§ 26.—(l) The appropriate Minister may in accordance with a scheme approve, and (subject to section 47 of the Agriculture Act 1970) make grants out of money provided by Parliament towards expenditure incurred in connection with the carrying out of
- (a) transactions for securing that agricultural land which is or forms part of an uncommercial unit, but which together with some other agricultural land could form an intermediate unit or commercial unit, shall be owned and occupied with that other land, and
- (b) transactions for securing that, where an intermediate unit or a commercial unit is not all in the same ownership, any part of it comes to be in the same ownership as the rest of that unit, or in the same ownership as some other part of that unit, but excluding transactions which bring into the same ownership and occupation two or more parts of the unit each of which could by itself form a commercial unit, and
- (c) transfers or exchanges of agricultural land (or estates or interests in agricultural land) for the purpose of giving more satisfactory boundaries to one or more agricultural units;
§ Transactions within paragraphs (a) and (b) above are in this Part of this Act referred to as "amalgamations", and transactions within paragraph (c) are in this Part of this Act referred to as "boundary adjustments".
§ (2) A scheme under this section may restrict the amalgamations and boundary adjustments to which it applies in any way and may in particular exclude amalgamations of land which has reverted from being in single ownership or occupation.
§ (3) The expenditure towards which a grant may be made under this section in connection with an amalgamation or boundary adjustment shall be any costs of the amalgamation or boundary adjustment of any description specified in the scheme.
§ (4) A scheme under this section may make different provision for different circumstances.
§ (5) The amount of any grant payable under this section towards expenditure shall be determined in such manner as may be provided for by or under the scheme.
§ (6) A scheme under this section shall provide for grant in respect of such of any expenditure such as is mentioned in subsection (3) above as is approved for the purposes of grant by the appropriate Minister in connection with an amalgamation or boundary adjustment approved by that Minister in pursuance of the scheme, and any such approval—
- (a) may be given either before or, in any case where the appropriate Minister thinks fit, after the expenditure has been incurred or the amalgamation or boundary adjustment has been carried out;
- (b) may be given subject to such conditions as the appropriate Minister may specify, and in particular subject to any condition as to the time within which the amalgamation or boundary adjustment is to be carried out or as to the carrying out or provision within a specified period of specified works or facilities appearing to the appropriate Minister to be necessary as a consequence of the amalgamation or boundary adjustment;
- (c) may be varied or withdrawn by the appropriate Minister with the written consent of the person on whose application the approval was given;
§ (7) After the payment of any grant under this section, any grant under section (Farm capital grants) of the Agriculture Act 1970 in respect of any work or facility certified under subsection (6) above or any grant under subsection (1)(a) of the next following section in connection with an amalgamation the relevant unit shall be subject to the provisions of Schedule 3 to this Act and— 490
- (a) the appropriate Minister shall not approve the amalgamation unless satisfied that all persons having an estate or interest in the relevant unit have given their written consent to the application of that Schedule to the relevant unit,
- (b) the relevant unit shall be, or be the part of, the agricultural unit or units specified for the purposes of this subsection by the appropriate Minister in the document giving his approval to the amalgamation, and
- (c) in the said Schedule 3 as applied by this subsection "relevant Exchequer payments" shall mean—
- (i) any such grant as aforesaid in respect of such expenditure as the appropriate Minister may certify as being expenditure related to the relevant unit, and
- (ii) such sum as the appropriate Minister may certify as the sum representing his administrative expenses (including an appropriate proportion of overhead expenses and other fixed or general expenses) incurred in connection with making the grant,
§ (8) In the case of the payment of any grant under this section or any such grant under section (Farm capital grants) of the Agriculture Act 1970 as is referred to in the last foregoing subsection in connection with a boundary adjustment the appropriate Minister may, if he thinks fit, designate in the document giving his approval to the boundary adjustment any land appearing to him to benefit from the boundary adjustment as land which, after the payment of that grant, is to be a relevant unit subject to the provisions of Schedule 3 to this Act, and paragraphs (a) and (c) of the last foregoing subsection shall apply in relation to the boundary adjustment as they apply in relation to an amalgamation.
§ (9) The duration of a scheme under this section shall be a period not exceeding seven years, but that period may from time to time be extended by further schemes under this section for periods not exceeding seven years.
§ (10) A grant shall not be made under section 16 of the Agriculture Act 1957 (which relates to grants towards costs of amalgamation and is superseded by this section) in respect of a transaction proposed in an application made under that section after the coming into force of the first scheme made under this section, and so much of subsection (2) of the said section 16 as limits the time within which applications may be made under that section shall cease to have effect.
§ (11) The following enactments—
- (a) section 6(c) of the Hill Farming Act 1946,
- (b) section 5(3) of the Agriculture (Small Farmers) Act 1959, or
- (c) section 2(3) of the Agriculture and Horticulture Act 1964,
|Repeals of enactments relating to capital grants|
|Chapter||Short Title||Extent of Repeal|
|1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6. c. 70.||The Agriculture Act 1937.||Section 16.|
|3 & 4 Geo. 6. c. 14.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act 1940.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 15(1).|
|3 & 4 Geo. 6. c. 50.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) (No. 2) Act 1940.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 1(1).|
|4 & 5 Geo. 6. c. 50.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1941.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 3.|
|7 & 8 Geo. 6. c. 28.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1944.||Section 8(d).|
|10 & 11 Geo. 6. c. 48.||The Agriculture Act 1947.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 96.|
|2 & 3 Eliz. 2. c. 39.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1954.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 1.|
|7 & 8 Eliz. 2. c.31||The Agricultural Improvement Grants Act 1959.||In section 1(4), paragraphs (a) and (b).|
|In section 1(8), the words from "section sixteen" to the word "to" where last occurring.|
|1964 c. 28.||The Agriculture and Horticulture Act 1964.||Section 3.|
|1967 c. 22.||The Agriculture Act 1967.||In section 26, in subsection (3) the words from "(b) in" to "bound-aries", and subsection (4) from "and in particular" onwards.|
|Sections 30, 31 and 32.|
|In section 33(4), paragraphs (a) and (b), in paragraph (c) the word "and", and paragraph (d).|
|In section 34(1), in paragraph (a), the words "section 31, section 32 or", and paragraphs (b) and (c).|
|In section 34(3), the words "or an order under subsection (1)(b) or (1)(c) above", and the words "32(2) or, as the case may be".|
|In section 37, in subsection (1) the words "or section 30" and sub-sections (3) and (5).|
|Sections 41, 42 and 69(1)(b).|
|1968 c. 34.||The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968.||Save for the purposes of grants to statutory water undertakers, section 41(1).|
§ The repeal of the enactments specified in this Part of this Schedule shall take effect, subject to subsection (7) of section (Farm capital grants) of this Act, as from the date appointed under subsection (6) of that section, and shall not affect the continuance in force of any instrument made thereunder so far as the instrument is made under or by virtue of any enactment not repealed by this Act.492
§ to no purpose or unduly expensive.—[Mr. Mackie.]
§ Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
§ Further Amendments made: No. 56, in Schedule 4, page 92, line 2, at end insert:493
No. 57, in Schedule 4, page 94, line 21, column 3, at beginning insert:
'In section 19(6), the words "where the owner "to "this Act or"';
No. 58, in Schedule 4, page 94, line 23, column 3, at end insert:
'In section 79(2), the words "within a period of twelve months"';
§ No. 59, in Title, line 3, leave out from '1950' to end of line 4.—[Mr. Mackie.]
§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent and Prince of Wales's consent signified.]
§ 4.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill has been given a very thorough examination and has been improved by these discussions. I am grateful to hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee and to many other hon. Members who have contributed to this outcome. Part I gives effect to the domestic element of our proposals for the future marketing and subsidy arrangement for eggs. Since we considered the Bill on Second Reading I have announced details of the other element in our proposals. This is, of course, the introduction of minimum import prices for shell eggs and egg products. Together these proposals provide a comprehensive policy for the progess of the egg industry.
Our proposals in Part II of the Bill for a unified farm capital grant scheme have been very fully discussed, and voted on, but I do not believe that there is as much difference between us as some of our debates have suggested. We share the same objectives. We all want to continue grant-aiding agricultural investment, to simplify and streamline the capital grant system, and to use grant funds to the best effect. It is mainly on the question of how to achieve the last objective that we have seen cause to differ.
Before my Annual Review statement we were convinced that under our proposals to redirect these funds for capital investment the industry as a whole would be better off, small farmers stood to gain more than they would lose from the change, and the incentive to greater pro- 494 ductivity would be increased. Nor did we see any prospect that the fears of farmers about the removal of the benefit-to-the-land test would be realised. But my statement and the White Paper on the Annual Review must surely have cleared up any doubts that remained. The agricultural industry has a great deal to gain from these proposals, and I am sure that it will take advantage of them.
Under the farm structure scheme we propose to increase from £400 to £750 the amount of annual non-farm income which is disregarded in deciding whether an outgoer is eligible. This and the other changes should go a long way to remove the obstacles which experience has shown have deterred some potential amalgamaters and outgoers. They will help further to improve the structure of the industry in which all of us are so interested.
Part III of the Bill will help local authorities to improve their smallholdings estates. It has received a detailed and thorough examination in Committee, which has enabled us to clarify some points and to clear up a few misunderstandings. One false impression, however, still seems to linger in the minds of some hon. Members. This is that Part III represents an increase in Ministerial control over smallholdings authorities.
I want, therefore, to make it quite clear that we are giving up nearly all the detailed controls of the 1947 Act. For example, there will no longer be any regulations for the management of smallholdings. There will be no special controls over the application of smallholdings receipts. Authorities will be free to make their own loans to smallholders. There will be no requirement to appoint a separate smallholdings committee or to get its constitution or composition approved by the Minister. There will be no Ministerial powers of direction to alter the size or layout of individual smallholdings or to control their letting, and no need for individual schemes for the layout and equipment of separate smallholdings to be submitted to the Minister. Part III will be a fair and useful basis for partnership between central and local Government in the future development of statutory smallholdings.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. It will make it unnecessary for me to 495 seek to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to make a speech. As the Minister knows, in my constituency there are over 1,000 part-time smallholdings. In Norfolk they are called bare-land holdings, I think. I would ask for an assurance, in addition to all the others the right hon. Gentleman has so helpfully given tonight, that county smallholdings authorities now will be absolutely free to continue part-time holdings where they feel the need exists and will be able to let them to local applicants.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I realise his interest in this. Perhaps I may say a few words in answer to him. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the continuance of a reasonable number of part-time smallholdings. Smallholdings authorities will wish to consider the local need for such holdings when they are drawing up their reorganisation plans. There is no intention of forcing authorities to give up all their part-time holdings, and we recognise that in many areas they may still have a useful part to play in the structure of local agricultural communities. What is true in the hon. Gentleman's area is certainly true in my own, and in certain parts of South-West England as well.
I shall now turn very briefly to fertilisers and feeding stuffs, that is to say, Part IV of the Bill. These provisions have been warmly welcomed as constituting a substantial improvement over the 1926 Act. This must be largely attributed to the long and detailed preparatory consultations which we had. A number of suggestions were put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite, both in Committee and today, resulting in some useful Amendments. This has made for a very worth while improvement in consumer protection.
In Parts V and VI of the Bill we deal with flood warning systems. I am glad to say that about half of the river authorities in England and Wales have already responded to these provisions for grant aid, which have retrospective effect. It is good to see so many river authorities acting so quickly, and no doubt all the others are now considering what needs to be done. I hope that they will come forward quickly with their schemes.
Both in Committee and today there has been much discussion of the problem of 496 tied cottages, which is dealt with in Clause 96. I recognise that this subject arouses great emotion on both sides of the House. The tied cottage is bound to present a problem of reconciling the conflicting interests of owners and occupiers, and it is the Government's duty to try to hold a fair balance.
As my hon. Friends the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries will confirm, I have given much personal thought, over many months, to this problem. We must bear in mind that the occupant of a tied cottage cannot have the same kind of security as the ordinary protected tenant, as that would change the whole character of the tied cottage system. One must also remember, when dealing with the question of agricultural tied cottages, that there are other types of tied cottage.
The justification of the system is that tied cottages are needed to house workers. Unless, therefore, they are really needed for working the farm, the occupant should have a reasonable minimum period of security, which we have set at six months. That is the substance of the Clause. All in all, the Clause represents a fair balance between the practical needs of the industry and the human considerations which arise when we take measures which affect people's homes.
I hope that both sides of the industry will regard this as a reasonable step forward and will co-operate to make it a success, because we have done as much as is reasonably possible to seek to solve this most complex and difficult human problem.
I believe that the House welcomes the arrangements in Clause 98 for financing the Agricultural Training Board. In agreement with both sides of the industry, we have worked out simple and economical arrangements for financing agricultural training through the Annual Review. I hope that the difficulties of the past are now behind us, and I know that the House would want me to wish Mr. George Huckle and his board every success with their important task in the future.
The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) speaks with authority because he makes a detailed study of, and consults the authorities on, the subjects which he raises. However, I hope that he will not persist in saying 497 that our slaughter policy is "a thing of the past." It is not. We will continue to rely on our slaughter policy as the means of eradicating foot-and-mouth disease. I want that to be understood perfectly clearly.
Ring vaccination will be available to supplement slaughter if and when there are reasons for believing that the disease may spread rapidly or widely. After our experience in 1967 and 1968, a subject in which the hon. Gentleman took a great deal of interest and did much hard work, it would be most unwise for any Government to fail to take precautions which might help to prevent another epidemic on that disastrous scale. None of us who experienced that will ever forget it. As my hon. Friend said in his careful explanation, we shall be discussing our plans with representatives of the livestock industry, and we shall be taking into account everything that they say.
Finally, we are taking new powers to aid our campaign against brucellosis. The Bill will therefore provide incentives to voluntary effort and the necessary powers for compulsory area eradication programmes.
As I said on Second Reading, this is a long Bill which covers a number of very important subjects. It will help to provide the framework within which the industry will produce and market its goods in the decade to come. Notwithstanding the fact that it is to a large extent non-controversial, it has been properly examined in very great detail. We had 26 sittings in Committee and we have also had a long Report stage. Although there may have been occasions when we got on each others' nerves, I would like to pay tribute to hon. Members who worked hard on the subjects in which they took a deep interest.
Finally, it is a measure which above all else will help to make the industry more efficient. It reduces the farmer's work load, helps in buying and selling, and will accelerate the eradication of an insidious disease. For all these reasons I warmly commend it to the House.
§ 4.11 a.m.
§ Mr. Godber
The Minister has sought to sum up the deliberations we have had on this Bill. I will make my comments very brief at this time of the morning.
498 In regard to Part I of the Bill I thought the Minister's analysis of the position was somewhat rosy. Egg producers have very real problems. We have discussed them during the passage of the Bill. This part of the Bill will produce problems and it may produce solutions. That we have to wait to see.
As to Part II, as the Minister said, we have had long and detailed discussions. He told us that in so far as capital grants were concerned his statement on the Price Review must have cleared up matters. Farmers will hear of that with a great deal of amazement. As I said the other day, a certain degree of confusion arose after that statement. I shall not pursue it at this time in the morning, but I hope that the intention of this part of the Bill to simplify matters for farmers—for that is what we are told it is—will prove helpful and that to some degree it will offset the bitter disappointment felt by many farmers who have lost grants for tractors and combines and do not yet know what adequate replacements there may be. This is felt keenly by farmers at all levels.
As to Part III, I was impressed about the powers the Minister is giving up. If he had told us that in Committee we might have proceeded more quickly. It seems that he is giving county councils complete autonomy, but that is not the way in which county councils understand it. They will study with interest what he said in his speech.
I do not wish to add anything in relation to tied cottages. I think that what the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary said illustrated the difficulties of the problem. The debate we had may have helped to clarify the position. I do not wish to add to what I said on that. Nor do I add anything to what I said about the Agricultural Training Board. I join with the Minister in hoping that we are in for a better period on that matter.
On the question of ring vaccination and slaughter, I do not wish to add materially, but I think it a pity that the Parliamentary Secretary did not appreciate the points which my hon. Friends put to him. We thought that he misunderstood the whole tone of the debate. Our understanding is that the Government have power for ring vaccination 499 under the previous Act. That is why the Minister stock-piled vaccine, because he had the power to use it. The speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, I fear, was inaccurate in its appreciation of the position. We still hope that the Minister will have further thoughts about this. I do not wish to tie his hands in the case of a further serious outbreak, but the matter requires further thought.
On brucellosis, I hope very much that the Minister's hopes will be fulfilled. We still feel that provision should be pressed ahead with more rapidly and that as soon as physically possible we should be faced with proposals for area eradication, the only firm basis on which we can go forward. The Minister has certain problems in getting this going, but he will have full support from this side.
We have had our criticisms of the Bill, but it has certain advantages and we have helped to iron out certain difficulties. I would pay tribute to the Minister and his team for the way they have listened and have come forward with a number of helpful points today. I congratulate them on the way they have conducted the debates over this long period, and I hope the Bill will achieve some part of the claims which the Minister has made for it.
§ 4.16 a.m.
§ Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)
I promise to be brief at this hour of the morning. We have had a good debate, one of the best, because we must agree that hon. Members on this side have been helpful throughout this long Report stage. It is pleasant to find the Minister and his hon. Friends giving the Opposition so much credit for the help they have given the Government in making the Bill more effective.
Certain parts of the Bill do not apply to Scotland, especially Part III on smallholdings. This is important, and one is glad to know that the Government are producing measures to promote the welfare of smallholders. There is no doubt that there is a future for smallholdings. If one has a number of them it helps to keep up the population. It is necessary to have a certain number of people in the various areas to maintain the social services, and this is one benefit we find 500 in Scotland from maintaining the small-holding population.
Turning to capital and other grants, it is fair to say, and it is the duty of those of us who represent farming constituencies to point out, that while grants are generous in themselves, farmers and small holders find it difficult to find their share of the cash. This has been so for some time but we hope the situation will improve.
We had been expecting great things of the recent Price Review. In the north, with large sales of store stock recently, since the Review, we expected that at least a share of what went on to the end product would work its way back to the breeder, but it has not happened so far. This is one of the problems, and it is not easy to put across to the man in the street the difficulty which farmers find in putting up their share of the cost of improvements.
On the economics of the Price Review and increasing grants, it is rare indeed——
§ Mr. Mackenzie
Sorry, Mr. Speaker. That is the position, and one finds it is difficult not to refer to these matters when dealing with this important Bill.
It is indeed an important Bill and we hope it will make a substantial contribution to the industry's welfare and to the expansion of production. On behalf of my colleagues, I welcome it.
§ 4.20 a.m.
§ Sir D. Glover
I shall not filibuster or say anything to keep the House for long at this time of the night. Before we reached Third Reading, we had a very important debate on the question of drugs in agriculture. You, Mr. Speaker—I hope I put this delicately—rather implied that hon. Members should keep their speeches very short. I believe that that debate was one of the most important debates that the House has had for a long time. We were dealing with human lives, how people take food, and what the repercussions will be. The House was not quite at its best in curtailing that debate. We must protect the right of hon. Members even to bore the House to tears and to speak for half an hour. We must not say that an hon. Member must keep his 501 speech short on a matter of very great interest.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are discussing the Third Reading of a Bill none of which deals with the length of speeches in debate.
§ Sir D. Glover
I am perfectly prepared to accept your "shot in the arm", Mr. Speaker, and sit down. I do not want to delay the House. I am being sincere and trying not to filibuster.
We have had a very interesting debate on a very interesting Bill. I support the Bill. I do not think that anybody who is in the House at present opposes it. Our discussion of perhaps the most important part of the Bill was rather truncated because there was a desire not to over-emphasise or over-discuss a problem. This is not what the House is about. We should have debated that issue at greater length.
Having made that point, I welcome the Bill. I do not think that anybody really opposes it. We hope that it will improve the agricultural atmosphere and ease the problems of those involved in the industry and make their activities more productive, for the nation's benefit. I repeat that when, even on Report, a very important matter arises, the House should not be inhibited in its discussions. It should debate the matter right down to the fundamental issue, as it tried to do tonight, but I do not think that we got down to it.
§ 4.23 a.m.
Mr. W. H. K. Baker
In moving the Third Reading, the Minister kindly paid tribute to hon. Members on this side. I congratulate the Minister on the vigour with which he made his speech. It was a tonic to hear him in such good voice at 4 a.m. I thank the Ministerial team for the courtesy they extended to me and to other members of the Standing Committee.
I want to touch on three points which strike me in the Bill in relation to the remoter areas. I make no apology for returning to these points.
I am not convinced that the Eggs Authority, set up under Part I, is the best answer to the problem of the egg producer in outlying areas, particularly the small egg producer. There are various deficiencies in the set-up of the authority which will not make for the best working of that side of agriculture. 502 What very much dismays me and many farmers and hon. Members on this side of the House is that although there are provisions for support-buying by the authority, there is no Government subvention to help. I think that that will prove in the not-too-distant future a very great disincentive to egg production, and cause a great deal of hardship for egg producers in the remoter parts of the country. I acknowledge that there are special subventions for Orkney and Northern Ireland for the transport of eggs to the mainland, but it will cost a great deal of money to get eggs from the remoter parts of the country, such as the constituency I have the honour to represent, to the main markets, the main centres of population, hundreds of miles away.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has already mentioned my second point, which concerns capital grants and the withdrawal of the tractor and combine harvester grants. These withdrawals, particularly of the tractor grant, will be felt hardest in the remoter areas, the areas of the smaller farm, where the smaller farmer is dependent on a turn-round on the bigger farms for obtaining secondhand tractors. It is the secondhand tractor market that will suffer in the short-term and long-term from the withdrawal of the grants. The withdrawal of the harvester grant is not as important for the remoter areas, but it has an importance in that if we as an agricultural nation are to remain competitive it is essential that our machinery be kept up to date.
Finally, I would refer to the new Clause on brucellosis, a most important addition to the Bill. I think that it was the urgency with which my hon. Friends presented the case in Committee that prompted the Government to put in this provision. We welcome it, and hope that the area schemes which it proposes will be brought about very soon. If I may be parochial, I suggest to the Minister that the North-East of Scotland is an ideal place to start an eradication centre.
The Bill is complicated and long. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving on the Committee that considered it. Having gone all the way through with the Bill, which will soon become an Act, I very much hope that its overall effect will be of great benefit to agriculture.
§ 4.28 a.m.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I, too, have been very pleased to serve on the Committee considering the Bill. I think that it is the third or fourth of such Bills under the present Government, and we have become quite friends with hon. Members on the other side of the House through serving on the Committees. Our discussions on the Bill and the Amendments which have been accepted have constituted a very pleasant way of coming to agreement on certain subjects.
I want to refer to three or four points in which I have taken a particular interest. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) spoke about part-time smallholdings in Norfolk, or, as we call them, bare-land holdings. I was glad that the Minister said that he would not veto the maintenance of bare-land holdings where there was a need and where the smallholdings authority required them. We had two interesting meetings of smallholding tenants in Norfolk in February. The question was put by the chairman of the committee to the meeting, which was comprised almost entirely of full-time smallholders who knew that the number of holdings would be cut back. They said unanimously that they wanted to retain these bare-land smallholdings because they gave them a start and they knew that they would give their sons a start. In our part of the world, the black land, the better land is vital, and am glad to hear that the Minister will not veto this.
The tied cottage question is a vexed one but the Ministers have leaned over back-wards in an attempt to do their best and put forward something to satisfy their back-benchers. I have always been sorry that the National Union of Agricultural Workers refused to permit this side of the House to represent agricultural workers, refused to let us know of its feelings on such matters as this. Briefs were sent out by the N.F.U., and we would have been glad to have received the agricultural workers' views. I would have been glad to have been consulted by the union and would have given what help I could. This question is not now such a sore point, and I hope that nothing that has been said will make it so between farmer and worker.
504 As to agricultural training, I have been an opponent of the Agricultural Training Board from the start, not because I am opposed to agricultural training—it is absolutely essential—but because I have been opposed to the idea of the board. I would have liked to see an expansion of the facilities provided by the education authorities, through local county councils and others, rather than through a board, which could duplicate services. Since it has been agreed that this new board is wanted by all sides, I hope that it will succeed in doing what it sets out to do, but I do not like the system of payments. I never believe that it is a good thing to hide under a blanket and the whole of the Price Review the method of financing this board. I hope that we will know how much money is spent and how it is spent on this training.
I join with my hon. Friends in welcoming the new Clause dealing with brucellosis. It does not go far enough or fast enough and I hope that we shall have an area eradication scheme introduced. I would claim here—and the Minister has recognised this—that East Anglia is probably an area which, because of the absence of this disease, could easily start the ball rolling. We must have compulsory slaughter and full compensation.
I do not want to end on a sour note but I thought that the Minister was trying to wear rosy spectacles when he claimed so much for the Bill. It is a worth-while Bill and I am pleased to have served on the Committee, but it will not put a single penny into the pockets of the farmer and that is what he wants.
§ 4.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Jopling
I begin by repeating what I said on Second Reading and in Committee, that the Bill should have been an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, since it starts with the constitution of an Eggs Authority, proceeds through 101 Clauses, and ends with the powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland as to injurious weeds. As my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, we are still on speaking terms with the ministerial team who have been in office over the years, with the exception of the Minister. The Joint Parliamentary Secretaries have become familiar figures, hardly of stone, although they sometimes remind me of 505 Gog and Magog. We have some affection for them—which I hope is reciprocated—which has not been dulled by the long and rather tedious course of the Bill.
I said at the beginning of the Committee stage that the Agriculture Bill is an annual jamboree lasting from muck-spreading to seed time, and my prediction has proved right. On the day when Committee stage ended, on my farm the seed drill came out and seed time was upon us.
This may not be the last time on which we shall discuss the Bill. When the other place has worked its spell on the Bill, we shall no doubt discuss Lords Amendments. I would mention four points which I hope their Lordships will consider.
On Part I, I hope the other place will amend Clause 3 on the functions of the Eggs Authority as to market support, so as to ensure that there will be Government involvement in market support. On Part II, I hope the other place will do something about the tyranny of Statutory Instruments which is implied in the main Clause on capital and other grants, which has now been put back in the Bill. We have dealt at length with the exclusion of tractors and combine harvesters, and I hope the other place will give attention to this, and to the decision of the Government to give grants for large capital investments which have no involvement in the land. I was surprised that many hon. Members opposite who have powerful feelings against factory farming, which I do not share, were not here to join in the protest that Government money is to be devoted to developments, involving investment up to £100,000, which have no association with the land. This is a novel and rather dangerous step, to which I hope the other place will pay close attention.
Like my hon. Friends I have enjoyed once again taking part in what I have described flippantly as this annual jamboree. I hope that next time we have a similar Bill my party will be sitting on the benches opposite and introducing legislation to the Statute Book.
§ 4.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
This seems to be a night of tributes. I, too, want to say that I have enjoyed this Agriculture Bill 506 and the cut and thrust of debate between the two sides of the House.
I am pleased to see the Secretary of State with us, because I saw an item in the Evening Standard earlier reporting that the Minister of Agriculture had been abducted. It turned out to have been the Dutch Minister, however, who had been abducted for a short time by angry farmers and consumers in Holland. How-ever, there is no doubt that our Minister is safer here dealing with this Third Reading than he would be if he came to the South-West, where he might suffer the same fate as the Dutch Minister of Agriculture has just experienced. We are glad to see the right hon. Gentleman here tonight. He is safer here than he might be in many parts of the country.
While I welcome some parts of the Bill, I am disturbed about other parts. It is like the curate's egg, and that leads me directly to Clause 1, which is concerned with eggs. On it, we have had a very free-ranging debate, but, at the end, I still have grave doubts about whether the authority will be able to function properly.
Among the many points in Part I which disturb me, I have strong doubt about the market support side, which I believe to be of tremendous importance. Without it, the authority is bound to fail, and I am sad to say that that is my general impression from discussing the matter with many people involved in egg production. I doubt whether the new egg authority will be successful without the support which the Government should provide.
I welcome Clause 6, which is concerned with quality control. This will become more and more important, and I only hope that the new authority will concentrate on that side.
Then there is the provision of levy and the methods of raising it. Again, I see many real problems ahead. One has only to think of what has happened with the Agricultural Training Board to realise the difficulties. I hope that a satisfactory solution will be found to the problems of where the levy is to be placed, because that is a matter of crucial importance.
I welcome Clause 25, with its references to consumer protection, branded sales, and all the other methods by which the new authority can protect the consumer. 507 They are important, and the consumer will demand them.
I am still unhappy about Clause 26, which provides assistance for the transport of eggs by sea. I feel that this provision will create more and more anomalies once it begins to operate. People in the remoter areas of Scotland, the South-West and Wales will be unhappy when they see others getting help which they are not able to obtain.
Then we come to Part II, and the capital and other grants. The provisions are fair enough, except that in respect of investment grants on tractors and combines. We agree with the rest. How-ever, the important question to ask is whether farmers can find the cash to go with it so that they may obtain these grants. This provision needs looking at again very carefully.
Part VII deals with the financing of the Agricultural Training Board. I welcome the fact that the Government intend to allow this to be brought before the House each year. This is worth while. Indeed, it is right that it should be discussed. On that score I congratulate the Government on listening to what we had to say about the matter and on bringing it forward.
Agriculture has problems. I am not sure whether the Bill will help financially in the long run. It will help in certain aspects, but it creates many problems, particularly in the egg industry.
I am still unhappy about Part 1. I think that the N.F.U. and the industry as a whole are also unhapppy about it. I hope that the Minister—I think that he hinted at this in Committee—has not closed his mind to making some alterations and that he will think again about support in some form or another when the deficiency payments finally run out. He said that there was time. I hope that he will consider this matter again. Unless he does, I am afraid that the authority will fail.
§ 4.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Wiggin
The Committee stage of the Bill was the first on which I had the privilege to serve. I am not, therefore, experienced on how other Committees run their affairs. However, it is clear that there was—"friendly" would be an exaggeration—a comparatively cheerful 508 atmosphere as we battled through a lengthy Bill.
I hope that the Minister will not be offended if I indicate that I cannot agree with the final sentence of his speech on Third Reading when he claimed that the Bill would be of outstanding benefit to the farmer and to the industry. I have looked at the main provisions of the Bill. No financial improvement is gained in any Clause from start to finish, with the possible exception of brucellosis eradication, which will cost most of those who participate in the scheme under present arrangements rather more than they will gain.
The capital grants item in Part II must be considered a vital part of Government support for agriculture. I am sad that the tractor and combine grants go. We debated this matter very fully. I believe that the right way to help capital investment is through investment allowances.
I believe that the tied cottages Clause was put in under political pressure. The arrangements under the 1965 Act worked. The small number of cases that finally led to possession by a court order are proof of this.
I am sorry that the Agricultural Training Board has had to come to the Government for assistance. I have always believed in training but that people should pay for it and see what they are paying for. At the same time, they must get their money's worth both in administration and efficiency.
The Clause on the eradication of brucellosis, which I had the honour to introduce and, indeed, got through in Committee, covered all the requirements for eradicating this disease. The Government have seen fit to replace this with a Clause which has less sweeping powers. I believe that the eradication of brucellosis must now become the No. 1 animal health matter for the Ministry.
As I said on Second Reading, the Bill will not put one penny into the farmer's pocket, but some of the matters with which it deals—flood warning, corn returns, fertilisers, and so on—will help the administration of some of the more complex parts of our industry. I apologise to the Minister if I upset him, but I am sure that on consideration he will appreciate that the point I was trying to make is valid.
§ 4.50 a.m.
§ Mr. Hoy
It is only right that a good Scots Presbyterian should pronounce the benediction. After all, it has been a very long prayer meeting. It has been going on since last November. I was a little surprised to hear the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) say that he had looked briefly at the Bill. He has had between November, 1969 and April, 1970, to study it. I do not regard him as a great judge of agricultural matters.
I have been a Member of the House, together with the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), for about a quarter of century. My long experience of the House is that whether we call it an Agriculture Bill, or an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the one thing of which the House can be assured is that it will take a long time to get it through. I remember that on one occasion we got half-way through a Bill, there was then a General Election, and we had to start all over again. I assure the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare that he has a lot to look forward to in dealing with agricultural matters.
I reciprocate what was said by the right hon. Member for Grantham. In Committee on Agriculture Bills we do not get involved in bitter battles. We say what it is right and necessary to say, and there are differences of opinion, but this does not result in any bad feeling. I have not quite decided whether I am Gog or Magog. On looking at the benches opposite one might have thought that the hon. Members for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) and Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), who sit so close together, would have recorded their speeches in the form of a duet. We had a small gamble on whether Box or Cox would be called first. The hon. Member for Torrington enjoys that enthusiasm which comes from his background.
We have noted the points made by the right hon. Member for Grantham. The new farm capital schemes will dispense with many of the detailed restrictions in the existing schemes and consequently will widen the field of eligibility and increase the amount of grant paid. The ending of the tractor grant will cover the relaxation of existing restrictions. In addition, the tractor grant fund will be used to broaden the 510 range of plant machinery eligible for grant. It is not a question of the Government saving money. It will go back to the industry in other ways. I hope that these various changes, including the tractor grant fund and the money paid to the industry, will be used to good effect.
We are delighted to welcome the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) to the debate at this early hour of the morning. It was interesting to hear him draw attention to the importance of smallholdings, as did the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) on a number of occasions in Committee. It is because we share the hon. Gentleman's view that we regard it as important to adapt our provisions to the modern needs of the industry. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the general welcome that he has given to the Bill.
The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) asked what would happen to the new Eggs Authority. The same question was asked by the hon. Member for Torrington. We have discussed this on many occasions. I hope that all hon. Members will give the authority a welcome, and a chance to show what it can do. Indeed, when one thinks of the comments about the contributions made one remembers that the hon. Member for Banff welcomed the provisions for the Orkneys. Nobody has said a word about Northern Ireland, but those are two areas for which special assistance was provided.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West raised the question of the Agricultural Training Board. He has been consistent throughout our debates in his approach to this problem, and he has mentioned his reservations in connection with it. We hope that, like those who have criticised the Egg Board, he will give the training board a fair opportunity to do the job. We believe that it will make a contribution to the industry.
I did not agree with the criticisms of the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) about the way in which the House dealt with the new Clause introduced by the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson). As far as I remember, no hon. Member was excluded from making his contribution to the debate on the Clause.
511 The hon. Member for Westmorland is always good value for money. I shall not follow up all the points he made. We have enjoyed our exchanges with him throughout. I am grateful to him for the compliment that he paid to my hon. Friend and myself. I think that we are the oldest occupants of this office in this century. It has been a great pleasure to us to serve agriculture for such a long time. I hope that as a result of our service, plus this Bill, the agriculture industry will be in much better fettle in the years that lie ahead than it has been in the past.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.