§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (LORD CLINTON)
My Lords, this is a very short measure, but I understand that it raises issues quite out of proportion to its length. I am sorry to have to admit, in the first instance, that the introduction of this measure really breaks a bargain which was arrived at last year, and on that account I regret very much indeed to be in the position of bringing it in. It is no doubt perfectly clear that it was an understanding that the Act which we propose to amend—the Corn Production Act, 917—should come into operation within one year. Subsection (3) of Section 11 of that Act, which is now to be repealed, says—The powers under the Defence of the Realm Regulations exercise able by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries with a view to maintaining the food supply of the country with respect to the matters dealt with in this Part of this Act shall cease to operate at the expiration of one year from the passing of this Act, or at the termination of the present war, whichever is the earlier, and thereupon this Part of this Act shall come into operation.It was clear, then, that it was made certain that the Bill should come into force at the end of one year.
I do not think it need be suggested that any Government or Department brings in a Motion, or a Bill, or makes a promise with the deliberate intention of retiring from that promise supposing it is found to be inconvenient to act up to it; and the excuse for breaking this bargain—if any excuse is possible—is that the conditions, as they at present exist, are totally different from those which it was contemplated would exist when the measure was passed. The hopes which we entertained last year that it would be possible at this time to return to methods of legislation less abnormal than those under which we were then working have, I am sorry to say, been disappointed, and we find ourselves in much the same position as we were at that time inasmuch as we have to look forward to 701 a further period of war conditions. At the same time we are confronted with the same, or somewhat the same, exceptional difficulties for food production in the country. Consequently it is essential that I should ask your Lordships to renew the powers which were granted in the Bill of last year.
The speeding up of food production is one of the greatest of war efforts. The feeding of the people must always be a predominant factor in war. At the moment we may say, we have reached a point of success in carrying out our food production which we could not have obtained without the exceptional powers which the Defence of the Realm Regulations gave us in the way of entering upon land and rapidity of action. We could not maintain production unless, under these same powers, we are allowed to retain the land on which we have entered. Whilst those powers are very great they would, I know, have been of very little avail had they not been fully supported by the agricultural community. Their energies and the efforts they have made, the enterprise they have put into their work, and their loyal obedience to constantly distasteful Regulations, have been beyond all praise. The country owes the farming community generally a debt of gratitude which I hope they may not forget. No doubt most industries have been called upon to work under new and sometimes, no doubt, to them objectionable Regulations. I know they have done their part well, but I do not believe any industry other than agriculture has had forced upon it such Regulations, necessary in themselves, the carrying out of which opened to agriculturists the serious risks of a very heavy loss, and on that account the powers which we took to carry on the food supply of the country certainly would not have availed us unless we had the hearty support of all concerned. I wish to make it clear that in order to carry out the tremendous undertaking of supplying this country with food, so far as it can be produced at home, we cannot expect to manage it under the ordinary law; consequently we must have recourse to this admittedly abnormal method, and this, again, represents the excuse for bringing the measure forward. That is, generally speaking, the object of the Bill.
There is, perhaps, one particular object upon which I would say a word or two—namely, the taking of land for allotments. It is only under Regulations that we are 702 able to take and maintain this land. Allotments have become, fortunately, quite the fashion, and there has been added through them a very large production of food. They employ not a great amount of land considering their number—I think allotment gardens are about ten poles each, or sixteen to the acre—and they employ a very great deal of part-time labour, labour of men who all day are occupied in some other calling but who give up a certain amount of spare time to the cultivation of these allotments, and the cultivation of food. That has been a very real advantage, and I do not know in what other way it could be so well utilised except by means of these allotments. There have been applications for over 300,000 allotments, all of which have been supplied with the exception of about 20,000. These are being supplied almost daily. Applications are coming in daily, and they are applications which it is almost necessary to meet directly they come in. if they are not met, if they are delayed, it raises a perfect storm of objection and criticism out of all proportion to the interests involved, but at the same time objections which may become almost dangerous to the State. For these reasons, in addition to the main reasons of which I have spoken, it is necessary to obtain the powers which this Bill gives us.
But there are, I must say, hidden in this measure certain details of Part 4 of the Corn Production Act, no doubt very important in themselves, but I think less important than the major question. I understand it is the case that the point to which noble Lords attach the most importance is that of appeal. Under the Defence of the Realm Regulations there is no appeal, and the effect of repealing subsection (3) will be that the Regulations for appeal, as they appear in Part 4, will not come into force until the end of the war. Certain noble Lords have pressed this very strongly upon the attention of the Board of Agriculture, and it is admitted that they have made out a very strong case. I will deal with it more particularly in a minute or two, but I should like to say at once that the Board have recognised that there is a case for appeal; they have recognised the principle of an appeal, and have issued certain Regulations dealing with it. I believe the appeal that is required is mainly, if not entirely, connected with the Ploughing-up Orders.
703 I want to draw your Lordships' attention to those Orders for a few moments. The result of the effort which has been made to get additional land ploughed up is that the present acreage under corn has increased by 2,000,000 acres. I think it is a magnificent effort, but we have to realise that owing to the very strenuous cultivation of the last two or three years a good deal of this land is getting worked out. It is becoming foul and choked with weeds. It has had no rest for so long, and owing to the difficulty in getting a full supply of artificial manures its fertility, and consequently its production, is likely to suffer. The question which is of vast importance at this moment is how that production is to he maintained. It appears to us that it can be maintained partly by a greater concentration on the existing lands, and by the endeavour to increase them to a higher standard of cultivation, and at the same time—I think this is a necessary part of it—to provide a certain number of relief lands, a certain additional acreage, to be ploughed up in order that those lands which have been cultivated so long may be given a rest. The actual amount required I am not prepared to state at this moment, because I do not as a matter of fact know it.
Many objections are raised to the ploughing-up of additional land, but unless we get this increased concentration upon our old land, plus a certain amount of additional land to relieve that which most urgently requires a rest, then we must face a lessened production, and I presume, if it be possible, an increased importation from abroad. That is a thing which we have to avoid at all hazards. The safety of the nation demands it. An increased importation raises questions of tonnage and finance, which ought not to be raised at this time. The ploughing up of relief land is certainly away out, but at the present moment it can only be regarded as an ideal, since the pivot of the whole thing turns upon the possibility of a labour supply. Agriculture has undoubtedly been most seriously hit by recent Orders, and the loss of the last 30,000 men cannot be reckoned merely in terms of men. It is a loss that may be reckoned in terms of skilled men—men who have all along been regarded as indispensable on a farm, and who have been exempted by former Tribunals on account of the fact that they could not possibly be spared. We are not entitled 704 to make a complaint in any way about this. It has been decided by authorities who are able to recognise the demand for men, and we have to obey: in fact, we have obeyed as cheerfully as we could do in the circumstances.
As against this loss of man-power there are a few—I am afraid not very many—increased resources. During the last year we have had large experience of motor ploughing and other mechanical power on the land, and as a result we have advanced. First of all, we have a much better acquaintance with the particular class of machinery which is suitable to the land of this kingdom, and also—what is equally important—we shall have a much larger amount of machinery at our disposal. In addition, there is some reason to hope that we shall have a larger amount of phosphatic manure for use, and in addition to that there is a larger number of women and of other part-time labour on the land. But even with these slightly increased resources we cannot expect to undertake any large quantity of additional land. I do not want to create the impression that we have in any sense ruled out the possibility or even the probability of getting additional land. A good deal of it will be obtained, I hope, from land which may be available under the land drainage scheme, and evidence is accumulating to show that there will be a considerable amount of land for the purpose, but the actual amount that can be utilised hinges entirely upon the possibility of an improved labour supply.
Complaints have been made at different times—I have no doubt that your Lordships I have received letters, as I have myself—about the Ploughing-up Orders. I do not think that these complaints extend over any great area. Something like 100,000 Orders have been issued, and it would be surprising indeed if some complaints did not arise, but the reports which we have had recently as to the result of these Ploughing-up Orders are, I am afraid, not so satisfactory as was the case a few weeks ago. Of course, the very dry season must have operated against us. But the reports generally show that even on the newest ploughed up land, and land that was worked in the spring, the condition of the crop is not unsatisfactory. The complaint that one hears at times is that the crop of these new lands is very much below the average. I do not know what average any one would be inclined to put upon land which has 705 been broken up from turf and cropped the first year. I do not think that under ordinary circumstances our farming experience would lead us to believe that from that particular land we should get a very heavy crop the first year. It is in the second and later years, when the turf has been properly broken up and its fertility is becoming available that we expect to get a full crop, and I have not the slightest doubt that, though in cases heavy turf land will not yield to its fullest this year, we shall nevertheless get a very considerable advantage from it in subsequent. years.
The work of issuing these Ploughing-up Orders has been carried out remarkably well by our war agricultural committees. They have had a work of immense difficulty of a kind which is ungrateful and invidious in many ways, and out of which they can by no chance earn any popularity, but they have stuck to their Orders exceedingly well. They have expended a great amount of most useful labour in this work, and generally speaking, their judgment has been excellent, and there has been very little difficulty in getting farmers to carry out their Orders. One does hear complaints against the action of these agricultural committees, but I do not believe for a moment that the complaints are well founded. On the contrary, I think that these committees have carried out their difficult task exceedingly well, and that they deserve very great praise from the country.
It may be, of course, that mistakes have been made and failures have occurred, and upon that I want to say a word regarding the appeal. The appeal, I presume, is founded not so much on account of any failures or mistakes that may have occurred, but on account generally of the abnormal legislation. The legislation of this particular Bill, however, is less abnormal than was that of the Bill which your Lordships passed last year, but it seems to me, as it does also to the President of the Board, who issued his Regulations as to appeal, that noble Lords are on very strong ground when they say that an appeal should be granted. The Regulations for the appeal provide that it shall be to referees, with an arbitrator appointed by the Board of Agriculture. In this we are following precedents of former legislation. It seemed good to the noble Marquess, Lord Lincoln-shire, in passing his somewhat unconventional legislation in the year 1908—his 706 Agricultural Holdings Act and his Small Holdings Act—to adopt the principle of the Department appointing the arbitrator. I know that Ire was exceedingly keen on the matter at the time—I have a very distinct recollection of it—and if he would be good enough now to take the defence of that proposal out of my hands I should be very grateful to him.
I admit that there is obviously a very strong theoretical objection to the appointment of an arbitrator by the Department, which presumably has a referee acting for it. There is, of course, the idea—I think, perhaps, it is only a theoretical idea—that the Board would necessarily appoint some one favourable to its own opinion. While I admit at once the objection, I think that as a matter of practice the appointments by the Board under the arbitrations of both those Acts have hardly ever been contested on the ground of partiality in the appointments. As a matter of fact, a Department, or any one into whose hands you may put the matter, would probably appoint somewhat the saline man—that is the best man they could find for the particular job. At the same time, I believe the principle is entirely wrong. I should not be sorry personally, at all events, if I could see the precedent established bathe noble Marquess broken here, and if noble Lords opposite are going to consider this matter when Lord Desborough brings forward this Amendment, I have no doubt, if they can put forward any concrete proposal and it seems to us suitable and justifiable, we shall have no difficulty in coming to an arrangement about it.
I think those are the principal matters I have to deal with. I have admitted at the very beginning that this Bill is a breach of faith, which I regret to bring forward. I have claimed that, successful as our efforts in the cause of food production have been, it is necessary to maintain them at the highest pitch, and that to do this we require the Defence of the Realm Regulations. I have told your Lordships, and I will say again, that if there are any details of this food production measure which can be continued without abolishing any part of the Regulations under which we are working, I have very little doubt, if they are put forward, that the Government will do their utmost to meet them. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Clinton.)707
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. In doing so, I will at once admit the extreme fairness—I almost say the mildness—with which the mover of this Bill has spoken of his measure. He calls the Bill a very little one, and I fully adroit that it is. It consists of only sixteen words, but those sixteen words constitute a breach of agreement, and that is the great objection which I have to the Bill. The noble Lord himself used the words, and used them no less than four times as if that was rather a recommendation to the Bill, but that is the one reason why I am asking your Lordships not to give this Bill a Second Reading.
My noble friend has made an appeal which all of us will endorse from the bottom of our hearts—namely, that it is in the interest of this country that every man, woman, and child should do their utmost to increase the food supply. But I venture very seriously to dispute his thesis that if this Bill is passed the production of food in the country will be in any way increased. He also made a suggestion to me that I should suggest some form of appeal. He seems to think that there are members scattered about the House who do not see eye to eye with him on this great blot on the Corn Production Act. It is rather difficult on the spur of the moment to formulate for the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries a method of appeal, as they do not at the present time apparently approve of the form of appeal which was passed by your Lordships' House only a year ago. But I will go as far as to say this, that if he would promise absolutely to agree in the four points, and all of them—though I must say that after my late experience I should like the agreement in writing—if he would give an absolute agreement to meet those who feel with me on this matter, and feel rather strongly, on those four points, I think one might possibly consent to this Bill being read a second time. But I should like these four points to be absolutely and definitely agreed to, and we have not had much encouragement in this.
What happened with the Corn Production Bill? That Bill consisted of five parts. Four of those parts were agreed to by your Lordships' House on the condition, and with a definite agreement, not in writing but sanctioned by both Houses of Parliament, that Part IV, which the Board of Agriculture is now trying to repeal, should 708 be part of the Act. I do not know whether you are quite aware of what exactly happened a year ago with regard to the Corn Production Act. Part IV of the Act, which gives us very valuable powers, comes into operation, according to the Act, on August 21 next. The other parts were agreed to at once; they became the law of the land, and were acted upon. Part IV gave us something; it gave us the right of appeal on a good many points of the highest importance, not only to the landowner, but to the cultivators, and to the poor farmers who have been so praised by the noble Lord; it gave us a right of appeal on matters of cultivation and various other things. The Bill was agreed to on the condition that, war or no war, Part IV should come into operation on August 21, 1918. That was all that we got from our hard labours last year on the Corn Production Act. We improved the Bill in its progress, and at the last moment we were told that if we would agree to the other parts the Government would agree, and did agree, to Part IV, which they now seek to repeal. I think that to call this a breach of agreement, far from making it any better, is adding insult to injury.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
You do not repeal, but it is not to come into operation. That is the thing to which we object. The agreement was that it should come into operation on August 21; your amending Bill says it is not to come into operation then, but at some future date. Now, Part IV affects the whole Bill—namely, this right of appeal; and as we obtained Part IV we agreed to the rest. Take the minimum prices. The minimum prices are not very generous; as I said at the time, they were obviously brought in by the Humorist of the Department. The prices fixed for wheat for 1918 were 55s., and the prices at the present time are 77s. 9d.; in fact, over 80s. in some places. On the giving of these minimum prices, which were never likely to be obtained, was founded Part II—minimum wages. Your 709 Lordships will remember that we had many discussions about the able-bodied men, the non-able-bodied men, and "workmen" generally, which last term included women, boys, and girls. We agreed to that; but many of us had very grave doubts whether it was an economic method of getting the best out of the land to set up Wages Boards. The wage then quoted was 25s. a week, but this, has been largely exceeded. The worst of these minimum wages is this. Prices were rising and wages were gradually settling themselves down to the new scale of living, or new prices; but now wages are fixed by a Board. That is a most uneconomical arrangement, and I am afraid you are not getting the best work out of the workmen. Since they have had the rises they have done much less work, and they say to their employers, "You do not settle my wages, they are settled by Mr. So-and-So; I don't care about you; I shall only do a certain amount of work, and you must give me the wages whether I work or not." They do not all say that, of course; but I think I can assert without much fear of contradiction that the general effect of the higher wages has been to get less work done. I admit that wages were too low before; but my point is this—and I do not want to be misrepresented—that wages and prices and expenses of living were gradually adjusting themselves according to the laws of political economy, but you stepped in and upset matters, and in years to come you will reap the result of the mistake you then made. However, we agreed to minimum wages at the time.
We also agreed to the restriction on raising rents notwithstanding that the landowner, as everybody knows, has to pay enormously more in the way of interest on his mortgages—lots of mortgages have been called in, and a higher rate of interest is being asked for—the expenses of repairs have gone up enormously, as have the whole of the outgoings of an estate; and the tithe rent charge has enormously increased as well. Nevertheless the landlords in this House agreed on the condition that they obtained Part IV, which you are now trying to repeal. I think it was wrong that at the time the great expenses of landowners were not met to some degree in the Corn Production Bill. Part V contained a great many miscellaneous provisions which were all agreed to on the condition that Part IV was part of the Bill.
I should now like for a moment to say what Part IV is. It gives an appeal; first 710 of all, on good husbandry; that is to say, if the Board of Agriculture come in and say a farm is not being cultivated according to good husbandry there is a right of appeal to an independent authority under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and, in default of agreement, to an arbitrator to be appointed by the President of the Surveyors Institute. That is a very important point. If the Board say, "We want you to plough up this land and to grow carrots or beetroot, there is a right of appeal to an independent arbitrator. The farmer can also appeal on the question of whether the particular land which the Board want ploughed up is suitable or unsuitable for the purpose. The arbitrator appointed by the President of the Surveyors Institute—an outside body—can say that it may be a good thing to change the method of cultivation, but that this particular land is unsuitable for it.
But there is a much greater point than all this—namely, the question of compensation. This is a vital matter to the poor farmer, who is so much praised by the noble Lord. Suppose the Board come down on a farm and upset the tenant and all his arrangements, and take possession. Very well; under Part IV—the operation of which is going to be postponed—the farmer and the landlord would both have a right to compensation; but under "D.O.R.A."—the Defence of the Realm Act—they have not. It is only that "compensation may be given" to them, as an act of grace, a long time hence, and not by definite arrangement. But under Part IV there would be an absolute right to compensation by Act of Parliament. Now, what sort of appeal does the noble Lord offer? The Board of Agriculture appoint one man; I understand that the person whose judgment is being arraigned appoints, by the direction of the Board of Agriculture, another man; and the poor aggrieved farmer appoints somebody else, if he can; he goes into court at a disadvantage of two to one. I do not think that such an appeal is of any use at all. We want an appeal to an independent arbitrator under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and not to an arbitrator appointed by the Board of Agriculture.
§ LORD CLINTON
Is not the appeal under the Agricultural Holdings Act to an arbitrator appointed by the Board?
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
I have no objection to the Board of Agriculture appointing an arbitrator in cases in which they are not interested. There are many cases of dispute between landlord and tenant in which the Board of Agriculture has in times gone past made an excellent arbitrator; but the Board of Agriculture in this connection are the prime movers of the trouble. They have sent round Orders to plough up certain land, knowing nothing about the land in question. If I may say so, the mistake which the Board of Agriculture have made all through is in thinking that the thing which matters is to plough up land, whereas the thing that matters is what you grow on the land after it has been ploughed up, and also the amount of energy, labour, and so on, that you have taken away from other land which has suffered very much indeed because of the Ploughing up Orders. All that the noble Lord has to offer, therefore, is three referees, one of whom is to be appointed by the Board of Agriculture and another by the county committee.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
There has been no explanation given, and this Bill is introduced "to repeal subsection (3) of Section 11 of the Corn Production Act." I really do not know what is in the minds of the Government. I cannot conceive that the Government, merely in the interests of ploughing up land, could possibly object to an independent arbitrator, as they agreed last year, being appointed in cases of doubt and difficulty by an independent authority—namely, the President of the Surveyors Institute. After having solemnly agreed to this, and getting the Bill passed through both Houses last year, the Government come—rather surreptitiously, I think, and without a memorandum; I know a great many noble Lords who had no knowledge of what the fact was—and ask us to repeal subsection (3) of Section 11 of the Corn Production Act.
I hope that those who speak for the Government afterwards will say why the Government object to an independent referee in matters of ploughing-up. Is there much more land going to be ploughed up? Will they plough it up? I rather doubt it. Those farmers with whom I work have been very much put out, and we have pacified them by saying that they will have a right of appeal if 712 they keep quiet. But if this solemn engagement is now repealed, I am sure that the Government will cause a great deal of uneasiness in the agricultural mind of the country, which is very much upset already. The noble Lord gave me to understand that all this ploughing-up had been a very great success. I saw in the papers the other day that a gentleman who obviously was in favour of the action of the Government boasted that 75 per cent. had been a conspicuous success. Now supposing that 4,000,000 acres had been ploughed up, 75 per cent. is 3,000,000 and this leaves 1,000,000 acres of failure. I do not know whether those figures are right, but, if they are, I do not know that there is very much to boast of. Then take the produce, which the noble lord said is going to be very small on this newly-ploughed land. You also have to take into account the destruction of good pasture land which you could let for £7 or £8 per acre, or even £11, and which was producing food and is now producing nothing. When you add the food that you have thus lost, and the labour and time lost, and the extra demands made upon labour, now producing nothing, I doubt very much whether the net result of this ploughing-up of land has very much assisted the production of food for the people.
I see that in one instance the Department themselves thought they would do a little ploughing-up. I take this from a newspaper, and it is headed "Sowing the oats." They sowed some oats in Bushey Park; 79 acres were ploughed and 270 quarters of oats were produced, or about three and a half quarters to the acre. Including the cost of the seed there was a net loss of £11, a very good result from a Departmental experiment and infinitely better than I should have expected. With rent at £1 an acre the net loss was £90. I do not know how much of the wages and the time of the Chief Commissioner of Works, which is very valuable, was included, but those are the figures, and the Department was so much encouraged by the result that they went on and ploughed up seventy-five acres of grass land in Richmond Park. This also was sown with oats, and they produced seventy-nine quarters or about one quarter to the acre. The cost, including seed and allowing one-tenth cost of fencing and one-twentieth cost of reaping machines, was £744 0s. 1d., and the value of the oats and straw £247 5s., a net loss of £496 15s. And this is the Department 713 which tells us how to do things! No rent had been charged, but allowing £1 an acre this would increase the loss to £571 15s. One does not know what to do with these cases. They are fair samples of Departmental management. I have seen the Returns from certain counties and they are not very encouraging reading, but I hope the Government will let us have a fair, businesslike, and accurate statement of what has happened. The efforts of the Commissioner of Works were heroic but apparently were unequal to the struggle against nature. My Lords, you must remember that the cost of production enters into this matter, and that you have also to take into consideration the value of the food produced. I know that if any one ever says anything against the Government he is regarded as a pro-German, or something of that sort, but I cannot help having a feeling in my mind that this war is not going to be won by wasting money. If it were, we should have bad greater victories than were ever won by Philip of Macedon or Alexander.
It is rather difficult now to persuade, the farmers of South Bucks to plough up their grass. Why? Because they have seen the Government take 600 acres of the famous corn land of Bucks in order to build motor works. They have seen the Government take this land at a time when it is important to produce food. I do not understand it, and I do not suppose it is the noble Lord's duty to explain it, but I think the Board of Agriculture must be interested in oats and wheat which are destroyed in that way. It is really rather difficult to persuade the farmers to give up grass in South Bucks. They say in South Bucks, "We cannot believe, and we don't believe, in this food shortage. If food is short, why do the Government take 600 acres of the best w heat-growing land in this country?" The growing crops are there now, and you can see the wagons cooling in and everything going on.
If I thought that in passing this Bill we should do any good to agriculture I would certainly vote for it. If I thought it would conduce to economy, after what we have heard about Loch Doon and the national shipyards, I should certainly vote for it. But I do not think it will do either of these things. And I must venture to ask your Lordships again, Why are the Board of Agriculture afraid of an independent arbitrator, and why do they want to repeal 714 during the war all that we got in the long discussion which we had on the Corn Production Bill? I did not hear a single word from the noble Lord who introduced this Bill which would induce me to think that the Government would get any more food as a result of this Bill than they can at present. What we shall get is more care in the ploughing up of land. What we should get under this subsection which you want for the moment to repeal is compensation for the farmer if his tillages and everything are interfered with. What we shall not now get is the right of every one to be heard when he is asked to do things which very often are not—I do not like to use the expression—very wise.
I have detained your Lordships a great deal too long. I ask you to vote against the Bill. It is impossible to amend it. If I had in writing an undertaking—I do not suppose I shall get it—conceding the four stipulations I have made, under which there would be the right of appeal, there is nothing left of the Bill. There are only sixteen words in the Bill, and it cannot be amended. The only thing to do is to take a decision at once. If you want to bring in an Allotments and Small Holding Bill, bring in an Allotments and Small Holdings Bill. Do not repeal subsection (3) of Section 11. Bring the Bill in, and let us discuss it, and if this part is continued the Regulations will have to be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament and we shall see what the Board of Agriculture is doing. For these and many other reasons which I could give, I venture humbly to ask your Lordships not to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
Leave out ('now") and insert at the end of the Motion ("this day six months").—(Lord Desborough.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I desire to say a word upon this Bill, because the subsection which it is proposed to repeal was introduced on an Amendment moved by me in Committee. Lord Milner, who was in charge of the Bill, said—it is Column 593 of Hansard, if the noble Lord has the OFFICIAL REPORT—that "these words "—which are the words I proposed—" appear exactly to express what we want to get at." Subsequently he asked that there should be an opportunity to make a verbal Amendment on the Report stage, and after further consideration these verbal Amend- 715 ments were introduced by him, and of course I assented to them. This is not a subsection of the Bill that was introduced without consideration. Not only did Lord Milner say in the first instance that it was what the Government desired, but after fuller consideration he himself introduced amending words which the Government draftsman designed.
§ LORD PARMOOR
You will find them on the Report stage, in Column 644, I think. I have not the reference here. The words "under the Defence of the Realm Regulations," which are quite proper, are introduced in two places, and "with respect to the matters dealt with in this part of this Act cease to operate." These were the additional words introduced by Lord Milner to make the Amendment perfectly clear, and it stands in that form at present.
I only want to say one other word, because the matter has been so fully dealt with by the noble Lord who opposed the Second Reading. I do not think the noble Lord who proposed the Bill believes in it at all. He did not profess that it was a Bill he cared to introduce, because, as he put it quite frankly, it involved a breach of faith, and he did not desire to associate himself with a Bill that involved a breach of faith in regard to so recent a provision as one inserted by the Government less than twelve months ago. I should like to say a word in reference to what he said. He talked about the question of appeal, and, as I understood, the view of the noble Lord was that the principle of appeal was right.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Yes. What I want to put to the noble Lord is this, that an appeal is perfectly valueless unless you have an impartial authority whose report and decision are likely to command respect and assent from the parties concerned. If he will kindly look at the matter, the noble Lord will see that the very point that he raised was discussed and settled in this House during the debate on the Corn Production Bill. I hope the noble Lord will pay attention to this. The form of appeal which he now thinks would be satisfactory was discarded last year, be- 716 cause it was felt that to appeal from Cæsar to Cæsar, from the Board of Agriculture to itself, would be futile under a Bill of this kind. I think it is worse than futile, because you give an appearance of power of appeal whereas you really give fresh authority to the bureaucratic body, which is, as I understand it, the whole meaning of the amendment of this measure. For that reason these words were introduced—I beg the noble Lord to look at this, and also the noble Earl beside him who will probably reply—Provided that the arbitrator shall be nominated, in default of agreement, by the President of the Surveyors Institution.The object of this was to alter the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908, as regards the arbitrator. It was felt that those provisions were not applicable where the Board was the party on one side and the farmer or the landowner on the other. Therefore, this impartial outside authority was introduced.
What possible reason is there—whatever the noble Lord may say as regards the Bill generally—for altering an appeal which under the provisions of last year, and after much discussion, was committed to the hands of an independent body appointed by the President of the Surveyors Institution? I cannot argue with the noble Lord, because he said himself that in his view appointment by the Board could not be sustained. The noble Marquess begged him to produce some arguments in favour of the proposal. It is quite clear that this is very important. If you are to have impartiality in a case of this kind, which is all that we want, you must have an appeal Court constituted by an independent body such as the President of the Surveyors Institution. What was there in the noble Lord's argument which in any way interfered with having an appeal that is impartial, instead of such an appeal as he suggested, which would be worse than none at all in my opinion, because it would be a fictitious Court of appeal which would have no value? The dice would be loaded against the farmer and against the agricultural interest.
I admit that my own experience has been a rather stormy one as regards my agricultural committee. I have not desired to assent to certain Orders they have made, because I knew that the result would be a diminished farm production. The only object any one has in these days is to get 717 the maximum production, and I felt quite certain, as events have shown, that their Regulations would result in diminished production. Of course, one had to assent. A hundred acres of grass land, in admirable conditions and on which large sums have been spent for water, fencing, and artificial manure, has been ploughed up, and the result has been wire worm. I hear that it will produce about one quarter to the acre, and that a good deal of it will not produce one quarter to the acre. It cost about £15 an acre to plough up and get into order, and it will not, I think, produce the seed which was sown. That is an additional loss; I am not talking about the fee simple loss.
I admit that the year in some respects has been a bad year, but there is also this indirect result (which was present in the mind of the noble Lord when he talked about concentration) that having to deal with additional work of this kind prevents concentration on work already in cultivation. I entirely agree with him that the best plan is not to plough up fresh lands but to concentrate on the cultivation of land which already may be called arable land. That is a most important point. Therefore, not only was there the direct loss which I have indicated, but, in addition, a considerable quantity of arable land was not properly treated and prepared, which could have been properly treated and prepared if this additional 100 acres had not been thrown on my hands at a comparatively late stage. I do not quote that as a complaint. One has to take one's chance with the rest, but I quote it to show that in matters of this kind, requiring the most careful consideration—where there is a question of doubt—the principle of the Corn Production Act, 1917, is right, and you ought to have an appeal before an impartial agriculturist. I do not put it altogether from the point of view of the owner or the agriculturist, but from the point of view of obtaining, what is the main purpose in everyone's mind, the maximum production under existing conditions during this and subsequent years. The noble Lord referred to other matters which were quite incidental. This is not an Allotment Bill, and has nothing to do with allotments except in the most incidental way.
§ LORD CLINTON
It has largely to do with allotments, although you will not find it in the Bill. If the Regulations are withdrawn we have no power to proceed with allotments at all.
If what is wanted is to enable Regulations to be kept alive as regards allotments, let that be done. It is not the matter that we are discussing here. We are discussing a measure which dealt with wages, prices, compensation, and proper cultivation, and it is in reference to them that these special provisions were introduced, and it is in reference to them that, at any rate, I desire to see maintained this impartial arbitrator who was instituted by the Corn Production Act itself. The other matters—such as the want of agricultural labour—are notorious. It is very important, but I am sure the noble Lord will see that if you are ploughing up land it should only be done under which I may call conditions best suited for agriculture itself. It ought not to be ploughed up one owner or farmer against another owner or farmer. The one dominating condition should be better production of agricultural produce on the farms concerned. That ought to be decided by an independent arbitrator, and therefore I entirely support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Desborough.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, I should be the very last to give a vote in this House which at the present moment would interfere with the production of food in this country, and I can speak with a perfectly clear conscience myself, because I do not believe there is a person in the country who has ploughed up more grass land than I have. I have also attempted to grow as much as possible on the ploughed land. I confess when I heard the opening remark of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill and the great point he made of the breach of faith which was being committed by repealing this section of the Corn Production Act, I fully expected to hear that he would have some strong arguments indeed to induce this House to go back on the Corn Production Act and the agreement which was arrived at only a year ago. I do not know whether any other noble Lord will speak from the Government Bench, but I should like to hear still further arguments why this breach of faith should he committed.
I listened very attentively to the noble Lord's speech, and his arguments in favour—or, rather, I will say on the need—of this Bill were set out practically in two propositions. One was that there had been an enormous number of allotments and garden plots started all over the country; there was still a large demand for these plots unsatisfied, and unless the Bill was 719 passed the applicants, who had not yet received their plots, would have to wait a long time, and there would arise a very dangerous feeling in many parts of the country. With that I cordially agree. I am entirely in favour of these people, especially at this time, obtaining these garden plots and allotments as easily and as quickly as possible. But, as it has been said by the noble and learned Lord, there is no single word in the Corn Production Act, from start to finish, about allotments, and it came on me as a perfect bombshell when I was told that this breach of faith was to be committed in order to supply allotments. It appears to me, if allotments are needed, that it is not unreasonable to suppose, even if the Defence of the Realm Regulations which give war agricultural committees power to take land with very little formality in order to provide these allotments cease, that new Defence of the Realm Regulations might be issued. If that was impossible, I do not think a short Bill empowering war agricultural committees to obtain these allotments in as speedy a manner as possible would take many hours to pass through this House or the House of Commons. That was the first reason the noble Lord gave.
The second reason given was more incomprehensible than the first. Then we got to the vexed question of the ploughing-up of grass land. I have issued Orders, in the committee to which I belong, for the ploughing-up of a good many acres of grass land, and I consider that at the present time, having regard to the large reduction in the numbers of the most useful men on the farm, it would be absolute folly to continue to issue Orders for breaking up more grass land. I will deal with the argument which the noble Lord used, and which was really the only substantial one that he did use, in favour of this Bill. What was it? He told us that of all the land broken up 75 per cent.—I forget his actual percentage—had been a success, but that 25 per cent.—
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. We will take a vague figure. He told us that a great portion of the land which had been broken up had yielded good crops, but that a certain portion had been a failure, or had yielded small crops, and he went on to 720 point out that because a certain small portion of this land had not yielded good crops this year it was much too early to say that the agricultural committees were wrong in ordering the land to be broken up, for the probability was—as any one who knows anything about farming will admit—that in the second or third years good results would be obtained. I do not think that I am misrepresenting the noble Lord in saying this. At the same time he told us, "I think more acres of land ought to be broken up, but we cannot come by our rights for the breaking up of more land for the reason that a great deal of the old ploughed land has become worn out and is choked with weeds and wants manuring." It requires, in fact, what every farmer knows it requires—well cultivating, fallowing, and manuring. Let us work this argument out. Some of this land which is to be broken up will not, the noble Lord says, grow crops for 1919. When you have old ploughed land which requires only fallowing, clearing, and manuring, and when there is a great shortage of labour, why not put the available labour on this old land and thoroughly clean, fallow, and manure it, and so grow crops upon it instead of wasting time upon land which will not yield anything for two years, or at least a portion of which will not grow anything for two years? The argument of the noble Lord is no argument at all in favour of committing a breach of faith.
I should not hesitate for a moment to support the Government in this matter if they could plainly show in the interests of food production that it was absolutely essential. As I understand the matter—my knowledge is not so good on the subject as that of many noble Lords—under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, if a man's farm is in a bad state, the war agricultural committee can issue an Order telling him what he must do to his land. It is a good thing, no doubt, under the Corn Production Act, that the war agricultural committees have issued these Orders saying; "You must clean such and such a field; you must fallow such and such a field; and you must grow such and such a crop upon such and such land." The farmer, as I understand, will now be able to refuse to do it. But even in the few cases where the farmer would refuse would it be a very long business if there was an appeal by the farmer against the war agricultural committee? It appears to me to be a matter of no particular 721 urgency at the present moment. The fight that we have at this moment in the country is to obtain labour. I cannot conceive, on the arguments that have been placed before us so far, that there is any justification whatsoever for going back on the most solemn and binding agreement arrived at only a year ago.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, I did not intend to trouble your Lordships' House with any remarks, but as my name has been twice brought forward perhaps you will pardon me if I say two or three words on the subject with which it was associated. The noble Lord who introduced the Second Reading of this Bill so well, alluded to the number of allotments. May I say one word to congratulate him. He told us that there would be 2,000,000 more allotments this year, and he said what a benefit they were to the community. May I congratulate him upon this, and express the great pleasure it affords us to hear the policy which we have advocated for so many years has had such brilliant and satisfactory results.
Then the noble Lord spoke of the theoretical objections to the arbitrators who were appointed by the Board of Agriculture under the Bill of 1907, and he wished to know if there could be given any instances of their having been successful. He repudiated these arbitrators, and wished that he could rid himself of them. I think that I can give him an instance, and a very good one, of the fairness of the proposal in having an arbitrator appointed by the Board of Agriculture. There is a village in the North of the County of Bucks called Drayton Parslow, which is seven miles from any big town, and which lies between Bletchley and Wolverton, two great railway centres. The whole of that village is entirely in small holdings and allotments with the exception of one farm, which will be handed over to the village community when the old tenant dies. There being no more land, and land being very much required in the neighbourhood, an attempt was made to get some in a neighbouring parish, and that land belonged to a lady of whom it is impossible to speak too highly. She is a very wealthy lady, and her kindness and her benevolence are unparalleled. She was asked to give this land over to the poor men who wanted some land to cultivate, but unfortunately the agent got hold of her. There was a farmer in the district who desired the land, and it was refused to the men who wanted 722 it. Under the Act we took it by compulsion, and the rent was arranged by people in the neighbourhood who perfectly understood the customs of the country and the rent of the neighbouring land. An arrangement was effected by which the tenants could have made a most comfortable and happy living. This lady was advised to appeal and go to arbitration. We sent down an arbitrator from the Board of Agriculture who valued time land at so high a figure that it was impossible for the Board to sanction the scheme, because under the rent that would have had to be charged to these unfortunate men it would have been impossible for them to make a decent living. The objection is very simple. The landlords thought that they would not get a fair or sufficient price or rent for their land. I think that the example which I have given—a fair one—shows that the plan worked very well, and that there really could be no great objection to it.
I have only one more word to say, and that is with reference to some remarks made by my noble friend Lord Parmoor, who, I am sorry to say, has just left the House. Lord Parmoor called attention to some hardships, and to a sort of conflict that he had had with the Bucks War Agricultural Committee on account of having to plough up land which was alter-wards unfortunately attacked by wire worm and was practically a failure. I may say in justice to the war agriculture committee, of which I am a member, that this was not the only difficulty that we had with the noble Lord. The noble Lord farms about a thousand acres of hill land, and 350 acres of his land was in such a condition—I will not use any adjectives or epithets—that we had to draw his Lordship's attention to it. We sent our expert to look over the land, and he reported that it was in a very, very unsatisfactory condition, and as the war agricultural committee do not discriminate between the rich and the poor, though my noble friend was Chairman of Quarter Sessions we had to treat him in exactly the same way as we should have done any small or big farmer in the district. Naturally, he was not very much pleased at this, and we had some letters from him, but I am glad to be able to say that the hint was taken, and the 350 acres of the noble Lord's land are now in excellent condition, and growing most excellent crops. I have to thank the House for allowing me to say these few words in support of what we did in the Bill for which I was responsible in 723 bringing in men who were appointed by the Board of Agriculture as the Court of final appeal in agricultural matters.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
My Lords, the noble Lord began his very moderate statement in moving the Second Reading of this Bill with the frank admission, at which I think no one could have been surprised, that it was by a breach of agreement that we are asked to read this Bill a second time to-day. But quite apart from the fact of its being a breach of agreement, the noble Lord admitted also that the gravest possible issues depended upon it. There, again, I think the noble Lord was perfectly right. We are bound in this House to consider most carefully what our position was under the Corn Production Act when it last left the House, and what it will be in comparison unless this Amendment is carried to-day, or unless the Bill is altered in Committee to such an extent as I believe would be impossible without making practically a new Bill of it, which it is not our business, at all events on this side of the House, to do.
The effect of this Bill will be simply to place the whole agricultural community under the ruthless rule of the Defence of the Realm Act again, and to deprive us of the power of appeal which was given under the Corn Production Act as it left this House and as it was passed into law. I cannot imagine a graver position than that. When I ask myself what are the arguments in support of this change which the noble Lord has addressed to the House, I am really unable to find one. He said that the hopes that were entertained at the time of the passing of the agreement as to a right of appeal could no longer be maintained. Can the noble Lord tell me one single condition under which, so far as the increased production of food is concerned, woe are worse off to-day than we were at the time when the right of appeal was granted? On the contrary, on his own admission we are infinitely better off upon that ground to-day than we were then. He told us, with regard to the millions of acres that have been broken up for the purpose, that the result, generally speaking, was satisfactory. How can it be satisfactory if we are worse off than at the time when the appeal was granted?
The noble Lord spoke of the necessity for maintaining the increased production of food. Nobody agrees with him more 724 cordially than I do. I have preached that doctrine not only during the present. Parliament but for years before; it is absolutely vital to our existence as a nation. But there is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, and it is not the right way to increase the production of food to plough up grass land which is producing something now, and to adopt a policy by which you are going to put nothing whatever in its place. For that is the position at which we have arrived with regard to a great deal of this grass land of which we hear. From what the noble Lord tells me this afternoon, it is to lie fallow. For how long? I am told that there is a good deal of newly ploughed-up land at the present time growing nothing but weeds in the greatest possible profusion in various parts of the country. I believe there is no answer to what was said with so much force by the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, just now, and he has had larger experience of farming, I believe, than any man in this House, for not many years ago eight or ten thousand acres of the Ancaster estates were cultivated by himself and his father, and no one is entitled to speak with greater knowledge on this subject than he is.
The noble Lord said something about allotments—that the Bill was necessary on the ground of allotments, which, happily, have become more fashionable to-day than they were not long ago. So they are, and they were fashionable at one time before; but what was the result of the fashion in allotments in those days? Has the noble Lord ever seen, or does he remember, a Report that was called for by the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, when he was President of the Board of Agriculture? If he has not seen it, I would commend it to his most careful attention—it must be in existence at the Board of Agriculture, and he will easily get access to it. He will find that allotments at that time were being given up all over the country. The allotments were lying waste, and were given back to the farms from which they were taken in the most foul and useless condition. There was no demand for them whatsoever. Land for allotments could be had almost for the asking, if it was wanted, but there was no one at that time who seemed to want them again. It was a different thing altogether from small holdings.
Now there is a demand, and on whose part is it mostly? I believe it to be on the 725 part of the dwellers in towns. I shall be greatly surprised if they want to continue them, except where they are in the form of gardens immediately adjacent to their houses, and then I think nothing can be better than an increase of allotments of that kind. This can easily be accomplished—without taking away the right of appeal—by a very short and simple measure to which no objection, I believe, would be offered in either House of Parliament. If that is the noble Lord's argument—it seemed to me to be the only argument that had anything in it—then I think he might find a very easy way out of the difficulty without doing something to which I personally should take the strongest objection, that is, placing the whole agricultural community again under the Defence of the Realm Act, from which they were freed not only by an Act of Parliament but by agreement under the Corn Production Act as it now stands.
The noble Lord told us in the course of his speech that some 100,000 Orders had been issued to agriculturists in this country in connection with the increased production of food. All I can say is, God help the agriculturists who received them! But that is not the way to increase the production of food. The multiplying of Orders of every sort and kind only confuses and disheartens and disgusts the people who receive them. The noble Lord spoke very warmly and kindly of the farmers, and I was glad to hear him. Believe me, there is no more loyal body in this country than the farmers. I have lived among them and have known them for the greater part of my life, and I think nobody speaks with more experience of this subject than I speak. They are the best people in the world if led by men who give them good advice, but they are the most difficult people in the world to attempt to drive, especially when they know, as has happened over and over again in hundreds of cases—although they have submitted to them—that the Orders given to them are issued by people who do not understand their business one-tenth as well as they understand it themselves. In the interests of increasing and of maintaining the production of food, if my noble friend Lord Desborough goes to a Division I shall most heartily support him, and support him on that ground alone if there is no other ground.
My Lords, I sincerely hope that the noble Lord in charge of this Bill will endeavour to meet my noble friend 726 Lord Desborough on the point of a referee. It is a lamentable fact that the longer this war lasts the more the Government Departments indicate a preference for tyranny over law—and that is the effect of this Bill. The Government last year, in a moment of tenderness and honesty, consented to the part of the Corn Production Act which secured to the persons who might be dispossessed of their land for farming purposes the reference to an expert arbitrator. This is proposed to be taken away. I rather gathered from what the noble Lord said that the Department recognised that there was some justification for Lord Desborough's request that an appeal should be granted; and, as I understand at thin moment, the only difference between them is whether the referee should be appointed by the Board of Agriculture or under the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act.
I ask my noble friend, Is it worth the while of the Government Department to endeavour to force upon Parliament a Bill which they themselves acknowledge is a breach of agreement? Is it worth the while of the Government to force this Bill upon Parliament when they are so near in agreement to my noble friend? Surely it is rather undignified. When a way out of the difficulty is offered to them—and the point is really a minor one as to who shall be the official to nominate the referee—surely it is worth the while of the Government, sooner than force this Bill upon Parliament, to meet my noble friend in order to secure unanimity, and not place themselves in the position of having to acknowledge that they are forcing a breach of agreement upon the country.
As far as I could understand—not from any want of clarity in the noble Lord's explanation, but from my own incapacity—what the Department are aiming at is this. They think that there are certain lands which have been cultivated for years that ought to be left fallow, and that upon other land, for which labour, and artificial manures, and machinery are required, should be concentrated all the assistance that the Government can render: that a certain acreage of the old lands under cultivation should be left fallow and that new land should be taken up and cultivated. And they are going to commit themselves to this promise, this prophesy, that the produce of the lands which they are going to acquire is going to be greater than that which would have been obtained from the 727 lands which are to lie fallow. It is impossible for them to say with any certainty that what they hope for is going to result. I do not think that anybody at this moment can say what is going to be the effect of the ploughings that have been done; it depends very much upon the season, as all farming operations depend; and if we have a much longer drought it will be very questionable indeed whether some of the crops which are going to be produced on the newly-ploughed-up land will produce as much food as the old land would have produced if left under its previous cultivation.
Is it worth the while of my noble friend's Department to force this measure upon Parliament simply upon the basis of a prophesy, of a conjecture, of a hope, which may be absolutely disappointed? Surely this is an occasion on which the Government might accept the advice which has been offered to them in this House, and endeavour to come to terms with my noble friend.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I confess that I have listened to this debate with growing anxiety. I have the greatest reluctance, not only to voting against my noble friend Lord Clinton, who always addresses your Lordships in a manner which attracts universal approval, but also to voting against the Government upon a Bill which they submit to Parliament as being necesssary in the interests of food production and of the war. But I feel that, as the debate has gone on, and as noble Lord after noble Lord has arisen and addressed Your Lordships, there really is no choice left to us than to vote against the Bill, unless the Government have something further to add.
What has been the course of this debate? The arguments which my noble friend put forward at the beginning have not stood fire. There was a long argument about allotments; my noble and learned friend below the Gangway dealt with that. There is nothing about allotments in Part IV. Then there was an argument about appeal. The noble Lord himself gave away the case for appeal. He said that my noble friend Lord Desborough was right in thinking that there ought to be an appeal, and he indicated that the Government were prepared to grant an appeal of some kind. Now, my Lords, if the ease of appeal is admitted, the whole argument against Part IV of the Bill upon appeal disappears. 728 What is left? I do not think my noble friend will contend that these poor farmers are not entitled to compensation if they suffer injury or loss by the operation of these Emergency Acts. Your Lordships would fail in your duty if you did not see that they got compensation. We are here to see justice done, and we cannot sit by and see poor farmers in all parts of England done out of compensation unless there is strong argument for it.
Upon appeal and compensation the case of the Government disappears. What is there left? Why do they want the Bill? I confess I am left in doubt at the end of the debate upon what possible grounds the Government want the Bill. The noble Lord said that they would require to break up more grass land in the ensuing season. I am not going into the question whether it is good or bad to break up grass land. Many noble Lords who are great authorities on the subject have advanced arguments to show that in many cases it is rather a doubtful policy. But you can break up grass land under Part IV.
§ LORD CLINTON
You can break up grass land, but you cannot get your entry quick enough to break it up except under the Defence of the Realm Regulations.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If you can satisfy their Lordships' House upon that, it would be something; but there was no argument of that kind addressed to us.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Although the noble Lord is well known to be a great authority on agriculture, I think we should expect from the representative of the Government something more than mere ipse dixit. We want to be shown that that cannot be done under Part IV which it is necessary should be done, and I see nothing in Part IV which would not enable the Government to do everything that is required without undue delay. Unless we are shown that it is not so, the case breaks down.
I confess I am rather suspicious of the case of my noble friend, because there was little in his speech which had direct reference to the Bill. He spoke in very high terms of the great work done by the far- 729 mers and of the patriotism of the agricultural community, but I felt all the time that this was in the nature of sugar which was intended to conceal something that was not very pleasant. I do not think your Lordships ought to shrink from the pill if the pill ought to be swallowed, but let us have some argument in favour of the Bill, and I confess that mere sugar left me in doubt whether there was really any case behind the Bill. Let me, therefore, invite the Government to make a much stronger case than they have done in favour of the postponement of Part IV of the Act; or, if not, let them reconsider their position and not press upon an unwilling House that which they cannot defend. By all means if it will help the noble Lord let us consent to adjourn discussion, so that the Government may think the matter over. I apologise if I misinterpret the mind of your Lordships. Personally I should have been willing to do that. I cannot vote for the Bill and must vote against it unless the Government make out a stronger case in its favour.
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, perhaps it will be convenient if I make some reply to my critics at this moment. I am sorry it has been considered that I did not go into sufficient detail in my opening speech in support of the measure. To do so would entail my reading to you the greater part of the Defence of the Realm Regulations, with which I presume your Lordships would be very largely acquainted. Those Regulations give us power to enter upon land without notice. The Corn Production Act requires notice to be given. The Defence of the Realm Regulations enable us to take possession of land immediately, which cannot be done under the Corn Production Act. The Regulations give us numberless powers which, if your Lordships have looked them up, you will see are very great powers, and which we consider of enormous importance to food production at this moment—powers which cannot be exercised under Part IV of the Corn Production Act. I believe that there is an exceedingly strong case for maintaining food production at the present high standard, and for using the powers under the Defence of the Realm Regulations rather than the powers given under the Food Production Act; and when the noble Marquess who spoke last says that the main points are these of appeal and compensation, I, without wishing to contradict him, although I am bound to do 730 so, say that those are minor points. They are points of immense importance to certain interests and to certain people, but from the point of view of the country's interests they are of minor importance.
The general trend of the debate seems to me to be an endeavour to show that the whole system of corn production in this country has been unsuccessful, and the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, told us what gloomy ideas he had of the possibility of production from corn now under cultivation. It is most unsatisfactory, I think, in any case to estimate production in the growing season. The only possible arbitrator—and I hope my noble friend will think him an impartial one—is the threshing machine, and when we get him, even though he be supplied by the Board, I am confident we shall find the result to be good.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
I do not think I made any prophecy. I was quoting one of the noble Lord's friends—at any rate, one of his supporters.
§ LORD CLINTON
I have no reason to take a gloomy view of corn production at this moment, but I say that without these powers you cannot be certain of maintaining the high rate of production. The noble Viscount, Lord Chaplin, stood before us as the advocate and I think the apostle of increased food production, and we know what great success has attended his efforts through many years. He thought very little of allotments. He told us, perfectly correctly, that a great many allotments had failed in the past; but for the past year they have been a brilliant success.
§ LORD CLINTON
Then I misunderstood the noble Viscount. I thought he was doubting their value at the present moment. It is one of the reasons for passing this measure. The powers under the Defence of the Realm Act, which we say we wish and must retain for food production, are so important that I put them in the forefront, but I can deal with the suggestions which have been made that so much of this Part IV should come into operation immediately.
Now Lord Desborough told us that he was going to give us four points. I did not gather that he had four points. He gave us point number one, which was that of 731 appeal; and point number two, compensation. These are the only two points I recollect in his speech.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
There were two points under cultivation; the third was as to compensation fully, as given already; the other was that all Regulations are to be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
The new Regulation which may be issued. The provision is in the Act now, and comes into operation on August 21.
§ LORD CLINTON
They are to be laid on the Table of the House? Are they Regulations made under Part IV of the Act?
§ LORD CLINTON
For the moment probably I need not trouble about that. May I take the matters in what appear to me to be their order of importance? In the first case, with regard to the appeal, in the Regulations for appeal which the President of the Board has communicated to the noble Lord and other Peers it is stated that there shall be an appeal, so that the principle is already admitted. But it proposed a form of arbitration which is not satisfactory to the noble Lord, and which is not satisfactory, I think, to any noble Lord who spoke, except—I beg his pardon—the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire. It is following the precedent of his two Acts. I am bound to say—I have already admitted—that I recognise the sound objection which is lodged to appointment by the Board, as it may quite truly be said that one of the other parties is on the same side as the Board itself. I do not admit for a moment that the Board would appoint a partial person. I am quite certain they would not. Consequently, I have described it before—I hope correctly described it—as a theoretical objection, 732 but still an objection which has so much point that I think it has to be met. I know as a matter of fact, that the Board would willingly meet the noble Lord by re-inserting—it will not be quite in that form—in the Bill the appeal as it now stands in Section II of the Corn Production Act. Therefore, so far as appeal is concerned, I presume that I have met the opposition. It will be the same appeal.
§ LORD CLINTON
It will be put into writing, as my noble friend Lord Des-borough particularly desires it should be. It will be in the Bill which I am now putting before your Lordships.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
Exactly the same appeal? I do not want the same appeal, but rather different. Will it be the same appeal?
§ LORD CLINTON
I think the noble Lord is very suspicious. I dare say he has a right to be, but there is no necessity for him to be suspicious. Can I put it any stronger? The same appeal, relating to the same subjects, as has already been laid down in Section 11 of Part IV of the Corn Production Act. I will go even further and say that I hope, before the House rises to-night, actually to have on the Paper the wording of the clause which I shall submit in the list of Amendments.
§ LORD CLINTON
Now I come to compensation. Compensation under the Defence of the Realm Act is an act of grace; under the Corn Production Act it is a right. As compensation is obviously admitted, as it is acknowledged that there is a claim 733 for compensation, we are of opinion that there is no objection to re-inserting it—that is the wrong phrase, but it is what I mean—in the same way as we are reinserting the right of appeal.
§ LORD CLINTON
In the Bill. It will come in the Amendments to the Bill that I will place before your Lordships.
§ LORD CLINTON
The same words, as far as it is possible to put them into an Amendment. The noble Lord will see it on the Table to-morrow. I have no doubt it can be completed to-night. On these two points I claim that I have fairly met the objections that are raised. On the matter of Regulations, I think there was another point. I am afraid it is a point. I do not understand. Is it a matter of pressing importance?
§ LORD CLINTON
The Regulations clause is not in Part IV, is it? It is in Part V—I speak under correction—and I presume it is in force now. In any case I think it would be more convenient if the noble Lord would see my Amendment, and if he is not satisfied that it covers the question he can move to amend it. There is a Regulation clause in Part V which, speaking under correction, I presume is in force now.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I feel certain that the noble Lord opposite has done his best to meet the sense of the various speeches which have been made, all of which, except for one or two points in the speech of my noble friend Lord Lincolnshire, have been in direct opposition to the proposals of the Bill as introduced. What I am not quite certain about, and I am not sure that any of us on this side are even after the very clear explanation given by the noble Lord, is this. What precisely will be the difference in the law if the Bill were to be passed in the shape which it would assume after the concessions recently announced by the noble Lord? What would be the difference 734 then from the law as at present under the Corn Production Act? It is clear, of course, that to a certain extent the Board of Agriculture would be able to work under the Defence of the Realm Act instead of under Section 11, subsection (2), of the Corn Production Act, What advantage to them would it be to be able to act in that manner? As one understood from the speech of the noble Lord, the advantage which the Board of Agriculture were looking forward to gain from this Bill was the obtaining of land which was required as the noble Lord endeavoured to show, for the purposes of increased production of food by ploughing up fresh grass lands; and obtaining it without the right of appeal, and without the scale of compensation which would be claimed under arbitration under the Act. The noble Lord, in deference to time opinions expressed, apparently abandons both those claims, and is prepared to admit precisely the same methods of arbitration, and the same scale of compensation, as those which exist under the Act as it stands. What I am not quite clear about is this. Having given up these two crucial points, why it is worth his while to proceed with the Bill at all. I am not sufficiently acquainted with all the circumstances to be able to follow what just now he is driving at, and what it is he hopes to get.
§ LORD CLINTON
I will endeavour to answer time specific question. The two points on which we have given way, and which I have acknowledged are in themselves of great importance to certain interests, are not of the same importance to the food supply of the nation as the Defence of the Realm Regulations, which I am endeavouring to retain under this measure. I hope not to go into a long explanation, but it may be necessary to say this. When your Lordships passed the Act of last year you gave certain powers, but you then withdrew them and placed instead of them the Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act. All those powers we have been acting on ever since, but as there was no appeal and no definite right to compensation these were not included. We still have now, or I am asking your Lordships to give us, the powers under the Regulations. What are the powers that we want under the Regulations? The powers that we had last year, the powers we wish to retain. They are powers for immediate entry into places, to alter or improve 735 methods of cultivation; they are powers to get immediate possession; powers for allotments, and powers in relation to cultivation and machinery; they are all powers of the first importance in regard to food production. They entail also powers for ordering the breaking up of land—that is part of altering the methods of cultivation. These are all powers of the first importance which we are retaining; we are giving up, in deference to the wishes of noble Lords, appeal and compensation. I hope I have made that clear.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think I understand. The noble Lord proposes to exercise these powers, but to exercise them subject to appeal and subject to the right of compensation.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
The noble Lord has appealed to me not to proceed with my Amendment, but I must say it would be much more satisfactory if, instead of making verbal arrangements across the floor of the House, he would say exactly what are the powers he wants, and introduce a Bill so that we could discuss them. To discuss "a Bill to amend subsection (3) of Section 11 of the Corn Production Act, 1917," is, I think, a most unsatisfactory way. I am not quite sure yet what it is the noble Lord wants, and I propose to go to a Division.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I trust that it may not be necessary to divide the House. Lord Desborough went into this matter very fully, and specified four points about which he desired information. Two of those points were very clear, notably about compensation and arbitration. There was the third point, which I do not think he made in his earlier remarks, about Regulations. I am not quite clear what his desire is in that respect. The Regulations in the principle Act are in Part V, and so far as I can make out this Bill chiefly applies to Part IV. I dare say he has a very good case, and on the fourth proposition, which I have not yet gathered from him, he may have a very good case as well, but I do suggest to your Lordships that it is a little unreasonable to say you will vote against the Second Reading of a Bill which the Board of Agriculture, with a great sense of responsibility, says is necessary for the maintenance of the food production of this country merely on the ground 736 that Acts of Parliament are in themselves obscure and apparently lend themselves to evasion or breaches of faith.
My noble friend Lord Clinton has promised, in a very specific way, to meet Lord Desborough upon the two points on which he insisted during his long speech—compensation and arbitration. Those were the two points on which Lord Des-borough and his supporters have insisted. The question of Regulations is quite subordinate and subsidiary. Lord Desborough never mentioned them in his original speech; and the fourth point, whatever it be, is also bound to be ancillary to the main argument about compensation and arbitration.
What is the Parliamentary position? Lord Clinton has promised, if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading, to hand in an Amendment, which will be in your Lordships' hands to-morrow morning. Part IV of the Act, as your Lordships remember, comes to an end during the month of August, and time therefore is really rather short. It is extremely desirable that we should take up these questions at the earliest possible moment, for everybody will admit their complexity and the necessity of giving them close examination. But having had an assurance so specific on the two points about which Lord Desborough insisted, and when an Amendment is now practically drafted (if it is not actually ready, it will be placed in the hands of the learned Clerks of the Table immediately the Second Reading is passed) and will be in your Lordships' hands to-morrow, and will be subject to consideration during the Committee stage, if necessary during the Report stage, and on Third Reading as well, I really think that this is a Parliamentary situation which does not justify the House in throwing out a Bill on Second Reading before the actual terms of the Amendment have been presented—an Amendment which, I assure your Lordships, has been drafted solely to meet the case put forward by Lord Desborough and his friends. I hope that the House will therefore concede the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, I have been listening with growing anxiety to this debate, because we appear to be rapidly approaching a deadlock in which it is impossible to give effect to the desires of my noble friends sitting on this 737 side without pronouncing a decision the irrevocability of which we should all regret. Of course, we should be throwing out a Bill which the Government say on their responsibility is one necessary for the production of food in this country, and we should be advertising the fact that not only was this House unwilling to proceed with such a Bill so described, but that it would be useless for it again to be initiated in another place.
The noble Lord in charge of the Bill has announced two very material concessions. My noble friend Lord Desborough says that he does not like to have them in a verbal form across the Table, but at this stage you cannot have them in any other. Lord Desborough, in refusing a Second Reading to this Bill, precludes our having an opportunity of ever seeing them again in any other form. I am an inexperienced member of this House, and I am actuated by the ordinary human passion of curiosity. I want to see the Amendments in type. There is another thing that I want to see. I want to see my noble friend Lord Des-borough's four points in type, because I am afraid not even his great powers of exposition have entirely succeeded in showing us, I will not say that "sable score of fingers four," but that clearly mathematical, definable, and distinguishable series of separate points which he said were four,
§ but which did not really materialise as much more than two. If we give this Bill a Second Reaching to-night we shall afford Lord Desborough an opportunity of placing his four points upon the Paper upon which our Amendments are printed. I do not know if I am wrong, but it seems to me, even though perhaps we do surrender certain of our rights by giving a Second Reading to this Bill, we have certain other rights which we may still be able to use in refusing to go into Committee, of negativing a Motion to proceed with the Report stage, and of opposing the Third Reading. And there is a further mysterious stage in the proceedings of this House which consists in saying "that this Bill do pass." So that we have more opportunities of maintaining and exercising control even than other bodies of the Legislature. I hope, my Lords, that my noble friends will not persist in this rather truculent determination to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill, and deny to the harmless curiosity of their fellow Peers the opportunity to see the proposals which are really being made to the Legislature.
§ On Question, whether the word "now," proposed to be left out, shall stand part of the Motion—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 21.737
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Stanhope, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Strafford, E.||Colobrooke, L.|
|Curzon of Kedloston, E. (L. President.)||Yarborough, E.||Digby, L.|
|Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.)||Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Harris, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hylton, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Falmouth, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Goschen, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Knollys, V.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Ancaster, E.||Milner, V.||Queenborough, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Peel, V.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lucan, E.||Annesley, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Blythswood, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Sandwich, E.||Clinton, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Desborough, L. [Teller.]||Oranmoro and Browne, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Forester, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Gisborough, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Hindlip, L. [Teller.]||Sydenham, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Lambourne, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Bill read 2a.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I have put down the Committee stage of this Bill for Thursday next, in order that Amendments may be considered at the earliest possible moment convenient to your Lordships.