§ 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."
This Bill which I am now asking the House to give a Second Reading to is the fifth agricultural miscellaneous Bill to be introduced in war-time. But unlike its predecessors which were concerned solely with minor matters immediately connected 64 with the prosecution of the wartime food production campaign; this Bill contains two provisions of major importance to the agricultural industry. They are the establishment of a National Advisory Service and the proposals regarding agricultural credit. Both proposals, though of a long-term nature, are included in the present Bill because we think that it is essential to provide for them in anticipation of the conclusion of the war in Europe. The Bill covers so many different items that perhaps the House will allow me to go through the Bill, Clause by Clause, and try to explain quite simply in a few words what the Clauses are designed to do. But before doing that I would like to point out that Clause 2, which deals with agricultural credits, affects private interests, namely, those of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, and Clause 8 affects the private interests of the corresponding Scottish body. This Bill is therefore a hybrid Bill, and it must comply with the usual procedure and will, after Second Reading, have to be committed to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses before it is committed to a Committee of this House. Furthermore, in accordance with custom, I have to inform the House that I have a private interest in Clause 2. I have a mortgage in my private capacity with the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.
Clause 1 of the Bill provides for the establishment of a national advisory service for agriculture. This carries out the statement I made some little time ago concerning the Government's proposals for agricultural education. Before the war there was a dual system of advisory work, general and special, rather like a family practitioner and a Harley Street consultant. The general advisory services were run by the county councils as part of their agricultural education services and my department contributed 60 per cent. of their cost. The specialist services were run by the university Departments of Agriculture and agricultural colleges and the salaries of their staffs were paid wholly by the Exchequer. During the war the bulk of the staff who were serving on county and university units have been seconded to war agricultural executive committees. The unified direction of the advisory work we have been able to achieve has, in fact, played a conspicuous part in the food production campaign and 65 I hope that the establishment of a national service will consolidate that progress.
The House will recall that the Luxmoore Committee which I appointed some Little time ago made two recommendations, one of which was that there should be a unified national advisory service, the other was that farm institute education should be taken away from the local authorities and placed under central control. We accepted the first recommendation about the national advisory service, but decided, despite the very great administrative advantages of putting farm institutes under central control, that in the interests of agriculture it is very desirable to try and integrate agricultural education with the whole educational system of the country. Therefore, we thought farm institute education should remain under the control of the local education authorities. No one will dispute, I am sure, the need for an adequate service of advice to agriculture. We want to try and ensure that everybody is in a position to know all about the latest developments in agricultural science. We also want to aim at this:—that the practice of the best farmers should become the practice of all. I have been encouraged in all this by the keenness of the farmers to take advantage of the additional advice that we have been able to give them, and also by their readiness to emulate the more progressive farmers and by that success which has attended their efforts. That provides a justification for the suggestion we are making that we should continue, in peace-time, what has proved to be so successful in war-time. My own personal view about which, I hope, I will be able to convince the House, is that this provision is right and that there will be no arguments raised against the proposal that we should have a national advisory service. For, if you are to have this national advisory service, it should be under the control of the Minister of Agriculture and should be paid for by the Exchequer.
I know very well that some people may argue that on grounds of principle we should not do this because it is they say, an encroachment on the proper powers and functions of local authorities. But let me try to put the case to the House. There is widespread agreement in the country that agriculture, after this war, should not be allowed to sink into a position into which it descended after the last war. I hope and I also think 66 that there is agreement that we should take Measures which will involve some assurance of stability to the industry. There is also agreement that the nation, as a whole, is entitled to some guarantee of a measure of reasonable efficiency in the industry. Clearly, however, as long as the Minister of Agriculture is responsible to Parliament and also to the nation for the general welfare and efficiency of the industry the Measures which he regards as necessary to achieve that end should be his responsibility and must be on a national basis.
In pre-war days, local authorities undertook advisory work as an extension of their ordinary functions in connection with agricultural education. Certain counties have, in the past, maintained an efficient service and it has been argued that if we only gave adequate additional money the same would be true everywhere. I would be the first to pay tribute to the work of individual councils in some parts of the country. But, unfortunately, they are in a minority. The proof of this is that there are only some dozen or so farm institutes in 62 counties. Past experience in this, and other fields, has shown that however generous Exchequer assistance is, it is almost impossible to ensure uniformity of standards. My experience of the last four years convinces me that for a national industry like agriculture we must have only one standard and that must be the best. Otherwise, I do not see how the Minister of Agriculture can come down, year after year, and ask the House for help. Moreover under a system of administration and assistance by separate county councils it is almost impossible to secure the necessary co-ordination between the general and the specialist advisory services. That was the position in the past.
Now I come to the House and ask hon. Members to expand this service and to make it one of the major factors of our long-term agricultural policy. I am not, in any way, I hope, offending local authorities if I say that it is really not the function of local authorities to be concerned with the welfare of a great national industry like agriculture. I would like to stress a further point. We shall have, after the war, to meet increased competition for staff both from the Colonies and also from the great commercial firms and it is of the highest 67 importance that we should be able to attract to the service of agriculture the best of the technical and scientific brains that we have. I do not think any hon. Member, would disagree with me on that. Further, it is obvious that if you have a national service then there will be a very much better opportunity of fitting people in and making the best of any person's particular intellectual or practical qualifications and giving scope for promotion than if the whole thing were split into a number of tiny units. If it is organised on a national basis we can attract the best men.
I had been encouraged to hope that I would have received the support of the County Councils Association, but in this I have been disappointed because the County Councils Association has not been able to make up its mind. But it is only fair to say that we have the support of a very large number of individual bodies comprised in that Association. The National Farmers Union is in favour of a unified national service and the great majority of individuals concerned with advisory work are in favour of the service being a national one rather than on a local basis. The House will see that in the Bill no special date is fixed for the establishment of the new service. I hope, personally, that we shall be able to bring it in very soon after the conclusion of the war in Europe, but, naturally, I do not want to do anything at this stage that will upset in any way the prosecution of the food production campaign by the dislocation of the present successful emergency arrangements. I am bringing the Bill in now so that we shall have the necessary power for the planning of the various conditions and details.
I should like to be able to present a complete picture to the House of the sort of final set-up that we shall achieve. Again, hon. Members will realise that I cannot do that in detail at present. It is bound to be the subject of prolonged consideration. But it might be of some use if I tried to sketch, in brief outline, the sort of picture that I and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education have in mind. First there will be an advisory service of a general nature on a county basis. Then, the counties will be grouped in provinces, and for each province, there will be a specialised ad- 68 visory service, and one officer at the head of the lot. It will be remembered that the Luxmoore Committee suggested that we should reduce the number of provinces from 13 to six. I think that is too drastic a reduction. We have not yet made up our minds on the final figure, but certainly we shall not reduce them on anything like so drastic a scale. It is my hope to be able to associate all sections of the industry with this advisory service at all levels, county, provincial and at Headquarters. Equally, the advisory work will have to be integrated closely with research work. We shall endeavour to do that through the Agricultural Improvement Council whose work is to make the results of research known to the ordinary farmer, and to suggest to the Agricultural Research Council subjects in which they think that research should be undertaken.
I referred earlier to our decision to reject the Luxmoore proposal, in spite of the great administrative advantages it offered, that farm institutes should be put under central control. We did that because we want to keep agrcultural education closely integrated with the general body of education. It is equally important to ensure that agricultural education is not divorced from the service of advice and guidance given to the industry, and we shall be at pains to see that the agricultural education activities and the activities of the advisory service are not kept in separate watertight compartments. I hope that it will be possible in due course to provide for a steady interchange of teachers and personnel between the two services. Under the Education Bill, which has just received its Third Reading, the local authorities will be under compulsion to provide a service of agricultural education, and the most important feature of that of course will be a farm institute in every county. I hope in course of time we may be able to get more than one farm institute in the larger counties. Agricultural education will be grant aided by my Department, and with a system of differential grants I hope to make it possible for all counties to be in a position to provide the necessary educational facilities. Teaching will be a matter for the local education authority.
Again, it is important that the teaching of purely agricultural subjects should be tied up with the practice of agriculture. Therefore, practical farm training and the 69 teaching of purely agricultural subjects will be subject to my supervision, as it will be subject to inspection by inspectors of my Department. I hope that local education authorities will make use of the members of the advisory service to teach in the farm institutes, because attach the greatest importance to the association of members of the advisory service with the teaching in the farm institutes. I am anxious that the young people should come to look on members of the advisory service as their friends and helpers in after life, and the sooner they get to know them by hearing them lecture in the farm institutes the better it will be. They will establish, at the start of their agricultural career, a close association in the farm institutes with the actual people, who will subsequently be responsible for helping them. I contemplate that each farm institute will be under the management of a management committee, appointed by the local education authority. I shall expect to be entitled to nominate some of these members. The head of the farm institute will also be appointed by the local education authority, but I shall expect to be consulted, and have a say in the choice of the man concerned. We are endeavouring, as far as possible, to integrate, and run the show jointly instead of separately.
Apart from these major issues, Clause 1 and the Schedule to the Bill provide for the transfer of personnel to the new service, for the conditions of transfer and for the compensation of persons who might be adversely affected as a result of their post being abolished through the establishment of the new service. I believe that many of the officers engaged on advisory work felt doubts as to how they would be affected by the establishment of the new service. I hope that the provisions of the Bill will reassure them. Some of the officers eligible for transfer may still be wondering, however, after having read the Bill, at what rate of salary they will be transferred. I can only say that the grades and salary scales for the new service have still to be fixed. Some, doubtless, will gain, and I hope that no one will lose. I cannot give a binding undertaking, in every individual case, but I can say that it is our intention that no officer transferred shall enter the service at a lower rate of salary than that which he was receiving at the date of transfer. While I cannot give an absolutely binding guarantee, that 70 is my general intention. But I would add two riders to that. First, in the unlikely event of any question arising as to the implementation of this assurance, in the case of any transferred county council officers, we shall discuss the question with the National Association of Local Government Officers. Secondly, since I do not wish to be in the position of signing a blank cheque, I, for my part, shall expect to be consulted by county councils with regard to any increases of pay which they may contemplate giving to any officers coming within the scope of the transfer provisions between now and the date of transfer. I hope that, as guardians of the taxpayer, hon. Members will approve of that rider.
One thing I should perhaps mention. I do not propose to include the provincial advisory economists in the new national advisory service. I think that the nature of advisory and investigational work in agricultural economics is very different from that of the ordinary advisory service. I think its members ought to be regarded as entirely independent and impartial. That is why they will be left out. I do not think it is a suitable function for a national advisory service to be called on to explain to the farmer how to keep his accounts or how to make money. We get into enough trouble now, as it is, and if I made myself responsible for telling every farmer how to make money, I should probably get into trouble with the farmer if he considered that the results were not in accordance with my advice.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the second major proposal, namely, agricultural credit. This is a fairly complicated subject, and I apologise for going into some detail. I think the House will agree if I suggest that long-term credit is required in agriculture, to enable farmers to purchase their farms at reasonable rates of interest, and also to enable the modernisation of buildings, and the provision of capital equipment to be carried out. Modernisation of buildings, and the provision of additional capital equipment will, of course, be of the greatest importance after the war. Agriculture has been living on its capital for years before the war in the period of depression. Great arrears of maintenance are accumulating during the war. There is no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the improvement of livestock, to which I attach so much importance, and increased num- 71 bers of livestock, are dependent on better buildings. I am very anxious to see, as soon as labour and the necessary materials are available, a campaign for overtaking the arrears, in addition to the provision of things like water supply.
British agriculture cannot obtain its capital in the same way as industry, by private borrowing from investors. It is essential, therefore, that there should be some national body which can raise money at reasonable rates of interest to which the farmer can apply. Such a body—the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation—was established by the Agricultural Credits Act, 1928. The object of the Agricultural Credits Act was to enable the corporation to make loans, to quote the terms of the Act,on terms most favourable to the borrowers.The corporation obtained their funds by the issue of long-term debentures to the general public. If, therefore, the Corporation are to lend on favourable terms, they have to borrow on favourable terms also. This means that their debentures have to be secured and have the status of trustee stock. To attain this, the 1928 Act provided that a mortgage loan should not exceed two-thirds of the value of the property. The second safeguard is provided by the corporation's marginal fund, which consists of the corporation's share capital and reserves, together with a Government guarantee fund. Under the 1928 Act the Minister of Agriculture was authorised to make advances to this guarantee fund free of interest for 60 years up to an amount not exceeding the paid-up share capital of the corporation, and subject to a maximum of £750,000. The memorandum of association of the corporation provides that the total amount of the outstanding debentures of the corporation shall not exceed ten times this marginal fund.
The share capital and the marginal fund together now amount to £1,300,000. The corporation is thus in a position to borrow and lend £13,000,000. The amount of debentures actually issued is £10,500,000. Up to 1932 the corporation was working satisfactorily. It was able to borrow at current rates and re-lend at rates which were considered favourable. In 1932 the situation was changed by the conversion of the Five Per Cent. War Loan to a 3½ per cent. basis. Unfortunately a con- 72 siderable amount of the debentures of the corporation were issued two months before this conversion took place. The new situation drastically restricted the activities of the corporation, because they could not lend to their new agricultural clients at lower rates of interest than that at which they had borrowed the debentures.
They found themselves in this position, that they could neither lend the money they had obtained by their last issue of debentures, nor could they re-lend to farmers the money being paid back to them by people who had borrowed earlier, who now found that they could borrow from the banks at cheaper rates of interest. An attempt was made to overcome that in 1934, when the corporation reduced their interest on new loans to 4½ per cent., a rate which involved some loss. In order to meet that loss the Minister of Agriculture was given power in 1939 to make an annual contribution of £60,000 up to 1959, the date on which the bulk of the existing debentures can be redeemed. This held the position temporarily, but a rate of 4½ per cent. is, of course, too high today to enable the corporation to fulfil its primary purpose. Indeed, the volume of new business actually being done at present falls short of the amount that is being repaid by no less than £550,000 a year.
It is considered that the rate of interest should be 3½ per cent. If the corporation were able to borrow from the public now, it could do so at a rate which would enable it to lend to borrowers at 3½ per cent. without making any call on public funds. But we have to deal with the existing debentures. In order to enable the corporation to reduce the rate of interest on future loans to 3½ per cent., the present Bill authorises me to increase the amount of Government assistance to £150,000 in any one year up to 1959. I hope that in this way it will be possible for the corporation to extend their business rapidly, to meet the urgent needs that I have just described.
With this in mind, Sub-section (1) of Clause 2 enables me to make further advances to the guarantee fund, up to a total of £2,500,000. These advances will be made as and when required by the volume of business. The maximum figure will thus enable the corporation to lend up to £31,500,000 as against £13,000,000 hitherto, The total amount of loans out- 73 standing is a little over £7,000,000. That is about £24,500,000 new money that we are going to make available. I hope that, with this reduction in the rate of interest, we shall be able to get a considerable increase in the amount of business done. The benefit will accrue almost wholly to the agricultural industry. Dividends on the share capital of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation were limited, under the original Statute, to 5 per cent., cumulative. We propose to make it 3½ per cent. per annum, non-cumulative, as long as any Government advance to the guarantee fund remains outstanding. We propose to increase the number of Government directors on the Board. Hitherto, there has been one director nominated by the Treasury; we propose to add two more, nominated by the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that this will make a substantial contribution to the re-establishment of the capital equipment of agriculture in the time to come.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Will Clause 2 apply to existing loans, and will the farmer who is now paying 5 per cent. get a reduction?
§ Mr. Hudson
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give a full answer to that; I think that those farmers will be entitled to pay off the loans, at a redemption fee. Clause 3 is intended to give effect to a unanimous recommendation of the Agricultural Wages Board, agreed by the three parties, the men, the employers and the independent members. It will give the Board power to fix a minimum time rate for piece-workers, and to give holidays with pay. Everybody wants to do that, but, for technical reasons, under the existing Act, the Board have not got the power.
Clause 4 extends the lime subsidy for another three years. I do not think anyone would deny the great benefits that have accrued from the lime subsidy. There is no doubt that the increased amount of other fertilisers made available in the last four years would not have had the effect which they did have but for the application of lime. The amount of lime used has increased from 300,000 tons in 1936–37 to over 4,000,000 tons in 1942–43. We shall have to continue food production, on a very large scale for at least another four years, and I regard the extension of the lime subsidy as an essential part of the four-year plan.
74 Clause 5 deals with water. It implements one of the proposals of the recent White Paper. The present water supply arrangements, as the House knows, enable me to give a grant of 50 per cent. for laying water to farms and farm buildings. This enables a grant to be given for independent water-supply schemes, and for the tapping of water undertakers' mains to supply water to farms and farm buildings. More than 6,200 schemes, at an estimated total cost of £1,200,000, have been approved for grant-aid since 1941, and the number of applications for grant is increasing rapidly. No grant has hitherto been payable for a domestic water supply.
Perhaps I might interrupt myself at this point to answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), just now. The answer is that any borrower may repay the existing loans at a fee of 5 per cent. It is frequently natural and desirable to extend a water-supply scheme to cover the cottages and the farmhouses, besides the farm buildings and the farm itself. It will be possible to do that under this Clause. But it would not be desirable to approve a grant for an independent supply if there was a reasonable prospect of a public supply becoming available under the Rural Water Supplies Bill. Therefore, where it seems probable that the public water undertaking will bring water within reach in a reasonable time, the grant will not be paid under this Bill. The object of this Bill is mainly to supplement the proposals in the Rural Water Supplies Bill. The House will remember that we warned the public that it would not be possible to lay on public supplies to isolated groups of buildings or isolated farms; and where it will not be possible to obtain a public supply, it will be possible to obtain it under this Bill. This is a supplementary Measure.
§ Sir R. W. Smith (Aberdeen, Central)
Why is Clause 5 not in the Water Supplies Bill, instead of in this Bill? It seems unnecessary to have separate Bills dealing with exactly the same subject.
§ Mr. Hudson
If the premise of my hon. Friend were correct, I should agree; but this Bill does not deal with exactly the same subject; it deals with a different subject. The Rural Water Supplies Bill deals with the provision of water by public undertakings. This Bill extends 75 existing powers which I already possess, to enable me to make good a deficiency.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I have to speak after this, and I would like to know whether the proposal is to give to the farmer an opportunity of providing his own supply, with assistance from an undertaking now in operation in the area?
§ Mr. Hudson
The Measure which I in-traduced-in 1941 was brought in because, going around the country, I found such a large number of cases where food production was being hindered for lack of water. There was no probability of the undertaking extending their mains, and no obligation on the water undertakings to provide water for agriculture. The only Ailing for me to do was to give a grant there water was laid on to the farms. We propose to remedy that, position now, by assisting in the laying on of water, not only to farmhouses and cottages, but, also for industry and agriculture, where it is reasonable. But there will be cases where it would not be reasonable to ask an undertaking to lay on mains for isolated groups of houses and cottages. Those are the cases which will not be covered by the Rural Water Supplies Bill.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
This Bill deals with private supplies, and the Bill with which we shall deal on Thursday deals with public supplies; is that so?
§ Mr. Hudson
Yes. I do not know whether it is in Order to mention a Bill which has not yet had its Second Reading.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
It is probably not in Order, but it would seem reasonable that, if this Bill covers one side of the question of water supply, the Minister should explain that side of it. But we must not enlarge that into a general discussion on water supply.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is exactly the sort of question I think we must not go into on this occasion. But I think that the Minister, from a wide point of view, is right in explaining how water affects the farms under this Bill.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am grateful for your Ruling Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was doubtful how the Rule affected me, and that was why I raised the point. The Rural Water Supplies Bill provides only for the mains. This Bill provides for the connection between the mains and the farms, and, equally important, between the mains and the land—drinking troughs for cattle, and so on. This Bill provides for a 50 per cent, grant.
§ Mr. Riley (Dewsbury)
The Minister, under this Clause, will have power to grant up to 50 per cent. of the cost of any approved extension. Will the other 50 per cent. be a liability of the occupier, or of the owner?
§ Mr. Hudson
It will be a liability of the owner, but, in the majority of cases, I anticipate, the occupiers will be only too glad to get it, and, therefore, they will be willing to pay interest.
Clause 6 extends the licensing of bulls to boars. I understand that that meets with the approval of all sections of the industry. Clause 7 deals with a purely technical matter, namely, the period during which betterment can be claimed from the owners of land where we have carried out improvements. We have found that, owing to the great complications in regard to valuations and so on, and the shortage of staff, this takes longer than we anticipated. The Clause is retrospective. That is somewhat unusual, but I hope the House will agree that it ought to be retrospective. The owner has had the advantage of these improvements all the time, and I think the taxpayer would justifiably complain if, owing to unforeseen complications, such as the shortage of staff, the taxpayer was stopped from recovering from the owner public money which had been spent to his advantage. Clause 8 applies this Bill to Scotland, with suitable modifications. Clause 9 provides that the Bill shall not extend to Northern Ireland, except in relation to the lime subsidy. I apologise for having dealt with the 77 matter for so long, but I think this Bill, despite its Title, does contain two provisions which will be of lasting and permanent benefit to agriculture and some other minor provisions which will be useful.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
May I ask the Minister a question? Does Clause 1 of this Bill represent all that we can expect from the Government in respect of agricultural education for the present, and is it to be merely one of a number of miscellaneous provisions, or is there to be a comprehensive scheme embracing research as well as teaching and advice, nationally directed but locally administered?
§ Mr. Hudson
I think the answer to that is that, together with the Education Bill, it provides me and my right hon. Friend with the necessary wide powers and I think they may be taken to cover all branches of farm work. It will be a matter of time, as we get the staff, to fill in the details, but I do not anticipate that there is anything we want to do, that we cannot do under the existing Bill.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I think it is incumbent upon me to say, on behalf of this side of the House, that we welcome this Bill in its general intent and particularly in its provisions. It is a very good thing indeed when we come to prepare for agricultural development, and the continuance of the wonderful record of agriculture during the war into the post-war period, to recognise that there are certain essential things to be done. I will not say that this Bill is comprehensive enough, I will not say that it is generous enough, and I will not say that it is a perfect supplement or complement to what has already been done. But we must recognise that, by the operation of machinery that is now being completed, and by the operation of war-time agriculture, an astounding thing has happened in our countryside, and no one will grudge a large measure of credit to the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary, and also to those responsible in Scotland, for the organisation of this industry for its wartime task. We knew that we had a 78 wonderful site for farming operations, and that we were very fortunate people in that we possessed the best soil in Europe, and, perhaps, something else, which is now becoming to be appreciated more and more—a better disposition and distribution of the essential minerals for the growth and quality of the crops than other lands whose agricultural operations have sometimes been in competition with our own. We recognise that we have suffered because of a lack of national interest in this great national industry, and I welcome very much the proposals which are now being made.
I am not sure that the Minister satisfies me in regard to Clause 1 of this Bill. He is proposing to set up, responsible to himself and more or less under his control, a national advisory committee, removed further from the county authorities which have hitherto maintained close contacts with, and a large measure of responsibility for, and control of, the work of the agricultural committees. I am not sure that that should be done without further consultation. I think it is important, because success in agriculture, above all things, depends upon carrying to the individual farmer, and not only to the individual farmer but to the organisations to which he belongs, the territorial organisation which has knowledge of the different problems of different kinds of agriculture, and a great deal of pride in its specialist knowledge of these operations. There is a tremendous difference between farming on one side of this country and farming on the other, between farming in the North and the South, and, while it may be an advantage to have some kind of national concert between authorities who play a part in agriculture, I think it would be highly advantageous—though I do not see any signs in this Clause of it—if the county councils were to retain the place they had in the past.
I am also a little doubtful about the provincial authority. The Minister said he had raised the number of provincial bodies to a figure somewhere between six and 13. We have 52 counties in England and Wales, and about 30 in Scotland, and one would like to see the kind of provincial organisation which is to be intermediate between the national and the county council authorities. I am sure that great care will be required to decide what counties are to be joined together 79 in a provincial authority. The Minister said something with which I agree about the need for adding to the number and ensuring the proper development of the agricultural industry I think we have failed in the past largely because there was no instruction given in agriculture, and the fanner received instruction only from his own father, in a kind of traditional belief in the efficacy of methods which have now proved inadequate. We know now that farming has been raised immensely in skill and science in recent years, and I would like to believe that this development will become more marked still.
I was glad to hear that the Minister's minimum is one for every county, but is not his maximum. I feel sure that there are areas where, with very great advantage, the numbers could be vastly increased. I remember that, 40 years ago, I was in one of the Dominions. I was not an agriculturist, but I was intensely interested in the work done on an experimental farm in Canada which I visited very often. I saw the immense value of demonstrations of the care of stock and the treatment of crops, and I saw the immense interest which was taken in them by the farmers. Farmers for miles around looked upon that experimental farm as their own class-room and testing ground, and as a place where soils and seeds were examined for the benefit of all the farming population. I believe that that is absolutely vital, and that this advisory committee should have regard, not only to food and agricultural practice, but to good scientific organisation and to a very minute scientific association with the various problems in all forms of agriculture. I am intensely interested in farming. I represent a large number of small farms and I know how much can be done, and how big a contribution these people are making, but the point of application must be that this kind of organisation for the maintenance of the industry must be a sympathetic and understanding control of agriculture. We must guard against mechanising it too much; a system of control that is intimate and by way of local contact is highly advantageous.
Clause 2, we must confess, is long overdue. This Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, which we set up in 1928, 16 years ago, has failed. It has not car- 80 ried out our expectations. It is true that we have lent somewhere about £10,000,000 at a high rate of interest, having regard to agricultural returns, and on conditions not conducive to borrowing by the small man. We now find that it has come to an end. The fund, which amounts to £1,300,000—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—multiplied ten times, has been the pool from which loans and mortgages could be made. The total extent of this great pool of resources was £13,000,000, but I understand that only £10,000,000 have been made use of and that borrowing has come to an end. We need now to start this borrowing process for the circulation of the money made available, and I think this is a very good thing. I did not catch the figure which the Minister proposes—
§ Mr. Grenfell
That is a very large sum. I thought £10,000,000 to £13,000,000 was small, because of the very fact that if the importance of agriculture is to be maintained there must be a very considerable measure of recapitalisation of the industry. We are doing that in this convenient way by inviting the responsibility to be shared between the occupier and the owner of the land, and this corporation should provide sufficient guarantees that everybody will be fairly treated in these transactions.
I am an enthusiast on the next Clause. I did venture to make a speech in this House many yars ago, long before the lime subsidy had been agreed. The backbone of England is lime. In Scotland there is an abundance of lime and in South Wales there is an abundance of lime, and this natural material which is so valuable for agricultural purposes has been neglected in the past owing to transport difficulties and lack of capital. I am very glad that the Minister was able to give the report he has given to-day on past consumption of lime, and I am sure that nobody in this House who realises the advantage of lime to agricultural land will grudge this additional provision. The lime subsidy, I understand, is £4,000,000 a year. It is a large sum of money to be spent in such a way but it will represent full value. I welcome this and I hope that the price will be made low enough—that is arranged for in this Bill—to enable a small farmer, and particu- 81 larly the distant farmer, who is far away from a railway station and sometimes far away from the lime, to have all his difficulties studied.
Next, I want to talk about water. I have been a student of dairy-farming, in a small way, in the part of the country to which I belong. I know that the Minister was down in Pembrokeshire some time ago, and I was told that he was very favourably impressed with what he saw there. There is very good farming there, and there are natural conditions which make for health, but one of the things which has been found in that part of the country, where the soil is good, is that, even if you have, ordinarily, a generous rainfall, there are occasions when you may not have water enough for the use of the farmers.
I am very glad to see this kind of thing. It is not a big thing. I think that the big thing will come on later, and I hope that it will be even larger than is expected. I hope that the Rural Water Supplies Bill will make a real job of it this time. If the Bill is not perfect we must try to improve it when it comes before the House. Here is something that is more local and on a smaller scale, but it is essential to farming. There is no possibility of having healthy stock unless there is an abundant water supply. Some of the revelations in the Press the other day of the shocking conditions in the countryside and the terrible hardships suffered by individual farmers staggered people in the towns. Even if there be water in a district, it is often too expensive for a farmer to provide a water supply for himself. This Bill gives a chance to a farmer who is a long distance from a water supply to obtain water for his stock. I was present at the Debate on water supply and I heard one of my colleagues describe his early impressions of carrying water. I too remember, when a boy, seeing women and children in summer-time carrying many hundredweights of water for a distance of a quarter or half a mile. I remember the drought year of 1893, when people in the whole of the countryside spent almost all their time carrying water. I must again congratulate the Minister upon bringing in this Bill. It may look like a collection of bits and pieces—it is a miscellaneous Bill—but they are all essential and have my full concurrence, with only one reservation regarding the position of local and 82 county organisations. I heartily welcome the Bill.
§ Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
I would like to join the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) in congratulating the Minister on his speech and on the introduction of this Bill. This is not a very large Bill, but often the small Bills do much more useful work than the large ones. I was at a meeting the other day and heard a farmer say that the Minister of Agriculture was not very tactful. I replied that I would rather have prosperity than tact, and I think we would all agree that the Minister has played a great part, as has also the Secretary of State for Scotland, in bringing prosperity to agriculture. The Minister was lucky in that he went in to bat on a good wicket, when many other Ministers might have sat on the splice, but he kept the score board going all the time, and in this, and in other Bills, he has been successful because he is at the head of a very good team. I would like to pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who is the chairman of one of the sub-committees on which I happen to sit and does very valuable work. He and his Noble Friend the other Joint Parliamentary Secretary are a very fine team. They are not only interested in agriculture, but have a love of sport, and I hope that to-morrow they may find themselves somewhere in the Eastern Counties and have a successful time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I hope that the House will not wander into discussing that sort of thing, whatever the Minister may do tomorrow.
§ Sir D. Gunston
I was just having a preliminary canter and I apologise. I was saying that the body which they have got together has done much in regard to agriculture. That brings me to Clause r, which sets up an advisory committee. The great success of the Ministry of Agriculture in this war has been to realise the value of modern scientific knowledge. This is largely due to the very good team work which the Minister of Agriculture has done in the country. As the hon. Member for Gower pointed out, there are many farmers who farm their land very well and have continued the tradition from father to son, but who do not always make the 83 best use of the latest scientific knowledge. But they are doing so during the war, largely owing to the drive of the Minister. One of the difficulties in the past was that scientific knowledge in agriculture was always looked upon as something to do with education. The Minister in this Bill is making a really big advance in setting up a national advisory service, because it is psychological change. Lots of farmers think that it is merely a question of agricultural colleges and so on. Every other industry in the country has scientific advisers, but not for education. The great value of this Bill will be the setting up of this advisory service; it is going to marry the practical and the technical sides. I do not believe it can be done in any way unless we get away from the old psychology of the past, on the part of farmers who, suspected what might be called college farming. That is why the Minister is right in setting up a national service, and it ought to be possible to bring in the county councils so that they can all work together.
I congratulate the Minister upon extending the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation in Clause 2. I understand that it will apply to land owners and farmers. The greatest value will be to the farmer who wants to own his own land. Many farmers have become tenant farmers because they have not sufficient capital to enable them to own the land. The landlord, on the whole, does his best, but he cannot afford to put in all these improvements. He may not agree with the particular line of agriculture in which the tenant is particularly interested. If a tenant farmer, under the generous long-term loans scheme, buys his farm, he will be enabled to undertake the latest improvements to the land. I am very glad that the period for the lime grant has been extended. I agree with what the hon. Member for Gower said on Clause 5 with regard to rural water supplies. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, seeing that under the existing Act the grant is 50 per cent., the grant will still be 50 per cent. I suppose that one of the great advantages will be that it will fill a gap which is left open by the Rural Water Supplies Bill.
In regard to Clause 6, which extends the Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act to pigs, can the Minister say whether 84 boars and sows have to be pedigree or need not be pedigree? Under the present Act the animals have to be registered. I hope the Minister will be a little bolder and will say that bulls will not be licensed after a certain period unless they are pedigree. I have visited Newfoundland, and on the way there I met many American and Canadian farmers who had visited this country and were impressed with our farming but not impressed with our stock. They had always looked upon this country as the home of pedigree stock, as we had many fine herds, but the general stock throughout the country was a shock to them. I do not think that we shall remedy that situation until we tackle the problem in the right way. One day, when the time is ripe, the Minister will have to make an announcement that registration will only be given to pedigree stock. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the same conditions that apply to bulls will apply to pigs or whether something is to be done to encourage the breeding of pedigree pigs? I think that this is a very useful Bill and it ought to be welcomed by the farmers generally.
§ Major Sir Goronwy Owen (Carnarvon)
The Minister mentioned that this was the fifth Bill of this kind that had been introduced during the war. That is a very good sign that this House and the country generally are taking a far greater interest in agriculture than has been the case for a very long time. I hope that these small Bills are an earnest that the Government will in future, after the war, devote far more attention to this most vital industry. I am in full agreement with all the Clauses of the Bill, except, perhaps, the first Clause. I welcome, as other speakers have done, the extension of the lime subsidy for another three years and the extension of the subsidy towards the provision of water, not merely for the land and buildings but also for the dwelling houses. The sum, unfortunately, is very small and, I am afraid, will cover only a very few schemes and will not bring about a supply of water to as many farmhouses and cottages as one would like to see, even in conjunction with the other Bill that is being introduced.
I notice that Clause 8 excepts Scotland from Clause 1, which means that the national advisory service will not apply to Scotland. I should like a Clause in the Bill which also excepted Wales from this 85 provision. The conditions in Wales, the customs, climate and soil differ very largely from those in other parts of the country. Further, the people have their own language, and to many in the farming community the usual language is Welsh. Had we been fortunate enough to have a Secretary of State for Wales we should have been excepted from Clause 1. I appeal to the Minister to consider whether it is not possible to exclude Wales in the same way as Scotland is excluded, because we already have the nucleus for a proper advisory service in the three agricultural departments of the University Colleges of Bangor, Aberystwyth and Cardiff. I speak with a great deal of personal know; ledge of the agricultural departments at Bangor and Aberystwyth, the latter of which is well-known throughout the world for the work it has done in the production of grasses. I cannot speak with the same knowledge of the agricultural department of Cardiff, but I say without hesitation that the two agricultural departments of which I know personally are second to none in the country or the world.
Some of our county councils have, in the same way, given a great deal of attention and valuable advice to farmers over a long period of years. They have established an intimacy and a contact which may very easily be destroyed by Clause 1 of this Bill. I am told that the suggestion in the Luxmoore Report is that Wales and Monmouthshire should be one province under this scheme. I am not sure that that would be a good thing from the point of view of the very South and the very North of Wales. We should have a council for Wales, with proper financial help, and it would, I feel certain, carry out this work far more advantageously than is likely to happen under this scheme. I feel doubtful about it not merely so far as it applies to Wales, but as far as it applies to the rest of England. It has been said to-day that the county councils have not been doing their work satisfactorily. That may be true, and the reason is that this work of giving advice to farmers was not an obligatory duty on the county councils but was a permissive task. If the truth were admitted, I am afraid that the Ministry of Agriculture has not been too helpful to county councils in this work, and it is not fair to blame them now for not having done something which they were not encouraged to do.
86 It is said in the Memorandum to the Bill that a good deal more advisory work has been done during the war. That is true, but how has it been done? In my part of the world the war agricultural executive committee, which consists of local farmers known to every other farmer in the county as being the leading farmers, have arranged what they call fire-side chats. They have done excellent service in this way. The chairman and other members of the committee have gone round in the winter nights accompanied by their officials, and have held meetings of anything from 20 to 50 in farm-house kitchens round the fire-side. Farmers have been encouraged to ask questions and members of the committee and the officials have given them the help they needed. I am rather afraid that this new body, which is to be set up with headquarters in Whitehall, will be too far away and will lose intimate contact with the farmer in his home and district. I fear that it will, too, hamper the initiative of the individual service officer.
Who are the people who give advice to farmers to-day? They principally come from agricultural schools. We have one in my county at Madryn Castle, and there is another over the border at Llysfasi. The officials at these schools have been available to the farmers, who know them intimately. They can go to these officials and speak to them in their own language and ask them questions. I know most of the staff of the agricultural department at Bangor University College, and I know their readiness at all times to help the farmer in his difficulty in every possible way. What will happen under the proposed scheme? Under the existing scheme, if something extraordinary happens on a farm, it is reported to the specialist experts at the college in Bangor, and they can immediately make investigations. If it becomes a case for headquarters in London, it will take too long a time for anything to be done, and the farmers will lose the psychological advantage of having the thing done immediately when it happens. Another point is the adverse effect this scheme will have on the approach to farmers. Officials with the law behind them are not popular with farmers. Information given by farmers is not likely to be as full or even as accurate as when the investigator belongs to the county or 87 to a local institution like one of the universities. Such a man is regarded as a friend to every farmer in the area. Farmers as class are very conservative. They do not always vote Conservative, but they are conservative in their views and customs.
It is doubtful whether farmers will repose as much confidence in Government officials as they have been prepared to give to officials of the county council and the staffs of the agricultural departments of the university colleges. Let me give an example. I was talking to a leading farmer this week-end and he was telling me that this would be one of the great difficulties. He has a very big flock of sheep, and he has neighbours also with big flocks. He told me that the veterinary surgeon stationed at Carnarvon had done a great deal of valuable service. I am giving this in favour of the Minister, for he is a direct official of the Ministry. He is very helpful where animal diseases are concerned. I asked him about the fatalities among lambs during this season. This farmer said that if an official asked a farmer about the fatalities, he would say there were one or two here and there. They are, in fact, far greater than that, and I would put them as high at 25 per cent. very often. If the farmer will not say to an official, whom he knows, who is a friend and in whom he has perfect confidence what the complete facts are, he is still less likely to do it to a Government official appointed by Whitehall.
In the Luxmoore Report it is said that it will be possible under this scheme to transfer advisory officers from one province to another and that it will be a good thing for the officers. That may be true, but will it be a good thing from the point of view of the farmer? The essential question is not whether it will be good for the officer to give him a chance for promotion, but whether this scheme will make the farmer farm his land better, produce more food and give greater service to the country in wartime and in peace. If the Minister would allocate a proportion of the extra money which is to be spend on this service to appoint further officers attached to the universities and county councils in Wales, it would be a far more effective way of bringing about what we all desire to see. I think the aim of this country should 88 be to have clean land and clean cattle, by means of which we shall get a healthy stock population.
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)
Like all others who have spoken so far in this Debate, I desire to commend my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture for bringing forward this Bill, and particularly to thank him for Clause 1, which concerns the setting up of a National Agricultural Advisory Service. I think it is very essential to the farmer to-day that he should have some organisation to which he can go for advice. But although I commend the Minister for introducing this service I regret the stoppage of the activities, in that connection, of the county councils and the agricultural colleges. I hope the Ministry will be able still to maintain those activities, particularly the activities of the universities. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Sir G. Owen) has referred to the excellent work being done in the interests of scientific agriculture by a university in his part of Wales. I would like to tell him and the House that we have another university which has done excellent work in that respect, namely, the University of Cambridge. I should be very sorry, indeed, if, by this Bill, we stopped in any way the activities of that university, because I have been in touch with it for some years, as one who farms not far away from it, and I know its use not only to myself but to all agriculturists in the neighbourhood.
I note that it is proposed to extend the lime subsidy for a further period of one year. The necessity for the extended use of lime for the land has been stressed today but I would remind hon. Members that not all land requires lime. We must know where there is a deficiency of lime in the soil and that can only be known by the farmer if he has his soil analysed. Therefore, I think it would be right for every farmer to have his land analysed before applying the various artificial manures and fertilisers. The bodies which do this analysis are the universities. Cambridge University has been analysing soil in that area for some time, and I beg the Minister not to do anything which would diminish that work. I welcome the Clause which deals with the increase of resources of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, and I would like to ask a question with regard to the Clause which 89 deals with the recovery of expenses of drainage works or of improving ways over fen-land. If a farmer pays a contribution towards fen roads will that contribution be accepted by the Inland Revenue authorities as a farm cost? That is a point of importance to agriculturists in the fen country, where farmers are compelled to grow more and more potatoes and wheat and transport on good roads is necessary. If the contribution to these roads is to be regarded as a capital expense it will hinder the development of these fen roads and various drainage works. I would also like further information about what is meant by the Clause which deals with time rates and piece-work. I have read it two or three times but I have found it a little difficult to understand. In conclusion, may I once more whole-heartedly welcome this Bill?
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
My hon. Friend spoke about the admirable activities of the Agricultural Research Committee at Cambridge University. Is there anything in this Measure which prevents such activities being carried on?
§ Sir E. Shepperson
I am hoping that there is not, but if my hon. Friend will look at the Financial Memorandum he will see these words:It provides an option of transfer to the service of the Ministry to persons employed in connection with advisory work by County Councils or by Universities and Agricultural Colleges in such a way as to safeguard the position of officers who might otherwise lose their employment as the result of the transfer of functions. …".Those words seem to mean that the functions of the universities are to be transferred. I hope that that is not so, and I should be pleased if the Parliamentary Secretary could state that the functions of universities in this direction will be maintained under the Bill.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The Minister, in bringing in this Bill, seems to have feared that the House would regard it as an encroachment on the sphere of local authorities. Personally, I think there is a great difference between what this Bill is setting out to do and what other Measures that have been introduced by other Ministers, and, indeed, by my right hon. Friend himself, have set out to do. This advisory service is something which is much wider in its sphere than any ambit 90 of a local authority's area. It is centred on the universities, and in our part of the country we look for our advisory service to Leeds, though we never look to Leeds for any advice or guidance in the way of local administration. Therefore, I think the Minister is to be congratulated on setting up this advisory service and administering centrally this task of agriculture. It is, I believe, a foundation for this post-war agricultural policy, about which all of us are so eager to hear. My right hon. Friend is building up the men who will put into action that post-war agricultural policy and I think it is vital that he should be able to have full and free choice of selection of the best men to carry out that work. I hope that in carrying it out he will enlist the support of the local authorities. While the Minister is to be the central director there is certainly room, if he so directs, for him to have attached to his advisory committees members of local authorities who are engaged with the agricultural committees of the local authorities. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider that when he is carrying out the provisions of this Bill.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us later how these advisory committees will work after the war, in the counties, with the existing county committees. Surely bodies known as "war agricultural executive committees" cannot exist under that name in peace-time. We have now come to the stage when we are thinking over the future of agriculture, when we ought to receive a little enlightenment about whom these advisory officials will work with in the counties after the war. I am sure that no Minister can give full details at the moment, because to do so would be a revelation of post-war policy. But we can, at this stage, be told whether the Minister thinks there should be some form of county agricultural committee under him or whether he would rather that they were retained under the county. I imagine the reply will be the former and not the latter. It seems to me that in advisory matters, where the Minister can be guide, philosopher and friend, he should have the officials and should be so regarded by the farmers. I think he is regarded by them as guide, philosopher and friend, notwithstanding certain little differences of opinion that there may be in Kent and other parts of the country. That is the 91 important function of a Minister of Agriculture, that he should guide the agriculturist—farmer and farm worker.
That is where I would draw a distinction between the function of the central Government in advisory matters and in penal matters. The Government should not interfere too far with their executive powers and act as a policeman. You do not want the same man to come round and at one moment act as an adviser and the next as a policeman. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say what are the plans of the Government in that respect. I think you can do a great deal more with your official if you regard him merely as a man who is going to tell you what the Government want and advise you how to carry it out. If you suspect that he is thinking out whether he shall deprive you of your farm, he immediately loses your confidence. I hope the Minister will avoid that pitfall in any plan that he has.
Clause 2 seems to involve a very considerable sum by way of advance and guarantee, amounting to some £3,250,000, though it is not very easy to work it out. That is a very considerable sum when the total amount involved is, we gather, only £10,000,000. The attempt to make credit facilities cheap will, I am sure, be praised in all quarters of the House but it would be a great pity if the benefits were confined merely to the fortunate people who want to borrow now and excluded those unfortunate people who were persuaded by previous Governments to go in for this mortgage scheme in the past. There are a large number of farmers who, on the Government's advice, borrowed money, as late as 1934, at a rate of interest of something like 5¼ per cent. It is not easy to succeed in farming operations with that millstone round your neck. The Minister, in reply to a question from me, said he was going to ensure, under the Bill, that they could redeem their mortgages, if, I gathered, they paid the penalty to this Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, of 5 per cent. of the capital then outstanding.
§ Mr. Turton
I should describe the fee as a penalty, rather like the penalty under some of the old Rent Acts. If we are to pay up by way of advance and 92 guarantee such a large sum as £3,250,000, can we not be a little more generous to these men who have, for something like 10 years been paying such a high rate of interest? If the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation is being so favoured by the Government, cannot it reduce what the Minister described as a fee and I describe as a penalty from five to one per cent.? They borrowed money from the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation believing it was the Government's advice and encouragement that they should do so and that they were going to get cheap money because the Government were backing the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. The truth is that they have not got cheap money from that corporation. The Government converted the War Loan directly after the last issue of debentures and, owing to the Government's action, these rates of interest have been unconscionably harsh. I hope the Clause will be looked at very carefully. It ought to be easy for farmers to borrow money at present, even without the help of the Bill, because money is cheap and the credit of agriculture, thanks to Government policy, is good. The value of the Clause should be to help those who are at present paying heavy mortgages and, what is far more important, to secure to agriculturists in the years to come, when money is no longer cheap, that they shall have cheap credit facilities.
I should like to congratulate the Government on the Bill. With regard to the Clause that refers to the Improvement of Livestock Act, which will have to be renamed in its new form, can the Parliamentary Secretary's say whether the only pigs to be licensed will be pedigree pigs? It is important that we should know that. I believe there are sufficiently good pedigree boars and that you could confine the Bill to pedigree boars, but we must take guidance from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I am sure the Minister must be feeling very pleased with the reception that the Bill has had. He told us this was the fifth that he had introduced during the war. I do not think we have any grounds to quarrel with the provisions which have been outlined, except perhaps the first. That will, possibly, be a, bone of contention. I entirely agree with the last speaker, who advocated a review of the position of farmers who 93 borrowed at a high rate of interest, in view of the fact that the farmers of the future are going to have so much better terms. It is encouraging to find that, in future, it will be possible, in any one year, to borrow up to a sum of £34,000,000, as compared with something like £10,000,000. There is no doubt that the re-equipment of agricultural premises particularly is a problem of very great importance from every point of view. The Minister is possibly interested in the animals on the farm, but some of are interested in the people too. I could never quite understand why cottages should be subject to some kind of control, while no control is exercised over farmhouses, which are scandalously dilapitated. We welcome very much the extension of the provision that has been made whereby farmers may in future borrow in order that they may put agriculture, from that point of view, on a better footing. We welcome, too, the extension of the lime subsidy, which has proved of real benefit. Anyone who goes about the country will be much encouraged to find it again presenting the appearance that it presented some 40 years ago, when there was regular periodical liming. One is very glad to think that this kind of encouragement is to be continued.
With regard to Clause 1, which has been the subject of some adverse comment, I should like to understand the set-up as it was outlined by the Minister. I agree that there are considerable variations between county and county and I am not surprised that he has attempted to get the slow going counties to move faster and to bring them up to the standard of the better ones. One rejoices very much to hear that it is the intention of the Ministry at no distant time to have a Farm Institute in each county, and possibly more than one in some counties. Agricultural education in the counties has so far been indifferently carried on under agricultural committees. They are particularly proud of their powers but I do not know that they have always exercised them as wisely and extensively as they could. I presume that is one of the reasons why the old agricultural committees were not employed when the war began. New committees of an entirely different character had to be created and the old agricultural committees have gone into the background. They have generally appointed what the Minister referred to 94 as a sort of general adviser. In the first instance he was a lecturer, and in most counties he has continued to go round lecturing, particularly during the wintertime. Some have been very successful and others less successful. I do not know that the advice he has been able to give has amounted to a very great deal in many cases. He has had, of course, some training in agriculture but all his time was taken up with giving popular lectures on general agriculture, and I do not think that many farmers went to the county organiser, as we called him, for advice. It is true that in those counties where you have a Farm Institute you have a considerably higher standard, and you hive there an opportunity for giving advice, particularly to young farmers. I am not surprised that the Minister is very anxious that that kind of work should be much more thoroughly done by far better trained people on the whole and, of course, that kind of work in future is going to be intimately linked up with the educational work of the counties and that is all to the good.
When I come to the next stage, namely, specialist advice, which the Minister outlines in his scheme, I do not feel equally happy. A friend of mine pointed out the work that is being done by the university colleges and by the universities in this respect. I would like to ask the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary what will be the exact position of these specialists with regard to research work, because I think that the great benefit of the close attachment there has been so far between the agricultural advisers and the universities is the very essence of the business.
We must remember that through the universities and the university colleges, young farmers take their degree in agriculture. That will go on. In addition to taking a degree in agriculture under present conditions at the university and university colleges, there are these specialists of the Board of Agriculture engaged in research and in giving the benefit of their advice to the farmers. I cannot conceive of anything better than young farmers occasionally attending the universities to be lectured by people engaged in research. In my opinion that is the very essence of university life, and it is a great benefit to ordinary agriculturists that they should meet the specialist at his work, see him at his bench so to speak.
95 In the case of North Wales, at one of the colleges with which I am associated, research work is being done there very successfully on the question of diseases in sheep. Nearly all the farmers in North Wales know that at that university college there are one or two specialists intimately interested in sheep diseases, and consequently they go along to the college in order to see how the work is done. Are the new specialists—who, I presume, will be appointed for provinces, although we have not yet had details as to the extent of the provinces—going to carry on research in new laboratories away from the universities? Is it not really advisable to keep up this very vital contact which these people have established between the university, on the one hand, and the farming community on the other? I know my farmer friend will excuse my saying that it is not always the case that the farmer is very keen on "book larnin'." It has taken some time to persuade the people in my county to send their boys to the university. Though that change has undoubtedly taken place, some of the best work in the university has been done by the advisers to the Ministry who are attached to the university staff. Unless the Minister has a greatly superior system, I should be very sorry to see that link broken between the university and the farmer.
There is another point which seems to me rather difficult. Am I to understand that, after a certain period of time, all those at present employed either by the county council on agricultural work, or by the university, are to be advised to apply for a post under the new organisation? Or am I misreading the Bill altogether? It is a very delicate matter because, as I think has already been pointed out, it may mean, speaking generally, that the standard obtained by the general agricultural adviser in some counties is not the kind of standard which the Minister is trying to achieve, and he would find considerable hesitation in re-employing a man who has been employed by the county council. I do not think that will apply in the case of the university, where the standard is generally higher, but it does leave upon my mind an impression of the possibility of unfair dealing. I know that compensation is being offered under the Bill but it is a very delicate matter.
96 I welcome the Bill very warmly. I have pointed out some of the things that cause me a little trouble but, apart from these, I hope that we shall see the Bill on the Statute Book, and that agriculture everywhere in this country will have at its service a most competent, capable advisory body which will always be at the beck and call of the farmer.
§ Major Leighton (Oswestry)
We all welcome any Bill which has for its object the benefit of agriculture, and I hope this Bill is a forerunner of others which the Minister will eventually put before the House and that, by degrees, he will be able to let the farming community know exactly what is wanted after the war. That, of course, is what we are all asking.
As regards Clause 1, I understand the Minister to say that it has the good will of the National Farmers' Union and that, although he has not yet the good will of the county councils, he hopes to get it. As far as this Clause is concerned, I feel the first thing to look at is: what value will it be to agriculture? I am sure it will be of the greatest value if it has the hearty co-operation of the farmers. The one thing the farmer dreads is farming from Whitehall. I know that is not the intention, but the Minister, I think, said he was not out to tell the farmer how he should make his farm pay. After all, that is what a farmer is for. It seems to me that the advisory committee has not only to show the result of experiment and research, but also to show that it is a practical proposition. For that reason I hope there will be some method by which it will be possible to have, in the different counties, experimental plots where it can be shown that, by certain actions at certain seasons, farming is a practical proposition.
I have come across an attitude that the farmer does not want to be told anything; that he is the best farmer in the world, and resents the idea that he is not efficient. I do not think the Minister ever implied in his speeches in the country that our farming is inefficient. It is not inefficient, but one is never too old to learn something and the whole point is, no matter how efficient a farmer is, he can always be more efficient, if he has the latest and best knowledge which experts and science can produce. I hope we shall see this Advisory Council 97 develop, and that it will have the cooperation of the Farmers Union, which I think it has, for I think the Farmers Union have heartily endorsed this Clause.
As far as Clause 2 is concerned, I understood from the Minister that interest will be at the rate of 3½ per cent. Added to that, I presume, is the sinking fund. I would like that to be made clear. We should all like the rate to be lower; however, it is lower than it was before, and one must be thankful for that. An enormous amount of money will be required in the future to re-equip the farms and put them into a condition for postwar farming. Does this Clause mean that borrowing cannot take place until after the war? I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to make that quite clear. I think the Money Resolution says that it is to meet the requirements of agriculture immediately after the end of the war in Europe. Does that mean that if a farmer wants to borrow money now, he cannot do it? I should like to have an answer to that question. Of course, there are instances where people would like to put up new buildings now, although it is difficult to do so. Then, again, it is a question of whether it is wise to put up buildings now, when people do not know for certain what the farm is to be used for in future. It is no good putting up a new Dutch barn if, after the war, there is not going to be the same amount of arable on that farm. That, again, is a reason why I would like to know exactly how farms are to be used after the war. I should like to make one remark about Clause 3. The Minister did not say much about it, and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some more details on how we are to fix piece rates. I do not see how it will be possible to do that without the help of the local wages committee. It seems to me that piece-rates are extraordinarily difficult to deal with, because conditions vary so much on every farm. Would it vary on different fields on the same farm and between light land and heavy land? I am also puzzled about the question of "Holidays with pay." Who is to pay for those holidays? I sometimes employ a piece-work man to do hedging or ditching. Am I to provide his holidays with pay, if I employ him only for a short time? If not, who is to pay? He may be employed by a dozen different people in the course of a year. 98 I should like that point to be explained. Of course, one welcomes the extension along those lines.
Another point about which I wanted to ask was the supplying of water to agricultural land and to farmhouses and cottages. I was not clear from the Minister's remarks exactly how far that went. He said that it was a question of supplying from the main to the farm or cottages. That is very wide. I have laid the water on to every cottage and farm which I own. I should be delighted to do something, but it is mostly done. If I had known this was coming along, I would not have done it. I should like to know to what extent this supply is to be carried out. Is it a question of distance from the main or what? I should like to have some further explanation of that point. I do not think I have anything more to say on the Bill except to express the hope that the Minister will give us some more Measures like it.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
The right hon. Gentleman in his very able speech said that this was the fifth Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I feel we are becoming rather accustomed to dealing with agricultural affairs through these omnibus Measures. I should like to repeat, in connection with this Bill, something which I said on a previous occasion—that the time is now ripe, if not overdue, when we should have a consolidating Act which would tidy up all these miscellaneous provisions and Measures. With the many cross references and with so many miscellaneous provisions in Acts it is almost impossible to understand what the true state of the law is. I hope the Minister will consider that proposal sympathetically. A Consolidation Act would be of enormous help to all those interested in agriculture, including the Minister's own advisers in Whitehall and at the Scottish Office.
To me, this Bill contains a number of beneficial changes for agriculture, both in Scotland and in England. I do not find myself objecting to anything in it, and I intend only to make a few very general remarks. There is a marked difference as between England and Scotland in the provisions of the Bill. In Clause 1, the Minister launches forth his ambitious scheme, setting up a national advisory service and bringing under his 99 control, as far as I am able to understaind it, all agricultural education in the area covered by his administration, whereas, we in Scotland, are content to carry on on the existing basis. I know of course, that our conditions in Scotland are somewhat different. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that we have been in advance of England in the sphere of agricultural education. Our agricultural education is not administered through the local authorities, but that does not mean that there is not enormous room for improvement, and I would like to make the point that, alhough we are missed out of this Clause, we are equally anxious about the future structure of agricultural education in Scotland.
I must confess that I am a little envious of the enormous jump—a very correct increase—from £300,000 to £1,500,000 for which the right hon. Gentleman provides under this Bill, and I would ask the Scottish Minister to be good enough to assure Scottish Members that a comparable effort to improve our Scottish system will be made without undue delay. I seem to recollect—not very clearly, perhaps, but the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that he set up a special committee under Lord Alness for the purpose of inquiring into Scottish organisation curricula and external services, and I think it will be helpful in this Debate, in order to remove misunderstanding, if the Secretary of State could tell us something about the progress which has been made by that committee; when he expects it to submit its report, and whether he can give us an assurance that legislation will follow without undue delay.
In regard to Clause 2, which I welcome, extending the credit facilities to the two corporations, I must say, as an agriculturist myself, that in pre-war days a could never find any real evidence that agriculture was denied reasonable and normal facilities when it wanted them. The real trouble was that the agricultural industry in general, and the farmer in particular, was not credit-worthy owing to depressed prices. We hope that the low prices he got then are going to be improved upon; that he will get better prices in the future. But even given recent prices, the conditions which, it would appear we are going to face after 100 this war, will be vastly different. If we are to continue with some form of supervision after this war, in the shape of agricultural executive committees, it is obvious that, if these committees are to have power to order or insist upon a man doing something regarding his land or property, then it is only reasonable that the Government should see that proper facilities are given to him so that he can borrow money on easy terms. Similarly, in Scotland it the recommendations of the Balfour Committee, not yet debated in this House, and those of the De La Warr Committee for England and Wales are to be carried out, ample credit on easy terms will provide the necessary lubricant for the smooth working of these schemes.
There is only one other Clause upon which I wish to comment and that is Clause 6. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and, I understand, the hon. and gallant Member for Thornbury (Major Sir. D. Gunston) made reference to this Clause. Although perhaps it does not look very important, I consider this to be one of the most important Clauses in the Bill for the reason that after this war the predominance of livestock in the future economy of British farming is just about the only thing we can be certain of, and I hope that the Minister, in formulating future policy in connection with agriculture, will base that future policy on a just reward for quality production, I feel that if we do not get this into our minds now, that we have to produce something of the very highest quality after this war, we are in for a very difficult time. In order to secure that quality, it may even be necessary to adopt drastic measures. For example, we might have to impose a penalty upon a producer who constantly sells produce of inferior quality. Therefore, I consider that Clause 6, which aims at the improvement in quality of a very important industry, the pig industry, through the licensing of boars by adopting the provisions of the Improvement of Livestock Act, 1931, is an important and desirable advance. I would remind the House that this is not a new demand at all. In 1932 the Pig Industry Council and the Reorganisation Commission for Pig Products both recommended legislation on the lines contained in this Bill. Here I would like to support what has been put forward by the two hon. Members to whom I have 101 referred, that the Minister should consider, as soon as practicable, the restricting of licences to registered and pedigree boars as being in the best interests of the pig industry as a whole. Those who know the pig trade realise that, normally, a large proportion of pig keepers buy non-pedigree and mongrel boars at prices just a shade over the carcase value. We have, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the same trouble in the dairy industry. Any old bull will do to put a cow in calf. It is the same in the pig industry. Anything will do to put a sow in pig. That is a serious situation. Mongrel boars, like mongrel bulls, may look all right. In fact, many commercial pig keepers do not seem to understand what the difference between the pedigree and non-pedigree animal is, but, believe me, the experienced breeder knows the difference. The mongrel is a hybrid and his capacity to transmit his qualities which outwardly appear good is extremely uncertain, whereas the pedigree animal has in its blood all that scientific breeding has been able to put there over generations—that indefinable something which comes from careful breeding based upon uniformity and performance.
We have a great market in this country for both pork and bacon. It is, therefore, most important that boars of breeds suitable for each class of trade should be encouraged. To rely on the mongrel, even to a limited extent, is to delay that segregation of pork and bacon types, so desirable if we are to compete successfully with the carefully-graded produce of overseas countries.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I am glad that the Minister has taken as his text on this Bill that very important Luxmoore Report and has incorporated several proposals from this Report. I think he is right in adopting the line that, in all matters concerning general education in agriculture, the service must become a national service. The war agricultural executive committees of the counties have already superseded those advisory services which formerly were run by county councils, and what this Bill does is to fix what is to be the position in the post-war world, which has already become a reality in existing war-time conditions. As many other speakers have mentioned before—and one cannot emphasise it too much—if agriculture is to succeed after the war, in very different 102 conditions from those which obtain today, the hothouse conditions of war time, it will be even more necessary to demand that efficiency and the latest methods and scientific knowledge shall be applied to the industry.
For that reason, I am a little disturbed to find that the economic side of the advisory service is not coming under the Minister's control. I understood him to say that this concerned too much the direct profit-making side of the industry, and that he could not be responsible for it. One of the most important sides of advisory work is economic work, particularly that of teaching farmers methods of costing and accounts-keeping, which have been adopted in the various universities and agricultural research stations. What I want to know is will that continue as before? I presume it will; in that case, that will remain part of what the right hon. Gentleman calls the specialist service and will not come under the general schemes which he is taking over under the national service.
§ Mr. Hudson
There is a real danger in using technical terms in this respect. The new general service will be under central direction, and the universities will be given a grant of equivalent salaries. I should not like to be suspected of bringing any influence to bear in any way on this question of costing and accounts.
§ Mr. Price
I am very glad for that assurance from the Minister. It sets my mind at rest. Now I know we can be assured that this service will continue and it is very important that it should continue, so far as local contact is concerned. The county councils do not like the idea of this service being taken away from them, and later in the week something is coming on in this House, in which the same principle is involved. But if this service is taken away from the county councils, their opportunities for expansion and work in other spheres will extend. That is my answer to those who fear central control in this one sphere. They will find that in other spheres their activities will be expanded.
So far as Clause 2 is concerned, I welcome its provisions. Anyone who studies the possibilities of the post-war agricultural world will realise that very large sums will have to be invested in the industry to keep up the equipment, that 103 is the landlords fixtures, as opposed to the tenant farmers movable equipment. As things are to-day, however, taxation being what it is and with various expenses such as insurance and so on, there is little left for maintenance and upkeep. I should not be surprised if a great many properties are found to be in such a position financially after the war that they will not be able to borrow even under this Act. Clearly there are going to come, in many estates, dispersal and sale and taking over properties by public corporations, or the State. But I have no objection to using the provisions of this Bill for those properties that are financially sound, and that will be able to borrow on these very reasonable terms, to maintain the landlord's fixtures so that it will be possible for a tenant farmer to function, as is necessary in these times.
I want to say a word about Clause 3, I am very glad that piece workers are being brought in under the same condition as time workers, even as far as making it possible for them to qualify for holidays. However I do not understand how it will apply in those cases—perhaps not so numerous to-day, when everyone is working, but which did apply before the war—in which there was a type of piece worker, usually an elderly man, who put in so many days of work a week, but did not necessarily work a full year. He might work at hedge laying, threshing, thatching, or providing water supplies, but he did not have a definite full-time employment. If he is doing that work in peacetime, I do not quite see how he can qualify for holidays; perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can explain that when he replies. With reference to the application of Clause 5 to supplying water for remote rural districts, I understand the position is that a Bill will be introduced this week which will enable local authorities to extend, at public expense, the main water supplies, and that this Bill will make it possible for grants to be given for extensions from these mains to outlying farms and cottages, and a grant being given to the owner if he pays a certain proportion of the expenses. If that is not so—and it was not quite clear whether it was so from the Minister's speech—perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will comment on that.
There is one other point concening Clause 6 on the question of licensing of 104 boars. That is extremely important and I am glad that the Minister is taking steps to do what was done in the Livestock Improvement Act of 1931. I was on the Standing Committee concerned with that Act, and I remember some of the discussions we had upstairs during the passage of the Bill. The feeling was then expressed that you should not be too careful to consider only show points of pedigree bulls. It was said then that one must consider the utility aspects of breeding as well. Many pedigree herds are not based on utility principles but have had brought into their qualifications too many points relating to winning victories in the show ring. I quite agree that we must take, as a basis, pedigree stock, but we must be quite sure what kind that stock really is. It must be the best utility that will bring the type of animal required and not just let it win prizes in the show rings. It must be for the best kind of commercial objects. In the case of boars we require an animal to produce a type of bacon wanted in the bacon factories, or a pig to produce the best type of pork required. That should be the main consideration. With these remarks, I hope this Bill will have a speedy passage through the House.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
I realise that this Bill refers only in part to Scotland and as many other Members for English constituencies wish to speak I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes. I have listened to the greater part of the Debate and with interest to the many speeches regarding the difficulties in connection with agricultural education in England. I feel with the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) that perhaps we in Scotland are slightly more fortunate in that respect, but if, at some future time, the Secretary of State for Scotland proposes to bring in legislation to improve our agricultural education, I should like to say here that the advisory work done by the agricultural colleges in Scotland, particularly those agricultural colleges in the West and North of Scotland, is extremely valuable to-day. I am sure that the advice given by the various executive officers and the staffs and lecturers sent out by those two colleges, are welcomed by farmers in the Highlands of Scotland. I only ask that we should not draw too strict a line between the areas worked by these colleges in say 105 the North and those in the West of Scotland. I remember on one occasion I was hoping to enlist the services of a very distinguished professor from one of these colleges but I was told "no," he cannot come to that particular area, because it is an area belonging to one of the other colleges. That is rather a narrow interpretation.
Of the details of this Bill there are only two Clauses on which I would like to say a word, namely, Clause 4 and Clause 5. I would ask how they apply to Scotland. Farmers in Scotland, generally welcome the extension of the time for which a grant subsidy for lime is to be given, but so difficult is it in the Western Highlands, and particularly the Islands on the West coast of Scotland, to obtain supplies of lime that I feel the three years' extension may well be used up in solving the transport and supply difficulties, so that the benefits in this case will not apply to that part of the country. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to do something immediately to solve those very difficult transport and supply problems in regard to lime supply.
There is a question I want to put to my right hon. Friend concerning Clause 5, dealing with water supply, the assistance which is to be given in putting in water from the mains to our farms or agricultural cottages. I was not quite clear, and I gather that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and certain other hon. Members were not quite clear, on this point. I take it from the Bill that this only refers to local authority water undertakings. I am rather wondering, and many people in the Highlands of Scotland are wondering, what is the position regarding private estates. There are a large number of private estates in the Highlands of Scotland which have their own water supply. Will this Clause assist those Highland owners in putting water into some of the cottages that have not yet got it? Most of the farms have it, but not all the cottages. I rather gathered that that will be so, and I am sure that that assent by my right hon. Friend will be extremely welcome to many people in that part of Scotland. I am sure that this Bill will be warmly welcomed in Scotland in general.
§ The Secretary, of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
May I for one moment intervene in this discussion with the 106 object of replying to two points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major MacCallum) and the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden)? The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll asked whether these grants for water supplies will be given in cases where the water does not come from a public undertaking. The answer is, Yes. Indeed, that is what the whole of this is granted for. It is, as the Minister repeatedly said to-day, to augment, to fill up the gaps in the Water Undertakings Bill which will be coming before this House at a later date this week. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll asked about land development, and whether there was a sufficient quantity of lime. The answer is, unfortunately, No. We will never have sufficient quantities of lime available, but my hon. and gallant Friend will be delighted, I am sure, to know that since the outbreak of war we have, in the United Kingdom, increased our lime supplies from 228,000 tons to 550,000 tons.
§ Mr. Johnston
Production of lime in Scotland rose in the period between 1938–39 and 1943–44 from 137,000 tons to 365,000 tons. It is a splendid figure, and in the county of Argyll, which my hon. and gallant Friend represents, the grants-in-aid of what are really transport difficulties, which would otherwise make the use of lime almost impossible for many small farmers, are very substantial indeed, and enable the farmers in North Argyll to get their lime at about 21s. 10d. per ton.
The hon. Member for West Perth asked about our agricultural education system. The reason why we are not including it in this Bill is that we have an inquiry now proceeding, under the chairmanship of Lord Alness, into the whole system of agricultural education in Scotland, particularly the relationship between the agricultural colleges, the universities, the farm institutes and the farming world generally. It would be wholly inappro- 107 priate to make any provision in this Bill for agricultural education until the results of that inquiry are known. Our system in Scotland is pretty much what is envisaged in this Bill. We now have three agricultural colleges, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, each of them covering wide areas of territory, each with a county organiser within their area, and each of them with the widest and closest possible contacts with the agricultural community. We do not now, and have not had, agricultural education conducted under the aegis of the county councils in Scotland. Those, I think were the points raised by the Scottish Members.
§ Mr. Johnston
I really cannot say. I know they are very busily engaged taking evidence now. It will not be unduly delayed, but when a Committee of that kind is in session it is a great mistake to embarrass them.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
Intervening for one moment I would like to say that I welcome this Bill. It is only on one or two of its Clauses that I have any remarks to make. I believe that the advisory service as outlined in Clause 1 will be of immense value. I very greatly welcome it, but I wonder whether it could not be administered with equal efficiency by the county council, the Minister making regulations and setting standards for the work and the Ministry's inspectors seeing that the regulations are complied with, and the standards attained. Why not, in fact, have a similar arrangement to that which is proposed as regards farm institutes and agricultural education? I know my right hon. Friend said that he was not very pleased at having to accept a different system, but I do suggest it is a system which might work well, and has in the case of general education, for instance, worked extremely well. It is a different matter with agricultural education, I know, but is there not a very considerable analogy between the two? I do not see why what works well in the matter of general education should not work well also in the matter of agricultural education and the agricultural advisory services; that is to say, the county councils, 108 as in general education, administering by means of committees partly composed of county council members, partly of nominated and co-opted members with special experience, in this case of agriculture, all working under the instructions of the Ministry and working to given standards, and subject to inspection by the Ministry's inspectors.
As regards staff, I suggest the analogy might be considered of the police forces, which, although they are locally administered, serve under conditions laid down by the Home Office regarding appointments, duties, pay and pensions, and are subject to inspection by Home Office inspectors. I would suggest, moreover, that local criticism in county councils is of value. I think it is an unfortunate fact, although I realise it is necessary in war time, that the war agricultural executive committees are not subject to any local criticism, or criticism in county councils. I believe that far from being embarrassed in any way by such criticism, they would very often be strengthened and helped. I know that my right hon. Friend is more than dubious on that point, but at the same time, I believe it to be none the less a fact. We all recognise that these war agricultural executive committees have done, and are doing, admirable work, but they would be something more than human if they did not occasionally make mistakes, and I think they would very often be helped by experienced local criticism if they were subject to it in county councils.
I suggest that our local government system is too valuable a feature of our national life for us not to make the utmost use of it on all possible occasions. It seems to me to offer a suitable means of devolution of business, and it ought to be made use of in every possible way. Local conditions vary, and local agricultural conditions vary, and very often they can be dealt with more effectively locally than from the centre. For instance, it is a commonplace to say that there are different classes of land and different climates, with consequent variations of agricultural methods and cropping. I think they can very often be more suitably and easily dealt with locally than from the centre, but I do agree most strongly that there should be adequate central regulation and inspection I would agree, too, that under the present system, many councils have not dealt effi- 109 ciently with agricultural matters, agricultural instruction and agricultural advice, but I cannot see any reason why they should not do so under a proper system of regulation such as I have suggested.
One more small point is whether there is any possibility of difficulties arising over superannuation contributions and conditions in the taking over of a large number of what are at present county council officials and servants. Is it proposed that county councils should continue to maintain any advisory staff, or is it suggested that the whole of the advisory staffs should pass to the Ministry and be entirely centrally controlled? My right hon. Friend mentioned in his speech that he contemplated frequent interchange of advisory and educational staffs with county council staffs. I wonder whether he would elaborate that and explain exactly how such interchanges should take place and what advisory staff, if any, there will be left to county councils?
As regards Clause 2, dealing with the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation arrangements, it seems to me that these are entirely satisfactory in every way, and should be welcomed by everybody concerned. Clause 5, dealing with water arrangements, is, it seems to me, very much to be welcomed. I think that one or two hon. Members have read difficulties or intricacies into this Clause which in fact do not exist. It is, as I understand it, an extension of the system which already prevails whereby grants can be given for the laying on of water to agricultural land, but at present they cannot be extended to the laying on of water to agricultural houses and buildings.
I have had some experience of that sort of thing. I was laying on water to certain fields, with the advice and concurrence of the war agricultural committee, and the pipe ran within, literally, a few yards of the farmhouse and adjacent buildings. I got a general contract for laying that water on to the house and to the fields. The amount for laying it on to the house was a very small proportion of the total, but, in applying for grant, that portion had to be very carefully eliminated. That seems very unreasonable, because the house is an important part of the farm, as are the buildings. It is a great improvement to provide that water may be laid on for the farm, whether it be for the buildings or for the fields.
110 With regard to the Clause dealing with the licensing of boars, I do not think that in the past the licensing of bulls has been sufficiently strict. Very often, when licences have been refused appeals have been successful, although the animals were quite unsuitable. I hope that the arrangements will be tightened up, and that, in the interests of our breeding stock, as few exceptions as possible will be allowed. I am only too painfully aware that my right hon. Friend does not share my view about the possible utility of county councils and their participation in these schemes, but I hope that he will consider the matter and see his way to allow the county councils to have a little more say under proper conditions.
§ Sir Dymoke White (Fareham)
The Minister told us that the county advisory staff are to be taken over by his, Department, and that the farm institutes are to be transferred from the county agricultural committees to the county committees operating under the new Ministry of Education. I see some danger in allowing a certain amount of ordinary education to be carried on through the institutes. In some counties there is one farm institute, and in many counties there is none. It is suggested that in the larger counties we may have two—that is none too many. I hope that the Minister will see that what are commonly known as the three R's—or an extension of the three R's—are not taught in these farm institutes, but that the institutes are kept strictly to vocational subjects. At present a boy is liable to go to a farm institute at 16, and quite rightly, because, otherwise, he might lose the power of learning. But with the introduction of these continuation classes he should have his brain kept in such a state between the ages of 16 and 18 that he is receptive of learning still. We should concentrate on sending boys and girls to these farm institutes for a 12-months' course, from the age of 17 to 18. The question of continuation classes should not arise with the farm institutes. That would be just playing with the job. The lads and girls, having learnt part of their job—agriculture, horticulture, poultry-keeping, or dairying—on the farm, should then go to a farm institute for a 12-months' course, at a time when they would be in a condition really to benefit from the instruction. I want to 111 refer to the control of the staff under the county council. Clause 1 provides thatthe applicant shall not be transferred under this Sub-sectionfrom the county council to the Ministry's new service. That may cause hardship to some very good men. I have in mind one who before the war was headmaster of an institute, and who during the war has been doing excellent work under the county agricultural executive committee. If the county want to keep him, his line of action will be limited to farm institutes. I ask the Minister to consider that point very carefully. I want to refer to the provision, in Part I of the Schedule, that the county council are to be saddled with the payment of compensation to redundant staff. When the Minister puts up a new scheme, why should the county council carry the baby? We are not carrying out the scheme: the Minister is; and we object to paying compensation to staffs that are made redundant by the action of the Minister. Under Part II of the Schedule the Minister wants to make this new scheme fluid, from the universities to the research stations, and into the counties. He wants, I presume, to allow the staff to circulate between the universities, the research stations, and the counties But the superannuation arrangements will put a brake on easy interchange. I understand that the civil servants have their scheme. The men who are to be transferred from the county councils to the Ministry have another scheme, related to the Superannuation Act, 1935; and I understand that they are going to lose by that transfer. The university and agricultural college men come under another scheme, which I understand is called the Federated Scheme. I suggest that this matter should be looked into, in order to make the scheme a success.
§ Sir William Wayland (Canterbury)
I am rather concerned at the position which the war agricultural executive committees will occupy if the Minister is going to pinch most of their staff—that is, the county organisation staff. At the present time, the organisation staffs are the backbone of the war agricultural executive committees. They survey the farms and report to the committees, who act, generally speaking, upon their advice. If, for example, they have a complaint to make 112 about bad farming, then, perhaps, some members of the war agricultural executive committee may go and see the farm. It is the general rule, in my experience, that the committees rarely go near the farms, except when there is a complaint. Members of these staffs are very able and experienced men, and I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister would very much like to get them on his own staff, but I hope he will be merciful and not hold out too great a plum for them to pick, and that there will remain under the county committees an organisation staff sufficient to carry on their work. Another question comes into one's mind. If the Minister is going to organise this advisory service, where will the county council organising service come in? Will there be room for two? If not, and there is to be centralisation in Whitehall, that would be a mistake, in my opinion. I should like the Minister to consider this, because it is a very important matter. We rely upon the organising staffs of the county agricultural committees to give good advice, which the men are always able and willing to do.
With regard to loans, of course, a loan is very welcome, and would be very welcome to the funds of the Corporation, but, naturally, it is only a drop in the ocean, and I hope to see it gradually raised to £100,000,000. The State would not always have to find £100,000,000. That would be repaid by the farmer, and I am glad to see that he will be able to borrow at 3½ per cent., and I am quite sure he would be able to repay that as long as we have fair prices for our farm produce. Concerning piece-work, there is very little piece work in the South, compared to what is produced. In the summer time no end of men used to come round asking for piece work. Now, if one comes wanting work, he much prefers time work and does not care for piece work. It is just the some with the gypsies, who used to like piece work. I found last year and the year before that I could not get gypsies to do piece work. They wanted time work, because they could work at their own speed.
Concerning water supplies, I want to suggest to the Minister that he should give facilities for catching water, not by the ordinary catchment means, but such as we see in the hilly districts of the constituency which I represent and in the 113 neighbouring districts, where a considerable amount of corrugated iron—it would be much better if it were asbestos—is placed on the farm, with the proper apparatus for carrying the water away into a large reservoir. These hill farms need this catchment water. One sees this method mostly on the large farms, and I think it would be very helpful for small farmers in the hilly districts if they could be financed in order that these catchments might be built up.
I congratulate the Minister on his decision about licences. I think the time is far overdue when boars should be licensed, and I agree with the hon. Member who spoke about licences being confined to pedigree boars. I was wanting to buy some piglets some months ago and had to go into the market for weeks. There were plenty of piglets there, but none which appealed to me or which might' e considered as strong young pigs. I think the sooner we are able to license only pedigree boars, which will take some time, of course, the better it will be for the pig and bacon industry. After all, we do not want to rely upon Denmark and Holland, as we used to do before the war, when we paid them millions of pounds for bacon and pork. We should try to keep that trade in our own country, and I believe we should be able to do it if we adopted a forward policy, not only in regard to licences, but in respect of the numbers of pigs.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I have been fortunate in hearing almost every speaker to-day, except those who spoke particularly in regard to Scotland, and I think everyone has extended a warm welcome to this Bill. I hope the Minister will not think that, because of the welcome which his Bill has received, interest in future legislation regarding agriculture is on the wane. I am quite sure that he will not be let off with a little Bill like this. What we are all looking forward to is the day when he really produces a charter for agriculture. There is one reason in particular why I welcome this Bill, and that is because it is particularly non-political. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken to-day has criticised the Bill in some respect or another, but not a single criticism has been directed upon party lines at all. I think that it is essential, for the future of agriculture, that we 114 should deal with it upon a national or non-party basis, and, in this respect, this little Bill certainly commends itself to me. I would call it a Bill of good principles, but I would not go so far as to extend my praise of it very much beyond that.
If I might refer to one or two points which have already been mentioned, I should like to start with the licensing of boars, which is a very good principle, but which, as the hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Wayland) said, does not go far enough. I beg the Minister to consider including a provision that boars should only be licensed if they arc pedigree boars. There is a great difference in this connection between boars and bulls, because, as we all know, the sow is a very much more prolific producer than the cow, and one can build up a pedigree stock of boars very rapidly indeed. If this provision is inserted in the Bill at the present time, and the Bill does not come into effective operation, as I understand it, until the Minister appoints a day, it will give the industry ample time to build up their pedigree stocks. I personally welcome the Clause as a further indication of the right hon. Gentleman's interest in the rehabilitation of the livestock industry of this country. I urge upon him the question of pedigree licensing. It has always struck me as being regrettable in this country, which is almost internationally regarded as the home of pedigree stock, and exports pedigree stock from which all other countries build up their herds, that we alone entirely disregard the importance of pedigree in our own normal production of livestock.
I confess that I have become a bit more bemused over what the provisions of the Clause dealing with water supplies mean than I thought I was at the beginning of the Debate. Admirable as the intention is, and it is good in principle, the Clause does not avoid certain loopholes. I do not believe that, even taking any further methods already proposed into account, we shall still be able to ensure assistance for the laying on of a water supply to all agricultural buildings, cottages and land. I believe that is the object which the Minister has in mind, and I hope that it may be possible for us to have an assurance that that is to be achieved. I have in mind particularly one instance which, if I use it as an illustration, may make my point clear. 115 There is a case that I know in which water was laid on to a farm. It was in 1939, before the last Bill. It was laid on privately by the owner of the land From the main water supply. He wished that the water supply should be carried on to two farmhouses, 300 yards down the road, and the local supply company were prepared to do that and very glad to have their supply extended. It was going to be done, when they mentioned that it would cost the landowner £385. That put rather a different complexion on the matter, and these cottages are still not supplied with water. Would a case such as that come within the scope of this Bill? I do not think that it comes within the scope of any other Bill. There is a supply available from the farm, but it has not been laid on under any of the legislative provisions which have been made for the laying on of water to farms, and I believe it would not come within the scope of this Clause. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to reassure us that this Clause makes the laying on of water possible in the future, not taking into account other provisions that there may be in the offing.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
Under the provisions for the housing of agricultural workers, many in my own county have been given substantial grants for the laying on of water to agricultural cottages.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
That is one of the provisions I had in mind, but whether the cottages to which I have referred would come within such facilities I cannot say. I wish they did, as the instance I have quoted happens to be my own property. The next Clause to which I would like to refer is the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Clause. We are all agreed that the additional facilities provided will be immensely beneficial. There is a point that I would like to make clear. We have talked about rather large figures. My right hon. Friend in his original speech, said that £31,000,000 would become available. It is most important from the point of view of farmers that it should not go out that that sum of £31,000,000 is a grant from the Government. I wish to emphasise that it is merely a loan and that the farmer is not gaining the benefit of any subsidy or anything of that sort in this connection. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Canter- 116 bury I do not believe that this total sum will be anything like sufficient to rehabilitate the industry as we should all wish after the war. We shall need much more money for this purpose. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech referred to the further appreciable financial assistance which it was proposed to give to agriculture through the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. I understand that the whole of the intention that the Chancellor had in mind when making that speech is being implemented in this Bill. We ought to bear in mind that it is not an instalment of what we may hope to obtain in the future, but is the limit of our expectations in this regard.
The reduction in interest is a matter which the farmer considers very important indeed. As has already been stated by hon. Members, many farmers have been crippled by the rate of interest they have had to pay to the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. I have had great difficulty in working out the figures and I do not claim that they are necessarily correct. I hope sincerely that they are not, but, as I understand it, the aggregate sum made available for the reduction of the rate of interest represents a total sum, by way of interest, of about 10s. per annum per farm, if it is spread over the whole of the industry. I appreciate that every farmer would probably not avail himself of the facilities to borrow money from this source.
§ Sir D. Gunston
Can my hon. and gallant Friend give the figure of how it would work out in regard to the farmers who have benefited under the Corporation?
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
No, Sir, unfortunately, I have not that figure. The Corporation is a private organisation and I have not seen any published figures which might cover the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary might have such a figure and if he could give it I, as well as my hon. and gallant Friend, would be very glad to know how many borrowers there are who will share in this benefit in regard to reduction of interest. If we take the average figure, it represents an exceedingly insignificant amount to the industry. My feelings with regard to Clause r probably go further than those expressed by other hon. Members, but there, again, I believe the principle to be very good. As I understand it, the Clause 117 is intended to ensure that the results of the research carried out by the Government shall be made available to farmers. There is not the least doubt that farmers are now realising the value of research and the benefit which they have been obtaining from technical advice and from all the experiments which have been carried on. They are anxious to continue to receive advice, and the benefits of further experimentation.
Where, to my mind, the Clause fails is in the way in which it is proposed to carry out the dissemination of advice and information. The only way in which it can be done effectively is for the results of the Ministry's research and advice to be conveyed to the county council authorities and not direct to the farmers. May I explain one reason why I think that should be the correct way? It is an acknowledged fact that agriculture has done very well indeed in the war. It is also acknowledged, I think, that a great deal of the improvement, of the success, which has been obtained by agriculture has resulted from close liaison and concentration of effort in the counties themselves. The spur has come through the county organisations under the direction of the Minister, who has contributed such very stirring appeals. In fact, I remember that quite early after I had the honour of being elected to this House I was informed by the Minister that the Ministry of Agriculture had not increased their technical staff during the war at all. That system has worked very well indeed, and I cannot understand why it should now be thought either necessary or desirable to scrap it and to inaugurate a new system whereby the Ministry concentrates in its own hands the whole of the national advisory service and cuts out the local concentrations of effort in the country.
I have not been able to discover who wants this new system. I do not believe it is the county councils themselves. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that they had not yet concluded their consideration of the matter, but, from what we can ascertain from the published reports of the County Councils Association, such recommendation to accept the schemes as was put forward by the sub-committee was a very half-hearted affair indeed, and even that was referred back. I think we can take it that the county councils as a whole do not want it; probably the only 118 ones that do want it are those who have failed to carry out any substantial advisory service at all—in fact the county councils which, in this respect, are the bad ones.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
The right hon. Gentleman says "the majority," but I do not think it will be found that the majority of county councils by any means desire this scheme. Certainly farmers do not want it. Farmers themselves have a horror of the "man from the Ministry." I was recently having a look at some small farms in my constituency and talked to one man who is doing very well indeed. He is not what you might call a conservative-minded farmer; he has only been in the industry for about seven or eight years, and is a foreigner to our part of the world, having come from the Tyneside. So, if anyone in the industry could be expected to be different from the ordinary run, it would be this particular man. We talked about this and about that, and we did not seem to be getting very far. Suddenly lie turned to me and said, "May I ask you a question?" I said, "Certainly." He said, "Who sent you down here?" I did not quite understand what he was getting at, and I replied, "What do you mean? Nobody has sent me down here." He said, "Oh yes, come on—which Government Department sent you down to see me?" If he was thinking that it was my right hon. Friend's Department, I was very flattered, though I do not know that my right hon. Friend would be.
Anyhow, I laughed so heartily at the mere idea that I convinced him that I had not been sent down by any Government Department at all, and after that we got on famously. So long as he thought that I had anything to do with a Government Department he would not tell me a thing but, once convinced that I was not connected with a Ministry, he was perfectly prepared to show me everything that he had on the place and explain everything to me; in fact it was some time before I could get away. That is only an illustration of a point that is true, that a farmer will only respect and respond to advice from the local people whom he knows. He does not trust "the man from the Ministry," quite irrespective of who it may be. 119 In the light of this, let me quote to the right hon. Gentleman a few words, which I think are exceedingly relevant:Power at the centre may be mischievous unless it is administered with understanding. Stir up laggard councils by all means, but let there be the very minimum of interference with the good local authorities, for they know the needs of their own districts better than officials in Whitehall.I think that is a singularly apt quotation. It comes from one of the leaders in this week's "Sunday Times," and I thought it was so apt to this particular proposal that I have ventured to quote it to the House.
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman emphasise the importance of continuity with regard to agricultural education, but I think that he will have great difficulty in ensuring continuity under this proposal. Agricultural education is, as we know, run by the local education authorities—the county council or the county borough council—and I fail to see how they are going to be able to run agricultural education if, in fact, the county agricultural advisers have been taken over by the Ministry, because all the lecturers, the specialists, the technicians whom they will want to teach agricultural education will no longer be their own people. The same point applies to our own experimental farms in the county. If the Ministry takes over our agricultural advisers, our technical farms will automatically be denuded of technical staffs, and I fail to see how the county councils can continue this very necessary and admirable function which they have been performing in the past.
§ Mr. Hudson
I do not want to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend but if he will do me the honour of reading my speech in HANSARD to-morrow, I think he will find that I explained this point.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
I listened with the greatest attention to my right hon. Friend and it was because, after listening to him, the only way in which I could see he was going to do it was by ultimately taking over the schools and colleges himself from the Board of Education that I am venturing to ask if we may have further explanation.
§ Mr. Hudson
I said I hoped and contemplated that the local education authorities, as far as agricultural educa- 120 tion was concerned—apart from the continuance or ordinary general education—would call freely on the services of my advisory staff.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
That expresses a hope, but the local education authorities would, I think, feel very much happier if they could rely upon their own staffs, rather than on the hope of being able to obtain such lecturers and technicians as the Ministry of Agriculture are able to make available at any given time. To carry the matter still further, a youth graduates until he becomes a farmer and starts putting into practice the theories he has learned at agricultural and technical schools, farms, colleges and institutes. Surely, it would be desirable that the continuity should be complete and that he should be able to go back to the person who taught him his theory in order to obtain his advice in practice. So long as the county system obtains he can be sure of doing that, but if it becomes a national system, if these officers are switched from area to area, and are promoted and so on, then I suggest that the logical sequence of agricultural education will break down when applied in practice. I do not want to labour the point, but I wish to emphasise the importance, in applying the results of technical research in agriculture to individual farms, of filtering it through the local knowledge of local advisers. Any technical result which may be achieved by reason of experiment and so on will, if applied to Yorkshire, require an entirely different application from that which it will need if applied to Sussex, and the same is true of other areas of the country. Climate and custom go so much into agricultural production that it is absolutely essential, if this job is to be done successfully, that technical advice should be furnished by people with local knowledge and not by national advisers.
§ Mrs. Beatrice Wright (Bodmin)
I desire to raise a small point on Clause 5, which deals with the supply of water to farmhouses and cottages. Under this Clause provision for water supplies will not be made if water mains are likely to be extended, or local water undertakers intend to provide the necessary water. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that there will not be any unnecessary delay in the light of the new Bill dealing with water, which we are to 121 discuss later in the week? It is rather like two people going through a door simultaneously, each one bowing, to allow the other to precede him. I suggest that there might possibly be a hold-up, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether he should not step first through the door, rather than wait for the local authority to do so.
I also want to ask the Minister whether he does not feel that this Clause might be the subject of a combined operation between himself and the Ministry of Fuel and Power. I have raised this question with him before, and in answer to a Parliamentary Question put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member of Newbury (Brig.-General Clifton Brown) on 6th January, my right hon. Friend assured the House that he realised the necessity for extension of electricity for this purpose. My right hon. Friend has a limited amount of money with which to provide large numbers of isolated farms and cottages with a very necessary water supply, and those of us who represent rural constituencies, where the need for this water is very great, would like to see the money well and efficiently expended. It is cheaper to take electricity than water, and once having obtained electricity, you can make use of local water supplies efficiently, and I wonder whether it is not possible for this subsidy to be used to provide electricity to farms in order to pump water.
Many Members have welcomed the Bill and I wish to add my welcome. This question of water is the only one I desire to raise, except to commend my right hon. Friend on his provisions to extend agricultural education in the country and to ask whether he will give every possible cooperative effort, through these advisory committees, to young farmers' clubs which, as he is aware, are doing very fine work. I would also be grateful to know what proportion of the 50 per cent. grant already in existence has been used to provide local bore-holes or local supplies of water. If I am right, that a large percentage of that money has already been expended in the provision and use of local water, then I would be right in asking the Minister to look into the possibility of extending this further by using it in relation to electricity, and not independent of electricity.
§ Major York (Ripon)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester 122 (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) made a strong attack, at great length, on the administration which the Minister of Agriculture proposes to set up. I was rather surprised at that attack, partly because I cannot believe that my hon. and gallant Friend knows the history of agricultural education as it has been in the past, and partly because it is quite untrue to say that the farmers of this country do not want this arrangement. If we can judge what farmers, generally, want, I think we should be able to take the word of the organised farmers of this country who are in favour of this arrangement. I think it is doing a disservice to the National Farmers Union and to farmers generally to disclaim this national advisory service on behalf of farmers.
It is a fact that agricultural education has had a somewhat unfortunate career, mainly on account of the economic position of the industry. In Yorkshire, my own county, we had a disagreement which hindered agricultural education to some extent and although we are reasonably wealthy the amount of work which was being done was very small, except for the universities; and I would pay the highest tribute to Leeds University for the work which they have done in the agricultural world. The new service includes, I think, inspectors, teachers and advisers but I am not clear how each of these three classes of people will be used and how they are to link up with the farms. Several hon. Members have discussed the dissemination of information and I would like to ask: By whom is that dissemination to be practised? By the advisers, and if so, how, by the teachers, or by the inspectors, although, presumably, not the inspectors? If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will allow me to cast this fly over him, I would like to ask him whether this is not the first Spring migrant to this country, in the form of the future administration of our agricultural industry.
We have had a very great success with our war agricultural executive committees, and I think it is now accepted by the Majority in the industry that some form of committee will have to continue into the peace. Will these post-war committees have, as their permanent staff, some members of the national advisory service we are about to set up under the Bill? Secondly, in the technical develop- 123 ment committees, which are beginning to show signs of their usefulness, shall we there have a "second leg" by which the national advisory service will put over the information and the results of research to the farmer? It is quite useless to spend large sums of money on agricultural education and an expensive advisory service, if the industry is to be allowed to disappear in clouds of despondency and despair when the war is over.
There have been references to a very serious omission in Clause 6 in regard to the selection, of bulls. The Minister has, for some time, been placing great emphasis on the improvement of livestock, and I had fully expected that the Bill would include provisions for the improvement of cattle in particular. We see that boars are to come under the scheme which at present applies to bulls, We are getting any boar which will pass the prescribed show test, but we are not getting the boars which are known by their breeding to be of use to the industry. It is the same with bulls. A bull can come before the inspector or referee and its pedigree has not the least effect on whether it becomes a registered sire. I feel that what the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) said about boars should also apply to bulls, and that no bull should be registered unless it is a registered pedigree bull. It is far harder to breed dual-purpose cattle than normal dairy cattle, because not only have you to get confirmation of the constitution, but you also have to have the flesh-making and milk-producing capacity. Therefore, for dual-purpose cattle you have to have good breeding and, if dual-purpose cattle are well bred, they can produce a yield of 800 or 900 gallons of milk a year, and at the same time produce steers and fat and prime beasts at just over two years old. If you have constitution you have good health, and if you have good health you have longevity. If your population of cows live longer, that will have an appreciable effect on the cost of milk production. Bulls therefore need not only to be pedigree. They need to be progeny-tested. If we are to see any improvement in livestock, those are the two methods by which we shall get it. Many hon. Members who are food producers have been asking, that this should be made a pedigree business. I have no doubt that in the future the industry itself organized 124 through the Farmers' Union will be corning to the Ministry and demanding that the law be altered so that only pedigree bulls and boars are allowed to be registered.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. Tom Williams)
I think my right hon. Friend can be well satisfied with the reception that has been given to the Bill. I cannot claim, of course, that he has won 100 per cent. of support, because there are one or two Welshmen present, but I think I can claim that, on the whole, the Bill has had a very sympathetic reception. My right hon. Friend has emphasised, and the various points of criticism have emphasised, that there are two provisions of major importance. They are for postwar purposes. I should like to see them applied now—to-morrow morning—but, in view of existing circumstances, they are preparatory to our post-war policy. There are several useful minor matters born of experience gained throughout the recent period and designed to help our food production campaign during the course of the war.
Many speakers have referred particularly to Clause I, mostly sympathetically, though in one or two cases, doubts were expressed. Particularly did the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Sir G. Owen) express doubts as to the wisdom of a national advisory service and he went so far as to say that Wales ought to be excluded. He followed that up by asking for a few hundred pounds to help to carry on the existing services. He felt that to remove the duties hitherto carried out by the county councils might have an adverse effect. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) generally welcomed the Measure but he also expressed a doubt about this national advisory service. He thought that whatever service existed ought to be intimate, friendly and sympathetic. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon said this national advisory service might, conceivably, destroy the intimacy, the friendliness and sympathy where it had been conducted by the county councils. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) rather welcomed the national advisory service. My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) asked what would be the position of 125 specialists with regard to research work. My hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) summed up the whole situation in a nutshell. He said we were simply consolidating for peace-time what has been so eminently successful in wartime.
In 1940, when the present advisory service attached to the county war agricultural executive committees was established, farmers were rather suspicious. They were not quite happy about what some of them dared to call "persons roaming round the country in plus fours, teaching practical farmers how to farm." I am glad to be able to say that, as time has rolled on, that suspicion has slowly but surely been removed, and now the farmers on the whole regard the advisory service and those who provide it as the most intimate, friendly and sympathetic service that ever was. Indeed, instead of suspecting the man in plus fours, or plus sevens, they now regard him as their very best friend. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carnarvon ever had any doubts about the initiation of a completely new service, the results of the past four years ought instantaneously to dissipate them, for there never was such a pleasant, happy, intimate and sympathetic service as the one we now have.
§ Sir G. Owen
I admit that the service to which my hon. Friend now refers is a friendly and intimate service, but that is due to the fact that the county war agricultural executive committees are made up of local farmers who are friends of the farmers, and that the specialists who have been employed by the committees are the very men who were employed by the university colleges before.
§ Mr. Williams
My hon. and gallant Friend is bound to agree that while the county councils performed such advisory services as may have been given in prewar days, it was a sort of an offshoot of their agricultural educational committees and was not nearly so complete, effective or efficient as the system we have to-day. I can say with truth, having spoken to all kinds of farmers, large and small, that they are extremely happy with the service they now obtain, and I think that anything less than the service they are now receiving would be viewed with dismay by most of the farmers who have 126 enjoyed the luxury of this guidance during the war.
The Minister responsible to this House for the well-being of agriculture in postwar days and responsible for such efficiency as may exist, ought clearly to be responsible for and have under his control the advisory and specialist service which is to be provided for farmers. I heard my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carnarvon and many other hon. Members in all parts of the House say that nothing short of guaranteed markets and fixed prices would ensure stability within this industry. The only quid pro quo that can be brought back to this House and the taxpayers by the farmers is maximum efficiency. My right hon. Friend feels—and I agree with him Low per cent., if there is such a thing—that only a national advisory service on the lines indicated in Clause r can give to the farmer the service he requires and to this House the satisfaction it is entitled to expect.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
May I ask my right hon. Friend, because it may help his argument, whether it is not as well that farmers and local authorities should realise that, if this House gives authority to the Government to ensure stabilised markets and proper prices for agricultural produce, it must retain some control over the methods by which agriculture is carried on?
§ Mr. Williams
I quite agree with my Noble Friend. That was the point I tried to make a moment ago, when I said that if my right hon. Friend is to be responsible to this House for the industry, he must have charge of the advisory service rendered to the industry. It cannot be denied that during the war the service which has grown up has married research to field practice as never was the case before. One only needs to travel in any part of the country to see the wonderful transformation that has taken place in all parts of the British Isles. In order that field practice can be closely identified and related to research my right hon. Friend set up the Agricultural Improvement Council. That Council stands in the centre, and it sifts any problems that may be discovered on the farms. It transmits those problems to the Agricultural Research Council. This is a two-way traffic. It goes from the farm to the 127 Agricultural Improvement Council, and then to the Research Council. In the other direction it goes from the Research Council to the Agricultural Improvement Council and back to the technical development committees, of which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York) spoke. That system, I hope, will continue for a long time. To my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham, who asked what would be the position of the specialists in research work, I can, therefore, answer that they will have greater rather than less scope under the new regime. There will be an interchange between teaching and advisory work, but research work will, I hope, go on perhaps at an even quicker rate than in the past.
No hon. Member will deny that the system built up during the war has been a unique success, and I hope that no hon. Member will wish for anything less in peace-time than that which has been such a unique success in war-time. It is true that there were some counties which had efficient advisory committees in the past, but they were very few and the services varied very widely. My right hon. Friend wants only one system for agriculture, and that the best system, and Clause r of this Bill is the best means by which we are likely to attain that object. I hope hon. Members will not feel that it is merely a desire on the part of a Government Department to filch from a self-governing part of our democracy some of the responsibilities they have hitherto held. The county councils, taken as a whole, do not think on these lines, and I hope that this House will not do so either.
With regard to Clause 2, many questions have been put with regard to the rate of interest and about what is to happen to those who borrowed money in the past. My right hon. Friend said in his opening speech that he hoped the rate of interest in future, bearing in mind that this was largely a problem of post-war days, when labour and materials would be available, would be a rate of 3 per cent. There will be a slight addition for sinking fund, but it will be very small, and I hope that full advantage will be taken of the facilities accorded in this Clause.
§ Mr. Williams
I said that there will be a small addition for sinking fund. With regard to old loans at a higher rate of interest, it is inconceivable that any Treasury would agree to an all-round reduction in the rate of interest or variation of any contract into which farmers have entered. There is, however, a way out, and most borrowers know that way. They can repay their loans if they pay a 5 per cent. fee for repaying prior to the due date.
§ Mr. Williams
The moment funds are available, under the terms of Clause 2, they will be able to repay with a fee of 5 per cent. and then they can borrow later at the lower rate of interest that will then be charged. With reference to the Clause dealing with water supplies, my right hon. Friend made it very clear, I thought, that this Clause is merely supplementary to the Act of 1941 under which, should a farmer find a water supply suitable, and want to take water for his farm and farm buildings, a grant of 5o per cent. may be paid. Since then, it has been discovered that there is a missing link; water can be taken with the aid of a grant to farm and farm buildings but not to the farm house or cottage if there should be a cottage or cottages close by. This Clause simply extends the provisions referred to and enables a grant to be paid for taking a farm water supply to a farm house or to any cottage or cottages close by. I hope that will clear that matter up. In relation to the acceptance of this as a supplement to another Bill there will be a Bill before us later this week in this House.
The question of Clause 6 relating to livestock has been raised by several hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton asked whether the new procedure would apply only to pedigree boars. The same question has been asked by other hon. Members. I am afraid I have to reply in the negative. It is true that we should all be looking forward to the time when only a boar or a bull should be licensed if it is known to be a pedigree animal. But at this moment it is an ideal to aim at. I doubt if we dare, at this stage, license only pedigree boars or pedigree bulls. We hope by this licensing system of boars that we shall 129 produce a better quality animal, and the good pork and bacon referred to may not be too far distant. If hon. Members are not careful in asking for better pedigree animals they will have to bear the brunt of the attack on my right hon. Friend when he asks farmers to become more efficient in certain directions.
With reference to Clause 3, dealing with time rates for piece work, the answer is, very simply, that as the law now stands, only a person enjoying a statutory minimum wage can enjoy the benefit of the statutory holidays with pay. Therefore, while this Clause does not proceed to fix piece rates, the National Wages Board will have the power to fix a time wage for a job that is done on piece-rate terms, and as long as a time rate is fixed, for that particular job, then the person can enjoy the benefit of a holiday with pay. That is the only purpose and object of this Clause which has been agreed to by the National Farmers Union and the agricultural workers unions and will be welcomed by the Agricultural Wages Board itself.
§ Mr. Williams
No, only the normal agricultural workers who would, in any circumstances, enjoy a fixed holiday with pay according to the legislation passed by this House.
§ Mr. Williams
An hon. Member asked me whether when a farmer, whose lands have been improved by fen roads or drainage schemes, makes his payment for betterment, that will be a charge against the farm costs or against capital costs. That is a question that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can answer better than I can and it might be addressed, I suggest, to him. The hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) raised the question of legislation by reference referring to the fact that this is the fifth agricultural Bill to be introduced during the war. I do not like legislation by reference which no ordinary Member can understand and the sooner the time comes when there can be a Consolidation Act the better. My right hon. Friend will welcome that moment if only to ease the difficulties of Members of this House.
130 The hon. Member for Fareham (Sir Dymoke White) asked me why the county councils are called on to pay compensation for any of their officers who happen to be put out of employment as a result of the national advisory service being taken over by the State. The simple explanation is that the county council will have to pay compensation for any redundant official but since the county council is relieved of the cost of running any advisory service, they get off cheap on the bargain, since they will only have to compensate a very small number of officers, while the State takes over the expense of the new advisory service. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) asked me why should we think of taking over this service and turning it into a national service, when criticism in the county council was always a very good thing. He said that criticism brought into the daylight many problems. But the county councils, as a rule, meet only once a quarter, while the war agricultural executive committees meet once or twice a week, and the answer is therefore very simple.
I have been asked about superannuation. This is dealt with in the Second Part of the Schedule, which I am sure the hon. Member has already studied and perhaps he will look at it again. The question was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon, What is to happen to the members of the war agricultural executive committees in peace time, and what would happen to the development of the committees themselves? I am afraid that no reply can be given at the moment as this concerns post-war policy and I do not know anything about it myself. The hon. and gallant Member referred to other questions which, like "the flowers that bloom in the Spring," have nothing to do with this Bill at all. I am sorry I could not give him any satisfaction on these matters at all. This, however, is not regarded as the last word in agricultural legislation, but we do think that the first two Clauses are a useful start for post-war reconstruction; and there are other minor Clauses which will help us to continue with our food production campaign during the war, so that the people of these Islands will continue to be fed decently, despite any shipping problems that may arise.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Mr. Hudson
I beg to move,That the Bill be referred to the Examiners; that the Examiners do examine the Bill with respect to compliance with Standing Order 72A relating to Private Business.
§ Mr. Hudson
I understand that this is a hybrid Bill because it affects private interests in relation to the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, and has to comply with normal procedure. The Bill has to go to a Joint Select Committee before it can be referred to a Committee of this House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.