HC Deb 21 January 1959 vol 598 cc206-29

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Williams (Don Valley)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, at the end to insert: Provided that where an application under the scheme is made jointly by several persons and the Minister is satisfied such persons will carry out their trades or businesses by co-operating in a manner approved by the Minister such trades or businesses shall be deemed to be a single farm for the purposes of the scheme. In Committee, the right hon. Gentleman was very sympathetic towards a similar Amendment which we then moved. Neither he nor we were satisfied whether or not the Bill gave effect to the point we had in mind, and we are giving him another opportunity to tell us whether he thinks that the terms of the Bill will allow co-operation and amalgamation schemes to qualify as single farm business schemes.

It might be as well to let hon. Members on both sides of the House know why we feel that the Amendment is necessary. Paragraph 18 of the White Paper states that in the United Kingdom there are about 500,000 holdings varying in size from one acre up to the largest, and that of those 500,000 about 300,000 are what could be termed farm businesses. It further states that of those 300,000 about two-thirds will fail to qualify, either because of their size or because of their efficiency; that of the remainder about 65,000 comparatively small farms, of between 20 and 100 acres, may qualify for a grant for a farm business, and that a further 25,000 would probably qualify for some sort of income under the supplementary scheme.

That deals with 300,000 out of the 500,000 holdings, leaving about 200,000 smaller holdings—some of them part-time and some hobby farms, or whatever they may be called—which are not likely to qualify under either one or the other of these schemes. We are anxious that, where it should be possible for two or more small adjoining units to be able to co-operate or amalgamate, these two or three units, if they do amalgamate, should qualify for a grant under the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman told us that it was a difficult Bill, and we agree with him. We know that there are borderline cases whatever size of unit may be fixed. Whether it be 20 acres as the limit downwards or 100 acres as the limit upwards, whether it is 250 man-days per year, 275 man-days or whatever it is, there will be some above and some below, and we do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for that. What we are anxious about is that 200,000, or a very large portion of the 200,000, will not only not be able to benefit in any sense under the terms of this Bill, but will actually have to contribute to the 65,000 who do benefit, if that number actually does qualify for farm business schemes.

We think, therefore—because the right hon. Gentleman, as well as we ourselves, disagrees with compulsory amalgamations —that we ought not to miss an opportunity of encouraging co-operation or amalgamation wherever that should be possible, and this seems to me to be possibly the best chance of amalgamating a number of small units which we have had for a long time.

I wish now to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee. On 2nd December, 1958, in col. 104, the right hon. Gentleman said: There is nothing at all, under the Bill as drafted or the intention I have in mind, to prevent a number of people—one or two or even three—coming together to work out a joint plan and, so to speak, amalgamating those two or three farms for the purpose of farming under one common plan and qualifying under the small fanners scheme. It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman is not unsympathetic to the idea. It is clear that he has been advised that, under the terms of the Bill as it now stands, co-operation and amalgamation could qualify for a grant, but, in the next column of the OFFICIAL REPORT to that from which I have just quoted, the right hon. Gentleman said that he saw nothing in the Bill that would prevent amalgamations of that kind. In the following column, the right hon. Gentleman argued that the word "person" for this purpose means "persons". Probably, his advisers were right; I do not know. Finally, in column 116, the right hon. Gentleman said: This has been a useful discussion, and I will see whether or not what I have said is correct, that the Bill carries out that intention. If I am satisfied that it does as drafted, I will say so at a later stage. I am sure that hon. Members would not wish to repeat something which is already in the Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing Committee A,2nd December, 1958; c. 104 and 116.] I move this Amendment to give the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity of persuading us that his intention—and we give him full credit for it—as well as ours, is to provide the necessary encouragement, and let it be known that the encouragement is there, for such co-operation and amalgamation as may take place under the terms of the Bill. I do not think that this is the best Bill in the world, but, for what it is, at least we ought to make the best of it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, therefore, tell us what further information he has and whether or not it would not be better to include in the Bill the words proposed by the Amendment, so that all and sundry would see not only what the intentions of the Minister were, but also, perhaps, how their friends, relatives or neighbours could benefit as a result of the Bill.

I hope it will not be forgotten by any hon. Member that there are 200,000 occupants of small areas of land—maybe part-time, maybe hobby farms, or what we will—who, in the interests of food production and of reducing the hostility which is bound to face the Minister, no matter how many pats on the back he may receive from the 65,000 who benefit —he will not get any from the 150,000 who get nothing, but who will have to contribute to the other 65,000 who do benefit—should be able to see clearly that that intention is embodied in the Bill and will be faithfully carried out when the scheme arrives, and that ultimately nobody will be disappointed in carrying out these amalgamations, but that the opportunity is provided for them if they wish to do so.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for giving me this chance of repeating the assurance which I gave in Committee, and I am glad to be able to inform the Committee that what I said upstairs was correct—that the word "person" means "persons". In fact, the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman and right hon. and hon. Members on that side of the Committee wanted, and which my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side also want, will be effected by the Bill as drafted now. It will do precisely what the right hon. Gentleman wants. It will enable two or three farmers, if they wish, to combine their businesses to form a single farm business, and, as long as they qualify within the standards laid down of minimum acreage and the upper limit of 450 standard man-days, they will qualify within the general compass of the scheme.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? He will remember that in Committee we quoted the case of Lord Stonehaven, who has 20 farms. How does that statement cover his case?

Mr. Hare

This is hardly amalgamation, but if Lord Stonehaven, or anybody else, had two or three small farms, so long as they did not exceed the 450 standard man-days, and they were to be amalgamated, they would qualify under the Bill as it now stands.

I think that, although obviously the number of such amalgamated units will be limited by what I have just said about standard man-days, it will form an important by-product in that it will create a number of voluntary amalgamations, which I believe right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee want to see.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

Will the Minister say whether such an amalgamation will make it necessary for there to be a legal partnership agreement?

Mr. Hare

I should say that it would probably be wiser to have a legal partnership, but the two or three parties concerned would have to satisfy my officials that that was their intention, and that they were, in fact, going to carry out these two or three businesses as one single unit.

There is another point which I should like to make about another form of cooperation that can be encouraged under the Bill. It is my hope that neighbouring small farmers, each preparing programmes for improvements in their farm businesses, may find that they need, as part of their programme, to share in some rather expensive equipment. If they wish to do that, I would hope that they would get together and form a machinery syndicate; and here the farm business grant would help them to find their share of the cost of that machinery syndicate. This might well be an economical way of improving the farming business. My advisory officers are being instructed to advise on any proposals of that sort which come forward as part of a small farm improvement programme.

4.0 p.m.

To set out what Members on both sides of the Committee felt about this matter I issued only last week a new pamphlet for circulation to all fanners. I explain in paragraphs 27 and 29 of it the form of part-time farming, partnerships and co-operation. I hope it will make clear any doubts there may be in our debates. I appreciate that these points were brought forward as the result of our very useful Committee discussions.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

Will copies of the document be available in the Vote Office to hon. Members?

Mr. Hare

The pamphlets are being sent out to farmers, but I shall be very pleased to make copies of them available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Fletcher

It is difficult for hon. Members to follow what is happening unless we can see whether the instructions sent out to farmers correspond with the terms of the Bill.

Mr. Hare

I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to be discourteous in any way. I am now reaffirming that all the things I said in Committee—of which the hon. Gentleman was not a member—were correct. The pamphlet is a further piece of assistance to farmers to show that what was said in Committee can be interpreted in the normal way by recipients under the scheme.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment could be withdrawn. I do not think it is in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that we should go wider than I have suggested. It would be wrong for us to accept applications from groups of farmers who are co-operating in certain matters but have not put all their farm business into a common pool. I gave instances in Committee of two or three men joining together and running stock on a pool basis, but still carrying on other work as individuals. There would be danger in that, because it would break the principle of our scheme, which is to give assistance to viable units. We have described what we mean by "viable".

I would express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman and hope that he might now think fit to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

We should have some explanation from Scottish Ministers about the administration of the Bill in Scotland. The noble Lord the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will remember that I raised this question in the Committee. There was an attempt to clarify the point, but it was not very successful.

We have protested strongly at the way that Scotland is being used as a sort of tin can behind the English dog. Over and over again we have found that Scottish provisions have been incorporated in an English Bill although the law of property in the two countries is in many respects different. I was, therefore, interested to see in today's Scotsmanthat the kind of protest that we have been making all along has powerful support from the Central Federation of Landowners in Scotland.

I do not think that we should allow Scotland to be shoved aside by an explanation from an English Minister on any occasion, when we have a separate Department. I see that the Secretary of State for Scotland is present with powerful reinforcements, which I assure him will be very much needed. We shall attempt to get the Scottish position clarified.

How is the Bill likely to be operated? That question already greatly concerns farmers throughout Scotland. The Bill has been called, and, I think, rightly so, by the organ of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, a "body blow to Scotland". The Amendment proposes that there shall be opportunity for cooperation and agreement among particular farmers who might not otherwise be eligible for grant under the Bill. This applies to my own part of Britain, and especially to the constituency adjoining mine, which is, unfortunately, not at present represented in the House owing to the death, which we all regret very much, of the former Member for Galloway, Mr. Mackie.

There is to be a by-election in that agricultural constituency, and it is interesting to note that farmers there are asking pertinent questions about how the Bill is likely to operate. Why do the Secretary of State and the noble Lord the Joint Under-Secretary of State reject the Amendment? In the recent protest organised by the National Farmers' Union an extremely important speech was made by a farmer in Galloway. That gentleman, Mr. Ian Jennings, is a well-known and representative farmer in that part of Scotland. He cited cases of small farms in his own parish and he estimated that of the 25 marginal farms three would be eligible under the Government's proposals, two were doubtful and 18 were not eligible at all. Mr. Jennings analysed the number of small farms in that corner of Scotland in the Galloway area and came to the conclusion that only one quarter of them would be eligible for grant at all.

If two of those farmers decided to come together and co-operate, and then apply for a grant which they would not get individually, how sympathetic would the noble Lord be towards those applications? The number of farms affected in Galloway is very substantial; could the noble Lord assure us that he would look sympathetically on applications from one, two or three small farmers who would qualify for grant? If he would not do so, he would make the situation in that part of Scotland very difficult indeed. There are special circumstances affecting the south-west corner of Scotland as well as the northern parts. The noble Lord or the Secretary of State should explain why they reject the Amendment.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord John Hope)

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's plea is that I will, of course, look sympathetically at any request that is made to me, as I hope I always do. That does not in the least mean that I am bound to accede to it. The hon. Gentleman is asking me to look sympathetically at any request—that is all he can do—and that I will do. The yardstick laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister applies to partnerships in Scotland as in England. There is no need for me to repeat his arguments, which apply in our case. Galloway can be no exception, because it comes into it just as much as does anywhere else in Scotland.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I understand that the object of this Amendment is to enable more people to get grants. If that be the idea, I am against it. I feel that the fewer people who get these grants the better.

These grants come from the farmers' incomes. We have the Government making grants, not out of their own pockets, but out of the farmers' incomes. Those are capital grants which they recognise as to be so economically worthless that it is no use offering them to the farmers, who will use them as anything except a free gift because they would not dream of being silly enough to accept them as interest-free loans. The staggering thing is that the National Farmers' Union leadership did not seem to tumble to this swindle. Their income is being attacked in order to be compulsorily used for capital grants which could not earn an income, or at least which the recipients did not think would earn a sufficient income, to make it worth while on the basis of an interest-free loan.

The rank and file of the borrowers have at last tumbled to this and they wish to oppose the Bill. I only hope that the Labour Party will not be behind the rank and file of the farmers, but will vote against this Bill on the Third Reading.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I intervene only because this was a matter which was discussed in Committee and I want to take the opportunity of saying to the Minister at once that we recognise that in some measure he has narrowed the gap. Quite frankly, however, I still feel there is a fundamental difference between us. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for calling attention to the circular which is being issued, and which will encourage co-operation. I am obliged to him for the steps he is taking about machinery syndicates, but he will realise that this does not answer the points we are making by this Amendment, because each member of the machinery syndicate will be judged on his own merits as a single farm business.

I recognise, also, that we are agreed about voluntary amalgamations and partnerships. We wish to encourage voluntary amalgamation and we have no objection at all to a development of partnerships among small farmers, but the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this does not really meet the point we made in Standing Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will not, I think, disagree if I say that, to satisfy him, the small farmers would have to merge the whole of their farms into a single business. We said in Standing Committee, and say once again, that we think the Minister should have powers to deal with other forms of co-operation.

I say at once that there is a difference of emphasis between the two sides of the Committee on co-operation in farming. I think that there is a much greater emphasis on co-operation on this side of the Committee. That is why we regard the Amendment as one of substantial importance. I would remind the Minister that it seeks merely to provide him with permissive powers. We are not seeking to place any obligation on his shoulders. We are saying that we recognise the need to endeavour to encourage voluntary amalgamations and to encourage partnerships, but here we are dealing with very rugged individuals who will not easily accept the idea either of amalgamation or partnership.

We believe that the Minister has the opportunity, under the provisions of the Bill, to encourage and to use the services of the N.A.A.S. to encourage co-operation. For that reason, I beg the Minister to accept the Amendment. We give him credit for going so far on the way to meet us, but we feel that this is an important matter and the machinery is provided here for encouraging co-operation. The Minister ought to have discretion to decide in particular cases that the cooperation is sufficient and effective enough to be recognised for the purposes of this Bill.

We have said, and I repeat, that the Bill provides for safeguards and conditions. We ask the Minister to take no more than permissive discretionary powers. I hope, therefore, that as there is no difference of principle but a difference of emphasis, the Minister will accept the Amendment. If he does not accept it, we shall have no alternative but to take the matter to a Division.

Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)

A small point arises out of this debate to which I wish to call attention. As I understand, we have been dealing with the case of two or more small farmers joining together to qualify for this grant. I wish to ask what is allowable in a reverse direction? Suppose a farmer has a much larger farm than is necessary for such a grant and divides it, either with his wife, or his wife and children, or, possibly, as each child attains its majority, he takes off 20, 30 or 50 acres, which is the appropriate size to qualify. Can the farmer fragment his farm among his family or friends in order to qualify?

4.15 p.m.

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

The desirability of some forms of cooperation was mentioned during the Committee stage and I had every hope that the Minister would have carried the matter a little further than he has done today. Even at this late hour I hope he will change his mind about the Amendment. The absence of reference to cooperation in the Bill, earlier, cut out a lot of small men who otherwise would be in a position to qualify. I accept the word of the Minister about the possibilities under the Bill as it stands, but I think he might have another look at the Amendment.

I wish to refer to the document issued by the Ministry. In the section dealing with co-operation, on page 3, that document says: an eligible small farmer who considers that he could increase the efficiency of his farm business if he were able to use an item of machinery or equipment that he could not afford to acquire outright, may well wish to form or to join a co-operative machinery syndicate. That is very encouraging and is the next best thing to accepting the Amendment, but I want to know from the Minister, who will be made responsible for forming the syndicates, who will take charge of the running of the syndicates? It is impossible to expect small farmers to give their time and attention to running syndicates in which money is involved. If the Minister could carry the matter a little further, I should be very much obliged.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

I hope that the Minister will be able to concede this Amendment. He was most courteous to us during the Committee stage. I wish someone had thought of distributing the document referred to through the Vote Office, so that we could have had an intelligent grasp of the Amendment in relation to the latest information sent to farmers. I therefore hope that the Minister will at least send copies of the document to hon. Members of the Committee and, if possible, to all hon. Members.

The Government had an excellent opportunity here of increasing agricultural co-operative associations. The membership of such associations since 1946 has been a staggering demonstration of the desire of small farmers to make their farms economic and viable. The membership in 1946 was 98,765. Last year it was 230,687. That is a terrific growth. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the Amendment he will have a chance of encouraging this kind of cooperation. The turnover of the associations has increased in the same period from £23 million to £129 million. That is a contribution to the country. As has been pointed out, the snag in the Bill is being observed by the farming fraternity.

It will cost £6 million to put the provisions of the Bill into effect. The"64 dollar question" is: where is the original £6 million coming from? It is coming out of the income of the farming fraternity. It is agreed that this £6 million will stimulate another £3 million or £4 million in further grants to small farmers. If we encouraged co-operation I think that the financial burden on the farming fraternity would be less.

It is an interesting fact that in North Staffordshire there are 1,710 small farms of under 20 acres. In my constituency there are nearly 1,340. Those farmers in Leek will get nothing unless there is some kind of co-operation and encouragement in that hill district. How are we to expect them to draw up that co-operation? Those farmers work morning, noon and night and have not the time to work on legal articles of association. So long as the Ministry's inspector or the National Agricultural Advisory Service advises that there is no skulduggery or humbug about an amalgamation, that should be sufficient without legal articles of association. Many of these people would have to hand over money to lawyers—I apologise to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—to obtain those articles of association. The Minister could set an example by allowing association by charter rather than by script.

On the question of amalgamation, we have to protect the Minister of Agriculture as well as the farmer. Could farmer A, living 20 miles away, amalgamate with farmer B? Do the terms of the Bill mean that farms must be contiguous, or reasonably near together, to amalgamate? There may be a farmer with under 20 acres in Lincolnshire who wished to link with his brother who had a small farm in Merionethshire. Protection must be provided against that kind of thing. Consequently, I ask if farms must be contiguous or at a reasonable distance from each other so that machinery and other types of co-operation may be reasonably facilitated? I sincerely hope that the Minister will give this chance of voluntary co-operation by accepting the Amendment.

Mr. E. Fletcher

I have no doubt whatever that if effect is to be given to the intentions which the Minister has expressed, it will be necessary for the Committee to accept this Amendment, for the reasons given by my hon. Friends. I do not believe that the Minister went any way to meet the case that was presented to him in Standing Committee. I was not a member of that Committee, but that was no fault of mine. I think it is useful that it has been decided to recommit this Amendment to a Committee of the whole House because it enables those of us who were not on the Standing Committee to apply our minds to an important matter, and what to me is a puzzling matter in spite of the Minister's explanation.

I am very glad that in the course of his remarks the Minister referred to this document which has been issued by the Ministry. I was a little suspicious when I heard him refer to it, and I have become even more suspicious since I had an opportunity of reading it, thanks to the courtesy of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch). I do not think that the document does what the right hon. Gentleman told the Committee it does. It seems to me to do exactly the reverse. It is important that the Committee should know what this document says. We are asking that there should be written into the terms of the Bill an express specific provision enabling small farm owners who do not qualify for assistance to join together so that they may become eligible to rank for assistance.

We have heard during the course of the Minister's remarks references to some very ambiguous matters. He referred to a partnership, to an association and to a syndicate. If my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) will allow me to say so, I have the greatest sympathy with what he said. It is most undesirable that small farm owners should be subjected to the necessity of getting legal assistance to enable them either to understand the document or to comply with its provisions.

There is an important paragraph in this document which, unfortunately, the Minister did not read to the Committee and it is important that the Committee should know about it. There are two relevant paragraphs, the first one of which is headed "Partnerships" and the next "Co-operation." The paragraph headed "Partnerships" says this: If two or more small farmers have hitherto run separate farm businesses too small to be eligible for assistance, they may form a partnership and in that case an application can be accepted from the partnership in respect of the new combined farm business if that is within the limits of eligibility. No one has any quarrel with that. That is what we would have expected. It is always open to any two small farmers to combine and form a partnership. So far, so good. But that is not what we are concerned with in this Amendment. We are concerned to enable two small farmers, who, for very good reasons, do not want to amalgamate and form a formal partnership, to get the benefit of assistance under the Bill and join together in what the Minister suggested was less than a partnership—namely co-operation.

The document goes on to say this: Forms of co-operation (short of a full partnership) among a group of farmers, each of whom taken individually does not satisfy the conditions of eligibility, cannot make the group as a whole eligible for assistance. Would the Committee have dreamed from what the Minister said that that was the effect of this document? We expect a certain amount of candour in this matter when a Bill of this kind comes back for consideration. The document to which the Minister has referred expressly says that forms of co-operation among two or more farmers not amounting to a full partnership will not make them eligible for assistance. That is the reverse of what he told the Committee upstairs and of what he repeated today.

4.30 p.m.

In order not to be misunderstood, let me read the next paragraph, which qualifies the matter in some way but in a way which is thoroughly unsatisfactory and which makes convincingly the case for this Amendment. That paragraph, which my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North has quoted, reads as follows: But an eligible small farmer who considers that he could increase the efficiency of his farm business if he were able to use an item of machinery or equipment that he could not afford to acquire outright"— which is what we want him to do— may well wish to form or to join a cooperative machinery syndicate. I do not know what a co-operative machinery syndicate is. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) knows what it is.

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)

As I have been named, I do. Long ago, when I was the Member for Ashford, the first combine harvester was bought by a syndicate of farmers none of whom could afford it individually, and they used it in turn.

Mr. Fletcher

I am sure that we are all very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If that is what it means, it is all the more important that this Bill should give statutory provision to it so that farmers may know what is meant. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to appreci- ate, there is no warrant in the Bill as it stands, in the absence of this Amend-ment, to enable the Minister to make a grant for such an undefined group of people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leek said, most farmers reading that paragraph will wonder what a co-operative machinery syndicate means. They will not have any idea how to form one. They will not know who of them is liable to repay the loan, and I am sure that it will lead to a great deal of confusion.

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that a farmer who never reads about the ordinary things which appear in the farming Press, which has been very full of this matter of syndicates lately, is probably not the sort of person who ought to be helped?

Mr. Fletcher

I should have thought he was the sort of person who ought to be helped. I am sorry if it is suggested that because there may be some farmers who have not obtained the degree of literacy of other farmers, they should be deprived of help.

Mr. Corfield

They ought to know what is going on.

Mr. Fletcher

This is an entirely novel doctrine which I am sure most of my hon. Friends would repudiate.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

Would the hon. Gentleman accept my assurance, as one with some understanding of these matters, that the great majority of farmers certainly do understand what is meant by a central machinery pool? Although they may not have taken part in running one, they understand how it operates.

Mr. Fletcher

If the majority of them understand what it means I am sure that there is a minority who do not understand. It is obviously desirable that the benefits of this Bill should be made universal. We are legislating to give the Minister power to do certain things and it is important that we should make express provision for it. The whole burden of the Minister's speech in resisting this Amendment was that he thought it was unnecessary. He thought that he could do what he wanted without this Amendment. He did not give a single reason for his objection to writing the words of the Amendment into the Bill. As has been pointed out, this is merely permissive and I should have thought, to put it at its lowest, that in the interests of good legislation and good administration it is desirable that the Bill should make expressly clear the powers which the Minister intends to use and which we desire him to have.

Mr. Hare

I should like to answer some of the questions which have been raised in this debate. First, I should like to say something about the remarks of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). I can assure him that I have not tried to mislead the Committee on any of these matters. What is true is that there is a difference of opinion, and the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) made that quite clear.

I am not prepared to go as far as the Amendment goes. I made that clear in my previous speech. It is unfair to insinuate that I was trying to induce the Committee to believe that I was going as far as the Amendment intended I should go. I cannot go as far as the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) wants me to go, because—I will repeat this—the whole emphasis of our scheme is upon helping the viable farm unit as a single business. We do not think it right to give help to, say, three farmers, each with non viable farm businesses, merely because those three farmers had agreed to share some but not all of their labour or expenses. I hope it is clear that there is that difference between us.

The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and the hon. Member for Islington, East asked whether lawyers would have to be brought into these partnerships. The answer, as I said in my original reply, is that it is not essential to bring a legal partnership into being. As long as our advisory officers are satisfied that two or three people are determined to run their individual units as one single unit they will give advice. It may be that for their own protection farmers may wish to draw up legal partnerships, but that is not essential.

The hon. Member for Leek also asked how these machinery syndicates would be operated. Again, I do not think we should regard this as complicated. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) has given the answer. If a farmer wants to buy a tractor or a combine harvester, and he has not got enough money, he can combine with wo or three others and they can buy it themselves. We have had a lot of experience of these machinery syndicates, and it is because of that that we would ask our district advisory officers to advise farmers how best to run their little machinery syndicates.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) raised a point about fragmentation and asked whether people could reduce the size of their farms to enable them to benefit from the scheme. This must depend entirely upon the circumstances. If a farmer merely tried to fragment his existing farm so as to come into the scheme and there was no good agricultural purpose for doing so, our advisory service would not accept him as an applicant. If, on the other hand, after a year or so the advisory service thought that it was better in the interests of farming that a unit should become two, I do not say that that unit would not necessarily be considered for the scheme. We have to use the good sense of the men who would be responsible for the scheme.

The difference between the two sides of the Committee is quite clear. I have gone some way towards meeting the right hon. Member for Don Valley and his hon. Friends, but I cannot go as far as they would like me to go.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

I wish to say one or two words relating to Scotland. I am sure that the Secretary of State for Scotland would be the first to agree that the small farmers in Scotland are probably more adversely affected by the Bill than small farmers anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) referred to the small farmers in Galloway. May I ask the Secretary of State whether it is not a fact that there are many hundreds of small farmers in the North of Scotland who are not crofters, and many hundreds in Caithness and Sutherland whose farm units are too small individually to qualify for assistance under Clause 1? These are farms of 2 to 20 acres. These farmers at present enjoy the advantage of M.A.P. grants. They get them now, but they lose them under the Bill in order to make money available to assist those who will benefit under Clause 1.

These hundreds of small farmers are farming the most difficult farmland. They are fanning in the most sparsely populated part of the British Isles and are living in an area where there is constant depopulation and considerable unemployment. I can think of the location of some of the groups of smallholders who are not crofters with 2 to 20 acres who will lose the M.A.P. grant. This Amendment would enable those people to come together and make a joint submission to be regarded as a business for the purpose of a grant under Clause 1.

The Amendment would be of great help to many hundreds of small farmers in the North of Scotland who will suffer great injury under the Bill as it is at present drawn.

Acceptance of the Amendment would not completely remove the grievance felt by those small farmers, but it would go some way towards meeting their difficulty. They could join together and get a capital grant in order to bring about an improvement in the businesses which they are trying to run. I assure the Secretary of State that if we are to rest on the declaration made by the Minister that he is concerned only with supporting viable units and those people who are farming less than 20 acres in the North of Scotland will not be assisted by the central Government because they are not operating viable units, the Minister's name will be mud, but that will be beside the point because he is not the Minister responsible. Those small farmers will wonder why it is that the Secretary of State allows this decision to be taken against the interests of those small farmers on the declaration by the Minister that they are not farming a viable unit.

I ask the Secretary of State to confirm or deny what I have said about the effect of the Bill on many hundreds of small farmers, and whether many hundreds of them who are not crofters will lose M.A.P. grants under the Bill and cannot qualify for assistance under Clause 1 unless the Amendment is accepted.

Lord John Hope

I think that the answer is that there is nothing whatever to stop very small men getting together and amalgamating.

Mr. Fraser

If the Under-Secretary wants 10 small farmers who are each fanning three, four, five, six or seven acres to amalgamate for the purpose of the Bill it will be an amalgamation and the effect of that must be to turn many small farmers out of their farms. The only possible effect of the amalgamation of a large number of small farmers is to hasten and precipitate further depopulation. Is that what the hon. Gentleman wishes?

Lord John Hope

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Minister made it perfectly clear—

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

The Minister does not know anything about Scotland. The Joint Under-Secretary speaks for Scotland, not the Minister.

Lord John Hope

What an extraordinary observation.

The Minister has made it clear that the Government recognises the problem of the very small farmers. We realise that that is a special problem by itself. Admittedly, the Bill does not cover the tiny man who farms five acres. That is a different problem which the Government recognise. To say that the Bill will not help every man with a farm of under 10 acres does not mean that we do not realise that there is a problem which has to be dealt with.

Mr. Fraser

Does not the Under-Secretary agree that the Bill injures every small farmer with under 20 acres in North Scotland? None of them will be eligible for grants under Clause 1.

Lord John Hope

I was specifically asked about men farming under 20 acres. As far as the continuation of M.A.P. goes for the next three years, each case will be considered on its merits by the A.E.C.s. I do not say that all the farmers will get it, because they have not been getting it even now, but they can still rank for it for the next three years.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I have been told that even in the Slamannan plateau in the middle of Stirlingshire, land is extremely difficult to cultivate. When I was Secretary of State for Scotland it was found that acidity and other things in the soil made it difficult to be economic. Is it the Government's intention to depopulate and stop farming in great areas of Scotland? It seems so. Have they decided to write off great chunks of Scotland as being not possible to farm economically?

If that is the case, then it is a policy which is contrary to everything done so far. In the past the Government's purpose has been to try to maintain the population in scattered and difficult parts. Do the Government propose to let these parts become wild again? If not, can the Minister give a pledge that the Government will go into the question of these difficult areas?

I cannot judge the accuracy of the complaints made to me, but if they are correct, this area in Stirling will be depopulated. Do not the Government propose to do anything to prevent that? I should like a pledge from the Government, between now and the passage of the Bill in another place, that they will consult the people concerned and relieve the public's mind by declaring that it is not the policy of the Government to let parts of Scotland go wild again.

Lord John Hope

The anxiety which the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) expressed has been answered already, and I hope that others throughout Scotland who have read the White Paper have noticed what paragraph 5 says: There are many farm businesses that are not capable of providing remunerative full-time employment to an average occupier. A considerable number of these are part-time only. To the extent, however, that non-viable farm businesses present a special problem the Government have been studying this and will continue to do so. That applies every bit as much to farmers in Scotland.

Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred to my constituency. It seems to me that there are two classes of small farmer. First, there is the farmer with 70 or 80 acres of arable or permanent grass. I am told by

many farmer constituents, many of whom I met during the Recess, that they will not qualify under the Bill because they work a greater number of man-hours than the yardstick laid down in the Bill. I do not see how the amalgamation of two or three of these farmers would make them qualify, either in combination or by remaining alone. They feel sore about the matter. They think that the slothful will be helped while the efficient, hardworking man will be left to pay for their sloth.

There is another very serious difficulty and it is rather extraordinary in a crofting area. In the County of Sutherland there are 362 smallholders on 1,460 acres. This matter was raised at a mass meeting of farmers in Inverness, on Saturday, and considerable anxiety was expressed about it. These men do not come under the Crofters Commission, because they own their land or they are sub-tenants. They are now in receipt of marginal grant, I presume, but they will not be in future. Their position will be serious. The spokesman for the County of Sutherland said that they represented the finest type of agricultural stock. Most of them were working their own land. They were working their own small farms, and they worked for the big farmer, too.

I commend this point to the Secretary of State. It is a matter which should be inquired into, for I am quite certain that it would not be the wish of the Government to harm these hard-working artisans who have acquired enough money to buy a property or who work the land on a sub-tenancy. They would like to be tenants, but we have in Scotland an extraordinary system whereby a man in Australia can remain the tenant, and these men, therefore, cannot become tenants.

Question put,That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 190, Noes 219.

Division No. 19.] AYES [4.52 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Blackburn, F. Brockway, A. F.
Albu, A. H. Blenkinsop, A. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blyton, W. R. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Allen, Arthur (Botworth) Boardman, H. Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bonham Carter, Mark Champion, A. J.
Awbery, S. S. Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Chapman, W. D.
Bacon, Miss Alice Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Chetwynd, G. R.
Balfour, A. Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Clunie, J.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Boyd, T. C. Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Cove, w. G. Jeger, George (Goole) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs,S.) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Davles,Rt.Hon.Clement(Montgomery) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield) Probert, A. R.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Proctor, W. T.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rankin, John
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Redhead, E. c.
Deer, G. Kenyon, C. Reeves, J.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Reynolds, G. W.
Diamond, John Lawson, G. M, Rhodes, H.
Dodds, N. N. Ledger, R, J. Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Donnelly, D. L. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn, John (W. Brmwch) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannook) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lindgren, G. S. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lipton, Marcus Ross, William
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Logan, D. G. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Short, E. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) McAlister, Mrs. Mary Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Fernyhough, E. McCann, J, Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Fitch, Alan MacColl, J. E. Skeffington, A. M.
Fletcher, Eric MacDermot, Niall Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Forman, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McKay, John (Wallsend) Sparks, J. A.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McLeavy, Frank Spriggs, Leslie
George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) MacMillan, M. K. (western Islet) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Gibson, C. W. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stonehouse, John
Gooch, E. G. Mahon, Simon Stones, W. (Consett)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Grey, C. F. Mason, Roy Stross,Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mayhew, C. P. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mellish, R. J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Messer, sir F. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Grimond, J. Mikardo, Ian Viant, S. P.
Hale, Leslie Mitohison, G. R. Wade, D. W.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Monslow, W. Warbey, W. N.
Hamilton, W. W. Moody, A. S. Watkins, T. E.
Hannan, W. Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm, S.) Weitzman, D.
Hastings, S. Mort, D. L. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hayman, F. H. Moss, R. Wheeldon, W. E.
Herbison, Miss M. Moyle, A. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Holman, P. Oliver, G. H. Willey, Frederick
Holt, A. F. Oram, A. E. Williams, David (Neath)
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Oswald, T. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Howell, Denis (All Saints) Owen, W.J. Williams, Richard (Openshaw)
Hoy, J. H. Paget, R. T. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Winterbottom, Richard
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paton, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hunter, A. E. Pearson, A. Woof, R. E.
Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe) Peart, T. F. Yates, v. (Ladywood)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pentland, N. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Plummer, Sir Leslie Zilliacus, K.
Janner, B. Popplewell, E.
Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Prentice, R. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Rogers.
Agnew, Sir Peter Burden, F. F. A. Finlay, Graeme
Aitken, W. T. Butcher, Sir Herbert Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Butler,Rt.Hon.R.A. (Saffron Walden) Freeth, Denzil
Ashton, H. Carr, Robert Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Atkins, H. E. Cary, Sir Robert Gammans, Lady
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portstmth, W.) Garner-Evans, E. H.
Baldwin, Sir Archer Cole, Norman George, J. C. (Pollok)
Barlow, Sir John Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Gibson-Watt, D.
Barter, John Cooke, Robert Glover, D.
Batsford, Brian Cooper, A. E. Glyn, Col. Richard H.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Godber, J. B.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Corfield, F. V. Goodhart, Philip
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Gower, H. R.
Bevine, J. R. (Toxteth) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Graham, Sir Fergus
Bidgood, J. C. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodslde)
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Davidson, Viscountess Green, A.
Bingham, R. M. D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Gresham Cooke, R.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Digby, Simon Wingfield Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Bishop, F. P. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Black, C. W. Doughty, C. J. A. Gurden, Harold
Body, R. F. Drayson, G. B. Hall, John (Wycombe)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Duncan, Sir James Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Duthie, W. S. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Harris, Reader (Heston)
Braine, B. R. Elliott, R.W-(Ne'castle upon Tyne. N.) Harrison, A. B. C. (Maidon)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Errington, Sir Eric Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Farey-Jones, F. W. Heald, Rt. Hon. 8ir Lionel
Bryan, P. Fell, A. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Robertson, Sir David
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Roper, Sir Harold
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, w.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold (Bromley) Sharples, R. C.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Hope, Lord John Maddan, Martin Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Hornby, R. P. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle) Speir, R. M.
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M, P. Markham, Major Sir Frank Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir p. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Horobin, Sir Ian Marlowe, A. A. H. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Mathew, R. Stevens, Geoffrey
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Mawby, R. L. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Storey, S.
Kurd, A. R. Moison, Rt. Hon. Hugh Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Studholme, Sir Henry
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh,W.) Mott-Radclyffe, sir Charles Summers, Sir Spencer
Hyde, Montgomery Nairn, D. L. S. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Iremonger, T. L, Nicholls, Harmar Teeling, W.
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Temple, John M.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'h, E. & Chr'ch) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Noble, Michael (Argyll) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hailam) Nugent, G. R. H. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Oakshott, H. D. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Johnson, Erie (Blackley) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Joseph, Sir Keith Page, R. G. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Vane, W. M. F.
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Partridge, E. Vickers, Miss Joan
Kershaw, J. A. Peel, W. J. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Kimball, M. Peyton, J. W. W. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Lagden, c. W. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Langford-Holt, J. A. Pike, Miss Mervyn Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Leavey, J. A. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Webbe, Sir H.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pitman, I. J. Webster, David
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Pitt, Miss E. M. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Pott, H. P. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Linstead, Sir H. N. Powell, J. Enoch Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Ramsden, J. E. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Rawlinson, Peter Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Loveys, Walter H. Redmayne, M. Wolrige-Gordon, P.
Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Remnant, Hon. P. Woollam, John Victor
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Renton, D. L. M.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ridsdale, J. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macdonald, Sir Peter Rippon, A. G. F. Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Mr. Hughes-Young.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.