§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That ", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, conscious of the continued need for maximum food production at home, deplores the failure of His Majesty's Government to face the shortage of manpower in agriculture and to take effective steps to attract additional labour to the land; regrets the active discouragement of the re-conditioning of farm cottages; and is of the opinion that the farming community will be unable to produce the quantities of food required by the nation during the next decade unless there is a determined and sustained drive to remedy these defects and to provide amenities and better housing conditions in the countryside.By one of those fortunate coincidences which happens so seldom in this House, the Debate today follows closely upon the discussion on the world food situation in which we were engaged last Thursday. Then we faced the realities of the world food situation; today it is my privilege to direct the attention of the House to the realities of our home agricultural situation and to see what hindrances there are to maximum food production. I wonder if there is not another coincidence. I believe that it is ten years ago almost to a day since the right hon. Lady the present Minister of Education, moving Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Estimates, proposed a Motion concerning equal pay for men and women in the Civil Service which resulted in the defeat of His Majesty's Government of that time. I hope that history may repeat itself this evening—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
—and that the sympathy that will be shown in all parts of the House for the farmworkers will 1658 not be less than was displayed on that occasion for the subject of the Motion proposed by the right hon. Lady.
The Government's agricultural policy, founded as it was upon the basis of the arrangements made by the National Government, commands support in all parts of the House, but it can succeed only if there is sufficient agricultural labour to carry it out. Yet all the evidence goes to show that the decline in the agricultural population, which has been a disquieting feature of the last 60 or 70 years, has not been reversed, that demobilised Servicemen who were formerly employed upon the land are not all returning to it, that children leaving school are not entering the agricultural industry, and that the average age of persons employed in agriculture is rising. Before the depression of the nineties. 1,500,000 persons were employed upon the land in Great Britain; by the time of the 1931 census that number had fallen to 1,194,000. It is not easy to compare census figures—which include under agricultural employment persons employed in forestry—with those supplied in the Monthly Digest of Statistics, which exclude the occupiers of farm holdings, but it appears from the Monthly Digest that at the outbreak of war, 711,000 men were employed upon the land. Last year the number of regular agriculturists, excluding prisoners of war and members of the Women's Land Army—or rather, if I may reverse that and say excluding the Women's Land Army and prisoners of war—did not exceed 675,000. I should think from the answer to which we were referred at Question Time a little while ago, that the number will be substantially less than 675,000.
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, speaking in Glasgow about a fortnight ago, said that the number of farmworkers in Scotland, which had reached a low ebb in 1939, had since declined by 5½ per cent. I have been unable to find comparable figures for England and Wales, but from the calculations that I have made—although arithmetic is not my strong point—it would appear that the decline in England and Wales has not been much less if less at all. But a total number is not the only test, because there is an abnormally high number of workers in agriculture over the age of 65. Last year over 27,000 persons 1659 working in agriculture in the United Kingdom were over the age of 65. That means that there will be a very high rate of wastage. At the other end, what about new entrants to agriculture? What about the Government agricultural training scheme? I do not think that there is any hon. Member with any knowledge who would stand up in this House and claim that that is a success—about 2,000 men in an industry employing altogether about 750,000. The joint Under-Secretary of State confessed frankly in his Glasgow speech—he had to because there had been only 78 volunteers in Scotland for acceptance of this agricultural training scheme —that the scheme had been a complete failure I wish to say this about the scheme. I do not think it has been well put over to the ex-Serviceman or to the chap who is leaving the Forces, and I do not think it has been handled with imagination.
I should like to give one example, from my own constituency in Scotland. A constituent of mine, Lady MacRobert, a woman of the greatest generosity—as many hon. Members know, and anyone who was in the Royal Air Force well knows—conceived what I think was the magnificent idea of placing a large part of her Douneside estate—where she had an almost unrivalled farm with all the latest devices—at the disposal of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland for training 24 ex-Servicemen. She wanted to call it the El Alamein Training Centre, and she approached the Ministry of Labour. She said, "I will build accommodation for these men, provided I can have some huts as a temporary measure. I will provide the instruction. The farms are here, the herds are here, and we will give them the finest training in the land." What happened? She went to the Ministry of Labour last summer but was unable to get any satisfactory response from them, so she went to the Department of Agriculture, who said: "It will be a good idea. Let us have a conference on the site. We will get all the interested parties. We will get the agricultural executive committees, the Ministry of Labour representative and everybody who is concerned in any way. They can all come down and we can talk it over on the premises." Nothing further happened. In September, Lady MacRobert wanted to know what was being done, so she asked 1660 the Department. They said: "We think we had better postpone the conference. We are not getting many applicants." Another letter came the following month. Letters came at monthly intervals, all saying: "Sorry but we think we had better postpone the matter, as we are not getting enough applicants." I took the matter up. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland very kindly promised me that someone would go down and have a talk with Lady MacRobert. Very nearly three quarters of a year have passed, but absolutely nothing has been done.
I cannot help thinking that if any Imagination had been shown about this matter, all the interested parties would have gone there and shown that they appreciated the generous offer that had been made. They would have thrashed out the proposal, worked out some scheme, and advertised it locally. I am sure that local people, and especially men of the 51st Highland Division, would have been keen to go to a centre called the El Alamein Training Centre, to learn about farming. Nothing has happened. It is typical of the lack of imagination and of determination which the Government are showing in connection with the training scheme.
What are the causes of the drift from the land, and the reluctance to return to it? I recently made a study of the replies to a questionnaire which covered the whole field of agricultural employment. It seems to me, from a preliminary perusal of the replies, which have come from all over the country, that there are four main causes. The first cause is the poor accommodation. Then comes the lack of amenities in the countryside; thirdly, the status of the farm worker, and fourthly the question of the stability of his wage. I want briefly to examine those four causes before I pass to the latter part of my subject, when I shall venture to put forward some suggested remedies.
There is not the least doubt that the poor standard of rural housing is right at the top of the list of the things which are deterring people from going back to the land. It is scarcely to be wondered at when we consider that, since 1918, capital has been drawn from the land to the extent of nearly £3,000,000 a year in Death Duties, and that the agricultural landlord has been further impoverished by the fact that agricultural land was yielding 2 to 2½ per cent. at a time when 1661 gilt-edged securities were yielding 4 to 4½per cent. Although much has been done to improve rural housing, the conditions in which the majority of our country folk live leave much to be desired. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] No doubt that opinion is shared in many parts of the House. That is particularly true as regards domestic sanitation and water supply. I have met those folk who said that they did not want what they called "the electric," because they thought it would make them blind, but that is only true of some of the older people. The young people want, and deserve, decent homes with reasonable living conditions.
The question of accommodation for single men is a distinct problem. Because of the impossibility of obtaining domestic help in the farm houses, the farmers' wives can no longer look after the "bothy" men. Those men, finding that there is no possibility of living in the already overcrowded, small cotter houses, are among the first to leave the land and go to the towns. Moreover, the young man and his wife are deterred by the lack of amenities in the countryside. Beer and the movies—our twentieth century interpretation of "bread and circuses "—are not without their attractions for young men who have enjoyed the comradeship of Army life. It is understandable that the advantages of a day off a week, a free week end occasionally, the proximity of shops, schools and places of entertainment, should be placed high on the list of what is desirable, though the disadvantages of the distance from the nearest village can be sensibly reduced by improved transport facilities.
I have no doubt that it is widely felt that a kind of stigma attaches to work on the farms and that farm workers are regarded by townsmen as poor relations, for whom anything will do. I have had that point of view brought very forcibly to my notice in reading an answer which I came across the other day by a landowner in, I think, Berkshire: He writes:It is undoubtedly the fact that the agricultural labourer is regarded by the main bulk of the rest of industry as an inferior being, and until this stigma can be removed I see little hope for any ' back to the land ' movement. By many townees, agriculture is not regarded as an industry at all but as something quite apart, mainly served by rather picturesque or stupid old farmers, with sub-humans for labourers. You will find that attitude with rating officers. I have had them 1662 argue on my estate that such and such a cottage could not be rated as an agricultural cottage because it was too good.No-one tries to present a farming career in a favourable light, and certainly not the employment exchanges and least of all the schools. Our prospective entrant to the farming industry learns that the pert young school teacher in the village school constantly allows it to be inferred that the bright boys will be able to carve out for themselves a career in the cities, and that only the dullards will undertake the toil of farm work.
Mrs. Leah Manninģ (Epping)
Will the hon. Member tell the House whether he is talking about Scotland? What he is saying is certainly not true of the English villages. Very far from it.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I have not been talking about the Epping Division, in which I am certain there are teachers who would not say that kind of thing.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
Would the hon. Member say to what pad of England he is referring?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Yes, Sir, I will. I am speaking now of the evidence which I gathered from answers which were sent from all over the country in reply to a questionnaire. There is evidently a widespread feeling that numbers of rural children are encouraged by their school teachers to go to the towns and that it is suggested to them that agricultural employment is an inferior thing, fit only for the dullards.
§ Mrs. Middleton
May I ask in what parts of the country such suggestions are being made in the schools?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I do not think the hon. Lady could have heard my answer. I said, broadly speaking all over the country. Our prospective entrant to the agricultural industry does not know whether there is anything in that, but his wife seems to think there might be; at any rate, she has the idea that it would confer a kind of social distinction on the family if they went to the town and worked there. And in any case, there is no holding her since she left the A.T.S.
The next point with which I wish to deal is the stability of farm wages. In the past, farm wages have compared unfavourably with those paid in comparable industries in the countryside.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
It is true that a minimum wage of 70s. a week, with a farm cottage in respect of which a very small amount is deducted from the wage, say, 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week, and a certain number of perquisites, will compare very favourably with the 35s. a week minimum wage paid before the war, but the thoughtful man is wondering if this 70s. has come to stay. I want to quote one small extract from a book which I am certain everybody who is interested in this problem has read, and from which they will have derived the greatest advantage. It is "Wages on the Farm" by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) and in it the statement is made that, in 1914, the agricultural wage was 18s. It rose during the 1914–18 war, and still more in the transition period after that war, to the high peak of 46s. 10½d. Then it slumped to 28s., when the Corn Production Act was repealed.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I will tell the hon. Member that, and something else as well. The Corn Production Act was repealed in 1922—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
By the Coalition Government, and I join with the hon. Member in deploring that, but I want to say that ever since that time, the agricultural industry has had to compete with cheap imports introduced from all the four corners of the earth—driving the conditions of agriculture and the agricultural labourer down and down. Hon. Members on the other side of the House voted, time and time again, against any action which would really put agriculture on its feet. It was only when a Tory Government in 1931 had the courage of its convictions and introduced a moderate protective tariff, that agriculture was saved. I wonder if the hon. Member—this is a digression but I have been provoked to it—was present in the House of Commons on Thursday last when the Independent Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Boyd Orr), who has such a knowledge of all food questions, said this: 1664I am not sure whether or not all hon. Members of the House are aware of the great reputation of this country. Between the two wars, when there was grave malnutrition, a series of measures was taken, resulting in the saving of agriculture, rendering it more prosperous, and improving out of all recognition the feeding of the people of this country."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1946; Vol. 421, c. 1440.]Those measures were, of course, those based on the moderate protective tariffs introduced by the Tory Party and opposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends.
I return to our prospective entrant to the agricultural industry. He is not a fool. He knows these things, and he knows that British agriculture is being subsidised to the extent of about £158 million a year, and he wonders what will happen to his wage if the taxpayer gets tired of subsidising the home producer to this extent.
I pass to the remedies which I think ought to be applied. How can these fears be allayed? The Government must, somehow, show the farmworkers that they are determined to make work on the farm a way of life which is honourable and reasonably well paid, and that no effort will be spared to improve rural housing and to provide amenities which will compare favourably with those offered in a progessive market town. But words alone will not convince him. The Government have to show that they mean business. First, I take the question of housing. There is, of course, great need for new houses in rural areas, but there are a great many cottages which are perfectly sound but which need reconditioning in order to bring them up to modern standards of comfort. I want to quote what the Lord Privy Seal said in this House on 17th August last:I agree about reconditioning. I am not turning it down at all. It is vital, it is an immediate contribution. I agree about that. I say that we must take it in our stride as part of the general housing programme …" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 257.]Why did the Government change their minds about reconditioning? We have never been told. I want particularly to ask that question since the official statements of the Lord Privy Seal have received such influential and expert support in the interim report of the rural housing sub-committee which was presented to the Central Housing Advisory 1665 Committee on 18th January last. This is not a very long report and I want to remind the House of one or two of its recommendations. I quote:Reconditioning is both necessary and urgent to assist in the raising of standards of rural housing in the post-war agricultural population.The report goes on to deal with the availability of labour and to say that it had come to the conclusion that without diversion from new building the main consensus of opinion in the bodies consulted—and these include all the influential bodies which are concerned with land, from the Central Landowners Association to the County Councils Association, the National Farmers Union, the National Union of Agricultural Workers, the Rural District Councils Association, the Sanitary Inspectors Association and so on—
§ Mr. Gooch (Norfolk, Northern)
May I ask the hon. Member whether the National Union of Agricultural Workers supported reconditioning?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The report said the "main consensus of opinion" from the bodies I have indicated. I am not to know. I am a layman. I was not on the Committee. But it was the main consensus of opinion that reconditioning in rural districts could be carried out by many small builders in the country who are not large enough to tackle new building effectively or on a competitive basis. Much of their labour, the report says, is immobile and is normally employed on repairs and reconditioning. The subcommittee went on to consider whether reconditioning in rural areas could increase accommodation, and it decided that accommodation could be increased by the addition or enlargement of rooms and by maintaining in use houses which would otherwise cease to be habitable.
Could any document, short as it is, be more damaging to the policy of His Majesty's Government than this report? I have not the slightest doubt that it was for this reason that the publication of this interim report was suppressed. It was only upon pressure from my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), and others, that a typescript copy of this report, which was made, let us not forget, on 18th January last, was placed in the Library on 21st March; and that this publication was made only at 1666 the end of last week—eleven weeks to a day after the report was deposited. I am bound to say that unless the Government can produce today some convincing reason for the delay in issuing this very damaging report, they will lay themselves open to the charge of political dishonesty in seeking to suppress a document of this importance.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member is quite aware of the meaning of the word "interim." Now I come to the question of tied cottages, and I cannot help feeling that at the back of this refusal to do anything to help with the reconditioning of cottages in the countryside, is a feeling that the Government will not do anything to perpetuate the system of tied cottages. That is the view at least in some quarters of the House. I regret very much that this question of the tied cottage is being made a political issue. It should not be a political issue at all. In Scotland we have about 85 per cent. of our farm workers in tied cottages. I speak to the men living in them, and I have not yet met one who would prefer to live in a village three or four miles from his work and be unable to get home to his dinner in the middle of the day. I cannot find amongst the men themselves any great antipathy to the tied cottage. The real solution, I have always said and I say again, is to build sufficient cottages in the countryside and in the villages, so that the men will have a choice between living in the free cottage in the village, or in the tied cottages on the farm. In the meantime, the urgent task is to provide decent accommodation for farm workers. By the extent to which the Government realise this, and act upon it, will they be judged.
I want to say one more thing about rural housing, and that is in regard to economic rents. I am sure that the sooner cottages in the countryside are let at economic rents, the better. To say that a farm cottage may only be let at a standard rate of 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week, when the economic rent is about 10s. a week, only makes sense if the State, or some 1667 other beneficent organisation, is making up the difference to the landlord in the form of a subsidy. Agricultural rents should be fixed regionally by the new rent tribunals at figures which will enable landowners to maintain their properties in good repair, and county wages committees should arrange for rent tribunals to decide the deductions to be made from wages in respect of the tied cottages.
I shall make only a passing reference to the question of amenities because hon. Friends of mine on these benches will deal in detail with things like rural electrification, improved transport facilities, brighter village life, and so on. There must be a coordinated plan which will include the contributions which can be made by almost every Government Department and by voluntary organisations and local enterprise. I want to give one or two examples, first, about rural electrification. I have brought up in the House before the question of the Grampian Electric Supply Company's extension of supply from Ballater to Braemar in my constituency. The route was plotted, the way-leaves arranged, and the contract was placed, when the war came along and all that work had to be given up. We still have the route plotted, we still have the wayleaves arranged, but the work cannot go on because of the shortage of timber poles. Rural electrification throughout Britain is being held up simply through the shortage of timber poles. This ought to have been foreseen by a Government which should be capable of looking ahead and seeing when these things are wanted.
Every village in the countryside should have a convenient, well-lighted, attractive village hall, and where these things are not present, and where there are no facilities for a cinema projector, I would like to see them provided through the agency of war memorial funds and welcome home funds. The Government can help by making cinema Projectors and a travelling library of the best British films available to go round the villages. The Government can help again by encouraging in every possible way the best concert parties, such as used to be sent through E.N.S.A. during the war, and by encouraging and developing the work of the 1668 Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the Government are already doing just that? In a Scottish village I know, we have such a projector, and we use on it a very large number of films provided by the Government. We are much indebted to the assistance of Government bodies in that matter.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am very glad to hear from the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) about conditions in Scotland—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
My great regret is that we do not see much of these facilities in other parts of Scotland. I turn briefly to the question of education. We have to bring into this the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education, and the Department of Education for Scotland. We have to ensure that adequate transport is available from the outlying districts to the rural schools, we have to make quite certain that no complaints are made in future that young persons are deterred by their teachers from going on the land, and we have to be quite sure, too, that education in rural districts gives children a pride and interest in farming as a way of life.
I pass to the question of wages. The Government policy, as I understand it, has been to stabilise the cost of living and to fix farm prices at a level sufficient to encourage maximum home food production. The gross cost of this policy to the State is about f £308 million a year at the present time, of which £158 million is for home grown supplies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech of 22nd October said that he was inquiring whether he could not hold the cost of living steady at a lower cost in total subsidy. It seems clear that a material reduction in the total amount of the subsidy paid could only be effected in one of three ways—by buying food from overseas more cheaply, by charging the consumer more for his food, in other words by raising the cost of living, or by diminishing the income of the agricultural industry. It seems to me unlikely, in present circumstances, that we shall be able to buy food from overseas more cheaply than at present, and the Chancellor has said he does not intend to raise the cost 1669 of living. If he really does mean that, then the continued prosperity of British agriculture, and with it the worker's wage, will depend upon the willingness of the taxpayer—of whom about nine to one live in towns—to go on paying a subsidy to the home producer of the order of £158 million a year. It is perhaps bold of me to suggest a remedy, but in my view the remedy is that the Treasury policy of pegging food prices at the present level, should give way to a policy of closing the gap over a period of years, between the price received by the home producer—less of course the subsidy—and that paid by the consumer.
I believe the farm wage should he related to agricultural prices and fixed at the annual price review, with an agreed minimum wage and, as soon as practicable, a graded system with adequate recognition for special skill and responsibilities.
The peace of the countryside, its virile manhood and the ordered beauty of its ancient ways, have seldom been more greatly needed than they are in these restless, unquiet, anxious days. Yet they can only remain a permanent and stabilising feature of our national life if they are supported and sustained by a rural population which is secure in its present, and confident in its future. To bring this about is an urgent task and national duty which His Majesty's Government will neglect at their peril.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Would the hon. ember answer a question before he finishes his speech? Could I put this point to him?
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member for West Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) does not give way, the hon. Gentleman is not entitled to interrupt.
§ 4.4 P.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am glad to support the case which has been so admirably presented by my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). In my view this Debate is a sequel to the Debate of last Thursday, when the Prime Minister and the Minister of Food described the sudden adversities that caught them unaware. Today we are examining the steps the Government have taken to tackle this situation by supplying 1670 and encouraging labour to produce the food we require in this country. It would appear from the White Paper that in last September, it was clear there was going to be a grave cereal shortage in this country. I think it is fair to ask what steps were then taken to secure the 90,000 agricultural workers who were serving in the Forces, to help put that position right. Two months later, when we asked how many of these agricultural workers had been released, we were told that 380 had been released. In my own county not a single agricultural worker had by then been released under Class B. After pressure from hon. Members of the Opposition, the Government, early in December, agreed that 10,000 of these 90,000 should be released under a scheme of block releases. I remember asking the Minister of Labour how this was to work. His reply was:We hope we shall be able to release them co rapidly that the question of priority need not arise."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1945; Vol. 417, c. 622.]That was in December. At that time, many of us asked that the number should not be 10,000 but 20,000, in view of the facts of the food situation as we saw it. In January, under pressure, the Minister of Labour agreed to make that 10,000 18,000. Then, in February, indeed on the very day when the Government broke their silence about the facts of the food position, it was discovered that whilst the Government were promising to release another 8,000 they were proposing to call up a further 8,000 from agriculture. It required the persuasiveness of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) to make them suspend that call-up until after the harvest. Last month, apparently without any publicity—I might even say surreptitiously—the Minister of Labour announced that all men in the Forces who had had 12 months' service would be released under Class B.
That is a recital of events leading up to this situation. The only other factor I would mention is this. The most recently announced figure in connection with the 90,000 releases from the Forces is 5,188, nine months after the Government were aware of the cereal position, and five months after they changed their policy. Those facts are a grave indictment of the Government's handling of this situation. Too late, they realised the importance of 1671 labour for increasing food production in this country. When they had changed that policy, they were lethargic in carrying it out, contradictory in coordinating their policy of call-up and releases, and so bound by red tape that it has taken them five months to release 5 per cent. of the men from agriculture in the Forces. What is the defence to this policy of the Government? I think it is this. They say it is quite true that they are not drawing many men out of the Forces for agriculture, but that they rely on prisoner of war labour. That is a very dangerous policy. Men who arrive late, and leave early, men who work in a conqueror's country, earning ¾d. to ½d. an hour, and that extra ¾d. not dependent upon the work being well done, men who are changed to another job when they are just getting used to a farm—those are the men on whom this Government are staking their hopes for increased food production at the present time. These men are not satisfactory substitutes for those skilled agricultural workers who have been kept far too long in the Forces.
Let us remember that however unskilled, however idle these men upon whom the Government are resting their agricultural labour policy, the farmer is having to pay for them the full agricultural minimum rate. If the farmer is to be forced to pay for these men, instead of the British working man whom he would rather have, if he is forced to pay for them what is called the rate for the job, will the Government see to it that these men do that job efficiently? Let them see to it that these men work the same hours as the rest of the team on the farm. Let the Government give them an incentive in the shape of some bonus which they can send home. Let them not change these prisoners of war from job to job, from farm to farm. I would plead: Let us stop this stupidity of making it unlawful for a farmer to give a prisoner of war a cigarette or a present for a good piece of work. I ask the Minister of Agriculture to deal with some of these facts when he replies.
Surely, our attitude is to make agriculture more attractive for the British working man to enter it. Others of my hon. Friends will be speaking on rural amenities, which I agree are a preponderating factor in deterring men from entering agriculture. I wish to say a word or two 1672 about wages. We in this House have to consider why the minimum wage in agriculture is below the wages in so many other industries. It is quite true that it is only a minimum. I estimate that the average earnings in agriculture amount to something like 10 per cent. over the minimum wage. When the Minister replies perhaps he can tell us how accurate or inaccurate that estimate is. There are also perquisites that increase the value of the wage. It is however quite clear that apart from all that, the skilled man in agriculture is receiving a wage which is below the wage which an unskilled man in other industries is receiving. I was very sorry to read last week that the three unions had found it impossible to work out a scheme for grading wages. I must confess that I found it hard to understand the small paragraph in "The Times," because while at one point they said it was unworkable they talked about it being, long-term, a most desirable method. Perhaps the Minister will try to unravel some of the contradictions in that statement.
In my view, it is vital that we should aim not merely at increasing the minimum wage in agriculture but at increasing the average earnings in the industry. How are earnings in the agricultural industry to be increased from any other source except prices? Wages must depend upon prices. When there was this prospective cereal famine last autumn, what steps did the Government take to increase the price of cereals, so that wages could be increased and men attracted to the industry? So far as I am aware, wheat prices were allowed to remain at£2 per acre less than the previous year. Barley prices were down 10s. a quarter. I do not complain about the price fixing that was done in the February review; the burden of my complaint is that when there was that cereal shortage in September, steps should have been taken to attract men to cereal growing. In the event, the returns for the 1946 harvest will, according to my calculation, be £8,000,000 down as a result of those price alterations.
Coal and machinery charges have meanwhile gone up. The cost of raising agricultural wages in this country by a fiat increase of 5s. all round is £11,000,000. In my view, the Government have not applied their mind to increasing agricultural wages by increasing prices, 1673 and I believe that one of the reasons the Wages Board is faced with a difficulty, is the fact that the Government have not shouldered their responsibilities in this matter. They have a duty to discharge. They should state what, in their view, is the part agriculture must play in the life of Britain. They must define the comparison between the wage for skilled work in agriculture, and that for skilled work in other industries. I have gone into the detail instead of merely saying that the Government must have a wages policy, because that is what a wages policy means—the status of agriculture and the workers in agriculture and the comparison between the level of the agricultural wages and other industrial wages. So long as there is a system of fixed prices in any industry prices must conform with wages. It is no use saying that such a policy leads to inflation. So long as the Government fix prices, there is always a tendency to inflation—that is an inherent vice in wage fixing by the Government—but unless it is badly handled there will not be inflation.
In other industries, when wages rise prices also rise, not after 12 months' delay, but immediately. We have the position now that in other industries prices are rising, but agricultural prices have not risen. Why is that? The difference is what I have spoken of before, the vicious system of subsidies. When other industries have wage increases, they can put up the price, and nobody minds, but if we in agriculture put up our wages the increase in price has to be wrung out of a tight-fisted Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a great misfortune that the Chancellor has made that position even more durable by saying that he intends to keep to the policy of cheap food in pegging the cost of living. As long as I have been in the House the policy of cheap food has been the cause of the neglect of agriculture. I believe today that at least on this side of the House, and I hope also on the other side of the House, there is recognition of the fact that this neglect of agriculture, if continued, will do irreparable damage to the nation. The present food shortage is a sign and portent of what will happen if that policy is continued. The Government have been very blind. They have ignored the signs and portents. They have been complacent and, I believe have not shown the sense of urgency that these problems deserve.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South Western)
We welcome this opportunity to develop an interest in the cause of British agriculture. I cannot help reflecting on the great service which the people of this country rendered to hon. Members opposite at the last Election when they placed the Conservative Party in Opposition in this House. The people gave the Conservative Party the chance to renew their interest in the welfare of British agriculture. I do not wish to go into any barren controversy over what has happened in past years, but I think that the intentions of His Majesty's Government, as stated in their policy before the Election, will, with the abundant aid of hon. Members opposite, prove of great benefit to British agriculture in the years to come. After all, there will be no opposition to whatever His Majesty's Government undertake in the interests of British agriculture and for the purpose of home food production.
First I wish to touch on the question of housing which is mentioned in the Amendment. Regret is expressed that encouragement is not being given at present for the reconditioning of cottages. I think the Government have taken a decision to build as many new cottages as is possible with the labour and material available for building purposes. If that decision were implemented throughout the country, there would be very little material and labour available for reconditioning. The small builders who have been mentioned are needed to maintain essential repairs, instead of attempting to deal with the bigger task of reconditioning cottages. It seems to me that this Government have made the greatest and most expensive provision for the building of new cottages in rural Britain that has ever been undertaken. There is a provision whereby any farmer, or landowner, can have a subsidy of £15 a year for 40 years in order to build cottages for his workers. That is a considerable amount in the form of subsidy for the building of new cottages, but that is by no means the end of the story as I see the position. Under the Finance Act of 1945, of the amount which those people can spend on the building of new houses they can get remission of Income Tax at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum. The result is they get back the whole of their share in 10 years in addition to the subsidy that is being offered from the Ministry of 1675 Health. Was ever such an offer put before the farmers or landowners of this country to enable them to provide for their workers?
So far as local authorities are concerned, I can only speak with experience of one part of the country, the Eastern counties, where today there is greater activity in the building of cottages for the rural workers than there has been in any single year from 1919 to 1945. I speak as a member of not only a county council, but a rural district council. I also speak with knowledge provided by others who are members of rural district councils. We are obviously tackling the question of houses on a broader basis than has ever been done before. The question is not only one of making provision for those who desire to build— a number of farmers are already taking advantage of the position—but of the re-planning of our villages so as to enable modern amenities to be brought to all of them. We have inherited a situation in which there is no pure water supply to the greater part of the countryside. Plans, arrangements, and schemes have already been formulated, and are in the course of sanction by the Ministry of Health, providing for a plentiful supply of water to our rural villages. We are going much further and investigating the question of sewerage and other matters, improvement in which will bring amenities to agricultural villages. I am looking forward to the greatest development that has ever been seen in rural England, as regards housing and other amenities. We recognise that this is a job that must be done within the next few years. I think the Government are right and wise in delaying the reconditioning of old cottages until we can see the full extent to which it is possible to provide modern cottages throughout the country. The Amendment also regrets… the failure of His Majesty's Government to face the shortage of manpower in agriculture and to take effective steps to attract additional labour to the land…Here we have another problem, and I think the Government must face it. We need more men in agriculture. We must have them. The country needs greater food production and we must see that it is forthcoming. The only way in which to get more men and women on to the 1676 land, and to retain those who are there, is by paying better wages than those in force at the present time. That was, and still is the policy of the Labour Party, as stated before the Election. It was quite fairly stated:The National Wages Board has at last become endowed with full authority, and it is essential that it should be maintained with such machinery that its decisions can be made operative without delay. In the past agricultural wages have fallen far below the rates operative in other industries. This must not he permitted again. The National Board must raise wages and conditions at least to the level of skilled workers in other trades.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
The hon. Member said that raising wages was the only way to get people back to the land and to keep people there. Surely, he means that it is the principal step to be taken.
§ Mr. Dye
Without raising wages we shall not be able to maintain those who are there, or attract new entrants to agriculture. Obviously, it is the principal thing and the thing without which all other things will be a failure. It is no use providing new and better cottages and other amenities if the people have not the money with which to pay for them. Therefore, the central point of any agricultural policy must be an increase in wages for the workers.
Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braith-waite (Holderness)
Would the hon. Member give his opinion on this matter? Suppose that is the signal for rises in other wages, as has so often happened before? Is it not necessary to have a wages policy covering all industries?
§ Mr. Dye
If we take the situation as it is, and as it has been for the last six months, other workers—engineers, miners, building workers and numerous others—have had increases of 6s. a week in some cases and more in others. If the same thing goes en, the bigger will be the gap between the agricultural wage and that of other industrial workers. But I would point out that the policy of the Labour Party before the Election—and I take it still to be the policy—is that the wages of the farmworkers should be comparable with the wages of other industrial workers in this country. If the wages of other workers go up, then there is a bigger step to be taken regarding the wages of agricultural workers. After 1677 all, the skill of the farmworker is comparable with the skill of the man who works on the railway, or even of that of the man who builds houses. His skill is essential to the wellbeing of British agriculture—in fact, we must develop a still greater skill amongst our farm-workers in the use of modern machinery and scientific devices for the improvement of our crops and our stock. As the school leaving age is raised, first to 15 and then to 16, agriculture will have to adjust itself to a different type of recruit —boys and girls with more education than entrants had in the past. In our younger days, there was an abundant supply of juvenile labour for British agriculture, and every farm would have plenty of boys at about 2s. 6d., or 3s or 4s. a week. But that will no longer be the case. Therefore, agriculture must be made attractive, not only to these juveniles who are better educated, but to all those who want to take a greater interest in that form of employment.
In the past, it has been proved that the people of this country have all too commonly taken the view that they wanted cheap food. They tended, therefore, to compare the wages of the worker in agriculture in this country, with the wages of agricultural workers in other food-producing countries which can export their products to this country. Whatever may be the conditions in other countries, we cannot accept them for this country, and, as international machinery for the purpose is developed, we hope and expect that wages will be raised in agricultural countries in other parts of the world. We are concerned today, however, to see this policy effectively carried out by raising the general level of farm workers' wages in this country, to compare with wages in other industries. The productivity of labour in agriculture in this country is rising, particularly in the arable parts of the country, but whereas, in previous years, a great many men were required on every farm, increased mechanisation now means that fewer people can produce far more food, where mechanisation is used.
I was speaking only a short time ago with a farmer friend of mine who, employing two men and a girl in his dairy, received in January for the milk he had sold, a cheque for £300. I have, for the past three years, taken a keen interest 1678 in the amount of food which I have produced on my own farm, and I have found that three of us can produce over £900 worth of food a year each measured on farm prices at the present time, so that, in terms of value, the worker, where he is employed with increased mechanisation, is becoming more productive. I was speaking only last evening with a farmer neighbour, who tells me that last year he paid no less than £5,400 in taxation on a farm of 800 acres, and he was paying wages vastly in excess of the minimum wage. I find that, speaking generally, in the Eastern counties, the greater the income per man, whether by piece work or by special rates, the greater the value of the men's labour to the country in the food they are producing. Because of the position of our country today, in relation to international trade and financial burdens, we must have far greater production from our land. We want to see our men increase their interest in their work, and also increase their skill at their work; we want to see coming along younger people who fill the ranks, so that the day will come very soon when not a single prisoner of war will be employed on our farms.
After all, this idea that we can deal with the men in agriculture from the point of view of figures, is all wrong. It is what a man produces that matters, and the interest he takes in his life and work on the farm. It is quite wrong to see members of the Women's Land Army with five years' experience leaving the land, while at the same time we are launching a campaign to recruit another 20,000 or 30,000 to take their places. These recruits cannot bring in the skill and knowledge possessed by those who are leaving the industry, and it is all wrong to have something in the nature of a Women's Land Army, which pays a general wage to its members, and does not enable them to take part in piece work or in special work for which they are suited because of their experience over a period of years. We must look at this problem from the point of view of the productivity of labour. We must train our people now and in the future to acquire a far greater skill in the use of modern implements, so that every acre of our land brings forth the utmost in foodstuffs and wealth for the good of our country. We should make that the basis of our policy for the future.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
We are much indebted to the hon. Member who moved this Amendment today, although, in regard to short-term policy, I do not know that I agree with all there is in it. This is both a short-term and a long-term problem, and it is most urgent and important in country life today. From the immediate, short-term point of view, perhaps enough has already been said. None of us in the country like to be so dependent on German or Italian prisoners. We do not believe in their conditions of labour, and we want to see the agricultural industry on a much firmer and sounder foundation than that of prisoner labour. I am one of those who will not be content until the agricultural worker is treated on an equality with workers doing similar jobs in other industries. I do not see that there is any justification for the community, as a whole, accepting the position in which the agricultural worker receives a wage which is lower than that of the railwayman, the miner, the road-man, the bus driver or any other class of worker.
I agree with the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) that one means of solving this problem is to increase the output per man. I agree also that by greater efficiency in mechanisation and by changed methods, in some respects, that output has greatly increased recently and will steadily increase over the whole industry. I have a feeling that the failure of the training scheme—and it is a failure; let us recognise that fact—the failure to get new men out of the Forces into agriculture, is because it is a training scheme for workers. Whether the Ministry agree or not, I believe that the man who has been in the Services and goes into agriculture is willing to go in as a worker at first, provided there is some opportunity of his eventually becoming an independent producer. I do not believe that the scheme will be a success or that the recruits will be forthcoming until the very general impression, that the Minister of Labour agrees with the last Minister of Agriculture and does not encourage or welcome smallholdings, is corrected
The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk referred to what three persons could produce. I was recently on a smallholding of just over 20 acres on which 1680 six cows are kept. The owner has a heifer which has just given one thousand gallons, and about £600 worth of milk has been sold this winter. He is an exceptional man who was poultry farming before the war and went over to milk production when feeding stuffs were not available for poultry. He was an ex-soldier of the last war, after which he took up farming. I believe there is a real place for smallholdings in the agricultural life of this country and I hope that, sooner or later, this Government will agree about that. One of the reasons which I think the Minister has given why he cannot contemplate the question of smallholdings is the shortage of building materials and workers. Maybe that is true, but, eventually, there will be a place for smallholdings. If the ferment which is going on in the countryside is not to be frustrated but is to lead to a real re-creation of country life, smallholdings will have to find a place.
The position today is that the Government have a sound agricultural policy for the basic economics of the industry and the farmer has been given the sort of guarantee of stability which he could hardly have dreamed of before the war. Speaking very locally, I know that that was the very favourable impression, if I may tell the right hon. Gentleman so, which the Minister of Agriculture made when he spoke recently in Carlisle. There is a sound economic basis for the industry under the long-term policy of the Government, which was generally agreed among all parties before the end of the war. But that is not enough in the countryside where, at the present time, there is this ferment and where there is a real enthusiasm for the election of parish councils by ballot poll and keen contest over the issues involved, the living conditions of the people in the country, houses, water supplies, sewage, and electricity.
That is a broad question involving all kinds of Government Departments. There is a real opportunity for the Minister of Agriculture, perhaps the person principally involved, to give a leadership to this movement which, thank goodness, has swept the country in so many places. It is a complete change from the old conservatism and expresses its keenest dissatisfaction with conditions in the countryside today. People in the countryside have been much cut off and 1681 travelling has been very difficult during the war. The country people have had soldiers among them and people of different nationalities. They have listened to the wireless and, now that the war is over, they find the same old bad conditions which have existed far too long.
I do not know that I want to get into the controversy about whether houses should be built in the villages or near the farms. It is not realised what a big problem this is. There has been a survey of the need for houses in country districts for agricultural workers. If we take two districts surrounding small market towns about which I know, we find that in one, for instance, in a fairly wide district, there has been a most careful survey into each village and the problems of each separate farm. The results show that in a small district round a market town which is covered by a farmers' union district branch or a war agricultural executive district, in one area 93 houses are needed for agricultural workers and in another, a rather more populated district, 220 are required. These are enormous figures when it is considered that in the whole of Cumberland there are only 3,000-odd regular workers in the industry. It is a very big problem to supply the full needs of agriculture for new houses.
The people of North-West England are asked to produce more milk and more livestock, which are their chief products and require the most labour. The limiting factor in farming today is labour and the limiting factor of labour is housing. Practically no houses for agricultural workers were built between the wars and I want to know how this demand is to be met now. The last hon. Member who spoke suggested that the landowners, with the help of subsidies, might build them. I very much doubt whether they will; I think the matter will be left, as under the present arrangement, to the rural district council. The question is, Will they, in fact, carry out this programme? While there are agriculturists on district councils, there are also other interests representing the small towns. Will they build houses for agricultural workers? I do not want to become involved in the controversy about tied houses, except to quote a phrase which is not my own but which I have borrowed. I want to see cottages "tied to the industry," and not necessarily tied to any one farm. In the years between the wars, townspeople went 1682 to live in the old houses in the countryside, and they are now doing so again. They can afford to recondition those houses and make them into weekend cottages for retired people and so on. The country people are glad to have them in the countryside, but not if it means excluding farm workers. Therefore, I ask what the Minister of Agriculture is going to do to get the new houses for agricultural workers on a scale which is at all commensurate with the need of the industry as a whole.
I now want to refer to amenities. I do not wish to say much about water supplies and sewerage; of course, they are needed, but they can be supplied under existing legislation, provided the local authorities have the will to do it. Electricity is wanted more than anything else in country districts, and I want to know what the policy of the Government is about it. I note with interest that the National Farmers' Union have, like the Government, come to the conclusion that it ought to be nationalised. When is this to be done? What will happen in the meantime? When it is nationalised, how are the extensions to be carried out? Before the war there was no supply of electricity to about 44 per cent. of the dwelling houses in rural areas, taking England and Wales. There is a big job to be done and, judging by the way electricity is being developed, it is the most difficult job. Out of 366,000 agricultural holdings, only 25,000 have electricity. The difficulties in obtaining electricity are in addition to those we have in obtaining anything at the present time, such as shortage of supplies and labour. Those additional difficulties are these: When one asks an electricity undertaking to supply electricity to a particular place, one is asked first of all to pay a contribution towards the capital cost. Then one is asked for a guaranteed revenue to meet the undertaking's running costs, and in some cases they actually ask for 15 per cent. more because one happens to live in the country and not in a town; that is, after one has already guaranteed the revenue and contributed to the capital cost.
Near my county, in that intelligent and go-ahead country of Scotland, in the county of Dumfries, the county council started to develop an electricity supply before the war. They neither make a demand for capital charges, nor do they require a guaranteed minimum revenue.
1683 They fix a flat rate cost, and everybody is entitled to get electricity on the same terms. I believe that is the right way of going about the problem. When and how will that arrangement be made for people who live in counties less lucky than Dumfries? There is no uniformity of charge. In Cumberland and Westmorland, the domestic charges imposed by half a dozen different undertakings vary between 1.8d., 2.1d., 3.3d., 5.9d., and 6.4d. per unit. I believe the distribution of electricity could be greatly cheapened. It is a controversial and technical subject, but most other countries have found that it can be cheapened. I believe we should follow the daring example of the T.V.A. in America, where they reduced the charges, charged a flat rate, and found that the consumption went up so much that they were fully recompensed.
At the present time the planning is appalling, if one can call it planning. I will give one example of what happens under this system of demanding a capital charge and a guaranteed revenue. A big farmer whom I know quite well persuaded an electricity undertaking to supply electricity during the war. A transformer was put down to supply the farm. Apparently, no consideration was given to anybody else. The fanner had paid his capital charges and guaranteed revenue. Now we discover that it is impossible to extend the supply to the cottages in the village because the transformer had been put in such a position that its radius of supply will not reach the cottages. With another few hundred yards of main before the transformer was put in, all the cottages could have been supplied as well as that farm. That is typical of what goes on with electricity. Electricity undertakings are only interested in the big or relatively big supplies. I would like to quote one sentence from a report of a committee which has been investigating the situation in America They point out how the provision of electricity has revolutionised the technical side of farming and domestic life in the United States, but they add:In brief, cheap electricity in the countryside is effecting a mental as well as a physical revolution and this is, perhaps, the most important result.Can the Minister tell us something of the intentions of the Government with regard to this all-important matter? I think there is a real opportunity for 1684 leadership in recreating country life, but it involves a whole series of Ministries. Of course, the Ministry of Agriculture is involved, and the Ministry of Health is also concerned from the point of view of housing. The Ministry of Supply is involved in providing the materials for electrification, water supplies, sewage and so on. The Board of Trade is concerned with the location of industry, and certainly the Ministries of Education and of Labour are affected. Having mentioned those great Ministries, I would like to know what are the newly elected and enthusiastic members of a parish council to do when they find themselves at their first meeting, determined to modernise their village. To whom do they look, and how are they really to act? Is not this another of the cases where we want a little more coordination of Government policy, where some Cabinet Minister should be responsible for giving the leadership, the opportunity and the means of reviving country life on a modern, efficient and up to date basis, on the basis of the new belief which has come into the lives of farmers and workers, that there is life and opportunity in the countryside of Great Britain today?
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
Representing, as I do, a constituency containing some 50 villages, I am particularly glad to have this opportunity of making a contribution to this Debate. I also happen to be a farmer's son and to own several farms, and that, to some extent at any rate, focuses my interest on this subject. What is the background of the vital problem which we are discussing? I would like to say a few words about that question before putting one or two practical suggestions before the Minister. I feel that there is nothing more important than that the proper emphasis should be laid on the true and real place which agriculture and the countryside must occupy in our national life if we are to preserve our greatness as a nation. I do not think that the necessity for a rural foundation for racial stamina has as yet been fully realised in this country. In consequence, my view that our national survival may largely depend on it, is scotched, unfortunately, in quarters which should know better. The very quality of our people depends, ultimately, on the maintenance of this rural foundation; its quality is the one great virtue which we 1685 must cultivate and preserve for the sake of our future influence in the world. This all-important quality and the calibre of our fellow countrymen can, I am quite sure, be best developed in the countryside. It is certain that this quality and this calibre will never be developed while people are queueing up outside our cinemas to see the American way of life; nor when they are herded together amid bricks and mortar because economic necessity has dictated that as their surroundings.
In our recent history nothing has been so deplorable as the urbanisation which developed between the two wars; when three workers out of every ten left the land; when three million acres went completely out of cultivation. Our country craftsmen—I prefer to call them that rather than "farm labourers," and I take my cue from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Stubbs), who put the idea into my head when he spoke in the last agricultural Debate—were, between the wars, driven to the towns. A large proportion of our rural population was thereby removed from the healing influences of nature. We see the result in the poverty of spirit of many of our townspeople today. It remains forever true that it is only in the wide open spaces that men begin to feel at peace with themselves, that they feel there is something big in life. I have sensed it at sea, and many others tell me -they have sensed it in the desert under the starry skies of the Middle and the Far East. This disastrous process of drifting to the towns must cease; it must at all costs be reversed if our national life is to be adequately rehabilitated. I think we can take encouragement from the fact that many townspeople feel that rural regeneration is an urgent necessity.
In England and Wales there are some six million people still living, I am glad to say, in the countryside. They must be kept there, and their number must be increased. They can—and please God they will—form a nucleus around which we can build. Not only do I think wage increases for our country craftsmen are necessary, wage increases which will make the wages comparable, as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) so properly stressed, with their counterparts in industry, but, even more important, in some ways, are the vital and long overdue social changes in 1686 both the material and intellectual conditions of our villages.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I rather think the hon. Member implied that those figures understate what has been the effect. In the South of England there has been a recent movement of population in constituencies like mine. There are four and five times the number of people of all classes living in the country districts but getting their living in the towns, as compared with 30 years ago when the population was composed purely of farmers and agricultural labourers.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
I thank the noble Lord for his helpful and encouraging interruption. I am very glad to hear of the information which he has given the House. However, it remains true that there is and has been far too big a drift from the countryside If that process is now being put into reverse, then no one is more pleased than I am. Housing conditions, which have been referred to by all speakers, and in particular by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), are still perfectly appalling in many districts. If a survey could be made, showing the widespread deficiencies of lighting, sewerage, water supplies, transport facilities, and general amenities such as bathrooms, which exist in rural constituencies, I am sure the House and the country would be shocked by the disclosures. To some extent, I blame the county councils, the rural district councils and the parish councils.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
A survey was made during the war. This Government have got all the information. We had a Domesday survey, and the information is all available The surveys and plans for water supplies have all been made but are not being carried out.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
There is still a great deal more to be done. The fact is, some of these councils have failed to use their opportunities to the full. In many cases their members have lacked imagination and sympathy. I hope that the new, recently elected councils, with their 1687 changed personnel in many cases, will go a long way on the right road and help in the directions I desire. I am glad to think that many of these councils are now composed of people with real practical experience of the conditions to which 1 am referring. They have really progressive ideas in these matters. I hope the Minister has all these considerations in mind. I mike bold to suggest that he is not lacking in those human qualities which will enable him to appraise the position accurately. But I want to put before him one or two practical suggestions.
Firstly, the Minister must get hold of all the cash he possibly can for research. I would like to see a big increase in the demonstration farms which are under contemplation. As I see it, they should be run on commercial lines, with a complete system of accounting open for all to see. Valuable data could thus be acquired. I think one of the reasons why such a handful of Servicemen have so far come forward and volunteered to be enrolled for agriculture is because they feel the job is a dead end job. If they were given some assurance of worth-while positions, say, as managers of demonstration farms after training, the response they are making at present might be very different. Another matter requiring urgent attention is the prevention of speculation in land values. I do not think the Minister's powers in this direction are really adequate. Farms have been changing hands at four or five times their prewar value. The threat to take over badly run farms and estates will not prevent speculation unless there is, in addition, some control of land prices and an introduction of conditions of sale.
Finally, I hope the Minister will impart to our farmers a sense of real urgency. I would even ask him to chase them around a bit, in the national interest. I do not think they mind that. In fact, when I recently met my own farmers I felt they were so motivated by a sense of community service that, as a result of having those ideas and motives, they were in a position to set an example to other employers and people in other walks of life in my constituency. When the country is up against it the farmers comprise a most patriotic body of men, but only if the facts and the situation are 1688 truly presented to them. I hope that as a result of the work of this Government our villages may, in due course, again become the community centres they once were in our lovely English countryside. I look forward to the day when they will be the focal points for countless activities for lectures, indoor recreation and cultural development of all kinds. When that happens, I predict we shall not have British folk clamouring for entry into our towns, but rather will they be trying to fit themselves once again into the natural surroundings they were born to enjoy.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Major Digby (Dorset, Western)
On this occasion, I cannot help turning my mind back to a day, now longer than three and a half years ago, when the House was debating the Scott Report, a very excellent Report. I think we are entitled to wonder what has happened to it. Is it that the Minister has been spending sleepless nights wondering how to give effect to it? Or has it just been put in a dusty pigeon hole with the words "Please do not touch" pinned above it? I think we are entitled to ask what the position is about that Report, because there is no doubt that the whole of the subject we are discussing today is very ably dealt with in it. It is a little disappointing to find that now that the war in Europe has been over for some 12 months we do not seem to be any nearer to realising its recommendations.
I turn for a moment to the difficult question of the shortage of agricultural labour. We have been told that the situation is to be met by the Women's Land Army, which has done excellent work during the war, and by prisoners of war. It may be that that is going to meet the situation for the time being, although I must confess that in the constituency which I represent, the position as regards farm labour is extraordinarily bad. But that cannot possibly go on. I think we are entitled to know what is to happen when these prisoners of war go home. How long do the Government intend to keep them? It is now nearly a year since the war against Germany ended, and only recently many of these prisoners have been brought here from America. How much longer does the Minister feel entitled to keep these prisoners of war in this country and to rely on them to get us out of our difficulties? I am quite sure it is 1689 very necessary for The Minister to face up to the long-term problem and to take steps now to see that that gap can and will be filled, as it will have to be soon. Many difficulties confront the farmer today when lie is in search of labour. One of the difficulties was brought to my notice not long ago. When a farmer wishes to advertise in the local newspapers for labour which he requires urgently he has to wait a period of six weeks or more before he can have his advertisement inserted, because of the shortage of newsprint. Has the Minister considered that question?
I pass to the question of what is known as the drift from the land. There cannot be any of us who intimately know and go about villages in rural England who did not notice before the war what a shortage there was of younger men in the villages, and how many of the older men one saw there. It is quite obvious that if that kind of tendency goes on we are going to find it more and more difficult to get good men to go on the farms, and it is absolutely essential that that difficulty should be met. I agree with several other hon. Members on this side when they say they do not believe that wages are the chief difficulty. Wages are, undoubtedly, a difficulty, but they are certainly not the only difficulty, and, personally, I do not believe that they are the chief difficulty. But there is one thing I should like to say in that connection. It seems to me a very unfortunate thing that the farm worker, who, after all, is a skilled man and becoming more skilled, should be regarded as somebody who always, whatever his wages are, gets a little less than many other people employed in the countryside. That is very unfortunate, but it is true. When there is a rise in the wages of farm-workers, everybody else expects his wages to go up proportionately, keeping the farm worker always at the bottom. We have to get away from that idea and until we do we are not going to get the best men on the land.
I believe that one of the very important things we have to do to prevent this drift from the land is to increase and to improve transport in rural areas. This is a problem which we have to tackle in a most determined fashion. I do not think that many people who dwell in towns realise how difficult it is for many people who live in small villages and hamlets, to get even into a country town and back. 1690 It is a most deplorable thing, because village life, we have to admit frankly—
Mr. Paģet (Northampton)
May I make a friendly interruption? More vital still is the school bus to take children to school. That is what is wanted so urgently. Buses were taken off because they could not get petrol.
The school bus is most important. In my Division I have not had my attention drawn to any particular instance in which buses have been taken off as the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is, of course, undesirable that school children should have to walk a long distance to school because the bus company cannot get petrol. It is most important that a proper bus service should he run from every village and hamlet to the nearest country town, to enable the wife and family of a farm worker to do their shopping, to go to the local cinema and to be able to get home again the same day. Any farmer who has been engaging any farm workers will realise how much importance they attach to communications. I do not think it is sufficient merely to say that this is a need and that it will be met. We have to face frankly the point that some of those bus services, if they are to be adequate, will be uneconomic, and that it is necessary to give some form of State encouragement, perhaps in the form of the remission of licence duties, in order to encourage them to fulfil their real and important function.
Other amenities have been mentioned, and, in particular, water schemes and drainage. Water schemes are not enough. There has to be drainage. Here again there are real difficulties, because the rate-able value in many country districts is extremely low It is a real obstacle to the rapid development of those schemes because the distances in the country, unlike those in the towns, are very great and send up the costs. Special consideration is needed for these schemes. There is no doubt in my mind that electricity is far the most important of amenities. As hon. Members will remember, that was the conclusion come to in the Scott Report, because once you get electricity, it is easier to solve other problems. Electricity can be used to pump water up from wells, for example. It is absolutely essential that we should do something about electricity. I know quite well that there are examples of electricity being supplied 1691 to country villages, and of the people not taking advantage of it. That is the case in the village where I live. There are people in that village who have not taken advantage of the electricity, but I know other villages where they are most anxious to get and take the fullest advantage of electricity when it comes to them. Schemes the details of which were settled long before the war, cannot be carried out owing to the shortage of men and materials, and the Minister, I do hope, will approach his colleagues in the Cabinet to try to get more priority for those schemes so that we may push on with them.
Up to now, as far as I know, we have done nothing to implement paragraph 165 of the Scott Report, which made very definite recommendations on this subject. As Lord Justice Scott himself said a few days ago at a conference on country planning, the report made a recommendation on what should be done. At that conference we heard the way in which it should be done, namely, by a system of promotional tariffs. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) referred to the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America, and he mentioned how they and the R.E.A. had succeeded in driving down the tariffs in the area of the Authority, without heavy losses resulting, as people thought was sure to happen in those circumstances. In actual fact, it paid hand over fist, and as a result they were able to reduce their tariffs even lower, so that in the area of the Tennessee Valley Authority it was possible to reduce the cost of electricity to an average of two cents per unit, 2.2 cents in the countryside and 1.8 cents in the towns. I am quite sure that in this means of promotional tariffs lies the future of rural electricity in this country.
I hope that the Minister will look again at the recommendations of the Scott Report on this matter and 'bear in mind a promotional tariff. I urge the Minister once again to say what he has been doing and thinking about the Scott Report. How much nearer are we to receiving definite recommendations from the Government on it? I know the Government have many plans, some of which we on this side of the House do not think are of such urgency as the Government themselves consider, but I do believe that this is a question of 1692 urgency. We are at the end of a great war, and the population of this country, after a great upheaval, is settling down again on more permanent lines. It is essential that we should be sure that as many as possible return to the countryside, and that we keep the best men in the countryside, for in that lies the hope of the future prosperity of the rural areas of this country
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I am sure the House is indebted to the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Amendment calling attention to a very urgent need. I think it is clear that, if we are to carry out the programme of producing food in this country to meet the dangerous food situation in which we are placed, the problem of the supply of agricultural labour is, probably, the most important problem of all. There have been, unfortunately, alarming reports showing that the problem of that supply has become more difficult of late. The figures reported recently showed that the Women's Land Army has been reduced from 60,000 at the end of the war to little more than 30,000. A fresh campaign has had to be undertaken to try to get more recruits. We cannot keep the prisoners of war here indefinitely without raising international questions. My experience moreover is that prisoner-of-war labour is not too efficient, and in the main is rather expensive. Nothing is more expensive than inefficient labour.
I have had experience of both Italian and German prisoners of war. There are certain very good and very efficient German prisoners of war. I heard the other day of an enterprising firm of contractors who have worked out the figures on the efficiency as between the German and Italian prisoners of war in their concern. They found that one German prisoner of war was equal to 3 decimal 7 recurring, Italian prisoners of war. They reduced it to that degree of accuracy. If then we are to be efficient on the land, we must get down to the problem of the men coming out of the Army, because it is upon them that we must rely.
Much will depend, however, upon the kind of conditions the men find as to whether or not they will stay on the land. That is the thing which matters. The agricultural worker is not the man he was before the war, and he will not be con- 1693 tent unless he has better conditions than those which have existed hitherto. I agree with the point which was made about wages by the hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Digby). He said that wages were not the only matter of importance. We all agree that it is of great importance, but what I think the industry requires now is stability of wages. We do not want a situation arising, as has happened so often in the past, in which when agricultural workers' wages have been fixed at what can be regarded as a reasonable level, other workers in rural areas feel they are entitled to an increase just because the agricultural workers have received so much. That is a stigma upon the agricultural worker, and it is wrong in every way. The agricultural worker is as good as, if not better than, any other class of worker. That situation is bad for the industry, which requires stability instead of constant change.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
Before the hon. Member leaves that point, will he tell us I low he proposes to achieve what, obviously, both sides of the House seem to desire?
§ Mr. Price
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to suggest that the Government should take upon themselves the duty of fixing wages or stating a national wage policy, then I say at once that that is a matter which rests with the trade unions, and that the policy of the Government is right in backing up the unions, and using the machinery which has been set up.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
Does the hon Member mean that the strongest trade union should be able to beat the weakest trade union in the fight for better wages?
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member will remember that that is what happened (luring the war. He will remember that when a trade union applied to the Agricultural Wages Board for an increase and it was granted, another trade union, and perhaps two, promptly applied for further increases for other workers in order to keep ahead of them
§ Mr. Price
That is just what I say is undesirable. It is a stigma upon the agricultural workers, when their wages are fixed at a certain rate, that others come along and ask for more, just because the agricultural workers have obtained so much. I agree with those who say it is undesirable.
I wish now to refer to the question of grading. I must say that I felt a little attracted at first to this proposition, but when one looks into it, one can see many difficulties in the way. Although it would he desirable, the question at once arises of who, on the land, is unskilled. You might say that the stockman and the man who attends tractors are skilled, and put them in a higher category, as compared with the casual man who does beet hoeing or picks potatoes, but there are various categories in between, all of whom are more or less skilled, particularly in these days when we have higher mechanisation on our farms. Although the solution is not easy, I hope that the committee which is looking into this matter will not give up its research. I hope that they will be able to find out whether it is not possible in one way or another to introduce some form of grading.
A point which has not been raised in this Debate, but which is of equal importance to wages, is the question of leisure. I live in a dairy district, and I know that the question of leisure is extremely important. Today every farmer is urged to go in for dairying to give us more milk. That is a national policy, but to increase our milk production means that large numbers of men will be working on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. The cattlemen will be tied to their herds for seven days a week. The modern agricultural worker needs time off just as much as a good wage. He needs his leisure, and if he does not get it, I know what will happen, and what, in fact, has happened, because I have the evidence—he will look about for farms where there are no dairy herds. We shall find it increasingly difficult to retain workers on farms with dairy cows, and then what will happen to our drive for increased production of milk and dairy products? We must look into this matter still further. Is it not possible to have special weekend volunteer squads of workers in the villages to relieve the men who are working in this way? They 1695 would of course be remunerated for this work. Is it not possible for the county agricultural committees to make some plans to deal with the problem? Has the Minister thought about this matter?
Mr. De la Bère (Evesham)
Good heavens, no.
§ Mr. Price
I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to this question, because I am warning him, unless he does, that we shall have great difficulties arising on farms and in encouraging farmers to increase their dairy products.
Finally, there is the question of housing. I consider that the Government have acted quite rightly in not allowing labour or material as yet to be spent on reconditioning. It is a question of priority, and this must come second. Moreover, I think that they are right in not making this a No. 1 priority, when houses are being built by local authorities for agricultural workers. There are, of course, isolated farms, and there is an urgent necessity to get houses built which are attached to these farms. The tied cottage, I fear, is a necessary evil which one cannot do without altogether. But I do not think that the farmers have anything to grouse about. They are getting this £15 subsidy for building houses of that kind. No doubt they will be built; they are, in fact, being built. It is the business of the Ministry of Health, I think, to press on with the plans for, and to urge rural district councils to build, houses for agricultural workers which will not be directly tied. Only in that way will you get that feeling of real freedom from disturbance which is so unsatisfactory a feature of the agricultural worker's life. The answer then, I think, is to build more council houses. The main features of the immediate drive for more production then should be decent wages, weekend leisure and better housing accommodation. I am certain that if these conditions are guaranteed to the agricultural worker, he will have a full sense of the responsibility of his high calling.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Major John Morrison (Salisbury)
I would like to add my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Amendment for bringing this matter before the 1696 House, and I would like to emphasise briefly one or two points which the mover so ably covered in his speech. I believe that on both sides of the House we shall have agreement by all who have attended throughout this Debate, that the crux of this situation is accommodation. The Amendment refers to shortage of manpower and regrets the discouragement of the reconditioning of farm cottages. It goes on to press the Government to provide more amenities and better housing conditions. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) said in his concluding remarks that the answer was for the rural district councils to build the houses. A point has arisen, during the last two or three days, which I think I should mention in this Debate. There are in some places—in this case not far from my own home and in my own constituency—rural district councils which are unable, at any rate for a period of years, to build houses.
I have correspondence in my hand concerning a small farmer owner who employs three men, two of whom are married with one child each, living in a small cottage with only two bedrooms. A single man is living in one of these two bedrooms which is curtained off. That is something which, I think, every one on both sides of the House will deplore. This farmer is not particularly well off. He farms some 50 acres. He is anxious to build modern houses with proper amenities—electric light, water and sanitation—similar to houses which rural district councils all over the country are attempting all too slowly to build; but owing to the rules and regulations of the Minister of Health—I am sorry to see that there is no representative of the Ministry of Health on the Front Bench this afternoon during this important Debate which affects rural housing almost more than agriculture—this man is not allowed to build a house because he cannot get it built under the price level allowed. He knows that the rural district council in question cannot build a house for some four or five years. Are we to condemn these three agricultural workers to live under these conditions when this farmer is only too anxious to put his hand in his pocket and get the job done? He is not even asking an economic rent in return. This seems to me to be not a question of politics, but of lack of common sense.
§ Major Morrison
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has questioned me on that point. I have here a letter from the rural district council, which says that they are not allowed to give a permit, because of the rules of the Ministry of Health.
§ Major Morrison
It does refer to private building; but surely if the public authority are not in a position to build, you are not going to condemn three hard-working agricultural workers to live under those conditions in this house for an unknown period of years. I cannot believe that anyone on the other side of the House would wish for that. There must be something wrong with the rules and regulations which produce that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
The question addressed to the hon. and gallant Gentleman was: Why cannot the rural district council build cottages within the next four or five years, when every lacility is being given to them to do so?
§ Major Morrison
The rural district council are building all the houses for which they can get materials and permission; but they are, quite rightly, not building houses until they have got their sanitation and drainage schemes through. This farmer has had his application turned down. He is prepared to provide those facilities in addition, because he has a small spring water supply which makes that possible. I think that the case is unanswerable. I would like to support the hon. and gallant Member for Western Dorset (Major Digby) in his plea to the Government to do all that they can to increase rural travelling facilities. I do not think that people who live in the towns realise how much it means to bring rural workers to the shops and to give them a chance of a Saturday evening in the local market town. It makes a great difference to rural life. Finally may I say that only this morning, coming up with me in the train was a man who quoted a letter from "The Times," showing once again how an ex-Serviceman through lack of accommodation, cannot 1698 return to the countryside as he wished to do when the war was over. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who has the interest of the countryside at heart, will try to pursuade the Minister of Health to help the workers in the countryside.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage and endeavour to reply to some of the statements that have been made by the mover and seconder of the Amendment and by other hon. Members. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment was lucky in the ballot, and he was entitled to enjoy his bit of good luck. I think that he made the very best use of it. He reared up many skittles and knocked them down with great facility. Indeed, in the Amendment he moved, I think, that with the addition of two words "pre-war ' after" His Majesty's" making it lead "the failure of His Majesty's pre-war Government" I could have supported the Amendment myself with one slight deletion.
I happen to know how these Amendments are received, because between 1922 and 1929, mostly when Conservative Administrations were in office, I moved many of them with very negative results. I am quite sure if the word "prewar" were inserted in this Amendment the hon. Member who moved it would readily oppose it. In other words, what the hon. Member did in the course of his observations was completely to ignore or forget 20 years of neglect with regard to the supply of labour on the land, the provision of houses for the workers, extending the use of electricity and the provision of water supplies throughout the countryside.
I am sure it is obvious to any Member in the House, who concerns himself with this question, that not only do we need to hold and increase the present labour army, but we want as many houses as possible erected for the agricultural workers Further, we want the spread of electricity and the provision of water supplies to the rural areas. The mover of the Amendment paid this Government a very great compliment in that he expected us to do in eight months, what the Governments which he supported, did not do in 20 years. That perhaps is natural, and I hope the hon. Member's wants will be realised in a reasonable period of time.
1699 The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) delivered a speech which, I imagine, he must have prepared for last Thursday's Debate when he was unlucky not to be called. He delivered his speech today with his usual facility, but it had little to do with the Amendment. May I say at once that the Government are fully aware of the magnitude of the task confronting the agricultural industry. We realise the need for adequate labour, housing, electricity and water supplies. Indeed, it seems to have been forgotten by the mover and seconder of the Amendment and by subsequent speakers that the Government agricultural policy aims at promoting conditions which would ensure not only decent standards for the farmer, but for the farmworker, and assisting in every way possible in attracting labour to the land. In effect, the policy is designed to prevent the constant migration from the land, which was in progress from 1921 to 1939. The mover of the Amendment either forgot or discreetly ignored the real cause for the present shortage of labour in the countryside and I think I should recall the basic principles of the agricultural policy, which was generally approved when it was announced on 15th November last year. I also recognise that an emergency period calls for all sorts of emergency measures and I think I will be able to show that the Government have adopted all the necessary means to the end which we have in view. For any hon. Member to suggest, as one hon. Member did, that the Government were complacent about the labour position is just arrant nonsense. I do not think that any Member of the Government could be charged with complacency so far as the food supplies ate concerned, or so far as the agricultural industry in general is concerned. In any case, I am sure my predecessor in this office will appreciate what I am about to say—so long as the Government issue directions to farmers to grow certain crops the Government must be under an obligation to see that these crops are harvested at the right time.
One thing that is not mentioned in the Amendment has perhaps occupied as much time as any other subject—wages. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton suggested that the Government have no wages policy. I do not remember a Government in the 13 years which I have 1700 been here, including all the Conservative Governments, which had a wages policy. I rather understood the hon. Member to suggest—I hope he did not mean it—that what this Government ought to do was to start to fix the wages for agricultural workers, sack the Agricultural Wages Board, and, by implication, having started to fix wages somewhere, then the Government should fix wages for everybody. If he meant that—though I do not believe he did—will he also agree that the Government should fix wages, dividends, and salaries for everybody in national, local government or industrial undertakings, for after all the Government cannot start here, and leave the matter where it is? All I want to say on this question of wages is that in 1924, the Agricultural Wages Regulation Act was placed on the Statute Book. It was improved upon to some extent in 1940, when the Central Wages Board was given full power to determine minimum wages for agricultural workers. That body is still in existence and while it remains, it has a duty to perform. If we interpret the remit accurately from the reading of the two Acts to which I have referred, and the result does not satisfy hon. Members in this House, agricultural workers or anybody else, one of two things must be done— either the remit must be altered, or the Agricultural Wages Board must he disposed of. I do not think any hon. Member in the House would desire that. I, therefore, commend to them to look at the former, if anything is to be said about it.
§ Mr. Turton
What I suggested was that the Government, having fixed the wages must see that a decent price is fixed out of which the wages can be paid.
§ Mr. Williams
It may be the wise thing for the Government to do, but it is rather a pity that the Conservative Governments, of which the hon. Member was a supporter, did not do that long before 1939. By implication, hon. Members have suggested that the Government have been rather lethargic, and to some extent complacent, with regard to the labour problem. Might I run over some of the points raised not only periodically at Question time but also in the Debate this afternoon? Hon. Members will recall that in February the Government suspended the call up of main agricultural workers, 5,000 of whom had been de- 1701 ferred, as in other high priority occupations, and 3,000 who had reached the age of 18 years. That meant that 8,000 were retained on the land at least until after the harvest. The first release in Class B was 10,000 which was increased to 18,000. Later it was announced in this House that release was being offered to every agricultural worker in the main occupations who has had 12 months in the Forces. Perhaps it may help to a better understanding of the general problem if I examine the figures more closely. In June, 1945, 89,000 agricultural and horticultural workers were in the Forces. Of these 4,000 were regulars, and, therefore, there were 85,000 to be dealt with. Of the 85,000 no fewer than 50,000 are entitled to release in Class A before the end of June. Of the remaining 35,000,all of whom are being offered their release under Class B, experience shows that slightly fewer than one in two are accepting release. The number released up to mid-March was just under 7,500, but the stream is constantly moving. To That figure can be added the 1,000 who have been released as specialists. It must be borne in mind that in offering release to an individual, there is sometimes a time lag. For instance, many men are overseas, it may be in Burma, India or elsewhere, and many do not answer the offer at once Others feel disposed to w rite home to a wife or parent for guidance. Then there is release leave, covering several weeks so that they do not always go straight from the Forces into the countryside. To sum up, of the 85,000 agricultural or horticultural releasable persons, 50,000 in Class A are clue to be released by June. We hope— although no precise figure can be given— that of those 50,000 we may get 30,000 to 40,000 back to the countryside. Of the 35,000 to whom release is being offered under Class B we hope we may get 18,000 back to the countryside. Everything possible is being done to encourage acceptance of release under Class B—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is in error in saying that people released under Class B have release leave. The point about releases in this Class is that those released go straight to the industries which have asked for them.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Gentleman himself is in error. He will find that in Class B there is a three weeks' release leave. 1702 Although many do not spend their full time in idleness they are entitled to do so, and some do have a holiday before picking up the plough. Therefore, as I have said, there is sometimes a time lag between acceptance of release and commencing operations on the farm.
With regard to the Women's Land Army, there were 57,000 in that Army in June, 1945. All members of the Land Army gave an undertaking to serve to the end of the war with Germany, and were quite entitled to expect willing release the moment V-E day came along. In the autumn of last year willing release was granted. Inevitably, numbers fell to 35,360 by the end of February, and I believe there has been a further reduction up to the end of March. On the other hand, 5,000 serving members of the Land Army have agreed to serve for another year, and 16,000 have indicated their intention to stay on the land for an unspecified time. Eight thousand more have joined the Land Army since V-E day, and have undertaken to work for two years. Whatever may be said, it is clear that many of these women have responded to the national appeal made by the Prime Minister, and to the more recent appeals in connection with recruiting for the Land Army. I am hoping that the recruiting campaign which is just starting may bring many thousands more into the Land Army. It must not be imagined that all these women, from wherever they happened to come into the Land Army, would have remained on the land for all time. Many came from decent positions in banks, hairdressing establishments and hotels, and it was naturally expected that when they had fulfilled their mission, many would return to their prewar occupations.
I want to make it perfectly clear, so as not to mislead Members of the House or new members of the Land Army, that each one who enters the industry does so under normal conditions of employment. There are certain advantages which other women agricultural employees do not get. There are a free issue of clothing, four free travel vouchers to home every year, and past experience has shown that people in the country are often ready to extend a hearty welcome to those who are determined to remain in the countryside for the rest of their 1703 lives. I believe, therefore, that there will be a great response to the appeal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) said last week that we should get fewer volunteers this year, fewer children to help with the harvest. I hope he is wrong. None can tell, but I do not think we ought to discourage men, women or young persons who really feel that they want to help the nation during this food crisis. I hope that the appeal which will go out will represent the House of Commons, and not a party, and that there will be a good response to the request for volunteers to help with the forthcoming harvest. The Ministry of Education have also agreed, in view of the crisis, that schoolchildren may, at the discretion of the education authorities, help with the harvest, as they have done during the past few years.
It is true that soldier labour will not be nearly so prolific as in the past two or three years, owing to the sizeable reduction in the Army. I want to make it quite clear that I view with apprehension the permanent establishment in this country of a very large force of prisoner-of-war labour. I want to see a permanent body of British skilled agricultural workers happy and contented in our countryside. I am hopeful that our agricultural policy generally, plus the amenities which, I am convinced, we shall provide in a reasonable time, will encourage the numbers we want to recruit. Members are aware that Italian prisoners are now to be repatriated.
It is our intention to replace them with additional German prisoners from North America and, to some extent, from Europe. At the moment, we have 111,235 Germans, and 35,260 Italians allocated for work on the land, a total of 146,495. It is our intention, before the end of this year, to aim at no fewer than 200,000. They may not all be required for the harvest, but there are many other occupations, allied to agriculture, in which they can render very valuable service to the State. There have been complaints, here and there, that, as Italians are leaving—and in the nature of the case the more skilled Italians, the most cooperative, are being repatriated first—they are not always immediately replaced by Germans. I can undertake, so far as organisation can do it, to see that where-ever possible when one body of prisoners 1704 leaves others will be made available to the farmer.
With regard to long-term requirements, we are organising vocational training schemes. Arrangements have been made for placing trainees on farms and in market gardens. My information is that all of them are doing extremely well, and that both disabled and non-disabled are finding their new life very agreeable. Many employers are highly pleased with their trainees, some of whom have already been offered permanent jobs after only a few weeks' or months' training. Although the numbers are not nearly as large as I would like to see them, I hope the pleasant weather we are now having, with such encouragement as the House can give and such publicity as we may get from elsewhere, will encourage much larger numbers of trainees to come forward. Arrangements have been made for selected farm trainees to be given organised instruction in the operation and maintenance of agricultural machinery and farm implements. The proposal is that after six months' training on a farm, they will be given a concentrated course of from four to five weeks under the direction of a machinery instructor in one or other of the counties. We are also providing courses of technical instruction for eligible applicants with previous farm experience, for selected farm trainees and serving members of the Women's Land Army who wish to make a permanent career on the land. Facilities for institutional training are available in Northampton-shire, Hertfordshire, West Sussex and in many other counties throughout the country. Finally, the number of applicants for higher education is increasing rapidly, and we are doing our level best to see that opportunities at universities and colleges are made available to them. I think I may conclude on this note, as far as the labour situation generally is concerned, that the overall picture is far from discouraging, and that if we do not shout stinking fish too loudly, I am optimistic enough to feel that we shall attract the right number of people, particularly when we get the right kind and quantity of houses in the countryside.
The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) referred to housing. The Government are fully conscious of the unsatisfactory position in rural areas. This is not 1705 a new discovery, and we can hardly be expected to take responsibility for the inheritance we have entered into. The housing problem in the countryside has not grown up since 1939. It is a growth of very many years. It is no part of my business to blame this or that Government, or a whole series of Governments, for having neglected this problem in the past. It is true to say, however, that there has been serious neglect, and it is up to this Government and all future Governments to see that that neglect is dealt with and remedied in the proper way. The hon. Member referred once a gain to the question of reconditioning, as have several other hon. Members, hope hon. Members will not allow this reconditioning idea to provide a blanket to cover up the neglect of the past and to ewer the need for the maximum number or new houses for agricultural workers. After all, between the wars, very few houses erected either by private enterprise or by local authorities were made available to agricultural workers. It seems to me that both past Governments and the local authorities are jointly responsible for the unfortunate plight in which we find ourselves today. I was asked by one hon. Member whether I had gone carefully through the Scott Report. I have seen many reports that have been published, by Scott, by Hobhouse, and by other authorities. This is how the Hob-house Committee described the housing position as it was in 1937:'' The conditions under which the rural population live have inevitably deteriorated during the war. In our second Report, 1937, we concluded that there was not only a serious shortage of houses in rural areas, particularly for the agricultural population, but that the conditions of many of the older cottages fell below the standards of hygiene, amenity and comfort which might reasonably be expected.That was the position in 1937. Since then there have been six years in which little or no house building has taken place, and therefore, it is obvious that conditions must be infinitely worse today than they were in 1937. I agree with the observation that was made by one hon. Member that any Government failing to deal with this problem would so so at their own political peril. I cannot visualise this Government failing in this grave respect.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
How many of the council houses now being built are destined for agricultural workers, 1706 and how many applications for them have been received from agricultural workers?
§ Mr. Williams
Perhaps the hon. Member will submit that question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who has all the figures available. Later, I will give the hon. Member what information I have with regard to rural district councils. I was about to say that we need not only to build houses; we need to erect them in villages where public services such as water, electricity, educational facilities, transport and other amenities can be provided. It is often said, "Why should a man walk two or three miles from home to his work? Why should a man not be able to get home to his lunch? "All I would say is, Why should the schoolchildren walk two or three miles from home to a village school? Why should the wife of an agricultural labourer have to walk two or three miles to shop in a village? I think we have to forget the past when thinking of rural housing. We must put the houses where they will attract electricity, water supply, transport, educational facilities and the modern amenities which we all think ought to be placed at the disposal of agricultural workers. We want not only me make the best use of our land for the production of food, but to provide the right living conditions for those who produce the food. Housing conditions for agricultural workers ought to be as good as the housing conditions for workers in the towns. The old 3s.-a-week tumbledown cottage is not good enough for 1946. It ought not to be good enough for any Member of the House.
In any case, in an age of full employment, agricultural workers will not tolerate a continuation of the old inferiority. We must face up to this fact. That is why we have to think in terms of the future and not in terms of the past so far as agricultural cottages are concerned. That is why the Government have provided the subsidy of £25 10s. per house for 60 years to help to meet the needs of the agricultural population, compared with £16 10s. per house for other workers in towns. These high subsidies are to some extent intended to offset the years of neglect, to provide modern dwellings as good as the dwellings in towns, to be let at a rent of approximately 7s. 6d. per week plus rates. The hon. Member for West Aberdeen said that we ought 1707 to aim at an economic rent. I hope we will aim at something nearer an economic rent than any agricultural worker could ever pay in the days before the war. What would have happened to an agricultural worker with an average of 34s. 6d. a week for wages in June, 1939? For what sort of a house could he pay an economic rent? What chance had he ever of becoming an applicant for a house that could be called decent on a wage of 34s. 6d. a week? I hope those days are gone and that we are all going to think more broadly than we have done in the past.
Here is an indication which, in my opinion, goes to show that rural district councils are at long last alive to their responsibilities. At the end of March not less than 64.2 per cent. of rural district councils had tenders approved, and other rural councils had advertised for tenders. We must recognise that rural housing authorities have very special difficulties. A rural district council may have to operate in as many as 20 to 30 different parishes and the work involved in acquiring a site for six or 12 houses is almost as heavy, and the procedure just as long, as that needed to acquire a site on which a town could build hundreds of houses. With the assistance and encouragement of the Ministry of Health sites have already been obtained by rural councils for no less than 68,000 houses. Tenders have been sought for 22,436, and have already been accepted for very nearly 10,000. Although all these houses would not be for agricultural workers, I hope a fairly good proportion will be made available for that class. I have therefore every reason to believe that if rural district councils will accept such help from the technicians at the Ministry of Health as can be made available to them, this rural housing problem will not only be tackled resolutely but in a comparatively short space of time might be resolved.
The question of electricity has been raised two or three times. Hon. Members want to know what our policy is. The Lord President made an announcement in this House some time ago. The nation was informed that as and when the time is suitable that service would be taken over as a national undertaking, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, appreciating that there must be a transition period between now and the 1708 vesting date, whenever that may be—and I assure hon. Members that it will not be too long—obtained assurances from the electricity companies that they are not going to be lacking in extending supplies, despite the possibilities of nationalisation in the future. Farm surveys made when my right hon. predecessor was in office during 1941–43 show that 72,000 farms in England and 5,000 in Wales, representing 30 per cent. in England and 11 per cent. in Wales of farms over five acres, had an electricity supply. The total is probably larger today but it is not nearly enough. As soon as labour and materials can be made available, the figures can and should be materially increased.
I recently read a report on a mission we sent to America. They visited thousands of farms in their tour and the one outstanding feature recorded in their report was that the provision of electricity on the farms of the U.S.A. had brought about something in the nature of a revolution in their farming. What they can do in America we could do in this country if we had the will. It has not been done in the past, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen. If it had been done under private enterprise or under any form of Government we should not be trying to get the supply today. Here again I want to take this outside politics because I do not think it is a political affair at all. We all want to see electricity on the countryside. It is not there, and probably would not be there for a long time if things were allowed to remain as they are. None the less the Minister of Fuel and Power has seen the supply undertakings and has secured from them assurances that the development plans will go forward despite the possibility of nationalisation, and special attention is to be given to rural areas. These plans involve an expenditure of something like £100,000,000, half of which would be taken by distribution. I think it is a great opportunity for electricity supply companies to show to agriculture their appreciation for what it did during war time.
With regard to water, I do not think there is disagreement in any part of the House as to the need for piped supplies in the rural areas of this country. Thirty per cent. of the population in rural districts of England and Wales are still without a piped supply. It is impossible to 1709 live cleanly or to farm decently without a proper water supply, and therefore it is one of those things to which Parliament must pay due attention. The Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act of 1944 was passed to deal exclusively with this problem. Local authorities are dealing with the matter and my information is that present indications are that the £15 million set apart for this purpose is not likely to be nearly enough. This indicates that local authorities are making progress. There is a shortage of technical staff here and there but they are still making progress, and the Ministry of Health has invited rural district councils to proceed with their schemes as quickly as they can, and to submit them to the county council for their observations before sending them to the Ministry of Health in the hope that time will be saved as a result.
I gather that applications for grants from 30 authorities are already before the Ministry of Health, for schemes costing up to £1,000,000. The Act requires that local authorities shall consult county councils before submitting their schemes to the Ministry of Health which gives the county council an opportunity to express their views. I hope they will be helpful and will see that the matter is satisfactorily and adequately dealt with without undue regard to local government boundaries as has been the case in the past There will, perhaps, be difficulties with labour and technicians, but I do not think there will be any with regard to raw materials. This is a question of public health and of good farming, and I hope water supplies will have a very high priority indeed.
I fear I have occupied more time than I should have taken—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but I have done my best to reply to the major points raised in the course of this Debate. Should there De any further points the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry will gladly do his best at the end of the Debate to reply to them. Despite the content of the Amendment—which, I repeat, I could have accepted myself with the insertion of the word "prewar" before "Government "—the Debate has been well worth while. But we have passed the time for Debate and reached that for real action. [Interruption.] It so happens that a Government has been established which is going to make action its motto. I hope that in the next few years we shall see a 1710 complete rehabilitation of our countryside and, as was said by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen in his concluding observations—a more secure present and a more confident future than ever before. We shall then be able to preserve the incomparable beauty of our countryside and at the same time see that agriculture plays its appropriate part in the national economy.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
The right hon. Gentleman said that the time had now come for action. It falls to my lot—not I think for the first time in the course of this short Parliament—to commiserate with the right hon. Gentleman on having to answer for his colleagues. I have not the least doubt—knowing that he has the interest of agriculture at heart—that if all these things were within his control, we should have had action today, but I propose to give one or two reasons to show that action is not being taken and has not been taken on this most vital matter.
The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) has said that be noticed greater signs of activity on the part of his local authority now than ever before in dealing with housing. All I can say is that while he was speaking I read the Housing Report issued by the Minister of Health for the period ended 28th February, and taking not only the hon. Member's district but the whole of Norfolk, I found that at the end of February there was not a single house erected by local authorities, not one. During that same period—
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member will have his chance. I am quoting the figures from this publication, and I will repeat them for his benefit. Within the period covered by this Return, he will find:Permanent houses completed by local authorities, nil.During the same period, no fewer than 63 houses have been completed by private enterprise. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk went on to say that he could not understand why, after three persons employed by him had produced £900 in foodstuffs, there was not room for increased wages. If the hon. Member will look at the results of costings for the last few years he will find that labour—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman 1711 will confirm this—represents in actual wages about 40 per cent of the cost of every £1 profit. Therefore, 40 per cent. of £900 is £360, which is the wages for three men for a year.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman about the figures. I understood him to say that three men produced £900.
§ Mr. Hudson
I accept it. If he says that each man produced £900 worth of food, I congratulate him, and also the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who no doubt will abstract most of that money in taxation, or should do, if the hon. Member does not come under an exemption.
It is clear that we have not had action to date. It is no good talking about what the local authorities may do at some future time. The people we are interested in are the men who are coming home from the Forces. We are interested also in how much food this nation is to get this year and next year. I would remind the hon. Member when he talks about the plans of local authorities, and the right hon. Gentleman, when he boasts of rural district councils having 68,000 sites for houses, that that is not the result of anything that the present Government have done. [Interruption.] I will show hon. Members in a moment. The same thing applies to water supply. Those facts are the result of the plans and instructions which were issued when the Minister of Agriculture and I were colleagues in the Coalition Government, when we instructed local authorities and war agricultural committees that they were not to wait till the end of the war. I asked the committees to make surveys in every county showing where the individual need for houses was likely to be, in the light of known shortages, to get together with local authorities and to 1712 make preparations, so that immediately the war came to an end, we should be able to start upon the provision of houses.
The same thing applies to water supply. We are now reaping the benefit of the work that was done in the past in preparation for the situation we all knew we were to meet. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk also asked: "Why cannot employers, owners of land and farmers take advantage of the very generous "—as he thought—" subsidy paid to the private individual erecting a cottage, and get £15 a year for 40 years? "The hon. Member had better try it for himself and see the result. Let him try to erect a cottage and see what the cost each year will be in actual out-of-pocket expenses, over and above the subsidy. The hon. Member will find that, instead of charging his employee 7s. 6d. a week plus rates, which is the level suggested by the Minister of Health, he will have to charge him 13s or 14s. if he wishes to come out square. There is no doubt at all about that.
In a speech which was reported on Sunday, the Minister of Health said at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists that local authorities in the country could be quite satisfied that in fact they would not have to pay more than £3 per year out of the rates, for rural districts and county councils. We should be very glad indeed to see the figures and calculations upon which that statement is based. The rural district councils of which I have knowledge do not believe that they can build a house at the present costs and come out square with a contribution of only £3, plus a subsidy of £28 for six years. Taking the cost of building, plus sites and sewerage, it is clear that there will be a heavy extra burden on the rates. If that statement is denied by the Government I ask them to let us see the calculations upon which the statement made by the Minister of Health is based. Surely to goodness we are entitled to see them, and ought not to be expected to accept the Minister's ex cathedra statement as true.
I turn to the question of labour. Nothing that has been said by hon. Members opposite or by the right hon. Gentleman today convinces me that the gloomy prognostication I made on Thursday was wrong. I then said that as far as I could see we should have less labour 1713 available this summer for the harvest than we had last year, taking everything into account. The Minister of Agriculture gave us a number of figures. Let us analyse those figures for a moment. He said that in February the call-up was suspended of 5,000 men and of 3,000 young people. The right hon. Gentleman took credit for leaving 8,000 men in the industry. Merely leaving men in the industry will not make any difference. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that last December—not February—he announced that the Government had decided to release 10,000 people under Class B. He said a little later that it was intended to supplement that 10,000 by another 8,000, making a total of 18,000. That was last December. We are now in the middle of April. By the end of March, only 7,400 men out of the 18,000 had been released. What about the action the right hon. Gentleman was talking about?
§ Mr. T. Williams
The right hon. Gentleman is rather missing the point. I said that 7,500 were out in the middle of March. I also told the House quite frankly that of those being offered release, slightly fewer than one out of every two were willing to accept it.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am coming to that point. The main point is that the right hon. Gentleman led everybody to believe that we were to get 18,000 men out. The fact remains that only 7,400 have actually come out. It is not surprising, when one looks at the actual details of the way the War Office behaved, that these men do not get out in time. I have a case here where a major was given agricultural leave. He was then told by the right hon. Gentleman's Department that arrangements had been made to get him out under Class B. The War Office said, "No," he was to go back to Germany, because if he was released that would prevent another major coming out under Class A. The officer went back to Germany. He found there that the number of majors actually on the strength of his battalion was too high. He was put clown to be an unpaid major, and still he is not out, although he is urgently required. That is the sort of thing that is preventing action. It is sheer incompetence.
Let us turn to the other question of the 89,000, and, more particularly, the 1714 question of the men who are to be offered release at the end of a year's service. Each Service Department, the Admiralty, the Royal Air Force and the War Office, has separate arrangements, and in the case of the War Office, who have by far the greatest number of men serving, I am informed, on applying to my county committee, that the men are not to be offered release, contrary to what one would have thought last February when the announcement was made, until 15th of this month. What good is it on 15th April offering a man in the Far East release if you want him home in time for the harvest? [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not walking back."] There is no sign of action there. There are signs of inaction.
Let us take the question of prisoners. This problem has been known for months. The right hon. Gentleman said that every attempt would be made to replace every Italian prisoner billeted on the farms by a German. It has been known for months that the Italians have to be taken away and that there would have to be arrangements to provide Germans. The Italians were taken away from their camps, and the Germans were put in them. It would have been a simple administrative job to send Germans to replace the Italians, and yet there are only 5,000 German prisoners of war today in billets from which 11,000 Italians have been taken away. Again, we are not getting any action. Several hon. Members on this side of the House went last week to see the Secretary of State for War to complain about the way German prisoners were being taken away and to make suggestions, many of which the Secretary of State for War said he would endeavour to see put into effect. They have not yet been put into effect even though the food situation is as critical as it is today. It is not for private Members on this side of the House to tell the Secretary of State for War what he ought to do about German prisoners. That is the job of Ministry of Agriculture officials. They ought to have been doing this all along. Where is the action the Minister talks about?
The right hon. Gentleman says that the numbers of the Women's Land Army have gone down appreciably. Nothing has been done to replace them. He talks about children, and says that the Minister of Education has told local 1715 authorities they may—they may—at their discretion invite children to volunteer, as they have done in the past, but we know cases where local authorities are refusing to exercise their discretion and have turned down the request of the National Farmers' Union. Farmers in those counties are very rightly saying that if we are not going to provide labour, how are they to plant potatoes? They will not waste the seed. Is the Minister taking steps to see that these local authorities, who have, for the most part, majorities representing the party opposite, carry out the request? Again, the right hon. Gentleman says he is not the master in his own house in these matters—[An HON. MEMBER: "You want children slave labour."]
Take housing. When the right hon. Gentleman and myself were in Office, we asked for the opinion of war agricultural committees as to what was the percentage of labour that ought to be devoted to improving the conditions of existing houses and building new cottages because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture quite rightly said in opening, it is every bit as important to maintain the existing labour supply on the land as to increase it, and we shall not maintain the labour supply on the land unless we improve the existing cottages. The usual answer was 50–50. There is not a chance of getting new cottages built in time for the whole 570,000 agricultural workers on the land. The most we shall get is 50,000 to 60,000 a year, but all those will be required for the additional people who will take the place of the German prisoners when they go. No one on this side of the House wants to keep the German prisoners. They are, in fact, slave labour. No one wants to keep slave labour one moment longer than is necessary, but we cannot replace them with Englishmen until we provide the English. men with decent cottages. We shall require all the cottages we can build in the next five or six years for housing new entrants and, therefore, we are faced with the problem of retaining the men now in the bad cottages.
The Minister of Works has let his colleague the Minister of Agriculture down again on the question of bricks. As everybody knows now, they never calculated beforehand the number of bricks required to keep the housing programme going or 1716 to take the necessary steps to do it. The great thing about reconditioning cottages, whether a grant is given or not, is that the total number of bricks required to build a bathroom and add a certain number of amenities to a cottage is infinitely fewer than the numbered required for a new cottage. The same applies to labour. Therefore, if we have a very limited number of bricks, as we have, we shall get far more results in terms of improved accommodation for numbers of men and women if we use these bricks in the country for improving existing cottages. I have no doubt that that is why this interim Report comes down in favour of reconditioning—not alone, but the two marching forward side by side. Not only did the Minister of Health refuse to renew the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, but in a circular just sent out, or which is just having effect in the countryside, he has instructed local authorities to refuse licences to private people who want to improve a cottage, even without a grant. There are bricks available in limited supplies to do that, and there is immobile labour available that would be no use for building new houses.
The order has gone out to the public from the Minister of Health to stop private building of any kind. The result is that bricks and timber are lying idle, and next week or the week after men will 'be standing idle. Is that what is called action to meet the unprecedented situation where food is concerned? No, Sir. On all counts I suggest that the Minister of Agriculture is to be commiserated with. He has been let down by the Minister of Works in the provision of bricks, by the Minister of Health in the provision of houses, and by the Minister of Supply in the provision of machinery and spare parts. This Amendment put forward by my hon. Friends is justified, and, unless the right hon. Gentleman does something and shows a little more activity, we shall not get the food that the country requires this year.
§ 6.49 p.m.
Mr. Mitchisan (Kettering)
It is very easy if on an agricultural subject one directs an attack upon the Minister of Agriculture and then hears the Minister of Agriculture, and finds that there is really nothing to be said against him, to commiserate with him and turn one's attack against a list of other Ministers.
1717 I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) attack three Ministers. One was the Minister of Health, the next was the Minister of Works and the third, somewhat remotely, was the Secretary of State for War—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Minister of Education."] Also the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Education. They are all in it. I should think that is the best testimony the right hon. Gentleman can give to the reply made by the Minister of Agriculture upon the subject matter of this Amendment.
Again I should have thought it was easy to get up and to complain, as did the mover of this Amendment, of the troubles of the countryside. We on this side of the House know them just as well as hon. Members opposite, if not better. It is nine months now since this Government came into office, and it is one hundred years since the Corn Laws were repealed, and two hundred years since the Enclosure Acts put into effective power the landlords whom hon. Gentlemen opposite represent. I confess that I am largely a townsman. When I go into the country, and observe its economic difficulties, one simple proposition invariably strikes me. The wealth that comes from the land is, I suppose, distributed between the farm-worker, the farmer and the landlord. I have never yet met a landlord living under the conditions of an agricultural labourer; I have never yet met a farmer living under those conditions. When I am told that the landlords are hard hit by Death Duties, my mind goes to the cottages with the roses on the walls, and the bugs inside.
When I am told that there is hardship amongst those represented on the benches opposite, I remember other things, some of which have been mentioned tonight. Water was one of them. Upon water, we had the benefit of the contribution made by the right hon. Member for Southport. He told us that during the war he went round looking into this and that we are now reaping the benefit of the work done in the past. I took the trouble a few days ago to ascertain the figures about water in my own constituency. There are two rural districts in it. One of them has 30 parishes, of which no have practically no piped water supply. The other has 39 parishes, 23 of which are without a piped water supply. Whose is the responsibility? Who in the past 1718 could have put water in there? In both these districts water authorities with power to do it were controlled by the Party represented on the benches opposite, not by my Party. Those who sat upon those councils were landowners, or farmers, or others who went on to them calling themselves either "Conservative" or "Independent," and supposed to be concerned only with the good of the countryside. What was the result? Not only shortage of water, but one of those two rural districts has in it—and if you are to have water, you must have sewerage too—three modern disposal works ten septic tanks, and 17 parishes left without any means of disposing of their sewage at all.
Then we come to village halls, mentioned by the mover of the Amendment. If you take your agricultural workers and dot them over all the farms in the countryside, how do you expect them to get a community life to which hon. Gentlemen opposite say they are entitled? Their wives, as has been pointed out already, come into a town for shopping, and they come in for numerous purposes to make a community life for themselves, whether it is in the pub in the evening, or in the village hall. Why should they not be allowed in every village, no doubt upon a smaller scale, the same amenities which are given as a matter of course now in towns? [HON, MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer but they expect this Government in nine months to provide what, for 200 years, the interests represented on the benches opposite have failed to provide. Is it expected that in nine months the deficiencies, even of the 21 years between the wars, when Tory Governments were in power, and Tory councils were responsible for providing water, should be met now?
As a result of my little inquiry in regard to the figures which I have just given, a local newspaper took up the matter. I think the House might like to hear some of the headlines that resulted. Newspaper headlines have naturally something of the sensational in them, but the actual effect on the lives of the people in the countryside is much more humdrum and much harder. Here is one: "Thirty trips to the tap on washing day "—many hon. Members have not had to make that. Here is another: "Rector, 77, walked 200 yards for water "—I should have 1719 thought hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite would have had tender hearts for a 77 year old rector walking zoo yards. Yet in that village the water authority has been a rural district council composed of the party represented on the benches opposite, and the land in that village has belonged to landlords who are now represented on the benches opposite.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? He keeps on saying that we represent the landlords. Will he tell me to what extent I represent the landlords, for example?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I must leave it to the judgment of the House upon which side the country landlords are, on the whole, represented.
I do not want to take up the time of the House unduly; I do not want, in particular, to take it up with matters that are mere criticism. I want to add something as regards the water supply. I believe that in many parts of England, and particularly in the part I happen to represent—one of the driest parts, where the land holds little water in a form in which it can be used; a part where rivers are, on the whole few and small—the task of a rural district authority in trying to supply water is becoming more and more difficult. If we are to have a return to the land on a large scale, it may well become impossible. In one of the rural districts to which I have just referred there are five reservoirs engaged in supplying two large towns, both outside the rural district, and it is natural, perhaps inevitable, that rural water supplies should be tapped in that way. Much may no doubt be done by proper coordination among local authorities—not only the rural districts but the county council, with its power to supervise and to coordinate. However, there comes a time in some places when that is insufficient; and it is difficult to get co-ordination between these authorities. After all, town clerks and district clerks fighting on matters of jurisdiction, are a little like wild animals fighting to protect their young. There is often a certain conflict, not only between town and country but between domestic needs even in the country, and the farmers' interests, and it is difficult when you get a catchment 1720 board or some similar body coming in with its own particular interest.
I want consideration to be given to the possibility of providing water under an even larger administration than that of the catchment board, on a national basis, and of the charges for such provision being levelled between one area and another. One of the great difficulties in this country in regard to the supply of water and electricity, has arisen through the original provision of these necessities by small private undertakings, and then by comparatively small authorities. This has led to a great diversity of charges. Often water is not taken from what are the best sources in the national interest, because to do so would cost this or that local authority too much. If we have the real interests of the countryside at heart, the question of the same water costing less nearer the source and more further away, would not arise. The question ought to be on a national, or at least a regional basis—which is the best place to get the water for a whole wide area, and not merely for a county, or a district.
Birmingham draws water from the Welsh hills. There are similar schemes of a highly controversial nature which I will not go into. Surely the principle, as applied to large urban authorities, ought to be applied to the provision of water in the country districts. There ought to be more than a mere revision of this matter. We ought to see that supplies are drawn in the main from where there is sufficient water, instead of trying to patch up local water supplies in a singularly dry district, such as my own constituency. That would help towards an increased population and more modern farming, and it would also help industrial development in towns, where there may be enough water for present needs, but where there will not be enough water, if they get the industries to which, on other grounds, they are entitled and of which they could make good use.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure the House will agree with the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), because the question of water supply is a matter of very great importance. I would like to deal with it as a member of a catchment board and to explain, if I can, how it is that until we get some sort of scheme 1721 such as that outlined by the hon. Member it will be almost impossible to get along with housing on modern lines. The 1944 Act in regard to rural housing and sewage disposal has not had very much time to be operated, but the catchment boards are surely the proper bodies for use in this regard. There are not many of them. All are within the defined area of the rainfall. They embrace many counties and also cover various smaller authorities each of which up to now has had its pet scheme. Rather than enter a big scheme, they prefer that water should not go to houses if it is going to prejudice their own schemes. As is natural, they have been "fighting for their young" as the hon. Member for Kettering said and this has meant that they failed to give water to the country areas.
The catchment boards are responsible for purification. Hon. Members do not perhaps realise the enormous importance of a proper system of purification if we are to avoid epidemics of one kind or another. During the war many factories,,car dispersal reasons, were put into country districts and purification officers have had a great task in dealing with what is called trade waste. In other cases they have gone into areas where the local water supply is collected from pure rainfall and that is a matter of great danger to people in cottages in the district. It may be said that until we lift the 1944 Act on to the basis of the catchment boards, it will not be possible to deal either with sewage disposal or the conservation of water. Without water men cannot live nor farm, and it is absolutely vital to have a pure water supply. It is no good talking about pipe supplies everywhere, unless we know from where we can get the water. If the natural resources of the chalk downs of Berkshire, containing my constituency, are to be drained, the whole of the farming in that area will be jeopardised and the extension of industry in the rural districts will be prevented.
Another question which is often neglected is the outfall of water. When a great city like Birmingham draws its water from Wales, going outside the district where normally in the old days it obtained its water, the land is usually much flattened. The tendency is always to draw water from mountainous regions where the water is higher and the escape 1722 of water to the sea is quicker. If water is drawn from those areas and attention is not paid to the question of how it will get away from the district, one is taking water away from the place where Providence intended it to fall in order that it could get away to the sea, and bringing it to an area as flat as a billiard table with the constant danger of flooding. This is not a simple problem, and it has not been studied sufficiently. The more we draw water, the more is the question of evaporation and deforestation entailed. One of the difficulties of the war has been the denudation of forest areas. It is a matter of prime importance to recognise that we cannot get water unless we re-establish our forests. If we cut trees down, we do not get sufficient rain. I do not know whether it is realised that about 50 per cent. of the rain that falls on ordinary agricultural land is evaporated by the sun's rays. Therefore, we have to be very careful how far we are able to put back the amount of water in the locality from which it is drawn, and at the same time meet the local needs of the population for water. The Thames Conservancy is the largest catchment board in the country. I forget in exactly how many counties it is responsible for the conservation and purification of water, but it is quite powerless unless co-operation with the smaller authorities is obtained.
We are wasting tens of millions of pounds a year on the disposal of sewage. People do not realise that modern methods of dealing with—an unpleasant name—sludge and producing fertilisers is going to be of the very greatest assistance to agriculture, especially in these times when it is difficult to import from abroad. I have not heard one hon. Gentleman, when water and sewage is being discussed, who realises that local authorities can make money for their ratepayers by utilising scientific methods for the treatment of sludge, to produce a fertiliser which is absolutely necessary for the land. We are allowing all that to go to waste. But no one seems to bother about it. Yet we are coming to a period in agriculture throughout the world in which ft will be vital, if we are not to starve, to see that everything that can be used for additional production of food shall be used, and to make certain that it is not wasted. I know that the Minister of Supply and the scientists who work with him and the Lord President, especially in the Depart- 1723 ment of Scientific and Industrial Research, have been able to evolve, with other scientists at universities, a system which is simple and not expensive, and which has the great advantage of not only helping the production of food, but of greatly reducing the cost of sewage disposal. The combining of the two things is surely a practical point, which should be concentrated upon at the present time.
§ Sir R. Glyn
Undoubtedly it is, because at present local authorities are spending money, and this system means not spending but getting something which is of the greatest value to the land. That is obviously economic from the general point of view, and is helpful financially to the ratepayers. I can see nothing against it except that it is distasteful to many people, who do not realise the ordinary functions in the production of agricultural produce.
I would like the Minister of Agriculture to give some credit to those who are engaged in land drainage as distinct from the other kind of drainage. The work done in land drainage has been of the utmost importance. Thousands of pounds have been spent during the war, and it would be a great disaster to the countryside if the maintenance of what has been done should fall into desuetude. I know that the advisers to the right hon. Gentleman are well aware of the importance of this matter, but there are places where there are signs that the work that was done during the war to improve the drainage of the land may be threatened. It is difficult to convince people who are not interested in agricultural matters that a precept is necessary if they live a long way from where the work is being done. In these days of food shortage it is the business of everybody, whether they live in town or country, to support everything that goes towards the production of food.
I am one of those—I hope I am not pessimistic—who believe that we in this country will have to go through worse times in regard to food unless we wake up, and one of the ways in which we have to wake up is to recognise that we cannot afford to waste anything, either in respect of what is produced or in respect of how it is handled. We cannot much longer he the 1724 victims of some rather antiquated plan of taxation, which prevents money from being put back into the land, to the benefit of the people and farm buildings and everything else. It is not a matter of party politics but of national economics, a matter of the future of our people and of our children. How is milk production to be increased unless we produce clear water? How are people to he made to realise that there must be relief for milkers, which means more skilled labour, and that there must not be the risk of a strike which would stop the milking of cows, which cannot be left unmilked for a day or a week, as a lot of ignorant people appear to think? Agriculture is a continuous process; it is not something which one can pick up and let go, it is something which is always happening and is never done. If that continuity is broken into the effect produced is something like a bull in a china shop—it destroys things which cannot be replaced.
This Debate on agriculture is very refreshing, because it is necessary that the House of Commons should do its duty and learn that not only is agriculture the oldest, the most important and honourable industry of all, but the most vital, and that if we do not bestir ourselves we shall look hack on this time in 1946 with great regret. It will not be a case of the years that the locusts have eaten, for we have been warned, and we know what happens when people are hungry. We are a generous country and I hope we always shall be. In the Debate last Thursday many things were said about helping other nations. Surely, we have a lot of leeway to make up here, we have a lot of things we can do, as is shown by the Debate today and the suggestions that have been made, so that the contribution of this small island towards the whole food production of the world shall be an example. By putting this matter above party politics, I hope we shall bring agriculture round to the position which it should never have lost.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
A curious thing during the lifetime of this Parliament has been the way in which Motions which have begun as Motions in the nature of censure upon the Government have, before very long, turned round and become Motions of Censure upon the Opposition. This particular Amendment has been no exception, and in view of the 1725 really terrible record of the Tory Party towards agriculture not merely during the last 20 years but ever since the Tory Party was captured by the industrialists, I feel that the hon. Member for West Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) is to be congratulated upon his courage in trying to censure this Government upon this of all issues. do not intend to try to make a debating speech upon this question. I shall try to deal with what is perhaps the main question at issue, that is, the question of the labour required for this industry, in as constructive a manner as I am able. The problem is really that we require, during the next few years, a recruitment to agriculture in the neighbourhood of 250,000, and out of that total something like 200,000 have to be new entrants That is the problem, and the whole question is, how are we, in circumstances of full employment, to induce that new recruitment to this industry?
A great deal has been said about housing and rural amenities. I do riot intend to follow upon these lines, although I recognise their great importance, because I do not think that in the immediate circumstances of today they are the principal difficulties. If one may take housing as an example, I do not think that it is today one of the causes of the shortage of new recruitment into agriculture, for this reason. One has to look to the relative circurnstances of town and country today. A man on being released from the Forces, and who has to select a job, has to look at the relative circumstances. Although there is great housing shortage in the country there is an even greater shortage in the cities. I agree that the standard of amenities, the electricity, water and all that sort of thing, are better in the cities. In circumstances of famine—and there is a housing famine today—it is not really matters of amenity which are considered. The great problem facing the man who comes out of the Forces today is, "How am I going to find a roof for myself and my wife and family? How am I going to find a home—a home of any sort? "That is the immediate problem.
I would say that the prospect of finding a home is, on the whole, better in the country than it is in the town. I believe if by the stroke of a magic wand one were suddenly to solve the whole housing problem, both in town and country, the 1726 result would not be to improve the labour situation in the country. The result would be exactly the reverse. I believe that there are a very large number of people who are in agriculture today, and who have been kept in agriculture, solely because they can get and keep a home if they stay working on a farm and they cannot get a home if they stop working on a farm. Apart from all these things, I think the major reason is simply a question of wages. A man will take the job where the money is best. When a man leaves the Forces it is no use to say, "Come into agriculture," if the wages are higher in industries where conditions are comparable.
We will never get this recruitment until we have provided a wage structure for agriculture comparable with the wage structure of other similar industries. That is the first essential. I would also make this point. It is not a mere increase in wages which is required in agriculture; it is a relative increase as against other industries. Therefore, I would say to my fellow farmers, "Can we afford a proper wage structure now on the basis of existing prices?" It is no use for the farmers to say, "We will agree to increase agricultural wages, but only on condition that prices go up." If the prices go up then the general cost of living goes up and all the other industries which have their wages based upon the cost of living put their wages up, and the final result is that everything is exactly where it started. The rising prices have pushed up the other wages and agriculture is not relatively any better off than it was when it started.
I would pose this further question to farmers: "Can we afford in existing circumstances and with existing prices not to have a wages structure which is comparable with those of our competitors in the labour market?" I would ask farmers to consider those questions very carefully indeed in their own interests.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I am sorry to interrupt, but this point arose before. It is no use to ask the farmer to solve these questions. What is the hon. Member's solution and what is his party's solution? Why should the rest of the country whose wages are based on the present cost of living index, constructed as it is, be entitled for ever to live on the backs of low-paid agricultural workers in this and other 1727 countries? What justification is there for that argument? Would the hon. Gentleman address his mind to that? It is the crux of the matter.
I will certainly deal with that question. I am coming to that in a moment. If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not take it out of order.
The point I am making at the moment is whether farmers on the existing price level of today can afford a wage structure which is comparable with that in competitive industries. An hon. Member on my left tells me to say, "a wage." I prefer to say "a wage structure," because at the moment I do not want to go into the question how this structure should be planned, whether it should be by grading, or something of that sort. I prefer the expression "wage structure." Can the farmers afford it now? I know very well that the farmers before the National Wages Board did produce a lot of figures. They produced a lot of farm accounts. They were very nice accounts in their way. They were all prepared by accountants, they had all been passed by the Income Tax authorities, and they were all very nice and proper. I say to farmers, let them be honest with themselves. I am asking the farmers not to "kid" themselves with their phoney figures because I am saving, absolutely "flat-out," that farm accounts figures are phoney. I say that as a farmer. They do not in any way represent what is really being made out of the farm.
Wait a moment. I say that expressly for these reasons: First, the question as to what in the form of produce the farmer gets from his farm is, for Income Tax purposes, normally brought in at a figure of £30 a year. In point of fact, the produce taken by the ordinary farmer for his family would on market prices come to something like four times that figure.
§ Mr. Turton
Surely that statement is quite inaccurate. The figure is 85 per cent. of the market price according to Income Tax law.
The figure may be 85 per cent. of the market value by Income Tax law. In fact, no account is kept of the produce as it goes into the house. Therefore, an arbitrary figure is agreed and that figure is generally £30
§ Major Ramsay (Forfar)
Could the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he is producing this information from knowledge of actual instances taken from a cross-section of farmers, or is he merely judging conditions by his own standards?
I am basing this on figures which I have obtained from all over the country. Generally speaking, the figure normally is £30. It does sometimes go higher. There are conditions in which it does go higher.
I am sorry; I have given way quite a number of times and I cannot again. The second point is that there is a tremendous amount of expenditure on a farm, which is really living expenditure, and which goes into the farm accounts as farm expenditure. The car, the paraffin, the casual help in the house, the casual help in the garden, and the soap and the kitchen utensils, which get muddled up with the farming implements in the ironmongery bill, all are charged to the farm accounts, and a whole number of small items Over and above that —and this is by far the most important—it is open to farmers, in the process of building up what in industry is called hidden reserves, to reinvest a great deal of untaxed profit. Almost the whole of the stock improvements can be carried out from profit before it is taxed, and that is only an example. Improvements in implements and equipment can, to a very large extent, be carried out in that way. If hon. Members want to test this, let them compare, at any farm disposal sale, the sum realised by that sale against the balance-sheet values of the goods disposed of, and I would be prepared to wager that they will very seldom find that the difference is less than 100 per cent. That gives some indication of the extent to which profits can, quite legitimately, within the Income Tax rules, be converted into capital before they are taxed.
Further, I have not mentioned any of the other aspects of the matter—the cash sales which, in instances of which some 1729 of us know, never appear in the accounts at all, and the quite extraordinary mortality on some farms of pigs and chickens, or, indeed, the actual black market transactions, which amount to quite a considerable volume in some districts. I say, therefore, that these farm accounts do not show a real picture of what the farmer can afford, and he should be most careful, when he considers this question, not to fool himself with these figures but to take a real view of the situation and see if he can afford a proper wage structure.
I would, in conclusion, urge the Minister to say to the farmers in his negotiations, "If you will make a substantial concession to build up a proper wage structure for our industry, then the whole influence of the Government will be directed to see that what you grant will remain a relative gain as against your competitors in the labour market, and the Government will use its influence with the T.U.C. to see that the concession by the farmers shall not be used as an argument for advancing wages elsewhere, and that that concession shall not be used by local authorities as an argument, either. In a word, the local roadman shall not promptly be put up to 2S. above the agricultural labourer again." If that were said by the Government, I believe the farmers would go a considerable way towards meeting them. I am afraid that I have not answered the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. Hudson), but I have outrun my time and shall hope for the opportunity to deal with this matter on a future occasion.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
I am very glad that this matter has been brought up today. It is one of the fundamental questions of our national life at the present time. It has been my good fortune to be a member of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce for many years, and that traditionally conservative body was considering, the other day, future policy on industry in Lancashire and the North-West. They have advised the Board of Trade that they have come to the conclusion that it is essential, for the wellbeing of this country, to have a well-established and prosperous agriculture. That, to my mind, means two things—prosperous farming and prosperous, contented and happy people on the farms It was, indeed, a most amazing thing, in 1730 my opinion, that the traditionally Free Trade Manchester Chamber of Commerce should demand a stabilised and prosperous agriculture.
I feel that the basis of a prosperous agriculture is to have a large, contented agricultural population. We have heard this evening of many of the difficulties confronting the farmworkers—lack of housing, of amenities, and all sorts of things—but the fact remains that there is every indication that the diminution in the number of rural workers has not been stopped up to the present time. There is, however, every indication that people coming out of the Services, looking for an open air life in rural districts, would prefer to go on the land, and I suggest to the Government that, in order to make this prospect more attractive to ex-Servicemen, they should consider the possibility of offering them smallholdings. This is one of the stepping stones by which people could get on to larger and more prosperous farms. I notice that there is a Motion on the Order Paper in the names of a number of hon. Members who are very keen on increasing the number of smallholdings. We know that the production of food may be infinitely greater on smallholdings than on large farms, arid smallholdings are to be encouraged for that reason and also a means of attracting more people to the land
In a large rural district with which I am very familiar in Cheshire—it is one of the largest in the country—the rural district council applied for 50 Swedish wooden houses to meet the heavy demand for accommodation. They were eventually given 16 houses, which, in my opinion, are costing an enormous amount to erect. The average cost of erection, together with the necessary layouts, is about £100 per house. The demand for housing for rural workers in that area represents about 800 houses, but the present negotiations are for only 75 brick houses, and they cannot in any way meet the local requirements. It has been said already that houses should be built in villages and in small clusters, so that it will be more convenient for wives to do the shopping and for children to go to school. I would remind the Government, however, that, in a county such as Cheshire, which is largely concerned with dairy farming, it is absolutely essential to have a certain number of cottages on the farms.
1731 Cowmen have to attend to their stock at all times of the night, and this would be impossible if these men had to come from the villages; they would not be able to do their job properly. We have seen that it is practicable for buses to collect children and for bus services to take the farmers' and the farmworkers' wives to do their necessary shopping. That has been approved in dairying districts rather than the method of increasing village houses.
There is another aspect of the question of attracting farmworkers. We have seen the policy of the Government, put forward in November last, for increased and more prosperous agriculture, but we want to see that implemented. We want to see the Government forging ahead much faster than they are doing at present. We have seen the possibilities of advisory committees and of new war agricultural committees, but the changeover is taking far too long. In many counties there was no surveying of farms at all during last summer. The interregnum should be reduced to as short a period as possible. One feels that the drive has gone out of the Ministry of Agriculture; one does not see the urge which is demanded by the circumstances. Policies have been set out, but we want more than policies—greater production and more people on the land. In my opinion, the Minister is not following through, with the drive which the country expects of him, and which is demanded by the circumstances.
When the Minister of Agriculture took office last year, the policy which he announced on 15th November was already in existence. It was in the pigeonhole, and he took it out and put it across to the public. Since then, events have moved slowly, and it would almost seem as though the Minister of Agriculture were being ground between the cogwheels of the Ministries of Health, Food and Labour. Those three Ministries seem to be holding him down, and not letting him get on with the policy he promised. I ask the Minister then to put more drive into his policy, and to get on with the job before it is too late.
§ 7.43 P.m.
§ Mr. Charles White (Derby, Western)
Representing an agricultural constituency in the heart of the country, I feel grateful to the mover of this Amendment for 1732 enabling the House to discuss a problem affecting the English countryside. I am afraid that what has been heard today does not go to the crux of the whole position. In the part of the country that I represent, we shall want something much stronger than anything mentioned in this Amendment to bring about that state of affairs which every hon. Member is desirous of seeing. It is no good talking about the effect this will have on the Thames Conservancy Board or on the Trent Catchment Board, or on any other extraneous organisation such as that. We have to get down to an improvement in the life of the people engaged in agriculture, whether they be tenant farmers or agricultural labourers. The source from which this Amendment has come is, perhaps, the most astounding thing about it, because, despite the warnings of many hon. Members on this side of the House, the party represented on the benches opposite allowed agriculture in the interwar years to get into the most serious condition in which it had ever been. Some artificial improvement has been brought about by the war, but that improvement cannot last, and something of a very thorough nature must be done before we get that rehabilitation of the countryside which is so very much overdue.
The first thing we should consider is the root question of wages. In my part of England we have the rather ludicrous spectacle of the road labourer—no doubt earning his money, but certainly not as skilled and not as essential to England as the skilled agricultural labourer—getting shillings a week more than the farm labourer. We hear a lot from agriculturists. They want controlled markets, guaranteed prices and a restriction on imports. While every hon. Member on this side of the House, and nobody more than the Minister in charge of this Department, wants to see agriculture put on a proper basis, it is impossible for that to come about until the most important thing in the cost of production—wages—has been put on a proper basis. We on this side of the House pressed for a long time for an augmentation of the farm labourer's wage. We are getting some lip service today from the other side of the House in support of this ideal, but I would suggest to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that, had they used the same influence with the members of the Central 1733 Wages Board which they are now trying to use on the Minister today, it would have been much more constructive so far as the agricultural labourer's wage is concerned.
Housing has not become a great problem in the countryside since the Labour Party took office last year. The problem today is the result of years of bad adminitration and the failure of the Government to legislate during the interwar years. Hon. Members on this side of the House have pleaded, not only from political platforms and in this House, but on local and county authorities of which they are members, for people to tackle this problem, and to tackle it in the proper way. I suggest that the major difficulty with regard to housing is the result of the policy of economy instigated by the Government in 1931 which was made up of Members of the Tory Party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) pleaded for the restoration of country cottages. I do not know what they have in Southport, but God forbid that cottages in my division should be restored or tolerated for a minute longer than necessary. They are cottages without a damp course, and are made of limestone rubble that could not possibly be restored by any modern method. It would be a sheer waste of money to attempt it. The tied cottage is one of the main difficulties in the countryside. Is any man, with the present housing shortage, which will take a considerable time to overcome, not only to put his labour into the hands of one man, but his right to live in a house as well? I am sure that there is no possible solution, of this problem without an efficient and urgent housing scheme carried out by rural district authorities. That is the only solution to this great problem which is such a handicap in rehabilitating the countryside.
There is one further matter to which I should like to refer. There are special peculiarities about this problem in my part of Derbyshire. In the Northern part of that county is the collecting ground for the water supplies of three great Midland cities. That main pipe line which brings the water from the hills of Derbyshire to Leicester, Derby and Nottingham goes through many rural villages. The villages through which that water passes have a great water problem of their own. Hardly a single village has a pipe supply or a scheme of sanitation 1734 because of the lack of a water supply. I cannot visualise that problem ever being overcome by the rural authorities operating there at the moment, no matter what legislation is passed or what subsidies are promised. We must have greater authorities with financial facilities for dealing with these twin problems of sanitation and adequate water supply. I beg the Government to consider that difficulty on the lines which have been suggested. I am sure that is the only feasible solution to what to the rural districts is a very great problem.
In conclusion, I would refer to a very human problem. The inhabitants of sixty villages South of a line drawn from Ash-bourne to Wirksworth in my constituency, none of them with a population of more than 150 and most of them ten miles from a large town, are living in circumstances which will not allow of any further influx into those villages. There is hardly a bus service; they have no form of entertainment; their schools are run in such a way as not to satisfy the parents of the children because they do not get the educational facilities that other children get in the urban districts and in the boroughs and county boroughs. Until that problem also is tackled, and until the father and mother can earn their living on the countryside, assured that they are not handicapping their children in regard to education and other opportunities, we are simply beating the air by talking about a few bricks, as did the right hon. Member for Southport. It is useless making debating points. What is wanted is a programme not so much of reconstruction but of construction, so that the countryside can be made worth living in. Then we will solve, not only our food problem but one of England's major problems so far as the future is concerned.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Mr. White) will forgive me if I do not follow him further than to say, on this question of wages, that I feel the first thing the unions who represent agricultural workers should do is to try to remove from members of other unions the impression that they have a vested right to a wage of some 10s. higher than agricultural workers at all times and in all conditions. That impression has existed for decades. It probably arose 1735 in the days when the more energetic people left the country and went into the towns, since when the people in the towns have always thought they should have a higher wage. That belief must be removed before any real answer can be found.
In supporting this Amendment, I want to call attention to one fact that is embodied in it. We are talking not only of the immediate problem of agricultural labour but of the long-term problem as well. The Amendment says:…required by the nation during the next decade.The point I intend to make deals, perhaps, rather with this long view than with the immediate view, although it deals with the immediate, too. One of the greatest deterrents to young men and women entering the agricultural industry today is that they feel there is in it very little future for them. That feeling applies in an even stronger degree to their parents whom they consult and who suggest they had better not enter it. At 18 years of age a man gets the full agricultural wage, and at 70 he may be getting the same wage, or whatever it may have risen to during his life. There may have been, of course, a rise in the basic wage. In an office or a shop there is a far greater chance of promotion. The office boy can become a manager. If he has the capability and the will to get on, he has no great difficulty in advancing in this manner. That has been the case for many years—in fact, from the days of Dick Whittington. In agriculture there is no recognised ladder of promotion. Sometimes, of course, on home farms a man becomes a foreman, then a bailiff, and later, perhaps, a tenant farmer. Again, some of the brighter boys who are fortunate enough to be able to pay, go to agricultural colleges or even universities and get government or local government jobs in agricultural education or supervision, but there are not a great many of them. There is no real ladder of promotion for the man who wishes to make his main source of livelihood the production of food from the land, by which he can rise from the position of an agricultural worker, to that of a tenant farmer or owner occupier.
I suggest that the materials for that ladder do exist, some of them in the 1736 rough, of course. I blame the Government to some extent for not putting those materials together so as to form a ladder, or, at any rate, for not pointing out to those who may wish to enter the industry where those materials lie and how they can be used I would like to give a brief sketch of how I visualise that ladder. Before discussing the potential rungs, I would like to say something which, I believe, is basic to the whole matter, and that is there must he solid ground on which to put the ladder. We must discover all those young people who have a natural affinity for life on the land. Some people have, and some have not. Some grow up without knowing they have that affinity. I have working in my woods a young man who, before the war, was in the fried fish business. He was taken prisoner in Greece, and while a prisoner in Austria was set to work in the woods. He found that that work, even as a prisoner, was what really suited him. When he returned home he did not go back to fried fish. He answered my advertisement in the local paper for a woodman, and he is now working in the woods. Another young man living near me is working in a London office and has a good job. During the war he and his wife came to live in the country to get away from the bombing. During weekends and holidays they worked for a local farmer, and his ambition now is to leave this good clean job in the city and take a small farm and work on the land.
I believe there are many cases like that, of people who, if they had been directed on the right course as children, would have gone to the land and helped reverse that process which has, for three generations now, been draining the best people from the land. At the moment we have too many square pegs in round holes. I believe the duty of sorting out those pegs lies with the elementary schools. I believe that the small boy who likes white mice is more likely to be a farmer some day than a boy who makes a list of the different aeroplanes he sees. I think it is the duty of elementary teachers to watch for those things, and to note them. I do not suggest for a moment that there should be any specialisation before children are 13; I do not think they would be developed enough: but I do believe they should be watched.
1737 The first rung in my ladder is a pre-agricultural course, somewhat simplified on the theoretical side for the man who does not aspire to become an instructor. A pre-agricultural course in a rural modern school would occupy the child's time from the age of 13 to 15, or 16 when the school-leaving age is raised. The whole scheme is fully discussed in the Loveday Report that came out last year. I would like to read an extract from that Report, because it does seem to put in a nutshell what I have tried to convey. In describing this course they say:…What they all need in common is a good general education, making due provision for cultural subjects as a means of personal satisfaction and a training for good citizenship, developing an intelligent understanding of the fabric of country life, instilling a sound general knowledge of the scientific foundations of agriculture and providing practice in the use of tools and the care of animals.A little lower down it says, students should be well fitted after such an educationto adjust their practice to changing conditions and to keep a receptive attitude of mind towards technical advice.I think those last few words are very important. In that course two things should definitely be taught: one is some knowledge of simple accounts, and the other the internal combustion engine. I am glad to say that in my own county we have a small school of that sort, which I hope will grow to a larger one.
The second rung—perhaps a rung which might be climbed almost at the same time as the first—is that of the young farmers' clubs. This is a splendid organisation with the greatest possible promise of help to British agriculture. I hope the Minister will encourage it in every possible way. The third rung, after leaving school, must be a period of work as an agricultural worker on a farm. or market garden. When education continues to the age of 18 it will be possible for further agricultural education to be undertaken during this period. How long this period on the land is to last is a little uncertain. It depends on individual circumstances. Before the next stage the man or woman will somehow have to get a little capital. Some people may be lucky, through a wise choice of parents, and be able to get it quite easily by the time they are 18 or 19. Others will have to save. Others perhaps may have some gratuity, although I am not at the moment talking 1738 particularly of ex-Service people. As I say, for this next rung I suggest that a little capital must be found. It may take a man without any means behind him a little time to accumulate that capital. Attaining the fourth rung will depend a good deal on the employer, whether he is a private individual or a Government Department. If we are to make this thing work, if we are going to encourage men to get on in the industry, all those who employ agricultural workers will have to be careful that they do not keep them hack. It is very tempting to do that, because it is asking an awful lot of an employer to let his best men go. But it will be for our good in the long run, if we want to attract fresh blood into the industry, and if we are to encourage these men into agriculture. Anyhow, a certain number will not want to get on; they will stay with us, and be content to remain on one of the various rungs.
My next rung is either a group settlement on a land settlement estate, or a small holding. Perhaps those are two successive rungs. I do not think there is any need to describe the system of the land settlements, but I do want to emphasise three characteristic features which to my mind make them so valuable. First, though, some capital is required; it is not a very great amount, £500, of which £250 can be advanced, sometimes a little more. They have the advantages of cooperative purchasing and cooperative selling. In consideration of the benefits they receive the members of the settlements have to submit to advice and a certain amount of guidance. I believe those things are most valuable. I know it is said they are so few that they cannot make any difference; that there are only about 700 individuals on these land settlements at present. My answer is that the Government must see to it that there are more; and that these settlements are established in every county instead of in only seven or eight as at present.
I know the question of building arises. After all, when we were fighting in the war, when we wanted landing craft, tanks or aeroplanes we built them. Now that we are fighting for food we will have to build things too, and they are just as important. With regard to the small holding scheme to which I referred, I know that at the moment all those schemes arc really in a state of suspended 1739 animation. I think it is agreed on all sides that it would be fatal to make the mistakes which were made after the last war, when ex-Servicemen were allowed to waste—there is no other word for it—money in starting on small holdings of which they had no knowledge; in many cases they had a hard time, and finally went bankrupt. But we must remember that conditions today are very different from what they were between 1919 and 1923. Then, economic circumstances were going downhill at a catastrophic rate. Today, small holders are doing very much better, particularly in dairy areas. In dairy counties such as Cheshire, or my own county, I believe some of these small holdings worked by one family are doing extremely well.
I believe the county council small holding system should be revivified and developed to a system more on the lines of the land settlement scheme. I think that as far as possible we want them more concentrated, and not scattered all over the county. The men on the holdings should be helped with loans. I believe the banks would be ready to make those loans if they knew there was to be supervision of the holdings by the authorities, the county councils and so on. I think cooperative buying and selling could and should be organised. There should also be constant supervision by the advisory service which we are going to have in the autumn. Small holdings should be run on educational lines foi training purposes, rather than as a sort of municipal land owning enterprise, very often run at a loss and subsidised from the rates. That is the way they are being managed in a good many counties today, or have been in the past.
From then on I hope that a young man or young woman would become a small tenant farmer, possibly on an estate, possibly under the new Land Commission which is going to be started in the autumn, or when the Government policy announced the other day is introduced. I suggest that that Commission should try to provide a certain number of small tenant farms for this purpose. I do not think it is necessary to go on describing further rungs—owner-occupier, tenant farmer, and so on; it is getting too near the "lived happily ever after "stage.
That is the ladder as I see it. I believe it is a possible one. One side is educa- 1740 tional and subsequent advice; the other side is a system of credits. It must help eliminate putting round pegs in square holes. The ladder starts with the rung of education by a pre-agricultural course, then comes land settlement, small holding and tenant farm. There is one more thing in a ladder. At every few rungs we get a steel bolt going through from one side to the other, which holds the whole thing together. That steel bolt should be a system of cooperation in buying and selling, in pools of equipment, and of making use of various facilities such as artificial insemination. There must he cooperation all the way through. I ask the Minister either to build this ladder or to tell people some method by which it can be built. I do not know quite whose duty it would be. There was, I believe, in the Ministry of Agriculture an Intelligence Division, though I believe its name has been changed. just as at a university students have a tutor who watches over them and tells them what courses to take, so the Ministry should act as tutor to these young men and women who come into the industry; if they are promising the Ministry should encourage them and so make the agriculture of the future an industry in which a man can expect to rise, and in which he need not look forward to remaining in the same economic circumstances throughout his life. We could get a lot of men and women of the right type attracted to the industry if they knew there was a chance of getting on, for it would act as a very considerable inducement.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Georģe Jeger (Winchester)
We on this side of the House welcome this Amendment, because even though it is in effect an attack upon the Government, it shows by its terms a spirit of repentance in the Opposition or the awakening of their conscience with regard to our most important industry, agriculture. It is true that that repentance is sudden and that the awakening of the conscience has been long delayed after generations of neglect during which the agricultural industry was allowed to stagnate and decay. We hope that that sign of repentance is a symbol for the future, and will make itself felt not only with regard to agriculture but with respect to every other aspect of our life in this country, in home affairs and in foreign affairs.
1741 Whether this is an attack of conscience on the part of the Opposition, or the realisation of the seriousness of the food position, is another matter. It has been said that here in this country there is a section of society that is only stirred to action when there is a threat to its pockets, its privileges or its comfort. Osbert Sitwell would say that there is "a frightened look in its eyes." The farmworkers of this country are becoming educated. They are joining their trade unions in masses. They are realising that they are entitled to a fair share of the benefits of their labour. Shelley says:Men of England, wherefore plough For the lords who lay you low?They are voting today in the elections—in the general elections, the county council elections, the urban and rural district council elections, and even in the parish council elections, where they are no longer afraid to put up their hands and vote for the people they want on the parish councils despite the fact that the local squires and gentry are in the village hall.
Agriculture is prosperous; there is no doubt about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) gave illustrations of the prosperity of the farmers. They have got their guaranteed prices, they have got their assured markets. But we believe that no industry can be prosperous unless the workers in it are getting a fair share of the prosperity and of the economic security to which they are entitled as a result of their work. I hope that horticulture will share in the prosperity that the agricultural industry, generally is enjoying, and I hope that the Minister wilt undertake to see that there is to be a greater development and organisation of marketing facilities for horticultural produce. We believe that no industry can be stable unless it is founded upon proper principles. We wish to see the exploitation of the workers banished from this industry as from every other. The principal difficulty that handicaps agriculture at the moment, is, by general acceptance, the shortage of workers
What inducement is there at the moment for men in the Forces who are offered training facilities for agriculture to accept this offer and undertake training? To what have they to look forward? They will undergo a period of training for that industry. During that training they will receive £4 1s. a week. As soon as they 1742 are trained and get a job in the industry their wages go down to £,3 10s.—after they have been trained. If they read HANSARD, if they read such of the reports as appear in the daily newspapers of our proceedings here, they will discover that if they have the bad fortune to fall off a haystack, or meet with an accident that will give them a permanent disability, they will be in receipt of 88s. 6d. a week and still be in the position of being able to do odd jobs around the farm and earn another 20s. a week without having to lose any of their 88s. 6d. a week. Where is the inducement to men to go into agriculture in those circumstances, when after training they will receive wages less than they received when they were being trained, and when in the circumstances of disability they will be better off than if they are well and earning a full week's wage?
What inducements are there for them to live in the country and to take their wives and families there? They will get a pretty little cottage—maybe. I went to one estate only on Saturday. There was a group of cottages with three wells between them. The wells are in the garden. The cottagers have to go outside to get their water, and must draw it up in a heavy galvanised iron bucket, drawing it up by means of a wheel and chain. When they get the water up it is muddy, and contains worms and snails. I saw it myself and speak from my own experience. They do not have domestic servants in those cottages, it may surprise hon. Members opposite to learn; the water has to be drawn up from the well by the women of the house herself. Whether she is young or old, whether she is pregnant or middle-aged, makes no difference, she has still to draw that heavy bucket up the well. What happens with regard to sewage? That gets distributed on the garden. There are earth closets only. It is questionable whether the sewage does not seep through to the source of the water in the well.
The paths from the rural cottages to the main road are rough and muddy, so it is impossible to keep the house clean, and if they are going out the cottagers have to walk down muddy paths to get to the road and to the bus service. Naturally, the tradesmen delivering goods are chary of walking up those muddy paths to deliver their goods, and the cottagers 1743 go short of things that might be delivered by the village tradesmen with their carts. Cooking has to be done on oil stoves and several of the families I visited on Saturday had only one or two cooked meals during the week, because of the necessity of cooking on oil stoves. Baths are impossible because the water has to be heated on a fire or on an oil stove. How is it possible to keep the children clean in those circumstances? They have not electricity and they have not an electric cooker. That little estate was built only 19 years ago by the rural district council, and those houses belong to the rural district council. They were out of date before they were put up.
Suppose the man who had undergone his training wanted a job in agriculture and decided he would try the benefits of private enterprise. Let me give the House some details of a few private enterprise bungalows in that neighbourhood. They are three-roomed bungalows. One of the rooms is unusable because the water happens to be under the floor boards of the third room. The occupiers have to take up the floor boards so that they can get water. A little before Christmas the wells in the neighbourhood dried up and a kindly county council sent round a water cart, which called on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to distribute 12 gallons for two days at a cost of a halfpenny a gallon. The money was paid to the man who delivered the water. That service has stopped now, for they can get water from below their rooms again.
Suppose he goes to another village, also in Hampshire, a beautiful village of 500 inhabitants. There are five stand-pipes situated throughout the village. The rural district council has gone into the question of supplying them with water. They asked for some houses to be put up there because of the overcrowding, and it was agreed they should have six houses. After consideration, the six houses are not being built there because there is not a water supply to put to these houses, and so the rural district council, which will not give them water, will not give them the houses because they cannot give them water. Are these the conditions under which our agriculturists of the future are to be induced to enter the industry?
1744 We think that we are handling at the moment a very unpleasant inheritance that we have received from generations of neglect of Tory Governments in the past. That cannot be put right in a few months. and we think the people of the countryside of today, knowing it cannot be put right in a few months, will pay little attention to this last-minute conversion on the part of the Tory Party. They have in the countryside today a great deal of faith in the Minister of Health, in the Minister of Agriculture, and in this Government, and they are showing it by their votes at the elections. If we are democratic, we accept these results without sneers, and we accept them at their true value. We have a tragic inheritance, but from the result of the Election, and from the activities in the countryside today, I am confident that the people have faith in this Government. They see that the Government are tackling the question in the right way as time goes on, and that we can be trusted to bring to agriculture a stable and prosperous situation, so far as the industry is concerned, with prosperity conceived, attained and maintained for the benefit of the workers.
§ 8.26 p.m.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
Although it is late, I hope that I may be able to say one more word on the subject of housing. I hope too that anything I say will not come within the category of what the Minister referred to as "crying stinking fish." I should like to take up one point which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. G. Jeger). I do not know whether I am particularly unlucky, but I live in an area in Climberland where the rural district council does not receive from the Minister of Health the service one would expect his Department to give. In a recent number of the local paper, I read that the clerk at the last meeting had reported that he had written to the senior regional officer at the end of January, requesting Ministerial approval for the programme of houses which the council wished to build for the year beginning April, 1946. As he received no acknowledgment, he wrote again in February; as he received no reply and no acknowledgment, he wrote again on 15th March. By the date of the newspaper, which is 3oth March, they still had received neither reply nor acknowledgment. Is that the sort of action which is likely to win respect in country districts, 1745 is it an example of the action which the Minister described as the watchword of his Government?
I should like to ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, whether he can give the House further guidance as to his Government's policy towards housing societies building in the countryside. We have heard in an earlier Debate that, subject to certain limitations, housing societies will he eligible to receive the same subsidy as local authorities. We should like to have a more definite lead than that. These societies, as the House knows, are democratic. The movement has developed in recent years until it now covers a very wide field. There is no reason why housing societies should not be far more widely used in rural districts and play their part in reviving life in the country. side such as was mentioned earlier in the Debate by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). I cannot see people forming housing societies, spending money on plans and getting the beginning of their schemes into operation, if they are later to be told that they cannot make any further progress or are to have their licences cancelled because they have shown more enterprise than can be approved by the Minister of Health.
I wish to say a word about repairs, which have hardly been mentioned in the course of this Debate. We admit that so long as materials are scarce there must he some measure of control, but it should be administered as sympathetically as possible. The fact remains that the £10 limit has become a farce. I wonder whether the Minister realises that it is impossible to remove a worn-out grate from a cottage, and provide and fix a new one, even of the most shoddy pattern, for much less than £20. Surely, there is no purpose in having this control at all. Repairs and replacements even of that routine character cannot be carried out without those who are to do the work having to fill in forms and submit them to appropriate authorities. Can we not have a little more realism in this matter? Surely it would be possible to have the limit raised to something like £30, which would enable repairs to be carried out with much more expedition than at the present time. It would still provide the useful check on wasteful work to property, which the Government so rightly wishes to impose.
1746 I know that the Minister will say that there is a sort of omnibus licence—I think that it is called a maintenance licence—which can he issued where a number of properties are managed together. This is the sort of licence which the average agricultural estate requests and is granted; but although that is a contribution to the problem, it is certainly not the real solution because it is far too inelastic. Even under a maintenance licence, I believe that it is generally impossible to provide and fix a new kitchen range in a cottage without having to make a special application.
Let me say again, I think it a very good thing to raise that limit to something which is a little more practicable. At the same time, many of those who manage property would like not only to catch up with the lack of repairs which, has accrued during the war years, but also to consider improvements, Here I differ from the hon. Member below the Gangway, who spoke earlier in the Debate. It is particularly apt to deal with repairs and improvements together. If you are going to spend money upon a number of repairs which should have been done two or three years ago, and would have been done but for the war, surely this is a very suitable moment to try, if not to increase the accommodation of the cottages, at least to improve their amenities. I am sure that the Minister will discover, if he reads the evidence which supports the interim report of the Rural Housing Sub-Committee, previously referred to, that the responsible bodies such as the Chartered Surveyors' Institution and Land Agents' Society know most about this question of repairs in country districts; he will find from the evidence that one and all support the contention that this reconstruction could be done in the countryside without making any inroads on the materials and labour which would otherwise be used for new construction.
Lastly comes the question of amenities. The other day I was present at a conference at Kendal, which farmers attended from all the counties of the North of England, and they all spoke of the pressing need for electricity. I know this from conditions in my own village, which is a very remote village, where we still depend on lamps for our lighting—that is except those in the properties requisitioned by 1747 Government Departments diving the war to whom the electric mains were taken without delay and as straight as an arrow from a bow. All the inhabitants are now looking forward to electric light. The desire for electric light has greatly increased during the war years. People have now fully realised the benefits they are going to gain by having their premises connected to the electric mains, and they are longing for this improvement to be carried out. Electricity is not only a question of improved amenities, it is also a question of saving work. Saving work means increased food. Surely the Minister cannot afford to ignore anything likely at this time to increase our food supplies.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)
I do not intend to detain the House long at this late stage in the Debate, but there are one or two things to which I would like to refer in connection with this subject. I would express my surprise and pleasure at the solicitude that has been almost unanimously expressed from the other side concerning the welfare of the agricultural workers of this country. I can only regret that that solicitude did not find practical expression in the many years, during which some of us have endeavoured to raise the status of the agricultural worker. Unfortunately, that solicitude has in the past been strikingly lacking Had there been such unanimity, the Agricultural Wages Board of 1921 would not have been abolished, and wages would not have fallen in that year from 47S. 6d. to 28S. 6d. Not only did we have no help from the party opposite when they had the power, but they remained indifferent to the state of the agricultural community at that time. I must agree with a colleague on this side of the House who earlier in the day attributed their present concern to the fact that they are losing their grip on the country. Not only the farmworkers but the farmers themselves are leaving the Tory Party and supporting the Labour Party. The agricultural workers have decided that there is no hope for them, except in the policy of the party that holds office today. The policy that has been placed before this House by the Minister of Agriculture, and has received the endorsement of the workers and the National Farmers' Union, has caused the Tory Party much concern, 1748 because they realise that their opportunity has now passed for all time.
The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), who initiated this Debate, said there were four reasons why the agricultural workers were leaving the land—first, poor accommodation; secondly, lack of amenities; thirdly, lack of status; and fourthly, lack of wages. He put wages last, and stated that in his opinion the low wages were not the chief reason why argicultural workers were leaving the industry on the one hand, or refusing to return to it on the other. How wrong he was. The fact that today a skilled agricultural worker is only entitled to the legal minimum of 70s. per week is undoubtedly the main cause for this drift from the land. Let hon. Members opposite say what they like about housing conditions, the fact remains that that is the real reason why agricultural workers are refusing to return to the land. Today many hundreds of agricultural workers, who are on the farms, would leave if alternative accommodation were available to them. As housing conditions improve in the urban areas, there will be the resumption of this drift from the land, particularly when the power to compel agricultural workers to remain on the land is no longer in force. I say, therefore, that the real reason why agricultural workers arc dissatisfied, and why men who are corning out of the Army under Class A are not returning to the land is because of the very low wage that is at present being paid.
§ Mr. Wells
I cannot give way, as there is not time. It hon. Members opposite are really concerned with the condition of the workers in agriculture, then they will join their voices with those of hon. Members on this side of the House, who are endeavouring to place the workers on a par with those engaged in other forms of industry. The only contribution which has been made by Members on the other side of the House towards that desirable object is the contribution of their speeches. I hope that at the next meeting of the Central Agricultural Wages Board, we shall get the appointed members to depart from the position they have taken up, that of refusing to concede this undoubtedly desirable increase for the men for whom we speak.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I propose to speak for only a short time so that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will have ample time to reply to the Debate. We feel that there is need for answers to be given to the many questions that have been raised, and I want to summarise some of the points which have been put so that the hon. Gentleman may answer them to the best of his ability. We feel that the Government are not showing sufficient imagination in dealing with the problem of the relationship between town and country, a relationship which has changed rapidly, partly owing to the increase in building outside cities, and partly owing to improved transport. There is at present, also, no satisfactory relationship between wages in town and country areas, or between amenities in these places. I do not wish to follow speakers in the politics of this matter. We really must get on with the job. This is a problem in which we are all interested and one to which we should all devote the service of our lives and the best of our ability. When Members opposite taunt us on this side about agricultural wages, I remember that when I first became a Member of Parliament I was horrified to Mid that wages on the land were about 30s. a week, with the usual deductions for health insurance. Now they have risen to 70S. as a minimum, with increased amounts for extra work. I am not one who says that this is due to one person, or one party, but the fact is that there has been that improvement. It is now our desire to carry that work further, whoever we may be or wherever we may sit, in order to approximate more closely the conditions of skilled men in different parts of the country. It is because we find that the Government's policy is so disappointing on these matters that we want to press them to answer our questions on what their policy towards wages is.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) on the subject of releases under the Class B scheme. Ministers rise at the Treasury Box and give grandiose figures of what releases they hope to get, but then they fall down considerably, and the final results which steal out later show much lower figures. The Government get a certain amount of credit by announcing a figure of 18,000 and a 1750 little later that figure is found to be 7,417. That is not satisfactory, whatever may be the reason, and I ask the Government to make clear what are the net figures they hope to get under Class B releases and in other ways. The Government have acknowledged that they are falling down by the fact that the number of prisoners of war to be employed on the land is to be increased to 200,000. That is an acknowledgment that their system of releases and supplementation of labour on the land by their policy is failing. They have had to resort to a method which cannot be permanent.
With regard to the Women's Land Army, the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) this morning sent a telephone message to the organisers of a Recruiting Rally to say he had a temperature. I was asked if I could take his place at this rally of members of the Land Army at Braintree. I did so, and there I made a short speech with the object of encouraging the recruiting campaign. I entirely support the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture that all parties must support this campaign. It is essential that the work of the Women's Land Army should be praised and encouraged. We all know that we cannot go to indefinite lengths in making promises to the Women's Land Army, and that is not the purpose of 'my remarks tonight. I would simply ask the Minister to try to go further in suggesting amenities and improvements in the lot of the Women's Land Army than he was able to do in his speech. Without that, the campaign will not be the success we would all wish it to be.
As regards housing, we want to know categorically what is the position of local authorities in the tenders they are intending to call for for the building of houses, How many of the plans of local authorities are, in fact, designed to build houses for agricultural workers at the proper agricultural rate of subsidy? We would like to hear from the Government this evening how many of these plans of local authorities are for houses to let at 7s. 6d. a week. It is no good the Minister saying he has no knowledge of this. He must have knowledge on this point; otherwise, he is not fully informed by the Minister of Health. Unless it can be said by the Minister that a substantial portion of these houses are, in fact, at the higher rate of subsidy in the plans of local authorities, and, therefore, are to be let 1751 at 7S. 6d. a week, the plans of the local authorities to deal with the agricultural workers problem are a snare and a delusion. Authorities may well be intending to build on the lower rate of subsidy, which will mean a higher rent than 7s. 6d. a week. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
It is the intention of the Opposition to press this matter to the utmost and to find out what are the actual plans of the local authorities. I should like to hear what sort of allocation of materials and labour between the countryside and the town the Government are operating. There was a previous allocation under the old Government, and I am ready to say that I hope the Minister will improve the extent of the allocation of materials and labour to the countryside. The needs of the countryside are paramount, and I think the right Government policy—I hope the Minister will be able to give us some encouragement on this point—would be to improve the ratio of the amount allocated to the countryside.
With regard to amenities, I urge the Minister to appeal to his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who has been interesting himself in this matter, to improve the facilities for plans for rural water supplies in the villages and greens of North Essex. There is one rural district council, that of Halstead, which has not got a piped water supply. There was a scheme introduced prior to the war, but it was abandoned. It is high time that a plan for putting down bores and extending piped supplies was undertaken, because there is almost no district in England which more needs a piped supply than the Halstead area. This is a matter on which I and many others have been working for many years, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture will urge his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to accelerate the matter.
I conclude by referring to transport and education. In the Education Act, I tried to Crake it clear that facilities for education should be given in the rural schools. It has been somewhat disappointing to hear from various sides of the House a lack of understanding of what is the real meaning of the new Act. The new Act means that authorities can provide a proper scheme of rural education for rural schools in a manner suitable 1752 to those who are going to earn their living on the land. I believe that Authorities will take the opportunity to start small rural technical schools, to develop the facilities in rural technical colleges, and to give education a new name in the countryside. At present, education is rated as a somewhat academic matter in the countryside, and parents are apt to think it is the wrong thing for their children to go into. Once they realise that education is the ladder which will lead men and women to better things in farming they will realise that proper provision must be made for their children
The demand on this side of the House is that we should have categorical answers to the points put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport on labour, and a clear indication of the authorities' plans for rural housing. If reconditioning has been abandoned, and licences in many cases withdrawn, is it the case that houses will be built to let at 7s. 6d., and that the plans will include houses of that type? Finally, is it the intention of the Government to encourage proper amenities—water, transport and education—and to do that with the maximum of vision and efficiency?
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. Collick)
The House has listened to what has really been a most interesting Debate over the wide field of agriculture, and certainly the Government will never complain however frequently we debate and discuss this matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister replied fairly fully earlier to the questions which had been raised in the earlier part of the Debate, and therefore I should like to deal with some of the specific questions which have been put to me. I think I am speaking for a large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House when I say that many who have taken part in the Debate know in their own minds that the matters about which they are complaining—the absence of an adequate regular labour force in the industry, the absence of sufficient houses in the countryside to house agricultural workers, and the inadequacy of water and electricity supplies—are all things which are very familiar to everyone and surely every one must know, however, that these are not matters in which the fault rests upon this Government. Anyone who 1753 is honest must admit that many of the complaints which the House has heard today arise from the fault of previous Governments.
I shall not analyse tonight the question where the responsibility lies, for I think that the House is not too much concerned with where the fault has lain in the past for the failure to do this or that. There should be a much more positive approach. Is this House resolved that from now on the whole story of the countryside shall be much. better than it has been in the past? If that is the spirit in which the House is facing agricultural policy, it is a spirit which the Government will welcome as they will also welcome any help which comes from any part of the House to that end.
The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) was—if I may say so with great respect—even more rhetorical today than he is usually. He seemed to think that the complaint was not with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture but with other Ministers in the Government—the Minister of Health, the Minister of Supply and, in fact, almost everybody except the Minister of Agriculture. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that no one would be more ready to answer his criticisms than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. In fact, if I may say so with great respect, so much of what has been said in the House today might better have been said when the Bill with regard to housing was being discussed only a week or two ago.
§ Mr. Collick
Very well. If it was said adequately then, we do not need to repeat it here today. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned, and rightly concerned—and I do not complain—about rural housing. There is no more vital question to the whole future of agriculture and its well-being in this country than rural housing. Every Member on this side of the House is familiar with that fact. When there was some criticism about housing, and my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) said that he was referring to houses being built and not to houses completed in his Division, I rather thought the right hon. Member for Southport presumed that credit for that was due to Members of the 1754 last Government. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to mean that.
§ Mr. Collick
If the right hon. Gentleman says that, I would reply that I have every confidence in the Minister of Health and that I will stand or fall by results. The whole Government stand by that principle. It is a perfectly fair test, to stand or fall by the result. [An HON. MEMBER: "When? "] An hon. Member asks me "When?" I do not want to follow that line, but if hon. Members insist, let me say that we have heard very much about the rural workers' housing scheme, but everybody who knows anything about the subject is aware that the maximum number of houses that were dealt with by the Act in question was 20,000.
§ Mr. Collick
The figure is available. It is in the Rural Housing Committee's Report. The figure is approximately 20,000. The Measure has been in existence for 20 years. I should be ashamed of the party and of His Majesty's Government if we had not a far better record to show than that after 20 years. Therefore, I accept completely the principle that we are liable to be judged by results. We seek no better judgment than that. If I understood the right hon. Member for Southport aright, he rather presumed that the overall labour force in the industry this year—
§ Mr. Hudson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I did not want to overload the House with figures, but I have just done a sum. Even reckoning the houses under construction in Norfolk, the number of houses under private enterprise is in excess of those of the local authorities. If the hon. Gentleman goes by results, what about that?
§ Mr. Collick
The right hon. Member seemed to think that the overall labour force this year in the industry would be less than it was last year. I must confess that I did not follow him in that argument. Everybody knows that there is very great difficulty in recruiting an adequate, permanent labour force. It is common knowledge. Nobody on either 1755 side of the House has put up any ready solution to the problem. I want to make it abundantly clear that so far as the overall labour force in the industry is concerned it will he far larger than it was last year. Certainly it will, with the utmost respect to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I never said that. [Interruption.] After all, the hon. Gentleman is quoting or misquoting me. I never talked about overall forces in the industry. I said that the total supply of labour available to the farmers of this country for the harvest would be less than last year, including, as I specifically said, the volunteer people and the work of the troops. I stick to that.
§ Mr. Collick
It is just a matter of a difference of opinion in that case. I am saying, and I stand by it, quite definitely, that the overall supply of labour in the industry this year will be far greater than last. I stand by that completely.
I will now turn to the points made by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). He asked what was the allocation of housing to agricultural workers under the new Act. As I understand it, the position is that when the local authorities actually make their applications for subsidy, the number of these houses which will be for agricultural labourers will become known. The arrangement clearly is that the rates of subsidy to the authorities for houses built for agricultural labour are so much better than the others, and, therefore, it will be when the local authorities submit their applications for subsidy that the total number for that purpose will he known. It is intended that, to the extent that a local authority applies for that extra subsidy, so those houses will have to be held for the agricultural population I think that disposes of that point.
§ Mr. Collick
I am coming to the other point about the rent. The right hon. Gentleman makes the point that in his reckoning these houses will not work out at a rent of 7s, 6d. a week. I understand from the Minister of Health that the calculations of these amounts have been worked out with the financial authorities 1756 of the local authorities associations, and I am assured that they are satisfied, as a result of their calculations, that the houses to be built for the agricultural population will be let at that rent of 7s. 6d. If the Minister of Health has accepted that position, I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman and the Members opposite can rely on it.
§ Mr. Hudson
Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that he has answered exactly what I asked? I said it was difficult to understand how a local authority could let one of these houses, built at present prices, for 7s. 6d. a week and not incur a greater expenditure from the rates than £3. Is the hon. Member saying on the authority of the Minister of Health, that, at present prices, the local authority will be able to let at 75. 6d. and not incur any greater expenditure from the rates than £3?
§ Mr. Collick
I am saying that the Minister of Health is satisfied, as a result of the discussions which have gone on, that the houses that are to be built for agricultural workers under these arrangements will be let at 7s 6d
§ Mr. Collick
Quite obviously we cannot now go into all the details of that to argue it out here. That question might properly be put to the Minister of Health at any time, but quite clearly that is the assurance we have, and I am perfectly satisfied that it is dependable.
Another interesting contribution was made to this Debate by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). He made some most interesting references to the water position, as did hon. Members on this side of the House. I want to assure him that the Government have that matter very fully under consideration, and I hope that at some date in the not too distant future sonic announcement may be made about it. He also raised an interesting question about the utilisation of sludge. As he may know, that matter has not been overlooked. The technical people have been working at it for some time and there is reason to hope that some advance will be made. We had, too, a most useful contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). We get acccustomed in these Debates to getting a novel attitude from the hon. Mem- 1757 ber for Northampton, and I am sure the whole House enjoyed very much what he said
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that the figure given by the hon. Member for Northampton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—Yes, it is really vital. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture knows perfectly well that prices in the February "Review" are based on returns of farmers' costs, carried out and investigated by perfectly independent people, such as members of universities. is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that we are to assume those prices are based on the figure of only £30 a year mentioned by the hon. Member for Northampton? He knows perfectly well that that is not true.
§ Mr. Collick
I am not arguing anything of the kind. No one is more familiar than the right hon. Gentleman with the material and economic and statistical data used When prices are determined, and I am not called upon to answer any assumptions.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to leave the House under the impression that the figures given by the hon. Member for Northampton are correct.
Will my hon. Friend forgive me for interrupting as it is my figures that are challenged? What I said was that in the majority of cases £30 was the figure accepted by the Income Tax authorities. That is correct.
§ Mr. Hudson
It may be accepted for Income Tax, but the inference which the hon. Member led the House to draw from that is certainly not correct, and not the figure accepted by the economists who investigate prices.
§ Mr. Collick
I do not think the House need debate this at length. The simple fact of the matter, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, is that the Department accept the figures of the independent economists, and it is certainly common knowledge. I am rather sur- 1758 prised that the right hon. Gentleman should be at such great pains to refer to this matter.
The other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden referred was the question of water supplies at Halstead. It is not a new point, and I can assure him that we shall have it investigated very thoroughly. I will write to him and let him know, precisely what is the position. I need hardly assure him that if anything can be done about it, it certainly will be done. Since he raised the question of amenities, may I say that there are no people more desperately anxious than the Members of this Government, and hon. Members on this side of the House, to see that everything possible that can be done shall be done to increase the amenities of the countryside, whether in regard to water, electricity, in fact; all the things which have been spoken about, which are things the Government can readily accept.
I believe that everybody connected with this industry understands full well that the Government have not a bad reputation in their agricultural policy. In the relatively short time they have been in office, they have propounded a basis for our agricultural policy that will stand the test applied to any preceding Government in peacetime. What, after all, was the first thing to be done? What is the use of talking about a shortage of labour? Everyone knows it is due basically to the appalling conditions which have existed in the industry. The first thing to be done by any Government resolved to tackle this job, was to give fixed prices to the farmers well in advance, an assured market and some degree of economic security so that they could plan ahead. We have done that, but we accept that that is only a basis, arid only the beginning. We do not profess to say we have solved all the problems in agriculture. What we say is that we have made a thoroughly sound beginning. It is a beginning of which the Government have a right to be proud; a beginning which I believe almost every section of the industry, farmers and farm workers alike, can feel proud about. We want to go on building and improving on that and to tackle these jobs. I know the mind of the Minister and of the Government. We are going to follow a permanent policy that will restore a really prosperous agri- 1759 culture with prosperous agricultural workers in it. In that aim, if we can carry the goodwill of the whole House, so much the better.
We cannot accept this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman did not say whether it would be pressed or not.
§ Mr. Collick
The right hon. Gentleman often makes some very wide assumptions, but I do not think he can assume that much. Hon. Members on this side of the House will go into the Lobby with the
§ greatest joy and the greatest confidence to defeat this Amendment if it is pressed to a Division. We know that in the countryside, farmers and farm workers have confidence in this Government. In the old days it used to be thought that we were wholly a town party. But when one looks at the farmers and farmworkers here now it is seen that we have established the fact that we are a party of the whole nation.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 253; Noes, 103.1761
|Division No. 126.||AYES||9.15 p.m.|
|Adams, H. R. (Balham)||Deer, G.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Irving, W J|
|Adamson, Mrs. J L.||Delargy, Captain H. J||Janner, B.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Diamond, J.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Dodds, N. N.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Donovan, T.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Austin, H. L.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Jones, P. Asterley, (Hitchin)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Keenan, W.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Kenyon, C.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. !||Dumpleton, C. W||Kirby, B. V.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Dye, S.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Ede, Rt. Hon J. C.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Lever, FI. Off. N. H.|
|Barton, C.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Levy, B. W.|
|Battley, J. R.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Edwards, N (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Belcher, J. W.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lyne, A. W.|
|Benson, G||Evans, E (Lowestoft)||McAdam, W.|
|Berry, H.||Evans S N (Wednesbury)||McEntee, V. La T|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F||Farthing, W. J.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bing, Capt. G H. C||Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, E.)||McGovern, J.|
|Binns, J.||Follick, M.||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Foster, W. (Wigan)||McLeavy, F|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gaitskell, H. T N||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Bottomley, A G||Gibson, C. W||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Gilzean, A.||Marquand, H. A.|
|Bowles, F. G (Nuneaton)||Gtanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mathers, G.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l E'xch'ge)||Gooch, E. G||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Goodrich, H. E.||Messer, F|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Brown, I. J. (Ince)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R|
|Bruce Maj. D. W. T||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Monslow, W.|
|Burden, T. W.||Grenfell, D. R.||Moody, A. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grierson, E.||Morgan, Dr. H. B|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Morley, R.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon J. (Llanelly)||Moyle, A|
|Chamberlain R. A||Griffiths, Capt. W D (Moss Side)||Murray, J. D|
|Champton, A J||Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Nally, W.|
|Chater, D.||Guy, W. H.||Naylor, T. E|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. R||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Hale, Leslie||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Noel-Suxton, Lady|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Oliver, G. H|
|Collick, P.||Hardy, E. A||Orbach, M|
|Collindridge, F.||Harrison, J.||Paget, R. T.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Paling, Rt. Hon Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Herbison, Miss M.||Parkin, Fit.-Lieut. B. T.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Hicks, G.||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Corlett, Dr J.||Holman, P.||Pearson, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth)||Peart, Capt. T. F|
|Daggar, G.||House, G||Perrins, W.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hoy, J.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Davies Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Price, M. P.||Snow, Capt. J. W||Weitzman, D|
|Pritt, D. N.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H||Sparks, J. A.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Ranger, J.||Stamford, W.||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Rankin, J.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Reeves, J.||Strauss, G. R||Whiteley, Rt Hon. W.|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Stress, Dr. B.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Rhodes, H.||Stubbs, A. E.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Richards, R.||Swingler, Capt. S.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Symonds Maj. A. L.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Rogers, G H. R||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Sargood, R.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Scollan, T.||Tiffany, S.||Willis, E.|
|Segal, Dr. S.||Titterington, M. F.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.||Tolley, L.||Wilson, J. H.|
|Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon E||Turner-Samuels, M.||Yates, V. F.|
|Shurmer, P.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Younger, Hon. K. G.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Viant, S. P.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Skinnard, F. W||Walkden, E.|
|Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Walker, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Mr. Simmons.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Gomma-Duncan, Col. A. G||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Amory, O. Heathcoat||Grimston, R. V.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Baldwin, A. E||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Hare, Lieut.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'ge)||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Bossom, A. C||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Bowen, R.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Ronton, D.|
|Bower, N.||Henderson, John (Catheart)||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hurd, A.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Jeffreys, General Sir G-||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Snadden, W. M.|
|Carson, E.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Strauss, H. G. (Com. Eng. Univ'sities)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lipson, D. L.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd'ton)|
|Cuthbeart, W. N.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Teeling, William|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Digby, Maj S. W.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Vane, W. M. T.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Marlowe, A. A. H-||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Drewe, C.||Mellor, Sir J.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Duthie, W. S||Molsen, A. H. E.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Willoughby, de Eresby, Lord|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||York, C|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Nutting, Anthony||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gage, Lt.-Col. C.||Osborne, C.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Pickthorn, K.||Mr. Thornton-Kemsley and|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Pitman, I. J.||Mr. Turton.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]