HC Deb 13 July 1950 vol 477 cc1676-94

10.3 p.m.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 17, at the end, to insert: and according to the extent of the user thereof. This Clause is in respect of grants for petrol-driven vehicles, and it is our contention that the Clause as drafted would lead to a great deal of unfairness unless some such words as these were put in. The Parliamentary Secretary himself described the Clause as "rough justice," and I am sure that there can be no party division in this matter. None of us want to see rough justice to any body of citizens. We want to see if we can provide justice. Where it works unequally is that the Minister, in introducing this Bill, said: the amount of grant payable in respect of particular machines will be fixed on the basis of the assumed average consumption, and the same grant would be payable to each farmer using one of these machines, whether he uses more or less than the estimated average of petrol."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 2662-3.] The intention of the Clause is to give the Minister power to provide for higher grants where a machine is used a great deal and lower grants where a machine is used less, or even not at all. I say that the Bill, as drafted, will do nothing to stop the farmer receiving a grant for a machine which he owns and never uses. That clearly would be an impossible position. If, therefore, we give the Minister this power, we think that he should use it wisely and well. This will benefit, in our view, the small man. I did not think when the Parliamentary Secretary was trying to defend this Clause that his defence carried a great deal of conviction. He said: If there is any element of unfairness"— we certainly think there is a great deal— with one man getting more, it will probably operate where we might say that a little extra would probably be very useful."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 2729.] That is where I think this Clause, as at present drafted, will not operate. The man with two, three or four machines will gain, and the small man using one machine a great deal will get that much less. Therefore, we ask the Minister to accept this Amendment.

How practicable would it be to work out a differentiation of grant depending upon the user? This is done in the provinces of Canada. There they are using a method, which we are not allowed to use here, of giving a rebate on petrol tax. In many provinces that is operated by the farmer making a return of the amount he uses over six months. I think that we might use the same system here. The farmer would tell the agricultural committee what use he had made in the last six or 12 months of the machine, and his grant would depend on that return.

I am quite sure, knowing the farmers and knowing the county committees—and I think that the Minister will agree with me—that there would not be dishonesty in the making of these returns. They had for some time to send in returns of user to the petroleum officers when there was petrol rationing. The county committees have knowledge of the quantities of petrol used by different farms in respect of these different machines. Unless we have some such words as this put in the Clause, it will be impossible for the Minister to differentiate between petrol engines that are linked up with machines which work 365 days in the year, and petrol engines which are used in machines which work for only a week in the year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) gave the illustration during the Second Reading Debate of the petrol engine used in an elevator, probably for 14 days in the year, and a petrol machine used in a milking machine that is worked for 365 days in the year. The Minister told us that he had powers under the Bill to differentiate between the two machines, but as they are both petrol machines and the only differential he allows himself under the Clause is to specify the kind of machines, I submit that he has not the power to differentiate between the two. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment, which provides purely permissive powers. We are offering him something of which he can take advantage, but if he will not take the advantage, then his successor will be able, and willing, to do so.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

I made it clear on Second Reading that a grant in respect of gallonage used on the lines indicated was ruled out by the Chancellor's Budget statement. Perhaps I ought to recall once again the fact that the Minister has all the powers he requires to differentiate, not only between machine and machine, but between any sort of conditions. Clause 1 (2) reads: A scheme under this section may provide for different rates of grants in different cases and make the payment of grants subject to any conditions and, in particular, I stress "subject to any conditions." Therefore, the Minister has all the powers he requires. As a scheme is already being prepared to provide grants to owners of specified machines on the basis of what I indicated in my speech on Second Reading, I do not think I ought to be asked to cover again the same ground.

There was a suggestion, implied rather than spoken, that the rate of the grant might be reduced if the owner of a machine held it throughout the year and made no use of it. We were told that a farmer could own a machine which he never used and claim a grant. Of course he can do that, but so long as the Minister has the power within the scheme itself to lay down any conditions, that clearly is one of the conditions which would rule out that sort of person. If the suggestion is that the rate of grant might be reduced if the owner of a machine did not use it throughout the year, all I have to do is to recall the words of the Clause, that the Minister may provide for different rates of grant in different cases, and the payments of grant are subject to any conditions the Minister may care to lay down.

If any Member has in mind that there ought to be the possibility of pro rata grants for a machine not used throughout the year, I can only say that we hope to avoid any complications of that kind. For example, hon. Members opposite will know that a combined harvester thresher is usually only in seasonal use. Therefore conditions will have to be made for a machine of that description. There is no point in this Amendment anyhow, because the "scheme under this section" may provide the words which I have referred to, which govern the remainder of that particular section and in practice these words were actually inserted in the Bill. They may never be used, and this Amendment becomes useless since it is permissive as the hon. Member said.

On this Amendment it may be for the convenience of the Committee and save time on subsequent Amendments if I were to give a short general indication of our intentions as regards the scheme to be made under this Clause. The scheme itself could not be prepared and laid until legislative authority for it has been given. Moreover, there are a number of points about it still under consideration, but the most important part of it will consist of a list of the kinds of machines for which claims for grants can be made and the amount of grant in each case.

It is intended that this list shall include all the machines in common use by farmers for the purpose of their agricultural operations, which use appreciable quantities of petrol. It will include agricultural tractors whether they use petrol as their main fuel or only for starting, although, of course, the amounts in each case will be different. It is proposed also to include combined harvester-threshers, and pick up balers, whether they are self-propelled or tractor drawn, but include a petrol power unit to operate the working parts, and stationary engines used for driving milking machines, or for working pumps supplying water for livestock or crops, or for similar agricultural purposes will be eligible for grants. It is proposed also to include machines of one or two other small groups.

In assessing the amount of grant in each case, regard will be had again to the estimated average annual consumption of petrol by the machine on agricultural operations. Of course, no account will be taken of the petrol used in tractors and other machines used for road haulage purposes. As I said on Second Reading, discussions have taken place with the National Farmers Union and the Agricultural Engineers Association, and a large measure of agreement has been reached.

As a general indication of the size of the grant that may be made, perhaps I ought to say that tractors of the most common size, which burn vapourising oil, will attract a grant of between £2 and £3 per annum, and for petrol-burning tractors, which consume nothing else but petrol, the grant may be between £20 and £25, indicating the difference between the consumption of petrol by the different types of tractors. The grants for the other machines to be listed are likely to fall between these two sets of figures and generally to be nearer the lower one.

As regards conditions, the intention is that grants shall be paid only in respect of machines used in agriculture as defined by the Agriculture Act, 1947. It shall not extend to machines used on private gardens, golf courses, pleasure grounds, allotments and what not. These conditions will be clearly set out in the scheme. We propose to fix a date, possibly 1st January, on which claims may be made, allowing a three months' margin for any other claims. As I said earlier, there are outstanding points to be settled and we are trying to make the scheme as fair, simple, and workable as possible. That sort of broad indication of what we had in mind will, I think, help the Committee at this stage of the Bill, and I should like, therefore, to emphasise that it is our intention to consider the possibilities at an early date of providing an alternative method of dealing with this particular problem. I can assure hon. Members that no time will be lost. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.

10.15 p.m.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond, Yorks)

The Minister's speech amply justifies my hon. Friend's Amendment, if it had not already been a very good Amendment on merit alone. Although we are grateful to the Minister for having unveiled a small portion of his scheme to implement Clause 1, the scheme shows more than ever how impossible it will be to work it fairly between one farmer and another. We argued that point on the Second Reading. At this stage I want to ask the Minister one or two questions on what he has said.

Probably the date of starting the scheme will be 1st January, and it will date back to the day in April when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement and the additional duty was put upon petrol.

Mr. T. Williams indicated assent.

Sir T. Dugdale

From what the Minister says, there will be an even greater widening of inequality than we thought in the first instance. It will be impossible to get even rough justice under this method. I admit that it is permissive, but my hon. Friend moved his Amendment to try to bring the grant back to the amount of petrol which is used in any one case. We believe that the whole case of the Minister was put in his first sentence, when he said that he would be unable to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment because of the statement made by the Chancellor in his Budget speech. We now realise that had it not been for the Chancellor's statement a very different scheme would have been put before us. That statement having been made, the Minister of Agriculture is precluded from using the method which he, his Department and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee know to be the only common-sense way of making the scheme operate.

We are very disappointed with the Minister's statement. We still believe that the right way would be by quantity used and not by an ad hoc amount of money which will greatly differentiate between one farmer and another.

The Deputy-Chairman

In view of the speeches which have been made on this Amendment, I shall consider, when we come to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," whether to use my powers in regard to further discussion.

Mr. York (Harrogate)

I should like to clear up the statement made by the Minister. Would he allow for a separate assessment of the use by each farmer of each of his instruments or implements? That is an important point. It will need a very considerable amount of work by his officials to ascertain, farm by farm, the amount of petrol likely to be used, or that has been used, by each individual farmer on each individual machine. We ought to be quite clear on that point before we leave the Amendment. Another point which we ought to call into question is that while the Minister has discussed and agreed upon these details with the National Farmers' Union, he is reluctant to discuss the same details with the House of Commons.

We are entitled to know all that is in the mind of the Minister about the schemes which he has been discussing with the N.F.U. It is material to our attitude towards a Bill which we all agree is a moderately poor Measure, if not a bad one. It is true that we have done our best to help the Minister in his fight with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and that one must try to collect what crumbs of comfort one can from the schemes which the Minister is secretly devising with some outside bodies.

One further question I would like to have answered concerns the conditions mentioned by the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said that certain instruments used in private gardens would not be included. That one can understand. What I want to know is, what is the "what not" he mentioned? For example, does that include tractors used on forestry? Does that include petrol-driven instruments used in certain ancillary occupations which are under the control of his Ministry, mentioned by one of my hon. Friends? This would be an appropriate occasion on which to clear up that point.

Like my hon. Friend I am a little clearer than I was when we started this discussion but, with a little more elucidation from the Minister, we might get at what is in his mind.

Sir T. Dugdale

On a point of order, Sir Charles, would it be convenient to the Committee to range wide on the Amendment and then have no further discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill "?

The Deputy-Chairman

Hon. Members have made three speeches that ought to have been made on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." If we have those now, I shall put that Question without discussion.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

The Minister's reply to the Amendment proves how difficult it is to deal adequately with the Committee stage of a Bill drafted in this way, because the Minister is asking the Committee to give him something in the nature of a blank cheque—the round sum may be filled in, but none of the details. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must realise that if he is going to apply this system of what he calls rough justice with rather a heavy hand in a general way to the agricultural community in respect of the rebate to which farmers are entitled for petrol-driven machines, he will cause not only a great deal with discontent but, worse still, great confusion and widespread anomalies.

I cannot think of any worse combination of three disadvantages than those three. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must realise that the rebate on petrol must in common justice, even on the basis of rough justice, bear some relation to the amount of petrol consumed in a given farmer's tractor, or any other petrol-driven machine, in a given year. Otherwise it will be a deterrent to the full use of a tractor, and that can only impair the efficiency of farming operations.

The right hon. Gentleman is asking us to accept a scheme the details of which are quite unknown and which will be retrospective to some date back in April, so that a farmer who buys a new tractor or other petrol-driven machine for use in the harvest has not the remotest idea until the publication of the scheme in January, 1951, to what extent, if at all, that machine will qualify for any rebate. The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect the Committee to give him quite such wide powers in respect of quite such an undefined scheme.

Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)

The more I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the rougher I thought the justice is bound to be. I want to illustrate how rough it may be to some of the people who require assistance. If a flat rebate is given on all combine harvesters, how will the right hon. Gentleman give even rough justice to the small farmer using a contractor's machine for cutting corn, where the tractor is getting only the same rebate for cutting several hundred acres as will the tractor of a farmer who is cutting only 15 or 20 acres? The cost of harvesting to the small farmer is bound to be raised because of the rise in the cost of petrol. The rough justice will not even be rough justice to the small farmer.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment was unnecessary because he already had the power to deal with the extent of the user of petrol for agricultural machines under the earlier provision in subsection (2), that entitling him to make a grant subject to any condition. If he is entitled to do that, why does he require paragraph (a)? What conditions has he in mind?

Mr. T. Williams

Surely the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of the law, scarcely need ask me that question. The subsection reads: Subject to any conditions and, in particular. may … specify"— this, that or the other.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

That is exactly as I read it, and the right hon. Gentleman must agree with me that paragraph (a) is entirely unnecessary. If he will be able to interpret the conditions referred to in the sentence which includes "Subject to any conditions" as including the provisions that we seek to insert by means of our Amendment, surely it can also be ## interpreted as covering the conditions contained in paragraph (a). I am glad to observe that the right hon. Gentleman now has the assistance of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, whose opinion I value and who, I am sure. will share my views on this subject.

Apart from that, what the Minister has said illustrates the utter impossibility of being able to debate and improve substantially a Measure which is brought before the House in a manner like this. Even now, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said, we do not know the details of the scheme which he intends to put into operation by virtue of the provisions of the Bill. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee, even after obtaining the legal advice which he has just received, that he yet knows what scheme he intends to put into operation under the powers he is asking Parliament to grant him. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated to us that he is still negotiating with certain interested bodies. I submit that it is not a proper procedure for any Government Department through the Minister to ask for general powers which they themselves have no idea as yet how they are going to use, while they are still in negotiation with those whom they call "interested parties."

10.30 p.m.

With regard to the application of the farmer, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that for petrol-driven tractors there would be a grant in the region of £25. What about petrol-driven jeeps and petrol-driven lorries used solely on a farm? From my own knowledge of the operations of a farm, I have reckoned that for the average farm of under 200 acres the additional petrol tax will cost in the region of £80. How is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting to the Committee he is going to deal with matters of that sort under the scheme he is still discussing and considering? He has given the Committee no indication at all. If he suggests that he is going to deal with it under the general provisions that he can make the scheme subject to conditions, he is not bringing it into the open sufficiently for the Committee to be able to discuss it. I submit that he should give us more detailed particulars than he has done.

On the question of the date of 1st January, 1951, I ask the right hon. Gentle- man to reconsider this point. If he sticks to that date as the date prior to which farmers cannot make application for a grant in respect of the additional cost of petrol, he is causing the farmer to be out of pocket in the ensuing year for nine months' additional cost of petrol which, on a farm of about 200 acres, will be something in the region of £60. This is an excessive amount and it is not reasonable that the farmer should be asked to bear it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider that point and to enable farmers to make application at a much earlier date.

Finally, I again ask the Minister to reconsider the question specifically referred to in the Amendment, because it is impossible for any scheme to lay down a comprehensive standard of rebate on agricultural machines. There may be a series up to 10 machines on a farm all used for different purposes at different times, consuming different quantities and different ratios of petrol. The farming community should have a much greater knowledge in advance of what this Bill is going to mean to them than the right hon. Gentleman has given us.

Lieut.-Commander Baldock (Harborough)

I wonder if the Minister has considered the effect that this method of applying a rebate on the new petrol tax will have on the urban community. Unless it is done in the way which we suggest in this Amendment, on the proportion of the amount of petrol consumed, and if it is the form of a lump sum grant, as I understand it is likely to be, it must be regarded as a subsidy to farmers. I feel that from that aspect it would be even more serious than most subsidies in the eyes of urban communities, which are becoming increasingly critical of farmers costs; because it will be given on a commodity which urban people themselves use.

A subsidy upon fertilisers or crops is something which they regard as of value. But if it is appreciated that this is merely a rebate of tax which the farmer otherwise would be paying on essential fuel and raw material, and that this rebate is being received directly as he buys the petrol, it is not likely to be regarded as a subsidy. From a psychological point of view that is an important point because of the growing criticism of the farming community in urban areas.

The unfairness, the rough justice, has already been pointed out, and it must operate particularly in the case of stationary engines and pumps, for which no one can compute the amount of their use during any year. Some engines driving crushing and pulping machinery are run on some farms for a very short period in a year. Farmers will vary the amount of use they make of such machinery from year to year, according to the crops they grow and their methods of husbandry. I believe that the only possible way to achieve fairness in this matter is the way suggested in this Amendment.

Mr. Vane (Westmorland)

When the Minister of Agriculture resisted this Amendment and gave us just a glimpse of some of the conditions which he thought we might expect to see in the final scheme, he said that this was not a grant in respect of work on golf courses, for instance; but he did not mention the extremely close relations of agriculture, such as forestry. He will agree, I know, when I say that there is scarcely a farm in this country which has not a small amount of timber on it, and indeed ought to have a great deal more. He will recollect that he has just instituted a new subsidy scheme for poplars to be grown on practically every farm. Tractors will spend part of their time, probably, on work connected with this.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say something more about this? It arose on the Finance Bill the other day, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wise enough to discontinue this absurd distinction which the Minister of Agriculture had previously attempted to maintain between pure agriculture and forestry, which is closely bound up with it. I do not want to pursue this matter, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say that he is going to follow the line of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and will consider forestry operations, for this purpose, as constituting part of agriculture.

Mr. T. Williams

Perhaps I ought to answer the hon. Gentleman at once. The farmers who plant the poplars to which he referred will, of course, qualify for grant as farmers. Therefore, nothing further need be done for them. The Bill, however, deals with machines used for agricultural operations. The whole scheme is based upon the fact that the February review of farming prices, which operated from 1st April for certain livestock and products, had been fixed only a week or two in advance of the Budget statement. Therefore, to have imposed an extra burden of several million pounds upon the farming community immediately after that review of farming prices would have been unreasonable. At least, the farming community would have been entitled to a special review because of a substantial increase in costs of production. This is not a subsidy to farmers. This provides a rebate for increases in costs of production imposed by the Finance Bill.

I think that I need only reply to one or two other points. It has been said that we should not have introduced a scheme for which we have no powers and before we have come to Parliament to ask for them. Well, all I have to say is that I hope that in his waking hours, either tonight or tomorrow morning, the hon. Member who said that will reconsider it and realise what it implies. The schemes will be retrospective from the date of the Chancellor's statement.

Sir T. Dugdale

When will the farming community know what the scheme is; when will there be details?

Mr. Williams

When the scheme has been produced and is presented to this House.

Sir T. Dugdale

Could we have sonic sort of date?

Mr. Williams

There are still certain points under discussion, and awaiting settlement. The Order will have to be brought in and laid in the House, and members of the farming community, as well as hon. Members, will then know what the scheme contains. I think that answers all the questions raised, except that I was asked whether a separate assessment would be made for each machine. That must be left for the scheme itself. Tonight I have indicated broadly what the scheme may contain, but I did not want to open a wide debate.

Mr. Turton

The Minister has not dealt with the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) as to the words, "subject to any conditions" but if he can, and will, specify the amount of user, then I can appreciate that there will be no point in pressing this Amendment and I shall be quite happy to withdraw it; but a great deal depends on the legal opinion which the Minister has already received from the Attorney-General.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Member allows his imagination to run wild. I have neither sought, nor require, any advice from the Attorney-General. If he will be good enough to read the words again, and try to understand them, he will find they mean "subject to any conditions." and clearly there is power for the Minister to apply any conditions and also particular conditions. Does the hon. Member want more explanation?

Mr. Turton

That is not a legal interpretation given by the Attorney-General, and I must say that I rather mistrust the Minister as a lawyer although not, perhaps, in other directions; but as a result of that opinion, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out from "uses," to the end of line 4.

This Amendment deals with the power which the Minister is taking to prohibit grants in respect of machines used on land for a specified time. I should like to ask the Minister what sort of penal power he is here taking? I should have thought that any agricultural land ought to be all right as regards the use of agricultural machines upon it. Quite clearly also, if the Minister can make any scheme subject to any conditions, he does not need this particular penal power. I think it is unhappy that this Bill contains this power, because. after all, a tractor is a multi-purpose machine, whether we use it on land of elsewhere. It would be wrong if the machine were taken on to certain types of land, the farmer should be debarred from receiving a grant. The Minister has sufficient power in this Clause without having these words.

Mr. T. Williams

I thought I had already answered the hon. Gentleman. I said that we wanted to exclude golf courses, sports grounds, recreation grounds, private gardens and that kind of land. Unless we have power in the Bill, it would not be possible to do that. Those are the sort of restrictions that we have in mind.

Mr. Turton

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, to leave out "(including, in particular, an agricultural tractor)."

This is a drafting Amendment. I do not think the words which it is sought to omit carry any weight in the Clause. There is a legal doctrine—inclusio unius est exclusio alterius. I am sorry the Parliamentary Secretary has not got that one, but it is frequently quoted by the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), so if he can find the hon. and learned Member somewhere in the House, he can get the right translation. It means that if you include a tractor, you are, by putting in a tractor, excluding something else. I think these words are entirely unnecessary, and I ask the Minister to take them out, because they do not help in the Bill and would cause confusion in the courts if ever they came before the courts.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)

It was the accent rather than the translation which worried me. Although I think there is something in the point made by the hon. Gentleman, frankly I do not think there is very much in it. It is common practice to talk of "agricultural tractors and machines." We thought it better to put into the Clause what is the common sort of thing which is clearly understood. Therefore, we included the words "any machine" and to make it quite clear that we are not, by using the word "machine" in the sense in which it is sometimes used, excluding tractors, we go on to say including, inparticular, an agricultural tractor). The words avoid any suggestion that we are excluding something else. We think it is better that the words should stand as they are.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

The hon. Gentleman has proved conclusively my hon. Friend's case. If one followed his argument to a logical conclusion, it would mean, according to the normal interpretation of machines, probably a static machine, such as a petrol-driven engine for a milking parlour or something of that sort. The hon. Gentleman argued that the words are included in order to ex- plain to the farmer that, in the particular instance in which the words are used here, the machine is intended to include a tractor. If that be so, then a fortiori it must specifically exclude the use of my jeep and my lorry to which I referred before. I believe that the inclusion of these words which we seek to leave out is a limitation of the type of machine on which the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make grants, rather than an elaboration of the definition of the word "machine" which, for agricultural operations, is perfectly well known and requires no additional significance by the addition of the words which are included in the brackets.

Amendment negatived.

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. TURTON:

In page 2, line 12, at end, insert: '"and the expression agricultural operations' means operations in connection with the use of land for any purpose of husbandry whether as arable meadow, pasture ground, market garden, or orchard, or for the keeping or breeding of livestock or poultry, or for the purpose of a plantation or a wood, or for the growth of saleable underwood.

The Deputy Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

This Amendment is out of order.

Mr. Turton

With great respect, Sir Charles, this Amendment seeks to define certain words. I noticed that the Minister himself, when he was speaking rather widely to the first Amendment, said that "agricultural" was defined by a certain Act of Parliament. That does not occur in the Bill. All that this Amendment does is to insert in the Bill a definition of "agricultural operations," and it is found in the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935. I submit to you most respectfully that it is not an extension of the Bill. It may be that I have quoted a different definition from that which the Minister tried to insert in his speech on the first Amendment. In order that I may define the words which are used both in the Bill and in the Financial Resolution, I submit that the definition must mean a limiting of a broad, wide meaning.

Mr. T. Williams

My reference to the interpretation of the 1947 Act was intended to help the hon. Gentleman, knowing that this Amendment was on the Order Paper. Parliament accepted that part of the 1947 Act.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am not calling this Amendment. It either increases the charge or if it does not increase the charge it is meaningless.

Mr. Vane

The Minister says that he has defined "agricultural operations" for the purposes of this Bill, but in other Statutes the word "agricultural" is given other meanings. How are the courts to interpret this in the future? Are they to accept what the Minister has just said casually, or are they left to choose freely between the different interpretations in different Statutes?

The Deputy-Chairman

I cannot answer for the courts. I am only concerned with the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and this Amendment is outside the Money Resolution.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

Surely the Committee should be clear about the definition of the words "agricultural operations"? It is upon the definition in the Bill that the courts, if there be some dispute, have got to decide.

The Deputy-Chairman

All we are dealing with is the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and its Money Resolution.

Mr. Turton

With great respect, Sir Charles, I only want to get the meaning of your Ruling clear. Do I understand that if a phrase is used in the Financial Resolution it is out of order to put down an Amendment defining that phrase on the Committee stage of the Bill?

The Deputy-Chairman

Yes, if it is going to extend it. The Amendment attempts to define "agricultural operations" in a way which may mean more than agricultural operations. If it does that, it is outside the scope of the Money Resolution. If it does not do that, it is meaningless.

Mr. Turton

Do I understand that, where there is a phrase used in the Financial Resolution to a Bill, it is always out of order to put down in Committee an Amendment defining it?

The Deputy-Chairman

No, I did not say that. We are dealing with one Bill here, and the Amendment is out of order. To ask hypothetical questions is not fair; I am not a lawyer, and I am not going to try to answer them.

Sir T. Dugdale

I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, at the end, to add: (5) A scheme under this section shall operate for the period of twelve months beginning on the nineteenth day of April, nineteen hundred and fifty: Provided that the said period may be extended by an order made by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State acting jointly and subject to the approval of the Treasury. The power of making an order under this proviso shall be exercisable by statutory instrument and no such order shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution of the Commons House of Parliament. This Amendment is drafted to a large extent on the invitation given by the Minister on Second Reading. The object is two-fold. First, it limits the scheme to a year, after which the situation can be reviewed. The Committee will remember that during the Second Reading the Minister said: No one can say how long these grants will continue, but, at an early date, we shall consider whether some alternative can be found as a long-term solution of the problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 2664.] It is in response to that invitation that we have put down this Amendment. We believe—even more so after listening to this Debate that there should be some limitation to this scheme before it is renewed. The second object is that an Order made under this Clause shall be subject to the affirmative procedure and not to the negative procedure. This was argued at length on a previous occasion, and I do not propose to weary the Committee by repeating what was then said.

Mr. T. Williams

If this Amendment were accepted and if it were, later on, decided to continue the scheme beyond a year, a positive Resolution would be required, although only from the House of Commons. As the Bill stands, no terms are fixed for these petrol grants. The intention was that they should go on as long as they were needed. It is true that I said on Second Reading that no one knows how long this scheme will be necessary. I expressed the hope that it would not be for very long, but I do not see why we should be tied down by an affirmative Resolution each year, assuming that we fail to find an alternative which is fair to the farming com- munity. If some reasonable way could be found, these grants could be dispensed with.

It would mean that if there were a change in the Petrol Duty or if for some other reason the scheme had to carry on, we should have to come to the House year after year. I have given careful consideration to that part of the Amendment which refers to the affirmative Resolution procedure, and if hon. Members opposite will accept it in the spirit in which it is offered, I am prepared to put down a manuscript Amendment to Clause 4, page 4, line 28, to provide, for Clause 1 only, that the affirmative Resolution procedure shall apply. If the hon. Baronet is prepared to withdraw the Amendment and not move his Amendment, in page 4, line 27, to leave out subsection (3), and to add: (3) A scheme made under this Act shall be of no effect unless it is approved by resolution of the Commons House of Parliament. I shall be willing to provide for the affirmative Resolution procedure as indicated.

11.0 p.m.

Sir T. Dugdale

I think that my hon. Friends would prefer to accept the invitation which has been extended to us by the Minister, but I hope it will be possible to discuss the last Amendment to Clause 4 so that he will be able to explain, as the second part of the Bill comes into a difference category, why he cannot accept the affirmative Resolution for that part of the Bill. I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we moved that Amendment in order to enable him to explain that. The Committee in this case are grateful for the Minister's consideration which certainly goes a long way to meet the case we have put forward, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.