HC Deb 14 February 1940 vol 357 cc802-22

4.29 p.m.

Mr. Colville

I beg to move, in page 7, line 20, at the end, to insert "or the next following."

The purpose of the Amendment is to give retrospective effect to the provisions of Clause 12, which also relate to grants in respect of the ploughing up of land for 1939 and any subsequent year in the war period. It applies to ploughing grants to smallholdings in Scotland where landholders share in common grazing.

Amendment agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Mrs. Tate

I beg to move, in page 7, line 27, after "(a)," to insert "(b)."

This Amendment stands with the following Amendment in my name, to insert, at the end of line 31: (b) that at the time when the ploughing up was begun the land had been under grass for a period of five years or more. The object is to enable land which has been under grass for five years to qualify for the £2 an acre subsidy. The Government are proud of the success of their ploughing-up campaign, and perhaps on paper there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be derived from it. No one who has seen much of the land which is being ploughed up, however, can be under any illusion as to the possibility of growing crops on that land for certainly two to three years. Therefore the success of the scheme on paper is much greater than the success of the scheme in actual fact is likely to be. Fifteen years ago a lot of very unsuitable land was ploughed up, and that is the land which the farmer allowed to go down to grass again. The Milk Marketing Board started to operate in 1932, but a great many farmers did not realise that milk production would pay them until as late as 1934 or 1935. To qualify for the £2 an acre subsidy land had to be ploughed in 1933, but many farmers did not realise that milk production would pay them and much of that land was under the plough until 1934 or 1935. The land which they left down for grass is very often the land near the farm which is easily worked and which, if ploughed up to-day, would be much more likely to produce crops in the near future. The land which is being ploughed up is in many instances land on which it will not be possible to produce crops at present.

I hope that the answer of the Minister will not be that the land near the farm is producing good grass and that, therefore, it would be a pity to plough it up, because the farmer has no obligation on him to plough up this land and he will not do so unless he believes he could put it to better use by putting it down to grain. Although I have no illusions about the perfection of my farmers and I do not wish to flatter them, I am content to trust in their good sense on agricultural topics more readily than I am to trust to the success of the agricultural policy of the Government as we have seen it develop in recent times. If I have sufficient support, I intend to press my Amendment to a Division. I believe that I have the support of a large number of farmers and county agricultural committees.

4.34 p.m.

Mr. Price

There is a good deal to be said for the Amendment, and I am inclined to support it. It is reasonable to reduce the time of qualification for the £2 an acre grant. We do not want only to see the ploughing up of old pastures which have got worn out and which would be better under the plough; we want also to see an improvement in the general standard of pastures. Like many others who have had to do with the agricultural industry in recent years, I have been much impressed by the work of Professor Sir George Stapledon. He has shown that not only the ploughing up of old grassland, but a general improvement of standard is required, and that the cultivation of grass is as important as the cultivation of arable crops. Fresh strains of grass, more vigorous and with more feeding value than those which are found in old pastures, must be introduced. I suggest that a system of short lays up to five years, as they have in parts of the East Coast of Scotland, should be introduced in England. We should, therefore, aim to encourage the ploughing up of land which has been down, say, for five years, then the growing of arable crops for a certain number of years, and then back to pasture for another four or five years. In my practical experience in 1938, when in the West of England we had one of the worst droughts I remember, those pastures which had been ploughed up and laid down in the last five years stood the drought the best. The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) has a strong case for her Amendment, and I hope the Government will be able to tell us what better they can put in its place.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. De la Bère

I support the Amendment. It is clear that the Government must do much more for agriculture and must do it soon. The case has been put clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), and the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has assisted us considerably. After all, if the Amendment is accepted, it only makes it permissive; it does not make it obligatory on the farmer to do it. The fanner is the best judge of whether it should be done. How do the Government justify asking for more and more arable land and then giving no assistance to the farmer who is ready to do it? The time for self-deception is past. The Government are living in a little world of their own completely detached from the requirements of agriculture. I hope this Amendment will be carried to a Division and that the Government will be made to realise at last that we are sick and tired of these pettifogging measures which do nothing really to assist agriculture, but are a pretence and a hollow mockery.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts

While I agree with the reasons which have already been given, I want to advance another. The present system of limiting the subsidy to land which has been down to grass for seven years is unfair to those farmers in the West and North of England, and particularly in Scotland, who have practised for a long time the Scotch rotation, leaving their grass down for considerable periods and taking the plough round the farms so that grass lies for about three years or more and is then ploughed up. A farmer who is on a rotation of that sort and has been ploughing steadily and consistently has very little grass which has been down for seven years. When the representative of the county agricultural committee calls at a farm the farmer is compelled to plough up about 10 per cent. of his grass, but he will probably have no grass which qualifies for the subsidy. He feels that it is hard that the farmer who, after the last war or in the depression of 1931, or at some previous time, laid down the whole of his farm to grass should now be paid to do what the good farmer has been doing all along. That hardship is making the work of county committees in the North of England and Scotland very difficult. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but I know for certain that that is the case in two counties, because I am a member of a district committee and I know the details. Only last week-end I heard the complaint from all the farmers I met that the allocation of the grant was unfair because it penalised the man who had been ploughing regularly.

I would like to ask a question, which is a practical one to me as a member of a district committee. When exactly does the seven years' period date from? Is it from the year in which the grass seeds were sown underneath the corn crop? If it is sown this spring will it qualify for subsidy, whereas if it was sown in the autumn it will not qualify? Has the grassland become a year older in the last six months? In what year must the grass seeds have been sown in order to qualify for the subsidy? If the Amendment were accepted it would give every farmer in the North and West of England the opportunity of choosing more suitable fields to plough, irrespective of the date on which they were laid down. The present arrangement means that badland is being ploughed out when better land could be ploughed to grow the crops which will be needed.

4.44 p.m.

Mr. Spens

I find myself in difficulty over the Amendment because the substantive Clause substitutes new paragraphs (a) and (d) for the existing paragraphs (a) and (d) in the 1939 Act. The Amendment adds a new paragraph (b), with the principle of which I have considerable sympathy, but nothing is said in the Amendment about what is to be done with the existing paragraph (b) in the 1939 Act. If the Amendment is passed, we shall have two paragraphs (b). This is a legalistic argument, but at the same time I do think it necessary to draw the attention of the Committee to what this Amendment suggests. It would be very much wiser to withdraw it now and try to get the substance of it into an Amendment at a later stage.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. J. Morgan

I hope the hon. Lady will press this Amendment to a Division if it becomes necessary, but I think that will hardly be the case if the Minister will reflect as to the actual position in the countryside at the moment. This is not an Amendment devised to pull more money out of this Bill; under it not another penny need be spent. It is an Amendment devised to meet the real position of county war agricultural committees who are called upon to face the ploughing up of two classes of land, one of which they know perfectly well is the better of the two for the purpose the Government have in mind, but, because of the monetary inducement offered by the Government, they have no option but to fall in with the farmers' desire to get the £2, and they plough up the wrong class of land. That is a serious position. It is so serious that the Ministry must be aware of it. At this moment they are failing to get their sugar beet acreage contracted for by thousands and thousands of acres. Why? Because the season is wrong? Not a bit of it; farmers can contract to deal with sugar beet acreage by signing a paper which does not affect their present operations. It is not the weather; it is the fact that they know they have committed themselves to such a ploughing-up that they hesitate to land themselves with new responsibilities, such as labour, later on.

This ploughing-up campaign has introduced an element into a very difficult season which is causing the whole farming community to realise they are heading for a crisis, and anything the Government can do at this moment to ease the problem of what land to plough will be a very definite contribution to the success of their ploughing-up campaign. If you lower the qualification to five years you will bring into cultivation land which was under the plough at a more recent date than land which the farmer had to let go. The land which has gone out of cultivation in the last five years has been land which the farmer used as arable land as long as he found it possible to do so. Therefore, you would be actually reducing the difficulties without really adding to the cost of your scheme if you accepted this Amendment. I hope the Government, in the interests of their own scheme, will accept the Amendment.

4.49 p.m.

Mr. Boothby

I intervene only because I do not think a representative of agricultural Scotland has yet taken part in this brief Debate. I am sure my right hon. Friend, with his knowledge of Scottish agriculture, will realise that the arguments in favour of this Amendment are quite overwhelming. He knows Scottish agriculture as well as anybody, and he knows what Scottish farmers have been doing during recent years. He knows also that if this Amendment is accepted the good farmer who has done his best in ploughing up his land, whereas other farmers have simply let their land go down, will derive greater benefits from this Bill. He knows equally that the man who is really in a position to judge as to which is the best land to plough up is the farmer himself. During the last three or four desperate years some farmers have been obliged to let land go down which otherwise they would never have done. It is quite obvious that in the interests of the country that is land which ought to be ploughed up first, because it will produce the crops first, and the most derelict land should come later on, if it should be necessary. While I dare say there is something in the somewhat formalistic legal arguments addressed to the Committee by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) I am sure my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment would agree to withdraw it provided my right hon. Friend the Minister would agree in principle to reduce the period to five years, and to take the necessary steps in order to do so either to-day or at a later stage. If he is unable to do that, then I think we shall, have rather a "sticky" Division.

4.51 p.m.

Mr. Colville

I can assure the Committee that it was no question of a legal or formalistic argument that made it impossible for me to accept the Amendment. The policy of ploughing up land which has been down to grass for seven years was adopted deliberately for the purpose of bringing that land into cultivation. I know the rotation system of Scotland very well. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has no need to remind me that this proposal would put more money into the Scottish farmers' pockets. It would be no burden or anxiety to them to plough up land that has been out of cultivation for five years. The question is, is that the best way to apply this money in the war effort? I want to put one or two reasons to the Committee why it is difficult for me to accept the Amendment. I do assure them that our object is to apply this money to the best purpose. Land which has been sown to grass within a period of seven years ought to be capable of yielding satisfactory arable crops, and the extra help which we are giving for the purpose of enabling the farmer to bring his land into a state of fertility should not be so necessary in the case of land down to grass for a shorter time.

A further consideration is this. Under the ordinary system of farming adopted almost universally in Scotland, and widely in some parts of England it is the practice to provide for crops under a rotation of three to six years, and this period is based on sound and well-established agricultural practice. After six years it is known by experience that deterioration may start, and therefore it is necessary, following the principles of good husbandry, to give an incentive to farmers to break up the land that has been down to grass for seven years, because by doing so it is possible to obtain better utilisation of that land. Another argument is this. There is a great deal of land that has been down to grass for seven years and which ought to be ploughed up in order that the fullest advantage may be taken of our soil.

Mr. MacLaren

Whose soil?

Mr. Colville

I will argue that another time; I am thinking in terms of land which will produce food. If we want to get land ploughed up it is a very considerable change to alter this proposal from seven years to five years. Surveys that have been made by Sir George Stapledon and others have fully established that it is the older sward that needs renovation, and it would be unwise—and I hope the Committee will ponder over this—to encourage the breaking up of the younger pasture, which is still in good condition and fully capable of producing succulent and good, nutritious grass, whether for grazing, for hay, or for grass drying.

Mrs. Tate

I am very sorry to interrupt, but I would like to point out that the cost to a farmer of ploughing up land really works out at £6 an acre. It can hardly be called encouraging him to plough up the wrong land if you give him a subsidy of £2an acre. He really is not going to plough up the land unless he is very certain it is going to be the most productive land; that would be a loss to himself.

Mr. Colville

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the evidence is that until the present bad weather the farmer was doing it. If the Amendment were accepted and the period were reduced to five years I hold that there would be considerable danger that some farmers would plough up land that would more profitably be left as grassland for another year. My hon. Friend said, "Let the fanner decide." Well, the farmer is a practical man, but, as a Government which is applying money to this purpose, it is our duty to see how it can best be applied.

Mr. De la Bère

Do let us take this matter seriously. Either we want to get the maximum output from the farmer or we do not. Everything else is beside the point. This is merely permissive, it is not obligatory, and I cannot see what on earth these hesitations lead to. The whole thing is absolutely preposterous.

Mr. Colville

I think the hon. Member should himself take this more seriously. No war agricultural committee in Scotland has urged this change, and I am led to believe also that there has been no general urge for such a change from agricultural committees in England and Wales.

Mr. Price

Certain committees in England have made representations.

Mr. Colville

None that I know of. Certainly no general representations have been made. I do consider it would be wrong and unjustifiable to pay a farmer for what he would do himself without any financial assistance. I have argued this matter not from any formalistic view, but from the experience of the Department. There does not seem to be any general demand at all, and the seven year proposal is a practical method of bringing into fruitfulness land which at present is not doing its best in the national effort.

Mr. Lambert

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the question of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts)? For example, under ordinary circumstances the grass seed would be sown in the coming spring, but it will not come into bearing until next year, 1941. Does the seven years date from the time of the sowing of the crop or from the time when it comes into bearing?

Mr. Colville

It dates from the sowing of the seed.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies

The answer of the Secretary of State for Scotland was a disappointment and was contradictory with itself. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) will press this matter to a Division.

Mrs. Tate

I shall.

Mr. Davies

She need not be frightened by the legal niceties that have been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), because if anything has to be done to clear up any distinctions between one Clause and another, we can do that on the Report stage. I should have expected at a time like this, during war, that the dominant feeling would be in favour of any act or movement that would produce the most food for the country. We recollect how this proposal was introduced at a very late stage in March or April of 1939 by the Minister of Agriculture, but we realised then that he was not getting his own way. He must have made a really hard fight, but have been throttled down by the Treasury, as so many others have been, in any movement that they desired. At that time there were two discriminations. There was the present one between land which had not been ploughed for seven years, and land which had been ploughed within the seven years. Encouragement was given by a bribe of £2 to the bad farmer to begin farming well, but nothing was given to the farmer who had been doing his best.

If we want greater production now, let us encourage the good farmer as well as him who has neglected his land. Pressure has been brought to bear by the agricultural Members upon the Minister of Agriculture to extend the time. Originally the farmer had to plough before the end of October to get the advantage of the subsidy. The Government had not then in mind a long-term scheme for the improvement of the land. The main part of the argument of the Secretary of State to-day concerned what was most beneficial for the improvement of the land in the future. I should have thought the main consideration would be what would produce the most food. I should have thought we would go out of our way to bribe the farmer to plough more land and get more food; but the Government are not dominated by that idea at all.

5.4 p.m.

Colonel Sir George Court hope

I did not intend to intervene in this Debate but, as a farmer myself, I have heard all these arguments of all parts of the country, citing practices so contrary to the practice to which I am accustomed, that I must say a word. Surely what the Government and all of us desire is that additional grassland should be ploughed up. Most of us in different parts of the country plough up a certain amount of grass year by year, in ordinary rotation. In my district, we go in for two-year layings. In parts of Scotland they go in for five-year layings, and in other parts for four-year layings. Rotation farmers, and every farmer, plough up a certain portion of grass to lay down in seed as part of their normal procedure; what is required is not merely to maintain that practice but, in the national interest to induce the farmers to plough more than they are now doing. It seems to me that, if the Amendment were carried, it would tend, in certain parts of the country, to give a subsidy to farmers for carrying out their normal rotation and for doing what they would do in any case. It would not induce them to add to the acreage of grass which they would plough up. From that point of view it would be a mistake to agree to the Amendment. We do not wish to waste Government money in inducing people to do what they would ordinarily do. We must try to induce them to plough more than they normally would. On balance, I believe that seven years is the right period.

Mr. Boothby

The Amendment would not prevent any farmer in Great Britain from ploughing up all the land he possibly could. My right hon. and gallant Friend talked as though it would prevent the fanner from ploughing up, but, so far as I can see, it will make it easier for the farmer to plough up the really bad land.

Sir G. Courthope

It will enable him to draw subsidy for land that he would normally plough up.

Mr. Hicks

Is not the important point not how much land he ploughs up but what he can produce after he has ploughed up? It ought not to be £2 per acre for ploughing up. It is not a mere question of ploughing up but of what is produced afterwards.

Sir G. Courthope

That is perfectly true, but the arguments put in favour of the Amendment have been based on the assumption that the fanner will plough unsuitable land instead of suitable land, if the Amendment is carried. It would be a mistake to spend Government money in inducing him to do what he ought to do and would usually do in any case.

5.8 p.m.

Major Sir George Davies

It is difficult to dogmatise on a question like this, because conditions vary very much throughout the country. Like my namesake who spoke a moment ago, I think that the dominant consideration should be the maximum food production of the land during the emergency and immediately afterwards. I am a little dubious whether my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) has hit the right nail on the head. We must not lose sight of the fact that grass is a very essential product of agriculture and that we might make a very serious mistake if, by legislation, we encouraged too much the ploughing up of grassland, when, from the point of view of food production, it might be better left as grass. I know areas in which the grass has a certain length of economic life to the advantage of the community, and it should not be interfered with. It should have another seven years' life as grassland. It is true that in some cases within the seven years you will encourage the ploughing up of what we call boundary land, which might not, in ordinary conditions, be ploughed up: but I take the view that, in the emergency, we must make it worth while to pull that boundary land just over the edge and make it arable and productive. I do not think that that object will be achieved by the Amendment, and I find myself more in harmony with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope). We should reject this Amendment, in the interests of the maximum food supply.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Loftus

I listened carefully to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. It appeared to me that his argument was that, by reducing the term to five years, temptation would be offered to farmers generally to plough up very valuable grassland which would be better left to grass. Surely the consideration which the farmer would have in mind would be, which was the most suitable land for his own farming? He would not destroy really first-class grassland in order to get a subsidy of £2 an acre. There is another consideration. Surely the county agricultural committee would have a word to say in preventing the destruction of absolutely first-class grazing land. As regards my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) I listened with interest to his argument, which appeared to be that if we gave this subsidy there was the danger that, in some few places, it might be a waste of public money, as the farmer would plough up that land without the subsidy, in his usual rotation. The answer surely is that we are in an emergency when we need to grow every possible bit of food, and that it is better in a few rare cases to risk the waste of £2 an acre, if we get more land under food cultivation.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

As one representing a very considerable agricultural population in Scotland, I should like to say that I agree that the Government are playing with this question in a way that is actually dangerous. They are mixing two distinct policies that should not be mixed. Either they encourage the farmers to cultivate more grassland for the production of a greater amount of foodstuffs, or they pursue a policy of reclaiming land that has gone out of cultivation. In Scotland there is an enormous field for that second policy if the Government were prepared to pursue it, but they are not prepared to do so. They will not find any solution of the problem of the land that has gone out of cultivation by this proposal of £2 per acre.

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)

We are discussing whether the period should be five or seven years, and not the general question of land that has gone out of cultivation.

Mr. Gallacher

I am sorry if I moved off the beaten track, but I was dealing with the presentation that was put by the Minister. He mixed up the two policies to which I referred, and that mixing will waste any efforts in this direction. I suggest that the Amendment should be accepted, in order to ensure that what is being pursued is a policy of encouraging fanners to plough more grassland in order to get more production. The other question should be left entirely out of it, to be dealt with separately—although it is of the very first importance.

5.14 p.m.

Mr. C. Williams

I listened with very great care to what the Minister had to say. I am bound to think it is useless for any hon. Member to cite cases of grassland that has been down for four or six years and that ought to be ploughed up, and of other cases that ought not to be ploughed up. It is merely a matter of land cultivation in the particular instance. There are many cases of land that has been down for over seven years and is being ploughed up to-day—land which in all probability should not be ploughed up. That being the case, it seems to me that what we, as Members of the House of Commons, have to look at, is not whether an area would benefit under the seven years' provision or the five year'provision. We have to look at only one thing, and that is, what is going to produce most food for human consumption in this country? Suppose that, by reducing the period from seven years to five years, a certain amount of land was ploughed up that would have been more valuable as grass. There are the committees. If it went on on a very large scale, you could probably stop it. But many Members are aware that much land has been in grass for five or six years which would be much better ploughed up. Very often that is the case on farms where there is least capital available for ploughing up the land and producing crops. The Minister quite rightly thought that it would be a burden for the public purse.

Mr. Colville

I did not say so. It would not have that effect.

Mr. Williams

I am glad to have that admission.

Mr. Colville

I did not say that it would add to the public cost. I said that it was a question of directing public money to the quarter to which it should go.

Mr. Williams

At any rate, my right hon. Friend does not think this the best use for public money. But that is a very technical argument. The amount of public money involved cannot be very large. I suggest that on an occasion such as this, when practically the whole of agricultural opinion, with one or two exceptions, has been on one side—

Mr. Colville

There has been no representation made by any practical agriculturist in the country upon this.

Mr. Williams

I realise that; but that may be because the matter has never been thought of, and never dealt with. I quite see the position of the Government at the present time; but I would urge that when there is a chance of extending the amount of produce, when much land would undoubtedly benefit by this increased ploughing, it would be much better for the Government, after they have made a comparatively weak case against the Amendment, to accept the Amendment in principle, even if they cannot accept it entirely as it is worded. Then, they could go into the matter again, and see whether it is possible to extend the amount of ploughed land, below the seven years as well as above.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Colville

There are other reasons, which I did not give the Committee in my earlier speech, for not accepting the Amendment. I do not withdraw anything that I have said about my view that money is more wisely applied to ploughing up land which has been under grass for seven years, in the interests of food production; and in that I am supported by expert opinion. But I say also that it would cause chaos, at the present stage of the ploughing-up campaign, for us to adopt this Amendment. If this proposal were accepted, a most difficult situation would arise. Many farmers have ploughed up land which has been under grass for seven years, on the understanding that that was the land they would be urged to plough up. If the period were now changed, in the month of February, to five years, the scheme would become quite unworkable. If a change is to be made—and I do not withdraw my view that a change is not desirable—it should be made at the beginning of a new ploughing-up season.

Mr. J. Morgan

Over large areas of the country February is the beginning of the ploughing-up season. Is it the Minister's argument that, had the farmers known that the period was going to be five years, they would have preferred to plough up other land than they are now ploughing up, and, therefore, that to change the period would create a controversy? The Minister will have to make his decision, either now or in the Autumn; and it would be better to make it now.

Mr. Colville

It would be literally impossible to carry out the survey at this time of the year. Apart from everything else, it would put an impossible task on the executive committees, who are already carrying out heavy work. I feel that, for the administrative reasons which I have explained, such a change would be quite impossible, and would cause considerable controversy. No body of opinion has asked for this change, either in Scotland or in England, and the experts on whose advice we have based this scheme assure us that there is still much land to be brought into cultivation, and that that can best be done by adhering to the seven-years'period.

Mr. C. Davies

Sir George Stapledon's statement referred to land for improvement, not land for cultivation.

Mr. Colville

I repeat again that if the change was made, it would cause chaos, for administrative reasons, and would result in turning valuable grass into ploughed-up land when there is much land covered by the seven-years' limit which ought to be ploughed up. I know that this would bring more money into circulation, into the farmers' pockets; I do not believe that it would add at all to the end that we have in view, which is an increase in food production in this country, and to do it in the middle of the ploughing-up season would produce an impossible situation. I am quite willing to discuss with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Agriculture all the points which have been in favour of the change, for another season; but to make the change at the present time would not be in the interests of the country.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

Does the Minister imply that, if this Amendment were not forced to a Division, he would be willing to consult the Minister of Agriculture, with a view to making some provision at a later stage of the Bill, so that he might be able to embody a proposal which would give effect to this Amendment, immediately after the present ploughing-up season? Perhaps we might come to an understanding on those terms.

Mrs. Tate


Mr. Williams

I am inclined to agree with the hon. Lady. I myself do not trust this Government very far. I would tie them hand and foot before I made any concession to them. But the right hon. Gentleman did make a suggestion. What I would like to know is what he meant by saying that he was prepared to discuss the matter with his right hon. and gallant Friend. I think most of my hon. Friends would support the Amendment. They seem to think that it would give effect to the general desire much better than the Bill would as it stands. Not being a practical farmer, I take no stand. I am not impressed, however, by the right hon. Gentleman's argument that if we were to change horses in mid-stream it would cause confusion. He suggested that if farmers had had the opportunity of ploughing up five years' grass instead of seven years' grass, they would have relished the luxury. I do not know whether they would or not.

5.27 p.m.

Mrs. Tate

Before the Minister replies, there is a simple way to make sure what his words mean. I should be willing to withdraw the Amendment if I could have an assurance that there would be some definite date from which the five years' period would qualify for the subsidy, but I will take no vague promises of consultation with the Minister of Agriculture. We have had far too many vague promises of consultation. I thought one of the most extraordinary points of the Minister's extraordinarily weak reply—I do not mean to be impertinent—was when he told us that he had had no representations from the county agricultural com- mittees, and that they would be placed in an impossible position if the Government accepted the Amendment. But there are in the House two members of county agricultural committees, who have given the strongest possible support to my Amendment.

Mr. J. Morgan

The Minister's reply is a thoroughly dangerous one. If he leaves the impression in the farmers' minds that, at some date in the future, this period is going to be reduced, he will create a disposition for the scheme to drag on, with nothing being done. The Government must decide, yes or no, at once, or else leave the matter alone.

5.29 p.m.

Mr. Colville

The hon. Member misunderstood me. I said that, for the reasons given, I did not think that the change was either desirable or practicable. I do not want to go over the arguments again, but I think they are quite conclusive to those who have to deal with this problem. I referred to the county committees, but I said that I was willing to consult with my right hon. and gallant Friend, who is prevented by illness from being here, on the advisability of a change for another season, for which legislation would be necessary and that the arguments used by hon. Members would be fully examined by us both. I cannot go further than that. But I am bound to conclude by saying that a change in the directions proposed would throw the whole of this year's ploughing-up campaign into confusion.

Lieut. Colonel Acland-Troyte

I do not wish to prolong the discussion or to repeat arguments which have already been used, but the Minister has several times stated that this Amendment, if carried, would put agricultural executive committees in an impossible position. I happen to be Chairman of my Area Sub-committee and I do not consider that it would make our task any more difficult or cause us any extra trouble.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

I think that too much has been made of the administrative difficulty. The executive committee in the county which I know serve on the farmer an order to plough certain lands. They serve the order whether the farmer would get the subsidy on the land or not. The order is served on so many acres which the farmer has to plough. It is then up to the farmer to apply for the subsidy. He has already applied for the subsidy for the land which has been down seven years. If the committee says he is to apply for land which has been down only five years he will now make an application in respect of that land. The two processes are entirely distinct. The farmer having made his application for subsidy, the executive committee or its representative has to certify the land is suitable and that it has been ploughed, but there is

Division No. 15.] AYES. [5.36 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Owen, Major G.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Paling, W.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Parker, J.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parkinson, J. A.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pearson, A.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Ammon, C. G. Hardie, Agnes Price, M. P.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Harris, Sir P. A. Pritt, D. N.
Banfield, J. W. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Quibell, D. J. K.
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Barr. J. Hicks, E. G. Ridley, G.
Bartlett, C. V. O. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Riley, B.
Batey, J. Hollins, A. Ritson, J.
Baxter, A. Beverley Horabin, T. L. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Beaumont, H. (Batley) Isaacs, G. A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Benson, G. Jackson, W. F. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Bevan, A. Jagger, J. Sexton, T. M.
Boothby, R. J. G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Shinwell, E.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Silverman, S. S.
Buchanan, G. John, W. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Burke, W. A. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sloan, A.
Cassells, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Charleton, H. C. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Chater, D. Kirkwood, D. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, J. J. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cocks, F. S. Leach, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Colfox, Major Sir W. P. Leonard, W. Stephen, C.
Collindridge, F. Leslie, J. R. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cove, W. G. Loftus, P. C. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Daggar, G. Lucas, Major Sir J. M. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dalton, H. Lunn, W. Thurtle, E.
Davidson, Viscountess Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tinker, J. J.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) McEntee, V. La T. Tomlinson, G.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) McGhee, H. G. Viant, S. P.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) MacLaren, A. Walkden, A. G.
Dobbie, W. Maclean, N. Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C Mainwaring, W. H. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Mander, G. le M. Westwood, J.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Marshall, F. White, H. Graham
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Martin, J. H. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Mathers, G. Wilkinson, Ellen
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maxton, J. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Foot, D. M. Messer, F. Williams. T. (Don Valley)
Gallacher, W. Montague, F. Wilmot, John
Gardner, B. W. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Garro Jones, G. M. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mort, D. L.
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Nathan, Colonel H. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Naylor, T. E. Mrs. Tate and Mr. De la Bere.
Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Oliver, G. H.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Bird, Sir R. B. Brooklebank, Sir Edmund
Albery, Sir Irving Blair, Sir R. Brown, Brig-Gen. H. C.(Newbury)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)
Apsley, Lord Bossom, A. C. Campbell, Sir E. T.
Aske, Sir R. W. Boulton, W. W. Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)
Assheton, R. Boyce, H. Leslie Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Clarry, Sir Reginald

no difficulty whatever for the farmer who has not hitherto made an application for the subsidy if the regulations are now changed and he wishes to make application. I do not think that it would cause any administrative difficulty if he now applied for a subsidy for land which was not eligible previously.

Question put, "That '(b)' be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 149; Noes, 182.

Colville, Rt. Hon. John Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Courtauld, Major J. S. King-Hall, Commander W. S. R. Rowlands, G.
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Cranborne, Viscount Lamb, Sir J. Q. Russell, Sir Alexander
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Salt, E. W.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Leech, Sir J. W. Samuel, M. R. A.
Culverwell, C. T. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Levy, T. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lindsay, K. M. Schuster, Sir G. E.
Denville, Alfred Lipson, D. L. Scott, Lord William
Drewe, C. Little, Sir E. Graham- Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Duggan, H. J. Little, Dr. J. (Down) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Duncan, J. A. L. M'Connell, Sir J. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Dunglass, Lord McCorquodale, M. S. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Ellis, Sir G. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. McKie, J. H. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Emery, J. F. Magnay, T. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Maitland, Sir Adam Snadden, W. McN.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Somerset, T.
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Everard, Sir William Lindsay Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)
Fildes, Sir H. Markham, S. F. Spens, W. P.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M. Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Medlicott, Captain F. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Gledhill, G. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Sutcliffe, H.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge) Thomas, J. P. L.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.) Touche, G. C.
Hambro, A. V. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Train, Sir J.
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Tree, A. R. L. F.
Harland, H. P. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Munro, P. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Wakefield, W. W.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Higgs, W. F. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Palmer, G. E. H. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Hogg, Hon. Q. McG. Peters, Dr. S. J. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Holmes, J. S. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Webbe, Sir W. Harold
Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Wells, Sir Sydney
Horsbrugh, Florence Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton White, Sir R. D. (Fareham)
Howitt, Dr. A. B. Pym, L. R. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Radford, E. A. Windsor-Clive, Lieut. Colonel G.
Hume, Sir G. H. Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hunter, T. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Hurd, Sir P. A. Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Wragg, H.
Jarvis, Sir J. J. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Keeling, E. H. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Robertson, D. Mr. Grimston and Major Sir James Edmondson.
Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.) Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 12 and 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.