HC Deb 22 October 1952 vol 505 cc1031-54

4.10 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Sir Thomas Dugdale)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 36, to leave out from "not," to "be," in line 37.

This Amendment and the one in line 38, to leave out "by more than three years." fulfil a promise I gave during the Committee stage to reconsider the wording of Clause 1 (5, a) in view of my acceptance of a proposal by the Opposition. The words are exactly the same as those in an Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

It would be ungracious not to thank the Minister for having accepted the words which the Opposition proposed. The modesty of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was not justified, because the Minister has accepted his exact wording.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 38, leave out "by more than three years."—[Sir T. Dugdale.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Sir T. Dugdale.]

4.11 p.m.

Mr. Champion

We feel that we ought not to part with the Bill without thanking the Minister for his courtesy on the Committee stage and his willingness to look closely at Amendments and to accept some of them. We feel that the Bill is a much better one as the result of his willingness to accept Amendments put down by the Opposition. It is our job to assist him to improve the Bills that he introduces. We know that he has learnt a lesson by what has happened to his previous Bills, and when he introduced this Bill it was better than the one he first introduced after he became Minister.

The Minister has become very much a friend of Wales, and I am sure that Wales will thank him for what he did in altering the wording of Clause 1 (2). He may be in some little danger as a result of that. I understand that the Prime Minister is looking for someone to accompany the Home Secretary in the management of Welsh affairs. The right hon. Gentleman had better be on his guard or he will find himself being demoted to assist the Home Secretary in looking after Wales, in which case we shall have a Yorkshireman and a Scotsman looking after Welsh affairs.

This is a short-term Measure. There is not a ha'p'orth of invention in it. It was devised by previous Administrations, and perhaps it is all the better for that. I remember the derisory laughter when the Minister in the Labour Government said that the way of nationalisation had not been perfectly blue-printed, but as an Administration the Labour Government certainly had ideas which were translated into Acts of Parliament. After all that was said by the present Ministers when they were in opposition, we note that they have fairly slavishly followed the lines which were marked out by the last Government. We can compare all that has happened since October of last year with the scope and breadth of the 1947 Act which was an entirely new departure in Governmental action for this great industry.

I notice that the Government's friends are not satisfied with what the Government are doing. Mr. J. H. Gray, National Farmers' Union delegate, speaking on 4th October of this year, said: The Government does not seem to have a clue as to what its long-term agricultural policy should be. We know what we can produce and we shall lay our plans before the Government if they have not the guts or the brains to think up something for themselves. That is a challenge to the present Administration to do something about this. The Government must show Mr. Gray and the N.F.U. that they have the guts and the brains to do the things which they promised when they were in opposition.

We ought to ask the Minister what he proposes to do about the slaughter of immature animals under this Bill. I cannot refer to Amendments which were moved during the Committee stage, but we feel that the Minister ought to give us some indication of how he proposes to tackle something which he recognises to be an evil and which he thinks, and we think, he ought to stop.

When the Minister gets the beef which we hope will result from the Bill, will he have slaughtering facilities available to deal with the additional meat, and is he sure—I hope he will answer this point, for it arises out of the Bill—that meat storage facilities will be available, because much of this meat will be coming off the grass that we are hoping to get as a result of the ploughing grants, and we want to make the best use we can of it when we get it?

This is a small Bill—that is the usual story—but it is a very important one, and we hope that some useful results will flow from it. For the farming community it is an important Bill, but it is more important still for the nation in its struggle to live in the changed world that lies ahead. We wish the Bill well and we wish the Minister well in administering it.

4.17 p.m.

Colonel Ralph Clarke (East Grinstead)

I congratulate the Minister on having reached the final stages in this House with his Bill. It represents a good short-term policy for beef. We all recognise that it is a short-term policy designed to meet an emergency and we hope that later on we shall have a longer-dated policy. But I believe that for a long period we shall have to rely on getting our beef from animals of the kind about which we have been talking instead of the pure beef type. We should, however, always bear in mind that the real beef type is the sort at which we should aim. Until the butchers receive real beef animals, sired by beef bulls and out of beef cows, brought up on their mothers and looked after well for the first year, we shall not get those sirloins which we, to use the poet's words "have loved and lost awhile." I only hope it is "awhile."

I am not afraid that the Bill will in any way interfere with the long-term policy when we get it. There was talk the other night about a two-year period, but the Minister stood firm on the three-year period. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) pointed out that the period might be rather longer. I do not think that a three year period is any too short. If we are to attract people to take advantage of the Bill, they must be able to rely on the scheme lasting for a decent period. People talk about farming being a long-term policy. So it is. Anybody who has done anything out of doors will agree that it always takes longer than one expects, whether it is a soldiering scheme, farming, or anything else, and, therefore, we must allow plenty of time for it.

I congratulate the Minister on the timing of the Bill. It was very convenient to have the Second Reading in July, and for hon. Members to be able to go back to their constituencies and think about the matter and then come back here for the Committee and Report stages. They had a chance of consulting their constituents and of talking to the farmers. As I did this, two ideas pressed themselves upon me.

The first was that if the Minister insists on his officers grading some dual-purpose calves, those officers will have an awful headache before they have done. If only three out of four are taken, it may be the cause of a great deal of heartburning and difficulty. I hope that when the Orders are considered, it may be thought better to include dairy shorthorns, red polls and South Devons, the principal dual-purpose breeds, and to class them for bounty, unless of course the calves are not up to the beef or any other standard, and not only to exclude the pure milk breeds and Friesians. Practically all the Irish steers come from dual purpose milk shorthorn stock in the West of Ireland.

The other idea I had was the hope that there might be some response to this scheme from the owners of dairy herds with pure dairy cows in them. The Minister said that if a calf was sired by a beef bull, preferably by a colour-marking bull, out of a dairy cow, it would rank for grant. I hope that a certain number of owners of dairy herds will bull a proportion of their animals with beef bulls. In a good, established herd I do not think it is necessary to keep all the heifer calves you breed every year. In most good, well-established herds the farmers could afford to bull a certain number of their cows with beef bulls and thereby have a certain number of calves to come into the scheme. If they did that, there would be no loss of milk at all and from that point of view it would not matter whether the cow had been to a beef bull or a dairy bull. There would be no loss of milk. I believe the scheme will not interfere with the production of milk. The monthly cheque is far too attractive in the present financial stringency.

I welcome the Bill and I hope to see it soon on the Statute Book. I think the production grant will, if time is given, have the effect that it is intended to have. We have had a very interesting debate, in which helpful contributions have been made from all sides of the House.

4.24 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Gooch (Norfolk, North)

Many details of the Bill were fully debated in the Committee stage, so I shall detain the House only for a few moments to make some general observations. I frankly state that I dislike the additional further subsidy, but in considering whether we should give a Third Reading to the Bill, we must consider the circumstances in which the Bill was first thought about.

As I understand the position, in the 1952 Price Review some £15½ million out of a total of £39 million was reserved for the initiation or extension of three specific production grants: the fertiliser subsidy, the ploughing grant and £4½ million for a new grant for steer and heifer calves to encourage meat production. I seriously suggest to the Minister that he should give a great deal of thought to subsidies, reviewing the whole question as it applies to agriculture. I hope that he would, in general, come to the conclusion that it is far better to allow a price increase than to introduce again and again additional subsidies.

There is a lack of confidence as to the future in this industry, but I do not think that the introduction of additional subsidies will give to the farming community the feeling of confidence which is necessary if they are to reach their full production targets. I shall not remind the Minister of all the statements that have been made from his side of the House. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) indulged in some really plain speaking the other night. I shall take up only one point of his, as it applies to the Bill. He suggested to the Government that they were on the wrong road and should retrace their steps, and start again. I could not agree more, especially as regards the question of granting additional subsidies to agriculture. I suggest to the Minister that he should give this matter more thought in the future.

I do not oppose the new subsidy, because it is part of the settlement with the agricultural industry at the last Price Review, but I look forward, and I am sure my hon. Friends do, too—I expect that is also true of hon. Members opposite—to an effective long-term policy emerging some time or other and being operated by the Minister. Otherwise, the industry is starting to slip down the slippery slope, and we know where that leads to. We are prepared on this side of the House to support the Minister in the efforts he may make to increase food production and to help agriculture, but we think it is time—after all, the Government have been in office for a year now—that there should emerge without further delay a long-term food production policy. If it is the right policy, the Minister will find abundant support for it on this side of the House.

4.28 p.m.

Mr. Robert Crouch (Dorset, North)

I congratulate my right hon. and gallant Friend on the way in which he has piloted the Bill through the House. By the courtesy which he always displays in this House, we have not found this to be a controversial Measure. I welcome the passing of the Bill because I feel sure that, as a result of another Bill which was passed a few years ago, we shall have an increase in the number of calves reared in this country.

No one regretted more than I did when the last Government decided to discontinue these grants. In my opinion, it is better to give this production grant at the beginning of beef production than to increase prices at the end of it, for two reasons. The first is that it is the small man who rears most of the calves which are converted into beef. By the grant of £5 for the rearing of each calf, these farmers get a much greater incentive than if they have had it during the last two years. The second reason is that it is in the beginning of the life of any animal that the more nutritious foods are required.

The grant will enable our small farmers to rear more calves for future beef production. We can take as an example what happened after 1947. We can look forward with confidence to having very much more beef in the country in two or three years' time than we have now. Everyone is looking forward to the day when they will get more red meat than they are getting at the present time.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I am glad to see the Bill so near the Statute Book, and I believe it will be useful in my constituency. At one time black beef cattle were the mainstay of Orkney agriculture and they are still a most important part of it. In recent years, however, there has been a great increase in dairy herds in Orkney and this, although it has advantages for the country, has also presented certain problems. For instance, there has been some cross-breeding which is a not altogether desirable thing from the point of view of black cattle.

The first point I want to make particularly to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is that when the calf subsidy is administered I hope that the rather difficult circumstances of farmers living in Orkney—particularly in the North Isles, where they have limited opportunities of buying and selling cattle—will have their difficulties taken into account. They occasionally get calves in which are not entirely pure bred. I understood from what the Minister said on Second Reading that he realised that it is a difficult problem to distinguish between beef beasts and milk beasts, and in the rather particularly difficult circumstances with which a county like Orkney has to contend I hope that consideration will be given to that point.

I would also suggest that the admirable work carried on by the representatives of his Department is continued, because it is in the interests of both breeds in Orkney that they should be kept as separate as possible. No one welcomes inter-breeding if it can be avoided.

I also want to take up the point of slaughtering raised by an hon. Member opposite. If it were possible to slaughter in the north islands of Orkney there would be a great saving on freight. I do not know whether there are sufficient beasts——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I do not think that slaughtering arises on this Bill.

Mr. Grimond

It was mentioned by an earlier speaker——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order, order.

Mr. Grimond

Then I will leave that point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and say only that I welcome this Bill because it will not only help the farmer but will make for more beef in this country. Certainly, the small farmers in the North will be glad to know that their heifer beef calves will now receive encouragement as well as the steers.

4.33 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I congratulate the Minister on this Bill which will be a useful short-term Measure, but there are two points which I want to make. First, I want to ask for an assurance from my right hon. Friend that during the next three years in which this scheme will be in operation he will watch the possible effect on milk production. This is a matter which could be of vital importance. I mentioned this point during the Committee stage and I raise it again now on Third Reading in the hope that the Minister will give a clear assurance on the subject.

Secondly, I want to ask the Minister to make a clear statement at the conclusion of the passage of this Bill that it is not a gratuitous benefit for the farming community; that this Bill has been designed—I believe rightly designed—in the public interest for the production of more meat at a cheaper price; and that it is manifestly not an extra bonus thrown to the farmers.

The Minister could make a notable contribution to the good feeling, to the effort, and to the production of our farming community if he will make it perfectly clear that this scheme is designed primarily to benefit the public and that it is hoped that, given this opportunity, the farmers will follow him in making use of the opportunity offered

4.35 p.m.

Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)

I am sorry to be the odd man out on this occasion, because I do not consider that either this Bill or the Bill introduced by the Labour Government will be in the best interests of agriculture. I think that the Minister is far too optimistic about the results which this Bill will bring about. From time to time he has mentioned the results of the 1947 Bill and is hoping that a similar result will follow from this one. Yet this scheme eliminates certain calves which the first scheme brought in. Friesian heifer calves, dairy shorthorn heifer calves, heifer calves that have a dairy standard are to be eliminated from the scope of this Bill.

In the first place, I have the greatest sympathy with the certifying officer in his task of indicating what is a dairy shorthorn calf at nine months, what is a beef shorthorn at nine months, and also certain cross-bred calves at nine months. Someone said that there would be much heartburning about it. There will be many more things much stronger than heartburning said by some of the farmers. Why should the Minister press for Friesian steer calves as against Friesian heifer calves? The Friesian heifer is quite as good a beef animal as the Friesian steer. The shorthorn heifer is quite as good a beef animal as the steer and there is no reason why these calves should not have been included in the scheme if we are going in for a policy of increasing meat.

What the Minister is relying upon is the fact that the Friesian farmer and the shorthorn farmer will in any case rear their heifers and, because they are prepared to do so, they are not to receive a subsidy. That is unfair, although I say it as one who is against all subsidies. If there is to be a subsidy then let it be a fair subsidy all round and do not penalise one as against another. As a result of those exclusions this Bill will not have the effect that the 1947 Act had upon the increase of calves. I do not believe that the increase in that case was wholly due to the Act because there are so many factors which come into the question of an increase in calves.

Another point in the Bill to which I should like to call the attention of the House is the change in the method of payment of certifying officers from a per capita basis to a salary basis. The Minister put forward some figures the other night in which he said that in Scotland, under the previous Act, the cost of certifying was 2s. per head as against about 4s. per head in England and Wales.

There are many different factors in Scotland as compared with England and Wales, one of them being that in Scotland there are large herds of beef cattle which can be certified at one visit, whereas in England and Wales they are scattered and in very small numbers on many of the small farms. This necessitates a large number of visits. Will the certifying officers be paid on a salary plus expenses basis, or will they be paid on the basis of an inclusive salary? If the former, I do not think there will be much difference between the previous and the future cost.

I feel that the whole tendency of the Government, and of the previous Government, has been wrong. I entirely disagree with the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke), who emphasised the necessity for beef cattle. What I think we ought to do is to concentrate upon and to emphasise more and more the necessity for dairy cattle. In this country, we are not in an economic position to demand the best beef. Beef wastes land when compared with dairy production, and we finally get the beef from the dairy animal. We know that it is not as good as the first-class beef, but as I have said, we cannot afford the first-class beef.

We should concentrate as much as possible on the production of the dairy animal, and so produce more and more milk for drinking purposes, for manufacture into cheese, and so on, and finally take the cows into the beef market. In this way we get the fullest possible advantage, and we do not waste land in comparison with the pure beef production at which we are at present aiming. If we want more meat, let us develop the sheep population.

The Government are pursuing a policy that was begun by the Labour Government, and I feel that in both cases the policy is wrong. I said so at the time the Labour Government introduced their proposals, and I still believe that this policy is wrong. There is only one proper policy for agriculture today, and it is up to every farmer to put it into operation: that is, 100 per cent. production from the whole of the land that he farms. That is the only policy that any Government should put forward, and every farmer can operate it for himself.

It is upon the individual work of the individual farmer, putting the whole of his capacity into that work, that the future of agriculture depends. It does not lie in the hands of the Government, and I do not feel that these measures which the Government are bringing forward will have the effect that they desire. If, however, a direct appeal was made by the Minister, by the Government, to the farmers for 100 per cent. production, this would have a far greater result than any small measure such as the Bill.

4.45 p.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I shall not follow in detail the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), as to do so would involve going considerably out of order on the Bill. I should, however, like to draw attention to a feature of the Bill to which more and more importance ought to be given in the public mind. If we are to give State financial encouragement of any sort to any industry, automatically it involves the individuals who are to get the assistance being subject to certain rules and regulations which are operated by officials.

The Bill, and Clause 3 in particular, contains a good deal of delegated legislation, to which the party on this side are adamantly opposed in principle. We realise that it is not within human power to draft into a Bill all the possibilities that might arise in operating a scheme of this nature. The scheme is left pretty vague in the Bill.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose——

Major Legge-Bourke

I know what the hon. and learned Member is going to say, so he need not rise. It is not within human power to insert all these details in the Bill. Nevertheless, the farming industry, and any other industry, must face up to the fact that if they want State assistance, they have to be subject to the very considerable power of officials.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised this matter, and I supported him, in the Committee stage. I am not the least ashamed of supporting him, because consistently, for many years, his party put forward exactly the thing which he criticised, and we criticised it very forcibly. I shall continue to criticise this whenever it appears.

I still believe that the real answer to the problem, which the Bill is an attempt to solve, is for the end price to be made sufficiently attractive to make it worth while for a farmer to fatten his stock. That is the fundamental solution. What we must face, and why the Minister has had to introduce the Bill, is that there has been a decline rather than expansion in the last year or so, very largely due to the fact that the previous Government would not face up to this vital issue.

Although this is, in my opinion, a stopgap Measure and nothing more, I still believe that in the end we shall have to make the country realise, somehow or other, that the price of food has for far too long been far below the cost of production, that the day of cheap food is over for ever, and that if we are to get the production that we need and are to avoid paying double what we should be paying by insisting upon its coming in as imports, there is only one way to do it: that is, to pay the farmer for his produce at a price which enables him to pay his agricultural workers a decent wage. That is the final solution to all this.

The only reason that I see for the Bill—I certainly support it at the moment—is that that issue has not yet been faced up to by the country. So long as the country refuses to face up to it, just so long will we have to have this added bureaucracy with every little Bill that comes along.

4.49 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

As the debate proceeds, we find that many Members are critical of this Bill. I was rather interested to know that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) has criticised it, because it extends a form of delegated legislation. He made the remark that his party are adamantly opposed to that kind of thing. It will be interesting to know what the hon. Member and his party do in the next Session, when we have the Supplies and Services Bill. I was not aware that in the Session which is now nearing its end his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench were opposed to delegated legislation.

This little Bill is a modest but important Bill. I welcome it. I know that arguments have been advanced today by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) against our whole approach to subsidies. Even the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch), who welcomed the Bill, was uncertain about its title the other evening, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin), as I remarked in the Committee stage, has had a further recruit to his view in such an influential representative as the hon. and gallant Member for Bedford (Captain Soames). We have thus a joint opposition to the policy which this Government are continuing and which was pursued by the previous Labour Government.

It is a good thing that the Minister and his juniors in the Government are running away from the propaganda which is sometimes irrationally advocated by many of their supporters like the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who rail so much against bureaucracy and farming from Whitehall. It was the subject matter of that wonderful leaflet which the Tory Party issued during the last General Election.

We all appreciate that the Minister is a wise man, for he recognises that past silly Tory propaganda cannot meet the present needs of agriculture and he wisely carries out many of the policies which were pursued by the previous Labour administration. That is why I welcome the Bill. It is a modest Bill, merely giving powers to bring in a scheme which will grant a calf subsidy and fulfil a promise made during the period of the Price Review. It continues the principle followed in previous Measures such as the Agriculture (Fertilisers) Act and the Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) Act.

There may be some truth in the argument of hon. Members who oppose subsidies, but I agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, North when he expressed support for the Third Reading of the Bill by pointing out how the granting of this subsidy will help the small man. It injects the subsidy early into the production cycle. I believe that is important, for the many reasons advanced by the Minister on Second Reading. Small farmers today face increased costs, and there is no sign that the present Government are adopting any constructive policies to meet the increased costs which the farmers have to face. For this reason the Bill deserves support. It will help the small farmer. I hope that many small farmers in my constituency in the county of Cumberland will derive great benefits from it.

I trust, too, that the Bill will have the success which the Minister expects from it and that there will be an annual increase of 300,000 calves. My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), whom I compliment for his consistency—I know his point of view; he expressed it very firmly during the period of a Labour Government—does not believe that we shall achieve much success with this Measure. I disagree. We must achieve the target mentioned by the Minister.

It is vital that the Bill shall give encouragement to our farmers to produce more meat. It is essential from the point of view of saving dollar imports. It is also recognised on all sides of the House that we cannot expect the large supplies of imported foods we previously enjoyed. That day has gone for ever. We have to consider our financial and economic position and to recognise that we must produce to the maximum on our farms.

For that reason I welcome the Measure. If I may repeat the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), who, with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), has done so much to improve the Bill, we want an answer to this main question: Are the Government to introduce a long-term policy?

After all, the Minister and the Foreign Secretary had an interesting dinner engagement with the National Farmers' Union at the beginning of this year, and the Foreign Secretary, proposing the toast of "Agriculture," said—if I may quote from the "British Farmer": Mr. Eden hinted at 'drastic necessary measures' and said the Minister of Agriculture would shortly be putting before his colleagues suggestions as to how the Government could help the industry to make the greatest contribution to our food supplies. Is this a drastic Measure? Is this the only Measure which the Government will put forward? Does the Minister intend to resist his critics behind him, and those in another place like a Tory ex-Minister who said, of subsidy policy: Putting back the subsidies is not a policy of realism. It is a policy of continuing to live in 'cloud cuckoo land'. Is the Minister going to resist these very influential people in his party? Does he intend to announce something important or is this the only Government Measure designed to increase food production? I hope that he will answer my hon. Friends on these points, because there is great uncertainty in the rural areas about the Govenment's intentions.

4.57 p.m.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

On listening to the debate, I feel that someone from Scotland should rise and say "Thank you" to the Government for this Measure, which is a temporary, but I think effective, expedient to stop a decline which has been taking place in the production of calves, and therefore the production of meat, in this country. I do not wish to speak for long, but I felt I should say that because I believe the Bill has the unanimous support of the Scottish farmers.

The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) is an enthusiast for milk. In reply to him, I would say that what we have to do in the future is to maintain a proper balance between milk and beef. As I come from a beef area, where the finest Scottish beef is produced, he will sympathise with me when I support the Bill and when I say that I cannot agree with his enthusiastic encomium for the wholesale production of milk in the whole of the country, whether milk has been traditionally produced there or not.

I have two small points to make about the Bill. I hope that these production grants will be paid to the breeder, and in order that this may be so, I hope that the payments will be made earlier under the new system of whole-time official inspectors than they were under the previous scheme. What happens in Scotland, and particularly in the upland and hill farming areas, is that the calves are usually born in March—sometimes earlier, sometimes later—and then we have the big sales of calves in the autumn, when they are sold for the feeder to feed through the winter and probably feed on to maturity.

If the subsidy is not to be paid until after nine months, then the breeder will not get the subsidy, although I admit that in the price he receives for the calf at the autumn sales he may consider that he is getting some of the subsidy. There is no certainty that he will.

Under the new system of inspection, if the calf can be punched before or at the autumn sales, it will make a very big difference in encouragement to the breeder, because he will be able to fill up the form and get the production grant.

The only other small point I wish to make is on the question of inspection. I agree with the hon. Member for Chorley in saying that the inspectors are going to have a very difficult task in dealing with some of the more doubtful cases on grounds of breed or condition. I have no doubt there will be some angry exchanges and some angry letters written to the Department of Agriculture for Scotland because an inspector has turned down a particular calf. Indeed, a Member of Parliament may be invited to inspect the calf, which would be a quite unsuitable addition to his labours. I suggest, therefore, that while the inspector should have the general right to approve or disapprove, there should be some form of appeal from his decision.

Obviously, we cannot make it a formal, complicated legal arrangement. But, under the potato scheme, when an inspector turns down an application for a certificate, the services of a thoroughly experienced senior inspector are always available for the purpose of either confirming or rejecting the opinion of his junior. I suggest that in this case also there should be a senior inspector who could be called in if a person is dissatisfied with the decision of the junior inspector not to punch his calf.

Having made these few small points, I welcome the Bill as a temporary Measure and hope it will help to get us more red meat, which we all want.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

This, at least, will be red meat that occurs elsewhere than in the imagination, and in that I think we can welcome this Bill. But I rise to give a somewhat tepid welcome to the Bill. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) made a very valuable speech indeed, because, when one is dealing with a particular problem such as this, one tends to concentrate on the trees and not to see the wood. In this case, the wood is the problem of total production, and whatever else this Bill does it is not going to increase the total food production of this country.

Beef is a cheap crop in terms of land, but the most expensive of all crops in terms of acreage. One gets less food per acre from beef than from anything else, and, therefore, if it has any effect at all on total production it will tend to reduce it.

Mr. Denys Bullard (Norfolk, South-West)

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman bearing in mind the position in the arable areas? Surely, it is possible to increase the production of beef in those areas without necessarily breaking in to milk production. Is he considering the arable areas at all in what he is saying.

Mr. Paget

I should be greatly surprised if the arable areas provided the substantial increase in beef to which the Minister is looking forward. He is not looking to the arable areas, but to Scotland and to the dairy herds to produce a dual purpose.

Having said that, we must recognise that this Bill does nothing to cope with the great problem of falling agricultural production which is proceeding at an accelerated rate. The cause is expensive money. There is one thing of which we can all be certain, and that is that expensive money means low agricultural production and low farming.

Broadly speaking, our production per acre is proportionate to the amount of money used for that end in terms of labour and machinery. The amount of working capital utilised upon an acre of land is proportionate to its production, and as money is made more expensive so agricultural production is cut down. The really valuable subsidy would be that which made money cheap in the past. Nothing could give us the same production as that.

As I have said, having given a somewhat tepid congratulation to the Bill, I want to conclude with a most wholehearted congratulation of the manner in which it has been handled and conducted. It has been handled patiently by Ministers who thoroughly understood their Bill, who did not approach any suggestions with hostility, but who sought to make use of them, and did make use of them, and who, when they refused to do so, gave a thoroughly good reason for their refusal. The result is that we have not been kept up late at night. We have got through our business quickly and ably, and we have an improved Bill.

Speaking from this side of the House, I must say that I very much hope that the junior Lord of the Treasury will bring this to the attention of his Department, and that when next time Agriculture is handling a Bill, he will parade other Ministers for instruction on how to do it, because we on this side of the House are getting heartily sick of being kept up night after night by the incompetence of the Treasury Bench.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that the hon. and learned Member is now saying is outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Paget

I was just putting the concluding words, because agreement at times becomes almost impossible and night after night we have been kept up by the incompetence of the Treasury Bench in handling their Measures. Surely, they should parade and see how a Bill should be handled and got through gracefully, efficiently and with dispatch.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

The Minister must be somewhat surprised at what has happened this afternoon. I think he must have expected, as I did, that the proceedings on the Report stage and Third Reading of his Bill would take up no more than some 15 or 30 minutes. However, we have had a lengthy discussion and many diverse points of view have been expressed.

Having listened to the earlier proceedings on the Bill, I must say that I am a little surprised that we should have had as much discussion as we have had this afternoon about the desirability of having this kind of subsidy at all. However, it is a fact that there is good reason for there being doubt about this matter. Some hon. Members on both sides of the House genuinely believe that it is better to put whatever additional money is going to be given to beef on the end price, while there are others who take the view that the beef production in this country will be more rapidly increased by giving a smaller amount of money than that put on the end price in the form of a production grant, as the Minister preferred to call it, in the early stage of the youngster's development.

I think that the majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House come down slightly in favour of the calf subsidy at the present time, as does the Minister, but the right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, be the first to agree that there is also a strong argument on the other side. However, he thinks this is the best way, and I agree with him, as do the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House.

In the circumstances we sincerely hope that the Bill is as well received in another place, to which we send it with our best wishes. We have reason to believe that the agricultural industry as a whole is in favour of the policy in the Bill, and we can assume that in consequence there will be an increase in beef production.

Before we part with the Bill, I hope the Minister will say a little about a matter we discussed on Monday of this week during the Committee stage. The Bill makes provision for certain eventualities that might arise if and when powers now exercisable by the Ministry of Food are no longer exercisable by them. I moved a new Clause which sought to deal with one of such eventualities. The Minister was not able to accept it at the time, but he expressed appreciation of the points put in the argument in favour of the new Clause, and he said he would have a look at it before the Report stage with a view to doing something then. We know that he has not been able to do anything, but I have reason to believe he is anxious to tell us why he has not been able to do anything. I hope that he will take advantage of this opportunity to say a further word on this subject.

Before I resume my seat, I should like to repeat the congratulations already offered to the Minister, to his Parliamentary Secretary and to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for the way in which they have handled the debate and for their co-operation. It is clear that the Minister has allowed us to discuss the matters in this Bill in a friendly and amicable way, and that has expedited our proceedings. We therefore congratulate all concerned in the handling of the Bill, and we wish them every success in the policy to which they are giving effect in this Bill which we trust will very quickly become law.

5.13 p.m.

Sir T. Dugdale

The Government can be well satisfied with the reception accorded to this Bill in all parts of the House and in all parts of the country. It is true that in some parts of the country and in some parts of the House there has been only a tepid reception; and that, equally, in other parts there has been no reception for the Bill at all. This was the case with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), who has been consistent in the views he has advocated, because he made a similar speech when a calf subsidy scheme was introduced by the Government of which he was a supporter. By and large, however, there has been a favourable reception for the Bill.

The underlying issue in our debates concerns the question of whether this method of subsidy payment should begin at the earliest stage of production, or whether it ought to be left to the end price. This is not a party matter, for the views held cut across party. When we study the question and remember that there has been a definite fall in the number of calves reared, we find the majority opinion is that the Government were right to introduce this subsidy again, and by this means increase the numbers which will be reared in the years immediately ahead of us.

I should like to say another thing. In thanking the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for his approval on the way the Bill was conducted, I must correct him on his statement that production is now falling. It was certainly falling a year ago, but we have stopped that fall. Although it may not be quite in order, may I risk this one figure? As a result of the Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) Act which was passed earlier this Session, there has been an additional increase in the cereal acreage in the United Kingdom of 267,000 acres. That is a satisfactory figure, and I hope the results from this Bill will be equally satisfactory when we come to report to the House in a year's time.

Now I should like to deal with the point put by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) about the immature slaughter of calves on which subsidy has been paid. I have given this problem very careful consideration since we discussed the new Clause moved by the Opposition during the Committee stage. I am quite satisfied —and I hope hon. Gentlemen will accept this—after having looked at it from every angle that if such a Clause as suggested were included in this Bill it would be necessary to take such very wide powers, including a penalty Clause, that the final result would not commend itself to the House generally.

Having said that, I ought to add something more. When we were debating this point during the Committee stage we were thinking of Clause 2, and it was argued that if we could do it in Clause 2 why not do it for this other purpose as well? But I think the House will appreciate that there is a marked difference between the new Clause and Clause 2, which provided for the marking of imported calves where necessary. The Bill only allows me to make provision for a payment of subsidies to calves born in the United Kingdom. I cannot insure that that condition is observed unless I can also insure that imported calves are marked, and the powers which I take for this purpose are clearly defined in the Bill, whereas any other measures which were to deal with the immature slaughter of calves would be very vague and ill-defined. For all those reasons I decided that it would be wrong to submit a new Clause on that point.

I am satisfied, as I hope the Committee were satisfied after the speech made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, that we have got the necessary powers at this moment. We hope to achieve our end, through the operations of the graders and officers of the Ministry of Food, with the additional powers to refuse animals which are under six cwt., if necessary, to deduct £5 if the producer still wants to put his beasts through the market, and the provision that immature calves at the grading centre will be held back or put on to the store market.

Mr. T. Fraser

The Minister will appreciate the additional desirability of continuing the kind of policy in this matter which is being practised at the present time. He knows as well as I do that while this scheme is still in operation, immediately this Bill becomes law he will make a scheme which will continue until October, 1955. He knows as well as anyone else that it is an extreme possibility—indeed, I think, a probability—that the powers now exercisable by the Ministry of Food in the matter we are now discussing will have ceased to be exercisable by the Ministry of Food. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Is the hon. Gentleman making a second speech?

Mr. Fraser

This is a very important matter, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I thought the Ministry would want to deal with it. May I just ask the Minister if he will ensure that, in the making of a scheme under the Marketing Acts or any other Acts, and transferring the powers of the Ministry of Food to another authority, this matter is covered in any instrument that he will make?

Sir T. Dugdale

I will go as far as this to answer the hon. Gentleman. Nothing in this world is static, but we would try, whatever the conditions may be at any future time, to safeguard the intention behind the Amendment which was put down by the hon. Gentleman. That is our view. I do not think the House will want me to argue any further the general case in regard to subsidies or no subsidies.

I should like to refer for one moment, however, to the speech made by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), who put two specific points which I should like to answer. First of all, he asked why were not Friesian steers and heifers eligible. There are really two reasons. Practically every Friesian heifer is kept primarily for milk, and if some are sold as beef, that is subsidiary, because people do not keep Friesian heifers primarily for beef. And further, this is a Bill to encourage beef production.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the salaries of the officers who are to carry out this work. They will be paid on the basis of salary plus expenses. The figures of the cost given by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Committee stage as £110,000, as compared with £296,000 which was run up one year make allowance for the anticipated expenses as well as salaries. If we are successful in keeping down the cost to the figure we anticipate, it will be very much less than was the case during the last scheme, purely because we have learned by experience.

The point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) will be very carefully noted. It will be difficult, in certain cases, certainly to assess the type of calf which is to be eligible for this subsidy, but this difficulty has been accepted and agreed to by the representatives of the farmers, who share the Government's determination that the scheme shall work, and result in a further increase in beef production.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised a point of particular interest to his constituency, and I have the authority of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to tell the hon. Gentleman that it will be very carefully borne in mind. The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan), who promised the unanimous support of Scottish farmers for the Bill, raised an interesting point about the production of calves going to the breeder. It is not only in Scotland, but in other parts of the country as well, where that point is of importance. As far as the first year's scheme is concerned, it would be difficult to meet the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend but, again, the Under-Secretary asks me to assure him that it is very much in mind.

An interesting speech was made by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), who asked me to give him and the House an assurance that we will watch the effect on milk production. I have every intention of doing that and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the point. I think we can get both the milk and the increase in beef.

The House is aware, as the hon. Member said, that this Bill, authorising a production grant for calves, is not an extra benefit to the farmer. It is part of the annual review price settlement for the industry; it is part of the proper price agreed between the Government and the industry to be paid for beef. In fact, by doing it this way—paying a part at an earlier date in the production cycle—it is better than if the whole was paid at the end.

In thanking the House again for the reception given to this Bill, I would say that we are confident that we shall be able to get an increase of calves reared in the United Kingdom, and I hope that hon. Members on all sides will help its operation in their own localities.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.