§ No subsidy payment under this Act shall be made in relation to any farm unless the appropriate Minister is satisfied that during the period for which the subsidy payment is to be reckoned, every adult person employed for wages on the farm was assured of an average wage of not less than forty shillings per week.— [Mr. T. Smith.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The object of this Clause is to provide that no subsidy shall be paid under this Bill unless every adult person employed for wages on the farm is assured of an average wage of not less than 40s. per week. Two years ago a similar Clause was moved in this House, and a full-dress Debate took place, and on that occasion expressions of opinion came from all parts of the House that the agricultural worker was worth at least £2 a week and ought to have a far higher wage than that, and certainly far higher than he is receiving at the present time. In Committee up stairs last week, when this Clause was debated, opinions were expressed by hon. Members opposite to the effect that the Clause ought to be carried, and some hon. Members stated that in their part of the country this figure could be paid. When the Division was taken it was rather significant that we had the biggest vote of any in the history of the Committee, and the Government Whips were at some pains to fetch in their forces in order to ensure that the new Clause was not carried. When the result was announced it was found that the new Clause had been defeated by 21 votes to 17. That being so, we feel justified in pursuing the matter further on the Report stage of the Bill.
I know the argument that the Minister will use. I listened to him in Standing Committee, and I have been reading his speech again in order to refresh my memory. We shall be told that however desirable is legislation for ensuring a minimum wage to the agricultural worker, 220 this is not the right way to do it. But I am bound to say that the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) put his finger on the spot when he said, "It never appears to be the right time to do the right thing for the agricultural worker." I hope that this afternoon we shall have not only a thorough discussion of the new Clause, but that we shall get from hon. Members opposite support for it, and an admission that the agricultural worker is the equal of the industrial worker and that the ought to have immediately a guarantee of a minimum of £2 a week.
There are some things about which we are all agreed. I know hon. Members opposite well enough to know that they believe the agricultural worker is a skilled worker; they recognise that work on the land is a skilled occupation. They also recognise that the agricultural worker in this country is as good as any to be found in the world. They agree that, whatever may be said about the economic position of agriculture, we have an excellent soil, and an excellent climate speaking relatively, and that we produce from that soil some of the best produce and the finest stock in the world. As I said in the Standing Committee, if anyone doubts that statement he has only to attend the Royal Show or any county agricultural show for proof of what I have said. But with all these advantages, natural and otherwise, the one thing that the land of this country has never yet produced has been a decent wage for the agricultural worker. Historically and to-day it is the Cinderella of all industries, and yet the agricultural worker is the most important man there is in industry. He supplies the first human needs, and if war came the nation would recognise his importance in industry.
At the same time there are one or two questions that have to be answered. I know that when arguing for a wage in crease, whether before employers or in this House, one must have some regard to the capacity of an industry to pay the wage demanded. We are in the unfortunate position that we have no reliable statistics to tell us exactly what is the economic position of agriculture or what are the costs of production. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture had the privilege of attending an Imperial Conference in New South Wales. If he had made any inquiries in that State 221 he would have found farmers who would have told him exactly what they believed to be the cost of sheep, mutton, butter, cheese, and of nearly all their products. I went round some of the farms in that State and in Victoria with members of the Agricultural Research Council, who told me accurately what they regarded as fair prices for their commodities. They knew exactly what prices were ruling in the market and knew whether they were making a profit or a loss. In this country we have no such reliable statistics. Indeed in the Standing Committee I asked the Minister whether he could tell me when last agriculture in this country was prosperous. He said he could not remember.
We have to-day, so far as we can gather, an average agricultural wage in the United Kingdom of 34s. 9,d. for a week of about 50 to 51 hours. I believe it costs more than two guineas a week to keep a man in gaol. That figure of 34s. 9d. is far too low. It must be re membered that in the countryside during the past two or three years there has been built a different type of house which costs the, agricultural worker in rent more than he formerly paid. I think I am right in saying that the average rent paid is in the region of 5s. 6d. and 6s. a week, including rates; so that, deducting national health insurance and unemployment insurance and 6s. for the rent, the agricultural worker goes home with about 28s. a week. I have said that a modern type of house has been built for farm labourers. In Norfolk only a fortnight ago I saw houses that were let at from 5s. 6d. to 6s. a week. I would like to see all the farm workers get away for ever from the old 3s. a week cottage. It was a scandal that he should have had to live in such a type of house. We have not to blind ourselves to certain facts. There are many men working on the land who receive more than 34s. gd. a week — special classes such as stockmen, shepherds, horsemen, cowmen, wagoners. In Cumberland and Westmorland a man is paid 42s. a week, but he has to work 62 hours a week, seven days a week.
I have here a list of the wages paid in the United Kingdom under the awards of wages boards to the special classes. When we come to ask the question whether or not the industry can afford to pay higher wages there are no reliable statistics 222 available and one has to make a few estimates. There are in this country 690,000 people employed in agriculture. Eighteen years ago there were 300,000 more than that total employed, The decline in the number of men working on the land may be a prime factor in making up hon. Members' minds when they have to consider voting on this new Clause. If we deduct from the 690,000 the relatives of farmers who do not work for wages in the ordinary sense we get into the region of 500,000. If we say that the wages bill of all those engaged in agriculture is in the region of £60,000,000 a year we shall not be far wrong. Then we have to remember that the State in directly and directly has given a good deal of assistance to agriculture during the past eight years. Since 1931–32 there have been 36 or 37 Bills brought before this House to assist agriculture. Taking a bird's-eye view of the assistance given we find this: Rates are excused on agricultural land; that in itself represents a substantial figure, Then there are the Wheat Act, the subsidy on beet sugar, the beef subsidy, the subsidies for milk and fertilisers, and a dozen and one different things. Next there are tariffs and quotas and organised marketing and all that goes to make up the Government's agricultural policy. One of the weaknesses of that policy is that it has never been linked yet to wages. Out of that wages bill of £60,000,000 a year the State indirectly and directly finds at least £40,000,000 a year. Therefore, I think I am right in stating that in one shape or another the country pays about two-thirds of the existing wages bill.
When we come to look at the economic side, according to statistics that I have dug out the total produce sold in the United Kingdom last year was about £262,000,000. I mentioned a figure of £250,000,000 in the Standing Committee, but a man who should know and who is-engaged in agriculture tells me that the figure is £262,000,000. If we deduct the £60,000,000 paid in wages, there is £202,000,000 left. I am not able to state how much of that £202,000,000 goes to the landlord in the shape of rent, although I heard it estimated by one who should know that it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £47,000,000 to £50,000,000 a year. Nor can I say with certainty what is the actual cost of the raw material, seeds, fertilisers, and things 223 of that kind. But there is a very big gap between the wages bill and the price at which the produce is sold at the farm. I make this very definite assertion, that that produce is sold for far more than £262,000,000 when it is sold retail. I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite on this point, that I believe the farmer has a perfect right to a good price for his produce, a price big enough to enable him to get a fair return on his capital and to pay a decent wage, and I am more than satisfied that if we had a Government big enough to attack the vested interests in distribution and to appoint a committee or commission with powers to investigate the difference between the price of the produce at the farm and the price at which it is sold in the shops, we could eliminate in costs of distribution more than would pay £2 a week to the farm worker and give the farmer a better price for his produce.
Therefore, I say that with the information we have, scanty though it be, there is sufficient in the industry to pay this figure of £2 a week. I know that there are profitable farms and farms that lose money. I read yesterday a statement made by a Norwich farmer. If it is true the industry is in a bad way. I read this in the "Daily Express." I have always been thankful for support wherever it comes from, and I am glad that Lord Beaverbrook and the "Daily Express" have advocated this £2 a week. At a meeting of the Norfolk National Farmers' Union this farmer said:Never was there a time when Norfolk farmers were so badly hit as they are now. Rents are unpaid and the bank will not allow them any more credit. Never have so many farmers consulted me about their financial position, and when a farmer, one of the most conservative of men, does that, you know things are pretty desperate.The only thing I can say is that if farming in Norfolk is as this gentleman described it, what a monument that is to the National Government. What a reflection upon all the legislation that has been passed. If that is all that Norfolk can show after eight years of National Government the sooner they turn out this Government and get another one in, the better for themselves and for the people generally.
The next argument will be that we shall be told that a better way to deal with the 224 wages question will be to leave it to the free flow of negotiation in the county agricultural committees. The agricultural worker is in an unfortunate position on those bodies. The Act was passed in 1924 which set up those bodies. I would re mind hon. Members opposite that previously we had a Conservative Government and Coalition Government for four years, and that they repealed the Corn Production Act. They ruined many occupier-owners and abolished the agricultural wages boards. When wages were left to the free flow of the conciliation committees we had Mr. Noel Buxton standing at that Box and saying that many agricultural workers in this country were working for less than £1 a week. That was before this country had a Labour Government. When hon. Members opposite talk about the real cause of the decline in agriculture and about Government interference, let them look at the record of pre-war, War and after-war experience. When the farmers were given the Corn Production Act they were told that four year's notice would be given before it was repealed. Nevertheless it was repealed, and many farmers got into the bankruptcy court. You threw the workers back again to where they were before the War.
When the Act of 1924 was going through this House a combination of Conservatives and Liberals, including the present Foreign Secretary, united to take out the one safeguarding Clause that the Bill contains whereby the Minister could send back for reconsideration to county agricultural committees any award that he thought was insufficient. Under the Agricultural Wages Act, 1924, progress his been made to the extent that you have to-day an average wage of 34s. 9d. I submit that that is not enough. If agriculture is to prosper and if we are to keep our men on the land, we have to make the industry more attractive to the workers than it is to-day. We have had 50 years of so-called free education. There was a time when the old farm labourer never had a chance of going to school and when he was taught:God made them high and lowly,He ordered their estate,The rich man in his castle,The poor man at the gate.He was taught his job in the village. To-day he has a chance of equality in education. You have brains in the village school. Men occupy positions 225 to-day in engineering and science and all kinds of things, although they have come from villages. After half a century of free education you will not be able to get young men and women in the country side to put up with the things with which their fathers put up. Some hon. Members opposite who represent agricultural seats will be aware that many villages have bad sanitary arrangements, no running water and no social amenities and that there are bad cottages and no baths. All these things are driving the young iron out.
Whether this proposed new Clause be worded properly or not, it would at least enable this House to give an expression of its belief with regard to agriculture and the agricultural workers' wages. From the bottom of my heart I believe that if you wish to retain people on the land you must treat agricultural workers better than you are treating them now. You have to treat them more as equal to industrial workers. I sincerely hope that the House will be big enough to carry the proposed new Clause as an expression of opinion. Any anomalies can be removed by the Department. If the Clause is carried, it will show that we believe that the agricultural workers of this country are among the most important of all, and that they should have a wage of at least £2 a week.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan
I beg to second the Motion.
I am privileged in being able to do so. It has been moved very forcefully by my hon. Friend, and I cannot help feeling that it is in line with a good deal of sympathy on all sides of this House as well as in the country. I can imagine that nothing would, commend the agricultural efforts which have been made by the Government in recent times to the con science and the pocket of the taxpayers and the people generally than if we were to do something at this stage for the farm worker. I believe that the output of agricultural legislation from this House is becoming distinctly distasteful to the urban electorate, who begin to want to see value for money. They begin to want 10 see some restitution to the countryside of healthy conditions, reflected through the men who work upon it in the villages and the farms generally
226 This afternoon we are thinking of the farm worker himself. Hon. Members know him as a worthy member of the community, as worthy as any, member of it. He is out in the hayfields possibly this afternoon, or thatching, or doing his hedges. These thunder showers are very local, and the men are snatching their hay in conditions like this. You can see that they are the very best types of men, and I believe that hon. Members of this House have it on their consciences that they have done nothing for them yet. It is possible that if the right hon. Gentle man had put forward this Clause hon. Members on the other side would be unanimous in its support and would be glad to be relieved of responsibility for the continuance of the present conditions; but because this proposal comes from this side of the House it may be condemned by people who know well in their hearts and consciences that the time has come when this ought to be done.
The struggle of the farm labourer for a social status worthy of his job is epic. It goes right back to the days of the Tol-puddle martyrs who were transported for trying to combine to raise their wages. The agricultural workers have been at it ever since. They have had 6s., 8s., 10s. or a £1 per week, and at the moment their average wage is 34s. 9,d. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the periodical notices which are put up in rural parishes for jumble sales, because it is there that the farm worker's wife sees an opportunity of getting something in the way of clothes for herself and her family. It cannot be done out of 34s. 9d a week. A number of farm workers are still on the minimum wage. The Department has had to increase the inspectorate in recent times in order to see, by visiting farms, whether the farmers are even paying that mini mum wage, and there has been a substantial number of prosecutions following those visits.
No person in this House can give us a sound argument why there should be any discrimination at all between the worker on the farm and the workers in brick laying, engineering or any equivalent occupation. There is no argument for such discrimination but it does exist in actual hard cash and it affects the present situation in more ways than in just the money that is taken home. Why can we not face the housing problem of the countryside? Because rural district 227 councils know that they cannot ask farm workers to pay more than 3s. a week because of the wages that they know the workers are getting. What about education? Any school mistress will tell you that the child who is holding up the educational standard of the village— not always, but often— and is marked out by his or her condition, is the farm worker's child, who is subnormal in physical condition and even in status. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rot."] It is not rot. You can talk to school teachers and they will tell you that there is a marked difference in physical condition, even between small holders children and those of farm workers. Time after time I have had this kind of case put to me. I can only suggest to hon. Members opposite that they make a few inquiries.
Agricultural workers want to do a useful job, but we turn our backs upon the conditions of life in which they have to exist. The agricultural industry cannot afford to lose these men. We do not want to lose them, and in all sorts of indirect ways we are trying to retain them. We have authorised the Ministry of Health to give more subsidies for the building of farm houses. The farm labourer to day is allowed to be in an unemployment insurance scheme, but on a subsidiary basis, because his wages are known to be so low that you cannot give him his rights. You can give him only a maximum of 33s. a week, not because he is not entitled to more but because it would invalidate his position as a wage earner and disturb the wage position.
All this points to a great wrong done by this House in dealing with the position of a first-class citizen of this country. The Minister and others have pointed to the fact, which my hon. Friend has also been at some pains to point out, that this industry has received a considerable amount of assistance in tariffs, quotas and regulations, which are very effective. The import regulations are going to be the most effective part of the assistance to the sheep industry. Tariffs have definitely been a benefit in the horticultural industry. You have given £9,000,000 to wheat, £4,000,000 to cattle; to sugar beet, £3,000,000; to land fertility, £1,500,000; to bacon, £200,000; to oats and barley, £900,000; and now to land, £500,000. You are giving further subsidies to milk of £2,000,000. Oats, barley and sheep 228 may run to £6,500,000. Then there is derating. Another fact which should be taken into account is that the farmer is the most privileged member of the community in regard to Income Tax. No matter how much he earns, you take the gross value of his land and he pays on that. When he has losses, he can come in on the ordinary trader's basis and get away with it there.
All through you have treated the farmer handsomely, and the Minister has made the case that all this incidentally benefits the farm worker. He says it gets through to him, and he tells us how much gets through to him. On what basis he has estimated it I do not know, because it has been extremely difficult, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, to get anything like a statistical background for treating the industry properly. But the Minister has told us that he estimates that the farm worker's wage in recent years has risen by 14 percent. That is the one substantial figure that we have had; presumably 14 percent, of the benefit from these monetary assistances has trickled through to the farm worker. But all the time that he was gaining that 14 per cent, he was running away from the land to the tune of 25 percent., and actually at this moment a smaller amount of wages is being paid per 100 acres of agricultural land than at any time since the Government started. Actually the farmer is paying less wages per 100 acres of land than he was paying seven years ago; or, in other words, there is less income for the farm workers as a body of men in the countryside to-day than there was before this assistance came along, The general body of farm workers has not benefited, and this explains the drift from the land.
It may be pointed out that this Clause is a clumsy one, that it is ineffective; but I think my hon. Friend has disposed of that argument, and at any rate the Clause gives the House a chance to make itself perfectly plain on this issue. As to the cost of bringing it into operation, it would only apply to regular workers, and to-day we are down to the point that we have only 380,000 of these regular workers. One of the dangers that con front the farm labourer to-day is that he is being casualised. A larger proportion of farm workers to-day are on a part-time basis. That is recognised by the fact that the farm worker is given special 229 privileges in regard to unemployment insurance; he has only to have 20 stamps, whereas workers in other industries have to have 30. That is another form of in dignity placed on the farm worker. Why is he singled out in this way? Are we not alive enough to his position to protect him in that regard? Twenty stamps entitle him to unemployment benefit be cause the industry is becoming casualised. There are only 380,000 regular workers, and the wage is 34s. 6d. or 34s. 9.d. That means that only about £500,000 a month, or roughly £6,000,000 a year would be required to make up the figure in the Clause.
I expect the Minister will reply, as he did on another occasion, that many of these men are getting more than the 34s. 9,d. taken as the basic county rate. If that be true, if they are getting another 2s. or 3s. a week, that only makes our proposal more feasible; it cannot cost more than £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to do this job, and the Government are not being asked to do it, nor are the farmers, because according to our proposal It is only as they themselves decide to qualify for the subsidy that they undertake to pay this wage. In other words, they will, farmer-like, sit back and calculate whether it will pay them to apply for the oats, barley or sheep subsidy and pay this wage. If the £ s. d. is against it, they will not be required to pay the wage, but if it will pay them to draw the subsidy and pay the wage they can do so. That is quite a suitable initial approach to a problem like this.
The Minister may argue that it is not only that side of the question that matters, and that, if you once raise the minimum, you are going to shift the wage rates all round— that the cowman and the horse man will want a corresponding increase. I agree that that may happen, but not to the extent that is indicated by the improvement in the basic position. It is often forgotten, even by Members on this side of the House, that supported by this agricultural wage are the wages of county council employés, Post Office workers, railway workers, quarrymen and so on. A whole series of people are resting on the low agricultural wage, and it would be a strategic move in the interests of low-wage earners in other industries if this basic wage of 34s. 9d. were forced up. It would affect, I agree, the wage 230 position of a large number of other people, but that would not be borne by the farming industry; it would be an incidental benefit all round arising from this proposal.
The Minister may say also that, if this Clause were adopted, it would lead to a lot of anomalies. But to what sort of anomalies will it lead that would be comparable with the anomalies that he is creating in his own Bill? This very Bill is going to give a subsidy to any oat grower, whatever his position, without a means test. There are scores and hundreds of farmers to-day who produce oats at 5s. a cwt, and yet the average price taken is 8s. We have in this Bill the anomaly that a man can take apiece of de-rated land, plough it under, and get £2 for doing it; he can then grow on it a crop that will give him a subsidy next spring, and he can feed that subsidised crop to a bullock that is subsidised, or he can get a milk subsidy; and he can get a subsidy for putting fertiliser on the land. That one acre can be subsidised half-a-dozen times without knowing whether the farmer needs the subsidy or not, and then it is said that a Clause like this will create anomalies. A whole series of proposals is being put before the House without any attempt to make conditions, without any means test, which are creating anomalies in every possible direction. I hope that the Minister will not argue that this proposal would be anomalous.
The Minister has precedents. A Bill has just been introduced offering assistance to the shipping industry provided that they clean up conditions in the holds and so on of their ships, and provided that they give the Government the right to take ships that they would otherwise sell to other people. Conditions have been laid down there. Why should we not require the farming industry, if it accepts cash assistance from this House, the Government and the State, to pay a reasonable wage that is not out of line with the wages paid to other classes of workers? Finally, I would like to point to the soundness of our proposal by quoting the Agricultural Correspondent of the "Times," who has a considerable number of supporters in this country, and whose information and advice are usually well founded. He says, in his article in yesterday's "Times": 231Given a sound basis of prices, which the Agricultural Development Bill, in conjunction with existing measures, promises to establish, the farmer who organises his labour force intelligently, taking advantage of tractors and other modern equiment, should be able to pay at least £2 a week to the fewer men "he employs. The farmer may say with truth that not every man is worth £2 a week, but it is generally recognised that the days of cheap labour on the land are past in this country.By accepting this Clause, the Government would indicate to the whole country that in its opinion the days of cheap labour on the land are past for this country, and would hold out a hope to the men working on the land that they could stay there with some promise that we could use their skill sensibly and increase their standard of life on the countryside.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) made an eloquent speech, on which I should like to compliment him. Further, I found in his speech very little with which I personally disagree, and I believe it contained very little with which anybody on this side of the House would disagree. It was a calmly reasoned speech, and gave all the data that we require. My complaint is against the proposed new Clause itself. If the hon. Member were proposing a new Clause to provide for a subsidy to ensure the payment of a wage of 40s. a week, his speech would surely have achieved its purpose if the country could have afforded such a subsidy, but I am afraid that the Clause which is now before the House would have an effect which would be quite the reverse of the picture painted either by the hon. Member for Normanton or by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan). The Clause would, rightly or wrongly, make the present agricultural wages committees of no effect at all. I know that the Agricultural Wages Act passed by the Socialist Government of 1924 has its faults, but a great deal of good work has been done under it since that time, although there have been great difficulties; and at one fell swoop to smash the Act and introduce in its place a "chancy" method of assuring to some agricultural labourers a wage of 40s. a week, while others would be left with no remedy at all, is not, I believe, the right way of approaching this very difficult problem.
232 In Committee the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) gave the figures for wages in 1926 and to-day, and I think it will be of value to the House to have those figures before deciding. In 1926, the average wage paid was 31s. 8d., and the hon. Member gave the figure for the present year as 35s. 3d. I do not know that we need bother about the difference of 6d. between this figure and the figure given by the hon. Member for Normanton, but, according to these figures, the wages have increased by 3s. 7d. a week. The hon. Members opposite have always, so far, compared that increase with the subsidies paid by the Treasury, but, with great respect to them, that is not the true comparison. The true comparison, surely, is between the average prices of agricultural produce in 1926 and to-day, and, taking those prices, I find that, regarding the price in 1926 as 100, to-day the price is 91. In other words, prices have dropped to the extent of 9 percent, in the intervening years, while wages have risen by 3s. 7d. a week. I think the House should realise that the agricultural wages committees, great though their difficulties have been, have achieved that result. Although prices have been drop ping since 1926— the drop has now been checked by the present Government's agricultural policy— the average rate of wages has risen by 3s. 7d. a week, and it has been rising continual during the whole time.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Would the hon. Member be good enough to complete the picture, for the benefit of all Members of the House, by giving the figures for the increase of output per person since the year 1926?
§ Mr. Williams
As the hon. Member has quoted figures that I gave in the Committee, I would point out that I also gave the other figure, which shows an increase of 30 percent. Will the hon. Member also include that figure, so as to give the House the whole picture?
§ Mr. Turton
I believe that the right comparison is between the average price of the produce and the average wage. If 233 the hon. Member has some criticism to make of my way of doing it, I hope that, when he addresses the House later, he will make that criticism, but my view that it is right to base our approach to the problem on prices and not, as has been done by the two previous speakers, on the amount of the subsidy, because that gives a very wrong picture of what is happening. I want the House clearly to see what would happen if we were to pass this rich man's charter, this rich man's subsidy Clause proposed by the hon. Member for Normanton. It would mean that the rich farmer— the gentleman farmer— would be able to pay this wage of 40s. a week, but the man who would be hit would be the small man, who to-day is struggling against adversity and who has not the large amount of subsidy that is gained by the richer man.
That is the first great anomaly. [Interruption.] I could not catch what the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) said, but he is a Welshman. He knows that the small upland farmers have had a terribly hard time. It would be far more difficult for them than for a man who has a large prize dairy herd, and has been making better prices in the last few years. The man with a large dairy herd would not be affected by this Clause. The man who has been doing better than the small upland farmer would not be touched. The man who is well off would not be invited to pay 40s. a week. Only the small upland oat grower in the hills of Scotland and some of the hills of England would be invited to do so. That is not the correct way of attacking this very difficult problem.
As the Clause is now drawn, all family farms would be drawing the subsidy, and having no wage bill at all. In some cases, I know, the farmers' sons get an allowance of 10s. a week. It is surely not fair to bring forward a Clause which would enable family farms to receive a subsidy, when they have no addition to their costs of production, while those who employ labour have to raise wages by an average of 4s. 9.d. a week. [An Hon. Member: "That would be helping the small man."] I do not know about that. There are some people who, through no fault of their own, have no family to work the farm. I know one farmer with seven sons. He is in a fortunate position. There are others who have no children, and have to get hired labour.
234 The effect of this Clause would be to casualise farm labour even more than now, because the man who is employing casual labour would not be hit by the Clause. That would be a development which I believe every Member would deplore. A further difficulty is that when you have a minimum wage fixed that always tends to become the maximum. This 40s. a week would be laid down in an Act of Parliament as the right wage for any agricultural worker.
§ Mr. Turton
It has certainly tended to do that, in some parts of the country, in agriculture. It is known to be a fact. In my own area wages have continued to rise. They are already about 40s. a week. It would be unfortunate for the agricultural workers if their wages were stabilised at 40s. a week when they are already on that level, and hoping to receive more. We have to encourage men to stay on the land. I do not believe this new Clause will do that. I do not believe that we shall keep a man in agriculture by telling him, "We are going to give you the princely sum of 40s. a week, whereas by working on the roads you can get 41s. or 42s." Under this Act, when prices improve wages will improve. You can keep people in agriculture if you improve the conditions of the country side— and that is what we shall have to do in the near future. It is true that the Government have given rural water supplies in many parts of the country, but, although 8,000 parishes have piped supplies, 3,000 have not that advantage.
The hon. Member for Normanton talked about housing. Under last year's Act, houses are to be built, and the rent charged is not to be more than 3s. 6d. a week for a three-roomed house. That is the right way to encourage agricultural labour. The hon. Member for Normanton talked about rents of 5s. 6d. a week, but, fortunately, that is not the position in many parts of the country, owing to the limitation of rents under the Act. Lastly, we have to tackle the question of sanitation in the rural areas. I entirely disagree with the hon. Member for Don-caster, who talked about agricultural workers' children being slow on the uptake.
§ Mr. J. Morgan
I did not say that they were slow on the uptake. I said that they were in poor physical condition and not so nicely dressed.
§ Mr. Turton
I heard the hon. Member say they were in bad mental and physical condition. That will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT, unless it is corrected in the meantime.
§ Mr. Morgan
I am new to the House, Mr. Speaker, and, therefore, do not know how legitimate this kind of statement is. I said nothing of the kind, and to suggest that I am going up to correct the report of my speech does not seem to be in line with the traditions of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not in a position to recollect what was said in the House, but certainly it is not the custom for hon. Members to change their speeches in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Turton
I withdraw any suggestion that the hon. Member would maliciously alter anything he has said. But if there has been a slip or a mishearing it has always been the practice to change the report. I think all Members do go and see their speeches. [Hon. Members: "No! "] The agricultural workers' children and the agricultural workers are certainly as intelligent as anybody in the countryside, and, in my view, they are as strong physically. For that reason, when they grow up they tend to shift from the countryside when they find they have not got the amenities that are to be found in the towns and that men and women in other industries get higher wages. The right way of curing this is to see that agricultural prices and wages are improved.
§ Mr. Turton
I quite agree with the hon. Member; and when we get such Measures as that passed by the present Government, to limit rents for agricultural labourers to a maximum of 3s. 6d. a week, we shall help to keep agricultural workers on the land. I am sure that the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) is not very satisfied with the Addison Housing Act, and will give credit to the present Government for having got agricultural workers cottages at reasonable rents. I am glad to have his support in 236 the matter. I hope the House will not consider seriously a new Clause which has so many anomalies. While we are in sympathy with the ideas put so eloquently into shape by the hon. Member for Normanton, we should avoid doing something which will help one agricultural worker and hamper another, by saying, for all time, that we are satisfied with a wage of 40s. a week for agricultural workers.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett
I shall vote for this Bill, because it seems to me to do something for the fanner and farm worker, although it does more for the middleman. I shall vote for the proposed new Clause, because it seems to me that in agriculture you must work from the soil upwards. Agricultural workers are as necessary to us as soldiers. Thanks to the development of machinery, we are passing through the second phase of the Industrial Revolution— a phase affecting the farm instead of the factory. It is as essential to see that farm workers are decently fed and housed as that soldiers are properly looked after. If the farmers cannot afford to pay a minimum of 40s. a week to farm workers— and some, through no fault of their own, cannot do so— the State should intervene to pay the labourers' wages. The community cannot prosper while there is the present discrepancy between agricultural prices and costs. The discrepancy becomes in creasingly serious as mechanisation in creases the farmers' need of ready money. Duties on imported foodstuffs and subsidies have not solved that problem, and I do not believe that they ever will. The subsidy of £2 per acre for ploughing-up will not solve that problem, because it is becoming a problem of scarcity of labour. Even cheap credit will not help. I believe that the German State is trying to help agriculture by cheap credit, through the banks, and the result is that, after some years, nearly all the land is owned by the banks. I think we would rather have State ownership than bank ownership.
Every adult agricultural worker should receive a wage of not less than 40s., and if the farmer cannot afford it it Mould be better that the State should intervene to pay labourers' wages, rather than pay a subsidy, which would create artificial shortage of food. In such circumstances, the duties on imported food might be 237 cancelled, and credit would be cheaper, because the risk of investment in the farming industry would be small. It is essential to restore prosperity to agriculture. We cannot do so unless we give prosperity to the agricultural worker. Even if there is no war, we shall find more countries from which we formerly got agricultural supplies advancing under German domination, and more countries from which we got supplies having their land ruined by soil erosion, and so on. It is becoming more essential, in peace and in war, that we should develop our own agriculture. I think very valuable work is being done at present in regard to increasing the fertility of the soil, but there is a great deal still to be done to help those who till the soil. For that reason I shall support the Clause.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
In the Committee stage of this Bill I supported the proposal now put forward in this proposed new Clause, and I have listened in vain for any statement to-day that would cause me to alter my attitude. Since I have been in this House there have always been two things that persistently rattled my conscience. One was the inadequacy of the farm labourers' pay and the other the inadequacy of old age pensions. As I see it, this Clause, stripped of all the verbiage and heat which the proposer and seconder put into it, can be reduced to a cold statement of fact. Are we, as Members of the House, going to say that the farm labourer is not worthy of his hire? Are we going to say very definitely that a wage of 40s. a week is not too much as. a minimum? I have listened very care fully to the explanation of the anomalies that may arise. They do not affect me much. In fact, I was rather surprised when my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said that had it been a greater Measure— embracing the whole of the farm labourers— he could have supported it. I can only quote the Scripture and say:If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather, then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?The acid test, as I see it, is this. Is there any Member of the House who would willingly go to his constituency and address a meeting of rural or town workers and say, "I voted against a farm labourer having a mini- 238 mum wage of £2 a week"? I said in Committee that if my hon. and militant Friend who so appropriately represents the peaceful and lovely Vale of Evesham did not believe in this clause, but I know in his heart he does, he should go to the harvest festival at Evesham parish church and ask the vicar if he might not address the congregation and take for his text, "The labourer is worthy of his hire," and then he can go on right through the whole of the ramifications of what he has said in the House from time to time on their behalf. He might finish up by saying that some of his hon. Friends in London had told him that they were worth 40s. a weekbut they could not have it, and then end up in his best Parliamentary style by saying," Was not the whole thing very unsatisfactory? My hon. Friend draws my attention to the fact that this only applies to a Section of farm labourers. Supposing it only does that, it sets a splendid example. Will it not be possible to make the labourers on other farms and the farmers themselves see that the subsidised farms recognise that 40s. a week should be the absolute minimum? As far as I can judge they are getting only 9,d. an hour at present. This example will be copied, and eventually the whole of the farm labourers will realise that 40s. per week is to be the least that is offered.
§ Mr. Morgan
I have every confidence in the Wages Board. I have confidence in the Bill, and I think it will do a great deal of good, but I should have liked the Minister to have said some thing about the Wages Board. If he had said in Committee that he would send a recommendation on the lines of this Clause to the Wages Board, I should have been quite satisfied. I am not concerned with what this is going to cost, but, whatever it costs, the extra money will circulate in the shops. I should be very glad to vote the £5,000,000 if only to ease the conscience of myself and many others. I hope the Minister will find a way out of that very difficult and disagreeable task of being forced to vote against my own party.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
I want to approach the question, not so much from the point 239 of view of the worker only, but from the point of view of the nation. I agree with everything that has been said on behalf of the workers, but I believe that, unless the agricultural industry as a whole gives the agricultural worker a wage of at least this amount, the problems that are going to arise for the industry, and for the nation as a whole, very shortly are going to be even more serious than those that face the industry to-day. It is, therefore, not merely on humanitarian grounds that I appeal, but on the wider basis that an industry which pays a wage of some 34s. or so is fundamentally unsound. It is, in my opinion, one of the real tests of the failure of the Government's agricultural policy since 1931 that agricultural wages have not risen to a figure which gives a decent standard of living. Some of us hoped that the Minister, when he took over, would really tackle this whole problem and treat it in a broad way. I ask him whether he can be satisfied with this Bill if, when we apply the test whether it would be possible to pay a decent wage, he has to tell us that it will do no such thing, because that is what the position is to-day. We have listened to a speech from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), which did not strike any very clear note. While he agreed with this, the reasons why he voted against it in Committee were not set out very clearly for me to understand. We have also listened to one speech from the Government advocating the Bill. The fact of the matter is that we have this Bill, coming on top of all the other agricultural legislation, and we are still told, that even with the £5,000,000 that it gives to the industry— it may very well cost the taxpayer another £5,000,000— but even with that it is not possible to stop the drift from the land.
What amount of State assistance, given in the form of subsidies to the farmer, and to some extent passed on to the landowner or the middleman, do the Government think it necessary to give before a minimum wage of this figure is paid? Let us know. We say we want the agricultural worker to have such an economic standard that the industry will not be on a sound footing till it gets it, and there are plenty of farmers who will agree with that statement, because they know the difficulty of obtaining labour, and if the workers are not paid a reason- 240 able wage there will not be any agricultural workers left in a few years. There are many advocates of a direct subsidy to wages. We have had it pointed out that the subsidies paid to agriculture amount to a very large proportion of the total agricultural wages. I do not believe that the administrative difficulties about paying a subsidy as an addition to the wage that we shall be told from the Government Bench is all that the fanner can afford to pay, are insuperable. I know I shall be told about the experience of the last century, but to-day, with the regulation of wages, it would not be impossible to pay such a subsidy. However, I do not want to press, the point if there are objections to it, but I hope the Minister, before we break up, before perhaps we have to face the electors, will give us some sort of indication of how the Government think their policy will ever lead to the payment of a minimum wage of this sort.
I do not under-estimate the difficulties of farmers. We have had some controversy earlier about the increased cost of wages and the increased output. Some rather interesting figures in a paper by Mr. Murray, of Oxford University, throw a light on the problem. They show that there has been an increased cost in wages during the last few years, at a time when, in spite of the Government's legislation, and more particularly in spite of their promises to the agricultural community, the wholesale prices— not to any extent retail prices— of food have been falling. I recognise that, and I can put it very exactly by quoting these figures given by Mr. Murray. In 1914 it took 26.2 1b. of sheep to pay for 52 hours' wages. In 1938 it took, not 26, but 46.2 1b. of sheep to pay for 52 hours' wages. In 1924 it took 24 gallons of milk to pay for 52 hours' wages. In 1937 it took 38.9 gallons. The productivity of labour has increased enormously; the figures are striking. I believe that, in spite of the drift from the land which has accounted for something like 250,000 workers since the War, it would have taken 6 Percent, more labour to produce the present output if the productivity of labour had not increased to the extent that the hon. Member pointed out.
I mention these figures in order to draw one conclusion. The farmer has been raising wages by the one means available 241 to him in the past— by increasing the out put per man or by increasing the output per £100 of wages paid. The output per man has been going up, but is this Bill going to assist the farmer in the only sane way? I say that it is not. It is giving him subsidies on what he is growing, and a minimum price, but it is not going to help him to reorganise the business of British agriculture on any really sound basis. This is just a temporary Measure. An hon. Friend of mine put down an Amendment to alter the name of this Bill. It is called the Agricultural Development Bill, but there is no development in it whatever. It is merely a Bin for temporary assistance; it does not give the farmer permanent assistance in reorganising his industry or the marketing of his produce.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in introducing the general question of marketing on this Bill or should he not confine him self to the new Clause before the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member is entitled to put his case in his own way.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the liberty you have given me, and to the hon. Member for giving me a pause in which to collect my thoughts. I do not see that, either directly or indirectly, this Bill holds out any hope whatever to the farm worker that his position will be substantially improved. It does not provide for any development of the industry. I had an example thrust upon me of the serious position of the agricultural industry of this country only yesterday. I came back from France, and looking out upon the cultivated land of Northern France, I saw large and care fully cultivated crops, without an inch of waste land to be seen. I noticed the marked difference when I arrived in England, and saw the ill-cultivated land, with grass fields carrying no livestock, except rabbits. One sees crops being destroyed by vermin, and there is no opportunity given under this Bill to prevent that sort of thing from occurring. One realises that the agricultural industry in this country is in a difficult position and that the agricultural worker's position is also a bad one.
I want to consider the wage of 40s. which is proposed, and to ask whether it 242 is on a reasonable basis? I would draw the attention of the House to the estimate which Mr. Rowntree made of the minimum needs of the workers. He fixed the minimum wage which would meet the bare necessities of a man, wife and three children living in the town at 53s. and for the agricultural worker he reduced the figure to 41s. The way in which he arrived at that reduction throws light on the present position of the agricultural worker. Mr. Rowntree thinks that the cost of food for a man, wife and three children can be reduced from 20s. 6d. in the town to 18s. 6d. in the country. I doubt whether meat out of the butcher's van or groceries out of the grocer's van delivered at the door of the householder can be supplied much more cheaply in the country than in the town. Mr. Rowntree reduces the rent from 9s. 6d. to 5s. 6d. Houses in the country may be cheaper, but they are also in a worse condition, and if there is no water, gas or electricity laid on it means harder work for the agricultural worker's wife.
He reduces the cost of clothing from 8s. to 7s. for the five persons. It may be that the agricultural worker and his wife do not need to be as smart as the town worker and his wife, but I should have thought that the agricultural worker and his family would need better clothing than is required by persons living in the town because of the bad weather that they have to face in the country. He reduces the amount for fuel and light from 4s. 4d. to 3s. 2d., and again I do not know that the coal which is carted to the agricultural worker's door is cheaper than the coal which the town dweller buys. It may be that the country dweller can obtain a little wood sometimes, but usually the grates in his house are old-fashioned and very wasteful, while the house may be rather damp and require more heat.
The main reduction is in personal expenses, from 9s. to 5s. 6d., as Mr. Rowntree considers that the agricultural worker requires less entertainment. I do not know whether he requires it, but he certainly gets less, and that is one of the reasons why many young people prefer to work in the town. He also notes that the agricultural workers' insurance contributions are lower, but, I would add, and so are the benefits. He also points out that fewer agricultural workers belong 243 to trade unions. That is the fact, and in my opinion, it is so much the worse for the agricultural workers. He also notices that the allowances that agricultural workers make for holidays are smaller than those of the workers in the towns, and that is because they seldom get holidays. The reduction from 53s. to 41s. is chiefly brought about by cutting down the amenities of life, and, therefore, that assumes that the agricultural worker, has an altogether harder life and fewer opportunities for leisure than the town worker.
I could not be satisfied with an agricultural policy which permanently condemned the agricultural worker to such a position. I believe that by better marketing, and better organisation on the part of farmers themselves, as a correspondent of the "Times" has already pointed out, a wage of 40s. can be paid, but I fail to see that this Bill does any thing of a fundamental nature which will assist in bringing about that improvement in the position of the agricultural workers without which we shall not be satisfied on these benches.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this moment. It is only right that the House should get a very clear idea of exactly what issue is at stake in considering this new Clause. The issue is not whether it is desirable that the efficient agricultural worker should be able to earn a minimum average weekly wage of £2. If that were the issue there would not be a voice raised against this Clause. I think I can go further and say with confidence that the House would unanimously express the wish that farm workers should enjoy conditions no whit less favourable than similar workers in other industries, not only as far as wages are concerned, but also as far as the other conditions are concerned, and as far as you can economically adapt the agricultural worker to conditions which prevail in other industries. As was pointed out, the Whitehall cow has not yet been produced. I mean the cow which will stop on Sundays and so on. You have to allow for the different conditions which exist within the agricultural industry.
244 The desire and intention of the Government are to reach the position where in fact you get the agricultural worker into a similar position to that of town workers. It is our desire, and I think it is shown by this Bill that it is also our intention, that the industry should be able to meet all the legitimate needs of all those who are employed in it, including the farmers themselves. I am certain that the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) will agree with me that there are many farmers and smallholders who themselves are not getting 40s. a week year in year out, and nothing like it. Therefore, we have to try to get the whole industry into a proper state of prosperity. It is clear that you cannot hope to maintain a better and a more proper balance between town and country unless you have a contented body of workers on the land. Upon that we are entirely agreed, and I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Normanton for having raised this whole question. I know that this Debate will get full publicity, and I hope it will give a little confidence to those people who have not been too friendly disposed to agriculture in the past.
§ Sir R. Dorman-Smith
There are many outside, but to me it is absolutely deplorable and quite dangerous 1hat there should be such a gap between the real earnings of the primary producer, be he farm worker, mine worker, or fisherman, and those who are engaged in tie secondary industries, and those who are engaged in distribution. Therefore, I hope that because we have to resist this particular Clause, it will not go out that the Government are in fact unmindful of the needs and aspirations of farm workers. I believe that in this Bill we are doing things which are absolutely vital to welfare of the farmer, but it is my duty to advise the House whether this Clause would be workable and whether, in fact, it would really do what is in the mind of the hon. Member for Normanton. If it were the desire of the hon. Member to ensure that by legislation there should be a minimum weekly wage of £2 all the year round, this new Clause simply would not do that. I think that is recognised by all hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) made it perfectly dear that 245 this new Clause could not and would not mean that the agricultural workers would in fact get £2 a week. What does the proposal mean? It invites the House to say that unless all the adult workers, presumably including those aged and in-firmed workers who at the present time can have a less wage than the minimum fixed by the wage committees, are in receipt of £2 a week during the time at which the subsidy can be paid, then no deficiency payments will be made. Will be made on what? On all the crops which may receive Government help? No, not on those crops but really on two and one-third of the crops, that is, on sheep, oats and about one-third of barley. The wheat grower, the fat cattle man, the milk producer, who may not be interested in either sheep, barley or oats, the sugar-beet man, the pig man would not have to pay any wage above that laid down by the county agricultural wages committee, which might well be less than 40s. a week. That is rather an absurd position and certainly not a position in which the House would like those who happen to be oat growers or sheep producers to be in.
I have tried all the way through this Bill to show that the Government are not attempting to guarantee a profit to the farmers on the three commodities with which the Bill deals. We are trying only to guarantee them against a loss which if continued would cripple their under takings. That is a very different thing from trying to guarantee a profit. There fore, we arrive at this position, that at the moment when prices have fallen to a point where it would be necessary to pay a subsidy to prevent a serious loss, the producer of these commodities would have to pay more wages, and when the price levels rise to an economic figure, then he would be able to pay less wages. Surely, that is not a position in which we want to get. I believe that if this new Clause were passed there would be many farmers who would have to make up their minds whether it would pay them at all to take the subsidy, or whether it would pay them under existing conditions to pay the statutory rate of wages. It is not very difficult to work out the position where the farmer might have to pay round about £30 a year in wages in order to get £15 a year of oats subsidy. Therefore, I want to impress upon the House that it cannot be said that this new Clause seeks to give 246 the agricultural workers £2 a week mini mum wage all the year round.
We do desire that the agricultural worker shall obtain a full share of any benefit which may accrue from the legislation which goes through this House. That is the desire, as I have reason to know, of the vast majority of the farmers of this country, because they realise that they cannot run their farms properly unless they have good and efficient workers. My submission is that there is already in existence machinery which is capable of seeing that any benefits are passed on, and that the worker does get his fair share of those benefits, and that is the machinery of the county wages committees. Those committees are composed of farmers, of workers and of independent members, and they are peculiarly well fitted to go into the whole question as to what any part of the country can afford to pay to the workers and also the question whether the workers are getting their fair share of any benefit.
When all is said and done, it is really not so much what we in this House may hope will happen as a result of legislation as what actually does happen on the land, and how the Measures which we pass affect the men on the land. Who is better able to judge of that than these county committees, which have local knowledge of local conditions. I have not heard one suggestion during the Debates on this Bill that the county wages committees are failing in their duties towards the agricultural workers. Indeed, facts have been adduced to-day to show that they are fully aware of their duties towards the agricultural workers in all districts. One could show, but I do not think it is necessary, because it is well known, that while prices have been falling the agricultural wages committees have been enabled not only to maintain but to in crease wages. Whether that does take into account sufficiently the actual in crease in output due to mechanisation and so on, is a question for argument, but the fact remains that the wages of the agricultural workers have not suffered the same loss in purchasing power as the income of the farmers during recent years.
If we tried to impose upon agriculture a rate of wages beyond its capacity to pay, we should be doing a great disservice not only to agriculture but also to the workers themselves, because the 247 net result could only be that the farmers would have to dispense with some of their workers and cut down a position which is already very dangerous, because they are dangerously short of their labour force. If, on the other hand, as we hope through the Measures which have been adopted, the industry can be made more prosperous, then a fair share of the benefits must come to the workers. I hope the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) will realise that it is not only the measures in this Bill which represent the way the Government are trying to raise the wage-paying capacity of the industry. There are many other measures in operation at the same time. It is perfectly true that one can never get a broad view of agricultural policy, because we are always dealing with it in certain water-tight compartments, and it is easy to forget what is happening in other directions.
We are now— and this Bill is another step towards it— trying to deal faithfully with the question of the proper regulation of imports. We are trying to put a bottom in the market by the price insurance scheme. We are trying to check the sort of slump which came last year in regard to sheep and barley. The hon. Member for North Cumberland knows well what happened in his part of the world when that slump came in sheep. We are trying to check that at a certain level, and we are also trying by the regulation of imports to prevent prices from going even to the price insurance level. We have in this Bill a barley scheme in which for the first time we find the brewers co operating with us in ensuring that a fair price will be paid for malting barley. We have running through this policy various efficiency measures. I know that there is criticism that these measures come along slowly, but probably no- other party which might come into power would be able to get on with these efficiency measures any more quickly. We have the question of the abattoirs, which is now in the last stage of negotiation. [Interruption.] Well, it is not a Government concern; it is an independent body which has been dealing with the matter, but I imagine that they have been dealing with it as efficiently as business men can, and probably more efficiently than most Governments would do. We have 248 also the question of the organisation of markets, and other measures.
It is to be hoped that these various measures in their cumulative effect will have the full results desired. This Bill represents the final instalment is far as the production side is concerned. We can say now that all the staple farm commodities have machinery which will enable protection to be given. The three matters with which we are dealing in the Bill, oats, barley and sheep, were three commodities which were left either unprotected or insufficiently protected. Now, we have got a broad comprehensive policy as far as production itself is concerned. I am, however, prepared to admit that there is still a lot to be done in regard to marketing and so on, but so far as production is concerned we have completed the circle of machinery for staple commodities. Although it is very difficult to give any exact figures or an exact fore cast of what may happen, there is reason to hope that in a short time we shall see the benefits and feel the benefits of the measures we have taken, and I think the House can be assured that if those benefits accrue, as we hope they will, they will very soon be reflected in the work of the wages committees and in the recommendations they make.
I would ask the hon. Member opposite who is to follow me whether lit has any complaint to make against the work of the wages committees. Will he not agree that they have worked expeditiously and well? He said in the Committee up stairs that this Amendment would create difficulties and anomalies in working, and the hon. Member for Doncaster has admitted to-day that it would not mean that the agricultural workers would. get an average minimum wage £2 a week. It would not even mean that one agricultural worker would have £3 get a rise in wages to £2 a week. I think that will be admitted. If the hon. Member for Normanton does want an expression of opinion from the House as to whether the farm workers are worth £2 a week, or whether they are worth wages equivalent to those given in urban industry, I say, yes, and the whole House will agree with him. If he wants that expression of opinion, we shall a .1 entirely agree with him, but it surely has to be conceded that before you ask an industry to pay a certain wage, you must be 249 absolutely certain that it can afford to pay that rate of wages. It may be that in France the fields are well cultivated and well tilled compared with those in this country and that wages are high, but I wonder whether this country would stand the high cost of living.
The battle which many of us have been fighting has been a battle to bring home the position to our urban friends and to get them to realise that if we are to maintain a fair wage for our rural workers the urban consumers must be ready and willing to pay a fair price for the agricultural produce they consume. We are trying for the first time to do that by the regulation of imports, which urban Members thoroughly under stand, because if it happens to their particular industry they know exactly what it means, and I have every hope that our efforts will be successful. But let nobody think that the new Clause would, in fact, tend towards giving a £2 minimum wage per week to agricultural labourers. I hope that by a joint co-operative movement we shall make it possible to get and maintain a fair wage for agricultural labourers.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I am sure that we shall all be delighted to know that this is the last Agricultural Bill giving subsidies. At long last we have completed the circle. It is perfectly true that watercress has not yet been dealt with, but there is still hope. The right hon. Gentleman has been very sincere and very determined in his efforts to persuade the House that this proposal does not mean anything, and certainly that it does not mean a £2 per week minimum wage for an agricultural labourer. He made the same statement in Committee, and I also want to repeat some of the statements I made in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he actually agrees with the purpose of the new Clause, and that he would never be content with the gross in equality there is between urban and rural workers. The right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite do not deny the skill of the agricultural worker; they respect him, but they say, this is not the right Clause to put in this particular Bill, and the Bill is not the right Bill for this particular Clause. They proceed to demolish the new Clause and to bring in anomalies and administrative difficulties 250 while proclaiming their sympathy for the agricultural labourer.
I have listened to so many similar Debates in this House and have heard the same excuses on so many occasions that I regretfully say that I am beginning to doubt the sincerity of some of the observations made by hon. Members about agricultural labourers. What I cannot rid myself of is this. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) truly said that since 1931 some 38 agricultural Measures have been brought before this House. We have provided direct or indirect subsidies for almost every commodity in agriculture, and on every occasion when we have pleaded the case of the agricultural labourer the same excuses have been made as have been submitted by the right hon. Gentleman to-day. We must act if we are to save agriculture, but we must never act in the interests of the agricultural labourer. Either it is administratively difficult or it is an anomaly, or some other excuse; there is always some excuse why we should not do the thing now.
I confess that the terms of the Bill make it well nigh impossible for us to submit the sort of Clause which we would desire, and we recognise that we are arguing not on the actual words on the Order Paper but on the principle embodied in the new Clause. If the House took a decision on the principle of a £2 per week minimum, I am sure that ways and means would be found to deal with it administratively, however complicated the problem might be. In connection with the problem of livestock or slaughtering, or any other problem connected with agriculture, the Government have always been able to find a committee or a com mission and pay them salaries large enough to administer the highly complex problem. The Wheat Commission costs the bread consumer £600,000 a year to ad minister the wheat scheme. Everybody knows it is a highly complicated piece of machinery and that it is extremely difficult to administer, but we do not com plain about the cost of administration. We have never uttered a word of criticism about this £600,000 per annum in administration. If the will of the House is there, the way can be found.
Then there are existing anomalies. We pay the same 7s. 6d. per cwt. for fat beef whether it is Produced on heavy land 251 or on light sandy soil; we pay the same subsidy for milk whether it costs 7d. per gallon or is. 4d. per gallon, and we pay the same subsidy for oats whether the farmer produces 11cwts.per acre or 20cwts. per acre. The Minister for Agriculture never seems to have regard to the anomalies which are created by these subsidies. We know that the anomalies are there, and that the provision of a subsidy will make it possible for one farmer just to come in and for another farmer to make a jolly good thing at the expense of the Treasury. These anomalies are there already, and why we should not face this most gross of all anomalies in the country I do not know. The agricultural labourer who can make a hedge, build a hayrick, who knows all about livestock and the handling of agricultural machinery, is really a skilled expert, and yet he has always been below the level of other workers. Think of the man who has to tend the cattle and frequently sit up with them all night. He is lucky to get 35s. a week, and he works seven days a week. But the man who hawks milk on the streets may get £3 and £4 a week. Think of the man who tends the fat cattle who gets 35s. to 45s. a week. But the butcher— would anybody offer him35s. a week? Think in terms of the man who sows the wheat and reaps the harvest. Would anybody consider paying the miller 35s. a week?
Why is it that the man who handles the agricultural commodities which the agricultural labourer produces should get two and three times as much as the agricultural labourer? Nothing that the Minister has said to-day has answered that question. He is sympathetic towards agricultural labourers, and I know that many hon. Members opposite are sympathetic. Why is it that they do not help us to establish a minimum wage which would keep the best men we have on the land? The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) always speaks on these questions with great intelligence and in a far-seeing way, but owing to his legal mind he misses the point which really matters. To-day he has referred to what I said in Committee. I said that in 1926 the wages of the agricultural labourer was 31s. 8d.per week and in 1939, 35s. 3d. and that, therefore, the increase had been 3s. yd. per week. Notwithstanding all the Bills and all the subsidies, direct and indirect, 252 all the restrictions on imports and output, the rate of progress of the agricultural labourer for the last 13 years has been 3¼d. per annum.
But, says the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, the hon. Member has not observed that there has been a change in the price level between 1926 and 1939; has he not noticed that if in 1926 100 was the price level, then it is now only 91? Of course I have observed that change, but I also observe that during the same period the output per person engaged in agriculture has increased by 30 per cent, and, therefore, on the hon. Member's own balance sheet, with the 30 percent, increase in output per person and with the 1939 price level, the farmer is receiving from the agricultural labourer £117 worth of products instead of £100, and as the wage of the agricultural labourer has increased by about n per cent, the agricultural labourer in 1939 is worse off than he was in 1926,
§ Mr. Turton
If the hon. Member is drawing a picture without taking into account other costs of production he is giving an entirely fictitious balance sheet.
§ Mr. Williams
If the hen. Member has further points to raise why has he not raised them before? He gave us two sets of figures, plus prices, ignoring altogether the increased productivity of the agricultural labourer, and now he is going to tell us that the industrialists are exploiting the farmers by making them pay more for their machines.
§ Mr. Turton
The answer is that I cannot see how the hon. Member relates the 30 percent, into his figures without taking into account the other costs of production, not only in the case of machines, but in manures as well.
§ Mr. Williams
If the hon. Member pursues my figures to their logical conclusion, even including the cost of machines, it does not vitiate the figure I gave, and it still leaves the agricultural labourer in a worse position than he was in 1926 despite all the subsidies. I quoted these figures in Committee and as the hon. Member did not reply to them then I was encouraged in the belief that there was no reply. I am credibly in formed that a farmer with 500 acres, reasonably well fanned, with the wheat subsidy, the fat cattle subsidy, the milk 253 subsidy, the bacon subsidy, and all the other subsidies which are obtainable, can collect £2,000 per annum in subsidies.
§ Mr. Williams
It may be in Scotland, it may be in England. It may be in Thirsk and Malton or it may be in Perth and Kinross. I said that on a mixed farm of 500 acres, reasonably well farmed and having the appropriate wheat acre age, fat cattle production and so forth, the farmer could collect approximately £2,000 a year in subsidies. I went on to say that if such a farmer employed three men per 100 acres, making 15 men altogether, and increased their wages from 35s. to 40s. a week, he would be called upon to pay them an extra sum of £195 a year. Surely, if the Treasury, by one scheme and another, provides that farmer with £2,000 a year, he ought to be ready and willing to give an extra £195 a year to the 15 agricultural labourers who produce the goods.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture did not attempt to argue that the agricultural labourer is not worth 40s. a week. He did not even argue very determinedly that the farmers cannot afford to pay 40s. a week. What he argued was that the Clause is not the right kind of Clause by which to provide the 40s. a week throughout the year. His second point was that the county wages committees are doing their job effectively. I have never declared that the county wages committees are not doing their job fairly well, but surely, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there are counties where the agricultural labourers are scarcely organised at all and where their representation on the county committees has been of the most modest kind; whereas the Farmers' Union, well organised and having a political fund of from £60,000 to £80,000 at their disposal, can provide their county farmers' organisations with all the facts and figures to defeat the representatives of the agricultural labourers. There is not really quite a balance, but even then, I do not criticise the county committees.
§ Sir R. Dorman-Smith
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question, purely for information. I appreciate that in some counties the workers are not well 254 organised in trade unions, but am I not right in assuming that the trade union officials do in fact appear for them on the county wages committees?
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, but it may happen that one county agricultural workers' organiser must attend the wages committees in four or five different counties, which makes it almost impossible for him to do justice either to himself or to those whom he tries his best to represent. I remember that at two Parliamentary elections I had a Conservative opponent who was the secretary of the Farmers Union in my area; he was also the farmers' representative on the county wages committee and every time the farmers wanted a reduction or the workers applied for an increase, he always threatened to resign and to bring out the representatives of the farmers and so try to sterilise the committee. What we have said since 1924 is, not that the county wages committees cannot and do not do their job fairly and squarely, but that there ought to be a national wages board appointed by the Minister, and if that board felt that a count)' committee was not doing its job fairly and effectively, it should send back the recommendation to the committee for reconsideration. Every hon. Member on this side would agree to withdraw this Clause and accept another Clause setting up a national wages board. We should then feel that the national wages board, plus the county wages committees, could and would do justice to the labourers; but in the absence of a national wages board, and with our experience of what has not been done since 1931, when all the subsidies began to be given, we feel that we are doing the right thing in the interests of the agricultural labourers, in the interests of agriculture and in the interests of the nation.
If the Government are willing to provide subsidies for certain commodities which are known to be uneconomic— in some cases because of a possible emergency, and in some cases because we must grow more feeding stuffs on our own land— the least we can expect, if we are to keep the best on the land, is that a wage more consistent with modern requirements shall be given to them. Let no hon. Member opposite talk further about administrative difficulties. We know that this Clause would create such difficulties, 255 but we know also that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government, if they wanted to do so, could remove the difficulties. Let hon. Members opposite not talk about anomalies. We know that anomalies would be created, but we know also that anomalies exist at the present time. All that we ask the House to do is, not necessarily to give 100 percent, support to the words of this Clause but to support the principle embodied in it, and to send a word of encouragement to the countryside, for the first time since 1924.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Assheton
The whole House appreciates the sincerity of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and we always like to hear his views, with a very large part of which I am sure almost every hon. Member is in agreement. I should like the hon. Member to satisfy our curiosity by telling us how he arrived at his interesting calculation with regard to a farm of 500 acres which receives subsidies amounting to £2,000 a year, for certainly that is not something which falls within my experience. I believe, as much as hon. Members opposite do, that the wages paid to agricultural workers are too low, have always been too low, and ought to be raised. I am certain the time will come when that will happen, and I hope that the country will not be driven into increasing the wages merely because agricultural labour is impossible to obtain. That would be a very unsatisfactory way of attaining an object which all of us wish to attain.
I am in the fortunate position of having extraordinarily good agricultural workers on my own farm, and none of them is paid as little as 40s. a week; and in addition, I am glad to be able to say that they have cottages which have not only electricity but also water laid on. I believe that every farmer in England looks forward to being able to do the same thing for his workers. I do not know why it is that a man who works on a farm is paid so much less than a man who works in a town. I have never been able to understand why a man who drives an omnibus or an underground train in London should be paid twice as much as a man who drives pigs, which is a very much harder thing to do. But it does seem to be inherent in our present sys tem. It is a result of the old feeling on 256 the part of the towns that they must have cheap food. Until that feeling is broken down, the agricultural workers will not get decent wages.
Coming to the new Clause, I am afraid I was not swayed by the argument of the hon. Member for Don Valley, when he asked us to disregard the terms of the Clause and vote in favour of it because we believe in something else. this Clause would provide that a fanner who grows oats and barley and raises sheep should pay his agricultural labourers 40s. a week, whereas a farmer who, like myself, produces milk, would not be obliged to do so. Obviously, that would be an absurd position. I am sure the House will agree that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture made a most convincing case for the rejection of this Clause, and I hope it will be clearly understood in all parts of the House that those who vote for the rejection of the Clause are not voting against increased wages for agricultural labourers.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
This evening we have had another striking example of hon. Members opposite using very nice language and agreeing with us in everything, but not supporting what we propose. I always admire the way in which hon. Members opposite say that they agree with us, when our case is as good a case as could be put forward by anybody, and say that everyone wants, to do just as we want to do, but try to explain that it cannot be done now. I take it that we want to do something for agriculture generally. The revival o': agriculture is one of the chief planks of the "Tory plat form, and hon. Members opposite say that they want to see whether something cannot be done to improve the conditions in agriculture, both for the farmers and the land workers. Yet, when we try to obtain some improvement in the low wages of the workers, hon. Members opposite oppose us. At the present time, according to figures that hive been given us, the agricultural worker receives 34s. 9.d. a week for a 52 hours week, making a wage of 8d. an hour. Does anybody argue that 8d. an hour Is a sufficient wage for any worker, on the land or anywhere else? What we ask in this Clause is that there should be a slight increase— not as much as we would like, by any means— of Id. an hour.
257 The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) made the argument that the Clause would not apply to every farmer; one farmer would have to pay the increase and another farmer, who might be better off, would not have to pay it. That is a surprising argument. I have always found that if the wages of one section of workers in an industry are improved, the other people in the industry have a corresponding improvement. At the present time, the farmers who are better off are able to pay say, 45s. a week to some workers. That has been done in some cases. Only to-day, I was told by an hon. Member opposite that he knows of a farmer having a mixed farm who pays a minimum of 48s. a week. It can be done, if only there is the desire to do it. The argument is that those who already get less wages might not get an increase, as the farmers for whom they work might escape this liability. My contention is that if there were an increase in one section, it would be followed by the lower-paid workers getting an increase.
I want to impress upon hon. Members opposite the fact that at the present time the farm labourers are not getting sufficient pay to enable them to have a decent standard of life. I want hon. Members opposite to apply their minds to this matter. If they can convince me that 34s. 9d. a week enables an agricultural labourer to have a decent standard of life, I am willing to fall in with their argument. So far hon. Members opposite have said that they agree with us that the wages should be sufficient, but that the means of increasing them are not there. I maintain that if we set up a minimum below which the wages must not fall, then naturally it will follow that means will be found of paying those wages. In 1912, we fought for a minimum wage for mineworkers, and at that time it was said that that wage could not be paid. We insisted, and Parliament carried the proposal; and the coal industry adjusted itself to meet the extra cost. That minimum wage was fought for by a well-organised trade union, and for that reason, we were able to get it.
I declare that if to-morrow the farm workers were strong enough to say that they would not work under a minimum of 40s., the House would see to it that they got it. But they are not well 258 organised, and to-night I am making a humanitarian plea to the House of Commons on their behalf. I ask the House to give them, without the necessity for any stoppage, what everyone agrees they ought to have. The Minister has a great opportunity this afternoon. He has come to his present position in order to improve agriculture, but if he wants to secure a more lasting credit to his name, he can do so by declaring that he stands for the farm worker as well as for the farmer, and that the time has come when the wages of the farm workers should be on a higher level. I was glad to see that in Committee a number of hon. Members opposite spoke their minds on this question and that the vote on the proposal was very close. I hope that the arguments which have been put forward from this side, and have not been refuted, will prevail with the rank and file of the Tory party and will convince them of the necessity for doing justice to the workers on the land. I appeal to them to give us their support in helping to put the farm workers of this country on a decent standard of life.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Like most hon. Members I admired the speech of the Minister for the sympathy which it showed for the farm worker. It seemed to me that we had now, perhaps for the first time, a Minister who really understood and felt for the position of the under dog in farming, and who appreciated the vital position which he occupied in our national life. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was entitled to recall the various useful Measures which the Government have passed for agriculture. But beyond expressing sympathy with the workers, and the hope that somehow at some time, through the machinery of the agricultural wages committees, their lot would be improved, what did my right hon. and gallant Friend say to make it possible for those of us who voted for this new Clause in Committee to alter our views to-night? The Minister undertook no new obligation, and promised no fresh initiative to deal with the problem of wages. As far as he and his Department are concerned, there is to be no direct action of any kind designed to bring about what is, I imagine, the unanimous wish of the House, namely, that the benefits of this and similar Measures of assistance to farmers shall be passed on fully and at 259 once to the men who work on the land. That is, I believe, the desire of the whole community.
There are, as hon. Members have testified, hundreds, it may be thousands, of cases, in which that transference of State assistance from the farmer to the worker has been and is being made. One knows of many efficient and progressive farmers, with good land, good management and perhaps a certain amount of good luck who are able to pay and are paying wages substantially in excess of £2 a week and providing cottages and working conditions of which one can be proud. If all farmers were as progressive, as enlightened, and as fortunate as those there would be no need for this new Clause, because they would do of their own volition what the Clause proposes. Unfortunately those happy conditions represent not the rule but rather the exception in agriculture. We know, despite the quarter-deck outbursts of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), that the great majority of farmers in the last five or six years have been prevented by low prices from making any substantial improvement in wages and conditions. There is ample proof, if the right hon. Gentleman desires it, about Scottish conditions from the most authoritative sources, which negatives nearly all he said about the lack of need or justification for this Bill. We know that many farmers, even after a good year like 1937, have been afraid, because of uncertainty as to the future, to hand on immediately to their workers the benefit of increased profits. One can under stand their caution. But we know too— it is a stain upon the fanning industry— that there are some farmers, though I believe them to be a small minority, in every county and shire who even after years of comparative prosperity, consistently and persistently exploit their workers by paying inexcusably low wages and allowing scandalous housing and other conditions to prevail. For such action no justification can be found.
For the decent man who is trying hard, but who is unable because of general economic conditions to do what we all desire, I have the greatest sympathy. It is on behalf of such farmers that Bills of this kind are introduced. It is on their behalf that every subsidy Measure has 260 been brought to this House; it is on their behalf that I have voted for every subsidy proposal; and it is on their behalf that I shall continue to do so. I go further. In their interests "here will have to be still further measures of assistance. In this connection I must say I was rather uneasy in hearing the Minister say that the circle of State aid for farming had now been completed. The circle has not been completed. I know that there is a subsidy for livestock, but it is not price insurance, and there is no price insurance for poultry, or for half a dozen other products that one could mention. Therefore, do not let us imagine that this Measure to-day is the end of the vital aids which this Government must provide for agriculture.
I am satisfied that the good, progressive farmers are in the majority, and that given reasonable prices they are ready to pass on a fair share of their rewards to the worker. In those cases the agricultural wages committees undoubtedly provide the proper machinery for passing on that benefit. But as regards the other type of farmer to which I have referred, the hard, heartless reactionary who looks upon his men, or would like to look upon them, not as free workers in this democratic age but rather as serfs of the Middle Ages, I have no sympathy nor would I show him the slightest mercy. He is, as I have said, a blot on the fair name of the industry. It was principally in the interests of the farm workers who come under farmers of that type that I pressed for the establishment of agricultural wages committees in Scotland long before the Bill setting up these committees appeared in this House. I imagine that it was in the interests of such workers that all of us supported the compulsory measures introduced by that Act, 1 had hoped that with the introduction of those committees in Scotland, as in England, we should have overcome some of the chief difficulties and put an end to exploitation and perhaps done something to stem the tide which is draining the countryside of its best blood.
I confess I have been disappointed. I find that low wages are still prevalent. I came across a case in my own part of the world only a fortnight. ago of a plough man with a family of nine children, with only 25s. a week in cash coming into the 261 house. It is impossible for a plough man's wife to clothe and feed a family like that on such wages. There were, of course, perquisites, such as free house, meal, milk and potatoes, but will any body say that that remuneration is sufficient? That may be an exceptional case but I could find others very nearly the same. Wages in scores of cases are much too low, and the standard of accommodation in the cottages remains a long way behind that which is available for workers in the towns. It is the wives who feel this worst, and they naturally ask why women in the towns should have all the amenities of running water, hot and cold, and washing facilities, while they in the country have to walk perhaps half a mile from the house to get water. As I look around the contrast between town and country seems to become more marked as the years pass, and so the migration from the country side continues. I hope the Minister is alive to its significance. This migration is not only a national problem, it is a national calamity, affecting national de fence in the most vital way. In the monthly agricultural report of the Department of Agriculture in Scotland dated 1st July— this month— I find under the heading of "Labour" this startling sentence:The supply of farm labour was adequate in only six districts.I do not know how many districts there are in Scotland— 30, 40 or it may be 50. But only in six of them was there labour sufficient to do essential work. The re port continues:Dairy workers were not equal to the demand in Dunbarton, North Ayr, and Dumfries. Casual labour was scarce in most areas. Turnip singlers were difficult to secure in North-East Angus.Some action will have to be taken to meet this new danger to the security of our land, and it must be taken quickly. I know that this new Clause would create serious anomalies. I recognise that fact, but is it unreasonable to ask that since you provide a minimum price for the produce of the farm you should by the same token provide a minimum price for the labour? Is there anything illogical about that? Why cannot it be accepted in principle by the Government? I appreciate the complexity of the task with which my right hon. and gallant Friend is faced, but do not let him imagine that people outside are not watching this par- 262 ticular matter closely. There ought to be a relationship between what the State provides for the farmer, and what it provides for the farm worker. I wonder did my right hon. and gallant Friend notice in the "Times" this morning the report of the agricultural correspondent of that paper which stated:Many Members of Parliament and the general public would like to see a definite relationship established between the guaranteed prices for farm produce and farm wages.It is very difficult to convince a town audience that we are doing all we can for the farm workers, if we resist this effort to apply to labour the principle which we are now applying to produce. How can you argue that the principle is right in the one case, and wrong in the other?
I beg my right hon. and gallant Friend to reconsider the position. Even if he cannot accept at once the principle underlying this new Clause, there is a number of things that he could do to satisfy us, things that he must know he could do. He could, for example, circularise the wages committees urging upon them the desirability of raising wages. He might invite the chairmen of all the wages committees to meet him in conference. He might invite the National Farmers' Union to consider the matter. If the National Farmers' Union were to suggest to their local secretaries as a friendly gesture to propose an increase of half-a-crown a week at each of their district committees that would be a very useful thing to do; and my right hon. and gallant Friend might do that. At least he might say to us, "I will consider doing something," but to-day he has done nothing but say, "I have no direct proposal to make," and that is to ignore deep and widespread feeling throughout the country. Let him recall his earlier efforts. When first he assumed office he began a series of talks with farmers and later with the representation of farm workers. We have seen the results of his negotiations with the farmers. They are here in this Bill. I am prepared to stand by all the proposals which my right hon. and gallant Friend makes in this regard and to justify them before any town audience. But whose are the fruits of his negotiations with the workers? Let me see one result. How can my right hon. and gallant Friend expect us to support him as we would desire to do when nothing is 263 offered, as far as we can see, to meet the burden of low wages and miserable housing? The reputation of the Minister is at stake in this matter. This may be the acid test, not only of his sincerity, which I believe is never in doubt, but also of his success as the Minister responsible for the prosperity and the progress of the greatest and the oldest of British industries.
§ 6.32 p.m.
Mr. De la Bère
In Committee I predicted what would come to pass, and it has come to pass. In Committee I said it was never the time and never the place for the Government to do anything for the agricultural farm labourer, and exactly what I predicted has come to pass. I have waited patiently here ever since the opening of the Debate. I listened to the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), and I listened to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Agriculture, hoping against hope— having a very warm affection for him— that he would say something which would enable me to get up and say something nice back. I deeply regret that I cannot say anything nice back, because he has not given us any hope. It is absolutely futile to get up and suggest that this proposal has the sympathy of every Member of this House unless some alternative suggestion can be put forward, and no alternative suggestion has been put forward. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to create and bring into operation some concrete and crystallised plan to assist the agricultural farm worker. I fully admit that the Amendment is not very happily drafted— I am sure that those who have drafted it would not take exception to that— but it is the principle behind the Amendment that is important. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton told us that the principle had his entire sympathy, and speakers on this side of the House have said that every time they have risen to speak. In spite of that, we are going into the Division Lobbies to vote for or against the Government, according to our ideas, but nothing which will really give us any real hope that anything is to be done for the agricultural labourer is forthcoming. I say with determination that it is not the case that the Government cannot afford to assist the agricultural worker; it is the case that the Government cannot afford not to do 264 something for him, and they should have done it a long time ago.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland
I think that we on this side of the House should thank the last two speakers for their speeches. If they continue to make it dear to us that their hearts are in the right place, it will soon, one hopes, become clear to them that their seats are in the wrong place. The Minister said that if this question were a matter of principle: as to whether or not farm workers should receive £ 2 a week, not a voice would be raised against it, but we are entitled to remind him that no voice has been raised for that principle from the Government Front Bench or from among the ranks of his general, regular, and automatic supporters. The Government have had this matter in their hands. They have been considering it deeply for eight years, and they have been considering it intensively ever since about last Christmas. The ball has been at their feet. They have had the power to put into practice any principle of which they were in favour, yet this principle, against which the Minister has said that no voice could be raised, has not found a single Ministerial voice to support it in the framing of the Bill.
If the Minister wants to tie us down to the exact words of the Cause, it is relevant to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this was the only way in which we could raise this point on this Bill. There are certain rules of order which bind Members of this House and which make it difficult for us to raise points of principle except by tabling Amendments in certain forms, and if an objection is taken to the precise form of the Clause, we have a right to point out that this was indeed the only form in which we could have mace it possible for the House to discuss this principle, as to which the Minister says that no: one voice would be raised against it If the Minister is entitled to his point, I claim that we are entitled to ours, that in speaking and voting for this Clause we are dealing with the principle that wages should be increased at this time, and increased by machinery other than that of the county wages committees.
I support this principle in the long-term interests of the farmers. I think most hon. Members will agree that for some time past two processes have been 265 going on. There has been year by year the steady leaving of the land by agricultural workers, and going on contemporaneously with that process there has been a turning-over by agriculture from methods of production requiring large numbers of labourers to methods of production requiring fewer labourers. The two processes have gone on side by side, but I believe they are separating now, and that the turning-over to methods of production requiring fewer workers has gone just about as far as it can go, whereas the drain from the land has not yet been arrested and is still in full force. If this process is allowed to continue, in a very few years a very much wider gap than we have at present between the need for agricultural workers and the number of workers available and trained for that work will make itself felt on the countryside; and though many farmers would say to-day that the payment of £ 2 a week as a wage would put them into great difficulties, I submit that these difficulties, which they would have to encounter now, would be as nothing to the difficulties which they will have to encounter five or ten years hence, when it will not be a question of paying a wage which would retain on the land workers who are already there, but when it will be a question of paying the very much higher wage which will be required in order to attract back to the land workers who, if we do nothing about it, will be leaving the land in the course of the next four or five years. Therefore, I think one may quite sincerely support this Amendment in the best interests of the agricultural workers.
Then I would support it from another point of view also. If this Clause were carried, if this principle, rather, of increased wages were put into effect, it is said that it would create difficulties. Very well, if difficulties were created, the industry, and above all the Ministry dealing with the industry, would be forced at long last to address itself to the solution of those difficulties and problems with more vigour and more real determination than it has shown up to now. When I talk of dealing with the problem, I do not mean that it should become more necessary to educate the town worker up to the necessity of paying a higher price for his food. I do not believe that that is the solution of the agricultural problem. I would refer rather to three figures. The Government are paying to agricul- 266 ture now round about £ 30,000,000 a year, and I do not say that that is out of proportion to what other industries are receiving. Meanwhile agricultural workers, the men who produce the food, are being paid £ 60,000,000 a year; and in wages and profits there is being paid about £ 300,000,000 a year to the men who distribute the food. I believe that that sum of £ 300,000,000 represents the real hope of agricultural prosperity. It is not too much to say that in eight years of patching and mending, of putting a bottom into this and devising temporary measures for that, the Government have not scratched the surface of that £ 300,000,000. On top of that, we have found, in Committee at any rate, that it was out of Order and beyond the scope of this Bill, which is called the Agricultural Development Bill, to move an Amendment so as in any way to prevent any part of the benefits which the Government are giving from going into the hands of the landlords.
I, therefore, support the new Clause on the ground that it is in the long-term interest of farmers to pay somewhat higher wages now, rather than to face an appalling labour crisis in 10 years' time which will force wages far higher in order to attract workers back to the land; and it would also be in the interest of agriculture as being something which would force the Minister and the Government to deal with what I believe are the real problems confronting them in the industry to-day.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Edward Ruggles-Brise
I think, perhaps, the House should give attention, to a rather greater degree than it has done, to the question of where the fund is available out of which an increase of wages could be paid. Hon. Member after hon. Member, from all quarters of the House, has got up and said that it is desirable that there should be a definite increase in the wages of agricultural labourers, and, of course, everybody would desire to see a rise in those wages, but I think we must be practical. Where in fact is the money to come from? The hon. Member who moved the new Clause mentioned, in his opening speech, the words "the capacity of the industry to pay." He indicated that in his view, as far as I understood it, there was not 267 at this moment an adequate capacity to pay within the industry. I think that will not be challenged by those who heard his speech. If there is not sufficient money within the industry to meet the increase in wages which seems to be so generally desired on all sides— and quite rightly— where, then, is the money to come from? Is it to come from additional subsidies?
§ Mr. T. Williams
My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) never even hinted that the money for these increased wages was not in the industry. What he complained of was that we had no information on either the costs of production or the actual financial situation of agriculture. In a passing sentence he said, "If the money is not in the industry," but he never even hinted that the money was not there.
Sir E. Ruggtes-Brise
Perhaps the hon. Member himself suggests that there is sufficient money in the industry now to pay this increase.
§ Mr. Williams
Most certainly. With all the subsidies that have been paid I say that the money is in the industry. If this Clause were accepted and the money was found not to be there, then we should soon hear from the farmers, and it would have to be found.
§ Sir E. Ruggles-Brise
How does the hon. Member explain the fact that we have already heard from the farmers? He will not dispute that the agricultural community as a whole, with, possibly, individual exceptions here and there, has been going through a very difficult time. That is notorious, so much so that certain sums of money have been extracted from a reluctant Treasury in order that agriculture should not fall into further decay. Therefore, I think it is perfectly clear that at this moment there are not sufficient funds available within the industry itself to meet this new suggested cost, however desirable the new cost may be.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
When the hon. and gallant Member says the money is not in the industry, will he tell the House where the £ 1,000,000 per week, £ 52,000,000 a year— including de-rating and subsidies— which has been given to agriculture is going to?
§ Sir E. Ruggles-Brise
I do not accept the figure given by the hon. Member as being at all correct. It is not nearly as much as that. But I would point out to him that the largest outlay in the production of food happens to be in labour, and therefore the bulk of that money must have gone in the payment of wages, as, indeed, it has. Did the hon. Member hear the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)? He told us that he had negotiated hours and wages in the mining industry, and used these words: "The industry adjusted itself to the new scale of wages." Yes, but what in fact happened? The last time there was a rise of wages in the mining industry the price of coal was raised to the consumer.
§ Mr. Tinker
I say the same again. Any industry ought to afford a decent standard of living to those working in it, and let the product pay for it.
§ Sir E. Ruggles-Brise
In the coal industry the last increase of wages came from the sale of the product, the coal, to the consumer, who had to pay more for it in order to meet the increased wage bill. On the same analogy, is it right that the community should get its food out of the sweat of the brow either of the fanner or of the worker on the farm? If it was right in the case of the miners to force up their wages and make the consumer pay mere for coal, surely, on the same analogy, the general level of the price of foodstuffs would have to be raised in order to meet the increased wage bill on the farm. Surely the two things are on all fours. Are hon. and right hon. Members of the Labour party going down to their constituencies to say, "Look here, you all have to pay more for your food because we have decided that there is to be an increase in wages to the agricultural worker"? Great silence.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
If necessary we will do that, but at the same time we will do away with landlords. They are a lot of robbers, anyway.
§ Sir E. Ruggles-Brise
I promised that I should not detain the House very long, and so I will not enter into what would be a very engaging argument with the hon. Member, but I just wish to say that that really is the issue. Whilst we are all only too anxious to see the lot of the agricultural worker raised, we must be practical and say where the money is to come 269 from, and so far no very fruitful suggestions on that fundamental point have emerged from this Debate.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) seems to imagine that the only time when the principle of a living minimum wage can be established is when the people conducting an industry admit openly that they have the money in their coffers with which to pay it. He suggested that some things are notorious. I would remind him that the reputation of the farmer is notorious. Very often he is notorious for refusing to give information that is desired. If the money to pay this minimum living wage is not in the industry it ought to be proved that it is not. Let the House bear in mind that the living wage which is here asked for is dependent upon the farmer receiving a subsidy, which, after all, comes from the common purse and increases the difficulties of the people, who have to pay more for their food as well as more in taxation. I have several times heard hon. Members opposite deploring the state of agriculture in this country and suggesting ways and means of improving it, but it has not yet dawned on the Minister that one of the finest things that could be done for agriculture would be to make it possible for an agricultural labourer to earn a reasonable wage.
It has been suggested from the benches opposite that in order to retain men in agriculture the amenities of their homes should be improved. I realise the necessity for improving the amenities in the home, as one speaking from experience, but I still say that the greatest drawback to getting workers for agriculture is the wage which they receive. The thought that all their lives they will be short of money is what drives young men from the land. If it does not drive off the land the man who has grown up on the soil it drives away his son who has seen the grinding poverty which is the lot of the agricultural worker. If the principle of this Clause were accepted it would do more, I contend, for agriculture than all the subsidies have done up to now. In the first instance it would bring the farmer right up against it. It would say to him that he could only carry on his business if he were prepared to pay 270 his workers a wage which the State had declared must be not less than £ 2 a week. He would have to work his business on that economic basis. That is what he is doing at present, when the wage is fixed at 34s. Will anyone say that an extra 6s. a week to agricultural labourers will spell the difference between prosperity and ruin for the industry? Are we to go on with this cycle of subsidy after subsidy, instead of getting down to the fundamental point, which is that the man responsible for the tilling of the land, and that is the labourer, should be given an adequate minimum wage?
If there is one man with whom I do not like to came into contact it is the man who is in sympathy with me or the man who agrees with me in principle. I know immediately I hear either of those phrases that there is nothing for me. I have heard it time and again from the masters in the cotton industry. They say, "Our hearts are going out to you in sympathy, we know what you are suffering "— and then I always say to myself, "That is the end of it. Another few weeks on sympathy." Sympathy is not enough. The agricultural labourer has had sympathy from the beginning. I know how 20 years ago the hearts of the farmers bled for the agricultural labourer because of the long hours he had to work, and I know that the conditions in the industry now did not obtain then. Farmers have not always been doing badly. Will anybody suggest that agriculture has always been backward in this country, that farmers have always been farming at a loss, that there has never been anything got out of the land? The records at Somerset House will give the lie to that suggestion. Is there anybody here who is prepartd to tell me of a time when the farmers came forward and out of their sympathy offered anything to the agricultural labourer?
It may be notorious that agriculture is doing badly to-day, but the farmer has a notorious record in his treatment of the agricultural labourer. Here is an opportunity for us to say to the farmer, "You can have what we think you need in order to aid the industry, but the price of your having it is that you pay a minimum wage to the adult man who is engaged on your farm." I was sorry to hear the Minister come forward with the argument that there are the aged and the infirm who would come under this Clause because 271 they are adults. How often have I heard that argument trotted out—that if a minimum wage is sought it will drive the aged man off the land or out of industry, because this does not apply only to agriculture? I am ashamed that any countryman of mine should bring forward such an argument. After all, you have to recognise that the aged man, who possibly is now now an economic proposition, has been an economic proposition all his life. He has grown old in the work that he has been doing for that farmer. Now it is suggested that we cannot decide that the adult labourer must be paid £2 a week because the old man would have to come in too or would have to be dismissed; and so, in the interests of not dismissing the old men, we are to refuse to do justice to the others. That argument is not worthy of an English or a British Cabinet Minister and I hope that it will not be used again in this House.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Yes. If that was not the argument, then what the Minister said did not mean anything. I know that he said: "I won't press that argument," and I was very glad to hear him say he would not press it, and I hope that he will not use it again, nor any of his colleagues either, because it is not worthy of a Britisher and the House ought not to stand for it. If you want to rebut an argument rebut it on reasonable grounds, but do not pretend that you are doing less than justice to the other men in order not to do what you imagine might be an injustice to the older men by turning them off the land. After all if a man is so old that he is not worth £2, if he is no longer an economic proposition on the wage he is receiving now under these present wonderful conditions, I suggest that he will not be much worse off on 10s. a week. He may be left, as is very often the case when the farmer finds he is no longer an economic proposition, to call upon the mercy of the public assistance committee. That is their lot anyhow, and if they are going there I do not mind their being sent there by doing justice to the adult worker. The Minister may talk of the impracticability of this proposal. I know it will create anomalies in the sense that the farm labourer who is working in these particular branches of agriculture would receive 272 £2 a week, whereas the labourer who is engaged in sheep farming would not. Well, I am not going to burke an issue of that kind. If I have to choose between the creation of an anomaly and doing justice to the men who come under this Measure, I am going to do justice, because we can rectify an anomaly. I believe the agricultural workers themselves will rectify it immediately the principle has been established.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
The farmer has a very easy way out of his difficulty. He does not even need the subsidy. If he finds that the subsidy will not pay him, and that a wage of £2 a week to his labourers is going to bring him down, he can say, "Away with the subsidy." We have heard the argument that the money is not there, but I could suggest a method whereby the farmers could keep their labourers, who are very wise and experienced men. There is no more skilled man than an old agricultural labourer, and very often old labourers are kept on farms simply because of their wisdom. I remember an old fellow coming to cut the grass in my orchard. He was 84, and he was the only man who could wield a scythe properly. They had to carry him, but once he got hold of the scythe he cut it all right. But he had done that work all his life. These old agricultural labourers are of great value to all farmers.
As I have said, I can suggest a method far simpler than cash wages. We heard from an hon. Member opposite that there was £300,000,000 a year going to the distributive trades. That is where money should be saved. In this country it is always the middleman who skims off the cream: the man who is doing the hard work gets very little in every industry. When the farm worker has been paid his wage he has got to buy what he wants in the local shops. If he wants butter or tea or anything else he has to go to the local grocer, and all the time he is contributing towards the £300,000,000 of the middlemen. Now, what is to prevent the farmers giving every man a piece of land on which he will be able to grow all his own supplies? It will cost the fanner very little and will mean much to the farm labourer. I remember a farmer in Perthshire who said that in his grandfather's day there were smallholders, each with a 273 few acres and a few cows, and he said, "These were our farm servants, and they borrowed our ploughs and our stock and everything we had."
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Member is quite out of order in going into the question of smallholdings.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I will leave that, but now we have nothing but casual labourers, with no sense of responsibility; they are mere wage-earners. The farmers ought to supply them with a bit of ground on which they could keep a couple of pigs and raise chickens, and that would mean something far more than the 6s. a week increase of wages which this proposal would mean. It would enable a farm labourer to raise a large family, and, above all, it would give him a comfortable house. The first thing in dealing with labour is to make the women comfortable.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Do you mean that your ideal is that the countryman should work all day for the farmer, and then work all night for himself?
§ Mr. Macquisten
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) is singularly unacquainted with conditions on the land. A man cannot work all night; the only thing he can do at night is to poach. Under the system of which I was speaking a man could get time off. I know farmers who do that, and they have the most contented staffs in the world— men who were with their fathers and grandfathers before them, simply because they look upon them as fellow workers on the land, and the farmer treats them as his equal. I remember a celebrated sheep farmer, who had all his farm men working together. That is the old clan system. We do not believe in having bosses around; we are chiefs.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think it is about time the hon. and learned Member started to address himself to the; Clause.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I am addressing myself to the Clause in showing how the farmer would be a great deal better off without dipping his hands into a subsidy, or his balance, or his overdraft, if he treated his men in the way I have described. All that is necessary is that he should have a semi-partnership with his labourers and he would then be infinitely better off; he would have the loyalty of his men and would keep them all his days. That is the true way to keep the man on the land. They would all be better off if they got a bit of land for themselves.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn
We are all agreed about what we want to do, and I think we are all equally agreed that this Clause is not the right way to do it. I recollect many years ago hearing the case put in this House by the Opposition for wages boards, and any hon. Member who heard the Minister's speech must have been convinced that we ought to use the authorised wages machinery. I fully agree that when subsidies are paid there is a time lag before they become effective, and I think in all parts of the industry in which there are subsidies there should be a condition that the farm labourers should benefit. I should not object to a minimum wage, but it should be done through the wages committees in the counties. In voting against this Clause I shall do so because I am convinced that the Minister himself feels as strongly as anybody in this House that if after nine months there has not been a general levelling up of wages through the regular wages machinery, then other steps must be taken, but on a more general basis so as to embrace all sections of agriculture.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 213.277
|Division No. 246.]||AYES.||[7.10 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Bellenger, F. J.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Adams, D. M (Poplar, S.)||Bann, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Callindridge, F.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Bevan, A.||Cove, W. G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Broad, F. A.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford|
|Ammon, C. G.||Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Daggar, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Buchanan, G.||Dalton, H.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Burke, W. A.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Cape, T.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Barr, J.||Charleton, H. C.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Bartiett, C. V. O.||Chater, D.||Day, H.|
|Batey, J.||Cluse, W. S.||Dobbie, W.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Ede, J. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Seely, Sir K. M.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Leach, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Leonard, W.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn''s)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Logan, D. G.||Sloan, A.|
|Frankel, D.||Lunn, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Gallacher, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Gardner, B. W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Leas- (K'ly)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, T. (Narmanton)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacLaren, A.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenook)||Maclean, N.||Stephen, C.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Marshall, F.||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)|
|Green, W. H. (Depttord)||Mathers, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H''ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Han. A.||Maxton, J.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Messer, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Montague, F.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Thorne, W.|
|Groves, T. E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Naylor, T. E.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Oliver, G. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Paling, W.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hayday, A.||Parkinson, J. A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pearson, A.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Poole, C. C.||Westwood, J.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Price, M. P.||White, H. Graham|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Pritt, D. N.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Jagger, J.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Ridley, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Riley, B.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ritson. d.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Rothschild, J. A. de||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.ߞ|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Salter, Or. A. (Bermondsey)||Mr. John and Mr. Adamson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cooke, J. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hambro, A. V.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Hannah, I. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cross, R. H.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Apsley, Lord||Culverwell, C. T.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Davidson, Visoountess||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Assheton, R,||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Denville, Alfred||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Doland, G. F.||Hepworth, J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Donner, P. W.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Drewe, C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Duggan, H. J.||Hunter, T.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hurd. Sir P. A.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Dunglass, Lord||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Eastwood, J. F.||Jennings, R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R, G.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Kellett, Major E. O.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Ellis, Sir G.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon, E. (Leith)||Emery, J. F.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kimball, L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Cary, R. A.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Fleming, E. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lewis, O.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Furness, S. N.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Christie, J. A.||Fyle. D. P. M.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Little, J.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Locker Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Gridley, Sir A. B.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Remer, J. R.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdesh (Inverness)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Touche, G. C.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Train, Sir J.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rowlands, G.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Markham, S. F.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Turton, R. H.|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Salt, E. W.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sandiman, Sir N. S.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Moore, Lieut. Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Scott, Lord William||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Selley, H. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D,||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wedderburn, K. J. S.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Petherick, M.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Pilkington, R.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Porritt, R. W.||Storey, S.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Radford, E. A.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wragg, H.|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||York, C.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Tasker, Sir R. I.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.ߞ|
|Reid, J. s. C. (Hillhead)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Captain Dugdale and Mr. Munro.|
§ Sir R. Acland
On a point of Order. The fact that you have called the hon. Member indicates. that the next new Clause on the Paper— (Arbitration as to increased value of land)— in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself is not to be called.
§ Sir R. Acland
As I am not allowed to ask for any reason I can only make a guess at the possible reason why the Clause has not been selected, and I would submit one point upon it. I assume that the Clause appears to be out of order as being outside the scope of the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill which deals with the payment of subsidies and allows us to raise a point dealing with adjustment of the sale price of farms so as not to include those subsidies. That might appear too big an issue to be included within the scope of the Bill, but I submit that there is one Clause within which it might come, the last, which contains the short Title. This is the Government's Agricultural Development Bill, and I submit that within that Title we might be able to discuss a principle, which is very vital to us and to which we attach a very great deal of importance, that where Government assistance is given it should be kept within agriculture 278 proper, and not be passed on to those who sell land.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have given very careful consideration to this new Clause, and I have decided that it should not be selected.