"—the three hon. Members who were responsible for the conference.
§ Mr. Williams
I do not want to controvert anything, but they said that at this so-called impartial conference they put forward only the National Farmers' Union proposals with which I am now dealing, if the hon. Member will permit me to do so. Suppose a price is fixed for a commodity and, as a result of a bad season, the price fixed by the small committee is exceeded, will the surplus price above the fixed price be paid into the Treasury? That is my conception of in- 321 surance. If the fanner is to be guaranteed a static price, clearly that ought to be the price, but if the price is exceeded because of a bad season, clearly that excess ought to proceed to the Treasury, so that when Nature is very kind and there is a good season, a surplus on the market, the bottom falls out of the price and the farmers are in need of receiving the fixed price, we can go back to where the surplus went to insure the farmer against loss that year. Is that the Minister's conception of price insurance? It seems to me that that is one of the basic questions to be dealt with in this so-called price insurance plan.
If the Government are going to fix a price, through the agency of the Committee, for those commodities which are suitable for this particular operation, are the Government going to permit the farmers to continue to sell their product as they please; or, since the Treasury is to guarantee the farmers a specific price for their commodity, will the Government insist that the farmers shall sell their commodity to the best advantage? It seems to me that these questions have never been faced by the National Farmers' Union, or, if they have, they have never been recorded in their documents; and, since they have never been recorded, it seems to me that they have not examined the implications of their price insurance plan. Further, will the fixed price for any commodity be for a specified quantity, or will it be a fixed price regardless of the quantity and regardless of fluctuations in output?
A good deal has been said in this Debate and in previous Debates about the colossal tragedy and disaster to barley growers. It is, of course, one of the fundamental problems affecting agriculture that one never knows what nature is going to do. What was the problem in regard to barley last year? The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that in 1936, which was about an average year for output and price, there was no complaint from barley growers. In 1937, in which year the output of barley was abnormally low—576,000 tons—because there was a short supply and a bad season, the price went up from an average of round about 9s. per cwt. to 13s. 3d. There was not a word from the producers of barley that year. But in 1938, which was a record season both in yield per acre and in total output, the 322 yield jumping from 14 cwt. to 18 cwt. per acre and the total output from 576,000 tons to 803,000 tons, the market was saturated, and, therefore, after the first 4,000,000 cwt. had been sold at an average price of round about 8s. 9½d. per cwt., the remainder fetched only about 7s. 10d.; and, because nature was so kind, the barley grower was supposed to be suffering disastrous consequences in that year. What is the price insurance plan going to do with the ups and downs of crops of that description? If the price fetched is 13s. 3d., and if the guaranteed price is 10s., will the 3s. 3d. go to the Treasury, so that when the price falls to 7s. 10d., when nature is awfully kind, the Treasury can provide the other 2s. 2d.? If the Treasury have to meet an unknown liability for all time, then the permanent prayer of the Treasury will be, "We thank thee, O Lord, for a wretched, bad season," That must be the case unless the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to face up to the realities of this price insurance plan of his.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman made little or no reference to the question of distribution. It is true that we have produced, for the first time, an Amendment in which we use the expression "guaranteed prices"; but we ally guaranteed prices with a definite reorganisation of the distribution system in this country. As we conceive it, we could not afford, I do not think the Treasury would permit for a moment, and I am sure this House, once it understands the proposal, will not assent to, guaranteed prices for the farmers or anyone else, and then allow the farmers or anyone else to sell to whom they like, how they like, and at what price they like, the Government making up the difference. It simply cannot be done. Therefore, as we see the problem, we are willing to guarantee a certain fixed price, based on all our experience over a long period—and the statistical department of the Ministry of Agriculture know what is a fair average price for every commodity down to cabbages—and we are prepared to agree to the fixation of an average price; but when the Government—that is the Treasury—have guaranteed the price they are clearly entitled to control, to a large extent, the sale of that commodity. Unify the two, face up to the full problem, and then perhaps hon. Members on these benches will go all the way with the Government.
323 I have not forgotten that in 1934, in this House, one of the predecessors of the Minister informed the country as to the condition of the beef industry in this country. There was no way out, he said, except to grant a subsidy. A subsidy of 5s. per cwt. was granted on high quality beef. But for the last seven weeks preceding the operation of the subsidy the average price was 40s. 3d.; for the seven weeks following the commencement of the operation of the subsidy, the average price was 35s. 7d. Where had that 4s. 8d. departed? In seven short weeks an average of £3,400,000 is given to agriculture, and it has vanished between the Treasury and the butcher's shop. What is the Minister going to do with that when the Government guarantee a price or give a direct subsidy? It is no use telling me that, after all, the price might be increased, because for the last quarter, including Christmas, of 1934, the price had fallen from 40s. 3d., which was the pre-subsidy figure, to 34s. 6d., including the subsidy.
It may be said, "Did not the price go down to the consumers?" As a matter of fact, the Department tells us that the retail price went up by ½d. a lb. in the same period. The farmer gets less, notwithstanding the 5s. subsidy, and the consumer pays more. Is the Minister going to do anything about that? It is no use asking hon. Members just to pay sums to agriculture. It is not fair to agriculture to do that, and it is not fair to the House and the country. The Rural Reconstruction Association have been looking at this problem, and they say:Regret is expressed that little or no attention is given to the problem of distribution. It has been computed that distributors retain on the average 60 per cent. of the prices consumers pay. The association believes that under a reorganised system of distribution the same functions could be carried out efficiently at a cost of 40 per cent. of the consumers' prices. The consumer then need pay no more for what he buys, while the extra 20 per cent. which would reach the producer should be sufficient to allow for the difference between the present inadequate returns and the fair profitable standard prices recommended.They may not be the greatest experts in the world, but they have a point of view on this problem, and it is because we feel that that fits our policy that we want the Minister not only to think in terms of chivying the poor miserable Chancellor of the Exchequer for £15,000,000, but to 324 do something that will permanently restore prosperity and confidence.
I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he has any ideas about distribution at all? There is a warning, and he had better be very careful. His predecessor started to do something in a very timid way about reorganising the distribution of milk, and that was the end of the ex-Minister of Agriculture. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will have to be very careful what he does about that. If he is convinced that his Government are going to remain in office for the next seven, eight or nine months, he wants to leave his mark on the annals of the Ministry of Agriculture as having done something substantial and fundamental that will remain of permanent value to them. He must think in terms of reorganisation of our present distribution system. He must do that if he wants to command the support of the people in this House. The hon. Member who seconded the Conservative Motion, referring to the Sydney Resolutions, of which the present Minister of Agriculture was a very active supporter, said that we cannot afford the haphazard marketing scheme which is going on at the present moment, and that we must bring the Dominions and the Colonies together and must organise the importation of our food supplies. That is all very well, but let us do some organising in the distribution of our food supplies in this country too.
There is only one other thing that I want to say about that. There is only one price insurance plan in existence in this country at the moment, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just left office was responsible for it. The only price insurance scheme in existence with regard to agriculture applies to bacon. So long as the price of bacon and the price of feeding stuffs remains at a certain figure, then certain prices are paid, but in certain circumstances, if the prices remain the same but the cost of some feeding stuffs is reduced, the pig producer has to make a payment to the Treasury. He is now making a payment to the Treasury of about 4d. per cwt. That is the only price insurance scheme in existence, and yet—and every pig producer in the country knows it—there were 60,000 fewer pigs last December than there were the year before. That is not very encouraging anyhow.
325 We on these benches recognise that agriculture is confronted with very many problems. We know that the agricultural labourer is not only a skilled man, but that his output per person has increased by 30 per cent. over the last six or seven years. We know that the costs of feeding stuffs are only 103 as compared with 100 for the years 1911 and 1913. We do not hear anything about that from the opposite benches. But with all the advantages that agriculture may have enjoyed in the past, we are not satisfied with the present position. We want to see our farms well equipped and the farmer in a position to make the maximum use of his land. We are satisfied that the present landowner cannot or will not provide the means. If the landowner will not do so, then the State must step in and guarantee to the producer a reasonable price for his produce, and the State, having guaranteed the price, must see to it that the consumer is not exploited between the farmer and the consumer.
Nor must we allow the Treasury to be exploited for interests who are getting infinitely more than their fair share of the products. We, as well as the Minister, want to see the farmer prosperous. We want to see the right hon. Gentleman adopt the right policy. We do not want the farmers to be led up the garden in the future as in the past. I hope that the new Minister of Agriculture, with all his practical knowledge of the industry, will bring that knowledge to bear not only in the Ministry of Agriculture but with his Front Bench Cabinet colleagues. I hope that he will pay attention to the productive and distributive problem and let us have something lasting and fundamental for this industry.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
The Debate has shown that in every quarter of the House there is great anxiety to give the new Minister every support in his hard task. We all feel with him that everything must be done for the land of England and that that is the right way to approach the problem. The points that we are particularly conscious about are that unless something is done, and done quickly, to give credit and a feeling of confidence in the industry, the situation will become almost irretrievable. Secondly, we have to remember that unless something can be done to assist the landowners who may 326 be willing but cannot find means to improve the condition of the land, it may be necessary to consider quite boldly the whole system of land tenure in this country. If we believe that the land is the one thing that matters, and I certainly believe that, it is absolutely essential in certain cases, but not by any huge scheme of nationalisation, that those who own land shall be able in some way or other to pass it over in circumstances that will enable the land to have proper treatment.
I know from my own personal experience that if one has a relative who may own a large estate on which there are a good many tenant farmers, and he is an old man, every one of those tenant farmers is counting the day to hear that the landlord has died. He may hang on for some time. They are not putting back into the land what they should put back into it because, owing to the system of Death Duties and heavy taxes on land, which has been going on now for many years, the State has been taking away the capital of the country and using it as revenue. If we really believe that the land is the wealth of the country and must be nurtured as wealth, it is a wrong form of taxation to go on year after year penalising the land and taking away from the next successor the means of supplying the farmers with the wherewithal to work the land. If that system of land tenure is to go on much longer it must mean ruin in a great many parts of the country.
There are many men who are landowners and who have such a love of the land that it breaks their hearts to see it going back. There is no hon. Member who does not recollect seeing the country from the windows of the railway train in a very different condition from what it is to-day. We see reeds and rushes where before there was pasture. We see fences broken down, and if we go to any steading we see how much money must be spent to put it in proper order. When we have that sort of thing going on throughout the country it is not fair to blame the Ministry of Agriculture, which is like Bluebeard, with many wives in this House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman who is the last wife will remain for ever in the favour of the House and the country.
It is not fair to blame the Minister if the fundamental system of taxation makes it impossible for farming to be conducted in the way that we should expect. 327 Therefore, I should like to see the Government face the situation boldly and squarely. I detest the idea of hon. Members opposite for the nationalisation of land. You cannot nationalise the land and look after it sufficiently well because there are not trained supervisors to enable you to do so. The banks at the moment are owed by the agricultural industry some £90,000,000 to £100,000,000 of money. If there is indebtedness of an industry you can put in a receiver and continue to work the factory or the colliery, but you cannot, owing to the multiplicity of farms, put in a receiver and see that the land is worked to advantage. The consequence is that as we lack any system of land credit banks it is impossible to exert proper supervision and, therefore, there is a growing dislike by the banks to make further advances.
We wish the new Minister of Agriculture all good luck and I hope that Members in all parts of the House will give him assistance and help in his task. But, at the same time, I think we must face the fact that owing to the penal form of taxation it is almost impossible, especially in some parts of Scotland where no money is coming in from the land, and where farmers have not paid rent for four or five seasons, for the laird or the landowner to continue to make advances to carry on any land, because he has come to the last of his resources. This situation is sufficiently urgent to demand the attention of His Majesty's Government and of every hon. Member who calls himself a Conservative. Conservatism used to mean conserving something which is worth keeping. The land is certainly worth keeping, and I think it can be done if we turn right away from the quack remedies of hon. Members opposite and from this penal taxation and see if we cannot get fairness in taxation, a form of taxation which does not fall on a particular form of national wealth upon which hundreds and thousands of men depend for their living. It should not be beyond the wit of this House to face the matter boldly and realise that the system of Death Duties on wealth which is not negotiable is putting them in a perilous situation. The question should be looked at without prejudice. We must recognise that if we do not deal with it soon it will become very difficult for any Govern- 328 ment to find the necessary finance to put farm buildings in order and see that drainage is carried out, which used to be done before this form of taxation was imposed. I feel that whilst there are many palliatives we have to look further and deeper for some of the underlying causes of agricultural depression.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Rosbotham
I rise to support the Motion. The observations which have been made by the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and by other hon. Members have all shown that it is absolutely necessary to do something to retrieve the agricultural position. One hon. Member was rather disturbed about the damage done by rabbits. I can tell him a way to get rid of rabbits. Let him apply to the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson), who can send him sufficient colliers to get rid of that pest. I welcome the new Minister for Agriculture, and I think the ex-Minister, who has sat by him to-night, is going to stand by him in all his work. An additional responsibility now rests upon the right hon. Gentleman the new Minister and on the National Farmers' Union. The National Farmers' Union must stand by the new Minister and help him to formulate the policy. That duty rests on every one of us, too. We must try to do our best. We have ideas, and we must contribute them.
I am not here to decry what the Government have done for the farmer. On the contrary, as a farmer I am in a position to appreciate what they have done. The Wheat Act was the salvation of many farmers. Revenue duties on agricultural produce have saved the agricultural position, and if you travelled through the division which I represent you would find there not only glass houses but glass farms. Sugar beet growing has been put on a permanent basis. The new policy of cheap fertilisers was a step in the right direction in order to improve the fertility of the soil; and I would like to make a recommendation, namely that those farmers who wish to cultivate oats or barley should not be deprived of the subsidy because they are getting the wheat subsidy under the Wheat Act, because oats and barley are shallow-rooted plants, and wheat is a deep-rooted plant, and if you keep growing wheat on the same rotation you are losing some of the fertility 329 of the soil. The canning industry has given a great impetus both to agriculture and horticulture.
I would also like to emphasise a point which has already been made, the heavy burden placed on agricultural land by the high death duties and estate duties. I am speaking as a farmer, and I know the hardship to tenant farmers that has been caused by the estate duties. As a result of those duties the present landowners are not able to spend as much as they would wish to do on their land and buildings and on draining and fencing.
The Government have not neglected rural housing, and the district councils are now engaged in that important work, and I welcome that because it will do away with the pernicious system of the tied cottage. The Government have also passed unemployment insurance for agricultural workers. That has been lacking for many years. The city and the town and the countryside are all linked up and must work together. There are Members in this House who represent city and town divisions who are at the present moment doing all they can to support the Government in their policy of restoring prosperity to agriculture.
I quite agree with the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that something ought to be done with regard to the distribution of agricultural produce. I believe that the Marketing Boards have not risen to the occasion. We had a bumper crop of potatoes this year, and the poorest of the poor in our towns and cities are not getting the benefit of that crop through faulty distribution arrangements. This is a matter that will have to be looked into. All that the farmers want is fair prices for their main products, based on the cost of production. For years, Leeds University has been making calculations on the cost of production of crops, and other universities and associations could do the same thing. There would be no difficulty in ascertaining what are the costs of production. A healthy and prosperous rural population is a national asset. From where do we get the best statesmen? From where do we get the best professional men? From where do we get the best railwaymen, with a clear sight gathered from the green fields? From where do we get the best policemen? From where do we get the best wives? We must have a rural population. I wish the Minister success in 330 bringing prosperity back to agriculture and the countryside.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Morgan
I was not particularly anxious to intervene in the Debate, except for a reason which I think the Minister will appreciate. He and I have known each other for a considerable time, and I want to wish him success in his office, especially as one realises that he is facing a difficult passage. The honour would not have fallen upon him had there not been a complete failure in other directions and in other quarters to meet the position. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has been summoned to the aid of the Government to deal with a position which has been steadily deteriorating over the last few years, in spite of all that has been done from the Government Benches. Therefore, I am quite sincere in expressing the hope that he will manage the job; but I do hope that, in view of the experience of the effect of subsidies upon the position of the farmer when he comes to sell his products, the Minister will be suspicious about handing out too much in order further to subsidies the marketing of the produce.
I ask him to turn his attention to the simple fact that the produce of our farms, the fresh food that builds up the health of the community, is being bought by people who, for some reason or another, can afford to buy it, and that the people who are not buying this produce and who ought to have it, not for any reasons connected directly with agriculture, but because of their own physical needs for the kind of food that agriculture is capable of producing, are not buying it for the simple reason that they cannot afford it. If there is any subsidisation to be done, it ought to be directed towards improving the purchasing power of people who are now buying tinned milk, not because they like it, but because they cannot afford liquid milk; frozen and imported meat, not because they like it, but because they cannot afford fresh meat; and the same thing applies throughout. A woman in the town does not need to be told that an egg that was laid yesterday morning in the nestbox is far better for her purpose than one that was laid three months ago 13,000 miles away. The only reason she does not buy it is that she cannot afford it. I beg the Minister to see that there is an institution of some kind, 331 and that an authority is established, that puts money into the hands of the consumers, in order that they may buy, not agricultural produce—
§ Sir P. Hurd rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.332
§ Mr. Morgan
—but the food necessary for the health of the men, women and children in the industrial areas of this country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 107.333
|Division No. 28.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W)||Errington, E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Owen, Major G.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Allan, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Evarard, Sir W. Lindsay||Patrick, C. M.|
|Andersen, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Petherick, M.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gluckstein, L. H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Granville, E. L.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gretlon, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Grimston, R. V.||Ropnar, Colonel L.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guilt, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Bracken, B.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hambro, A. V.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Harbord, A.||Rowlands, G.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Brooks, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Scott, Lord William|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hepworth, J.||Smith, Bracewell (Outwich)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Higgs, W. F.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Somerset, T.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hopkin, D.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Channon, H.||Hunloke, H. P.||Spans, W. P.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hunter, T.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hutchison, G. C.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Joel, D. J. B.||Storey, S.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen, Sir H. Page||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Cross, R. H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Touche, G. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lees-Jones, J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Levy, T.||Turton, R. H.|
|De la Bère, R.||Lewis, O.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lindsay, K. M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Denville, Alfred||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Dixon, Cast. Rt. Hon. H.||Loftus, P. C.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Donner, P. W.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Margasson, Cast. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Markham, S. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Marsden, Commander A.||Williams, H. G. (Creydon, J.)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mayhew Lt.-Col. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Medlicott, F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Wise, A. R.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Munro, P.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Emery, J. F.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sir Percy Hurd and Mr. Drewe.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hayday, A.||Parker, J.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pearson, A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||John, W.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Benson, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J.(H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGovern, J.||Walkden, A. G,|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacLaren, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Frankel, D.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mathers, G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J (Ogmore)|
|Cibson, R, (Greenock)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Muff, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Groves, T. E.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Price and Mr. Quibell.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Paling, W.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Several hon. Members rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.