§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill for which I now ask a Second Reading does not involve any fundamental alterations in the food production methods which we have used and which have been, I think, on the whole, very successful. But we all learn by experience, and as time goes on cases are brought to notice in which improvement could take place. The sole purpose of the present Bill is to provide for a number of minor matters where modification seems to be necessary if we are to achieve, with the greatest expedition, that increased food production which is so necessary. I am afraid that this inevitably carries with it the implication of legislation by reference, and I am sorry to have to confess that this Bill is an extreme example of legislation by reference. As I say, that, in the circumstances, is inevitable, and I, therefore, thought it would be convenient to the House if I were to go rapidly through the various Clauses of the Bill and try to explain in simple language what is their effect.
Clause 1 carries out a promise which I made last year that I would ask the House to confirm the emergency action that we took when we increased temporarily the amount of the subsidy for lime from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. That action, as the House will remember, became necessary last Summer in order to get over the dead season and avoid the risk of lime quarries being shut down and losing their labour. It was effective because farmers bought 1,600,000 tons of lime in the period, compared with 500,000 tons in the previous year. This Clause dates back to 17th May last year. Whether or not it will be necessary to do something like that again this year I cannot say, but even if it should be necessary, it does not necessarily follow that the grant would be at the same increased rate.
The next seven Clauses of the Bill deal with land drainage and are designed to provide us with extended powers which experience has shown to be necessary. The progress made with agricultural drainage 1079 has been fully maintained during the last 12 months. State-aided farm ditching schemes alone already cover 2,000,000 acres, and all kinds of drainage schemes taken together cover approximately 4,000,000 acres. I know and freely confess that there is a great deal still to be done, but I think in considering this problem we should try to get it into proper perspective. Before the war, under the Land Drainage Act, 1930, a start but no more than a promising start was made in dealing with the problems of the main rivers. After centuries of neglect the programme had, inevitably, to be a long-term one, requiring a considerable number of years for its fulfilment. Of course, in the normal way land drainage ought to start at the sea and work up the rivers, the work on the main rivers to be completed before the minor watercourses and farm ditches are tackled. But, owing to the ploughing-up campaign, rendered necessary by the war, an entirely new problem faced us, and in order to get the maximum output of crops, we had to concentrate on tackling the farm ditches and minor watercourses at once, without waiting for the completion of the work on the main rivers.
In addition, a great deal of long-term main river work had to be put off until after the war, because we could not spare the necessary men, materials and machinery. For example, the Great Ouse scheme, costing about £2,500,000, has been approved, but the bulk of that has had to be put off until after the war. Meantime, in large areas dotted here and there in the catchment area of the Great Ouse work has been undertaken to enable us to carry on and increase food production. Approximately, £7,000,000 worth of work on main rivers has had to be postponed until after the war. Therefore, there is a vast amount, as I have said, to be done. If there were only a few hundred thousand acres, as has been suggested in certain quarters where a campaign is being conducted at the present time, no one would be more pleased than the Minister. In fact, however, the amount is represented not by thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, but by millions of acres.
Nevertheless, the progress we have made in the last year has been substantial. It has been largely due to the fact that we have been able to obtain a 1080 certain amount of machinery and an increased amount of labour in the shape of Italian prisoners. Machinery is the key. To-day we have working about 400 excavators. In 1940 we had none working. Clearly, it takes time to order and to obtain delivery of excavators. We have a number more on order, and every week that passes sees more excavators at work in the country. In addition, there was the problem of technical staff. Technical staff did not exist in 1940 in anything approaching adequate numbers. We have had to collect it and to a great extent train it. What we are trying to do is to get the maximum increased food production out of such labour, materials, staff and machinery as we have available.
Now to turn to the individual land drainage Clauses of the Bill. Firstly, Clause 2 removes the time limit for grants to drainage authorities for improvement schemes under Section 15 of the Agriculture Act, 1937. It is quite clear that we shall have to continue grants for an indefinite period, and therefore the time limit has been removed. That will enable drainage authorities to plan ahead confidently. Clause 3, by amending the definition of agricultural land for purposes of drainage grants removes a difficulty which has cropped up. For instance, a war agricultural committee wants a golf course to be ploughed up and to be mole-drained in order to enable the work to be of the greatest advantage. Up to now because the course is not agricultural land we have not been able to pay a grant for the drainage. In future, land in respect of which a direction has been given will be deemed to be agricultural land for the purposes of drainage grants. Clause 4 provides for variation of approved schemes and the repayment by the Minister of expenses incurred by drainage authorities for schemes that may subsequently prove abortive, deduction from the landowner's share of the cost of a scheme of any voluntary contributions from other sources and improvements in the method for recovery from landowners of expenses incurred by drainage authorities in the schemes. Clause 5 enables the Minister to recover from the Catchment Board expenses incurred by him on main rivers. Normally, the work on main rivers is the job of the Catchment Board, but in a small number of cases we have, as the Department, undertaken a small part of 1081 the work on a main river as part of a larger scheme of reclamation. Under the existing law the Minister can recover part of the cost from the internal drainage board or from the landowners. But the main river is normally the responsibility of the Catchment Board and in future we shall be able to recover from the Catchment Board for any work we do on a main river.
Clause 6 also concerns reclamation schemes. It may be desirable for us to undertake a major piece of drainage such as the cutting of a new river channel, and this Clause gives the Minister powers to acquire land similar to those possessed by drainage authorities under the Act of 1930. This power is only intended to be available during the war period, and on the Committee stage I propose to move an Amendment to make that quite clear. Clause 7 is designed to remove an anomaly which exists at present and under which statutory drainage authorities are able to pay expenses to their members only when they attend board meetings and not when they attend committee meetings or carry out inspections. Local authorities have the power to pay the expenses of their members when they attend committee meetings or make individual inspections, and in view of the large amount of work being undertaken at present by these statutory authorities and the largely increased number of inspections this Clause is designed to enable expenses to be paid. Clause 8 provides for the assessment of drainage rates to be adjusted to meet any increased value that may arise as a result of a drainage operation. The last Schedule A valuation, on which these rates are based, was in 1935, obviously before a great number of those improvements took place, and this Clause enables us to make new assessments and to take account of the increased value. Owners and occupiers will have the right of appeal to the courts against a drainage board assessment. That covers the drainage Clauses of the Bill.
Clause 9 deals with a matter which has arisen out of our powers to make grants for laying on water to uplands on farms. The Clause enables a landlord, who has laid on a water supply either in conformity with a direction given him by a committee or in accordance with a scheme approved by a committee, to recover the interest on his share of the cost from the 1082 tenant in the shape of increased rent. The tenant is protected against excessive cost as the cost has to be certified as reasonable by the Minister. Clause 10 refers to the improvement of large areas of grazing land by war agricultural committees. It is designed to deal with one or two cases which have occurred in Cumberland and to enable us to recover from farmers who will graze improved common land a contribution towards the cost of the improvement. We have agreed it with the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society. Clauses 11 to 13 deal with minor amendments to previous enactments.
Now I come to Clause 14 of the Bill, which is rather complicated and technical and which seems to have caused a certain amount of misapprehension, or perhaps I should say apprehension, on the part of some people. It is a logical corollary of the war-time food production campaign and especially of the ploughing-up policy, which, I think, we can claim has proved effective and has been amply justified. The three main Sub-sections of the Clause—(1) (2) and (3)—deal with entirely separate matters, and I hope that the explanation I can give will serve to remove misapprehensions and allay any anxiety. As regards Sub-section (1), the House will be aware that it was customary in agreements before the war for certain land to be scheduled as permanent pasture and for other land to be scheduled as arable. The agreement contained a clause prohibiting a farmer from ploughing up pasture except with the consent of the landlord and established a penalty of so many pounds an acre if he did, in fact, so plough up that pasture. Clearly, when the war came and committees served directions on tenants to plough up pasture, it was inequitable that the tenant, as a result of carrying out a direction issued by a committee for war purposes, should be exposed to having to pay a penalty to his landlord. We have always taken the view within the Department that the tenant was absolved from any such penalty by the mere fact of carrying out a direction served on him by a committee. This point of view was explained to the leading professional institutions as long ago as December, 1939, but ever since then, especially lately, various questions have arisen on the position of landlords and tenants on the occasions of terminations of tenancies, and conflicting legal opinions have been expressed about the 1083 state of the law to-day. Therefore, this Sub-section was designed to clarify the position and make it clear that the state of affairs that the Department has always considered to exist is, in fact, the law.
At first glance, it perhaps may be thought that this Clause favours the tenant unduly and that nothing is being done for the landlord. This, however, is not the case. The tenant's claim for tenant right obviously arises on every occasion during the war when there is a change of tenancy or when a tenancy terminates, and therefore the position has to be settled there and then. The position of the landlord does not arise until the end of the war. Claims for loss suffered by a landlord as a result of directions are covered by an agreement made and published in December, 1939, under which the Minister was authorised by His Majesty's Government to announce that where grassland was ploughed up landowners would be entitled to lodge claims for compensation at the end of the war if the annual value of the land, or the farm of which it formed part, had been diminished as a result of being ploughed up. The compensation will be based on the cost of restoring the land, that is, re-seeding, or alternatively a sum calculated with reference to the amount by which the annual value of the land is diminished. The landlord's position has been defined, covered and safeguarded by the pledge given by the Government three years ago, and it is not in any way changed by this Clause of the Bill. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that while it is necessary to deal with the position of the tenant, it is unnecessary to deal any further with the position of the landlord.
Sub-section (2) has been framed to deal with quite a separate point. The county war agricultural executive committees have been faced in a number of cases with difficulty regarding the position when they ordered certain crops to be grown in the last year of a tenancy, because neither under the agreement nor the custom could the tenant, on quitting, claim to be paid for the growing crops, tillages or manuring on the particular areas on which the Committee had served a direction during the war. For instance, a tenancy agreement might, and very commonly did, contain a Clause saying that a particular acreage was to be bare fallowed in the 1084 last year of the tenancy, and in present conditions, the Committee might well decide that we could not afford the loss of the crops so involved and that, despite the agreement, a particular area must be cropped. A tenant whose tenancy was finishing next Lady Day and who had been ordered to plant a field with wheat last September or October, would find that he was not entitled to any compensation for planting the wheat or for any manure he might have used, and that, indeed, he might be subject to a penalty for not having left the land bare fallowed. Obviously, this was inequitable, and the Clause puts it right. Again, no additional charge will be imposed on the landlord because the incoming tenant in practice pays the outgoing tenant's valuation, and the landlord will have to pay only in the case where he himself is taking over the land and is going to farm it himself, in which case he will be in the position of the incoming tenant.
Sub-section (3) deals with the case of the tenant who, following on a direction from the war agricultural executive committee, clears land of bushes, removes boulders or brings derelict land under cultivation. This Sub-section provides that the tenant, at the end of the tenancy, will be able to claim compensation for any increased annual value of the farm as a result of the work he has done. Of course, if the tenant, after reclamation, by growing two or more white crops, has reduced materially the fertility of the land, this will be taken into account by the valuers in assessing the compensation and may be, indeed, regarded as a counter claim by the landlord. This will be taken into account by the valuers when they consider whether or not any compensation is due. It is, perhaps, important to note that nothing in this Clause affects the existing right of a landlord to counterclaim from a tenant on quitting a sum in respect of any default on the part of the tenant as regards his obligation to farm the land in a proper and husbandlike manner and to keep the hedges and ditches in good order. This applies whether the land is arable or pasture. As I have said, I am aware, from representations that have reached me, that this Clause has caused a certain amount of misapprehension, or perhaps indeed apprehension, on the part of landowners, and it has been represented to me that, 1085 while everything is being done to assist the tenant, there is nothing in it for the landlord.
§ Mr. Hudson
It is, I think, true to say, in general, as I think every impartial person is bound to admit, that as a result of the war and the steps that we have had to take to increase food production, the farmers have had the advantage of guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices and the farm workers have had the advantage of enhanced wages, but that the landowner has been faced with very largely increased costs for the maintenance of his estate, that the wages of his estate workers have increased, costs of building materials have increased, and there have been difficulties in maintaining his estate because of the calling-up of many of his workers, and that all these costs have not been offset in any way by any appreciable increase in rent. He is the one of the three partners whose position has materially worsened, compared with the other two, as a result of the war. I am sure the House will appreciate the difficulties and will appreciate also that, in spite of them, the landowners are fully playing their part in the war effort. Therefore, I think it is important that I should reassure them, if I possibly can, that this Clause does not jeopardise the landowners' position in any possible way, or in any way detract from the pledge that was given and incorporated in the agreement of December, 1939, regarding any possible claims for compensation at the end of the war.
Clause 15 provides for the rounding-off of powers conferred by Section 9 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941. It will be remembered that under that Section I have power to acquire land compulsorily, where the Committees have taken possession of it on the ground of bad husbandry, with a view to eventual resale in order to recover the cost of the expenditure and betterment. That power applies only to agricultural land and it does not enable me to buy the remainder of a farm or an estate, such as woodlands or spinneys. This provision gives me power to acquire the remainder of any particular farm or estate, but only by agreement. There is no question of the owner being compelled to sell if he does not want to do so.
1086 Clause 16 deals with the control of artificial insemination. The announcement earlier in the year by the Agricultural Improvement Council of the setting-up of a Supervisory Committee to supervise field trials in artificial insemination at two experimental stations at Reading and Cambridge evoked a lively, but, I am afraid, premature, interest and stimulated a number of projects for the commercial development of this process. The object of these trials at Reading and Cambridge is to find out whether artificial insemination on a field scale in this country is practicable and economic. I am quite well aware that in Russia, for example, artificial insemination is being practised on a considerable scale, but I think hon. Members will agree that farming conditions in Russia are very different from those obtaining here. It is clear, or at least very probable, that artificial insemination holds great possibilities for good as far as livestock improvement in this country is concerned, but I think it is also clear that it contains great possibilities of evil if it gets into the hands of people who are going to exploit it purely commercially. Therefore, some system of control is necessary. What the exact system will be I cannot yet say, but this clause is merely an enabling Clause which will enable me, after taking the best advice I can get, to make such regulations as seem desirable for controlling the sale and importation of semen of the particular animals mentioned in the clause. It will be noticed that the Regulations which I eventually make will be subject to a negative Resolution by both Houses. Clause 17 remedies the historical anomaly by which His Majesty's Customs Inspectors have to collect the returns of corn in markets in the interior of the country. The business of receiving returns and prescribing markets is transferred by the Clause to the Ministry of Agriculture. Clauses 18 to 20 apply the provisions of the Bill to Scotland. I am sorry if I have been long in explaining this rather lengthy series of provisions, but I thought it better to give a full explanation, and I hope the House will agree that it is a useful and necessary Measure.
§ Colonel Sir George Courthope (Rye)
There is only one Clause in the Bill to which I wish to refer. I have no objection whatever to raise to any of the other Clauses, most of which are desirable and some essential for the progress of the very 1087 great work which my right hon. Friend and his Department are doing in increasing the food supply of the country. Clause 14 deals with the relationship between landlord and tenant, and, as my right hon. Friend told the House himself, ploughing-up orders at the very beginning quite properly interfered with the obligations and liabilities of tenants under their agreements and under what is known as the custom of the country. I am quite certain he fully believes that there is no element of injustice in Sub-section (1), which gives a statutory right to the exemption which we have assumed the tenant had, but it is not sufficient that he should be satisfied. If it is to work smoothly, the people who are going to be affected at the other end must be satisfied too. In September, 1939, when these ploughing orders were first put into effect, the then Minister, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, wrote an official letter to county war agricultural executive committees throughout the country, copies of which were officially sent to bodies like the National Farmers' Union and the Landlords' Association. It was known as "The Gentlemen's Agreement." It gives an undertaking that where an owner of land after the war period wished his grassland, which had been compulsorily ploughed up, to be restored, he might claim that it should be restored to its former condition or, alternatively, at his option, claim compensation in cash for loss of annual value.
In December of that year a White Paper, which is commonly known as 1510, was issued which purported to embody that agreement. But it had this difference. It took the option as to whether land should be restored to its original condition or cash repaid for loss of annual value out of the hands of the owners and put it into the hands of the Minister. I do not want to exaggerate the importance of that, but it is felt in some quarters that it is not quite playing the game. It is not the way that a gentlemen's agreement should be put upon paper. Now the Minister has decided that, in order to make quite certain that he and his committees are not acting ultra vires, he must give statutory authority to the ploughing-up orders and their consequences. I am going to ask him to consider very carefully before the Committee stage whether, 1088 while he is embodying one part of the business on the Statute book, he cannot also get the other part of the gentlemen's agreement in Clause 14 as well. It would remove a great deal of feeling, which may or may not be justified, that there is an element of injustice in these proposals, and it is to everyone's advantage that a thing of this kind should work smoothly. It will only work smoothly if the owners of land as well as others think they are getting a fair deal.
Sub-section (3) gives the tenant the right to compensation for increase of annual value owing to the clearing of scrub land, brush or boulders carried out under the orders of the county war agricultural executive committee. I am afraid of that, not in the least from a landlord's point of view, but because you can do no greater disservice to farming than pile up incoming tenants with excessive incoming valuation. One of the great evils after the last war, one of the things that made farming so difficult, was the fact that there were in many cases excessive incoming valuations, which absorbed a great part of the working capital which the incoming tenant so badly needed if he was to farm properly. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider very carefully whether this Sub-section, and to a minor extent Sub-section (2), do not run the risk of piling up to an excessive degree the incoming valuation which the tenant may have to pay. If they do, they will definitely militate against the very remarkable success which he has achieved and which we all wish he should carry on.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
There are parts of the Bill which I like and parts as to which I want to make certain inquiries. I am connected with an agricultural college in Devonshire where we have trained some 800 land girls, and I want to tell my right hon. Friend that he must not rely on them for spreading lime. It is a dusty, dirty job, and anyone who has seen the clothes of a man after doing it will know that a girl would want a liberal supply of water and a great many cosmetics to restore her complexion. I hope therefore my right hon. Friend will see to it that, if his policy is to be successful, the Minister of Labour will look with a kindly eye on our key men. I hope he will, because the Minister of Labour told me the other day that when I was first elected to this House he was 1089 residing at a farm seven or eight miles from my home in Devonshire. This is a wonderful country, where a man, without any adventitious circumstances, by his grip and ability, reinforced by an intake of Devonshire air, can rise to the high position which he now occupies and in which we all wish him well in his work. I should also like to ask my right hon. Friend whether there is any likelihood of drainage, not river beds or swamps but on ordinary agricultural land which really requires drainage and would be capable of producing crops almost at once. We have cases in Devonshire where fields, if they could be drained—the local labour is not there—would be capable of being ploughed up and producing crops and adding to present food production. I am not sure that that would not be wiser than concentrating on river beds and the like, because they cannot come into cultivation for some little while.
There is another point that I want to raise, on Clause 10. There are considerable areas of common land in my constituency, quite good land, which has been ploughed up but never before within the memory of man. I take two examples. The first was simply scrub, gorse and bracken. It was ploughed and quite good crops have been taken from it. I want to know what is to happen to that land after the war. I take a moor in my constituency near a small town. It has 410 acres, of which 340 has been cropped, which shows that it is good land. There is another which has only grown bracken for generations. That has 151 acres, of which 136 are cultivated. What is to happen to that? Are you going to claim compensation for improvement?
§ Mr. Lambert
The Bill as it stands certanly does apply to them. It says the works and improvements executed on land subject to common rights may be recovered from the persons who will benefit. Surely, that covers the case to which I am referring, and if so, perhaps my right hon. Friend will remedy it. What I wish to ask my right hon. Friend is whether the Ministry have got a more constructive policy which would bring about the permanent cultivation of these areas? There are some 1,500 or 2,000 acres in 1090 my constituency which could be so rendered productive. It would be pitiable for them again to go back into scrub and gorse. I ask the Minister whether he has any ideas as to how to continue this valuable land back in food production. I suggest that it could be made into smallholdings, and that in the case of commons close to small towns, it would be an admirable project to let the local inhabitants have smallholdings instead of merely grazing two or three ponies. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider this matter. I would like to be able to assure our people in Devonshire that all their good work has not gone for nothing. A good deal of knowledge and experience concerning the fertility of land has now been gained. I went over one farm where lime had had no effect, but they drilled phosphates with the oats, and on that land there was a good crop, whereas on the land which had not been so manured there was a very poor crop. When the matter was gone into, those concerned came to the conclusion that, as the land had been grazed for many years, the animals had taken the phosphates to form their bones, and that, therefore, phosphates were required to produce corn.
With regard to the compensation which my right hon. Friend is going to claim, the amount is very limited, but I think he will also claim something under the drainage schemes. I want to ask him over what period the valuation is to be taken. We have a vivid recollection of what happened to agriculture in the years 1918 to 1921. If this valuation is taken at the end of the war, the value will be very different from what it may be later on. I would like my right hon. Friend to devote his attention to that matter and to tell us at what period he proposes to take the valuation.
With regard to artificial insemination, if this is to be of value it will be in counties where there are small herds. Devonshire is a county of small herds. A man may keep four, five or six cows; he is unable to keep a bull, and has to drive to a farmer who does keep one. Such a bull is very likely to be contaminated with disease. There have been in Devonshire outbreaks of sterility and abortion which have had a very damaging effect on the farmer's purse and on milk production. The Devon War Agricultural 1091 Committee, a very progressive body, wished to make an experiment, not of a commercial nature, in this matter, and they put forward a scheme. The Seale-Hayne Agricultural College, of which I have the honour to be chairman, would supervise the experiment. It was a very carefully worked out scheme and was put to my right hon. Friend, but was turned down. They came to me and asked me about it, and I said: "What was the cost of your scheme?" When they said it would not cost more than £2,000, I groaned and said that such an amount to the Ministry of Agriculture was like an old lady's tip to a porter and that if they had put in for £20,000 the Ministry of Agriculture would have thought that there was something in it. I do no know the reason why the scheme was negatived, because artificial insemination would be of value in Devonshire, which is a county of small herds. The Ministry of Agriculture, like other Ministries, think that they are the sole fountain of wisdom, but I assure my right hon. Friend that there are some capable people in Devonshire and that they do know their own business. I am sorry that he did not allow us to go on with our experiment.
A good deal of this Bill will be carried out by the county war agricultural committees. That shows the advantage of de-centralisation. Those committees, which have been such a success, were the creation of the late Minister of Agriculture, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, who is now in a different situation. I would assure him, if my voice could reach, that we agriculturists remember his services to this great industry with grateful recognition. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give satisfactory answers to my questions. In the meanwhile, I wish his Bill every success.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
A good many of the questions I would like to raise about agriculture do not come under this Bill. I will not, therefore, raise them but will try to follow the Minister's example and keep to the Bill itself. I would like to make a comment on the lime subsidy. In my experience in our part of the country it is not so much a question of price which prevents the greater use of lime, but a question of shortage of labour, for making the lime, for distributing it and for 1092 putting it on the land. This raises the general question of labour, which I do not think would be in Order. So many of the farmer's problems are labour problems. This is true to a large extent with regard to drainage. We welcome the alterations in this Bill which affect that problem. There is a great deal of field drainage, in the North of England especially, which could be done if labour and machinery were available. It does not depend often upon the clearing of the rivers, because in many districts they are clear enough. What is needed is actual drainage on the fields, tile drainage in particular. Could the Minister give us some information on the possibility of mechanising tile drainage? There appear to be one or two machines available now, and if they are practicable and the quality of their work is good, it would be possible to bring an enormous amount of land into arable cultivation in the North of England, land which cannot be drained because of the shortage of manual labour.
My constituents will welcome Clause 10, which the Minister says is especially for the benefit of Cumberland, but I should be grateful if he would tell me what his intentions are with regard to this Clause. There is room for great improvement in some of these common moorlands in Cumberland, but I do not understand why the problems there are specially different from the problems of the common lands in the West of England and other parts of the country. There have been ambitious schemes to deal with commons in various parts of England, as, for instance, the New Forest scheme. Why was not this Bill necessary for some of them, and why is it necessary for the particular conditions in Cumberland?
I would like to say a word about artificial insemination. I agree that this is a thing which has to be carefully controlled and that it must not be exploited commercially, because there are dangers in it. It appears to me, however, that the Minister and his Department are excessively cautious about it. I should be interested to hear why the scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) referred was turned down. It is true that the conditions in Russia are different from those in this country, but my information is that in Denmark, where the conditions are very similar, a great 1093 deal of work on artificial insemination has been done. There were before the war 85 centres in Denmark, covering probably hundreds of thousands of cattle. It cannot be said that Danish farming conditions are very different from those in England. In fact, the Danes seem to have gone ahead very briskly, and their methods of breeding and of dissemination of scientific knowledge have always been in some ways ahead of our own. I should have thought that by now, with the many millions of animals in the world which have been bred by these artificial methods, the scientific side of the matter had been thoroughly investigated and that the problem in this country was how to organise it in such a way as to suit our agricultural conditions. The main basis is agreed by the scientists concerned, and I believe that the system has immense possibilities for this country. In any case it is going on in other countries, and we should not be left behind.
The licensing of bulls has not had very spectacular results. It has not resulted in a very rapid improvement in the standard of livestock in this country. We have found out during the war that the yields of many milk cows, to take one example, in this country are much lower than they should be. Breeding is only one way of improving that state of affairs. No doubt management is equally important, but undoubtedly there is an immense number of cows used for milk production which have not been specialy bred for milk production of which the yield is poor, and there are many herds whose constitution is far from what it should be. Artificial insemination would be valuable for small farmers, because there are very few of them who can afford the best bulls. The dairying industry is an industry of small farmers. The objections to this method are partly that it is against nature. The practice, of breeding, however, and most farm processes are alterations of natural processes or are a control of them. The fact that this is rather a new departure does not suggest to me that it is any more against nature than the breeding of cows with high milk records in the normal way.
Then there is the objection which comes from pedigree breeders. I notice that many breeding societies are suspicious of the whole process. One can naturally understand that those who attach some importance to their sales of pedigree bulls may look askance at this method, but 1094 that is not an objection which ought to weigh very strongly with the Ministry of Agriculture. If the scheme is worked well, I am sure that it will benefit the pedigree breeding societies.
§ Mr. Roberts
There is an enormous number of cattle in this country which are non-pedigree and mongrels. Our pedigree cattle are very good, but there are a great many mongrels of a poor type which we could well replace with a much better class of cattle. If we get a higher standard of livestock in this country, that will benefit the pedigree breeders quite quickly. I look forward after the war to a steady grading-up of livestock, and I think that there is a great future for pedigree breeders. If more pedigree stock were kept, the pedigree breeder would sell more female animals, if not bulls. He would have an outlet there. If the breed societies take a rather short view, I am afraid they may easily lose a big opportunity. There will be a good demand from the Continent for good livestock, and this is one way in which this country can possibly develop an export trade. Let me put it this way, if they stick their toes in they may easily lose a market to other countries which are more progressive. There are dangers in these proposals, but as I see it they are mostly scientific dangers, and therefore I agree that the whole thing should be carefully controlled. At the same time there is a demand for it. I understand that the first scheme was started only eight weeks ago and that already 45 farmers are participating in it. Finally, I would say that I hope the Ministry of Agriculture will not be too cautious, too conservative, in administering this Clause of the Bill.
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)
So far as the principles of this Bill are' concerned, I wish to support it in its entirety. I think the Minister of Agriculture has been the outstanding success in our war effort in the matter of food production, and we support him in any measures he may take to continue to increase the productivity of our land. But in saying that I would raise the query whether there is in this Bill equity as between the farmer and the landlord. It is said that there are three partners in the great industry 1095 of agriculture—the agricultural landlord, the fanner and the agricultural worker. It is always easy to get sympathy and generous treatment for the agricultural worker, because everybody wants him to have a fair wage and a decent standard of living. It is not quite so easy to get sympathy and generous treatment for the farmer. In the past the farmer has not been treated too generously. Now that we are in a war period the country is expressing gratitude for the efforts of farmers, and we only hope that that gratitude will continue after the war. But for the agriculural landlord it is very difficult, almost impossible, to get any sympathy even to-day. Agricultural landlords, like all landlords, are subjected to criticism, they are held responsible for all sorts of evils, they are regarded almost as the villains of the piece. I do not agree with that, and I shall run the risk of unpopularity by supporting the landlord and putting forward his case under this Bill.
I feel that I am justified in asking for some sympathy for the agricultural landlord. The Minister has already explained that relationships between the agricultural landlord and the farmer are governed by an agreement. Under that agreement the farmer undertakes not to do this, that and the other, but agrees also to do certain other things. The landlord also has his obligations under that agreement. The farmer has undertaken not to plough up grass land and if he does he subjects himself to a penalty. He has agreed to cleanse out the ditches, to do the hedges and, in short, to maintain the fertility of the farm in the same condition when he leaves it as it was when he took it. If the tenant does anything which improves the value of the land, then at the end of the time the law requires the landlord to pay the tenant for those improvements. The powers of the Minister under the Defence Regulations and under this Bill, acting through the county war agricultural committees, to a considerable extent revoke the agreement between landlord and tenant. Under Clause 4 of the Bill, as I read it, if the county war agricultural committee consider that agricultural land is capable of improvement by the execution of drainage works they may request a Catchment Board to prepare and execute a scheme for the drainage of the land and recover the net cost from the landlord. This 1096 may be done notwithstanding that the landlord has had no notification that the scheme was being prepared or executed and no opportunity of expressing his views. One agrees that it is right and proper that these drainage operations should be undertaken if they improve the productivity of the land in time of war, and my objection is that the landlord should be the one left to pay for that work. It is probably within the agreement made between the landlord and the tenant that the tenant shall keep all watercourses properly cleaned out, and if in the past he has failed to discharge that duty, it does not seem to be just to put the liability of paying for the work on to the landlord, to make him pay for the default of his tenant in the past and leave him with no opportunity to recover the outlay at the termination of the tenancy.
Clause 14 says that all grassland ploughed up under the orders of a war agricultural committee shall henceforth be deemed to be arable land and to have been arable land at all material times. As I understand it, the result will be that the tenant will plough up his grassland under the orders of a war agricultural committee and will be relieved from any liability to compensate the landlord for having broken his undertaking under the agreement not to plough up grassland. Under the agreement the tenant may have been subject to a penalty of £2 to £5 per acre, but that is wiped out. The tenant ploughs up the grassland, he cashes in on the stored-up fertility of that grassland, which is the landlord's, cashes in on the sales of the crops raised on that land, yet pays nothing to the landlord. Further, for ploughing up the land the tenant will get the subsidy of £2 per acre given by the State. The landlord gets nothing. Worse than that, the tenant, having used up the fertility of the grassland with two, three or four crops, may decide after the war to put that ploughed-up grassland back to grass again. If he does so then because, under the Bill, that ploughed-up grassland is to be considered at all material times as arable land, the tenant will be able to claim from the landlord at a valuation the cost of re-seeding that land. I submit on this that I have some justification for saying that in this Bill there is not equitable treatment for the landlord and the tenant. It is not in the least a question as between the landlord 1097 and the State; the landlord is willing to do whatever he can in this emergency; but it is a question between the landlord and the tenant.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he would see that landlords' interests were protected. I think the time has arrived when we should give some recognition to landlords for the work they have done in the past, for the help they have given to agriculture. They should have some sympathy from this House. In the past we have had "grouses" from agricultural labourers because their wages were not high enough, we have had innumerable "grouses" from farmers that the prices they were getting were not enough, but I do not think we have ever had a "grouse" from the agricultural landlord, and I would appeal to the Minister not to give the agricultural landlord any opportunity for a "grouse" under this Bill.
§ Mr. Snadden
I dare say that I shall be the only Scottish Member to raise his voice in this Debate, but that does not mean that the points I shall put are entirely Scottish points. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the details of Clause 14. This Clause does not affect us in Scotland very greatly, because we are in the happy position of not having farmed on the permanent grass system which has been in operation South of the Border. But in passing I should like to make one point on Clause 14. The Minister has, I think, done his best to assure us that the landlord will be protected, but the whole point, it seems to me, is whether or not when the valuation is made the land has or has not diminished in value. If the land has diminished in value, the landlord will be protected, but after the war we may find a position where agricultural land has increased in value, in which case there will be no compensation whatever for the landlord. I do not quite feel myself that we have got an assurance on that point, but, as I say, I do not wish to go into Clause 14 in detail.
I would like to make two preliminary points on this Bill. They may seem rather trivial, but they are very important to us in Scotland. This is the fourth Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which has been introduced into this 1098 House since 1940. I am quite certain that, though they certainly contained many useful provisions, the time is now ripe when there should be an Act consolidating the Miscellaneous Provisions Statutes or possibly an Act solely applicable to Scotland combining these Statutes with those of the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, 1941. Perhaps I have not been in the House long enough to understand the somewhat puzzling technique of cross-reference and cross-amendment. I do not know. I do know that this business of cross-reference and cross-amendment does place Members of Parliament and agriculturists in a position of very great difficulty, because we really do not know what the true and final state of the law really is. As things stand to-day, I do not think it can be said that they are either clear or satisfactory. I suggest to the Under-Secretary for Scotland, who will probably reply to me, that something might be done to help the hard working secretaries of our agricultural executive committees who are constantly turning to Acts of Parliament and have to go through them at great labour to find out what the provision of the law is.
The other preliminary point I wish to put to the Under-Secretary for Scotland is that I find this is a United Kingdom Bill, but Clauses 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 17 have, so far as I can see, no application whatever in Scotland. I want to put this suggestion to the Under-Secretary: Having had previous experience in another post going round these county committees for whom I have a great admiration, in order to help secretaries we should insert in the Bill, possibly in Clause 18, words which would convey that these Clauses do not have any application in Scotland. It would save a great deal of time. I would like to say a word on Clause 9. This Clause provides that where the landlord executes work for the supply of water on an agricultural holding the tenant will be liable for interest on the net cost of the work. I think everyone will agree, particularly the hon. Member who has just spoken, that such a provision is both useful and equitable. This is a new principle introduced, whereby interest can be charged because of money expended by the landlord. I suggest that the principle embodied in this Clause should be extended as a matter of general policy. Why should it not, for example, apply 1099 to other improvements of equal and perhaps greater importance to our food production campaign? I refer, of course, to improvements carried out either under the direction of the county executive committee or with the approval of the county executive committee.
This Clause applies only to water supplies. But consider the case, and several such cases are known to me, where a county executive committee may compel a landlord to spend, say, £1,000 on the reconstruction of farm buildings in order to raise the holding to the standard required of us to-day. That is a very considerable sum of money for a landlord to be asked to find, and he may have very great difficulty in raising it. The point I wish to put is that the principle embodied in Clause 9 should be applied wherever capital is expended by the landlord on the orders of a county executive committee or with the approval of the county executive committee, always provided that the landlord is doing something more than is incumbent upon him under his lease or contract. In Scotland we have an excellent organisation to which such matters could be taken. The Scottish Land Court can decide such questions, and I am sure reasonable decisions would be reached. At the moment the position is far from satisfactory. What really happens is that when the rental of that farm was assessed the dilapidated state of the farm buildings would be taken into account in order to arrive at the rental value. The county executive committee come along and order a landlord to spend a large sum of money. The only possible way the landlord can have the rent revised is by giving notice to quit at the first date when a termination of tenancy is possible under the lease. In Scotland we have long leases, and that date may therefore be a long way off, but in any case such an incentive to a landlord to give notice to quite is wholly undesirable and should not be encouraged. For that reason I would ask the Minister—I think this applies to both countries—whether they would consider the extension of the principle under Clause 9 to cover the kind of case I have touched upon.
There is one small point I would put to the Under-Secretary for Scotland. I hope he will forgive me being a little technical. I think it is important from the point of view of detailed Scottish legislation. 1100 Under Clause 9 I find that action is contemplated by a landlord either in pursuance of a direction given by a county executive committee or a scheme approved by a county executive committee for the special purpose of Section 15 of the 1940 Act. I may be wrong, but I find on looking into the Section referred to that it has no application in Scotland. It would seem to follow that this can only apply in Scotland when a direction has been served. I think, having a fairly good memory—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that Section 15 of that particular Act had to do with mole drainage. I think this was later added to by Section 3 of the 1941 Act, which came in to cover water supplies. That had no effect in Scotland. The corresponding Scottish extension was a different Section altogether. It was Section 12 (4) of the 1941 Act. It would appear to me then that some clarification is called for in regard to this Clause's application to Scotland. I think that it is no doubt the intention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to bring in a similar Measure for Scotland at the same time and in the same way as in England. As this Clause stands, that purpose does not seem to me to be fulfilled.
I wish to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to a point under Clause 13. It is quite simple but quite important. Clause 13 deals with the extension of the war emergency lease provisions. I will not go into detail on that, because it is rather a curious position. It refers to the 364 days lease in regard to grass park tenancies. That is a business all by itself, but in this Bill reference is made in this Clause to Section 26 of the 1940 Act. That Section excluded from the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, the right of compensation for disturbance in the case of certain lands These lands were covered in this Clause in regard to grass parks, and in this particular Section a condition was laid down that the tenant should sow permanent grass seeds with the waygoing crop, Section 26 (1, a) of the 1940 Act was no doubt inserted in the interests of the landlord. I wish to put the point to the Under-Secretary that in practice this particular condition has been found by the county, executive committees to be a definite obstruction to the letting of grass parks. The reason is that no tenant will lease a grass park, plough it up and sow it down on waygoing in order to leave the hay to the landlord. I would not do it 1101 myself, and you will not get many Scottish tenants to do it. In the case of very poor land permission may be given to re-seed after one or perhaps two crops to the ultimate benefit of the land. No tenant will do this properly unless he is to get a reasonable course of cropping and the benefit of the grass seeds sown out. I would suggest that something should be done here. I am not a lawyer, and I do not know exactly what is required unless it be that the word "waygoing" should be left out of the Clause to which I have referred. If you do that, you will, I think, in Scotland facilitate the smooth letting of grass parks at a time when they are badly needed.
I wish to speak about artificial insemination, a point which my hon. Friend over there raised. We in Scotland are particularly interested in this process or practice, and it is an extraordinarily interesting and important practice from the point of view of the livestock industry. What does the Clause do? It gives power to the Minister to make regulations for the control of the practice, for the licensing of distribution of semen and for control by licence of imports and exports of this material. I believe—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the Minister has the power to enter into premises where licences have been granted. There is no doubt at all that revolutionary and far-reaching possibilities are opened up by this process. It would be quite wrong to assume that it is a new process. It has been going on for a century. I have used it locally in my own particular herd at home. But there is acute division of opinion throughout the whole country as to whether artificial insemination is necessary either economically or genetically. On the one hand, our scientists are urging the extension of this practice. They say it will avoid sterility. There is a certain amount of truth in that, because of the greater accuracy of the human hand as against nature's method. They also say that contagious abortion will be lessened, that it would help the small farmer who cannot afford first-rate sires, and—this is an important point, which was made by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts)—they say that in the post-war period the devastated countries will not be able to afford the price we would demand here for our 1102 pedigree stock, and that therefore we should export semen instead.
On the other hand, only one of our major Breed Societies in Great Britain—and this is without doubt the greatest livestock breeding country in the world—only one, and that particular society has very good reason for approving of it, as it is an importing society, desires an extension of the practice. Many competent practical authorities, including probably the best of our breeders—and some of the most expert of our breeders in the North—are keenly apprehensive lest disastrous results should ensue to our pedigree herds and flocks. We have to remember that we cannot have pedigree animals without a pedigree herd, and we must be careful that we do not kill the goose that lays the golden, eggs. The source of supply is what we need to watch, not only in cattle, but in sheep.
I have exported animals to almost all the countries of the world who have in the past bought from us, including Soviet Russia, and I claim to know a little about this subject. I share the fears of the practical man on this question, but I do not take up an attitude of uncompromising resistance. I fear that if artificial insemination is generally introduced it will drastically reduce our bull population, as it will tend to concentrate the demand for semen at the top. If one wants artificially to inseminate a herd and you wish to get this material, one would not go to the man at the bottom, or even in the middle, but to the man at the top. The consequence will be that if the practice becomes universal, the demand will concentrate into the hands of a few, and the backbone of our pedigree herds, the smaller men who sell their bulls throughout the country to-day will be left standing. The consequence would be that there would be less outlet for bulls not suitable for pedigree herds. We should probably find our bull population of this country reduced to a very small number of really first-class animals. There is also the danger of excessive in-breeding leading to all-round deterioration.
If you have a champion bull, it does not necessarily follow in the slightest degree that he will throw the same calves every year. You get first-class calves this year, but next year when you look for them they are not there; if they were the business would be simple. The second 1103 year you may experience a great falling off, which is the fascinating part of the business. If artificial insemination becomes universal with the exportation of large masses of material you may succeed in levelling down instead of up, because the purchasers may hit off one of those cycles of inferior stock getting. Putting aside all those arguments, one of the greatest problems of all will be the extreme difficulty experienced in safeguarding the authenticity and reliability of pedigrees. I will sum up this matter by saying that I feel that if this practice becomes universal or is extended it may well undermine our great pure bred structure in this country. Reference has been made to Denmark, and although I cannot speak about Denmark, I am not convinced. As regards Russia, there is no comparison there at all. What happened in Russia was that they wanted results quickly, and over vast distances. There was no danger of deterioration there because there was nothing to deteriorate. They wanted calves quickly, thousands of them, and no doubt it was a correct policy. You cannot compare Russia with this country.
Much as I dislike this uncalled-for interference with the normal functioning of nature, I believe that artificial insemination will in the long run, whether we like it or not, force itself upon us. I am sure that other countries will exploit it, and we must not be ostriches and put our heads in the sand. I do not think that is wise to adopt a short-sighted policy of uncompromising resistance. We have to take a broad view. Having recognised that, what is the problem? That we should devise as completely foolproof a scheme as possible. I would, therefore, ask the Minister to see that the strictest possible control is exercised not only at the location from which the material comes, the location of the sire but, just as important, at the location where fertilisation of the female stock takes place. If you control it at one end and not the other, the scheme will run amok. The Clauses in the Bill give the Minister sufficient power, and I have no criticism on that point, but I suggest that no matter what the report may be of the Committee appointed by the Agricultural Improvements Council—and I am a little suspicious of them—before we jump into 1104 this business, an official centre should be set up in Scotland where we can collect experience and data vital to this practice. For example, we do not know what the effect will be on future generations of animals where artificial insemination has been used. We might find something terrific happen with animals produced by this process. For these reasons I would ask the Scottish Minister to "gang warily" as we say in Scotland. We want, above all, to preserve the quality of our pedigree herds, and I think the Minister will appreciate that I am out to protect our great pure bred structure, built up over so many years with so much labour and with so much skill.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Chapman)
I trust it will be acceptable to the House that I should intervene briefly at this stage to reply to the points put forward so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden). I am under the difficulty that I have undertaken to be brief, and further that one desires to avoid duplication. Therefore, if I do not reply in detail to points which I know will be covered in the winding-up speech of my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I trust that my hon. Friend will not think that I am being discourteous. I am trying to deal as far as I can with the other points he has raised.
Many hon. Members will have sympathy with my hon. Friend in his plaint about legislation by reference. It is very difficult to know how this is to be got over, particularly in war-time. I quite understand agricultural committees having their problems in this matter, but I also say that the Department of Agriculture is always available to assist them, and has been assisting them, immediately it is asked. As to the feasibility of consolidating a whole series of Acts, that is a matter rather out with my province. I suggest to my hon. Friend that perhaps, under war-time conditions, with a necessary series of adjustments from year to year, it is very difficult to decide exactly where the point of finality is to come; but these points will be duly noted and studied. As to the other points about the Clauses in the Bill, Clauses 1, 6, 9 and 12 to 16 inclusive apply to Scotland as well as to England and Wales, while 18, 19 and 20 apply to Scotland alone. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend that 1105 an indication of which Clauses apply to Scotland alone, or affect Scotland as well, should appear in the Bill, will be brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I do not know what the technicalities of the position are.
Briefly in regard to Clause 9, under Section 15 of the Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1940, as amended by Section 3 of the Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1941, the Department of Agriculture is enabled to give grants up to the rate of 50 per cent. of the cost of introducing water to agricultural land. Clause 9 of the Bill enables the landlord who has taken advantage of the scheme to recover the interest on the net cost to him of such work from agricultural tenants who have received benefit. The application of the principle of Clause 9 to other improvements as suggested by my hon. Friend where they are not covered in some other way raises a question of policy which, he will appreciate, one cannot deal with offhand. It is rather a big thing, and I will be grateful if he will leave it so that we can study the matter and see whether anything can be done about it. I am holding out no promise, he understands, but we will consider his observations on this particular theme. I would point out that the other types of improvement, such as field drainage, may be covered in other directions, but they are permanent improvements which normally a tenant is not under any obligation to carry out. They are improvements carried out by the landlord for his benefit to facilitate proper cultivation. As to the more costly improvements to which my hon. Friend has alluded, such as the provision of additional buildings, I cannot offhand call to mind a case of that nature.
§ Mr. Snadden
The point I had in mind was in connection with dairy farms. It seems hard on the landlord to be asked to do up his farm buildings, possibly at a cost of £1,000, and then to say that he cannot charge interest on the money expended. He cannot do anything in the matter, until he gives notice to quit to the tenant. Where that occurs under any order of a county committee, the Government might consider allowing interest on the margin expended over and above the maintenance of rental. I hope I make the point clear.
§ Mr. Chapman
I get my hon. Friend's point, but I was dealing with the matter 1106 in a more general way. He is aware that no one is keener than myself about the matter of dairy farms and about getting our milk supplies up, but there is a certain difficulty here, which he will realise. I appreciate his desire and I am not sure whether it can be implemented or not, but we will look into the whole thing. Clauses 13 and 14 have a common interest for both Scotland and England, but as my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be dealing comprehensively with them I trust that my hon. Friend will not mind if I leave them, because I wish to come to the particularly important matter upon which he last touched so authoritatively.
§ Mr. Chapman
This point on Clause 13 has been put forward to a certain extent outside, but I do not know that the volume of criticism has been such as to justify any great Amendment in the Clause as it stands; but I can promise my hon. Friend that we will look at it between now and the Committee stage. If therefore my hon. Friend is agreeable, and if the House is agreeable, I should like to pass to Clause 16, in which we have a special interest in Scotland.
The House will have listened with great attention to the observations of my hon. Friend on the question of artificial insemination. Coming from one who has held the blue riband of cattle breeding, his words, like his prizewinners, if I may say so, carry a very proper weight. We have this question of control of artificial insemination very much in mind in Scotland. My hon. Friend, in voicing the anxieties of breeders, was at the same time maintaining his progressive outlook. It is possible that many breeders are not aware of the terms of Clause 16. I would point out how much the emphasis of the Clause is on control. It is easy to see how pedigree herds could be harmed if artificial insemination were left uncontrolled. Therefore, the views of the breed societies in Scotland are being, and will be, taken into full account.
A representative committee appointed by the Agricultural Improvement Council of Scotland has sat since November, considering this matter very carefully, and although it has not yet reported I should be surprised if it did not wholeheartedly 1107 approve the terms of Clause 16. The chairman of this committee on artificial insemination, Major Brebner, is particularly qualified to preside over such a committee being chairman of the directors of the Highland and Agricultural Society, and also vice-chairman of the Aberdeen-Angus Society. The remaining members are representative of the National Farmers' Union and Chamber of Agriculture of Scotland, of veterinary science, of animal genetics, and of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland. I do not share my hon. Friend's suspicions about the attitude of veterinary science in this matter. I think that the knowledge and research which they bring will be valuable in enabling us to obtain the right kind of control. The first act of the committee was to invite the breed societies to put their views before the committee, and representations have been received from the Aberdeen-Angus, Ayrshire, Scottish Shorthorn Breeders, Galloway and the British Friesian Societies. Artificial insemination has been practised very little in Scotland, but I think my hon. Friend will agree that it is very desirable to establish control at a very early stage. I think he appreciates that the power to make regulations for Scotland will rest with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but there will be the closest consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, in order to secure effective co-ordination. On the question of establishing a centre north of the Border, already, as my hon. Friend is aware, the field experiments alluded to by the Minister of Agriculture are taking place in the south. Whether such a centre should be established is a matter for careful consideration; also one does not know what the committee studying this matter may report. It is a point which I will bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend. I would like to give the most complete assurance that the Secretary of State will take all practical and reasonable; steps to ensure that the pedigree breeds for which Scotland is justly famous, and which have been built up by such toil and expense, will not be imperilled.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
The hon. Member said that the special breeding of Scottish sheep is not going to be interfered with. Does that mean that the sheep in Shetland, which produce 1108 Shetland wool, which makes the finest tweed—a speciality in Shetland and the Western Isles—are not going to be crossed, in order to get quantity as against quality, because of war conditions?
§ Mr. Chapman
Among the other things which the Committee are considering, and on which they are receiving representations, is the question of sheep and horses. The breeding societies in Scotland are making representations, and my hon. Friend may rest assured that the sheep to which he has referred will not be in any danger. As far as sheep are concerned, the practice of artificial insemination if it comes is bound to be a very slow matter. The control regulations which it will be possible for my right hon. Friend to make will certainly protect anything of that kind in Scotland. In any case particular note will be taken of the point my hon. Friend has made.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
This is a serious point. I do not think the Under-Secretary follows me. The Shetland sheep produce much less wool than is produced by other sheep. At the moment, because of the war, there is a desire to get quantity as against quality In order to get greater quantity from the Shetland sheep, the breed is to be crossed. If that happens the special wool from the Shetland sheep will never be produced again. It will be another definite injustice to Scotland if this breed goes entirely out of existence. I want an assurance that that is not going to happen.
§ Mr. Chapman
The whole point of control is to see that breeds are not destroyed. The anxiety which my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth has expressed on the cattle side, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) on the sheep side, is covered in Clause 16, which gives power to the Secretary of State to make Regulations, to see that the wrong things do not happen to these breeds. My hon. Friend can rest assured on that point. If he desires it, I will get into touch with him on the matter. The observations of both hon. Members will be fully considered. I am glad that the Bill has been welcomed, because it will assist Scottish farmers, who, like their colleagues elsewhere in these islands, are doing such a fine job in the national war effort.
§ Major York (Ripon)
The contribution of the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) opened my eyes, and, I think, those of other Members, to some of the dangers which undoubtedly may exist—I use the word "may" on purpose—for the pedigree herds and flocks of this country. I do not think it can be too strongly stressed that our pedigree herds will almost certainly be one of our greatest export commodities after the war. We have no indication at all of the long-term effect of artificial insemination. For all we know—and those of us who are always looking forward hope that it is so—there may be no deleterious effect but scientific breeding—and by that I mean test tube breeding—has always had its dangers. I do not believe that in one or two generations we can learn anything about it. I caution owners of pedigree herds and the Ministry to take all possible care, and not to rush too readily into artificial insemination where pedigree herds are concerned. It is in the realm of the non-pedigree commercial herd that an improvement can be expected, and it is there that we require improvement, both in dairying cattle and in fattening cattle. I see in this a method of rapidly raising the standard and of creating the basis—