§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out from "Food" to "may" in line 11 and to insert:and the Secretaries of State respectively concerned with agriculture in Scotland and Northern Ireland, acting jointly.
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House, if generally acceptable, to discuss with this Amendment the consequential Government Amendments.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Yes, Mr. Speaker; I think that that would be by far the best way of proceeding. We can then discuss this group of Amendments together.
The Amendments are concerned with the responsibilities of Ministers in relation to Clause 1. May I begin by briefly reminding the House of the Orders procedure under Clause 1? The Government must first decide to which commodities the powers in the Clause are to be applied. They will then have to make a series of Orders. They will, first, have to specify the commodities to which the powers are to apply, then the levels of the minimum import prices, and then the machinery for imposing the levies, and the conditions attaching to allowances and reliefs, if any. Lastly, the actual rates of levy, allowance or relief would be able to be specified by Order.
Of course, an important operation like this is very closely bound up with our agricultural policy which is the joint responsibility of the three agriculture Ministers. Other Ministers, obviously, are concerned as well, for instance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and 249 Trade. There will be full consultation among all the Ministers concerned. This is not the sort of thing one needs to write into a Bill, but when this Measure was being drafted we felt that it would be most convenient to leave the formal responsibility for making Orders to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture alone.
This was questioned in the Standing Committee, and it is something that can be argued on either side with equal force. One could say that the provisions of Clause 1 are closely bound up with domestic agricultural legislation and that the Orders should therefore be made by the three Ministers jointly; on the other hand, one could argue that these powers are vitally concerned with international trade and must at all costs be applied on a common basis throughout the United Kingdom.
I do not see that one can be dogmatic either way, but in the light of what was said in the Standing Committee the Government have tabled these Amendments so as to confer the main Order-making powers in Clause 1 on the three agriculture Ministers. That is to say, these three Ministers will be jointly responsible for making the different types of Orders I mentioned a moment ago, with the exception of those dealing solely with the rates of levies, allowances and reliefs that have been provided for in previous Orders.
I am sure that the House will understand that these latter Orders must be made quickly, and may, on occasion, have to be made frequently, to enable the rates of levy to reflect changes in market circumstances. In these circumstances, I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture must retain sole responsibility for that particular type of Order, but that it is right that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Secretary should be associated with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in making the other types of Order.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
We, on this side, certainly note with appreciation that the Government have had second thoughts on the matter. The Parliamentary Secretary said that we should not be dogmatic about this, but I must say that he was fairly dogmatic 250 about it in Committee. I do not wish to labour the point, but I could read out his remarks about how important and inevitable it was that this matter should be in the hands of one Minister. I would also remind him that, when he said that the subject was raised in Committee, it was raised only by one hon. Member, and he not on the Government side. In fact, it could not have been raised by a Scottish hon. Member on the Government side, because there was not a single Scottish Tory back bencher on that Committee—although they, in the main, represent Scottish agricultural interests.
The Secretary of State for Scotland was not on the Committee, and the Under-Secretary had managed to say four sentences in the 22 sittings we needed to reach Clause 22. On this vital matter he did not have a word to say—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), when in the Chair in Standing Committee, usually tells us that we should not interrupt from a sitting position. He, or the vice-chairman of the Scottish Tory Party, could have marked himself to serve on the Committee. As it was, there was not a Scottish Tory voice there at all. There was only the Under-Secretary of State, and he did not speak—he is as bad as the rest of the silent knights, although he has not yet achieved his knighthood.
This is a matter of very considerable importance, and the Government have had constitutional afterthoughts about it. It may be a very irksome business for English Ministers of Agriculture, but they have no responsibility for the wellbeing of agriculture in Scotland. That is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland, whom we are very glad to see here today—this is the second day in succession when we have been able to see the right hon. Gentleman; it must be unique.
Orders specifying commodities are of interest and of very considerable concern to Scotland, and so are the levels of the import prices. The machinery is equally important. Scottish farmers may well have far more interest in some commodities than have English agriculturists or horticulturists. What surprises me, therefore, is that the Government should, in the first place, have left 251 Scotland out—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Northern Ireland."] I leave the Northern Ireland people to look after themselves—though they are as present here today as were the Scottish Tories in the Standing Committee.
It is shocking that the Secretary of State for Scotland should have allowed this kind of thing to have happened. I had Amendments on the Notice Paper dealing with the subject. It is true that they were starred Amendments, but they could have been adopted then and there had the Government indicated support for them. It was only after considerable debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"—during which we had no indication that the Government would look on those Amendments favourably—that the Government realised that this constituted a rather large insult to Scotland and to the position of the Secretary of State.
I am glad that they have now changed their minds. It means that in relation to the day-to-day fixing, and the possibility of the varying of levies and prices, the Minister of Agriculture will work on his own, and will assume the powers of the other two Ministers, but I hope that even in respect of that there will, where it is possible, be full consultation with the Scottish Department of Agriculture.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for this constitutional afterthought, but I hope that in future the Government will appreciate that although this constitutional anomaly may be rather irksome they must accept the rights of Scottish Members and Ministers, and Scottish agriculturists, and will not repeat this error. We are getting fairly used to it.
§ Mr. Peart
Will no Scottish hon. Member opposite support my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)? This is a very important matter. When I referred to it on Second Reading I remarked that I was not sure of the functions of the Secretary of State, but now that we have had some clarification I should have thought that a Tory hon. Member would have had something to contribute. The powers given by the Bill are wide, sweeping and important, and, constitutionally, this is one of the most important Measures we have had for a very long time. I am sure that the 252 hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who has just entered the Chamber, will realise that the Bill gives Ministers powers in the economic sphere that no Minister has had for over a century.
I am glad that the Government have thought again about this subject. I hope that an hon. Member opposite will contribute to the debate and will pay tribute to my hon. Friend for raising the matter in Committee.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 2, line 1 leave out "Minister" and insert "Ministers aforesaid";
§ In page 2, line 6, leave out "he" and insert "they".—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I beg to move, in page 2 to leave out lines 10 to 13.
The provision covered by this Amendment was added to the Clause in Committee as a result of an Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), and other hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East explained in Committee that the object behind this provision was to enable the Government to prohibit any imports which, at the time of import into the United Kingdom, were priced at above the market price in the exporting country plus a reasonable allowance for insurance and freight. In effect, this provision seeks to ensure that traders are not able to make excessive profits by buying at low prices in exporting countries and selling in the United Kingdom at our prescribed minimum import prices.
During the discussion upstairs on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", I took the opportunity to tell the Committee that the Government would need to deal with this provision on Report, and I do not think that any hon. Member will be surprised to hear that the Government consider it necessary to table this Amendment.
There are a number of reasons why we feel it necessary to do this. The arrangements on cereals which we have been discussing with our overseas suppliers are based on minimum import prices to be enforced, as necessary, by the charging of levies. Our objective has 253 been, as far as possible, to proceed by agreement with the overseas countries concerned. We hope that we shall be able to cover the greater part of our imports by arrangements under which exporting countries undertake to observe our minimum import prices. As long as they continue to do this, we are ready to arrange for imports from co-operating countries to be exempt from levies.
The purpose of these arrangements, as my right hon. Friend has explained on several occasions, is to place a floor in our import prices. The minimum import prices we have in mind are to be set at levels which will prevent the prices of imports from sagging to the unreasonably low levels which have from time to time undermined our cereals market. Thus, we are not seeking to erect a restrictive regime which would restrict supplies in order to raise the general level of prices. This is not our intention.
We have been discussing these proposals with our overseas suppliers, and, as my right hon. Friend announced in the House recently, we have now reached agreement in principle with our four major suppliers of cereals for cooperation in the proposed minimum import price system for cereals. But the physical restriction of supplies has no place in the arrangements which we are seeking to introduce. If prices fall below our minimum import prices, the imposition of levies will provide an effective means of dealing with the situation without the need to resort to quantitative restrictions or the prohibition of imports. It would clearly make it much more difficult to secure the co-operation of overseas suppliers in the measures we wish to introduce if we were to hold over their heads in this legislation the threat of physical controls, which in any case are no part of the Government's proposals for cereals.
The prohibition of imports as envisaged in the provision written into the Bill by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Enfield, East upstairs would be bound to be detrimental to our general trading interests. Quantitative restrictions were, of course, a feature of the early post-war years when difficulties about the balance of payments were common. But now trading conditions are much freer, and it is in our interest that this state of affairs should con- 254 tinue. Our international obligations, and indeed those of most of our chief suppliers, preclude the use of quantitative restrictions except in certain special circumstances.
From these points of view, the powers in the provision added to the Bill in Committee would raise most difficult problems indeed. Moreover, this provision is unnecessary because there are already general powers to prohibit imports in legislation administered by the Board of Trade. There would be no reason in any case to duplicate in this legislation powers which already exist elsewhere.
It is also relevant to consider what the administration of this provision would involve. The Government would be required to ascertain what would be a representative domestic market price in countries exporting to the United Kingdom. I t would also be necessary to decide what would be a reasonable allowance for the cost of insurance and freight and—this is something which the provision ignores—a fair profit for the trader. The collection of this information might not be impossible, but it would present a formidable task. I go as far as to say that it would add an intolerable burden.
Quite apart from these objections which the Government see to the inclusion of a provision of this sort in the context of this legislation, I believe that the fears which prompted hon. Members opposite to move the Amendment in Committee are unfounded. As I tried to explain upstairs, those countries which conclude agreements with us will be taking steps at the export end to ensure that our minimum import prices are not undermined by the prices at which their goods are exported to our markets. Precisely how they do this is entirely a matter for them to decide. It might, for example, be through the agency of a central selling organisation, where it exists, or by some other means. But, clearly, this would prevent the sort of circumstances which hon. Members opposite have envisaged from arising.
Moreover, if any individual agreement country were failing for any reason to observe our minimum import prices we should apply a country levy to all imports of the commodity concerned from that country. This country levy would 255 be related to the general level of offering prices for the particular commodity from the country concerned and would not vary with the import prices of individual consignments. That is, it would be a flat rate levy on a country basis.
Turning to the non-agreement countries—those countries which have not been able to reach an agreement with us—we should, if representative offering prices for supplies from these countries fell below our minimum import prices, apply a general levy, which again would be on a flat-rate basis and related to the general level of offering prices and not to the price of any individual importation. Therefore, in the case of both the country levy and the general levy, the individual trader would have to face a flat-rate charge related to the generality of prices in each case and not to the price of the individual consignment. Clearly, he would not be able to take excessive profits since he would have to price his supplies to the United Kingdom in competition with other traders who would also be supplying our market.
I have explained why the Government consider that the provision which this Amendment seeks to delete is out of place in this legislation. Administratively, it would be extremely difficult and cumbersome to work and unnecessary as a safeguard against the circumstances which hon. Members opposite seem to envisage. As I have said, I do not think these circumstances can possibly arise. I therefore ask the House to accept our Amendment.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
I think that those who supported our Amendment in Committee would agree that it was not as satisfactory as we should have wished. However, there was more than agreement among my hon. Friends in this matter, because we should not have carried the Amendment without the support of hon. Members opposite. Since the Committee stage, no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary and everybody concerned with the Bill has received a memorandum from the millers and merchants, the people who do this buying, and they have put exactly the same point as we put. It sticks out a mile to anyone in the trade that if anybody says, "We 256 are willing to pay a certain price for this commodity", one will not sell it below that price.
Our arguments have been bedevilled throughout because the Bill has been discussed as though it dealt with cereals only, but it deals with all the produce of this country. We must argue along the lines that the Bill applies to everything. To argue only about cereals does not help us at all. We made the point that although the Minister might come to an agreement with the major suppliers, it needs only a small quantity —say, two or three boatloads of a commodity like eggs or cereals—to lower the price in this country. The Minister can have agreement on a large scale for our main imports, but if small amounts come in at a lower price they will depress our market. Our view was that there should be power to prevent that sort of thing on an ad hoc basis.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that it would be a difficult job to ascertain the price in another country and to find the rates of insurance. If his Department could not obtain this information by using the telephone for 10 minutes, I do not know what it is doing. It is ridiculous to use that argument.
The hon. Gentleman trotted out his two arguments, but they did not affect the question. If he reads the view of the millers and merchants about what will happen, the hon. Gentleman will see that he will not have any guide from a general levy that will enable him to impose his second levy. As soon as the price is reduced to the minimum, there will be no chance to apply a levy when somebody else undercuts.
The wording of the Clause is not as good as it could have been. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows very well that some of us and some of his hon. Friends are not happy about it, and that is why he was defeated in Committee. Unless the hon. Gentleman says that he will do something about this important point, we shall have to take the matter to a Division.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Clearly, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) said, if the wording of the Clause does not make sense internationally, it should not remain in the Bill. When, however, the 257 Socialist Government agreed to the G.A.T.T. in 1947, they made no provision for dealing with the Agriculture Act of that year, which was passed at about the same time. Therefore, we have a gap in dealing with both dumped produce or a product in which there is an excessive margin of imports.
Where I should like help from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is that in this new Measure there is no reference to the other powers that the Minister and the Government possess for dealing with dumped produce or with emergencies which may occur and which may completely upset the ruling market price in this country. In the Bill, there should have been a reference to the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Ac-,t, 1957, which, when it was introduced in the House of Commons, we were told was the proper way of dealing with dumped agricultural produce. It may be that it has not proved to be the case, but it might happen that if we were able later to get certain Amendments made in G.A.T.T., the 1957 Act could be of use.
When my hon. Friend says that it is too great a burden to place upon the Government to ask for information about the market or export price in another country, he has forgotten that in Sections 5 and 6 of the 1957 Act that burden is already placed upon the Government. There would be no difficulty, therefore, about getting this extra information.
We must look not merely at the 1957 Act, but at Articles 6 and 19 of G.A.T.T. Clearly, Article 6 is not designed to deal with a country which has a system of guaranteed price support. I ask my hon. Friend to consider whether that is not the best way of dealing with some of these agricultural price problems. which we are now meeting. In other words, could not a revision of Article 6 be used in conjunction with the measures which my hon. Friend is so wisely taking in Clause 1 of the Bill? Article 19 of G.A.T.T. deals with the very emergency which, presumably, my hon. Friend is contemplating in Clause 1 of the Bill: that is, unreasonable imports at an unreasonable price at a certain period of the year.
258 We agree that this proviso was badly drafted and hastily accepted and in referring to the proceedings in Standing Committee, although I was not a member, I find that it had no support in the voting by any hon. Member on this side. It was the big battalions of the party opposite who managed to win the day. They, therefore, must take full blame for this statutory error that was made in Committee upstairs. In the Bill, which will be of tremendous importance to agriculture, we ought to refer to these other powers which may be taken.
To illustrate the position, I will quote the example of the wheat market last year. The average import price of wheat from all countries over the year was 26s. 6d. per cwt. The price in France averaged 29s. 8d. per cwt. throughout the year, but the average import price of French wheat in this country was 22s. 2d. per cwt. Clearly, in the case of French wheat, we had an example of dumping, the average import price being 7s. 6d. per cwt. less than the declared market price in France.
When considering the seasonal position, the situation becomes even more acute. In the month of October, which is vital for our own farmers, because then the imported French wheat competes with our own harvest, the average price of French wheat was only 20s. 4d. per cwt. If we look at imports during that period or, indeed, during any other month, we find that no other wheat came into this country below 25s. per cwt. Therefore, the whole of this machinery having a minimum price with a "country" levy and a "general" levy is unnecessary in a year like last year for wheat provided that adequate steps are taken to prevent dumped French wheat coming into the country directly after the harvest.
That is why I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and my right hon. Friend tie Minister, whose absence today we so much regret, to think again on this matter and at a later stage to insert the necessary wording to protect our position against dumping and also against emergency imports at unreasonable prices or in unreasonable quantities.
We all welcome the step that is being taken in the Bill. I do not criticise it. I criticise merely the drafting. I want 259 my hon. Friend to be ready to take action to get the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade brought up to date, because what was devised in 1947 is quite out of date for the conditions in general trading in 1964. It is time that all of us on both sides of the House of Commons looked again at this matter to find a convenient way of guaranteeing the stability not merely of our own agricultural industry, but also of the taxpayer, who is of importance, and who is completely excluded under the 1947 G.A.T.T., or equally under the 1957 Act.
Therefore, I beg my hon. Friend, if he cannot make any Amendment now—and I know that he cannot in this place—to consider whether, in another place, he can make an Amendment which will protect our powers against dumping.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), I should like to say that some of us upon our side of the Committee implored the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the principle of our Amendment, to take it back and to bring forward a form of wording on Report to meet the objections of most of those who, on both sides of the Committee, spoke in the debate there. For the information of the right hon. Gentleman, let me say that five Members abstained in the Division, four upon his own side, two of whom are absent this afternoon, and a Liberal Member, who is also absent.
The main difficulty which horticulturists in Cornwall find is that they seem to be sacrificed all through the Bill. In Committee, we felt that, at any rate, here was an anomaly which had been brought to light—as I have said, by Members on both sides of the Committee—but all we could get from the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary was a statement about cereals, although the Bill is about horticultural products as well as cereals. I am bound to say that I formed the conclusion in Committee that all that was in the Government's mind was cereals and that they had given little or no thought to horticultural products.
I was rather alarmed when the Parliamentary Secretary spoke just now about 260 the infinite difficulties of finding out about prices on the Continent and the costs of insurance and that kind of thing. I was beginning to think that he was going to say that he and his Department did all their calculations with matchsticks, as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister did. Surely, his Department can do all these things efficiently and quickly.
I conclude by begging the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to do what his right hon. Friend has just asked, to accept the principle of the Bill and let the Bill stand as it is, and seek to amend it satisfactorily, to give effect to the wishes of the House when the Bill goes to another place.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I cannot say that I am altogether happy yet about the way in which this Clause will work. Similarly, I cannot state that I think that the addition of the four lines which we are discussing at the moment will make a great deal of difference one way or the other.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) referred to the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957. In reply to him, I should like to declare that I believe that this Bill would be far more efficient in dealing with dumped produce than the old 1957 Act because the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, whilst effective, is very cumbersome and, as hon. Members on both sides of the House know, on occasion it took many months before effective action could be taken. In Committee on the Bill I and other hon. Members elicited from my right hon. Friend that action under the Bill in the case of dumped produce could be pretty well instantaneous.
Why I am not happy about the Clause as it stands at the moment is that I am not at all sure that we shall not in this country still have to pay more for certain imported produce than we need. I am thinking specifically in terms of grain now, because grain was, perhaps, foremost in our minds when we were in Committee, but I am a little disturbed, for instance, that my right hon. Friend said in the Second Reading debate that we are seeking agreements whereby other countries will not supply produce at below minimum prices. What concerns me is whether we can achieve agreement 261 by which they will supply produce to us at fixed prices.
My right hon. Friend seems to have channelled his activities into making certain that grain, for instance, does not come into this country at below certain prices, and we have heard that it is Likely that certain agreement countries, four of them, will fall into line with us over our request. It is very much in their interests to do so, and I would suggest that we ought perhaps to concentrate our activities on obtaining fixed import prices, let alone minimum import prices.
The second reason why I am not too happy yet about the working of the Clause is the manner in which the levy to be imposed on non-agreement countries will work. We have been told by my hon. Friend that non-agreement countries will send grain to this country and a levy will be charged which will be the difference between its import price and our minimum import price, but is it not a fact that if we in this country have fixed minimum import prices it will have a very hardening effect on world grain prices? I should have thought that it was a real danger, and, consequently, the world prices of grain will be considerably higher, the amount of the levy which can be charged will be reduced, and our Exchequer will face the consequences.
One of the reasons why in Committee I abstained on the Amendment was that I felt that the four lines we were discussing would perhaps have helped us to pinpoint any cases where an excessive charge was made to us by countries abroad. I am not sure, on reflection, that the inclusion of those four lines would still assist us in pinpointing excessive charges, but, nevertheless, I must confess I am not at all happy about how the levy will work.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) pointed out that the Bill deals not only with cereals, but with meat. Indeed, it deals also with the entire gamut of horticultural products. It is rather interesting to note that the flower industry itself is very much concerned with this very Clause. There is on at this very moment, as we are sitting here in the House, a campaign by the flower industry entitled 262 "Britain in Bloom". As we are getting into the spring the flowers that bloom in the spring have something to do with the case this time.
We have in the flower industry a problem similar to that which was dealt with excellently by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling), when he was discussing the meat situation.
During my hon. Friend's excellent speech in Committee he said that it might be that with a more forceful Government in power we could make better arrangements with regard to quantities and prices with the countries which export meat to us than this Government have been able to make. He gave an example, hypothetical then, I admit, but not in the past. Suppose the Argentine, he suggested, stood outside any meat agreement and got into the situation it was in a year or so ago when, as a result of the dock strike in Buenos Aires, it had a great amount of meat in the stores and abattoirs and suddenly unloaded the extra amount when the dock strike was over and shipments could begin again. My hon. Friend said that we knew from that experience that even a relatively small but sudden increase in supplies could upset our market, and then the "killing" could be made by the importers.
What none of us on either side seems to be clear about from the drafting of the Bill is how the Minister will use the powers in the Bill in relation to his revolutionary, excellent and worth-while approach to the horticultural industry. The Minister may say, as he said in passing, that the necessary powers exist and need not have been put in the Bill when it was drafted. But might it not have been much more constructive to spike down these powers in the Bill and see whether other powers were needed to prevent the possibility of exploitation of the British market?
The looseness with which some of the Bill was drafted indicates to me that there was too great an anxiety to rush through some new legislation for our horticultural and agricultural industries. In fairness to them, I must say that the policies outlined in this legislation were not thoroughly digested, or, if they were, they were nit clearly expressed in the drafting.
263 Does the deletion of the proposed words meet the objections of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie)? He moved the first Amendment in Committee, and at that time we were all concerned with the health of our horticultural and agricultural industries. Does the deletion of these words meet the constructive objections of both sides of those industries? The House has not a clear picture of what method will be evolved. For instance, was the Baltic Exchange consulted about this very new and ticklish problem? The Baltic Exchange has been the traditional market for grain and other produce for many years.
Few of us on either side understand how the Minister will use the powers, how they will work and how he will prevent the exploitation of the market not only in cereals and meat, but in products from the horticultural industries and by imported products that exporters elsewhere wish to send here at times when we have shortages and they have gluts.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I was not a member of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill, but I have given myself the homework of reading what was said over the three days, if not four, when this matter was discussed there.
I welcome wholeheartedly the Bill as a whole. I have always felt that as long as the Government have power to regulate home production through the Price Review each year it is essential that we should follow that through and have an import policy which ties in with it. A great many of us argued for a great many years that this was absolutely essential, and here, at last, is an attempt by the Government to do that. Consequently, I welcome the principle of the Bill.
But I wish, and have wished for many years, that the Board of Trade appreciated this point as well as I believe the Minister of Agriculture now does. The Board of Trade has always been extremely reluctant to use whatever powers it has had in this matter. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary may say that the reason why it is proposed 264 to delete these words is that the Board of Trade already has power to do what the words would have demanded. This may be true, and I am not challenging the legal exactitude of the statement, but what I most seriously doubt is whether the spirit at the Board of Trade is such that it will be as willing to use these powers as would the Minister of Agriculture were he the possessor of them.
I think that my hon. Friends who either abstained or supported the Amendment moved by the Opposition in the Standing Committee did a great service to both the Conservative Party and the industry, because they at least indicated an intention on behalf of the Conservative Party which I hope and believe is shared very strongly by the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I would, of course, accept my hon. Friend's case for the Amendment in that if the powers already exist, there is no point in writing them into the Bill, and, anyway, if we were to write them in, they would have to be written in correctly. The proviso as it stands can be faulted on wording.
I recall that not long after the passing of the 1957 Act I instituted a debate on horticulture in which I expressed the view that the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act was not adequate to deal with the various problems that we had and that we wanted something besides mere tariffs to deal with the matter. We have had the statement repeatedly made by the Minister on Second Reading and in Committee that it is intended to use the quantitative method of restriction in regard to meat. Therefore, there ought to be nothing in principle obnoxious about considering the limitation of quantity to the extent of prohibition if need be, because that is the logical end of the argument. I feel that, in principle, there is nothing whatever to forbid the Board of Trade from being called upon to exercise its power to prohibit, should the need arise.
In the light of what my hon. Friend has said today and what was said in Committee, we are entitled to ask whether some undertaking was given 265 to the traditional suppliers of cereal to this country that although these words had been written into the Bill in the Committee stage, it was the Government's intention to move the words out again. We are entitled to know whether there was any compromise of the powers possessed by the Board of Trade in arriving at the cereal agreements.
It is conceivable that the only way we got them was by giving an undertaking that the Board of Trade would never exercise these powers with the countries with which we have agreed. That would be very wrong if that were so and the House were not informed. I hope that the result of these cereal agreements will be to get stability into the market and that we shall not have these violent price fluctuations which undermine the confidence of farmers perhaps more than anything else.
I do not want to wreck these agreements, such as they are, but we are entitled to ask for an assurance that those countries with which we have been in negotiation have not been told that there will be any compromise by the Government on the power already possessed by the Board of Trade for the prohibition of imports.
If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary were to say that, it would fortify those of us who do not want to oppose the Government on this Amendment. It would at least show us that the Government are fully aware that there may conceivably be circumstances in which complete prohibition would be required, although we hope that that situation will never arise.
I am convinced that in dealing with this sort of matter the bigger the stick we arm the Government with the less likely it is that it will ever have to be used. It is the possession of the power which matters most in this, and I want to be sure that, in giving the Government this new power over import levies, which I welcome, we are not compromising the extreme power because, if we do, we shall have to impose these levies more often than necessary.
We all hope that it will not be necessary to use the Bill's powers and the Board of Trade's prohibition power, but if there is any sign of undermining the 266 ultimate power then I am quite certain that the likelihood of our having to use the more moderate powers given in the Bill for import duties will be greater. I hope that my hon. Friend will give us ass trance on this aspect.
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) made an interesting speech, but is a little premature in visualising these powers applying to horticulture. Just as I am convinced that, with the increasing purchasing power of the public, the effectiveness of tariff increases becomes less and less as the years go by, so do I believe that we must give a little time for the other part of the Bill to work out before we can sensibly consider utilising the power in Clause 1 to deal with horticultural produce.
I foresee that, when we have regeared agriculture as Part II of the Bill visualises it, it may well be that we shall have to introduce Orders to deal with horticultural produce, but the time is not yet and may be some years away. But it is, I agree, important to realise that the powers being taken here could conceivably affect practically every food commodity we import and to that extent I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing our attention to the matter.
I hope that it will not be necessary for any of us in this side of the House to oppose the Amendment. It is always ridiculous when the House tries to keep in a Bill words which are really incorrectly drafted or unnecessary. However, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that, if we can possibly find some means in another place of getting in the appropriate words to link the existing legislation dealing with powers already possessed by the Board of Trade with this Measure, we should try to do so.
If we were able to do so, the position would be much clearer to the industry —and it is, after all, to raise the confidence of the industry that we are primarily putting through this Measure. It would also make the Bill more comprehensive in showing what are all the measures which may be used in the event of someone trying to undermine our market to the disadvantage of home producers.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
I was not a member of the Standing Committee which considered this important Measure and I apologise for intervening now, but, by and large, most hon. Members in the House and people outside will welcome the conversion of the Government to some form of control of imports of various agricultural commodities.
As I read the Clause as it now stands, I doubt whether it will meet the requirements of the consumers or the producers. I wonder whether an import levy worked in the way proposed will not have the effect of putting up very considerably the prices of the commodities which we have to buy. Perhaps it would be more beneficial if these powers had been vested in an import-export board which could purchase in bulk commodities offered at low rates in various countries. These could then be held in storage if necessary and, if not required in this country at all, could be sent to areas where there is more need for food.
It would be much better to establish an import-export board with greater powers rather than have the limited powers of this Clause. I am sure that would be very much more beneficial both to farmers and to horticulturists. I do not want to pursue the matter further, but I am not happy about the Amendment carried in Committee, and I am very doubtful as to whether this provision will meet the requirements of the times. It has been badly drafted, I agree.
§ Mr. Baxter
I suggested in the 1959–60 Session that there should be an import-export board and I agree that the Government have gone a long way towards this idea. But, linked with that, there is need for a greater conception of marketing schemes. If such a board had been set up, with full powers to buy goods from wherever it could at the 268 cheapest possible rate, the benefits could have been passed on to the consumers and to the producers.
With this Clause, the Government will be serving the purpose in mind, but will, in effect, be making a gift to those nations producing surpluses which, up to now, they were able to dump here, for in future they will, willy-nilly, have to increase their prices to meet our import requirements. While the conception was sensible and good, the Bill is badly drawn up and I would like to see the whole thing get much more consideration than it has received up to now.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)
I had no part or lot in securing the defeat of the Government in Committee on this Amendment, largely because I was persuaded by some of the arguments used by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I have been very interested to compare the argument put forward today with those put in Committee. When we considered this matter then, we were concerned almost entirely with the question of dealers in a foreign country charging too much to this country under the import price mechanism. All the arguments this afternoon have been devoted to precisely the reverse condition, namely, when produce is being sold in markets here at prices lower than those in the country of origin. It is an interesting condition, but I believe that the Amendment in Committee would have covered both positions.
Far from finding fault with the drafting, I congratulate the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) both on producing an Amendment so right in its application and on bringing into the Bill the prohibition of imports, comparing that very satisfactorily with my own failure to get through Amendments dealing with the prohibition of dumped imports.
I am loath to see these words deleted, although I did not support the Amendment to insert them in Committee, for reasons advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), particularly in connection with horticulture. The Bill deals 269 with horticulture and ought to contain a provision for making the minimum price mechanism work for horticulture. The Bill as drafted will not permit such a workable scheme.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary argued that it was difficult to discover the price in the country of origin, but this has been rightly contradicted. The Parliamentary Secretary said that under the anti-dumping legislation it was necessary for the Department to establish the cost of production or marketing in the country of origin. I believe that that burden falls not on the Department but on the producers, and it would be much more difficult for them to establish those costs, especially in Iron Curtain countries where there is a strong element of Government trading.
I am not completely satisfied by what my hon. Friend said about the difficulty of working these provisions, but there are no means more satisfactory than those provided in the anti-dumping duties of bringing in preventive or punitive duties when stuff is being sold here well below the cost of production and to the ruination of our home market. That is even more important for horticulture in which there are no guaranteed payments than it is for agriculture and cereal commodities which are the main subject of the Bill.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard). I make no apology for this because in Committee my hon. Friend carried a great deal of the work of the Bill and earned the praise of both sides for what he did.
Line 10 refers to the actual market price in the country of origin. The difficulty is to establish this in time. I make no bones about saying that I am concerned with the future of horticultural produce. The problem is that the harm is done very quickly and it is that which we have to guard against. I cannot help feeling that the Bill's provisions will not be enough and that any action must be based on our home growers' prices. If it is known in the exporting country that the moment a price gets below a certain figure we will impose control, that country will be discouraged from making such exports.
270 I know that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has said that there are to be discussions among the Government and others who are concerned, but this is a matter which must be borne in mind and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure us.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
I must apologise for being unavoidably detained when the Amendment was moved. I lad not intended to say anything about it, but, after two or three extraordinary speeches and in view of what I understand my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to have said, I feel bound to intervene.
I understand that my hon. Friend said—this was said in the Committee of which I was a member—that the Board of Trade already had power to act. If my hon. Friend is right in saying that the Amendment would not achieve what it wishes to achieve, it is equally fair to say that Section 7 of the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957—"Ascertainment of a Fair Market Price"—will not work, because the two are exactly similar.
My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) said that he understood—and I admit that I did—that it was the producers in this country who were being hurt who had to make a case to the Board of Trade before the President of the Board of Trade could act with anti-dumping duties. He had to decide three things and one of them, under Section 1(1) of the 1957 Act—was this:Provided that, where the Board of Trade are not satisfied that the effect of the dumping or of the giving of the subsidy is such as to cause or threaten material injury to established industry in the United Kingdom…It appears that over the years we have been hoodwinked. We have been told that the producers had to make their case and we know that the Milk Marketing Board and other organisations who have put cases to the Board of Trade have found that the Board has insisted that this should be one of the criteria.
However, my hon. Friend now says that this anti-dumping legislation is sufficient and that the Amendment is covered by Section 7 of the 1957 Act. Some of us abstained on the Amendment moved in Committee from the Opposition side and we take the view 271 that this legislation will not do what it is supposed to do. It must be one or the other and if the Amendment will not work, I cannot sec how Section 7 can work. This is what worries me and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to explain.
§ Mr. Peart
We have had a useful debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) is to be congratulated on having raised this issue in Committee and the Opposition are to be congratulated on pursuing the matter. Hon. Members have expressed their views clearly and frankly. There is an opinion which cuts across party. If we do not get a satisfactory reply, we shall press the matter and the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) will have an opportunity to abstain or vote against the Government.
I listened carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, but he did not reassure me. I was amazed when he said that our proposal would involve complicated administrative machinery. He explained how we would have to ascertain prices abroad. Surely that information is already available in this country. Surely it is not beyond the power, wit or ability of his officials to obtain that information. If we are to set up machinery to implement the Bill, there will have to be a special Department in the Ministry.
This was admitted by the Minister during the Committee stage. I have always argued that, inevitably, events will force the Government not only to introduce a new type of civil service machinery to administer the provisions in this Bill, but some other machinery which will have to be adopted from outside. But I will not argue that this afternoon. Hon. Members know my views of commodity commissions acting as regulators for the phasing and co-ordination of imports with home production.
Even if we do not accept this it is true that the trade and those people connected with the importation of cereals have suggested some new type of machinery. This is not a good excuse. The information can be obtained. How otherwise can we make the provisions in 272 this Clause work? To say that we cannot get the world price for cereals, to give one example, is nonsense. The Minister need only use a telephone to obtain the information easily from people involved.
Surely if we have not the means to obtain the information from the countries who supply us with large quantities of various commodities, it is our job to see that there is the necessary staff at our embassies to provide the information. They should be aware of the state of affairs in the different countries with which we have agreements. We are anxious to have agreements on imports with various countries. That is why the Government have been negotiating in relation to cereals.
It was suggested that if we pursued this Amendment it would make difficulties for the negotiators. I am glad to say that that has not happened and negotiations have reached a satisfactory conclusion. The moving of the Amendment did not affect the attitude of those countries who wished to have agreements with this country. The Minister must refute any suggestion that an Amendment of this kind would have prevented a successful international agreement.
I accept that in respect of meat the negotiations will go on for a long time. But here we are discussing the effect not only of this Clause and the powers in relation to cereals, but we are dealing with the proper legal interpretation of the Clause as it affects several commodities. That is why many hon. Members are concerned about the effect of the Clause on horticulture.
The argument of the Minister that we should have great administrative difficulty is not a sound argument. He also said that we or our importers would have to know about costs and freight charges and that this would be a formidable task. That is nonsense and the answer surprised me. In reply to my hon. Friend, the Minister said that there was nothing in this matter. Obviously, there is still a dichotomy of thought. Many hon. Members believe that the powers and specific provision which were inserted in the Bill during the Committee stage could affect dumping and the possibility of traders in other countries holding this country to ransom.
273 This view was not confined to hon. Members on this side of the House, or to those hon. Members who wish to take speedy action in relation to dumping. It was held by hon. Members like the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who put specific questions to the Minister or to the Parliamentary Secretary. At the meeting of the Standing Committee on 16th January the hon. Member said:As I understand it, the twin objectives of having a minimum import price are, first, to bring stability to our own industry and, secondly, to win the agreement of exporting countries. It seems to me that, in order to get this agreement, we have to agree to take their imports to us at a much higher price than we otherwise might have to pay.He gave the example of barley which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East has given over and over again. He said:In other words, we agree to take barley at £20 a ton instead of at £16 a ton."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 16th January, 1964; c. 49–50.]It is precisely that sort of arrangement which has caused concern to my hon. Friends. It was only through prodding in the Committee that we extracted from the Government information about how the levy would work. During the Second Reading debate the Minister was vague, but I congratulated the Parliamentary Secretary on his description, in the Committee, of how the levy would work. It is a kind of two-tier or two-levy system which will operate under the Clause and it will require very complicated machinery to administer it. That is why we are anxious to obtain a satisfactory reply.
I was, as always, impressed by what was said by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). I know that he has pursued many of these matters in a number of debates on agriculture. I understand his concern. The existing legislation is not sufficient. The anti-dumping legislation, and G.A.T.T., does not deal effectively with unfair trading by countries and individuals and so we are all anxious to see the position rectified. That was the view of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). It is certainly the view of my hon. Friends the Members for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) 274 and Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). They are anxious to know the effect of this levy on the horticulture industry. We know that the let y will operate in relation first to cereals—we had an announcement from the Government about that —but they are still concerned.
All hon. Members who have spoken today and even the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who supported the Government during the Committee stage discussions, have expressed concern. It could be argued that our wording is not satisfactory. But I do not think that a good argument. I would rather put the point of view that these words may not be completely effective. The Government should look at the matter again. There is a debate to take place in another place. But I think that these words are better left in than taken out, especially in view of the explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary. If there is to be any risk I would rather it be on the side of my hon. Friends and I think that would be the view of many hon. Members opposite.
I am not being dogmatic. This is not a party issue, in the sense that these words will be enshrined in the agricultural policy of the Labour Party at the next General Election, or even in Government policy—I am glad to know that the Government now have a policy. After much prodding the Bill has been brought forward and it includes a Clause which gives the Government wide and sweeping powers. We are anxious that the levy system and the minimum import price system shall work effectively. We are anxious to prevent dumping. We are anxious to prevent our country being held to ransom. I should have thought those were two worthy objectives and that we would have support for them from every hon. Member.
Unless the Minister gives a much more effective reply, I must advise my hon. Friends to divide against the Government.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I wish to cover some of the points which have been raised in this debate. I say straight away to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) that I do not quibble about the words which his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) 275 sought to write into the Bill. I am not trying to say that the words are wrong and would not do what the hon. Member wanted, but that the whole principle is unnecessary and that it is wrong to write it into the Bill. That is why I ask the House to support the Amendment which my right hon. Friend and I put forward.
Of course, my right hon. Friend has said that he intends to use this Clause only for cereals. Several hon. Members have mentioned the difficulties which would occur if we extended it to other commodities. The provisions in the Clause are very wide indeed, but we cannot discuss other commodities in detail because the situation in which it might be necessary to apply the powers of this Clause have not arisen. The powers in this Clause are sufficiently wide to take care of any situation which might arise such as that which was envisaged by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard). The powers are there and they are wide enough should they prove necessary in future. That is the reason for drawing the powers widely in the Clause.
The basic misunderstanding between the hon. Member for Enfield, East and us appears to be over the level of the minimum import price. I said time and again in Committee, and my right hon. Friend said on Second Reading, that it is not the intention of the Government to fix the minimum import price at a level which will cause a raising of prices, or to adopt a restrictive policy. The level of minimum import price which my right hon. Friend intends to impose is designed to cut out fluctuations at the bottom of the market. The fears which hon. Members have been talking about would not arise; that is not the way this would work. The level of minimum import prices would apply only to cut out fluctuations.
§ Mr. Mackie
I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary should get at cross-purposes with me like this. I tried to point out to him in Committee that our total production of barley in this country is about 6 million tons and the total import of cereals is about 10 million tons, of which barley is only 300,000 tons. In the last three years it 276 has averaged only 500,000 tons. That amount of barley brought in at the price of £16 per ton is sufficient to depress prices here.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
That is a separate point from the one with which I was dealing. I was saying that the level of minimum import price would not be sufficient to raise prices here. The other point is that even a small amount coming on the market at any time can damage the general price level of the cereals market. That is true, but when we have an agreement the Governments of the countries which are parties to that agreement must do their utmost to see that it is adhered to, and that no cereal comes here at below the minimum import price.
There would be no levy worked out as the difference between the general offering price of grain and the minimum import price, so in the generality of cases what the hon. Member suggested would not happen. But, as I pointed out in Committee, there are powers in Clause 1 to allow for a consignment levy in particular circumstances if that proves necessary. Therefore, the point made by the hon. Member is sufficiently covered by the powers in the Clause, since my right hon. Friend can put on a consignment levy should the need arise.
I now turn to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) concerning the collection of information about prices. This, also, was referred to by the hon. Member for Workington. There seems to be a little confusion about this. The collection of information that I was talking about is by no means similar to that which at the moment is necessary under the Customs and Excise (Dumping and Subsidies) Act of 1957, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne).
In the idea put forward by the Opposition the collection of information about market prices of all countries exporting to the United Kingdom would be involved. We would be open to a charge of discrimination by suppliers unless it were done in relation to all countries, 277 and a whole generality of fluctuations of prices in all countries which export to us. I assure the House that that would be a substantial task. 1 do not say that it would be impossible. Nothing is impossible, particularly under a Conservative Administration, but it would be extremely difficult. I do not want the House to labour under any misapprehension about the difficulty of the task.
It would be very different from the work of administering the anti-dumping legislation. There, the Government have to inquire into a particular case, not to keep under review the prices in all the countries exporting to us. A particular case has to be investigated and the prices are known. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington asked how and why this could work. What I meant was that it would be a formidable task to collect the information required if this were written into the Bill. Under existing legislation this can be done in particular instances. It has been done, and was done very quickly, in 1961, when the question arose of imposing a duty on cereals coming to this country which were considered to be dumped.
I also said that there are powers existing at the moment which are perfectly adequate and can act swiftly to deal with an anti-dumping position of products and produce coming to this country. In this Clause we are bringing in a new system of minimum import prices. It is considered that under this system there should be no need, and it would be completely inappropriate, to write any reference to physical controls which exist under different legislation operated by the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I am sure the hon. Member accepts the fact that the existing anti-dumping legislation is operated under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act 1957. The point I am making is that the power to impose levies on low-priced imports is designed to prevent the market for home-produced com- 278 modities being undermined. We have no reason to think that those powers will not be effective for this purpose. Those powers are in the Clause.
§ Mr. P. Browne
What puzzles me is that my hon. Friend says that it is only in specific cases that we invoke the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, what we call the antidumping legislation. I disagree with him on whether it is fast or slow acting on most occasions. Does the provision which is now written into the Bill, and which the Government seek to remove, ask anything other than that? I do not believe that it does. It does not mean that prices must be obtained in every country. It means that, if it is considered that a particular country is offering at a specially low price, this country would be in a position to say that it would not buy from that country.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
That is not right. The provisions written into the Bill as a result of the Amendment made in Committee would require the generality of prices to be known to the Department all the time. It would therefore require us to be able to say at any moment that domestic prices were at a particular level and it was, therefore, inappropriate for us to accept it. This is the point which is made. I am not quibbling over the actual words of the Amendment which was made. It is the principle behind it.
I submit that the provisions of the Clause as it stood, without the Amendment which was made in Committee, are sufficient to prevent low-priced imports coming in and undermining the home market. I also believe that the existing legislation, what has been called the anti-dumping legislation—the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957—can work speedily, as it has in the past, and is sufficient and adequate, but it would be inappropriate for it to be mentioned and brought into the Clause. We are not dealing with physical measures for the control of cereals coming into this country, but fiscal ones.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Is not this contrary to the general terms of the G.A.T.T.? Is there not some danger here that the principles contained in the Clause could not be put into operation because of the terms of the Agreement? The only 279 way to overcome it would be to have an import board, which could purchase the bulk commodities on the market, rather than allow the prices to be boosted up by the producing countries, which places a heavier burden upon the consumer country—this country.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The hon. Gentleman is not with me on this issue. If he had read the proceedings in the Standing Committee, he would have seen that this was one of the points we discussed. I made the point that this is not against the Articles of the G.A.T.T. Those countries which are non-agreement countries are perfectly entitled to accede to the Agreement at any moment, if they wish. We would be more delighted if any of the countries other than the four which have already agreed after consultations wished to accede to the Agreement.
Under the provisions of the G.A.T.T. this is in order. The hon. Gentleman was not right in his point about the level of prices. With his suggestion of an import-export board, or whatever he wishes to call it, there would be a very rigid pattern and system. Before we knew where we were we would be in a position of rising prices all the way round because of the inability of such boards to deal with this type of trade. The method proposed by the Clause originally is surely the best method of doing it.
I turn, finally, to what my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said in his extremely interesting intervention. He asked me about an undertaking given to our overseas suppliers after the Amendment was carried in Committee. He will have noticed that I straight away said in Committee that it would be the intention of the Government, after consideration, to seek to remove this at a later stage.
§ Presumably our overseas suppliers can get hold of our proceedings, because one knows that they are published. I expect that they could easily have read it there. My hon. Friend can rest assured that there is no compromise of the existing powers.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having dealt with those two points. Would he now clear up one uncertainty in my mind? As I read what he said in Committee, and as I understood what he said today, he has indicated that there is no need for the words which the Amendment seeks to delete because the powers are already in existence. The powers here referred to are powers to prohibit. In what Statute do powers exist to prohibit?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The powers to which I referred are the powers exercised by the Board of Trade under the defence legislation. There are powers in existence which could, if necessary, restrict and prohibit. It is far from my intention that this should be so. I would not want to mislead the House to any extent about what our feelings are in this provision. It is our firm belief that the Clause as it stands, using the fiscal means of the minimum import price, is capable of working as the Government have said it needs to work, of cutting out the bottom troughs of the market, of ensuring a stable market level for our home produced goods.
It is unnecessary to bring in physical means of restriction, restraint or prohibition, as the provision written into the Bill upstairs would do. That is why I ask the House to support the Amendment.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 195, Noes 219.283
|Division No. 29.]||AYES||[5.27 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, William||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Boardman, H.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Callaghan, James|
|Barnett, Guy||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H.W. (Leics, S.W.)||Carmichael, Neil|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Bowles, Frank||Castle, Mrs. Barbara|
|Beaney, Alan||Boyden, James||Cliffe, Michael|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Collick, Percy|
|Bence, Cyril||Bradley, Tom||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Benn, Anthony Wedgwood||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Brockway, A. Fenner||Crosland, Anthony|
|Benson, Sir George||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Darling, George||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jeger, George||Probert, Arthur|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Deer, George||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones,Rt.Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Diamond, John||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reid, William|
|Dodds, Norman||Kelley, Richard||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Doig, Peter||Kenyon, Clifford||Rhodes, H.|
|Driberg, Tom||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||King, Dr. Horace||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Ledger, Ron||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Evans, Albert||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Finch, Harold||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fitch, Alan||Lubbock, Eric||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Foley, Maurice||McBride, N.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Forman, J. C.||McCann, John||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacColl, James||Small, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McInnes, James||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Ginsburg, David||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Snow, Julian|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gourlay, Harry||McLeavy, Frank||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Grey, Charles||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Steele, Thomas|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mallalleu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Manuel, Archie||Stonehouse, John|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mapp, Charles||Stones, William|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Marsh, Richard||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Harman, William||Mason, Roy||Swingler, Stephen|
|Harper, Joseph||Mayhew, Christopher||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mendelson, J. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Healey, Denis||Milne, Edward||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Henderson, Rt.Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wade, Donald|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Monslow, Walter||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Morris, John||Warbey, William|
|Hilton, A. V.||Moyle, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|Holman, Percy||Neal, Harold||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Holt, Arthur||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Whitlock, William|
|Houghton, Douglas||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn, Philip (Derby,S.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Oram, A. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Howie, W. (Luton)||Owen, Will||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hoy, James H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parker, John||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parkin, B. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Woof, Robert|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Peart, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Pentland, Norman||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and Mr. Lawson.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Buck, Antony||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Bullard, Denys||Drayson, G. B.|
|Allason, James||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||du Cann, Edward|
|Anderson, D. C.||Burden, F. A.||Duncan, Sir James|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Elliott,R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert||Emery, Peter|
|Barlow, Sir John||Chataway, Christopher||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Barter, John||Chichester-Clark, R,||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Batsford, Brian||Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Cleaver, Leonard||Fair, John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Cole, Norman||Finlay, Graeme|
|Biffen, John||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cooper, A. E.||Foster, Sir John|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Freeth, Denzil|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Cordle, John||Gammans, Lady|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Corfield, F. V.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Costain, A. P.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Coulson, Michael||Gower, Raymond|
|Braine, Bernard||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Brewis, John||Critchley, Julian||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Bromley-Davenport.Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Grosvenor, Lord Robert|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cunningham, Knox||Gurden, Harold|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Dance, James||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)|
|Bryan, Paul||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heeton)||MacArthur, Ian||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maclean,SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs)||Shaw, M.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||MacLeod, Sir J. (Ross & Cromarty)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||McMaster, Stanley R.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maddan, Martin||Speir, Rupert|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Stainton, Keith|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marshall, Sir Douglas||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Marten, Neil||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hiley, Joseph||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Mawby, Ray||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Holland, Philip||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hollngworth, John||Mills, Stratton||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Morgan, William||Temple, John M.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Morrison, John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Neave, Airey||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Jackson, John||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|James, David||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Jennings, J. C.||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Turner, Colin|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Partridge, E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Peel, John||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Percival, Ian||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pitman, Sir James||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pitt, Dame Edith||Wall, Patrick|
|Kirk, Peter||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Kitson, Timothy||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pym, Francis||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ramsden, James||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Bawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter||Wise, A. R.|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wolrlge-Gordon, Patrick|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Longden, Gilbert||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Worsley, Marcus|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Mr. McLaren and Mr. Ian Eraser.|
§ Amendments made: In page 2, line 16, leave out "Minister" and insert "Ministers aforesaid".
§ In line 24, leave out "Minister" and insert "Ministers aforesaid".
§ In line 28, leave out "Minister" and insert "Ministers aforesaid or any of them".
§ In line 29, after first "to", insert "them or".
§ In line 31, leave out "by the Minister".
§ In line 34, at end insert:
(5) The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food acting alone shall have the like powers as the Ministers aforesaid have under subsections (2) and (3) above to make orders dealing only with the rates of levies, allowances and reliefs provided for by previous orders.
§ In line 37, leave out "his" and insert "their".284
§ In line 38, leave out "Minister" and insert "Minister aforesaid".—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]
§ Mr. Farr
I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out "elsewhere than in the United Kingdom" and to insert:in the Commonwealth and elsewhere overseas".The Amendment has been tabled with the intention of deliberately noticing in the Bill the fact that farmers in the Commonwealth still enjoy that special recognition which they have enjoyed in the past. Quite naturally, home producers are our prime concern but, equally naturally, Commonwealth producers are our next concern. I feel that it would be the wish of the House that if, as the Bill says, we are having regard to the interests of agricultural and horticultural producers elsewhere than in the United Kingdom then that regard in the first 285 place should be shown towards our Commonwealth suppliers.
In moving the Amendment I have particularly in mind, for example, New Zealand which today sends to us 90 per cent. of her total export of dairy produce and over half of her total export of lamb. A large proportion of the £350 million worth of goods which came from Canada in 1962 were agricultural produce, and we are still Australia's largest customer taking her meat and her grain. Additionally, nearly all our imports of sugar come from Commonwealth countries. The House may have some idea of the extent of our trade when I say that in 1962 we imported from the Commonwealth over £100 million worth of cereals alone. Dairy produce amounted to £96 million worth and meat to £92 million worth.
I am asking my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to accept what is only a small alteration in the wording of the Clause. I might possibly have had good ground for suggesting that a preferential rate of levy be applied to Commonwealth producers. As I have not tabled anything of that nature, I trust that my hon. Friend will be gracious enough to realise that this small alteration can also be construed as one of great significance.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) for moving the Amendment in the reasonable terms he did. If it has done nothing else, his speech has drawn attention to the importance of our Commonwealth in the supply of food to this country. I am sure that his words will not go unnoticed. But by mentioning the Commonwealth the Amendment alters the wording rather than the scope of the provision in the Bill which permits my right hon. Friends, in exercising their powers under the Clause, to take account of the interests of overseas producers.
The provision in subsection (5) was inserted in recognition of our wide trading interests. Although the purpose for which the minimum import prices may be exercised is in the interest of maintaining market stability in the United Kingdom, we clearly cannot overlook or ignore the fact that producers in other countries have a considerable stake in 286 our market including, as my hon. Friend pointed out, producers in the Commonwealth.
We have made it clear all along that we are ready to take a full and constructive part in discussions on the wider problems of achieving a greater measure of stability in the world cereals market generally. This indeed is the spirit in which we are participating in the G.A.T.T. discussions on cereals. The latter part of subsection (5) indicates that we have these wider considerations in mind.
The effect of the Amendment is to single out the Commonwealth for special mention, a praiseworthy object indeed. As for the drafting of the Amendment, while I do not quibble very much about it, I must point out that it overlooks the fact that the United Kingdom is a part of the Commonwealth, and also that in the context of this subsection it is the interests of our trading partners generally and not only those of other Commonwealth countries the which we are concerned. A special reference to the Commonwealth is therefore not appropriate or necessary in this context.
We are talking about the much wider negotiation; which we may be undertaking and of the discussions in Geneva held under the provisions of the G.A.T.T. This is the reason why in subsection (5) there is a specific mention of the interests of overseas producers. The House will realise that, praiseworthy though the Amendment is, it is not necessary; and indeed it would not seem appropriate to put it in the Clause in the way my hon. Friend has suggested. I must therefore reluctantly ask the House to reject it.
§ Mr. Turton
I rise to say how sorry I am that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary should be so ungracious in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). Is there any great difficulty about accepting the Amendment? Subsection (5) says that Orders may make different provisions according to the origin of the imports. Presumably that looks at the present Commonwealth provision as a Commonwealth preference. If I am wrong, I hope that I shall be contradicted, but if I am right why not provide for the Commonwealth in this Clause, as it has been 287 provided for in previous trading legislation, and make it quite clear that we have special responsibilities to the Commonwealth?
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary makes the very pedantic comment about the drafting that it would not mean what it is intended to mean because we in this country are part of the Commonwealth, but surely my hon. Friend's pedantry has rather outrun his grammar because the Amendment says "in the Commonwealth and elsewhere overseas". If we are the Commonwealth at home then the Commonwealth could not be "elsewhere overseas." Therefore, I beg my hon. Friend to look at the matter a little more kindly.
No great change is made, but as a matter of good manners and politeness to our partners in the Commonwealth I ask him to consider this matter. If he wishes, he can think it over and take it to his right hon. Friend, who is on a bed of sickness, and he can consider with him whether in another place he could put the matter right between this country and the Commonwealth, bearing in mind that there will be a certain strain in relationships between us and many Commonwealth countries during the process of freeing our agricultural policy. It would not be a bad thing, therefore, if we did this in a way which would be well-mannered and polite towards our partners in the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) emotionally and spiritually and I see no reason why the words relating to the Commonwealth should not be inserted in the Bill. They make no difference to the Bill because, as the Parliamentary Secretary has rightly stated, the Bill as it stands obviously includes an instruction to the Minister to take note of our Commonwealth interests because they are part of our overseas interest. I see no reason, therefore, why it should not be made clear that we are thinking of the Commonwealth.
We on this side of the House have agreed that in our food policies we must take account of Commonwealth interests. It was implicit from 1947 onwards, and it was one of the reasons 288 for our doubts about going into the Common Market. We cannot, however, neglect other overseas interests, and it is at this point that I begin to agree with the Parliamentary Secretary.
We must make sure that we fit into world agreements and particularly, if we can get them, world commodity agreements which are designed to help maintain reasonable prices for foodstuffs throughout the world. This is essential to the well-being of agricultural countries generally and also to our own wellbeing as an exporting nation, because we want prosperous customers. All these matters have been considered in discussions on Second Reading and in Committee, but, nevertheless, I cannot see any reason why special reference to the Commonwealth should be omitted from the Bill.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling). Why is there all this tenderness and worry on the part of the Government about mentioning the Commonwealth? Surely this is the place where it would be apt to mention it. The logic of the argument made by hon. Members opposite was irrefutable. We are not asking the Minister to do much. I do not want to upset this debate by harking back to points of view and debates that we had last year, but I am still a little suspicious that there is behind this the thought that the Common Market is a panacea for all our economic ills and problems. So we play down the Commonwealth.
I want us to play it up again. After all, we are not the ones who waved the Union Jack at political meetings, at General Elections. [Interruption.] That is a fair comment. I want the Minister now to give way. The Amendment does not alter the Bill all that much, but it represents some of the agreements made and preferences granted during the years. There have been occasions when we have been grateful for the help of the Commonwealth, in times of flood, famine and during the war. Since we are at least a British Government, let us mention sections of the British Commonwealth in the Bill.
There is no need to make a long speech. The points that have been made hit the nail right on the head. During 289 the Committee stage we probed this shadow that was over Government speakers about the Common Market. I want to see the Commonwealth mentioned in the Bill, as referred to in the Amendment. There is no reason why it should not be mentioned. If my two hon. Friends were not too busy making their own private speeches on the Front Bench I would ask for their attention. If we cannot get the Government to agree to this Amendment, I would shunt them into the Lobby and let the country know how they feel about this Commonwealth that they talk so much about.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
I must point out to my hon. Friend that unfortunately I had to be out of the Chamber for a few minutes while, I understand, he was saying that he did not think that this Amendment was necessary. I would support my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, for this reason. There are not many people in my part of the world who are gravely suspicious about the threat of our going into the Common Market. I can think of no reason why the Commonwealth, of which we are justly so proud, should not be included in these words. I think that it would at least do something to allay the suspicions which are voiced to me so frequently in my part of the country about this hidden wish of Her Majesty's Government to let things go on a little bit until an advance can be made towards our going into the Common Market. For these reasons, I hope that my hon. Friend will reconsider what he said.
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) need not have worried about my conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) who was merely telling me how eloquently my hon. Friend the Member for Leek was speaking on this matter.
I was delighted when I came into the Chamber and heard the debate, because during Second Reading I probed the Minister on his intention whether this import levy system was to be a preparation for our entry into the European Economic Community, because the Community has precisely this sort of levy system.
In Committee I gave several quotations, but I do not want to go into them 290 now, because I want to press a Division on this Amendment, in view of what the Minister has said. I remember quoting from a Western European Union document, which was issued only in December, 1963, the speech of M. Jean Rey to the Assembly of the Western European Union. In his speech M. Rey, a member of the High Commission of the European Economic Community, said this, which is relevant to the Amendment:In December, 1962, they had been concerned to tell Mr. SoamesThat is our Minister, I assume—that the United Kingdom deficiency payment scheme was a bad one. He had defended that system of payments, but a year later, Mr. Butler"—I assume that he means our Mr. Butler—had been able to tell them at The Hague that the United Kingdom was gradually introducing the Community system of minimum payments.All hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have agricultural interests, and especially those with horticultural interests, are anxious that there should be no dubiety about this, that we should have clarity; and we on this side are delighted to support the Amendment which would mention the Commonwealth. I have always been a Commonwealth man. I am not negative in my attitude towards Europe, but I think that if we can in our legislation emphasise more and more our relationship with the Commonwealth it will be to the good of this country. I am delighted to support the hon. Member. We shall press the Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. Bullard
I cannot see why my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary could not accept this Amendment which seems to be a very mild one. I have been provoked into saying a word or two by what has been said on this question of the Common Market. I think that this is a complete red herring. There is very little in common between these arrangements and the Common Market arrangements. This system of minimum import prices is in order to fortify the system of deficiency payments which we at present have. They have no such thing in the Common Market.
291 While I would have been much happier if my hon. Friend had accepted this Amendment, I must help him to rebuff the attacks which have been made by hon. Members opposite, suggesting that there is some kind of attempt in this Bill to bring us under any Common Market system. If I thought that were the case, I would vote against the whole Bill.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member must realise that his right hon. Friend the Ministere has a great enthusiasm for the managed market. Over and over again, in specific Regulations, cereals, for example, he advised farmers to accept this sort of policy, and for these reasons we are still a little suspicious.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
There is one point which I must deal with as quickly as I can. The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) said there seemed to be a shadow hovering over him concerning the Common Market. Various of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have mentioned it. There is, of course, no such intention, and this had nothing to do with the Commonwealth—I mean the Common Market.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
If I thought that the hon. Gentleman knew what that meant, I would see him afterwards outside. There is absolutely no intention whatever of this having any effect to do with that at all. My right hon. Friend the Minister has made this point time and time again. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) knows full well that he is flogging a dead horse ad nauseam, and I had hoped that the House was tired of that one. This has nothing whatever to do with the Common Market.
To return to the Amendment, as I said before, it is unnecessary because the words already in the Bill cover the issues about which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) was speaking. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) pointed out that, even under the Amendment, we should still be in the same position as we were before we started. I entirely agree. My point was 292 that it was quite unnecessary to put these words in. We are here referring to much wider and more general range of arrangements which may be concluded in the future. We are thinking in wider and more general terms than the narrower point about the Commonwealth, important though that is, as my hon. Friends have stressed. However, I am quite prepared to accept the reference to the Commonwealth, as my hon. Friend has suggested.
§ Amendment agreed to.