§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I beg to move, in page 11, line 21, at the beginning to insert "If."
The next three Amendments go together and it would be for the convenience of the Committee, therefore, if with this Amendment we discussed the next two:
In page 11, line 22, to leave out from "1933," to the end of line 26, and to insert:so resolve such committee shall be dissolved but without prejudice to the power of the appointing authority as defined in the said section to appoint a new committee under that section.In page 17, line 28, column 3, to leave out "three," and to insert "four."
The purpose of the Amendments is to raise once more the position of the Market Supply Committee. At a time when lack of co-ordination between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture has never been more apparent, and when its consequences are being felt in every home in our rural districts, it seems a great pity to deprive ourselves of any of those bodies which 1784 can advise harassed officials and embarrassed Ministers of the progress of home crops and the need or otherwise for allowing any foreign imports. We have framed the Amendments in such a way as to give the Market Supply Committee power to dissolve themselves on the Minister's orders, if that is wished, and to be reformed later without any amending Bill. In the Committee stage the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Market Supply Committee which gave information on production and advice on imports, was no longer necessary because now there is a single Government Department responsible for food policy. If by that Department he means the Ministry of Food, that is certainly not an answer which will give any satisfaction or confidence to home agriculturists, nor, as tomorrow's Debate may show, very much confidence to the English housewife either.
We have had recently two treaties, the Polish and Dutch Treaties, dealing with horticultural products. I should not be in Order in labouring those treaties now, but the Market Supply Committee in a case of this kind would be just the body to warn the Government that owing to existing home production and the way our crops were coming along the quantity of imports allowed for in those treaties were harmful to home production. Had there been a body of this kind effectively functioning and consulted on recommendations made public and known to consumers and producers alike, I do not think the Government would have entered into some of their recent international agreements.
They certainly would not, for example, in the case of Holland, if there had been a Market Supply Committee, contracted this year to take more tomatoes from Holland than Holland even produced last year, thereby creating a new industry for Holland, and at a time when our own people are in very great difficulties. While we are strongly in favour of playing our part as a partner in Western Union, we do believe that it is possible to guide competing nations into channels which are complementary to our own agriculture and not consistently competitive, and in a field of this kind, a Market Supply Committee would be of great practical assistance.
1785 I know that the right hon. Gentleman in reply may call in aid the fact that this committee, which did exist before the war, has not achieved any very particularly useful purpose. I realise that the Supply Committee was set up to deal only with commodities that were covered by marketing schemes—hops, pigs, bacon, potatoes, and milk; and, of course, in all those various commodities there was little danger from imports. The real danger they had to face was over-production at home at that particular time. The reason, therefore, why the marketing schemes had little to do was because there were few imports. It would have been different if marketing schemes had been operating over commodities in which there was a competition from foreign imports.
Incidentally, the Parliamentary Secretary—I think I quote his words aright—said in Committee that the Government had no shortage of advice, and what was wanted was power of prophecy, or words to that effect; there was plenty of advice, he said, but how could we know whether there would be a much greater production from every single acre in England in this or any year. I think al the time he was talking about potatoes, or possibly onions. While it is perfectly true that the yield last year was very different from what it had been the year before, I know that in my part of the country—and it is probably the case throughout the United Kingdom—we have Ministry officers whose task it is to follow up the census of the cropping programme, and to see month by month how the home crops are coming along. If that is so, the Government at every stage have plenty of indications of the stages of home production. If this work could be complemented by the Market Supply Committee which could publish the consensus of opinion as to what is to come from all over the country, the Government would not be able to enter into these ill-timed arrangements on the plea that they do not know what the supply of home agriculture was to be.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I can add very little to the arguments put forward so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) or to the arguments used upstairs in Committee. There is one thing that has happened since the Committee finished its work. It has become more important than ever in 1786 the opinion of the producers that there should be a Market Supply Committee. We have seen trade agreements made, and we do feel that there should be some body which has more knowledge of production in this country to tender advice to the Government when trade agreements are being made. It has been said that the Market Supply Committee did not function. Provision for it was reinserted in the 1933 Act after its omission in the 1931 Act, because it would be helpful in giving information to the Government, about imports, and so on. The Market Supply Committee is more important today. It is important from the short-term point of view and it is important from the long-term point of view, for when imports have to be regulated we must have liaison. The interests of the producers as well as of the consumers must be considered.
The Ministry of Food, the Parliamentary Secretary said, is responsible for nutrition. It is quite impossible for the Minister of Food to keep an open mind on this matter. He has declared on more than one occasion that it is his intention to buy in the cheapest market on behalf of the consumers. We say that if he is to be the Minister responsible, it is a thin look out for the producers. I would remind the Minister of Agriculture again that the Lucas Report called attention to the fact that no marketing board could operate that did not regulate imports or help the Minister in regulating imports. Surely that should not be left to the Minister of Food, but should be left to an advisory committee such as the Market Supply Committee.
§ Mr. G. Williams
I could speak long enough to fill several pages of HANSARD telling about the onions position and how it could have been avoided if we had had a Market Supply Committee. Indeed, I could do exactly the same about potatoes, and that has already been done in a Debate on the Adjournment a short time ago. I shall not weary the House with that now, but I would impress upon hon. Members that a Market Supply Committee would have avoided the troubles we have had over onions and potatoes and, furthermore, over the new Dutch Agreement which has just been agreed by the present Government and which I may describe as the ruin of some 1787 of the horticulturists of this country. The Parliamentary Secretary's argument why we could not have this Market Supply Committee is that we have the Ministry of Food, and that it does the job. He said that a few weeks ago in Committee when the relations between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture were bad enough, but by now I should say, the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture are scarcely on speaking terms. I am not surprised. I am on the side of the Minister of Agriculture, and I am quite sure that if I were in his position, I should not be on speaking terms with the Minister of Food. It is, however, of vital importance, if we cannot get proper co-operation between the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture, that we should have the Market Supply Committee to help and advise. If we have a committee, the Minister need not take its advice, but he can listen to it. For that reason I hope the Amendment will be accepted.
Mr. T. Williams
I am sorry I cannot accept the Amendment so ably moved by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). Hon. Members opposite do not seem to like the Ministry of Food, but they cannot blame me for that. I am sure the hon. Member would not wish me to accept the first of this group of Amendments, for it says in effect, "If the Market Supply Committee decides for itself to put itself out of business." If anybody is to decide whether we are to have a Market Supply Committee or not, it should be the Minister and not the Market Supply Committee.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is just possible—I do not want to encroach upon the functions of the Chair—that we could not have discussed this at all if we had not put the Amendment down somewhat in this form.
Mr. T. Williams
I rather suspected that the hon. Gentleman only wanted a discussion. The point is that under Sections 1 and 2 of the 1933 Act it was made possible, when the agricultural Ministers were responsible for regulating home production and the import of food, to get what advice they could from the then Market Supply Committee. I imagine that at that time they had an important 1788 function to perform, which they performed. They have been out of existence for many years, and the Ministry of Food has come into existence. As we see things at present, it is likely to be in existence for quite a long time. Clearly, it is the obligation of the Ministry of Food to provide the nation with home produced and imported food to stand up to our nutrition policy. Therefore, the only function which the Market Supply Committee would have at the moment would be not to give advice or guidance to the Ministry of Food but to give advice to the Ministry of Agriculture, and it seems to me that that function would be absolutely useless. It would be unworthy of any Minister to appoint a Market Supply Committee exclusively to advise the Ministry of Agriculture.
With regard to market intelligence, it is quite clear that the Ministry of Agriculture have their market intelligence bodies all over the country, and we know week by week and month by month how crops are progressing. I do not think there is anything that the Committee could tell us on that score. In view of the transformation that has taken place—the establishment of the Ministry of Food and the lack of real duties for the Market Supply Committee—I do not see why we should keep this body in existence without functions. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will not press the Amendment.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
We had a long Debate on this subject upstairs in Committee, and we have had a shorter Debate today. In Committee we tried to help the Government by suggesting that they might add to the Market Supply Committee two members appointed by the Ministry of Food. The Government did not like that course. Today we put down a different form of Amendment, again to try to help the Government not to lose this very useful bit of machinery which is in existence now, but which the Government are deliberately doing, away with under this Bill.
What has happened ever since this Bill was introduced? The Bill was introduced shortly before Christmas and debated in this House on Second Reading in January. There was some need even when the Bill was introduced to have some sort of body, whether we called it 1789 a Market Supply Committee or anything else, to advise the Minister on these problems. Sooner or later, the Government will have to take some action. In the last month or so, we have had the Anglo-Polish Agreement and the Anglo-Dutch Agreement. Questions have been put from this side of the House to the Prime Minister because of the uncertainty as to who was responsible for these agreements and whether consultations had taken place. The answers to these questions were entirely unsatisfactory to the whole country.
We see, as the weeks go by, more muddle and more chaos being created because there is no co-operation at all between the production of food in this country and the procuring of food from overseas. That is not, as I see it, a party point. We are here to try in the national interest to help the Government, and somebody, some day, and very soon in the interests of the nation, has to face up to this position and not allow this extraordinary situation to develop, as it is developing today.
I know perfectly well that the Minister of Agriculture—when he comes down to
§ answer these problems—and his Parliamentary Secretary, say very little. They know, as well as I do, that the lack of co-ordination between the two Departments is doing a great disservice to the nation at the present time and particularly to the consumers in the country about whom we have been talking today. The consumers are the people who, in the end, are the sufferers, and we do not lose any opportunity of trying to bring this very serious state of affairs to the notice of the country, of the Government and of the Minister of Agriculture. So, although it may be that our suggestion as to how we should deal with the Market Supply Committee may easily be improved, yet because of the general proposition underlying our argument and what we believe to be in the general interests of the country, I shall ask my hon. Friends to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the word 'If' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 71; Noes, 143.1791
|Division No. 95.]||AYES||[7.58 p.m.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Harden, J. R. E.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Bower, N.||Hurd, A.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Lucas-Tooth, S. H.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McFarlane, C. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Donner, P. W||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Drewe, C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Ward, Hon G. R.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Mellor, Sir J.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Odey, G. W.||York, C.|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fraser. Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Gage, C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Raikes, H. V.||Commander Agnew and|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Binns, J.||Cluse, W. S.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Blenkinsop, A.||Cobb, F. A.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)||Coldrick, W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Brook, D.(Halifax)||Collick, P.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Cooper, G.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Brown, George (Belper)||Cove, W. G.|
|Balfour, A.||Brown, T J. (Ince)||Dagger, G.|
|Barstow. P. G.||Burden, T. W.||Daines, P.|
|Battley, J. R.||Callaghan, James||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Benson, G.||Chater, D.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Deer, G||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rhodes, H.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Diamond, J.||Kinley, J.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Dodds, N. N||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Longden, F.||Royle, C.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||McAdam, W.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McAllister, G.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McLeavy, F.||Shurmer, P.|
|Farthing, W. J||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mainwaring, W. H||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Greenwood, Rt Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Grierson, E.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Ep[...]ng)||Snow, J. W.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Steele, T.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Lianelly)||Messer, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Guy, W. H.||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Tolley, L.|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Moyle, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Naylor, T. E.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Hardman, D. R.||Nichol Mrs, M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Warbey, W N.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Harrison, J.||Orbach, M.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Haworth, J||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||West, D. G.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Herbison, Miss M||Palmer, A. M. F.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Parker, J.||Wigg, George|
|Holman, P.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Pearson, A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Peart, T. F.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hynd., H. (Hackney, C.)||Popplewell, E.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Yates, V. F.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Ranger, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Keenan, W.||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Mr. Collindridge and|
|Kenyon, C.||Reeves, J.||Mr. Wilkins.|
Lords Amendments considered accordingly, and agreed to.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
We have had very many discussions on this Bill as it has gone on its way through the House, and at this stage I do not think I need detain the House any longer to deal again with its provisions.
We on this side of the House are very firmly wedded to the idea of producers' co-operation and producers' marketing schemes. We recall with some pride that it was the Labour Government of 1931, through the present Lord Privy Seal, who in the original Act took steps to enable this to go on. In this Bill we have done a great deal to bring up to date the conception of producers' marketing schemes, to bring them into line with modern thought, and in the future the Minister will have powers to be able to deal with the situation if, as I think is very unlikely, any board should act irresponsibly.
At the same time the Bill widens the powers of, and much of the excellent work done by, for example, the Milk Marketing Board, altogether outside the realm of marketing, such as in the conservation of grass, the improvement of livestock technique, A.I. centres, and the rest; work of that kind will be open to 1792 these boards which have been, and we hope will be, set up. That is all I need say. We have had a good many discussions, in which we have had the benefit of help from hon. Members on all sides, and on behalf of my right hon. Friend, I should like to say how much we appreciate it. I have the very greatest pleasure indeed in asking the House to accord this Bill a unanimous Third Reading.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Snadden
There is a specifically Scottish point which I wish to put to the Secretary of State for Scotland, although I do not expect an answer from him tonight. We have had a very long discussion on this Bill, both on the Floor of the House and in Committee, and I do not propose to go over any of the points that have been made, except to say that from the Scottish point of view we are glad to see that the Government are, apparently at any rate, adhering to the principle of producers' marketing boards. We do not like Clause 4, for reasons that we have already given in this House; nor do I, personally, welcome the abolition of the Market Supply Committee, which I think a very great mistake.
The point I wish to put to the Secretary of State for Scotland is essentially a 1793 Scottish one, and I put it because repeated representations have been made to Scottish Members. It is an extremely technical matter, and I only ask him to look at it again. The question concerns skinners and fellmongers, who have made representations about their very technical sphere of production. Personally, I am not quite clear what their position is, but I should like the Secretary of State to correct me if I am wrong when I say that, if a marketing board is proposed in respect of fleece wool, skinners, if they are excluded from any board, will have the right of representation to the Minister, who will have to appoint a commissioner to go into the whole question of whether or not it is a properly constituted board.
It may be, I think, that the fellmongers and skinners of Scotland, who have to do with one-third of the total wool output, have rather exaggerated their fears on this score; but they have fears, and they have made representations to all of us. I am informed that they are not quite satisfied yet, after what was said in Committee. If the Secretary of State could look at this matter with a view of giving these people proper representation when marketing proposals for wool are put forward, and make some announcement, perhaps in another place, I think he would dispel the fears of a very old industry, and of people who are keen to play their part in wool production.
Having put that point, I conclude by saying that we on this side of the House consider that the Bill has been improved through our discussions. We have not got what we should have liked in every case, and we have divided on various Clauses, but generally speaking we accept the principle of the Bill.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
My enthusiasm for the Bill will be kept well within the bounds of restraint. I am not at all happy about the Bill; and, what is more, I am very unhappy about the forces that have prompted the Minister to bring the Bill before the House. While I grant that the Bill modifies and modernises the 1931 and 1933 Acts, I take the view that the indication of the setting up of boards and the processes which will follow will seriously jeopardise the work of the Government and of the Labour 1794 Party, in particular in formulating a sound policy for distributing the necessities of life to the people. I go further and say that what we are doing is setting up a series of vested interests, which will have a very serious effect when we come to having a properly organised policy for distribution.
I was very interested this afternoon in listening to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) repeatedly revealing what is in his own mind and in the minds of the Opposition. The 1933 Act, in particular, and the 1931 Act, to a limited extent, were introduced at the time of economic scarcity and when the economics of scarcity were the order of the day. I took particular note of what the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said. He spoke of over-production in the 1930s. Over-production of what? Of food for our people when two million were unemployed and when the bulk of the population were on miserably low wages? That surely reveals the whole thing; the approach that underlay the economics of that time. It is that we should meet unemployment by scaling down production rather than by increasing the purchasing power of our people.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Member must confine himself to what is in the Bill and not go too far back into history.
§ Mr. Daines
I am afraid that in trying to indicate how this Bill has come into being I may have transgressed. I accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, so let us now "Face the future."
The reason why this Bill has been brought forward at this time is because the Minister has on his desk schemes for a marketing board for tomatoes and cucumbers. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford was talking about modest profits, but when I look at the figures for cucumbers and tomatoes, I find, taking 1927 to 1929 as 100, that cucumbers in 1938 stood at 98 points and at 498 points in 1948, whereas tomatoes stood at 100 points in 1938 and are at 284 points in 1948. We had no applications from the glasshouse industry for a marketing board before the war, but we have today, and it has become a matter of urgency. The profits in the glasshouse industry are fantastic, and that is what is behind this demand for a marketing board. It is not to get rid of 1795 the pre-war conditions, but to maintain the same rate of profits by restricting imports and by the removal of the type of safeguards we undoubtedly have from the Minister of Food. The Minister of Food is very much out of court with Members opposite. What are we to have when we get the tomato and cucumber boards? Are we to have tomatoes in season sold at twice the price of tomatoes out of season?
I suggest that the House has to be very careful. We must try to undertsand what is behind this Bill. The House has to understand the powerful pressure that will come when the marketing boards will be formed. Speaking for myself and my friends—I think it is well known that I am associated with the Co-operative movement—we reject the laissez faire approach, but we see in this Bill a giving way to the pressure of powerful interests, which are certainly not Socialist in their operations. During next week we shall face a long tortuous examination of our economic position in relation to Europe and the rest of the world. What is to be the position with France, Italy and other countries that are coming into this new grouping, if we are to prevent them having the opportunity to send foodstuffs to this country which they can produce far more cheaply than this country?
It seems to me that what lies behind this Bill is capitalist syndicalism where, so far as the welfare, high profits and even high wages of one industry are concerned, they are given at the expense of the community. I do not accept it as the function of the Labour Government to formulate policies that give advantages to one section of industry at the expense of the consumer. I look upon this as a reactionary stage in the development of the economy of the country. The Minister has given way to pressure. The road, by this Bill, is clear for steps which I am certain will be shown to be retrograde and against the true interests of the people.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daises). His great dissertation is no doubt what Labour's point of view is in certain parts of the country about its own Government. After that 1796 most interesting speech, there can be no doubt that the hon. Member can only do what he must do, and that is go into the Lobby against his own Government.
§ Mr. Daines
If I have to do it, I shall take the precaution to shout "No" at the proper time to see it is made effective.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I am glad to know that the hon. Member is going to do that, and we shall wait with great interest. As far as we are concerned, we have now reached the final stages of this Bill. We are disappointed that in our long deliberations, the Minister has closed his mind to all the arguments we put before him, particularly in regard to Clauses 4 and 12. I am not going to repeat any of the arguments. After all our discussions, we still have to go back to the Second Reading, when the Minister said he did not propose to use Clause 4 at all. He told us:No Minister—certainly not 'yours truly'—would fail to feel a sense of deep responsibility in exercising those powers, and a Minister would be reluctant to use them without the strongest possible justification."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1948; Vol. 460, c. 193.]We are getting used to this argument from the Minister, which is not a satisfactory argument, the argument of putting powers into a Bill which are not intended to be used. We have done our best to get that Clause altered, but without success.
We have just had an interesting, Debate on the marketing and supplies committee, and I will not go over that point again. We think it is a pity that that committee is not to be kept in being in some shape or form, because we think that it would be of help to the Minister in the problems that lie ahead. On the Bill itself, we still hold the view that efficient marketing must be the complement to efficient production. We believe that the best way to achieve efficient marketing is through the medium of producer marketing boards. This Bill brings up to date the 1931 and 1933 Acts, which some of us remember going through the House.
The Amendments which have been made are, we believe, necessary, and we hope that when the Bill becomes law many of these boards will be brought out of cold storage and new ones started for the benefit of efficient marketing, producers and consumers. We are not un- 1797 mindful of what the Minister said on Second Reading, that the Bill has only a limited purpose and does not in any way prejudice the future attitude of the Government about the Lucas or Williams Reports. We believe that the Bill is necessary; we give it a blessing, except for Clauses 4 and 12, and hope that marketing boards will be set up in the very near future.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Brown
With the leave of the House, I should like to comment on one or two points which have just been made. I think it would be extremely unfortunate if it went out that there is any strong feeling on this side about the Bill, either that it sets up vested interests or that behind it there is a capitalist-syndicalist mentality. It has long been the tradition of the Labour Party that something should be done to encourage the development of co-operative organisations, producers' co-operatives, which have been such a success in various parts of the Continent and Scandinavia. It was found up to 1931, however, that one of the things which had been lacking in enabling this to be done was the support which the original Act gave to these schemes after they had been formed—
§ Mr. Daines
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Co-operative movement in this country is opposed to this Bill and the principles underlying it?
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend must make his own declaration of faith; I am making the declaration of faith of the Government and the party which supports and keeps it in power. We believe that schemes such as the Milk Marketing Board scheme are not setting up vested interests at the expense of the consumer. Indeed, they have done an enormous amount of work to improve the consumers' position. There has not only been a consistent rise in output since the Board was set up, but where other marketing schemes have come into being there have been great improvements—for instance, in quality, technique of production, livestock, husbandry and grass conservation. Far from setting up vested interests these marketing schemes are of great value to consumers as well as producers.
I should like to repeat what my right hon. Friend has already said, so that there 1798 can be no misunderstanding, that the Bill in no way prejudices decisions on the major recommendations of the Lucas Committee about commodity commissions. We believe that experience has shown that in appropriate cases marketing schemes can materially assist both marketing and production. Plans are ahead for producing more of these schemes. The Bill will not operate against consumers' interests, but will encourage better production and marketing of crops, particularly those not in the Schedule.