§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [18th March], That the Bill be now read a Second time. —[Mr. Hare.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
We have just disposed of a proposed amendment to the Rent Act, which amendment the country clearly wants, although the House has rejected it. We turn to some other proposed alterations in rent legislation and in security of tenure, amendments which the country does not want, and we shall find at the end of the day that Members on either side of the House will be voting in the Lobby opposite to that in which they chose to vote a few moments ago.
I listened to most of the debate yesterday. It was an amazing debate. All of us know that there are many Members on that side of the House who do not want the 1947 and 1948 Acts amended in the way proposed in this Bill, yet not one hon. Member on the Government side muttered any criticism of what is proposed in the Measure that the Government have brought forward.
I believe that if Government back benchers could have considered those proposals amongst themselves, the view of the Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union would have prevailed, and the Bill would have been defeated tonight, but the Government Whips are so effective that not one hon. Member opposite, apparently, will venture any criticism of Her Majesty's present advisers. This is a deplorable state of affairs. This is one of the reasons for so much public comment about the deterioration in the freedom of debate: and the standards of Parliament.
It is appropriate that I should, at this juncture, protest against Scotland being 1278 dealt with in this Bill at all. First, it is worth saying that the Secretary of State knows full well that he no longer represents the majority of the Scottish people——
§ Mr. Fraser
I have been seeking to impress on the Secretary of State and on his supporters that the Government no longer have a majority of the seats in Scotland. Since the introduction of my hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mrs. McAlister), a few minutes ago, the balance of the parties in Scotland is now 35 Conservatives and their supporters, 35 Labour Members, and one Liberal Member. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman consulted the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) before introducing this Measure, because it is that hon. Member who now holds the balance of power in Scotland.
By this Bill, the Secretary of State proposes to amend two or three important Scottish Bills. He proposes to repeal seven or eight Sections of the 1948 Act by a subsection in an English Bill. Clause 1 (1) deals with England and Wales, and subsection (2) deals with Scotland. Clause 2 deals with both Scotland and England, amending English and Scottish legislation. Subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 3 apply to England and Wales, while subsection (3) merely modifies this new policy and applies it to Scotland.
This is no way at all to deal with Scottish legislation. The legislation here being amended was contained in peculiarly Scottish Acts of Parliament. We were much criticised between 1945 and 1951 for the volume of legislation we put through, but, even then, we found it possible to treat Scotland with respect. The legislative proposals and provisions in the two countries are different. That is why we have to have these Scottish application Clauses in a Bill like this. If we are to legislate separately and differently for Scotland, it should be done in a separate Bill, instead of lacing these proposals into a Measure that, for the most part, is seen to be applicable to England and Wales.
Another point of some importance is to know, if this Bill goes to a Standing Committee—which, I suppose, is not unlikely—how many Scottish Members of 1279 Parliament the Secretary of State imagines will be able to play a part in the proceedings there. During the Committee stage of the Acts of Parliament that are by this Bill being amended, they were before the whole of the Scottish Standing Committee, with every Scottish Member of Parliament enabled to play his part in the shaping of Scottish legislation, but by dealing with Scottish legislation in this way the Secretary of State is denying to all but two—or, at most, three—Members of Parliament on either side any opportunty of studying the details of Scottish legislation.
That is not good enough, and I should like to know from the Secretary of State why he feels obliged to have Scottish legislation introduced and passed through Parliament in this way. Why does he not frankly bring forward all the legislative changes he proposes for Scotland, and let Scottish Members deal with them as they were able, about ten years ago, to deal with the law that is now being amended?
While I listened to the debate yesterday, I asked myself many times whether the Government still regard agriculture as being important. I wonder whether the Government and their supporters believe that it is still important that our land should be well used, and not misused or abused? I well remember, when the legislation that is here being altered was going through the House about ten years ago. the speeches made on both sides of the House about the need to construct this new agricultural policy on the twin pillars of stability and efficiency.
As a matter of fact, I used those words, and heard them, so often that I got a bit tired of them. None the less, it was true that we built our agricultural policy on those twin pillars. This Bill deliberately sets out to remove one of them. Small wonder that the farmers are worried.
The farmers are worried because, despite anything that Ministers or hon. Members opposite may say, the farmers remember what happened in 1921. The Minister yesterday said that the farmers have nothing to fear because, after all, we have the guarantees written in Part I of the 1947 Act, buttressed, as he insisted, by the 1957 Act. But, of course, in 1280 Statute, given by a Government composed of right hon. Gentlemen not different in political outlook from those now occupying the Treasury Bench. In December, 1920, farmers had their prices guaranteed for four years, and that involved subsidies estimated, at that time, at £30 million a year. Seven months later, in July, 1921, that was all thrown overboard.
What was the reason given then? I have been reading through those debates once again and it is interesting to read the then Minister of Agriculture saying:I realise that it is a very serious matter for the Government to reverse a policy so recently adopted.And he went on:We have been impelled by absolute necessity, by the financial situation, to take this step."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1921; Vol. 144, c. 63.]Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman went on to blame the miners' strike for having caused the financial difficulties of the country and, therefore, making the Bill necessary, but he urged—and this is important—that the three things that must always go together were wages boards, control of cultivation and guaranteed prices, but said that guaranteed prices were not possible with world prices falling rapidly.
Those were the arguments used by a Tory Minister of Agriculture in 1921. The farmers remember the effect of what was done then: millions of acres going out of cultivation, hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers going bankrupt, and hundreds of thousands of workers driven off the land. They are wondering, now that the Government are removing these efficiency provisions, or what were called by the Minister in 1921 "the control of cropping", whether the Government will not be driven by the same kind of public opinion to follow the same course as that adopted by their predecessors in 1921 whenever the next financial crisis comes. That is what the farmers fear, and I should have thought that they have much reason to fear it.
But if home food production is now to be allowed to decline—I can only assume that that is the reason for this—it is no good saying that it is expected that this kind of freedom, that this removal of much of Part II of the 1947 Act and much of Part II of the Scottish 1281 Act—will lead to increased production, and, at the same time, to argue that it is a good thing to have those powers in time of war or in time of food shortage.
Why do we have those powers in times of war or food shortage? Is it not to get the best production from our soil? I should have thought so. If one now seeks to justify taking away those disciplinary powers, one can only do it by agreeing that there is no longer a need for an optimum food production. But if food production is to be allowed to decline, are we to import more, and if so from where? What are we going to use for currency? We understand that from time to time the Government get into great difficulties with the balance of payments.
I have been looking at the cost of food imports in recent years, and I will merely give the figure for 1957. I believe the total cost of food imports in 1957 was £1,412 million. That is quite a heavy bill. The total value of exports of manufactured goods from Britain amounted to £2,754 million. It took more than half the income we got from the export of manufactured goods to buy the food that we imported in 1957. If we allow our food production to fall back by £200 million or £300 million, that is presumably £200 million or £300 million that we have got to spend on buying more from overseas. Are we to be allowed to do it?
§ Mr. Fraser
I should have thought that the proposition which I have put forward is one to which the Government should pay considerable attention. The maintenance of a high level of home production is not only desirable from the point of view of the farmers, and is in the interests not only of the husbandman but also of the townsman, too. There is no guarantee that the townsman would continue to enjoy the measure of prosperity that he does if his country cousin found that his purchasing power had been much reduced, if his country cousin were in the doldrums.
I should think that it goes without saying that with the increased mechanisation of agriculture and the increasing use of fertilisers, etc., prosperity in agriculture brings much trade and industrial 1282 activity to our great urban areas. Therefore, the townsman would be very worried if he were led to believe that the prosperity of the countryside as enjoyed for a number of years was about to go. The townsman wants to see the conditions retained that will permit of the countryside being prosperous.
Of course, the townsman does not complain that nearly £300 million a year is spent on subsidies. In Scotland alone we spend about £40 million in subsidies. But it is not so certain that the townsman will continue to be so willing as he has been in the past to give this money if he is not assured that the land which he is helping to keep in good heart is being properly used and is not being misused. Again, that seems to me to be so obvious that it hardly needs saying at all.
Important as these considerations are for the United Kingdom as a whole, I suggest to the Secretary of State that they are even more important for Scotland. Scotland is more self-sufficient in food production than is the United Kingdom as a whole. Scotland produces 95 per cent. of her total consumption of beef. The United Kingdom as a whole produces only 33 per cent. of her total consumption of mutton and lamb but Scotland produces 200 per cent. of her consumption. The United Kingdom produces 70 per cent. of her pig meat consumption, whereas Scotland produces 100 per cent. of her consumption.
If there is to be any decline in agricultural production, if there is to be a worsening of the economic prosperity of the countryside, Scotland will suffer more than the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why Scots people feel so strongly about this Measure, and it is an added reason why the Secretary of State might have permitted Scottish Members of Parliament to consider a Scottish Bill rather than have these provisions wrapped up in a Bill which will be seen outside the House to be an English Bill.
I think that there can be no doubt that the county agricultural executive committees will have so little to do if the Bill ever becomes law that there will be no justification for their existence at all. We in Scotland have 11 such committees. In eight years up to 1956–I do not have the figures for 1957; as far as I know, they have not yet been published—the 11 agricultural executive 1283 committees in Scotland had satisfactorily disposed of 1,380 husbandry cases and 679 estate management cases.
Only last year the Report of the Department of Agriculture boasted about this achievement, about the wonderful work that had been done by the 11 executive committees in Scotland. But, of course, their activities have become less in recent years in accordance with the instructions issued by Ministers. At the end of 1953, 107 warning notices were in operation in respect of husbandry and 13 in respect of estate management.
I should interpolate here that we do not have supervision orders in Scotland; we have warning notices which are issued by the executive committees to the farmers and landowners who seem to be in need of some help and guidance. We have a different procedure from that in England—which, incidentally, is another reason why we should be allowed to discuss these matters in a Scottish Bill, because our warning notices are in many respects different from the supervision orders in England and Wales. If one talks about warning notices in Scotland, and English Members talk about supervision orders, there is likely to be a lot of confusion created among hon. Members who try to take an intelligent interest in the debate.
At the end of 1954 there were 98 warning notices issued in respect of husbandry and 14 in respect of estate management. At the end of 1955 the figures were 63 and 15 respectively, and at the end of 1956 the figures were 58 and 17. One sees that the notices in respect of husbandry have been coming down all the time while those in respect of estate management have been going up. That is very interesting. My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) will not mind my saying that that shows, when we come to the end of 1956, that although we have only 11 agricultural executive committees in Scotland we still have more warning notices outstanding than there were supervision orders outstanding in England and Wales. The Minister of Agriculture seems to have got his intention across more effectively to the executive committees in England than has the Secretary of State in Scotland. But, in any case, there is no one in Scotland who 1284 would deny that the 11 agricultural committees have assisted greatly in bringing about our tremendously increased agricultural production in Scotland.
My mind goes back to the many meetings I had with farmers, sometimes under the auspices of the A.E.C.s and sometimes under the auspices of the N.F.U., when tribute was paid to this kind of machinery. The then Government, in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, was praised for having taken agriculture out of politics, or taken the politics out of agriculture. They could not say too much in praise of my right hon. Friend and the then agricultural policy. In recent years, on the other hand, agriculture has been thrust back into the cockpit of party politics by the doctrinaire politicians who now adorn the Treasury Bench. [An HON. MEMBER: "Adorn?"] I do not complain much of the use of the word "adorn". It is not their appearance I object to, but their politics.
The figures I have quoted show quite clearly that the executive committees in Scotland, right until the end of 1956, had been doing a very useful job. On average, each of these 11 committees has handled over 100 husbandry cases and nearly 60 estate management cases. These cases were handled by men in the locality, landowners, farmers, farm workers, people who knew the farms, knew the farmers, and were able to be of great help to them.
§ Mr. Fraser
They do not object to what they call kindly control by the committees. But all that is thrown overboard by the Government's Bill.
From time to time, we have had references to cases such as that of Lady Garbett. But we have never had any "Lady Garbetts" in Scotland; at least, if we ever have, no one has ever shed any tears about them. There has been no public tear shedding in Scotland that someone had to go from a farm in which he or she had lived and worked—or rather, not worked—for a number of years.
There has been no well-informed criticism of the committee's disciplinary powers or the Secretary of State's powers 1285 in Scotland. We have never had any Crichel Downs. Why is the Secretary of State so anxious to surrender his powers and the powers which are given effect to by the executive committees, to the satisfaction of the agricultural community? He will, no doubt, tell us in due course. I hope he has a better explanation than the one the Minister of Agriculture had to offer yesterday.
Who wants the Bill in Scotland? It is not the farmers. It is not the National Farmers' Union. The National Farmers' Union has told the Government, the Government back benchers, the Opposition and, indeed, all Scotland, where it stands. I wanted to read a quotation I had marked in the Press notice of the National Farmers' Union, but, since it is obviously something not told to one party but to all Scotland, and time presses, I will pass it over, except for one sentence. It is certainly well understood that the National Farmers' Union strongly objects to the Bill. The N.F.U said:Criticism of the present system by the constitutional theorists and the emotional prejudice created by one or two much publicised cases should not be allowed to bring about the abolition of arrangements which had, in practice, worked with remarkable equity and effectiveness in the national interest.Is that proposition by the National Farmers' Union true or untrue? It is, of course, true. That being so, why should the Secretary of State put Scotland in the Bill? I do not want the Bill for England and Wales, either—my hon. Friends will not misunderstand me—but my duty is to ascertain from the Secretary of State why he, as the Minister responsible for agriculture in Scotland, has insisted upon making these legislative changes there.
Where do the Government's Scottish back benchers stand in these matters? I called to mind some of the speeches made ten years ago when the Agriculture (Scotland) Bill was passing through the House. I should like to quote something said by the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) on 1st December, 1947:The basis of the Bill is a simple proposition. Every farmer or landowner who owns or occupiers a piece of the precious land of this country must manage it, work it and farm it in the most efficient way. I accept that principle without any conditions at all. I think it is a sound principle which every sensible man must accept; but it is not a new principle."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1947; Vol. 445, c. 74–5.]1286 The hon. Gentleman went on to tell the House that, as agent, as he put it, for Lloyd George, back in 1927, he had brought forward exactly the same kind of proposals. He said that his plan at that time, in 1927, included the appointment of committees to exercise control over landowners and farmers. He accepted this kind of control as a principle. It was nothing to do with the war years, food shortage or anything else. He had propounded it in 1927 and regretted that it had taken twenty years before effect had been given to it in permanent legislation. I wonder where the hon. Gentleman stands today, and into which Lobby he will go to vote later.
I see the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) in his place. In the course of the same debate, he said:On the other hand, there might be the view of those hon. Members who, like myself, accept, the fact that if we are going to give guaranteed prices and assured markets to Scottish farmers, we may reasonably impose in return such guidance and control as will ensure their efficiency.There is nothing there about the food shortage or rationing.
The hon. Gentleman went on:Those of us who hold these views recognise that this Bill is just about as much an agreed Measure as is likely to be found this side of paradise.I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman knows that those proposals, when they were enacted, continued to be agreed until now, except by those whom the National Farmers' Union described as the constitutional theorists and the sufferers from emotional prejudice.
Later in his speech the hon. Gentleman said:If public money is to be spent on a vast scale—and it seems that this will be likely —we should at least know whether we are getting value for our money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1947; Vol. 445. c. 83–91.]Where does the hon. Gentleman stand today?
When I listened to those speeches, I thought that both the hon. Member for Fife, East, and the hon. Member for North Angus were enunciating a principle. It sounded like it and read like it. It had nothing to do with the fact that we were passing through a period of food shortage. Do they stand by that principle? We shall find out in due 1287 course. If we were not dealing with principles in 1948, and if this kindly control by the agricultural executive committees was merely an expedient, as hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be arguing yesterday, can the same be said of the price guarantees? Are these an expedient too? In 1921, the control and the guarantees together were enunciated as a principle, and when the controls went the Minister of Agriculture had to come to the House in a few months and say, "The price controls must go as well, because these two things have to go together". Has all that changed?
What about the owner-occupier? All that the hon. Member for North Angus said in 1947–48 in respect of the use of land generally applies to the owner-occupiers in like manner as it does to the tenant or the owner of land where there is a contract of tenancy. Yesterday, we heard a lot about leaving owners and tenant farmers to work out the best arrangements that they could to return to the old relationship, but it went on, and the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who made the last speech from the Government side yesterday, said that he still adhered to all that he said in 1947 about the rules of good husbandry and good estate management—the code of good conduct and the code of good management in agriculture.
It may be that under the Bill the tenant farmer, if he dares, will be able to compain to the Land Court in Scotland that the owner has not been fulfilling his responsibilities of good estate management. It may well be that the owner, in turn, will complain to the Land Court about the tenant farmer not fulfilling his obligations of good husbandry. What happens in the case of 40 per cent. of the farms where the owner and the occupier are one? The rules of good husbandry and good estate management which were written into the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, have been repealed by this Bill so far as the owner-occupier is concerned, because there is no one left to impose them.
Is that what the Government intend? Do the rules of good husbandry and good estate management apply only to 60 per cent. of the farms now, and have they been scrapped so far as the owner-occupier is concerned? Whether that was the intention, I do not know, but 1288 that is certainly the effect of the Bill. Is it the Secretary of State's intention that the owner-occupier of a farm in Scotland should be free to misuse his land with impunity? Does he think that, if the owner-occupier is allowed to continue to misuse his land with impunity, the townsman will continue to be as willing as he has been in the past to subsidise him to the same extent?
I do not believe that the Secretary of State thinks anything of the kind. He is getting ready, with his colleagues, to relieve the townsmen of the responsibility of taking a decision on that matter by themselves, thereby drastically curtailing the support given to agriculture.
That is the position. It is a deplorable position so soon after the original Bill was passed in 1947. Perhaps the farmers and the taxpayers have taken too seriously the Government's declarations made by certain Ministers as a principle that subsidies should be given only to the people who need them. The Secretary of State has used that phrase—subsidies should be given only to the people who need them. I know that this was enunciated in reference to council tenants, but it sounds very much like the enunciation of a principle.
Will the right hon. Gentleman now apply this principle in agriculture where the landowner or farmers are falling back in their estate management or their husbandry? Will he withhold the subsidies and say that they do not need them? Will he serve up new, elaborate machinery to enable them to do that? We wonder. Indeed, we wonder what he is getting in introducing the Bill at all.
Clause 1 is objected to by everyone with whom I have had consultations and who is in the remotest way concerned with the well-being of Scottish agriculture. I cannot understand why the Secretary of State appended his name to a Bill with a Clause like Clause 1 in it. I do not see the need for Clause 2. Farmers, also, do not understand the need for it. There is no need to give fresh instructions to the arbiters in fixing rents. The Secretary of State will not get away with asserting that the increase in rents in recent years bears no relation to the increase in farmers' incomes. He knows better than anyone else in the House why that is. He knows full well that in many cases, as 1289 an alternative to increasing rents, in recent years Scottish landowners have transferred responsibility for fixed equipment to the tenants.
The landowners have not been putting money into the farms at all; they have only been taking it out. Instead of putting in fresh capital and increasing the rents, they have come to an agreement with the tenant whereby the tenant will continue to pay the old rent and the tenant will make himself responsible for all the new fixed equipment and the repair and maintenance of such fixed equipment as there is at the time of making the agreement.
If that is so—and it is—it is no good saying that the average increase in rents over the post-war years has been only 60 or 70 per cent. in so many cases. There could be no justification for an increase in rents. The owners have given up what responsibility they had for the maintenance of fixed equipment and have transferred it to the tenant. One would have to add to the rent paid by the tenant what the tenant has spent on the provision of fixed equipment to ascertain what the tenant is paying for the privilege of operating on any particular farm.
Here we find shades of the Rent Act, which was discussed on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) earlier this afternoon. The landowners of agricultural land are merely following the example set earlier by the landlords of dwelling-houses in Scotland. I would be interested to know whether the Secretary of State could tell us if he has any evidence as to why it is that the arbiters in Scotland have not been able to fix proper rents when they were obliged to fix rents properly payable. Why do they have to have further instruction from Parliament before they can arrive at a fair and proper rent? If the right hon. Gentleman has any evidence of the need for this change, I hope that he will take the opportunity of informing the House of it.
Why should we have the relaxation in security of tenure for which Clause 3 provides? Is it necessary to give owners increased opportunities to get tenants out? That seems to be the effect and purpose of Clause 3. Yesterday, I heard the Minister of Agriculture say that this arrangement would provide opportunities for energetic young men, but he will have 1290 only as many new tenancies made available as he has evictions, and he may well find that energetic young farmers are evicted to make way for someone else with a deeper pocket.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Fraser
The Minister disagrees. How will he prevent a landowner from turning out a good, energetic, young tenant farmer and bringing in someone else?
§ Mr. Fraser
The Minister does not know that the Bill contains Clause 6, which applies to Scotland. Does he know the effect of Clause 6? The tribunal would not function under Clause 6.
§ Mr. Fraser
Clause 6 takes away the security of the tenant farmer and his family. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Why says "Nonsense"? What is the purpose of Clause 6? I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us what its purpose is and what its effect will be. I say that its effect will be to take from the tenant farmer and his family the security which he has enjoyed until now. There is no tribunal which could protect —[Interruption.]—there seem to be a number of English Members who believe that there is some justification for Clause 6. It is interesting to note that the Minister of Agriculture, who was so ready to come to the defence of the Secretary of State, is now informing himself of the effect of Clause 6. He was advised by the noble Lord, the Joint Under-Secretary, that Clause 6 dealt with deaths. In fact, it deals with tenancies—although many tenants will die in consequence of Clause 6.
The purpose of Clause 6 is to change the law of succession to holdings in Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "He has got it 1291 right at last."] I had it right before I started. It may be that hon. Members opposite are not aware that the principal reason for the high standard of husbandry in Scotland over the years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Twenty-one year leases."] It is nothing to do with leases, because more than half the tenant farmers in Scotland do not have leases. Perhaps hon. Members opposite do not know that. Most tenant farmers in Scotland take tenancies under contract of lease, but, when the lease expires, the tenant can remain under "tacit relocation"—I do not know what term is used south of the Border. It is estimated that at present 65 per cent. of the farm tenancies in Scotland are held on tacit relocation so that the families of tenant farmers can continue to enjoy security.
I think that we might have had a school upstairs to instruct some hon. Members opposite, who ought to know better, what the purposes of the Bill are.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member for South Angus is shaking his head violently.
Under the succession law of Scotland, a tenant could have bequeathed a tenancy to any person, but the purpose of Clause 6 is not merely to limit the bequest to a member of the family. It is to limit the bequest to a member of the family and to limit the bequest to a lease, even though only 35 per cent. of the tenant farmers in Scotland have leases, while 65 per cent. are in occupation under tacit relocation.
The Secretary of State will agree that the reason for the high standard of husbandry in Scotland over the years has been that families have remained in tenancies for many generations without a lease being signed. We all know how the standard of husbandry on a farm runs down when a family quits on the expiry of a lease. That is common knowledge and the Secretary of State ought to know it.
Under Clause 6, there will be evictions and new tenancies and new blood may come into the industry. However, it may not be good blood and the system may not improve the standard of husbandry. It may well be that the energetic young 1292 farmer, who has gone through college, who is a first-rate man, and who is working the farm of which his aged father or mother had been a tenant, will be given three months' notice to quit. There is no tribunal or land court which could adjudicate on such a case.
Those will be the cases where the owners have decided to take advantage of the opportunities given to them by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State should not complain if the landowners take advantage of the freedom which he is giving them, in the same way that he is complaining about landlords taking advantage of the freedom which he has given them under the Rent Act.
The provisions of the Bill are disgraceful. No one with the interests of Scottish agriculture at heart wants these changes to be made. The Government have made these proposals in furtherance of what they like to describe as Tory freedom. It may be that the real intention is to enrich certain owners of agricultural land, even those who merely sit back and draw rents and who do not play their part in the rules of good estate management.
The Secretary of State has no mandate in Scotland for the Bill. He has no right to introduce it, because at present he does not even have a majority in Scotland. Scotland wants nothing to do with the Bill. There is only one justification for it. That is that the Government are preparing the way for the repeal of the 1957 Act and Part I of the 1947 Act when the next financial crisis hits them. That is what the farmers of Scotland believe, and that is why they are casting their minds back to what a previous Tory Government did in 1921.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has ranged very widely in his speech. I do not blame him for doing that. He was bound to do so, but it is difficult to decide how most effectively to deal with the different points which he raised. [Laughter.] I can deal with them effectively all right. It is a question of how most conveniently to deal with them, because the hon. Member jumped about a good deal. I think that the best thing to do is to stick more or less to the—[HON. MEMBERS: "The 1293 brief."]—order of the Bill and work through it.
The hon. Member's main question, at the beginning of his speech, was: why did Scotland not have a separate Bill? This, of course, is a perennial problem with all matters which are common to England and Scotland, but which have some special Scottish application. We on this side of the House have argued this when we were in opposition.
§ Mr. Maclay
I remember, for instance, that the New Towns Act, 1946, was a United Kingdom Measure with a very important Scottish part. A very odd way of dealing with the Scottish application was adopted, which I shall mention later.
There is a problem of judgment as to what is the reasonable, proper and effective thing to do, consistent with the good working of Parliament, the avoidance of unnecessary duplication of debate and getting on with the business in the best way we can. There were certain possibilities with this subject. One was a completely separate Bill. If hon. Members will go through the Bill, as the hon. Member for Hamilton started to do, they will find that a great part of the discussion is common to both countries and that there would be a complete duplication of argument. Another possibility was a separate part of the Bill to deal with Scotland. That is a very clumsy proposition. It has been tried in the past, but it is not an effective method, except with certain Bills of which this is not one.
Then there is the method which hon. Members opposite adopted with the New Towns Act, 1946, when they provided that Section 25 of that Act should have special application to Scotland. That Section occupies page after page of the Act and is most confusing to use and work. We concluded that the most effective and convenient method was that which we have employed in the Bill, whereby the application to Scotland appears at the end of each Clause where necessary. This is very easy to follow and to read. There are also one or two 1294 specific English Clauses and one or two specific Scottish Clauses. I believe that the decision of the House will be that our judgment was right in doing it in this way.
I found the next point which the hon. Member for Hamilton made very difficult to follow. He went back to 1920 and 1921 and I was not at all clear why he took that leap into the past. We on this side of the House have been making it clear that in all our work, and particularly in the matter of agriculture, we are looking forward and not back. But if we must argue back to 1921 let us pick up one point; and I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) is not now in the Chamber.
We heard a good deal in those days, and we have heard it since from hon. Members opposite, about the nationalisation of the land. Where do they stand today? What is the meaning of the intervention by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) last night, when he said:I am sure that the hon. Gentleman"—he was referring to one of my hon. Friends—does not mean to be, but he is being most unfair to my right hon. Friend."—That is, to the right hon. Member for Don Valley—My right hon. Friend has said that he does not think that this is the time for nationalisation of the land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March. 1958; Vol. 584, c. 1196.]What does that mean?
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Really, the right hon. Gentleman ought to grow up. He knows that I clearly meant what I said—thatMy right hon. Friend has said that he does not think that this is the time for nationalisation of the land.My right hon. Friend and I, and the rest of my hon. Friends, will keep an open mind. We have not a closed mind about agriculture, but we say that at present we do not think that there is a case for the nationalisation of land. That is Labour Party policy. It has been proclaimed time after time.
§ Mr. Maclay
Therefore, it is clear that Labour Party policy is to nationalise the land at some time.
§ Mr. Willey
The right hon. Gentleman does not only misconstrue what appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but what he just hears. How can I do anything with him? I have said that Labour Party policy is not to nationalise the land.
§ Mr. Willey
The right hon. Gentleman cannot commit his party till eternity. Even Tory die-hards are not as narrow as that. We have said that we will review agricultural policy in the light of circumstances, but we have said as clearly as we can that the Labour Party is not in favour of the nationalisation of land.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I thought that we were doing our best to legislate now.
§ Mr. Maclay
I desire only to get on to the Bill, but I felt that the hon. Member for Hamilton was clean away from the Bill and that this raised a very important point which we must really clear up once and for all.
I am trying to grow up, and one of the purposes of growing up is to listen very carefully and try to hear precisely what is said. This growing-up process is not always easy. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North said at one time that Labour Party policy is not to nationalise the land——
§ Mr. Woodburn
On a point of order. Is it in order to conduct a debate on the nationalisation of the land when we are dealing with a different Bill altogether?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that that comes under the right hon. Gentleman's original question. He asked whether it was in order to discuss legislation. We are doing our best to legislate at the moment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
On a point of order. With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that is not the same question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Mr. Deputy-Speaker did not understand my question, 1296 I want to put it correctly. I accept the answer that we are discussing legislation at the moment, but is it in order to discuss hypothetical legislation when we are discussing a Bill that is now before the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
A Second Reading debate is very wide. It certainly would not be in order on Third Reading, but it is on Second Reading that the argument is developed.
§ Mr. Maclay
We can clear up this matter quite easily with co-operation from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. As I quoted him from HANSARD, he said:My right hon. Friend has said that he does not think that this is the time for nationalisation of the land.In the intervention which he made just now, the hon. Member left out any reference to this not being the time, and he said that the Labour Party does not intend to nationalise the land. Could he clear up that point? Are words to the effect that "This is not the time", or "For the time being" in or out?
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to make it abundantly clear, though I really cannot believe that it is not already abundantly clear to him. He has had access to statements on party policy and the results of party conferences. I want to make it abundantly clear that the Labour Party is not in favour of the nationalisation of the land.
§ Mr. Willey
I said that we can speak only of the present. We are a democratic party, like any other party. We will continue to consider matters. All I can do is to assist the right hon. Gentleman and tell him quite explicitly and dogmatically that the Labour Party is not in favour of the nationalisation of land.
§ Mr. Maclay
We have this on record. It includes the operative words, "Not at present", which, I take it, is the position. I am sorry to go into all this, but it happens to be highly relevant to agricultural policy for the whole country and for the future of the agricultural industry.
The hon. Member for Hamilton did another curious thing. He dealt with Part II of the Bill at considerable length, 1297 and the only conclusion that I could reach from listening to him was that his view was that the excellent production and the excellent records achieved by farmers in the United Kingdom as a whole, and by farmers in Scotland in particular, in recent years were the result of fear of the use of the disciplinary powers which are available in Part II. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Really, that is what it sounded like.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that is what my speech sounded like, he is a bigger fool than I thought he was.
§ Mr. Maclay
It is really no use accusing me of being what I may be—it is not for me to judge—merely to escape from an awkward position. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a great believer in the farmers of Scotland, but it sounded to me from what he said as if the real reason for our getting these good results was fear. I do not accept that for a minute, and I do not think that anybody else in Scotland does either.
At a slightly later stage, the hon. Gentleman argued that the fact that we were repealing Part II cast the gravest doubts on our intentions about maintaining the 1957 long-term guarantees. There is no conceivable connection unless what the hon. Gentleman said is correct, that it is only fear which has produced the results that we have been getting.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that all this increase in production took place under the 1948 Act, as passed by this House? Whatever the conditions were, it took place under that Act. Can the right hon. Gentleman produce any reason, either supported by the farmers in Scotland or by anybody else in Scotland, that justifies altering the Act except the reason that the people in England want to alter theirs?
§ Mr. Maclay
One can go on to all sorts of arguments which will widen the issue a great deal.
Surely the reason why we have been getting these admirable results is due to a combination of the 1948 Act and, latterly, the 1957 long-term guarantees which are now becoming effective. It has really nothing to do with the disciplinary powers, and my right hon. Friend said as much yesterday when he went through 1298 the case in detail. I do not propose to go through the case in detail again, but the time has come when these powers should not be continued. They are not workable.
I have some figures with which to meet the figures given by the hon. Member for Hamilton about the number of warning notices issued, and things like that. I do not really want to go into the figures because mine are not the same as his, but I think I know where the difference lies. I think that the figures used by the hon. Gentleman are based on those cases where no statutory proceedings were actually taken in the end.
§ Mr. Fraser
The figures I quoted were taken straight out of the Report on Agriculture, published by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Maclay
I will give the official figures for cases where statutory action under the Act has been taken since 1948. Since the 1948 Act came into force on 1st November, 1948, agricultural executive committees in Scotland have served, in all, 345 warning notices on occupiers of agricultural land on husbandry grounds, and 61 on owners on estate management grounds. I think the difference is a quite understandable one.
The figures I have given are of cases where statutory action was taken whereas the figures given by the hon. Member for Hamilton are of cases which came under consideration, but out of which statutory action did not arise. The figures I have given of cases where the statutory powers were used are correct.
§ Mr. Fraser
Surely everybody anticipated in 1948 that when these agricultural executive committees were set up they would render great service to agriculture without having to take any statutory steps at all to impose discipline on the landowners and farmers. That was the intention.
§ Mr. Maclay
I entirely agree, but the question really is whether we are entitled to maintain a very heavy structure and one alien to this country and to impose our will on free agents. That has to be done in time of war and, perhaps, in time of acute scarcity, but it is not a system which is attractive to the great mass of the people.
§ Mr. Maclay
Quite a number of people. The Liberal Party nods in agreement with me.
To anyone concerned for the basic freedoms, it would appear that the time has come to dispense with these powers. We have to accept them in times of emergency, but we want to get rid of them as soon as we can unless it can be shown that they are imperatively needed. I think that my right hon. Friend made it absolutely clear yesterday that they are not imperatively needed today.
I will finish what I have to say on Part II of the Act. I want to pay a very sincere tribute to the way in which the agricultural executive committees in Scotland and their sub-committees have carried out—as I know they have in England and Wales—what must have been to them at times a very invidious task. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members opposite do not want to agree with me and pay a tribute to those bodies they need not do so. The agricultural executive committees have done much —and in this I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton—by the exercise of persuasion and have not resorted to the use of disciplinary powers unless they had no other option.
There is still a great deal of useful work for the committees to do. They will continue to administer the Marginal Agricultural Production Grants Scheme. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is an important and quite heavy duty to perform. They will be responsible for the selection of the farms and the whole administration of the scheme, with the exception of making the actual payment which comes from my Department. That is the marginal scheme.
The committees will go on assisting in the administration of the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Improvement Schemes. They will exercise important functions related to the control of animal and bird pests—notably the rabbit clearance campaign and will administer the provisions relating to the destruction of injurious weeds, which it is proposed to strengthen under Clause 7 of the Bill, and will deal with land utilisation questions and with some other miscellaneous matters. The first two particularly are very important functions indeed, and it would be a very bad day 1300 for Scottish agriculture if they were not doing that work. I am just explaining the Bill a little more in detail having disposed of some of the main but very erroneous arguments of the hon. Gentleman.
I should say that in Scotland the Land Court will take over——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Are we to understand that the agricultural executive committees are now to be assistant pests officers and nothing else?
§ Mr. Maclay
That is a very nice phrase, but one divorced from all sense.
I was about to explain what happens now about the Land Court. In Scotland, the Land Court will take over the adjudicatory functions at present undertaken by the agricultural executive committees, such as the giving of consent to notices to quit and the granting of certificates of bad husbandry. The Court, of course, already has experience of hearing appeals in such cases, and we are fortunate in not having to devise any new judicial machinery. Nor do we require to make detailed provision in the Bill as regards procedure, since such matters are covered by the rules of the Court.
Clause 2 of the Bill, which deals with arbitration as to rent, applies to Scotland in the same manner as it applies to England. There is one slight difference between the two countries in the arbitration procedure in that in Scotland a rent may only be referred to arbitration at a break in the lease or, in the case of farms held on tacit relocation, every five years as compared with every three years in England.
I do not think it will be disputed—in spite of what the hon. Member for Hamilton said—by tenant farmers themselves in Scotland that the general level of rents has lagged very far behind the level of prices generally. That, at any rate, I think, is common ground. Nor do I think there can be any doubt that the inadequate level of rent generally makes it difficult for landlords to fulfil their estate management obligations. In so far as landlords have insufficient resources to enable them to provide and improve the necessary fixed equipment on farms, the interests of the tenants themselves and the wider interests of agricultural production are bound to suffer.
1301 In our view, this situation cannot be allowed to continue, and we think it can best be met by giving arbiters statutory guidance as to the basis on which rents should be revised. We have provided in the Bill that the basis should be the rent at which the holding might reasonably be expected to be let in the open market by a willing landlord. In course of time this should result in all rents, whether under existing leases or under newly-negotiated leases, being on a comparable basis. I say "in course of time." I do not think that this can possibly be said to be unfair or unreasonable.
The hon. Member for Hamilton asked, why change? May I refer him to the words he used? The present instruction or guidance to arbiters is to assess the rent properly payable. There is no other way. The hon. Gentleman knows that the practice has varied in a remarkable way all over Scotland, even in relatively close areas, between arbiter and arbiter, for lack of any clear evidence as to what is desirable. It has resulted in certain jealousies and irritations, because what happens in one part of the country is different from what happens in another. It must be in the interests of the whole industry in the long run if this is corrected in the way which we propose.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many of these cases have gone to arbitration? I thought they were normally agreed between landlord and tenant.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have some sample figures, but I will not quote them because conceivably they could be misleading and I am not sure that they meet the hon. Gentleman's requirements. There have been a considerable number of arbitrations and I agree that the good sense of Scottish landlords and tenants has enabled them to reach agreement without arbitration, but the case for putting this on a sound basis is unassailable.
I come now to Clause 3, which deals with security of tenure. The hon. Gentleman slipped into the trap of confusing Clauses 3 and 6, and that was why there was some confusion in our exchange. I should perhaps make it clear that time Scottish organisations representing landlords and tenants were not parties to the agreement between the Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union in England. I hope and 1302 believe, however, that the greater measure of flexibility which the Clause seeks to introduce, without altering the general character of the existing provisions, will commend itself to Scottish landlords and tenants and prove to be in the general interests of agriculture in Scotland as in England.
§ Mr. Fraser
By flexibility does the right hon. Gentleman mean that it will be easier for the landlord to get the tenant out? Flexibility is just that.
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Gentleman has studied the wording of the Bill and he knows the wording of the old Act. It is really only a change of emphasis. If it could be disastrous, does he believe that the Country Landowners' Association and the N.F.U. in England would have agreed to it? No. This is a wise tidying up, after years of study, of the provisions of the 1948 Act.
§ Mr. Maclay
I said that the Scottish N.F.U. had not reached agreement with the landowners, but I have no reason to believe it feels strongly about it.
I come now to Clause 6 which deals with succession and bequest. This is an important matter. There is a material difference between Scotland and England in the present statutory provisions affecting landlords and tenants. I refer to the provisions about the succession to tenancies of legatees and heirs-at-law. It is important to get this clear.
May I first explain briefly the present statutory provisions in Scotland? First as to legatees unless his lease expressly forbids it, a tenant may bequeath his lease to any person. If, however, the landlord can establish to the satisfaction of the Land Court any reasonable ground of objection to the legatee, the bequest is declared null and void. Secondly, as to the heir-at-law at present: if a tenant dies intestate or if a bequest of a lease is declared null and void, the right to the lease devolves upon the heir-at-law. If the landlord can establish to the satisfaction of the Land Court any reasonable ground of objection, the interest of the heir-at-law in the holding is terminated by the order of the Court.
Once a legatee or heir-at-law has succeeded to a tenancy, he can continue 1303 in it indefinitely and, indeed, pass it on to his successor in turn, and so on ad infinitum. No termination is ever in sight. This is a situation——
§ Mr. Maclay
The Scottish system was always different from the English practice. Scottish agriculture has not been good only since 1948—the days of the Labour Government. I want to make certain that this point is understood. The situation I have described has arisen from the fact that in 1948 the security of tenure provisions then enacted became superimposed on the historic right of the heir-at-law to succeed to the unexpired portion of the lease. That is how it happened. It was not explicit, it was chance.
I would emphasise here that, as far as I can ascertain, this fixity of tenure, extending indefinitely, was not introduced of set purpose. Had this result been intended I am certain that the Government of the day would have explained why in their view it was desirable that tenancies in Scotland should be perpetuated in that way, particularly in view of the fact that the 1947 Act had provided that tenancies in England should be terminable on the death of the tenant. I have had the records of the debates on the 1948 Bill examined and I am assured that no such explanations were given. What really happened was that by a combination of the Scottish law of bequest, which allowed people to pass on the unexpired portion of a lease, plus security of tenure, an entirely unforeseen result was achieved, and that has given not security of tenure but fixity.
In Clause 6 we propose to make two changes. Firstly, we propose to restrict the tenant's right of bequest so that in future he will be able to bequeath only the unexpired portion of his lease to a member of his family. Secondly, we propose to re-establish the position that a legatee or heir-at-law can succeed only to any unexpired portion of the lease. As regards the first of these changes, it is generally accepted that it is unreasonable to allow a tenant to bequeath a holding to someone outside his family. As regards the second, it is fair to say that the security of tenure provision introduced in 1948, combined with the law of succes- 1304 sion in Scotland, has led to a fixity or perpetuity of tenure which was not foreseen—I repeat that. This is a position peculiar to Scotland. In England and Wales, as hon. Members know, the landlord can give an effective notice to quit within three months of the death of the tenant.
Existing tenants in Scotland have a strong personal interest in the maintenance of the present position, but there are other matters which it is the duty of the Government to weigh. There is, for instance, the interest of a young man who is not fortunate enough to succeed, or have prospects of succeeding, to a farm. I ask hon. Members to think of the second and third sons of farmers. There are young men today who have practically no hope of a farm unless they buy one. The changes we propose will not, of course, increase the number of farms but they will help in a small way to open up the possibilities for younger sons of farmers and for others who are desirous of getting farms.
I do not wish to exaggerate the extent to which this will happen—that would be wrong—but the landlord will be able to terminate the interest of an heir-at-law or legatee at the end of the lease to which he has succeeded. I have no doubt whatever that, in the majority of cases, the efficient legatee or heir will be able to secure a new tenancy of his farm, as happened before 1948. There will be no revolutionary change in the present position, but an element of flexibility—I would claim, a very desirable element of flexibility—will be introduced into Scottish farming.
§ Mr. Woodburn
May I intervene to keep the record right? It is not the fact that nothing was known about the so-called fixity of tenure in 1948 because that very term was used by, I believe, the hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) if not in the debates, certainly when the Bill was passed. The term was used as a criticism of the rather severe restrictions on the changes of tenancies in Scotland. I do not propose to argue the merits of it and I merely intervene for the sake of the record.
§ Mr. Maclay
The word "fixity" may not be new but I tried to find out if it had been clearly brought out what was the curious effect of Scottish law plus 1305 fixity of tenure, and I could not find a trace.
Clause 6 does nothing to disturb the security of tenure enjoyed by existing tenants. What it does is to enable the landlord, by giving notice within three months of the death of a tenant, to limit the right of a legatee or heir to any unexpired period of the lease. If at the end of that lease the legatee or heir-at-law is given notice to quit, he will be entitled to receive from the landlord compensation in respect of tenant's improvements, including compensation for unexhausted manurial values and compensation for disturbance. If, on the other hand, the legatee or heir-at-law is given a new lease, he will, like any other new tenant, have security of tenure for his lifetime, subject to the other provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act as amended by Clause 3 of the Bill. I felt that I should make that clear, because there has been doubt and, I think, misunderstanding about what the Clause achieves.
I should explain as briefly as I can why Clause 4 of the Bill is not being applied to Scotland. The position is that the existing statutory provisions concerning the provision of fixed equipment on agricultural holdings in Scotland are already quite adequate. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in opening the debate yesterday, mentioned two matters with which the Clause is designed to deal. These relate to obligations under the Milk and Dairies Regulations and under the Safety, Health and Welfare Regulations.
Under Section 29 of the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Act, 1914—we are more than forty years ahead of England—the tenant of premises used, with the consent of the landlord, as a dairy may carry out any structural alterations or improvements necessitated by the Act and recover from the landlord such proportion of the expenses incurred as may be just and equitable, regard being had to the terms of any contract between the parties.
The provision of fixed equipment for the purpose of the Agricultural (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956, too, is safeguarded as regards Scotland by Section 25 (4) of that Act. The onus of providing any fixed equipment is, under this provision, already placed on 1306 the landlord. Therefore, it is not necessary for Clause 4 of the Bill to be applied to Scotland.
I have taken rather longer than I intended, because we became rather argumentative at the beginning. In conclusion, I claim that the provisions of the Bill in their application to Scotland as in their application to England, are designed to deal in a realistic way with the problems which have emerged in the last ten years in this sphere. The disciplinary powers contained in Part II of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, have outlived their usefulness. Rents have admittedly failed to keep pace with the costs faced by landlords, who are under increasing difficulties in meeting their obligations in regard to fixed equipment. Experience of the working of the 1948 Act has shown the need for changes in the matter of agricultural tenure if the landlord-tenant system is to survive.
I am quite aware that what we propose to do in this matter falls short of what Scottish landlords generally would like to see. The Scottish Landowners Federation has represented that there should now be a return to a system of contractual leases, and has put forward cogent arguments, with each contract terminating at the end of the stated period of the lease. We have, however, thought it right to maintain the main framework of the security of tenure provisions introduced in 1948.
Under our proposals, the efficient tenant will be able to continue in occupation of his farm, on a fair and reasonable basis. The landlord will not, however, be bound to accept the tenant's heir or legatee as his new tenant except as regards any unexpired portion of the lease. The provisions of the Bill should give greater opportunity for young men to enter farming and should contribute materially to the efficiency and well-being of the industry. I believe that this is a good Bill in the true tradition of the desire, on both sides of the House, to further effectively the interests of British—English, Welsh and Scottish—farming.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I do not think anybody can deny that today there is considerable anxiety among the farming community, and particularly among small farmers, about the future 1307 of the industry and the future of their own economic welfare. I do not believe that that anxiety springs in the main from the provisions of this Bill. The Part of the Bill with which we are most concerned is a Part which does not affect the overwhelming majority of the farmers in these islands. The overwhelming majority of our farmers regard questions of supervision, direction and dispossession as academic matters which are hardly likely to affect them in their ordinary operations. Their anxiety—it is a very real one—springs from far more immediate practical problems.
Farmers are more concerned about how Part I of the 1947 Act is to be operated. I believe that they will show much greater concern with the announcements, which, I am told, are to be made next Thursday, concerning the Price Review than with anything contained in the Bill. They are far more concerned with the way in which a number of Acts relating to agriculture are at present being implemented. They are concerned with the fact that many of the benefits envisaged by that legislation are not being passed on to the industry to anything like the degree which they had hoped.
For example, the small farmer, certainly in Wales, is deeply disappointed at the way in which the Farm Improvement Scheme is being operated. It would appear that there is great danger of its being implemented in a way which is directed towards enforcing amalgamation of small farms. The farming community is also deeply anxious as to the position concerning the extension of electricity facilities in the rural countryside, the slowness of the provision of adequate road services and, perhaps, more than anything else, the difficulties with which the small farmer is faced in relation to the provision of capital for his industry. Those are the matters, far more than anything contained in the Bill, which are today a source of anxiety to the farming community.
On Clause 1 of the Bill, considerable criticism was made yesterday, in particular by the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), concerning the recommendations of the Franks Committee. I feel a little diffident about commenting on the recommendations of the Franks Report, as I was a member of 1308 that Committee, but it should be remembered that that Committee was not concerned with the question of whether powers of supervision, direction and dispossession should continue. That was a policy matter for which the Franks Committee had no responsibility. Indeed, it would have been quite outside its terms of reference to have made any observations in that regard. The Franks Committee was, however, vitally concerned with the way that those powers were to be exercised if they continued to be held by the Ministry and by those operating under the Ministry.
I believe that the farming community —either the good farmer or the bad farmer—is entitled to have disciplinary action and penal processes carried out against him, with due regard to natural justice in the same way as any other member of society is entitled to this protection. That was the sole basis of the recommendation of the Franks Committee.
One thing was quite clear from the evidence given before that Committee; there was considerable dissatisfaction with the way in which the powers contained in Part II were exercised—not with the personal exercise of the powers but with the method by which the quasi-judicial processes were operated. The evidence of the Ministry itself indicated some degree of disquiet, and the Wilson Committee recommendations indicated that that Committee, too, was dissatisfied with the existing set-up. It was manifest that a change had to be brought about if these powers were to continue to be exercised.
Rather than implement the recommendations of the Franks Committee in regard to the exercise of these powers the Government have decided to abolish them. I believe that the recommendations of the Franks Committee in this respect were fully justified. The right hon. Member for Don Valley regarded them as fantastic——
§ Mr. Bowen
He may remember that these recommendations were put forward by a Committee which included among its members a former Ministerial colleague of his who had a particular responsibility for land and, further, was a Scottish Law Officer in the Labour Government.
1309 Whether or not these powers should continue to exist, they have very little relevance to the question of agricultural production. The immense technical, scientific and practical strides which have been made by the farming community have been made not because of the fear of farmers being dispossessed or put under supervision or direction, and to suggest that they have is grossly unfair to the farming community. I do not know whether those who are opposed to Clause 1 wish to see more dispossessions and more and more farmers put under supervision. I do not know whether they really believe that that is the way to maintain the progress in production which has been going on for many years. I do not believe that it is. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the farming community is carrying out its job efficiently, and certainly not because it would be disciplined if it did not do so.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
In that case, will the hon. and learned Member explain why, as far as we can judge, the organised farmers, in their own national union, are opposed to the Bill?
§ Mr. Bowen
That is the basis of the opposition. I believe that it is an erroneous belief, and I am speaking now as a member of a county executive committee of the National Farmers' Union. The opposition is not based upon the fact that farmers pin any faith upon powers of dispossession or supervision, nor do they look with pride at the fact that some of their fellow farmers are supervised. Their opposition is based upon the fear that the abolition of Part II of the Act will be followed by the abolition of Part I.
There is no earthly reason why Part I should not continue to operate without the provisions contained in Part II. Those who argue to the contrary are saying, "The price to be paid for Part I is to be found in the penal provisions of Part II."
§ Mr. Bowen
I am saying it. The real issue here is whether we accept the argument that in order to have guaranteed prices we must have powers of dispossession, supervision and direction. I do not believe that the continued application of a guaranteed price policy should be conditional upon continued powers of a penal nature, or that the exercise of those powers during the last few years has had any appreciable effect upon agricultural production. One reason for my believing that is that these provisions have become virtually dead.
§ Mr. Williams
Has the hon. and learned Member read the Answer given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to a Question asked on 10th December last? The hon. Gentleman then told the House that his right hon. Friend's advice to county agricultural executive committees was to deal only with very bad cases of bad husbandry.
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. and learned Member was asked by my right hon. Friend if he had seen the Answer given 1311 by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to a Question on 10th December last, and he said "Yes". His implication was that my right hon. Friend wanted certain things to happen, but there was no implication of what my right hon. Friend wanted in the reply given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He made it quite clear that these supervisory powers were not being exercised because the Minister had instructed the committees not to exercise them.
§ Mr. Bowen
As I understood the intervention, it was made to remind the House that the Government had indicated to executive committees that they should exercise their penal powers only in bad cases. I do not know what conceivable relevance there is in reminding the House of that fact, except to associate oneself with the assertion that there should be more disciplinary action than there has been during recent years.
§ Mr. Paget
If the hon. and learned Member is asking a question, I will answer it right away. The answer is "Yes." I have seen some shockingly bad farming in the last few years, which is a disgrace. If the hon. and learned Member seriously imagines that the Government will go on guaranteeing prices and costs in the case of really bad farming over which there is no control, he has a great deal less sense than the farmers, who know that the Government will not do so.
§ Mr. Bowen
I am grateful for that honest declaration which does much to clarify the official Labour Party attitude in this matter.
In one respect I believe that the exercise of these disciplinary powers has had 1312 a detrimental effect on production. I do not wish to pitch this too high, but in my experience farmers have sometimes been reluctant to turn for assistance to the advisory services. I speak as the Member for a constituency where there are probably a greater number of these facilities than in any other constituency in the country. There is the plant breeding station, the National Advisory Service, the University Department of Agriculture and other facilities. The farmers in my constituency are fortunate in having these services to which to turn for help and guidance. A great many take advantage of them, but I should like to see more doing so. Quite mistakenly some farmers are reluctant to turn for advice to these organisations because of the disciplinary, the punitive, provisions in Part II of the 1947 Act. As I say, I do not wish to pitch this too high, but I believe that the abolition of those penal provisions will assist in the extension of the advisory services.
If the effect of Clauses 2 and 3 is that there will be opportunities for a greater number of young men to enter the industry, that will benefit the agricultural community. About a fortnight ago I said in this House that one of the most disquieting features about the industry today was the fact that it is now more difficult for young men to climb the agricultural ladder than at any time during the last hundred years. I can illustrate that by reference to my own constituency. Many of the farmers there are the children and grandchildren of farm labourers, and that is a fact of which we are proud. Today, however, the son of a farm labourer has less prospect than at any time in the last hundred years of becoming first a smallholder and then an independent farmer.
§ Mr. Bowen
I am sorry that the hon. Member does not display anxiety about the burning desire of young men to become farmers and to farm on their own account.
One of the main difficulties is caused by the reluctance of landlords to let a farm as an alternative to selling it. Anything which will encourage landlords to let farms rather than to sell them is a 1313 good thing. About 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the farmers in my constituency are owner-occupiers and, generally speaking, that is a good thing. One difficulty, however, is that usually the small owner-occupier has devoted a lot of his capital to the purchase of his farm and therefore has no money available for the improvement of the land.
In my area I believe that arbitrators have been operating in a satisfactory way under the existing provision. There are variations in different parts of the country and different arbitrators interpret their duties in different ways. I do not say that that will cease because of the provisions in Clause 2 of the Bill. I consider that the formula contained in that Clause is not a happy one and I hope that it will be changed considerably during the Committee stage.
It is unfortunate that this matter was dealt with while researches into this subject by the Department of Estate Management at Cambridge University are still continuing. It would be unfortunate if the formula set out in the Clause was interpreted as giving power to an arbitrator to fix a rent on the basis of what the highest bidder would pay. It would be most unfortunate if the arbitrator is given power to take account of scarcity value in peculiar circumstances and localities, and I hope that the present formula will be changed. I could make some suggestions, but I do not wish to weary the House. When I was a member of the Lord Chancellor's Committee on leasehold reform, we had the same difficulty when trying to arrive at a similar formula.
Clause 3 is, so to speak, an agreed Clause between the National Farmers' Union and the C.L.A. Some parts of it cause me anxiety. It is of extreme importance to keep in mind the proviso to the Clause. If full weight is not given to that proviso, hardship may well be done as between landlords and tenant. I refer, of course, to the proviso that no notice will operate if the circumstances are such that a fair and reasonable landlord would not insist on possession. I have had direct and practical experience of this, and it is my experience that the agricultural land tribunals have operated admirably. I have considerable faith that they will operate that proviso with extreme fairness.
1314 There are one or two other matters in Clause 3 which are not so satisfactory. On the greater hardship issue, it is important to remember that the onus will be on the landlord. It is for him to satisfy the tribunal that greater hardship will be upon him. Paragraph (a) on good husbandry, includes the phrase.… treated as a separate unit.I strongly approve of that phrase, but what gives rise to considerable anxiety in my mind is the provision in paragraph (b):… treated either as a separate estate or as part of a larger estate.That means, as I see it, that a tenant who is farming a satisfactory unit in a perfectly satisfactory way might be dispossessed because his landlord happens to have other units which are unsatisfactory adjoining it or in the immediate neighbourhood. That possibility should be eliminated.
I welcome the provisions of Clause 4 which will do a great deal to help the tenant to face the problems connected with fixed equipment. Clause 5 contains one of the recommendations of the Franks Committee and should be welcomed by the House. I welcome also the provisions of Clause 7 and hope that adequate use will be made of them.
The main provisions relate to the abolition of the penal Sections and should also be welcome, but the abolition of this Part of the 1947 Act is no argument whatsoever for attacking or altering the provisions of Part I of that Act in any way.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond. Yorks)
It is some time since I had the honour of intervening in an agricultural debate and it is a very great pleasure to do so following the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). I know, from some experience of our debates, the interesting contributions that the hon. and learned Member makes and which bring to our discussions the atmosphere of Welsh Wales. I agree with many of the things he said, and I hope to refer to them as I proceed with my speech.
My main reason for intervening is that ever since the Agriculture Act, 1947, appeared in this House, I have been associated with it in various capacities, not 1315 only as Minister of Agriculture but as leading for the Opposition, when we were in opposition to the Government. I have seen it work in the country. I want there to be no doubt in the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in any part of the House about my attitude to the Bill, especially in view of the attacks which have been made upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in respect of Clause 1, which eliminates the disciplinary powers contained in Part II of the 1947 Act and the complementary Scottish Act of 1948.
Since the debate started yesterday afternoon that has been the most controversial issue, but I venture to prophesy —a very rash thing to do in this House —that after a very few months have gone by it will not be an issue at all in any part of the country. I support the Minister's proposals in Clause 1, in spite of the fact, of which I want the Opposition to take note as I have checked the figures, that during the years when I had the honour to occupy the office of Minister of Agriculture I operated the disciplinary powers to a greater extent than any other Minister of Agriculture, including the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).
§ Mr. Peart
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale) has intervened. We welcome his contribution to the debate. He says that he supports his right hon. Friend's proposals in Clause 1. Does the right hon. Gentleman remember being reported in the British Farmer in 1952 as saying that farmers had to realise that Part 1 of the 1947 Act carried the obligations of Parts 2 and 3, and that, any way, no good farmer liked to see land badly farmed or not farmed at all? That attitude of the right hon. Gentleman was supported by the farming community. Why change it today?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I shall deal with that point before I sit down. I want to refer now to the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Don Valley. He let his imagination run riot. He conjured up every kind of bogy which would devour the poor unsuspecting farmer. That would not be so bad were it not for the possibility that some farmers might think that what the right hon. 1316 Gentleman said was right. It must have been the result of his birthday. I would be among the first to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his 70th birthday yesterday and to wish him well in the years ahead, but I honestly think that his birthday must have made him feel suddenly like that aged, admirable bird, the Dodo. The right hon. Gentleman kept telling the House about the iniquities of Conservative Ministers of Agriculture during 1921 and 1924, in the days of long ago. In so doing, his judgment on this Measure, which we are considering in March, 1958, was at fault.
I wish to draw the attention of the House and of farmers in all parts of the country, including Scotland, to the simple fact that the position has completely changed during recent years, even since the day when the right hon. Member for Don Valley left the Ministry of Agriculture in 1951. What has happened? A very great deal, as the result of seven years of good Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Very well, let us look at one or two things that have happened.
There is no longer scarcity of food. Farmers have increased production. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite really want scarcity of food to come back? There is no longer a Ministry of Food or a Minister of Food. Do they want the whole organisation of the Ministry of Food to come back? There is no longer a complicated system of rationing, as there was very definitely in 1951, and all that went with it. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite want rationing and the ration book to come back again? If the ration book comes back it means that the Ministry of Food also comes back.
I would here divulge, if Mr. Speaker will allow me to do so, that from our experience when we were trying to decontrol food for the benefit of the country, the consumers, the farmers and everybody else, we learned that rationing bred scarcity. At that time, the Minister of Food and I were engaged in the decontrol of eggs, and we were told by our advisers in all parts of the country that the moment we did that there would be no eggs in the shops for the consumer. I suggest that from the very moment when decontrol took place, eggs appeared and have continued to appear in such large numbers that the present Minister 1317 of Agriculture has a very different problem to face in regard to egg production.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
One matter which has not been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, but which has happened in the last few years, is that, in the last five years, as a direct result of their successful efforts, farmers have suffered an underrecoupment of £135 million, and in the last three years their earnings have dropped in money values by 8 per cent. while those of other people have gone up by 25 per cent.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I shall deal with that point later in my speech. The point is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to use as a yardstick the amount of Government help which the industry receives. That seems to me to be a completely wrong way to look at the problem.
In another field, during the last three years, the Government have passed through this House the Agriculture Act, 1957, which marked another big advance in our agricultural policy. Finally in this regard, the Franks Committee made recommendations in Chapter 13 of its Report dealing with agriculture and the county committees. All these things have happened, and as a result of these changes, the present Minister, in my view, had two courses open to him, and only two. He either had to accept the recommendations contained in Chapter 13 of the Franks Committee Report, which would entail new tribunals being established, independent of the Minister and of the counts committees, to perform the adjudicating functions now exercised by the county committees, or, alternatively, to repeal the disciplinary powers of Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947.
In reference to the recommendations of the Franks Committee, which were mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan, I accept what the hon. and learned Member said, and agree that it was not the duty of the committee in any way to consider the wisdom of what was contained in Part II of that Act, but only to make recommendations in case the provisions of Part II remained in being. I say that in passing. This is the decision which the Minister of Agriculture had to take, and he has decided on the second course. As one who held the responsibility of his 1318 office for a period of years, I am convinced that he has taken the right decision.
I should like now to turn to a question which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) raised in yesterday's debate and to which reference has been made today by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan——
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I am going to try to answer that very point.
The hon. Member said, in effect, that although from the political point of view, the party opposite is opposed to the provisions contained in the Bill, why was it that organised farmers in the country were particularly opposed to Part I of the Measure? In regard to what the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan said, I agree that if anything happened to Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947, it would inevitably be followed by something happening to Part I. That fear was brought out very clearly in a speech made yesterday by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), who usually talks so wisely about agricultural matters. On this occasion, however, I must say that I disagreed with him very much. If there had not been the Agriculture Act, 1957, I would agree at once that there might be something to be said for his point of view, but, in effect, the Agriculture Act, 1957, put the provisions of Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1947, on a firm and long-term basis, and that is a very important consideration indeed. I shall come in a moment to the point made by the right hon. Member for Don Valley yesterday.
The farmers of this country should be thankful that that Act is on the Statute Book, particularly in this year of grace 1958, considering the overall economic position of the country. That is the Act under which the Government, while giving long-term assurances to the industry, are bound not to reduce the total value of the guarantees by more than 2½ per cent. in any one year, nor to reduce the guaranteed price of any review commodity by more than 4 per cent. I am afraid that these are rather technical matters, and perhaps only those who went through the Committee stage debates on the 1947 Act will be interested in them.
1319 The fact remains, as I think those hon. Members still with us will agree, that the weakness of the 1947 Act has always been Section 1, which deals with guaranteed prices and assured markets, but which left the position very much in the air. That was why my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture yesterday intervened in the debate and interrupted the right hon. Member for Don Valley to the effect that, until the 1957 Act was passed, there was nothing to stop the Government of the day reducing any of the guarantees under the 1947 Act to any degree it liked.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
That always was a very difficult point under the 1947 Act. In this regard, I heard the right hon. Member for Don Valley yesterday use what I thought was a false argument when he referred to under-recoupment during the last nine years, and to possible under-recoupment under the 1957 Act. The right hon. Gentleman gave examples to the effect that the average under-recoupment during the last nine years is likely to be less than the under-recoupment which we may expect under the 1957 Act. We shall have to wait and see.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
Whatever we may see before the end of the week, the 1957 Act gives a certain guarantee as opposed to the uncertain provisions of Part I of the 1947 Act. In the long run, that, I think, is worth more to the farming community than any of the provisions of the 1947 Act. If any further assurances are required by the country or the House as to the intention of the present Government in regard to guarantees, the Minister gave them yesterday in his speech in the House and he has given them in other speeches in the country.
Before leaving the question of guarantees, I would remind hon. Members in all parts of the House that the 1957 Act will come up for review after the 1960 Annual Review.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
It is by far the longest guarantee the farming community ever had. It will come up for review in 1960. 1320 At that stage it will be for the Government to determine whether to leave the percentages as they are or whether to reduce or increase them. Whatever they do, under the 1957 Act no alterations can become effective until the year 1962–63. I am certain I am correct in my assertion that this is the longest guarantee that the agricultural industry has ever enjoyed in its history. It will be up to hon. Members in the House at that time to be certain that the Government of the day, of whatever party it is composed, shall continue the provisions of the 1957 Act in the interests of the industry.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
Is this not a funny tale to which we are listening? We are being assured that the farmers have all these guarantees. The farmers are not fools. They know this, yet, despite that fact, they still oppose the Bill. Can the right hon. Member tell us why that is so?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
Yes, I can. I use the word not in a political sense. They are very conservative and have not yet realised the force and the wisdom of the 1957 Act, which has replaced Part I of the 1947 Act. Of that I think there is no doubt.
I wish to say a word or two about the county committees, which have been referred to in the debate. It has been said that as a result of the repeal of Part II of the 1947 Act it will be impossible to attract the best type of farmer to serve on these committees, owing to the fact that they are to be relieved of their adjudicating functions. The right hon. Member for Don Valley went much further. He said that this repeal means the end of the county agricultural executive committees as effective bodies. I think that was going much too far. From one who is so much respected in the countryside I call that a most irresponsible statement. I do not accept the view that men will not be coming forward to serve on these committees as before. There will be any amount of work for them to do.
If hon. Members opposite think that many members of county committees love this part of their work—putting people under supervision and dispossessing them in certain circumstances—I can assure them that it is the one part of the work which the committee men dislike doing more than any other. Only 1321 from a great sense of national duty did they accept it with the rest of their duties. I am certain there will be a great deal of work for them to do, of both an advisory and executive nature. Even during my time at the Ministry, which is now a few years ago, I had already started to switch from the disciplinary side of that work to the advisory side and to put more emphasis on the advisory way of helping farmers than on disciplinary methods which, however, I believe were essential when the 1947 Act was originally passed into law. I am certain the whole House will agree with me here. I wish to pay tribute to the excellent work they have done for the industry ever since they came into being in the early days of the Second World War. I was very pleased to hear the Minister yesterday inform the House that he hoped shortly to have detailed discussions with all the committee chairmen on the plans he has for their future.
I wish to refer shortly to other parts of the Bill and to deal with the question of farm rents. We have heard various suggestions about Clause 2. Although there are differences of opinion as to the actual wording of that Clause, I believe that there is a large measure of agreement in all parts of the House and an appreciation that those who have to deal with the technical aspects of this subject want more guidance and clarification. On the broad issue, the vast majority of rents are decided and settled by agreement between landlord and tenant. There is no change in the policy there. Clause 2 is concerned simply with the interpretation of instructions to arbitrators, and it refers to a willing landlord. I do not want to get involved in legal arguments because I am not learned in the law, but I suggest that during further stages of the Bill the Minister should give careful thought and consideration to the wording of this Clause. I think that was also suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan.
There must be a good reason why the wording in Clauses 2 and 3 is different. It must be a matter of legal interpretation. I hope that before the Bill reaches the Statute Book there will be a successful outcome of the problem of legal definition. I again emphasise that nearly all these rents are fixed by agreement between a willing landlord and a willing tenant. I understand that in the whole of 1957 1322 there were fewer than 150 cases in England and Wales which went to arbitration.
During recent years the trend has been for an increase in rent. That, I think, has been agreed on all sides. We should remember that twenty years ago farmers paid roughly 15 per cent. of their outgoings in rent, whereas today they pay only 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. I will say nothing about Clause 3, which deals with security of tenure, other than to congratulate all concerned on reaching an agreed solution of this problem. There must have been a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to reach agreement. That in itself must be for the benefit of the whole agricultural industry. I wish well to all who have to implement the Clause in the months and years to come.
Clauses 4 and 7 make clear the Government's intention to retain the rules of good husbandry and good estate management, which is all to the good. Clause 5, which transfers to the Lord Chancellor duties formerly carried out by the Agricultural Ministers, is, in effect, a natural sequel to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1954, when the House agreed that members of agricultural land tribunals should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor instead of by the Agricultural Ministers. Having been responsible for introducing the 1954 Bill, I am in wholehearted agreement with that.
I should like to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who moved the Second Reading of the Bill yesterday. Every Minister of Agriculture, to whichever part of the House he belongs, will find it a fascinating office, full of problems and difficulties, but he will find that the hard work which he devotes to that office will be well repaid from the support which he gets from all members of the farming community throughout the country.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)
It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), who, this afternoon, has made what is probably his first speech since he resigned as Minister. The right hon. Gentleman represents a neighbouring constituency to mine and we have much in common. The farming community 1323 throughout the area has a great respect and affection for the right hon. Gentleman, because of the interest that he has taken in farming. I am glad to add my tribute to him, because I know that to be true.
Speaking for the Government this afternoon, the Secretary of State for Scotland sought to draw my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) concerning the policy of the Labour Party towards agriculture. One thing that the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten since becoming a member of the Government is that when we were in office, and were proposing to import coal, he opposed its importation for reasons of shipping space. Now that he has come into the Government, he advocates policies that are detrimental to the community and to the people for whom he is expected to provide greater cover.
The right hon. Gentleman took exception to the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) took us back into the past, into the 'twenties. It is not only the farming community which remembers what happened in those years. People in other creative industries can carry their minds back, too.
In introducing the Second Reading yesterday, the Minister spoke of security of tenure. He said:We must remember that since before the war rents have increased by an average of about 60 per cent. Maintenance costs, ordinary building repairs, and so on, have trebled.Then he said:… some people have been trying to create the impression that there will be a sudden large increase in rents and that on thousands of farms rents will rise as a result of this new instruction to arbitrators. That simply is not so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1958; Vol. 584, c. 1121.]Let us suppose, however, that talks break down between the tenant and the landlord concerning rent and that the matter is then passed to the arbitrator to decide the rent. If the rent so fixed by the arbitrator is too high for the tenant to afford, what will happen then? Will he be subject directly to notice from the landlord? If he can be given notice to quit, the fact that he and his family may have given their lifetime to the industry, and particularly to the holding of which he is the tenant, will count for nothing, 1324 because, like a bolt from the blue, he will be faced with the arbitrator's decision concerning his rent; and if it is too high, he must leave his tenancy. The tenancy will become vacant and eventually will be let to somebody else who has not the foggiest idea about farming, but is in a position to pay the rent that is asked.
The Minister also stated yesterday that a willing landlord would not hold out for a freak rent. Are the Minister and his supporters on the Government side not aware that they are here applying the same principle as applies to landlords of private property, of which we have heard so much within recent weeks because of the effects of the Landlord and Tenant Act, together with the desire to get rid of the tenant at any price and to give the accommodation to the biggest bidder? After listening to the Minister yesterday, and carefully reading his speech today, he seems to me to be giving the greatest cover to the landlord at the expense of the tenant.
I am all in favour of giving every assistance to the up and coming people in the industry. We have been reminded that a sense of frustration is growing among the young men and women who are taking courses at farming institutes and training colleges because they see little chance of getting a farm of their own within two or three years after their training. This may be true. I have every sympathy with the young people who want their own farms.
Does not the same feeling apply to the farmworker, who, because of his circumstances, cannot afford to take the same course as the others? The farm-worker has probably been in the industry since leaving school and has given all his early life to the industry. Even though he does not have the means to avail himself of the same opportunities as other young people, he is surely just as good a class of farmer, if given the opportunity, as many of the other young people who take the courses in the farming institutes.
I have always held the view that greater interest should be shown to those who belong to the land as against the type of person who, because of his financial position and influence, can edge his way into the industry and become the proud possessor of a farm.
1325 The Minister and those who support him know that young men from the industry, whether the sons of farmers or agricultural workers, have very poor hopes at present, in view of the many statements which have been made during this debate, of getting a farm as against the rich businessman. Under the new conditions that the Bill creates, the chances seem to be very remote indeed.
Hon. Members on the Government benches have endeavoured to castigate my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for his criticisms of the Bill. One thing about my right hon. Friend, however, is that he can face up to all the criticism and can give answers. It is surprising to hon. Members opposite that one who did so much to give security to the people in this industry during his period of office should be able to see the adverse effects that this Bill will have, if it is carried into law, upon those who responded so well to the appeal which he made for increased production from the farming community.
My right hon. Friend did that when he was Minister of Agriculture in the Labour Government, and hon. Members opposite seem unable to understand that he is able to judge the Bill's effects. My right hon. Friend knows, as we all know, that repeal of Part II of the 1947 Act will have serious effects. Nor are we alone in this belief. The whole farming community supports this view and this principle. Part II of the 1947 Act laid down certain rules of good husbandry and estate management, and it was accepted as doing so, and it gained for agriculture a recognition which it had been denied for a long time.
One of the things which most surprises me, looking back over the record of past Governments, is the number of Ministers of Agriculture the Tories have had over the years. Since I became a Member of this House, in 1950, the Tories—since 1951—have had three Ministers of Agriculture. Who can say that the present Minister will hold office for more than a short time?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Richmond, Yorks, held the office, and I was wondering what his response was to the appeal which was made to him by the agricultural community in the rural areas from which he comes, the 1326 appeal made to him through the N.F.U., about the repeal of Part II of the 1947 Act. I think he knows as well as every one of us that within the County of Durham, and within his area, too, the farming community are not very favourably disposed to this proposal.
It is not surprising that there should be this form of lamentation from the farming community against this Bill. The small farmers will no doubt be feeling very apprehensive. Many of them, I understand, have given loyal support to the Conservative Party, no doubt always believing that such a party would be interested in their welfare. There are rural areas in my constituency which, as I mentioned earlier, borders the constituency of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. I remember a businessman, who has a big farm in my constituency, and bigger interests outside the constituency, and who is a Tory councillor, saying, "Any farmer who votes Labour in Durham would not tell you so, because the farmer in the County of Durham is looked upon as a Tory."
Those farmers are supporters of Tory policy, they were supporters of past Tory Governments, and they are supporters even of the present Tory Government, who are seeking to pass a Measure which can have only detrimental effects on the farming community not only in my constituency, but throughout the whole of the country. I wonder what will be the reaction of some of my farmers to this Bill if and when it is passed into law, and especially if it passes as at present drawn. They will feel that they have been let down by Tory philosophers who were believed to be so much concerned with their interests that they felt duty bound to give support to the Tory Party at the General Election.
Like some of my hon. Friends I am at a loss to understand why the Government should be acting as they are, and, like the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), who spoke for the Liberals, I wonder whether it would not have been better to have awaited the findings of the independent investigation which is taking place.
The repeal of Part II of the 1947 Act sounds the death knoll of the county agricultural executive committees as effective bodies. Some of us, as members of county authorities, have knowledge of those 1327 committees, and we know full well the time and energy that their members have devoted to carrying out the responsibilities which were placed upon them. Those people were carrying out their responsibilities and their duty in the belief that the job they had to do was a true job, enabling them to do something to help good husbandry, and in the belief that the farmer, and even the landlord, is, today, holding in trust land which belongs to the nation. The sooner we face that fact the better. I believe that the members of the agricultural executive committees will feel very put out indeed because of the Minister's intentions about the powers which were placed upon them and the responsibilities with which they were entrusted.
Within the next few months many questions will be asked both inside and outside this House about this Measure. It will be up to the Minister to produce more convincing arguments than he has been able to give the House up to now if he is to get the Bill through and it is to work. We in Durham pride ourselves on having at Haughall one of the best agricultural colleges that there is in the country. Young students go there not only from all parts of the county, not only from all parts of this country, but from all parts of the world, including our Colonies. I have seen there the noble work which is being done.
There is no getting away from the fact that there is some frustration amongst some of the younger people. We find that same feeling in every walk of life, but many these young people believe that the door to the industry is not opening quickly enough to allow them to enter the industry and to take up their responsibilities in it. I do not think that this Bill will assist those young people at all, in that way.
In Durham we have a very strong agricultural society of which the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) is president. It is obvious from what I have heard in conversation with some of the farmers in my county that they are very worried about this Bill and its likely effects. Appeals are going out to the farmers, as to others, to do everything they can to reduce their costs as much as possible, but the Bill, far from assisting them in 1328 reducing their costs, may be a means of increasing them.
If the Bill has measurable effects, as the Government think it will, then I can only say that, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Richmond, Yorks, thinks, those effects, far from being beneficial to the farming community, will be adverse to the farming community.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)
The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater), in so far as he touched on the terms of the Bill itself, opposed it. On the other hand, I welcome the Bill, because I believe that it adapts our legislation to these modern times of bounteous production. The days of food shortage and rationing have gone, and this is a time of peace, not the reconstruction period after the war. It also remedies injustices that were inherent, partly by accident, partly, perhaps, by design, in the previous Acts.
For the most part, I shall refer to affairs in Scotland, where we now have, in round figures, 19,000 owner-occupiers and 21,000 tenants. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) tried to make out that these owner-occupiers were left completely free to misuse the land they owned. I do not believe that for one minute. When a man becomes an owner-occupier, he has not only the benefits of a tenant of the land but the obligations of ownership, and that is no light matter. I can speak personally here, having some land that I own, out of which I have had nothing for some years—at any rate, since the war.
This Bill will be beneficial to the owner-occupiers, because it will free them from unnecessary trammels but, at the same time, it will give them the opportunity to benefit from getting a realistic value on their holding should they want to sell. They will also benefit, because any increase in the general rent level will be of value to them as producers on the land, through the application of the Annual Price Review. Therefore, I do not in the least apologise for the freeing of owner-occupiers from these trammels. They have their troubles, and the very fact that they have to face the economic storm that may come, and have the additional burden of maintaining their properties, makes me believe that the Bill is the right way to deal with the problem.
1329 The majority of the farming land in Scotland—I exclude crofting land, because that is a different problem—is farmed on the landlord-and-tenant system, and that system, frankly, is threatened with break-down under the present set-up—let there be no doubt about that. If a farm becomes vacant today, the landlord has three choices. He can sell it with vacant possession. If he does so, he sells at a price above its real value. He can farm it himself. If it is only one farm, he can probably scrape up enough capital—and the capital sums needed are big today—to do so, but there are real limitations to landlords farming their own land. There are limitations of capital and the rest, and it is quite wrong to say, as has been suggested, that if landlords are allowed more easily to gain possession of the land, they will retain it. There are limits to what can be done.
Under the present law, the third alternative is to let it, but it should be quite clearly understood that once a landlord lets a farm today neither he nor any of his successors in title to that land can ever hope to get it back again, except under the most exceptional circumstances. The tenant is a tenant for life. He can leave the farm to anyone he likes, inside or outside the family, and through the generations ad infinitum. I believe that to be an injustice that we should put right, and I congratulate the Government on having gone so far to put it right.
Much has been made about the abolition of Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Honestly, I do not think that this will raise any interest in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The information I have is that, in Scotland, the main opposition of the farming community relates to security of tenure, but it is prepared to accept the abolition of the C.A.E.C.s. That is my information——
§ Sir J. Duncan
I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) to what he did yesterday to members of his own party—and I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) is here, because I wish to reinforce what he said. The right hon. Gentleman made a vicious attack on the hon. and learned 1330 Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), and on the noble Lord, Lord Silkin——
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member must not put into my mouth words that I never used. I attacked the Franks Committee as such, but not an individual, and I will attack the Committee again, if the necessity arises.
§ Sir J. Duncan
If the right hon. Gentleman is attacking the Franks Committee, and that Committee makes a unanimous Report, as it did——
§ Sir J. Duncan
—as it did, then, ipso facto, he must be attacking every member of it. Therefore, he is attacking his own hon. and learned Friend, who was Solicitor-General for Scotland, and his noble Friend in another place who, as the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan pointed out, was very learned in the law when the Labour Government were dealing with land matters.
On 31st October we debated the Franks Report on Administrative Tribunals and Enquiries. In that debate, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) spoke and, in general, supported the Report, although, I must admit, he made a reservation about agricultural executive committees. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we started from common ground, and that the Government should not be above the law. And he also said that in dealing with these things we must have "openness, fairness and impartiality."
In that debate it was made clear, as, indeed, did the Report itself, that there was not, and there obviously seemed not to be, openness, fairness and impartiality. That is why I supported the Report of the Franks Committee then, and although the Government have adopted a solution different from that recommended by the Franks Committee, I believe that it is quite right that the present system should be done away with.
1331 I turn to rents. The hon. Member for Hamilton said that there is no need for the new instructions to arbiters. Since before the war, rents in Scotland—that is, rents based on assessment—have risen, overall, by about 15 per cent. That, of course, includes the owner-occupiers, whose assessments have not risen very much. For tenants only, the rise in rent has been, on average, about 25 per cent. It is difficult to get a wholly accurate figure, but the average is about 25 per cent.
The cost of maintenance and repairs, however—and this is what the landlord has to do under the 1948 Act—has risen very much more than that. Let me give two figures, which I have checked over the weekend. For the benefit of the English Members, I will call them fence posts, but in Scotland we call them "stobs". Before the war they were 7d. each. Now, a good square stob costs at least half a crown.
§ Sir J. Duncan
That is nothing to do with it.
Let me give the example of building trade charges to customers. I am not referring to building trade wages, because builders are allowed to increase the charge to cover National Health contributions, employees' holidays, and so on. I am referring to the increase in building trade charges to customers for jobbing work since 1939 to February of this year. I think that in my part of Scotland the building trades receive the same wages, whether for joiners, masons, or plumbers. In 1939, the rate was Is. 8½d. an hour. In February of this year it was 7s. 4d. an hour.
In those circumstances, there must be a real justification for some rise in farm rents over and above the increase that has taken place, because the 25 per cent. rise in rents has not kept pace with the enormous increase in these costs. If we do not allow a rise in rents to compensate for the increased costs, building in Scotland will depreciate in value because landlords will not have sufficient from their income to maintain their buildings, unless they have some outside source. It is vitally important in the interest of Scottish agriculture to maintain the existing buildings, quite apart from all the 1332 capital expenditure involved in new and improved buildings.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that those increases in rents have not been imposed by arbiters but have been voluntarily agreed between landlord and tenant? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there has grown in Scotland a practice whereby landlords transfer the whole of the responsibility for fixed equipment to the tenants, thereby keeping the rents down?
§ Sir J. Duncan
That may be so, but that is not the answer to the question.
It may be true—I am not prepared to argue—that in many cases private bargains have been made. But on what basis are those private bargains made? Advice is taken. Lawyers give advice on what increase one landlord has obtained and on what another landlord has obtained. A third case may go to arbitration. The level of increased rents achieved by private bargaining depends, in the end, to a large extent on the increase awarded in the arbitrated cases. That is an important point to be borne in mind. I do not think that there is much difference between the arbitrated rents and the private bargain rents, although, generally speaking, I believe that there is a slight increase in private bargain rents over the arbitrated rents, though not a large one.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Gentleman referred to building costs. Does not the rate that the farmer has to pay on his bank overdraft come into the matter as well?
§ Sir J. Duncan
Yes, but it comes into everything. The point is that arbiters' instructions are not clear. Arbiters are making different decisions according to their own interpretation of the words "properly payable." It is right for the Government, under Clause 2, to give clear instructions to arbiters on what they are to take into account.
There was a case remitted to the Court of Session. I could quote the name of the case, but I am not very good at these legal terms. The Court of Session said that the landlord was not entitled to an open market rent and the arbiter was entitled to take into account the security of tenure provided by the Act and the fact that the tenant was a sitting tenant. 1333 The arbiter had to take those two factors into account, which, in turn, reduced the value of the lettings. That is the sort of thing on which we must loosen up if we are to increase rents.
I welcome the new instructions, although they may not be wholly acceptable in every word. We have already had some arguments about a willing landlord, but I believe that the principle of the matter is satisfactory After all, farmers are quite prepared to pay a lot more rent than they are now paying, and that should be taken into account.
The main argument that we shall have in Scotland is not on Part II, or on rents, but on security of tenure. I believe that Scottish farming became pre-eminent in Britain and, indeed, throughout the world through our system of long leases, and I should like to see that system restored if at all possible. Since the 1948 Act we have had this system of succession to which I have referred. That is manifestly an injustice, and is regarded as such by every farmer to whom I have mentioned the matter. I believe that this security of tenure for life for all existing sitting tenants, plus the right to will the remainder of the lease, is a fair compromise which ought to provide adequate security to every decent tenant. Incidentally, it is the same system as is followed in England.
One of the criticisms which have been voiced is that as soon as the Bill becomes law there will be a "general post" of tenancies. I do not believe that. These changes will be gradual, and I believe that if we could loosen up, as I have suggested, it would give an opportunity to many second sons of farmers to obtain farms which otherwise they would not be able to do. I want to encourage the young men to come on, and I believe that this will help. In any case, the landlord only has the option. He does not have to give notice to quit. In the vast number of cases—in 999 cases out of every 1,000—the matter will be negotiated privately and no one will have to resort to the law courts.
It has also been suggested that tenants will not make improvements in the future as they have in the past. This relates rather to a point which the hon. Member for Hamilton made about rents. On the other hand, compensation on outgoing, if the tenant does leave, will be paid on the 1334 value applicable at the date of death. Therefore, any improvements made in the future by the tenant will be valued on outgoing and, with rising costs, will be valued at a higher rate, than original cost. Combined with that, there will be compensation for disturbance and residual manurial value The bill would be so heavy that landlords would think twice before giving notice to quit to a tenant if they could get the legatee or the son or some similar person to take over the farm and the liabilities.
I hope that the farming community will not gain the impression that, because we are passing the Bill into law, tenants and landlords have not a partnership role in farming. Under the old Act, which is still there in Part II, there are the respective obligations of both. Until now, because of the injustice of the existing law, many landlords have been quite unable to keep up with what tenants wanted. They have not had the money to do it, and they cannot get it out of the business, so to speak. If they have had private means outside, that is another matter.
I want to see sufficient revenue coming to the landlords to do their own work, to build their own buildings for the tenants and fulfil their obligations. If that can be done, it will not be necessary for the tenants to put up all the improvements themselves; although I stress once again that, if the tenants do it, it will be fully compensated for in these ways.
§ Sir J. Duncan
With consent, and some with notice; it depends. The hon. Member had better read his 1949 Act again.
The third criticism offered is that tenants should be allowed to hand over to their sons. This, I feel, is the most difficult criticism to answer. The difficulty is that, if one allows the tenant security for his son, the son will have security for his son.
§ Sir J. Duncan
Like the House of Lords, ad infinitum. But the House of Lords is not quite like the average tenanted farm. After all, Members of the House of Lords are inheritors of their own titles. In this case, the tenant will be inheriting the landlord's property. 1335 That is the difference. I do not see how one can compromise on that, if one is to break fixity of tenure, unless one does what the Government are doing, which I believe is the fairest compromise, taking everything into account.
We shall, no doubt, have to argue many points in Committee later. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will the hon. Member be on the Committee?"] I hope so. I welcome the Bill in all its Clauses. I believe that it will do a great deal of good in increasing production. I believe that, in a few months' time, when the Bill is law, the political fuss will be over and the Bill will work for the benefit of all.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
The hon. Member for South Augus (Sir J. Duncan) puts his finger on the main purpose of the Bill when he says that it has been introduced in order to maintain the landlord and tenant system, which is in grave danger of breaking down. He supports it because it will severely limit security of tenure for tenants and will enable rents to be raised. It is on those issues that we must oppose the Bill.
I speak as a practical farmer.
§ Mr. Dye
I do not want to make debating points by raking over the embers of past conflicts. We must apply our practical knowledge to the situation as it is today and the situation as we wish to see it in the future. We must recognise the purpose which the Government have in view, to maintain the rapidly declining landlord and tenant system.
Throughout England, the greatest progress in farming has been made by owner-occupiers in recent years. When a man owns the land and farms it, puts his life and his capital into it, whether his resources are large or small, there he has the greatest security and the greatest urge. There he does his best. There England is led in good farming practice today. I shall not be drawn into a discussion of the situation in Scotland. Scotland is a beautiful land. In North Norfolk, we have so many who come from Scotland to farm our land that I am for ever surrounded by Scotsmen when 1336 I am at home. I am in no strange company when I see Scotland represented in the House, either.
§ Mr. Dye
In trying to uphold the landlord and tenant system, the Government are going back to the past. I, and others who have experienced it, want none of it; we do not want to go back to the past. There was a day when a good man, with his skill, strength and health, and with a certain amount of capital, had to go and beg of another man the right to till his native land, often only to be turned down because of his political opinions or for some other reason Many a good man in Norfolk and other parts of England has tramped the road because he was denied that right in the past. We on this side will never uphold that system.
The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale) enjoyed himself today. I think he should enjoy himself now and again. He made a very good speech. But how out of date it was. What I heard him say about rationing and all the rest of it was said, word for word, by my political opponent at the last General Election, and he lost. It is out of date. Indeed, my political opponent went further; during the last three days of his election campaign he took round a tray on which were little bits of cheese, butter and margarine. He lost votes. All that silly claptrap about rationing belongs to the limbo of the past. We must face the present.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the 1957 Act. He said that it gave the farmers long-term security. For how long? Until 1960. What kind of security? Security that will reduce their incomes by nearly £30 million a year for three or four years. That is the kind of security the 1957 Act gave to farmers. They have had enough of it. That is why the National Farmers' Union is against the Bill. The last one let them down. Farmers accepted the Bill at the time not in the belief that the Government would reduce their incomes at each Annual Review while the income of every other section of the community went up. The Government do not seem able to understand the attitude of the N.F.U. today. Farmers have been "had" by this Government in last year's Act. and they do 1337 not want this Bill this year. They never asked for it. They never wanted it. In discussions over the preparation of the Bill they disagreed with the Government.
It is strange, is it not, that the attitude of the National Farmers' Union today should be more in accord with the attitude of the Labour Party than with the Conservative Party? It is strange, bearing in mind political history, when, as I said earlier, those who owned the land could determine the political opinions of those who hired it and worked on it over the centuries. This is still done in some parts, but not in others. So when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. talked about the security to farmers in the 1957 Act, what false security it is.
Of course, this year's Annual Review may not be a bad one for the farmers. After all, if there is a by-election in Devon we cannot expect the Government to reduce the guarantee for milk. They may take a bit off the wheat guarantee, because Devon does not grow much wheat. It is a consumer of wheat, and that would be popular. But there are one or two other things that we could do. However, we are not expecting a bad Price Review this year. Nevertheless, there is another year to cone, and so they continue to hole under a Conservative Government; but they did that last year.
So the security, about which hon. Members opposite spoke, of the 1957 Act, which leads up to the 1958 Measure, has as its purpose a change round. It stops the gradual increase in farmers' incomes as a result of their growing efficiency, knowledge and greater output. It makes them feel the adverse effects of the Government's inflationary policy, which the Government will change one day and are in the course of changing now. But in the past the farmers have had to bear the full brunt of inflation. Although there is a greater quantity of money available, their incomes have gone down, and in terms of money they are much worse off than any other section of the community. That is the position n agriculture today from the farmers' point of view.
What about the workers? The latest figures show that over 15,000 agricultural workers are registered as unemployed and are drawing benefit—the biggest number that we have had for 1338 many years. But that is after a decline of nearly 20,000 workers annually in the last five years. There has been a decline in the number of workers employed on the land, but we still have over 15,000 unemployed. Therefore, are the agricultural workers likely to be happy about the Bill? Of what advantage is it to them? The Government said that it was of no advantage to them, and that that was why they did not discuss the matter with them. Was not that a mistake? If they are partners in the industry, should not they have been taken into consultation in matters relative to their industry? The Government made a mistake, and we ought not to give them the chance to make another mistake of such a nature.
I want to meet, if I can, the other point which hon. Gentlemen opposite have raised time after time, namely, that no other industry has to submit to supervision. No other industry is in the same position as agriculture in the occupation of the land. Other industries build factories and work in them.
§ Mr. Dye
It may be impossible, but it is true.
The agricultural industry is in a peculiar position because it has both the obligation and privilege of occupying and cultivating the land. This, of course, is the issue on which the two sides of the House are in conflict. Hon. Gentlemen opposite take the view that if a person buys or inherits a farm he has an absolute right to do what he likes with it so long as he can pay his way.
§ Mr. Osborne
Of course, he has a responsibility to the State. We believe in that as much as the hon. Gentleman, and I beg him to believe that.
§ Mr. Dye
Then there is no purpose in the Bill. If one believes that the person in ownership of the land has an absolute right to do what he likes with it, why limit his responsibilities in any way? Of course, we take the contrary view that the person at present in occupation of the land and who is guaranteed by the nation 1339 a fair reward for his occupation and proper use of the land has, as the hon. Gentleman says, an obligation to the State. If he has that obligation and does not carry it out in a proper way, we say that he ought, first, to be put under supervision, and then, if he still does the same, that the State has every right to dispossess him. The hon. Gentleman dare not follow his logic to that extent. I was glad of his interruption. If he will only follow his own logic and admit that the occupant of land has obligations to the State, then the State has every right to say, "Those who do not honour their obligations will have their occupation terminated."
The party opposite says, "Let things follow their natural course as they used to do years ago". What happened then? A bad farmer's farm gradually went from bad to worse until, through bankruptcy, he went out of business and sold up. Then somebody had to take over, clean the land and work hard for years to clear it of rubbish and obstructions before he could get a proper living out of it. We do not believe that is right.
What happened in the 1930s? Farming went down, and, when the war came, the Coalition Government had to spend millions of pounds on equipment to clear millions of acres of land which had tumbled down in the years between the two wars and bring it back into cultivation. We live in a dangerous time, and whoever is responsible for governing this country ought to see that our land is farmed in such a way that, if we again go into a war, it is in tip-top condition and able to produce enough to feed the nation in time of emergency and will not necessitate the carrying out of capital clearing work in order to make good the deficiencies of the previous years.
On those two grounds—that the occupier of the land has an obligation and that the nation's need is that its agricultural land should be properly cultivated and farmed—the duty falls upon the Government to ensure that the obligation is carried out continuously. The party opposite does not believe that. It may believe that there will never be another war. I have forgotten the exact phrase used by the Prime Minister——
§ Mr. Dye
We live not in the prospect of an all-out conflict, but in times of economic necessity. If we are to feed our people without an undue call upon imports from hard currency areas, our land should be farmed efficiently. It cannot then be argued that we should support in occupation people who do not farm according to the best known principles of husbandry.
There is another and very sound reason. Through subsidies, the people are called upon to support agriculture. If millions of people who, through their taxes, help to maintain farming see somebody in occupation—and there are many such people—who does not properly farm his land, they think that their money is being wasted, and they are quite right.
§ Mr. Osborne
I should like to see HANSARD tomorrow. The hon. Member said that there are many farmers who are not farming properly despite the fact that Part II of the 1947 Act has been in operation.
§ Mr. Osborne
It is still in operation and has been throughout the years. Therefore, if Part II is as effective as the hon. Member is trying to make out, surely these bad farms should not exist.
§ Mr. Dye
The other great argument put forward by hon. Members opposite is that public opinion is against Part II. We are given that argument by hon. Members opposite in Norfolk as well as in this House.
I was putting forward the argument that if many people who contribute to the financing and subsidising of agriculture see that certain farmers are getting a living without farming properly, they will take the view that the guarantees to agriculture should be stopped. Hon. Members opposite came into my constituency at the last election and the previous one. They said nothing themselves but read extracts from the speeches of hon. Members on this side and said that the Labour Party's policy in agriculture was to stop the featherbedding of farming. The farmers, however, have lived to see the day when the Government have taken the feathers out of their beds. It is they who have taken from the farmers the standard of living with which they were left in 1951. Every year that the Tory Government have gone on, not only have there been fewer people employed on the land, but the amount of money for the farmer has decreased, in addition to a fall in its value.
How, then, can we on this side be expected to support a Bill like this? We had the chance to have a preview of the speech given yesterday by the Minister. He came to dine with his friends in South Norfolk, at Diss, nearly a fortnight ago. We have a report of his speech and much of it is word for word the same as he spoke yesterday.
§ Mr. Dye
I am willing to be corrected, but as the report of the speech is in the issue of the Press for Friday, 14th March, I should have thought it was the Saturday before last. Nevertheless, it is the same speech.
In that speech, the Minister said that the Government had no moral right to dispossess farmers and that the purpose 1342 of the Bill was not to raise rents wholesale immediately. He went on, however, to say that the outcome of the Bill would be that rents would rise. The hon. and gallant Member opposite, of course, entirely agrees.
§ Mr. Dye
There is another hon. and gallant Member opposite. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and I are quite good friends. The only difference between us is that I am likely to stay here and he is likely to go.
A neighbouring tenant farmer came up to me in Dereham market place last Friday week and said, "My landlord has been in communication with me about raising the rent. We were discussing it, but this morning I got a letter saying that he no longer wished to carry on those negotiations in view of the Bill that is now coming before the House of Commons." What does that landlord expect? He certainly does not expect that his position will be weakened. It has been said over and over again by hon. Members opposite that the right way to adjust rents is by negotiation, but the trouble, according to the party opposite, is that those negotiations have not led to sufficiently high rents to suit the interest of the landlords. The Bill, therefore, is designed, by directive to arbitrators, to ensure that when a tenant is unwilling to agree to what he considers to be too high a rent, the rent will be fixed, not on the basis of a sitting tenancy——
§ Mr. Dye
No, it is not. There is a difference between a fair rent and the rent of a farm which is fixed by scarcity value. That is the difference.
The party opposite wants to enable rents to be raised to the level which would prevail if individual farms became vacant and there were many potential tenants. That is the unfairness of this proposal. If all farms became vacant at the same time and there were a good number of applicants, they would not be 1343 in competition. Individual farmers would say, "I will have this one. You have that one, and we will each negotiate the rent." But if only one farm in a hundred becomes vacant and twenty people want it they compete for it, and it is that higher level of rent that the party opposite wants to see prevail throughout the country.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
It is no good paying a rent which is more than the farm will reasonably bring in. Surely, there must be a relationship between a reasonable rent and what the occupier hopes to get out of the farm.
§ Mr. Dye
That is just the interruption I wanted, because the party opposite then goes on to say that whatever the rent of the farm may be, the average of rent throughout the country will be taken into consideration at the next Annual Price Review and prices will be raised in order that tenants can pay higher rents to the landlords. That, of course, is the answer, and that is what the party opposite wants to bring about. It wants to ensure that landlords will have no difficulty whatsoever in enforcing the rents, at whatever level they are fixed. The level of rents will be taken into consideration in the Annual Price Review and the tenant will be told that although his rent might be higher than the average, yet, because of the average, he will be expected to pay. The arbitrators will be placed in that position.
Do hon. Members wonder that the National Farmers' Union is against the Bill? The Union would be a little missing up top if it supported it. It would certainly be in the wrong with its membership, who will want to see the Bill fought in Committee and opposed through all its stages. That is what we on this side of the House must do. We must give our minds to this task and fight the Bill in Committee, in the House and throughout the country as a retrograde step, as an attempt to put agriculture back into the shadows of the last century and the dark days between the two world wars.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) referred to the millions of pounds of taxpayers' 1344 money which have been ploughed into agriculture since 1939. But it started a long time before that, during the time of the Neville Chamberlain Government in the early 1930s, though, of course, the process was greatly accelerated during the war and since.
The hon. Member accused right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House of wanting to bring about a lesser recoupment and a smaller profit to farmers. But is not the nation entitled to believe that the results of all these millions of pounds ploughed back to rehabilitate the land, to renew it and overcome the neglect of the past, should have brought about improvements resulting in greater efficiency and lower costs?
Is the hon. Member trying to tell the House that the only industry which must be fully protected with high profits, when we are entering a period of world competition and possible recession, is the agricultural industry? Should not farmers be expected to meet that competition by producing more of a higher quality at lower cost? I do not, however, heartily approve of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West was also against a free market in rents. He wants rents to remain fixed, but not on the basis of the true value of what a farm would fetch between a willing landlord and a willing tenant. The hon. Member wants, for the time being, something lower than that. Surely, that would be grossly unfair. It is against all the natural laws. A fundamental test in the acquisition of a farm by any tenant is whether or not he can make money out of it. No landlord would get away with a fantastic rent from a skilled agriculturist like the hon. Member, in Norfolk or in Scotland.
I am a townsman and I am diffident about intervening in a debate on agriculture, but I have the responsibility and the duty to intervene. After being born and bred in a big city I found, when I went up to my ancestral home in Caithness and Sutherland, an impressive quality about the people who live on the land. The quality revealed in landowners, farmers, crofters and farmworkers was quite a revelation, and the more time I spent there the more I saw it. Relations between everyone connected with agriculture in the Highlands of Scotland are very good indeed.
1345 I saw on television the other night my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) being cross-examined by Mr. Mankowitz. My hon. Friend said that he believed in a classless society. The nearest that I have seen to a classless society has been in the Highlands. It is only in the big cities that we get unreal and unnatural values.
The Opposition have made many complaints today, but we have made tremendous progress in agriculture since the days to which the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, referred. As a nation, we have every reason for pride in what has been achieved. I am old enough to remember times which were worse than 1921. I remember 1900, when four emigrant ships leaving the Clyde every week carried whole farming families away because they could not afford to live and work on the land. Those were the hideous days of unrestricted free trade, when produce that we could grow here was being dumped on our shores.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Farms all over the North of Scotland were to let.
Hon. Members should consider the transformation that has taken place by today. I do not know why some hon. Members opposite appear to be amused. I take pride in what has been done to bring about this change, and so should hon. Members opposite. I say with the utmost sincerity that the party opposite has played a great part in bringing about that change. I was a Member of the House during the war, when all hon. Members were on the same side. We should realise that these changes have taken place. I remember the 10s. lambs, about which we heard so much when I fought my first Election in the North of Scotland, in 1950. All that seems to have gone. Now, long-term security for a long-term job has been achieved. It is on that issue, however, that I find fault with the Bill. Britain can never afford to throw away what has been achieved, and what has brought it about.
The Government were wholly justified in reviewing and correcting the two greatest evils, namely, unfair rents and the unfairness of being unable to sell a 1346 farm at a fair market value. In my constituency today, farms are let at rents which were fair in 1904, and they are still let at the same rents. I remember saying to a farmer—a very good farmer—"Why do not you buy your farm?" He said, "Oh, no, I would not think of buying my farm; I am much better off as I am now." I wonder whether he really is better off, because this situation can only lead to a breakdown between landlord and tenant. It is one of the main reasons why the Bill has been introduced. No landlord can continua to accept a 1904 rent and pay 1958 costs.
I have here a letter, which I received today, from one of the most knowledgeable men in the North of Scotland, a man of very great experience, who has been on the administrative side of farming all his life. He says:In effect, the landlord has to pay maintenance to tradesmen at 20s. in the £when, in most cases, the rent £ he is receiving from his tenant is worth about 6s.I cannot put it more forcibly than that. This is not an isolated case. I believe that all the farms in the North of Scotland are let at pre-1939 rents. They may not all be let at 1904 rents, but they are all pre-1939. No landlord can continue to subsidise his tenant. In some cases, as a previous speaker said, the tenant, in return for paying a far too low rent, is doing some of the repairs and making improvements. I support the Bill in its effort to correct these injustices.
I am against, however, the proposed tenure change, which provides that where a farmer dies his son has no right to succeed him. There are now very few leases in Scotland, and the usual system of farm tenure is called tacit relocation, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), and under which the farms are let upon a yearly basis. Under this system, when a farmer who has an adult son dies, that son succeeds him. Under the provisions of the Bill, however, if the owner so desires he may give the son immediate notice, in which case he must leave within a year. If the father is a leaseholder, and the lease still has some years to run, the son will be allowed to continue until the lease expires, but then he may have to go.
That is wrong. I regard farming as a family job. Who created the farms? The landlords did not do so; it was 1347 the people—the men, women and children who cleared the stones and boulders and levelled the land. They did a backbreaking job on rather low wages. The descendants of those people are the farmers of today. I visit many farms, because I enjoy doing so. I am only one generation removed from the land. Not all Members of Parliament are far from the land. When I visit these farms, I see the farmer, his wife and their children all working on the farm.
I am not attracted by the plea put forward on behalf of the second sons by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), who is very knowledgeable on the subject. In Scotland, second sons and third sons have always been able to look after themselves. But I am against this provision, and I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Joint Under-Secretary to give very serious consideration to this aspect of the problem.
This is a common grievance among farmers in the North of Scotland. They are shaken at the prospect. They have put everything they had into farming, and have been successful, in spite of penal freight rates. They have made a profitable job out of it. But they are very disturbed at the thought that their sons may not be allowed to succeed them, and that whole families may be turned out. I am in favour of a free market, but I appeal to my right hon. Friend, if he wants more flexibility—I think that was the word used—in order that young blood may come into the industry, to create more farms. One half of Scotland consists of the Highland area. It lost thousands of acres in the bad dumping days.
§ Sir D. Robertson
No; not bad landlords. Thousands of acres have gone back to moorland, not because of bad landlords, but because of unrestricted free trade.
§ Sir D. Robertson
The hon. Member will be talking about the Bank Rate next.
During the war, air pictures were taken of all parts of the country, and I have 1348 seen scores of these pictures. In the pictures of the Highlands it is possible to see, through the heather, the marks of the plough. Successive Governments of both parties have failed to carry out land reclamation. I do not know one landowner in my constituency who has reclaimed an acre of land. I like sport, when I have the time for it and can afford it, but I think that the great sporting estates have put up a very bad show. The county agricultural executive committees have done a very good job in gently supervising and controlling farmers, but they have failed lamentably in supervising the large estates, whose owners want to see deer instead of cattle beasts, sheep and human beings.
There is a great field of energy there for the Government, or any other Government that may be in power. There has been a lamentable failure to reclaim land which was once fertile. It will take effort and money, but in this age, with all the miracles that have been performed since 1939 in science, machinery and the availability of labour, it should be possible.
We have labour available. In my constituency the unemployment figure is 7.2 per cent, and it would be far better if those who were out of work were put to work creating farms. They might not return a fraction of 1 per cent. dividend for the first ten years, but they would be a fine national investment. If the Government want flexibility, let them have it in that way. We can no longer continue to live on the fat of our grandfathers.
I can tell my right hon. Friend—with complete certainty that what I am saying is true—that in Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire and Argyllshire, how often one sees a solitary farm that has been carved out of a hill that could carry many more. Every time I cross the Ord, going North, I look down on the attractive farm on Langwell, where the Prime Minister had a few days' well-earned relaxation last year. Langwell is in the parish of Latheron, the most densely populated of the northern parishes until a century ago. There were many people there then, but one hardly sees anybody now. This lovely farm seems to be unique.
My two counties once carried about 100,000 people, when the population of 1349 Scotland was about one-third of what it is today, when there are only 13,000 people in Sutherland. There were all those people there in that area, with the sea on three sides. Surely the main call now, if we are looking for greater productivity and more food, is to give better chances for good and up-and-coming farmers—the kind of people that Britain cannot afford to lose.
I shall not vote against this Bill. I do not like the lack of security and I do not like the Clause that enables a landlord to say that, if the farmer dies, the family must leave the farm. I do not feel deeply about the county executive committee situation, but I am surprised that they are to be done away with. I hope that my right hon. Friends are not doing it to free the kind of landlord I am referring to, the man who has not reclaimed an acre of land and has refused to sell land of low agricultural value to the Forestry Commission so that the trees may be grown which are so urgently needed by the nation.
I do not think much of such landlords. There may not be many of them. I think that most landlords are very good indeed. But there are some such men who own areas as great as that of a highland parish—thousands of acres. I feel that the Government would be failing in their duty, and the Opposition, too, if they did not help. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come over this side."] I am a staunch Tory and I always will be. I am pleading now for things that are right and which have no political content so far as I am concerned.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not blameless. They failed to do anything for a good many years. This is something which is not one-sided. I know that Governments have many preoccupations and many responsibilities. The trouble is that we have only six Members of Parliament to represent the Highland counties—Orkney and Shetland, Caithness and Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness and the rest. If we had 60 Members of Parliament for the Highlands it would be a different story.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) always convinces the House that he at least sincerely believes every word he 1350 says. The hon. Gentleman believes that he is a staunch Tory and he is very proud of it, although during his speeches he always manages to say many things with which hon. Members on this side of the House can agree. He put in a plea for measures to get rid of unemployment and mentioned that 7.2 per cent. of the people in his constituency were unemployed. It is obvious, however, that there is no reference to such measures in this Bill. If anything, the Bill will make it even more difficult to find employment for that 7.2 per cent. of his constituents. The only way in which such a fine investment as the hon. Member referred to might be made would be by public investment in the land of the kind that hon. Members on this side of the House have advocated.
I said that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland always believed everything he said to be true, but tonight his memory, on occasions, was not quite accurate, particularly when he referred to the period of the 1930's and said that his own party did a great deal then for agriculture. I need only remind the hon. Gentleman that shortly before the war the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when dealing with expenditure on agriculture, said "What fools we should look if war did not come." That was scarcely an example of a great deal being done for agriculture by the party opposite before the war.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) described the Bill as a betrayal of the farming industry, which it certainly is. He also described it as having the hall-mark of the doctrinaire blindness of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not think it has the hall-mark of blindness. I believe that hon. Members opposite have known just what they intended to do about farming ever since 1947. What they wanted to ensure was that other people did not see what they were doing and in that respect, judging from the rural election results from 1950 to 1955, they have been successful. Had the farming community really seen the trend of the policy of the party opposite, I think that those election results would have been very different. The anger among the farming community over this Bill, and the position of the Government regarding agriculture, would have been apparent very much sooner.
1351 The position of the Government today is no surprise to those of us who were in this House in 1945, particularly those who served on the Standing Committee which dealt with the 1947 Act. We could not be deceived about the attitude towards agriculture adopted by the party opposite. Yesterday the Minister tried to jump on the Labour Party's farm wagon by speaking of the 1947 Act almost as though it were an agreed Measure, one which we had put through together and had administered together. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten what happened over Section 1 of that Act during the discussions in this House. I am sure my hon. Friends have not forgotten that hon. Members opposite, led by the noble Lord, Viscount Crookshank, the former right hon. Member for Gainsborough, voted against Clause 1, which represented the "guts" of the Bill. That, in my view, indicated the attitude of the party opposite at that time, although hon. Members opposite protested that the vote was on a technicality. I believe their behaviour since then has proved what I always thought to be the case, that their objections were fundamental.
Hon. Members opposite do not believe in the kind of agricultural system in which we on this side of the House believe. We know that the prosperity of the land, and increased production and efficiency depend upon stability, a settled policy, security of tenure, guaranteed prices and assured markets. That is exactly what was provided by the 1947 Act. I say that Tory policy always has been, and always will be, opposed to these things. Hon. Members opposite want a free-for-all. This Bill is another example of that, though it is applied in particular to rents and to security and the supervision of bad farmers and estate owners.
The other day the Leader of the House made a speech in which he told his audience that, before the end of this Government, controls of all kinds would be removed. We cannot have stability and a long-term settled policy on the land unless there is a form of control. The best example of that was the kind of control described yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley as self-imposed, self-regulated and 1352 agreed to whole-heartedly by the farming community. The Tory Party wants a free-for-all, with the cards stacked in favour of the big man. They want the advantages to go, not to the people who produce the goods, but to those who move them about. They have made sure that conditions were created so that the producers got less—those who did the hardest and the dirtiest work got less— while those who did the easiest jobs got the most.
Though hon. Members opposite may disagree, I maintain that in effect over recent years they have destroyed Part I of the 1947 Act. I have heard one or two hon. Members opposite say that Part I of the 1947 Act is likely to be threatened; but I say that it is no longer threatened—it has gone. There are no longer guaranteed prices or markets. When hon. Members opposite substituted support prices for guaranteed prices, in effect they did away with the guarantees. It is no use pretending that the support price, when it is finally decided, makes a uniform figure of what each farmer actually gets. Of course it does not. The difference in that part of East Anglia where I farm is that barley of equal quality has commanded prices of between 95s. and 70s. a quarter, which makes a difference of several pounds a ton. That difference is due largely, not to inefficiency, but to accidents of weather or other conditions for which farmers were not responsible.
The guaranteed price has gone. There is no longer any kind of stability. The farmer no longer knows what price to expect. What has happened in the last two months with regard to pigs? There has been a difference of more than 10s. per score for bacon pigs over the last seven weeks, certainly not more than two months. That is a difference of 25 per cent. on the price that the farmers were getting two months ago. What kind of stability or guaranteed market is that? Does not the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland agree that the farmer who is breeding pigs can have no chance of forecasting the price when the pigs are of bacon weight? The price may be 41s. 7d. or 52s. a score. Whether it is one price or the other has nothing to do with the farmer; he has no control over it. I challenge the Minister or any Government supporter to dispute the truth of what I say, that in the examples 1353 I have given the guaranteed price and guaranteed market are no more. For that reason it is true to say that Part I of the Act is no more.
I understood yesterday from the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who is not present now, that most Labour Members did not know the difference between a heifer and a plough. In today's debate, most hon. Members on this side of the House have given at least an indication of knowledge of these matters. I have owned and been responsible for running a small farm for the last thirty-five years, ever since I was a boy. While I do not pretend to very expert knowledge I claim that what I have put forward about the matters I have mentioned is undeniable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye), in a first-class speech, gave reasons why farmers in the National Farmers' Union oppose the Bill. Although my hon. Friend did not use these words, I think his argument could be summed up by saying that farmers have completely lost whatever confidence they have had in the Government's intentions for agriculture. That is what their uneasiness stems from. They do not trust the Government any more. A lot of other people do not trust the Government any more, to judge from by-election results. Farmers have very good reason to mistrust the Government's intentions, because the Tories have run down their industry. Farmers have been making a very great contribution to the national economy for many years. They have achieved a 60 per cent. increase in their contribution. If they had not been loyally and devotedly attached to the Government, the Conservative Party would not be in office and would, economically speaking, have been sunk without trace.
The contribution which the farmers have made to the national economy is mainly responsible for the present Government still being in office, but while profits in industry have been increasing all the time, farmers have been compelled to accept prices which have fallen short of recoupment of increased costs in the last five years by £135 million. In the last three years other sections of the population have had an increased income of 25 per cent., but farmers' incomes have dropped by 8 per cent. They are 1354 the only producing class in the community of whom that can be said.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture said yesterday that the price arrangements of the 1947 Act had been buttressed by the 1957 Act. For how much longer are they to be buttressed? Would anybody like to forecast with confidence that when we hear the details of the Price Review tomorrow prices will not have fallen by 2½ per cent. or by £30 million? I have no knowledge and do not pretend to any prescience in these matters, but the farming community will have backed a winner if it gets any change out of the £30 million loss tomorrow.
That is not the only way of dropping prices and farming incomes. What about altering the grading? No legislation and no regulation would be required; the Government need only make the grading a bit stiffer. Then the poor devil who thought his pigs would get 52s. a score would find that he gets only 45s. or 42s. The Minister may not think that that would happen or is likely to happen but I ask him to take that possibility very seriously indeed. It would be not only a cut of £30 million, which would be legitimate under the 1957 Act, which buttresses the 1947 Act, but a difference in grading of such a character that many small farmers would even be put right out of business.
Another thing that makes farmers very uneasy—my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West touched on this—is the question of how long the subsidies will go on if supervision is ending. Government supporters have assured us that the Bill will make no difference to it. They say that the 1957 Act has buttressed the 1947 prices, which can fall by only 2½ per cent. a year, so farmers have nothing to fear. When the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) came into a television programme one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, discussing the proposals of the Bill, the question of dropping supervision was raised. He said that nothing could justify subsidies if there was no guarantee of efficient farming. Perhaps the hon. Member says things on Sunday which are rather different from the things he says in this House. Only about three weeks ago he was making what might he described as a postprandial statement. 1355 I do not know, but I believe they all have an excellent lunch before these broadcasts.
§ Mr. John Hare
Does the hon. Member think that an inefficient farmer can make a living even under the subsidy system?
§ Mr. Collins
It depends to some extent on the nature of the land he is farming. If the farmer is inefficient to the point where he is not farming his land properly he can be dealt with under the 1947 Act as it exists now, because he will be guilty of inefficient farming. What the right hon. Gentleman is now suggesting, by inference, is that the 2½ per cent. and the £30 million cut to be revealed tomorrow, with the stiffer grading, will by economic means remove the inefficient farmer. That may well be, but in fact it will also remove thousands of poor devils working on marginal farms who are not inefficient, but who are sweating their hearts out to get a living and at the same time doing a very valuable job for the country.
I should not like the right hon. Gentleman to miss one syllable of what his hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire said on television. He said:Nothing could justify subsidies if there was no guarantee of farming efficiency.That is exactly what the farmers themselves are thinking. They are getting—we will not call it a subsidy—assistance in their farming, and it is one of the foundations on which that provision has been accepted that there is an implied guarantee of efficiency, and that the inefficient farmers will be eliminated, though not unfairly and not harshly.
My right hon. Friend, quoted figures of 4,200 farmers who have been placed under supervision, out of whom fewer than 400 have not made good. I am not so much concerned with the comparatively small number of 4,200, but with the far larger number of people who have not been put under supervision, who, because they saw what was going on with other farmers, have brightened up their ideas and are now very much better farmers. I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire; I think that there is every reason to fear these subsidy cuts if the present Government stay in office.
1356 Having destroyed the guaranteed markets and prices, the Government by this Bill are now destroying the safeguards of good husbandry and good estate management. They are doing it deliberately, not, as my right hon. Friend said, out of some kind of doctrinaire blindness, but with their eyes wide open, because they always intended to do it.
I remember in 1948 travelling in Europe with a very important personage who was a member of the National Farmers' Union. He asked me which, in my opinion, of the Conservative Members of Parliament then in the House would or could be the Minister of Agriculture if the Tories were returned to power. I told him that if such a disaster happened, there would be only one person who, in my view, could take that office without disaster to farming, and that was the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale). I always thought I was right. I thought so until this afternoon. I always thought that the right hon. Gentleman was the only one who would resign rather than betray the land. We all know what the party opposite did to him.
When I heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks this afternoon, I recalled that my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley described the Minister as an acrobat. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks has not got the build required for a trapeze artist, but he seemed to me to be guilty of a little mental gymnastics. Apart from him, I know of no one on the other side of the House who would really have stood by the land and would have stood by what we tried to do in the 1947 Act. I think that what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have done since then has proved the point.
The Minister claimed that the Bill would create opportunities for skilled young farmers. What a hope they have got. The right hon. Gentleman is fully aware of the great barriers to young farmers today. They have to have a great deal of capital and they must saddle themselves with a rent which is based not on the ordinary value of the land, but on the vacant possession value of the farm, which must be an inflated value. I do not know if there is the same difference in value as there is with ordinary houses, but we certainly know how much more 1357 valuable is a house with vacant possession compared with a house with a tenant in occupation. If the proportions are anything like the same with farms, we know the way that rents will go, and it is written into this Bill that the value of the farm must have regard to the vacant possession value. I therefore say that the Bill will completely blight whatever hopes any young farmers may have had.
The National Farmers' Union recognised that the 1947 Act made agriculture, for the first time, an integrated part of the national economy, and it accepted the obligation of efficiency as a necessary corollary. By forty-eight counties to one, the Union has opposed the Government's proposals and, to their credit, the landowners have taken the same view. They resent and repudiate the Minister's suggestion that he is doing these things to please them.
The Government have, in fact, prevented the agricultural executive committees from working properly, and now say that they are no good and want to get rid of them. Hon. Members opposite say that that is not the intention, and that there will still be a great deal of work for them to do. Whatever protestations there are from the other side of the House, I say that these committees have done a wonderful job.
On the subject of rents, hon. Members opposite have conjured up the willing landlord, but I should like to hear something more about the willing or satisfied tenant. Some landlords might seek to raise rents with the sole object of securing possession. Personally, I am not opposed to the rents of farms, under proper safeguards, being increased. I think that increased rents could be a production incentive. I think quite honestly that many farms are under-rented, and that a more economic rent could be a compelling urge towards greater efficiency. Indeed, the fixing of an economic rent in relation to the potentialities of the farm and the value of the fixed equipment is a necessary first step towards the public ownership of agricultural land. It would indeed be ironic if one outcome of these fears and sufferings of farmers under this Government should be a demand from the farmers themselves for State ownership.
In fact, the great weakness of the system of guaranteed prices is that they must 1358 be arranged at such a level as to keep the marginal farmer in production, and nothing in this Bill will cure that. Landlords everywhere will seek to increase rents on good and bad farms alike; and on bad farms the position will become impossible, because the proposed machinery for compelling the landlord to observe the rules of good estate management is so cumbrous, and, for ordinary farmers, so costly, that it will not be used. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the farmer's only alternative will be to scratch a living as best he can and to discharge any labour which he can possibly do without, by farming at the lowest possible level.
If I am right, such a policy can have only one result. Home production will suffer a decline, with a consequent increase in our balance of payments problem, because we shall have to import more food. I believe that the party opposite, by this and other measures, will return the land, our greatest asset, to the condition in which it was in the 'thirties —the condition from which it was rescued by the war and by the post-war policy pursued by the Labour Party, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley. I think that, in fact, the wheel has come full circle, and I say that we shall fight the Bill for all we are worth.
I hope, and confidently believe, that when they get the opportunity the electors of this country, particularly in the rural areas, will put some new spokes in the Tory wheel. I do not believe that right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches will be there as a Government very much longer, but that we shall very soon have the opportunity to stop the decline that has been going on and to start to build up agriculture again.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) will not expect me, at this stage, to cover the wide field he has traversed in raising such questions as the Price Review. I want to be very brief in my speech and deal with matters in the Bill, as I know that other hon. Members are anxious to take part in the debate.
I represent a Highland constituency in which there are many different types of farming and where probably there are 1359 the most independent people in Britain. On the east coast there is a good narrow fringe of arable land and further to the west there are great glens and deer forests. There is no doubt that in that area farmers have played their part in increasing efficiency and agricultural production, and have taken full advantage of the legislation which has been passed since the war.
I wish to make my remarks as general as possible on this Second Reading. I think all will agree that the 1957 Act promoted the well-being of agriculture. I agree with the Minister, who said that it enshrined and buttressed the guarantees introduced by the 1947 Act. I think that all hon. Members agree that we must give farmers special support. I certainly welcome the ending of compulsory dispossessions and supervision. Farmers may have put up with that in the past, but all free-minded people must agree that close Government supervision is repugnant to the majority of people.
§ Mr. MacLeod
There is no doubt that the general tenor of speeches from the Opposition has been that we must keep these compulsory powers or we shall not get full efficiency from the agricultural community. I do not believe that that is the case at all. I do not want to go over the arguments. They were put very cogently by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen).
On the question of rents, I think that most people agree that owners of agricultural property should get a fair return for their investment. The words in Clause 2 are reasonable in principle. The legal wording has been questioned. The Clause says that… the rent properly payable in respect of a holding shall be the rent at which, …the holding might reasonably be expected to be let in the open market by a willing landlord, …".It seems fair enough and, in my opinion, the instructions to be given to arbitrators are a good thing. Surely many people would agree that the system of landlord and tenant should 1360 remain in existence. It has been pointed out that the question of rents is considered in the Price Review.
I admit quite freely that in the case of Scotland the question of security of tenure did disturb me. This is referred to particularly in Clause 6. Security of tenure is cherished more dearly in Scotland than I think it is in England. Certainly that is so in a crofting constituency like mine. We are not now dealing with crofts. Perhaps that is just as well, but legislation passed in relation to crofters will prove a good thing for development of agricultural areas in the North. Crofts are recognised as good training ground for further agricultural development.
I am sure that efficient and progressive farmers will agree that the system of landlord and tenant should remain. Quite a number of people believe that today the system is breaking down because of the rigidity of tenure. Although I agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) that owner-occupiership is the best thing that can be carried out and that thereby a man has his own capital and life in the land, surely that does not deny the fact that in circumstances which will exist for some time to come we must maintain the system of landlord and tenant.
I had some misgivings about Clause 6, but, on reflection, I think that was the best compromise which could be arrived at. There is, after all, security of tenure for the sitting tenant. It would be a very foolish landlord who would turn out someone who was farming well and efficiently. If he did there would have to be very exceptional circumstances.
I wish to refer to one point which was dealt with indirectly by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). The First Schedule says:Section thirty-six (which relates to special directions as to stocking of deer forests and grouse moors) shall cease to have effect.Like many other people in the North, I enjoy sport. There are many landowners in the North who enjoy their sport, but still make good use of the land in their areas. I cannot quite believe what my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland said. I have constituents who have reclaimed many acres of forest land. A lot of nonsense 1361 has been talked in the past about deer forests. There is some land in deer forests which will feed nothing but deer, and that very poorly.
I believe that legislation must be introduced in respect of deer control. Interesting experiments have also been taking place in fertilisation methods in Scotland. With modern drainage and fertilising, using modern methods, such as fertilising from the air, much of this land can be brought back into production. I hope that the Minister will watch the position and will give all the encouragement he can to bring a lot of that land back into production. Landlords have certainly played their part, but there is still much to be done.
Under present day conditions I believe that the Bill will improve the partnership between the State, the landlord, the tenant and the consumer. We all hope that it will benefit those who carry on the great and essential work of agriculture.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
As I understand the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod), he wishes to convey to us the fact that he does not understand very much of the Bill and that what he does understand he does not much like, but that, after two somewhat wearisome days, he has done his duty to his constituents. I am sure we all hope that they will be grateful.
This is an odd sort of Bill. Its leading feature is that it is a Bill that nobody wants. The National Farmers' Union does not want it, the Country Landowners' Association does not want it, and the workers, who were not even told about it or consulted, very much disliked it when they saw it. Indeed, it is a unique triumph for the man in Whitehall. He is the only chap who wants it. When we have a parade through the Lobbies tonight it will be a parade of hon. Members opposite in favour of the proposition, but against all the opinion of the industry, that it is the man in Whitehall who knows best.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
May I put the hon. and learned Member right in what he said about the Country Landowners' Association? He has not brought himself up to date. The Association's latest statement is, 1362…the C.L.A. has decided that from the point of view of landownership, it would be unreasonable to oppose Clause 1 of the Bill.
§ Mr. Paget
I agree that it was odd to find the Country Landowners' Association in opposition to the Conservative Party. Right up to the last moment the Association was in opposition to the Conservative Party, and I congratulate hon. Members opposite because, if they have had no other triumph, at least they have kicked the landlords into line.
This is an odd Bill for another reason. Clause 2 provides that the basis of rent arbitration shall be the rent at which itmight reasonably be expected to be let in the open market.On this the Minister of Agriculture has ventured to give us two interpretations. I refer to col. 1122 of yesterday's HANSARD. I quote:The words 'reasonable' and 'willing' are used to avoid any risk that arbitrators will take account of freak or fancy rents …The odd point about that is that the word "reasonable" is not used. The words which are used are what "might reasonably be expected". Even the most unreasonable of landlords might have reasonable expectations of the market.
The Minister went on to say:Accordingly, the rent fixed on this formula will be a fair rent which would be offered by a steady and responsible farmer to whom a willing landlord would be ready to entrust the cultivation of his land. I hope that this will clear up certain misconceptions which I have already seen appearing in the Press."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1958; Vol. 584, c. 1122.]That interpretation would be more convincing if the right hon. Gentleman were not by this very Bill putting all question of interpretation outside his power and bringing to an end any influence which he might have on it, because by Clause 5 he no longer appoints the arbitrators.
He no longer has any influence on the principles on which they work. The matter is to be handed over to the lawyers, and I think that the farming community should be warned that his interpretations of this Clause are perfectly worthless. I rather dislike this process of handing to lawyers that which is quite outside their field. We have seen poor old Cohen making a perfect ass of himself by producing a Report on a matter on which he was quite incompetent to hold an opinion, let alone to 1363 express one. We are now being told that lawyers are to make value judgments as to how husbandry is conducted.
What could be more absurd? I heartily dislike this process. My profession is unpopular enough as it is, and its reputation is not improved by lawyers being given jobs wholly outside their competence. But one thing that is reasonably within their competence to decide is this question. My profession is competent to decide the factual question of what a farm may reasonably be expected to let at in the open market.
I think that, as a lawyer, I am in a good deal better position than is the right hon. Gentleman to advise the farming community on how the lawyers will interpret that. The market value is the marginal value. It is the value which the highest bidder will be prepared to give, and it does not matter in the least what the motive of the highest bidder is. If there are a number of men in the market who want farms for tax evasion purposes, who want farms in order to have a convenient expense account, the rent which those gentlemen are prepared to pay is the market value, because that, if there are a number of them in the market, is the rent which may reasonably be expected to be received in the market——
§ Mr. John MacLeodrose——
§ Mr. Paget
No, on this point I am speaking as a lawyer, and I will give way only to a lawyer. I venture to say that this is a matter which, unlike the other matters, the lawyer may be expected to know, and that is how the lawyer interprets words.
I shall not go into details on the Bill, for the very simple reason that they are not very important. I do not suppose that anybody is under the delusion that the Bill will become law. It will die a slow death in Standing Committee. No Government will be lunatic enough to insist on a Bill which has this sort of reception, and which will be opposed as this Measure will be opposed. It will never come to this Chamber again——
§ Mr. Paget
A lot of people wanted the Rent Act, but no one wants this nonsense. Indeed, the only significance of this is 1364 that, curiously enough, it is this Bill, and not much worse, much more noxious things that have been done over a period of time that have at last awakened the N.F.U. to the betrayal that agriculture is suffering. At last, it has scratched its head and asked itself, "You know, when they put up rents, which means that, as an agricultural expense, increases of rent are to be paid by the Chancellor, and when they deny themselves any influence over the efficiency of production, are they really going to continue to underwrite prices, the level of which they have put so entirely out of their control? "The answer is, of course not. At long last the farmers have had the sense to see that they are being betrayed, as they have been betrayed ever since this Government came into power—and not only by this Government, but by all their Conservative predecessors.
Let us see what the 1947 bargain was and what it meant. The 1947 bargain was simply this. We and the farmers agreed, for considerations, that farming should retain its position in the national economy, that it should retain its share of the national income. Of course, the 1947 Act was only a part of that bargain. It was the means whereby that bargain was to be operated. The important thing was how that Act was used, and particularly how it has been used since 1952. During the period of office of the Labour Government we held the bargain. Agriculture retained its share of the national income. Throughout our period of office agriculture's share of the national income was 2.9. Year by year under the Tories it has dropped. Agriculture's share of the national income is now 2.2. More than a quarter of agriculture's slice of the national cake has gone in these four years, in spite of production, in spite of the fact that on efficiency and productivity figures, agriculture has risen from 100 to 140 which is more than twice the average rate in industry.
Therefore, while the rate of increased productivity has doubled the average rate in industry, a quarter of agriculture's share in the national income has gone. On the investment side it has been declining. In fact, this year, when we get the figures, I very much doubt whether agricultural investment will be found even to equal a fair assessment of agricultural depreciation. I think it may become a minus figure this year.
1365 Agriculture has lost 100,000 of its labour force because other industries can offer better terms, being allowed a higher level of profit. I am not going into the economic explanation of why this has happened or why it will inevitably continue to happen. Any hon. Members who are interested in that can read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT of our agriculture debate on 7th May last, when I explained it.
At last the National Farmers' Union has realised what has been happening to this industry. This Bill, as I say, is not the cause. These things have already happened. Merely by defeating this Bill, which the National Farmers' Union will doubtless do with our assistance, will not put right this process of steadily depressing the agricultural industry.
What has really happened? There has been movement towards a free market; a switch from price to subsidy and deficiency payment, and the operation of the 1957 Act which served only to consolidate decline. If ever there was a fraudulent Act it was that one. There is the pretence of a guarantee. Have hon. Gentlemen considered how it really works? It is said to be a guarantee until 1960. Apply the percentage figures and one sees how much would be left in 1960. Is the support of agriculture running at about £300 million? How much would there be left by 1960 if these figures were applied?
By 1960, the wheat subsidy will have disappeared because the guaranteed price will be below world prices. This year, the wool guarantee will have disappeared because wool prices are below world prices. Apply that principle and the whole effectiveness of the guarantee, by applying the percentage reductions for which the Act calls—and, by implication, makes respectable—and one has an instrument for destroying the whole subsidy system. Apply the 2½ per cent. over a period of four years to a farmer earning an income of £500 a year at present. What will the result be in four years, assuming no change in costs? His income of £500 a year will be converted into a loss of £250 a year. That is the sort of security which the 1957 Act gives. Even this assumes level prices. Let us remember that, on to the 2½ per cent. or the 4 per cent., whichever be applied, must be added the depreciation of the currency which takes place.
1366 Is the hope of agriculture really to rest upon the confidence that prices will remain stable? I think it is a slender hope. Look at the record of the Government. We had a violently inflationary Government last year. That was a so-called incentive Budget. By September, they had lost their nerve and launched into a deflationary policy. Hardly had that deflationary policy got under way than they lost their nerve again, and the Chancellor was out. Now where are we going? A slump is developing in America. The Economist, which, it is true, has been wrong on almost every issue about which it has expressed an opinion, is now recommending an inflationary £150 million cut in taxes in the Budget.
Does anybody imagine that, for any period of time, there will be stability in prices? Have we not yet learned enough to know that, if we are to have full employment and a rising production, there must be rising prices? But everything which conies from the inflation has to be added to what the farmers have already lost by the percentage cuts which the 1957 Act envisages. I know that it does not compel them, but it envisages them.
I want to see the 1947 Act operated according to the spirit of the agreement. That is the way we look at it. Prices to farmers ought to be such as to give them a fair and consistent share of the national income. It ought to be done by prices. In war-time there could be ploughing grants, special fertiliser grants, and the rest; it was right and reasonable, in circumstances of shortage, for the Government to use support in order to inflate special areas of production in which there was a shortage.
I do not think that that sort of thing is justified when we are not in shortage. When we are not in shortage, it ought to be a price. The farmer ought to know how to earn that price, whether he earns it by spending money on fertilisers, drains or silos, or anything else. To put subsidies on special production items is simply to try to farm from Whitehall. The price system is the system which ought to be adopted, and prices ought to be so arranged as to give the farmer his share of the national income.
To conclude, I shall say a little on political philosophy, which may be of 1367 information to the National Farmers' Union which has at last woken up to what has been happening to its industry. First, this country is, and always has been, governed by interests. Secondly, within our system interests cannot be protected by a lobby. That is the basic lesson which our trade union movement learned. One can only protect one's interest by having the men here. It is no use having them in the lobby. That is our experience.
As far as the Conservative Party is concerned, the farmers have had it. There is a fundamental conflict of interest between the money and industrial interest and the agricultural interest. Whenever the Tories are in power, we have retrenchment, economy and tax cuts. That means that agriculture has had it. This is not the second betrayal, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) said. The years 1876 and 1900 were worse. Every time since Peel betrayed the party of the countryside this has happened when we have had a Conservative Administration. Agriculture has been destroyed.
I say to the National Farmers' Union, "As far as we are concerned, there is no natural conflict between your interests and ours." There is a coalition of interests which makes the Labour Party. We have the interests of the primary producers at heart. There is only one interest within our ranks which may be in conflict, and that is the Co-operative movement. It has the sense to be here. How different the prospects of the countryside would be if in the next Labour Government—which will have a majority somewhere between 100 and 300 after the next election, whatever the farmers do—we had even thirty farmer Labour Members. If the agricultural community wakes up and puts its interest in the only place where it will be effective to protect, namely, on these benches, there is a chance, although it is doubtful now on either side, of saving the English countryside.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland. North)
I am delighted to follow my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I enjoyed his political dissertation and his forceful and unanswerable indictment of the Government's agricultural policy.
1368 We are now reaching the end of our first two-day debate on agriculture for eleven years. We have had many excellent speeches from both sides of the House, although it seems to me that the logic of argument has stubbornly remained on this side. First, however, I should like to take the opportunity of saying how much we all enjoyed the birthday oration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).
After two days, it is difficult to think of a new point. It might almost seem an offensive exercise of dialectical dexterity, but I shall begin by saying something new. It seems to me that in showing their determination to push this Measure through the Government are acting with constitutional impropriety, certainly according to their own lights.
I am not making a forecast as to the future, but it is quite clear that the Government have lost the confidence of the electorate. If the Government have lost the confidence of the electorate, they, of all people, have argued that there is a constitutional convention to avoid needless controversy. One thing that is quite clear is that the Bill is controversial, and acutely so, and against the wishes of all the articulate sections of the agricultural industry.
This action of the Government is not, however, the arrogance of strength. The Minister is a very nice fellow—I suspect that that is why he has been pushed into the Ministry—but he is not a Napoleon and his predecessor will not be an "iron Chancellor." We know that this is the weakness born of Suez, that the Government are the prisoners of their own reactionary elements and that they have to make this sporadic but constant appeasement to their own extreme Right wing. We know well enough that the Bill did not originate in the Ministry. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary need not look surprised.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)
I am not surprised at anything that the hon. Member says.
§ Mr. Willey
We all know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said about the Arton Wilson Report. He showed quite clearly the Departmental view. The 1369 Bill is simple, straightforward appeasement to the wild men, to the Crichel Downers who hounded out of office the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Sir T. Dugdale), the wild men who treated the right hon. Gentleman, whom we were delighted to hear today, so shabbily that even they ought now to show some remorse.
I recognise that the Minister, with understandable personal prudence, is taking a different course. The hare is hunting with the hounds. Unfortunately, this is the kind of weakness that breeds weakness. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was surprised to find himself so opposed, but, faced with the united opposition of the industry, he was afraid to negotiate.
This is stubbornness born of weakness. Whereas the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor was once stigmatised by the National Farmers' Union as being a cotton-wool wall of indecision, the present Minister is just stubborn, rigid and stiff with fear. He is afraid to talk with representatives of the industry. After all, the National Farmers' Union could not have been more conciliatory about the Franks Report. The right hon. Gentleman has been very unfair to the Union. The Union said at once, in October, that it was willing to accept the Franks Report in relation to supervision orders, although it thoroughly disagreed with the Report. In parentheses, I would say that the Franks Report does not condemn or criticise Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947. The recommendations of the Report were, in that Committee's view, designed to strengthen Part II.
In any case, in the light of the Franks Report and of our experience over the past ten years, and in the light of our own party policy statement on personal freedom, everybody on this side of the House was willing to reconsider and, I hope, possibly strengthen Part II of the 1947 Act. Why was not the right hon. Gentleman willing to talk about these matters with representatives of the industry? I can understand at once the farmers themselves being a little apprehensive. They have had time to reflect about the 1957 Act. Although the Home Secretary talks about doubling the standard of living and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, only the other day, spoke of us as being on the brink of unimagined prosperity, the 1370 farmers have found that as a result of the 1957 Act they are on an escalator and that at each Price Review the Minister barks, "Going down only."
I can understand the farmers being apprehensive because, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton and my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley pointed out, whereas the rest of the community have been able to increase their incomes during the past few years, the farmers have suffered a loss of income over the last six years. At the last Price Review they had an under-recoupment of £24 million. Can the Minister tell us the extent of the under-recoupment this time?
The Minister's argument about the 1957 Act was, at best, a distinction without a difference. It seems to me that as long as the present Government are in office it is only a moderator of decline. Who can quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley in describing all this as bogus? The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks talked about long-term assurance but he had to concede that there was Section 8 of the 1957 Act, and even Section 8 exists in its present form only because of the Opposition. If the farmers have one consolation, however, it is surely that the Conservatives will not be in office in 1960.
Although farmers and the agricultural community were apprehensive, and although they did' not entirely accept the Franks Report, in spite of the National Farmers' Union having been extraordinarily conciliatory, they were all willing to discuss—but the Government refused. Although, in the eyes of everyone, the 1947 Act is a bargain struck by the industry, now that the Government are altering and amending it, they refuse, in panic, to discuss it with the people with whom the bargain was struck. Although the Government's own White Paper talks about consultations with the industry's leaders the Government, nevertheless, have refused to discuss these matters with the industry.
§ Mr. Hare
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to get this wrong. In answer to a Written Question, on 17th March, I said that the National Farmers' Union had declined to take part in a discussion on Part II. It is very unfair to give the impression that the Government refused to consult the Union.
§ Mr. Willey
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his helpful interruption.
The National Farmers' Union declined to discuss the matter only when the Government said that there was nothing to discuss. They said that in anticipation of any such discussion they had taken a decision to repeal Part II. This is absolutely disastrous, because it is another blow to the confidence of the industry. We shall not get a marginal effort out of farmers if they have no confidence. We shall get retrenchment, grassing down, and the rest. I am told that Dan Archer is seriously thinking of giving up farming.
The whole House is aware of the state of the industry. Let me call in aid a newspaper which is certainly not Socialist and, I believe, is not very friendly towards the agriculture industry, namely, the Financial Times. Quite recently it said:The investment resources of the industry—in a period of development—have been seriously depleted. … But the roots of anxiety go deeper. They spring from an awareness that for years now—ever since decontrol —the decisions of government … have been slowly eroding the foundations on which agricultural prosperity rests. New policies are depriving the farmer of his privileged place in the home market—sapping his strength as a stabilising influence on the economy—isolating him as a dependant of the taxpayer and—with the washing away of the disciplinary provisions of the 1947 Act—leaving him aloft on a precarious and soaring structure of subsidies.That is how the Financial Times described his position,aloft on a precarious and soaring structure of subsidies.That is why, today, we are getting a spirit of dependence and opportunism which is already beginning to debilitate the agricultural industry.
§ Mr. Willey
This feeling is aggravated by the present Bill. In this atmosphere, with the farmeraloft on a precarious soaring structure of subsidies",1372 it is absolutely fatal to create the impression that the British agricultural industry is expendable. That is what the Government are doing.
Farmers are realists, They know that despite Viscount Tenby's claim that he would abolish the subsidies they are now running at £300 million a year. Even more remarkable than the Government's failure to attain their own objective is that, at a time when the subsidies have crept back to £300 million a year, prices in the shops have soared, notwithstanding falling world prices. While there is a subsidy element of this magnitude we must pay attention to retail prices. But even more remarkable than that is the fact that while the subsidy has crept up to £300 million a year, farming incomes, at the same time, have fallen dramatically.
As I have said before, this is a thoroughly bad Bill for the taxpayer, for the consumer and for the producer. Farmers are realists by nature. They know, particularly in these circumstances, that if there is a subvention of £300 million of taxpayers' money there ought to be some measure of public control and public accountability. They realise that today the Government are not only repealing Part II of the 1947 Act, but are not making any alternative suggestion about public accountability. They realise what this means; that whatever the Government say—and why should farmers pay any attention to Tory promises?—it means a declaration by the Government that British agriculture is expendable. That is why farmers are concerned and worried.
Everyone who has taken part in this debate appreciates the present difficulties of agriculture. Surely everyone equally appreciates that what is demanded above everything else is a vigorous attack upon rising costs and a concerted and determined effort to reduce them. We have not heard a word about this from the Government during this debate, or from hon. Members on the back benches opposite. Whatever may be the merits of the argument about agricultural rents —it is astonishing that the Government have gone further than the landlords suggested, and of all people the members of the C.L.A. must have been staggered at their proposals—we must have a determined effort to reduce costs.
1373 The argument about rents has been with us for a long time. The C.L.A. was campaigning at the time of the 1957 Act. But we heard nothing from the Government about rents then, and we have not been told why the Government are doing this now without waiting for the report of the Department of Estate Management, at Cambridge, about the level of rents. Whatever the merits of the argument, everyone must recognise that it is of overriding importance that in agriculture, with the aid of the Government, we have a determined effort to reduce costs. But the provisions in Clause 2 can only add to farming costs. That was conceded by the Minister. Incidentally, I do not know how we can attract young farmers to the industry by putting up the rents.
Clause 2 can only accelerate the decline in farm incomes. As the Minister himself said that rents are to be taken into account for the purposes of the Price Review, Clause 2 can only inflate the soaring structure of subsidies and so prejudice the industry. At any rate, we have a recognition of the fact that the taxpayer will not only subsidise town rents through the National Assistance Board, but will subsidise the increase in country rents through the Price Review award.
Even Clause 3 was not agreed by the N.F.U. The N.F.U. still believes that the provisions for security of tenure in the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, do not require amendment. The National Farmers' Union believes that what changes were desirable could have been made through direction.
Even here we have not the agreement of the industry. The Clause was accepted under duress. It appears that by this Clause farmers are to get less security of tenure at a higher rent and that the Minister has again abrogated his responsibility, in his anxiety to avoid any suspicion of public accountability.
§ Mr. Hare
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. I received a letter on 20th February from the National Farmers' Union on the point of security of tenure. It reads as follows:It therefore only remains for me formally to confirm our acceptance of the wording proposed for a revised version of Section 25 (1) and to thank you for the kind tribute you pay in your final paragraph to the Union's negotiators.
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has intervened. I will now tell him the precise statement made by the National Farmers' Union. It is this:This Clause … gives effect to an agreement reached last autumn between the Country Landowners' Association and ourselves. It should be pointed out, however, that our attitude throughout has been (and indeed remains) that what changes were desirable in this section could have been made through administrative directions; but that it was only after the Minister of Agriculture had stated his firm conclusion that a change in the law itself was necessary, and had decided to amend it, that we responded to his final invitation to work out an agreed solution designed to give a change of emphasis to the security of tenure provisions.I cannot make the position any clearer. I can understand the Minister's embarrassment, because the Bill is a wanton provocation to a worried and perplexed industry. The farmers are urged to keep their production costs down—because if they rise they directly impinge upon the farmers' net income—but at this time the Government, by the Bill, have decided deliberately to put up costs.
This Rent Act Government, which shall be remembered as the last Tory Government which deliberately set out to put the clock back, is so determined to make its last pay-off to the landlords that they have flown full in the face of the agricultural industry. They are completely oblivious and callous to the present difficulties which are disturbing this industry.
Why have we had no constructive proposals from the Government to help the farmers to reduce costs? Why have we heard nothing about fertilisers? Is it not the fact that £34 million is syphoned off the agricultural industry by the fertiliser monopoly, and that British farmers are still paying higher prices for fertilisers than are the farmers in Denmark? Why have we not heard anything about cutting down the cost of feeding stuffs, or of implementing the promises of the Government to help farmers about credit? Why have these negotiations broken down?
Why have we had no encouragement to farming co-operatives? Why are the Government cold-shouldering all the efforts of the farmers to provide more co-operative facilities? Why have the Government done nothing about marketing, when the farmers are desperately 1375 anxious to get markets where they will have a fair deal and not find the markets rigged against them? We are not getting a response, because the Government are hidebound by orthodox Tory philosophy. This doctrinaire attitude will be the ruin of the British farmer if the Government remain in office. It is no good talking about open markets, as the Bill does, or about a free market. The essential problem for British agriculture is to ensure to British agricultural production a larger share of the market than it would get on a free market.
This is an extraordinarily difficult problem, but the farmer is not getting any help from the Government. He is not getting a response from the Government, because they are inhibited by the pressures of private interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) talked about the twin pillars we spoke of on both sides of the House when we discussed the Agriculture Bill in 1947—the twin pillars of stability and efficiency. Now, these twin pillars are being undermined by the shifting sands of profits and rents, and these are the guiding priorities of the present Government.
This is a bad Bill, a mischievous Bill, a Bill causing needless controversy, and it is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite getting upset and complaining that my hon. Friends have referred to the Corn Production (Repeal) Act, 1921. This is, in fact, the most controversial agricultural legislation that we have had for a generation. It is sapping and destroying confidence in the farming community. It is speeding the decline of farming incomes. It is disheartening the county executive committees. We have had a couple of obituaries, one from the Minister and one from the Secretary of State for Scotland, but if the Minister wants any advice about this, let him consult the National Farmers' Union.
Because the Union knows that it can speak for the farmers. It would do the hon. Gentleman good to give a little more heed to the views of the N.F.U., because the N.F.U. has said —and it is undeniable—that it will be very difficult to encourage the right sort of people to serve on these committees if this Bill becomes law.
1376 In 1947, the Government and the agricultural industry shook hands on a bargain. Now, without consulting the industry, the Government, remorselessly, step by step, are breaking faith. Last year, we had the Agriculture Act, 1957, and the Government then told the farmers not to worry about the ship because they were providing it with more commodious lifebelts. Now that the Government have begun to knock holes in the ship, the farmers have not only discovered that the water is cold but that the lifebelts are not all they thought they were. In fact, they are guaranteed to sink at the rate of 2½ per cent. per annum.
If we get the Price Review tomorrow, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why we should not have had it yesterday? We know that the determination was reached before yesterday——
§ Mr. Willey
This is the first time that I knew that I could be hypothetical in referring to the past. I understand that the determination has been reached. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that?
§ Mr. Willey
We will see. I notice that the Patronage Secretary is here. I gather that he has advised his right hon. Friend that if the Price Review had been announced yesterday he might have had another revolt on his hands.
I think that, in fairness to the House, if the determination has been reached, we ought to have had an announcement before this debate.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me when the Socialist Party announced a February Price Review other than on a Thursday?
I should need time to reflect upon that, because I do not see what that has to do with my question to the Minister.
§ Mr. Willey
Whether we get the Price Review tomorrow or not, this week is a black week for agriculture. It is a 1377 darkening of the shadow that is hanging over the industry. Farmers with long memories remember that the agricultural industry has been despicably betrayed before. They now recognise that this is another chapter in a second and even greater betrayal.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)
We have had a very full debate, covering two days, and I shall seek to comment as far as I can on the points of substance that have been made. At the outset I must say that I regret very much the speech of the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). More in sorrow than in anger I would tell him that it was not the kind of speech that this House is accustomed to hearing from him. I believe that in retrospect he will regret his speech as being unworthy of one whom we all like to look on as an elder statesman in our agricultural debates.
During the course of my speech, I propose to deal with some of the points he made, but I think all who listened this afternoon will agree that, after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Sir T. Dugdale), there is little, if anything, left of the right hon. Member for Don Valley save his shame and discomfort. The speech of my right hon. Friend was a remarkably good one, which dealt very well and very effectively with the right hon. Member. On the general tenor of the right hon. Member's remarks, I merely say that it is unfortunate that in the whole of his speech he did not put forward a single constructive suggestion, or attempt to address his mind to problems confronting agriculture today. He appeared to be so immersed in the conditions of 1947 as to be unable to realise that the changed circumstances of today have made it necessary to review the legislation of 1947 and bring it up to date.
§ Mr. Godber
No. I have been dealing with the right hon. Member for Don Valley. I will come to the speech of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) later.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has entertained us 1378 well in the last half hour. I do not think one can say more than that about his speech. The hon. Member gave us a quotation from the Financial Times. I am always happy to debate with the hon. Member on his own ground. He gave a quotation from the Financial Times of 24th January. I can give a quotation from the Financial Times of 14th March —very much more recently. In that issue, after discussing in detail the points in this Bill, the article closed as follows:These are all reasonable measures, and not to introduce them would amount to a refusal to learn from experience, and to give the landowner a fairer deal. But another benefit can come from this bill if it goes through in its present form—and it is a timely one.For years now, ever since it was established, the National Agricultural Advisory Service has been hampered in its advisory functions by the ambiguity of the role of adviser. The farmer did not know in what capacity he came—was he a spy, a policeman, informer or friend? Did he come to verify, instruct or carry report? He was a Government man, and came from a Government office and the office was part of a Government machine that had power to put a farmer under supervision, even to take away his farm. This Bill removes these grounds for suspicion. Henceforth, the adviser can be taken at his face value, as a friend. For those who have the often unrewarding task of surmounting the mistrust of the uninstructed in agriculture, as well as for the uninstructed themselves, this can prove the strongest point in favour of a new Bill.That quotation from the Financial Times is more up to date than the hon. Member's. I always seek to be more up to date than the hon. Member.
I believe that the whole House had been looking forward to something more from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North in his winding-up speech on the most interesting topic on which he intervened earlier—the nationalisation of the land. I realise the feelings of nervousness with which hon. Members opposite approach the subject, but after the earlier exchanges I think the hon. Member should have made the position of his party abundantly clear. They have been asked a simple question and we have not had a simple answer. I take it that we shall not get one tonight. It is a pity that hon. Members opposite are not prepared to tell the farmers where they stand at the moment on this issue.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Like so many members of his party, the hon. Member has trotted out this red herring so often that we had better kill it at once. 1379 In 1953 this matter was before an annual conference which turned down the proposal for nationalisation of rented land by over 2 million votes. It has never been in the party proposals since.
§ Mr. Godber
I take it that I am assured that there is no danger in the future of any nationalisation of the land by the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Godber
I know that there are certain words in the Labour Party's rules which make it somewhat embarrassing for hon. Members to say anything more definite about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Deal with the Bill."] I will deal with the Bill, but after the earlier exchanges I thought it only fair to bring these points out. Before I deal with the Bill, I want to take up another point made by the right hon. Member for Don Valley. [HON. MEMBERS: "Deal with the Bill."] I am replying to points made by the right hon. Member for Don Valley. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have gone very wide in this debate and I am entitled to reply to the points which they have made.
Before turning to the Bill I will deal with one point in particular which arose yesterday when the right hon. Gentleman stated that the farmers were let down in 1955. I challenged the right hon. Gentleman at that point and, with his usual agility, he managed to jump from a reference to 1955 and to talk about a reduction in the value of farmers' incomes from 1951 to 1958 in relation to their purchasing power in 1948. He made no further reference to the position in 1955 because he spoke about a period of years beyond that.
The right hon. Gentleman knows, as every hon. Member knows, that by choosing one's base year with care it is possible to make figures prove anything. The right hon. Gentleman also knows, although many hon. Members may not remember, that in 1948 his Government gave what they called an injection of some £40 million into farmers' net incomes which, it was made clear to them, was intended to meet special capital expenditure linked with the emergency plans put into operation by the right hon. Gentleman in August, 1947. The year 1380 1948 was therefore a particularly valuable year for the right hon. Gentleman to choose as his base year. I would say, therefore, that by carefully choosing the base year he has given a distorted view.
His argument was based on actual net income—this is important and it has been referred to by many hon. Members in the course of the debate—which is arrived at each year in the Price Review discussions, and in this case adjusted to the fall in the value of money since 1948. I think that a truer picture is shown by another figure which is also arrived at in the same discussions and which purports to show the spendable income of the farmers as opposed to their net income. The difference between those two is that the net income includes a figure for capital investment by the farmer. On the spendable income figure, adjusted to 1948 values, farmers' incomes have in fact risen by some 12 per cent. from 1948 to 1957. This puts the matter in a different perspective altogether. I do not propose to take it further at the moment because we shortly expect the announcement of the Annual Price Review.
§ Mr. Williams
In the three years 1951–52, 1952–53 and 1953–54 the average net income of farmers was £330 million. For the years 1954–55, 1955–56 and 1956–57 the average net income of farmers was £312 million. In the last three years, therefore, the net income of farmers has fallen in terms of £ notes and has been 6 per cent. lower than in the previous three years.
§ Mr. Godber
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, quoting actual, and not adjusted figures—[Interruption.] It has always been the assumption in these Price Review negotiations that any figures shall be adjusted to normal weather conditions, because farmers always take the risk of the weather. In fact, what I have stated is true. These are agreed figures that have been arrived at over the years, and I have merely tried to put the matter in its proper perspective.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to something else. Referring to what my 1381 right hon. Friend had said, that, in fact, the 1957 Act gave security, he said:There never was a more bogus claim.He went on to say thatIn the nine preceding years the average under-recoupment per annum was about 15 million "—
§ Mr. Godber
Yes—per annum:Under the terms of the 1957 Act the net income of the farming community can be reduced by £30 million per annum …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1958; Vol. 584, c. 1138.]That is what he said. It is perfectly true, but what I want to tell him is that, in fact, the conditions facing the farming community, under whatever Government, of whatever colour, at the present time, are very different from those obtaining in 1947. In 1947, there was an acute world shortage of food, and, indeed, the prices the home farmer was getting were below world prices.
The implementation of the 1947 Act during the whole of the time that hon. Members were in power cost that Government nothing at all. The condition is absolutely different today, when there are vast surpluses in the world, but we are standing by those pledges, and have reinforced them. That is the purpose of the 1957 Act. In today's conditions of over-supply we have reinforced the provisions of the 1947 Act, and it was to that that my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks was referring when he, too, was dealing with this point.
For that reason, there is no question but that the 1957 Act does give a very considerable extra security under existing conditions——
§ Mr. Williams
Would the hon. Gentleman agree—and I will make this as simple as possible—that the figures I stated were strictly accurate? I will not put it higher or lower than that.
§ Mr. Godber
I have already said that, but I have tried to put them in their proper perspective. However, I would say that I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman only once, but he tries to take up every single one of my points.
To come to the Bill—[Interruption.]—I was trying to deal specifically with the points made by right hon. Gentlemen— 1382 it embodies three main issues, and I should like to deal, first, with security of tenure, which is dealt with in Clause 3. I choose this first, because I think that it is undoubtedly the most important provision in the Bill, yet it has not received nearly so much attention from hon. Members opposite as have some other parts of the Bill.
It is most important because, first, the landlord-and-tenant system is, and is likely to remain, the basis of our agriculture. Something over 60 per cent. of our land is still under tenancy. Secondly, the very proper security given to tenants by the 1947 Act has, in practice, proved to be too great, and has had the effect of over-safeguarding the inefficient tenant.
The hon. Member for Workington yesterday did us the honour of quoting from one of our pamphlets. We all much appreciated that, and I should like to respond in similar vein. However, he had to use a pamphlet of 1951—he read the second edition. It was first published, I think, in 1950. I am much more up to date, because I have here a Fabian tract dated February, 1958. It is on land nationalisation, too, so I hope that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North will read it. A certain Mr. John Mackie, who was a Labour candidate at the last Election, said on the subject of security of tenure—I will not develop the nationalisation point—Farmers have got too secure a tenure, and the landlords' powers have been too drastically curtailed, The machinery that was to fill this blank has been found wanting.We have a substantial support for our point of view from this source. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."]
§ Mr. Godber
I should like to, but I really must get on with my speech. I merely call that quotation in aid of what I was saying in relation to security of tenure. The effect of this has been that when farms have become vacant, landlords have tended more and more either to keep them in hand and farm them themselves or to sell them with vacant possession. The energetic young man without sufficient capital to purchase his farm has, therefore, in far too many cases been deprived of the opportunity to start farming on his own. This point has been 1383 made by several hon. Members, but I do not think that its importance has been sufficiently appreciated.
These are facts which must be faced—and they have not been faced by hon. Members opposite—if our system of agriculture is to remain healthy, and no amount of prejudice against landlords by some hon. Members opposite can cover them up. This Bill, while retaining in the main the security given to tenants in the 1947 Act, at the same time makes it possible for landlords to play a more effective part in the running of their estates. It should reduce the artificial scarcity value which encourages sales with vacant possession today and it should enable the energetic young man more easily to obtain a tenancy.
Clause 3 will prove to be much the most important point in the whole of the Bill in its long-term effect. I have always believed that Part III of the 1947 Act embodied the most important new provisions provided by that Act for the long-term benefit of the industry in the security it gave to the good tenant, which made it worth while for him to look after and improve the farm he occupied. In the same way, this Clause, which adjusts that security in the light of ten years' experience of the working of those provisions and seeks to remove the over-rigidity which in practice has emerged, will be of real value to the future health of the industry.
I should like to repeat the congratulations to the leaders of the N.F.U. and the C.L.A. for the statesmanship which they have shown. This Clause has received the general approval of the House. There have been one or two criticisms, but I believe that it is the most important part of the Bill and that it will be shown to be so in its long-term effect.
I now turn to the question of rents, about which we have heard a great deal. In fact, I might say that there has been a great deal of nonsense talked on this subject during the last two days from the benches opposite. It is important to get this matter in its proper perspective.
There has never been rent control in agriculture. The question of rent is covered in Part III of the 1947 Act, in Section 35, and as consolidated in the 1948 Act it appears in Section 8. The 1384 operation of this Section has led to widely varying interpretations of the termwhat rent should be properly payable".In different parts of the country, we have had different interpretations and we have merely taken advantage of this Bill to clarify the position. It is important to remember, too, that the great majority of farm rents are agreed between landlord and tenant, and that only a very small proportion of them come up for arbitration at all.
On the question of the wording of this Clause, to which several of my hon. Friends have referred, my right hon. Friend has already explained that the words follow the precedent of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954. It is certainly not our intention that it should lead to or encourage in any way excessive rents, and I do not think these words could be interpreted by arbitrators in such a way, but we shall be perfectly willing in Committee to consider any suggestions about the precise form of words which are finally to emerge in the Bill.
I should like to state quite categorically that this Clause does not provide for general sweeping increases in rents. It may, indeed it probably will, lead to some increases where existing rents are too low, but I put it quite bluntly to the House that it is not in the interests of good farming in this country for them to be too low. It merely leads to a low standard of maintenance of fixed equipment by the landlord with consequent direct effects on the efficiency of operation of the tenant himself. I come back again to the Fabian tract. In the previous page, after a reference to the benefits said to flow from nationalisation, it is said:Quite apart from this, there is a strong case for an overall increase in rents. If a reasonably equipped farm comes on the market, it will make a rent of up to £5 an acre, and in some cases more, but the average rent for farms in this country is far less than half this. Therefore, if rents were generally increased to an economic level, it would be an added incentive to increase production.There we have a Daniel come to judgment once more.
As regards the point made by the National Farmers' Union, quoted by the right hon. Member for Don Valley and others, in relation to the survey of rents now going on, I merely say that, with the Bill coming forward, it would have 1385 been ridiculous to hold up legislation on this point when there is ample evidence already of the difficulty caused to arbitrators in the interpretation of the phrase.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, since they have said a lot about rents, whether they really say that the open market rent is wrong. I should really like to know, and we have not had it clear yet. One or two hon. Gentlemen have, perhaps, indicated the answer. If they do take that view, then I call in aid what was said by the right hon. Member for Don Valley himself, during the passage of the 1947 Act. Does the right hon. Gentleman repudiate it? This is what he said on 13th March, 1947:We think now that the best basis for an increase in rent is the actual rental value to the tenan.… It is the sort of rent, for instance, that a land owner could get on the open market."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 13th March, 1947; c. 517.]There we have it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends agree with him. Fortified with his support, I will continue.
Frankly, hon. Gentlemen opposite really are doing less than justice to themselves in relation to this particular matter of rent in some of the things they have said. I will remind them of what the right hon. Gentleman provided in his 1947 Act, which I always have by me. In Section 1 there is a part which is often quoted, but it goes on towards the end to say… producing it at minimum prices consistently with proper remuneration and living conditions for farmers and workers in agriculture and an adequate return on capital invested in the industry.That is all we are seeking to do.
§ Mr. Godber
That was on an entirely different subject, as the hon. Member for Workington knows already. If hon. Members opposite stand by that, then they must support this Clause on rents which we have introduced. Of that there can be no question at all.
There are many matters on smaller points which I should have liked to deal with, but I must come to the main issue, the repeal of Part II. I have deliberately left it until last because, in spite of all we have heard about it from hon. Member after hon. Member opposite, I believe 1386 that it is almost the least important part of the whole Bill, in that it merely recognises the changed circumstances of recent years which made these disciplinary powers virtually inoperable, the change from desperate shortage of food, which made it a crime against the nation not to produce every ounce of food possible regardless of cost, to an abundance of supply.
There has been the change in public opinion from a war-time attitude, ready to accept regulation and direction, to one which demands, and rightly demands, freedom of opportunity. There is the change from purchase by the Government of farmers' produce at fixed prices to a free market supported by deficiency payments. Finally, there is the Report of the Franks Committee which called for radical changes in the operation of these powers by A.E.C.s. All these have contributed to make the operation of these harsh disciplinary powers extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is for these reasons that we decided to terminate Part II of the 1947 Act.
I have been told again and again in these two days that the farmers themselves do not want these powers done away with. It is perfectly true that the N.F.U. has opposed repeal, but in the last few months I have spoken to thousands of farmers, some prominent in the N.F.U. and others not so prominent. The only reason that I have discovered for their opposition is that they accepted Part II in 1947 as a quid pro quo for the guarantees in Part I of that Act. That is what hon. Members have been repeating these last two days. I have reminded them that those guarantees have been reinforced and re-enacted in Part I of the 1957 Act without reference to the disciplinary powers, and that the guarantees are given to agriculture in the same way as protection in other forms is given to other industries.
This is not abnormal in any way, because many other countries give support to their agricultural industry without disciplinary powers. I have assured them — and reminded them that others, from the Prime Minister down, have assured them—that we stand by the guarantees so firmly given in the 1957 Act. When I remind them of these things, the only people who continue to doubt are those who say to me, "That is all right as long 1387 as your party is in power; but what will happen if the Socialists get in again? "The opposition to the repeal of Part II is, therefore, due to fear of the right hon. Member for Don Valley and his colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman can clear it away, though, if he is willing to give as unequivocal a promise of the continuation of the guarantees as my right hon. Friend has given. Would he like to give that promise now and so set farmers' minds at rest?
§ Mr. T. Williams
When we are charged with the responsibility for governing agriculture, we shall do the right thing, as we did earlier.
§ Mr. Godber
I somehow thought that the right hon. Gentleman would not be very forthcoming. I now know why his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), who was reported in the Farmer and Stock-breeder last week, was very careful in his words. He said:When the obligations are removed, an excuse to scrap the guarantees could easily be found by a Government concerned with cutting down State support.We know now where we stand on this matter.
I have been asked about the position of owner-occupiers. It is, of course, perfectly true that with the repeal of Part II there will no longer be any sanction against owner-occupiers. However, it is worth reminding hon. Members that, during the ten years of operation of this Act, only 105 owner-occupiers have been dispossessed. Can it be held that it has had such a very great effect? In today's conditions, however, when in the main the price guarantees operate only in relation to produce actually sold off the holding, the really bad owner-occupier who would have been liable to dispossession will get little help from the Exchequer, and his own inefficiency will force him to give up his holding. It is questionable how many of the 105 I have mentioned would not have already had to give up for other reasons even if Part II had not been used.
Let us take a case in point which has been used quite a lot, the case of Lady Garbett. I have calculated that from start to finish about 4,000 hours of official 1388 time were spent in handling the different aspects of this case, apart from the time spent in farming the land after the Minister had taken possession of it. What happened in the end? The mortgagees applied for an order to sell the land. This was nothing to do with the Ministry's powers. Is not it reasonable to assume that this would have happened in any case, perhaps sooner rather than later, if Part II had never existed at all? The officials who were formerly called upon to administer these powers are now actively engaged in dealing with proposals under the Farm Improvement Scheme. What a far more valuable outlet for their energies and professional skill that is!
In the course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman referred to my reply in the House on 10th December, that county agricultural executive committees had been advised in recent years that the disciplinary powers should be used only in really bad cases. He then accused the Government of not trying to operate them at all. My right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks, dealt with this fully and conclusively this afternoon. He pointed out that he himself used these powers more than any other Minister. The figures for 1951 onwards are revealing. In 1951, there were 771 new supervision orders. In 1952, after the new drive by my right hon. Friend, they increased to 998, but, in spite of his efforts to make the Scheme work, they fell in 1953 to 543 and in 1954 to 236.
Why did those numbers fall off subsequently? It was for the practical reasons that my right hon. Friend has so forcibly outlined today. Experience was showing that those complicated procedures were doing more harm than good and were increasingly out of tune with the spirit and the needs of the times. It is also important to remember that the fear of the use of these powers has made many of our less effective farmers hesitate to avail themselves of the advice of N.A.A.S. I gave a quotation earlier from the Financial Times which dealt adequately with that point.
I realise the feeling of the right hon. Member for Don Valley on this subject. After all, it was he who put these powers on the Statute Book. I do not wish to detract—nor, I think, would any of my hon. Friends—in any way from the right hon. Gentleman's achievement in the 1947 1389 Act. I ask him seriously, however, after his outburst of yesterday—he has got it out of his system—to look dispassionately at the position after ten years of experience of his Act and to realise that the action that we are now taking is bringing the legislation on agriculture up to date in the light of present-day circumstances. That is the way in which to look at it.
I should like to have dealt with many more of the points that have arisen. In particular, we have had from hon. Members opposite a lot of comments on the Franks Report which have surprised me. I was surprised to find how little interest so many of them apparently took in the rights of the individual in these matters; but I am sure that the country will note that and will note where the individual is to be protected. It was interesting to note that at least we have the support of the Liberal Party on this matter.
The Bill, following so closely on the Act of 1957, shows the determination of
§ the Government to ensure a healthy agricultural industry in which all sections—workers, tenants, owner-occupiers and landlords—can play their proper part as free men in a free economy. This is the first legislation on agriculture in recent years which has aroused party controversy. I regret that it should have done so, for British agriculture is too important for the nation, both on economic and on social grounds, to be a matter of bitter dispute between us.
No single one of the arguments advanced against the Bill can be supported or sustained and I call on hon. Members opposite, even at this late stage, to withdraw their opposition to the Bill If they do not, we shall know that they go into the Lobby tonight solely on doctrinaire grounds and not out of any consideration for the real health and wellbeing of this great industry.
§ Question put: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 317, Noes 252.1393
|Division No. 72.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Campbell, Sir David||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Carr, Robert||Gammans, Lady|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Channon, Sir Henry||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Gibson-Watt, D.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Glover, D.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Cole, Norman||Glyn, Col. Richard H.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Godber, J. B.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Cooke, Robert||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan|
|Ashton, H.||Cooper, A. E.||Goodhart, Philip|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Gower, H. R.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Grant, W. (Woodside)|
|Balniel, Lord||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)|
|Barber, Anthony||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Green, A.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Crowdar,Petre(Ruislip—Northwood)||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Barter, John||Currle, G. B. H.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Davidson, Viscountess||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Davies,Rt.Hon.Clement(Montgomery)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Gurden, Harold|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Deedes, W. F.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Drayson, G. B.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)|
|Bingham, R. M.||du Cann, E. D. L.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Duncan, Sir James||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Black, C. W.||Duthie, W. S.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Body, R. F.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne.N.)||Hay, John|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Errington, Sir Eric||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Erroll, F. J.||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James|
|Braine, B. R.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Fell, A.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Finlay, Graeme||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Fisher, Nigel||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Bryan, P.||Fort, R.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E,||Foster, John||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hobson,john(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A. (Saffron Walden)||Freeth, Denzil||Holt, A. F.|
|Hope, Lord John||Macleod, Rt, Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Hornby, R. P.||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Russell, R. S.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Macmillan,Rt.Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Maddan, Martin||Shepherd, William|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral, J.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Hurd, A. R.||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Speir, R. M.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'bgh, S.)||Marshall, Douglas||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.)||Mathew, R.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kes'gt'n, S.)|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Maude, Angus||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt- Hon. Sir Harry||Mawby, R. L.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Storey, S.|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Nairn, D. L. S.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Neave, Airey||Teeling, W.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Temple, John M.|
|Kaberry, D.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Keegan, D.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Kimball, M.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Kirk, P. M.||Osborne, C.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Lagden, G. W.||Page, R. G.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Partridge, E.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Peel, W. J.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Leavey, J. A.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Leburn, W. G.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pitman, I. J.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Pott, H. P.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wall, Patrick|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(Sutton Coldfield)||Profumo, J. D.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Ramsden, J. E.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Longden, Gilbert||Redmayne, M.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Renton, D. L. M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Rippon, A. G. F.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Robertson, Sir David||Woollam, John Victor|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Robson Brown, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oaksbott.|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Blyton, W. R.||Champion, A. J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Boardman, H.||Chapman, W. D.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Chetwynd, G. R.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Clunie, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bowles, F. G.||Coldrick, W.|
|Anderson, Frank||Boyd, T. C.||Coliick, P. H. (Birkenhead)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Collins,V.J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Brookway, A. F.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Baird, J.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Cove, W. G.|
|Balfour, A.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Craddook, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Bellenger, Rt, Hon, F. J.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Cronin, J. D.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Burke, W. A.||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Burton, Miss F. E.||Cullen, Mrs. A.|
|Benson, Sir George||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Beswiok, Frank||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Callaghan, L, J.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Carmichael, J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Deer, G.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lawson, G. M.||Randall, H. E.|
|Diamond, John||Ledger, R. J.||Rankin, John|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Reeves, J.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Reid, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rhodes, H.|
|Dye, S.||Lewis, Arthur||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lindgren, G. S.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Edelman, M.||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Logan, D. G.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Royle, C.|
|Edwards Robert (Bilston)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E,|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McCann, J.||Short, E. W.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacColl, J. E.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacDermot, Niall||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Finch, H. J,||McGhee, H. G.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Molnnes, J.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McLeavy, Frank||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Gibson, C. W.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Snow, J. W.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mahon, Simon||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Steele, T.|
|Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Stonehouse, John|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mason, Roy||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hannan, W.||Mellish, R. J.||Stross, Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on. Trent, C.)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Messer, Sir F.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hastings, S.||Mikardo, Ian||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Healey, Denis||Monslow, W.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morrison, Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Mort, D. L.||Thornton, E.|
|Holman, P.||Moss, R.||Timmons, J.|
|Holmes, Horace||Moyle, A.||Tomney, F.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mulley, F. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Weitzman, D.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Oliver, G. H.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, A. E.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Orbach, M.||West, D. G.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oswald, T.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Owen, W. J.||White, Mrs. Elrene (E. Fint)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Paget, R. T.||Wigg, George|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B,|
|Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Willey, Frederick|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.)||Parglter, G. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. (T. 'Don Valley)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Parker, J.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Paton, John||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A.Creech (Wakefield)||Peart, T. F.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Pentland, N.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Prentice, R. E.||Woof, R. E.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Kenyon, C.||Probert, A. R.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Proctor, W. T.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Pryde, D. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson|
|Bill accordingly read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).|