HL Deb 04 August 1921 vol 43 cc211-76

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1:

Repeal of Corn Production Acts.

1. The Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920, are hereby repealed as from the first day of October, nineteen hundred arid twenty-one:

Provided that, without prejudice to the general application of section thirty-eight of the Interpretation Act, 1889, with regard to the effect of repeals—

  1. (a) This repeal shall not prejudice or affect the power to take any proceedings in relation to payments in respect of the wheat and oats of the year nineteen hundred and twenty-one or such of the powers mentioned in section nine of the Agriculture Act, 1920, as are excepted from the operation of that section;
  2. (b) Where on the thirtieth clay of September, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, any legal proceedings are pending in England and Wales to which the 212 Agricultural Wages Board or a district wages committee are parties, the: Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries shall be substituted in those proceedings for the Board or committee, as the case may, he, and the proceedings shall not abate by reason of the substitution; and
  3. (c) The body of persons constituted with respect to any area by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland under subsection (2) of section eleven of the Corn Production Act, 1917, shall, notwithstanding this repeal, continue to exercise the powers and duties of the Agricultural Committees for that area under the Agriculture Act, 1920, unless and until the Board of Agriculture for Scotland by order direct that such powers and duties shall be exercised by the Board, which direction they are hereby authorised and empowered to give, and the Board shall thereafter have power to constitute an agricultural committee for that area.

THE EARL OF MAIMESBURYmoved, at the beginning of the clause, alter "The Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920," to insert" and paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3), of Section 36 of the Agriculture Act, 1920." The noble Earl said: The Amendment which stands in my name is a somewhat complicated one, and I am afraid it is of a very technical character. I should have been very glad if it had been moved by some noble and learned Lord, instead of by my-self. It is important, before I deal with this Amendment, that I should outline in a few sentences the history of the control over agriculture. This began, as your Lordships are aware, with the Act commonly known as the Defence of the Realm Act Then came the Corn Production Act, 1917, Part IV. The 1917 Act was to have come into force in August, 1918, or at the end of the war, whichever happened first, and then "D.O.R.A." would cease. Then came the Corn Production Act, 1918, and that Act said that"D.O.R.A.'' should go on until the end of the war. Last year we passed the Agriculture Act, which it is now proposed in part to repeal, and that was to come into force, I think, on January 1, 1921. It said that "D.O.R.A." should cease and that Part IV of the Corn Production Act, 1917, should conic into operation, so far as it was amended by the Act of 1920.

By the Act of 1920, the Corn Production Act, 1917, which had been suspended by the Act of 1918, was revived; but to-day, even after this Bill has become law, as I understand this extremely complicated matter, "D.O.R..A." will still survive in some shape or form. It seems to me, so far as I have been able to follow the various Acts of Parliament which have been repealed, amended, suspended, and so on, during the last few years, that if paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) of Section 36 of the Agriculture Act, 1920, are not repealed, Orders issued by the Government for the control of cultivation are kept alive; and yet I think it is generally supposed in this country at the present time that by this Repeal Bill the Government are more or less abandoning all control over agriculture. I think it is fairly clear that, under this Bill, the Government will be unable to make any new Order for possession, though Orders for cultivation may go on. If, for instance, an Order has been made that a man should keep one hundred head of sheep—I do not say that such an Order has been made—so far as I know, there is nothing to prevent his having to keep it for ever. There is no legal determination of these Orders.

It is impossible, of course, unless one follows the various Acts and compares one with another, for your Lordships to understand what I mean, but in Section 9 of Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1920, which we are now repealing, there is a provision which more or less abolishes Government control. But at the end of the Act which Bill this seeks to repeal, in Section 36, there are a number of provisos. Those provisos still continue Government control in various forms, whereas in Section 9 of the principal Act, as we may call it, this Government control is repealed. What we should like to know, I think, is what paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) of Section 36 really mean. I cannot say how much land the Government control now, nor how much land local authorities are occupying as a rent It of these various Acts, but one thing is clear, and that is that the Government is very sufficiently protected under au Act which I will not attempt to explain—namely, the Interpretation Act of 1889. They are protected for what they have done so long as these Orders are in existence.

The object in getting all control removed is, first of all, that owners may know exactly where they are if they want to recover possession of their land for their own purposes, and secondly for the purpose of sale. I do not know whether the noble Earl will be able to tell us whether these two paragraphs really retain a control by the Government over agriculture, and, if they do not., what I hey actually mean. It limy be said that this repeal does not deal with the Act of 1917, and perhaps I am somewhat out of order in moving at this point, but if you look at the Title you will see that this Bill repeals the Act of 1917 and part of the Act of 1920. I will not detain your Lordships longer on what is but extremely dry subject, but it scents to me that if the Government had repealed the Act of 1920 in toto, and amended the Agricultural holdings Act of 1908, we should have found He Statutes dealing with this subject very much more simple. I hope that the noble Earl will give us an assurance so that we may know exactly where we stand with regard to these two paragraphs.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, after ("1920") insert ("and paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) of section 36 of the Agriculture Act, 1020")—(The Earl of Malmesbury.)


The noble Earl, in moving the Amendment, rightly said that it was a somewhat technical and legal question, but, as I am informed, the Amendment is unnecessary. The paragraphs referred to have for effect the repeal of certain provisions in the Corn Production Act of 1917, and the repeal now proposed of the rest of the provisions of that Act does not alter the position. All notices served or Orders made under the repealed Acts will, as from October 1, cease to operate, except to the very limited extent to which they are preserved by Section 38 of the Interpretation Act, which preserves all existing rights and liabilities in respect of notices pending on that date. I think the Amendment is unnecessary, and I hope the noble Earl will not press it.


I understand, with reference to what has been said by the noble Earl opposite, that all that this does is to make provision that rights accrued already are protected, and nothing more than that. I think, if that is so, the Amendment is unnecessary.


Yes, that is the effect.


I do not desire to put the House to the trouble of a Division, but may I ask that between now and the Report stage the noble Earl will look into the matter a little further?


I think I can satisfy the noble Earl between now and the Report stage.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.


who had on the Paper Amendments in proviso (c), said: Since I put down my Amendments I have had an opportunity of an interview with the Secretary for Scotland. He is prepared to accede to the principle of my Amendments, but he wants a little further time in order to look into certain minor matters. With your Lordships' permission, I will postpone my Amendments until the Report stage.


The noble Lord does not move his Amendment?



LORD DYNEVORmoved, after proviso (c) to insert the following new paragraph— (d) This repeal shall not prejudice the powers of the Minister for dealing with injurious weeds under section 4, subsection (10) of the Agriculture Act, 1920.

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships are aware, Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1920, is repealed in this Bill. In Part I there is a very important provision giving the Minister of Agriculture full powers to deal with noxious weeds on any land, especially I have in mind those growing on railway and other banks, or alongside roads. The object of my Amendment is to keep in the hands of the Minister these powers to deal with injurious weeds, and I hope that I have the whole of your Lordships with me in my desire that noxious weeds should be dealt with.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 21, at end insert the said new paragraph—(Lord Dynevor.)


When the noble Earl answers I hope he will be able to inform the Committee whether this Amendment will have the effect not only of giving the Minister power to destroy noxious weeds on railway banks, etc., but also of giving him the power to go on to land and see that the cultivation of the land is kept clean. I think it is a good power for him to have, but I am not clear whether the Amendment gives film that power.


May I also ask whether, in the event of the Minister exercising his powers under subsection (10) of Section 4 of the Agriculture Act, his powers will in fact he exercised by delegation through the county agricultural committees?


The two last speeches I think rather show that the acceptance of the Amendment is not so easy as we could desire. I should also, if the noble Lord behind me (Lord Clinton) will excuse me, like to bring to his notice a large area of land under the Forestry Commission, which I think is more covered with thistles than any land that I have seen for some time past. Dealing with the Amendment, I may say at once that I have every sympathy with it, and I should very much like to accept it, but there are difficulties in the way. It is no doubt very important that injurious weeds should be dealt with, but I do not think this is a very convenient way of dealing with the matter. I have gone very carefully into the question, and I find it will be necessary to keep in force, or re-enact, the whole or part of ten Sections of these Acts. I have therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that this would not be a practical or convenient method of dealing with the question of weeds. I think the best course would be to introduce a Bill dealing with the question next session.

I may add that it is, perhaps, rather unfortunate, but I believe the question of weeds was included in a Bill before Parliament dealing with seeds, and the clauses dealing with weeds were withdrawn from the Seeds Bill owing to the prospect of passing the Agriculture Bill. As matters turned out, it was unfortunate that those clauses were not proceeded with in the Seeds Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied that this is not an easy matter, but is in fact a difficult one, in view of the many Amendments that would be required to deal with the subject on this Bill, and I hope noble Lords will be satisfied with the assurance of the Ministry of Agriculture that, if possible, a Bill will be introduced for dealing with the subject next session.


I hope that this is not really the last word of the Government. I believe I am right in stating that this is the only civilised country in the world where there is no law dealing with the spread of noxious weeds through the neglect of someone or other; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the hush. What is the value of a promise of a small measure next session? We know the good intentions of the Minister of Agriculture, and we also know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We have too 'ouch experience to trust to that if we can possibly get the matter dealt with in this Bill. All that the Government have to do is, with the aid of their expert and experienced draftsmen, to find the best place in this Bill to deal with the subject. If they can do that I believe they will have the support of this House and of the other House. I would very strongly press my noble friend to promise to bring up a clause on the Report stage to give effect to this proposal.


May I enforce the appeal which my noble friend has made? The next session, as we understand, is to be devoted, in the main, to schemes for reforming your Lordships' House, and it appears to me that to complicate that difficult subject with an attempt to deal with agricultural weeds wonted be, in itself, highly unfortunate. I trust, therefore, that the appeal of my noble friend may be acceded to, and that before the Report stage the noble Earl will consider whether it is not possible to include in this absolutely relevant measure some provision dealing with weeds.


I can only repeat that the matter is a difficult one. With a little practical experience of my own on an executive committee I know that when you desire to get weeds cut, very often by the time action is taken the weeds have seeded and blown all over the place. If you are going to deal with this there is no doubt you will throw a certain amount of work on the county land agents. There will be the old story of running about in motor-cars to inspect the different places where the weeds are growing, and all the paraphernalia to be gone through of issuing Orders. I do not recollect at the moment what the powers of an executive committee are, but I think they first of all have to issue an Order, then, if the Order is not carried out, the man is fined £20, or for every day of delay in cutting the weeds. I rather believe that in the last resort there is power under the Agriculture Act for the committee to cut the weeds themselves. As I have said, all that is rather a lengthy procedure. In the meantime, the weeds have seeded and probably the mischief has been done. We are now in the month of August, and this Bill comes into force on October 1, and fortunately the only good thing about the winters in this country is that weeds do not grow very luxuriantly during the winter months.

Even with the very heavy business of reforming your Lordships' House before us, the small Bill which I have spoken of ought not to occupy a very great amount of time. Perhaps in a new Bill a more efficacious way of tackling the pest of injurious weeds might be discovered than could be done by the cumbrous methods provided under the Agriculture Act. If assented to the Amendment it would mean not only inserting these few words, but leaving a good deal of the paraphernalia of inspectors and motor-car journeys, which was one of the chief objections to the executive committees and time control of agriculture. I shall be very pleased to reconsider the matter, but it is not a very convenient way of dealing with the question, and I really think the course I suggested would be both' more convenient and, probably, more efficacious.


My noble friend does not seem to me to be very enthusiastic on tins subject. The question is not so complicated as he would make out. What we suggest to him is to put a new clause or subsection into the Bill dealing with the matter de novo as best advised by his legal advisers. The last thing we want is for the Ministry of Agriculture to be sending these inspectors about to see whether there are weeds. What we desire is that the agricultural committees in the counties should have the power to deal with the matter when necessary. It does not follow that they will deal with it by sending inspectors all over the country. It means that the members of the agricultural committee, each in his own district, will have good information about any flagrant case, and if the machinery is sufficiently simple it could be dealt with very expeditiously. My noble friend says that while the machinery is working the weeds are growing. The weeds are growing all the same, whether there is any machinery or not. What we want is to give the weeds a little less chance of growing.


I shall be very pleased to see whether it is possible before the Report stage to frame a clause dealing with this matter, but I thought it right to point out the difficulties connected with it.


I am put in a little difficulty. My noble friend in charge of the Bill is doubtful whether he can produce before the Report stage a clause which will meet the case. What I would suggest, therefore, is that my Amendment be put in the Bill, and that my noble friend on the Report stage can then delete it if desirable and put in another one in its place.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Provision of funds for agricultural development.

3. For the purpose of providing a special fund for promoting agricultural development, including the establishment of scholarships and maintenance grants for the sons and daughters of agricultural workmen and others, there shall during the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament the sum of one million pounds.

Out of the sum so to be paid as aforesaid the sum of eight hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall be paid to the Development Fund to be applied for the purpose of aiding and developing agriculture in England and Wales in the manlier specified in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section one of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, other than the extension of the provision of small holdings, and the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall be paid to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund to be applied by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland for the like purpose in Scotland.

LORD STRACHIEmoved to leave out "agricultural workmen and others" and insert "persons employed in agriculture." The noble Lord said: The history of this clause is that when it was introduced in another place it merely provided the money and left it, as far as I can see, entirely optional to the Minister how the money should be spent. Then members in another place thought it desirable that some general instruction should be given to the Minister as to the persons who were to have the benefits of this grant, of which we all so strongly approve. I understand that it was at first confined to the sons and daughters of agricultural workmen. Objection was taken to that, and the words "and others" were inserted. While I agree that the words "sons and daughters of agricultural workmen" are too limiting, on the other hand putting in the words "and others" enlarges it much more than is desirable. I have put down an amendment confining it to the sons and daughters of persons employed in agriculture. Without such an Amendment there would be a danger that some Minister might think it would be a good thing to allow the sons and daughters of people who had nothing whatever to do with agriculture to conic in, and, as a good kind of education, or in case they might wish to take up agriculture in the future, educate them at the expense of this fund. The fund is considerable, but it is not excessive, and it seems to me very desirable that the full benefit of it should be reserved for those people whose futures are entirely concerned with agriculture.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 36, leave out ("agricultural workmen and others") and insert ("persons employed in agriculture")—(Lord,Strachie.)


I am afraid that I am unable to accept the Amendment. The insertion of these words does not, in fact, add anything to the scope of the clause, but it is quite clear that the purpose for which these moneys may be applied in accordance with Clause 1, subsection (1) (a) of the Development and Road Improvement Fund Act, 1909, includes the establishment of scholarship and maintenance grants for any person. It was, however, urged in Committee in another place that it was desirable to indicate in the Act that sons and daughters of agricultural workmen should be eligible for scholarships and grants. This would have raised a question as to whether other persons were eligible, and therefore the words "and others" were inserted. The Amendment proposed by the noble Lord would, as he said, confine the award of scholarships and grants to the sons and daughters of persons employed in agriculture. There is no reason why the class of persons eligible should be so restricted; indeed, the subsequent provisions of the clause which clearly cover scholarships and grants to other persons would be inconsistent with the first paragraph if amended as is suggested. I confess I see no reason why this money should be confined to the persons contemplated by the noble Lord's Amendment.


I quite see the force of what the noble Earl has just stated, and therefore I am not in sympathy with the proposal of my noble friend, Lord Strachie, that these scholarships or grants should be earmarked only for the children of those engaged in agriculture. I do not see why the children of other persons living in the country—for instance, the child of a veterinary surgeon living in a village—should not be equally eligible if he or she means to undertake an agricultural career. But I cannot help observing, with reference to what the noble Earl has just said, that it seems a queer piece of drafting to bring in the sons and daughters of agricultural workmen and then to include everybody else. I should have thought it would surely be a great deal simpler to have said merely—" including the establishment of scholarships and maintenance grants." I do not know whether the noble Earl or his Department attach much importance to the retention of those words, but it seems to me, from the Parliamentary point of view, to be rather bad drafting. I do not move anything.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill:


On this subject I should like to ask the noble Earl whether, in deciding what particular institutions which provide agricultural education shall receive a part of this grant, the whole of the existing system of agricultural education will be properly explored. If that is not done there seems to be a real danger of certain institutions which may not be regarded as absolutely up-to-date being ruled out altogether when, in fact, there is a real need for those institutions if only they are properly remodelled and brought into line with modern ideas. I refer, very especially, to the oldest and greatest of our agricultural colleges, in fact, the oldest agricultural college in the British Empire—The Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester—which at present is unfortunately closed and which all those who are connected with it are exceedingly anxious to re-open. That depends upon a matter of something like £10,000 in order to bring the equipment and buildings up-to-date and to enable the institution to be once more available.

I mention that particular case because the Universities are finding it extremely difficult to cater for the class in which sonic of your Lordships must necessarily be interested—namely, the sons of the smaller squires and of the larger farmers. In each case it is found impossible to provide art allowance sufficient to enable these young men to obtain a University education, without extreme discomfort to themselves I may say also that at Oxford and at Cambridge there are large and increasing numbers of agricultural students, and it is being found impossible to cater for more in view of the increasing demand from the very class for which the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester could best cater if it were able to re-open its doors.


I hope I may be allowed to intervene for a moment to support what has been said by my noble friend, Lord Bledisloe, who may be regarded, I think, as the most, distinguished living alumnus of the great college which he has mentioned, where he gained every distinction which it is possible to attain. The noble Lord has stated one point which ought to carry great weight with the Department—namely that with reference to the really wonderful agricultural schools, as they both are, at the two great Universities. It is impossible to speak too highly of the schools at Oxford and Cambridge in their different ways. They by no means overlap, but each gives a very high form of agricultural education. There is, however, a large number of persons who either cannot afford to send their sons to Oxford or Cambridge, or, even if they can, are a little nervous of the effect on their boys of sending them into what they may consider more extravagant surroundings than those in winch their lives will afterwards be passed. Such a college as that at Cirencester meets the case of those people entirely, because it is, in the ordinary sense, of a higher grade than most of the county agricultural colleges can hope to be and yet, at time same time, it has been carried on, as I think, if it is re-opened, it will undoubtedly continue to be, on simple lines. I trust, therefore, that my noble friend's appeal will have the very careful consideration of the Minister and of the noble Earl.


Had I known that I should be questioned as to the way in which this sum of £1,000,000 was to be expended, I could, perhaps, have given your Lordships some better information on the subject. As a matter of fact, I believe nothing has been definitely settled at the present moment, though doubtless suggestions have been made. I think I am quite right in saying, because I have seen a rough draft of the suggestions, though I do not think they have been absolutely confirmed, that the college of which the noble Lord has spoken, the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, will be considered and not left out in the cold.

On Question, Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Establishment of voluntary joint councils of employers and workmen in agriculture.

4. Whereas it is expedient that joint conciliation committees representative of persons employing workmen in agriculture and of such workmen should without delay be formed by agreement throughout Great Britain for the purpose of dealing with wages or hours or conditions of employment:

(1) Now, therefore, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries as respects England and Wales, and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland as respects Scotland, shall have power to take such steps as they think best adapted for securing the voluntary formation and continuance thereof.

(2) The persons who are at the date of the passing of this Act members of a district wages committee for any area as representatives of persons employing workmen in agriculture or of workmen engaged in agriculture shall, until the expiration of two years from that date or until a joint conciliation committee is formed, whichever first happens, form a joint conciliation committee for the purpose of dealing with the matters aforesaid within any part of the said area for which a joint conciliation committee does not exist, and any vacancy occurring among those representatives shall be filled by the appointment of a member by the organisation representing employers or workmen by whom the vacating member was nominated.

(3) The organisation representing employers or workmen by whom any member of any such committee as aforesaid was nominated or appointed (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) may at any time appoint another person to be a member of the committee in place of that existing member, and thereupon the existing member shall vacate office.

(4) Any such committee as aforesaid which has agreed upon a rate of wages for any class of persons employed in agriculture in the district or any part of the district for which the committee is formed (except the members of the class for -which on account of special circumstances exemption is provided by the agreement) may submit the agreement to the Minister for confirmation, and the Minister may confirm the agreement and cause the same and the date from which and the period for which it shall operate to be advertised in the district to which it applies, in such manner as the Minister may think fit, with a view to bringing the terms thereof, as far as practicable, to the knowledge of the persons affected.

(5) Where any rate of wages has been so agreed, confirmed, and advertised, and so long as the agreement is in operation, it shall be an implied term of every contract for the employment after the specified date of a workman of any class to which the agreement applies (having regard to any exemptions provided by the agreement) that the employer shall pay to that workman wages at not less than the rate payable under the agreement.

(6) Where any rate of wages has been agreed by a committee and been duly confirmed and advertised as aforesaid nothing in any agreement for the employment of a workman in agriculture shall operate to deprive the workman of his right to receive wages at that rate, except—

  1. (a) where the committee, or a sub-committee thereof, is satisfied that the agreement for payment of wages at a lower rate was, having regard to any special circumstances affecting the workman or to the special terms of the agreement, fair and reasonable, and issues a certificate accordingly; or
  2. (b) where, on an application made for such a certificate, the committee or subcommittee have failed to agree with respect to the matter, and the court in which proceedings are taken for the recovery of wages at the rate agreed by the committee is so satisfied as aforesaid:
and then only to the extent to which the committee or sub-committee certifies or the court determines that the wages payable to the workman should be at some lower rate than the rate so agreed by the committee.

(7) Any such committee as aforesaid may appoint an independent person to act as chairman, or may agree to such an appointment being made by any Government department or other body, and a chairman may be appointed with or without power to vote, and with such other powers as the committee may determine.

(8) The representatives of employers and workmen on a joint conciliation committee shall, respectively, have one collective vote on any question.

(9) This section, except subsection (1) thereof, shall not apply to Scotland.

(10) In this section:—

  1. (a) The expression "agriculture" includes dairy-farming and the use of land as grazing, meadow, or pasture-land, or orchard, or osier-land, or woodland, or for market gardens or nursery grounds, and the expression "agricultural" shall be construed accordingly;
  2. (b) The expression "workmen" includes boys, women, and girls;
  3. (c) The expression "employment" means employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship, and the expressions "employ" and "employer" shall be construed accordingly.

LORD CLINTONmoved, at the beginning of the clause, after "Whereas it is expedient that," to insert "local" The noble Lord said: I must refer your Lordships for an explanation of my Amendment to the first subsection, in which the Minister of Agriculture is given power to take such steps as he thinks best adapted for securing the voluntary formation and continuance of joint conciliation committees. I want to avoid giving power to the Minister to create anything in the nature of a Central Conciliation Board, which would have an unpleasant resemblance to that particular Board to get rid of which an endeavour is now being made. I suggest that it can be done by putting in the word ''local"before'' joint conciliation committees," but it is difficult, I am informed, to say whether this will actually meet the point, because the whole of these arrangements are of a voluntary character, and no actual power is laid down as being given to either party. I hope, however, that the noble Earl will accept the Amendment, for I do not think it is the intention, at all events of the present Government, to set up anything in the nature of a Central Board.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 10, after ("that") insert ("local").—(Lord Clinton.)


I accept this Amendment. These conciliation committees are to be local in character, and there is therefore no objection to the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BLEDISLOEmoved after "persons", where that word firstly occurs, to insert "whether owners or occupiers of agricultural land." The noble Lord said: Some doubt seems to have been expressed or felt yesterday, in the course of the Second Reading debate upon this Bill, as to whether or not this expression" persons employing workmen in agriculture" included owners as well as occupiers of land. I took the opportunity of reminding your Lordships yesterday that probably something like one quarter of the employers of rural labour in this country are in fact, not tenant farmers, but land owners. Of course, this committee will fix wages which, directly or indirectly, will become the wages of estate employees just as much as of farm employees, and it is in order to safeguard the position of landowners and other employers of rural labour, who often are by far the most conciliatory persons you can find to sit on these committees, that I move the insertion of these words.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 11, after ("persons") insert ("whether owners or occupiers of agricultural land ").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


I have an Amendment down later to accomplish the same object as that which my noble friend desires to achieve by his Amendment. There is reason for this, in view of the present constitution of the existing wages boards. They are in every case, I think, under the Regulations of the Ministry, constituted of representatives of a particular organisation of labour, and of no other persons, and as these conciliation boards will be in many cases the lineal descendants of the boards now existing I think it is advisable that an Amendment to this effect should be put in. So far as I am concerned I have no particular choice whether it is inserted here or later, and I should be willing to accept the view of the Ministry upon the matter, if they are willing, as I hope they are, to accept the principle of the Amendment.


I cannot help thinking that on this question there is a certain amount of misunderstanding among noble Lords. I will try at once to explain the matter, and will commence by saying that later on we intend to accept an Amendment to leave out "woodlands." That will make a good deal of difference. If you put in the words "owners of land," giving owners some right to be on conciliation committees, you may put people on those committees who do not employ a single person in agriculture. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, who, in the course of his speech yesterday, mentioned the question of occupying owners.


I did not.


Some noble Lord mentioned the matter of occupying owners. The moment a man is an occupying owner he becomes, of course, an occupier, and therefore has every right to be represented on the conciliation committee. Everyone who occupies land for the purpose of agriculture would and should be represented on these committees. If you put in the words "owner of agricultural land" as well as "occupier of agricultural land" I do not think you really are achieving that which you wish to bring about. You desire that occupying owners shall be represented. They will be represented. But by putting in the word "owners" you might give the nonresident landowners, who do not employ a single man in any way in agriculture, the right to be represented. I think the matter is safeguarded if the word "woodlands" is left out.

If a non-resident landowner is employing a large number of foresters in his woods it may be said that he is employing them as woodmen, and that woodmen are included; but if the word "woodlands" is left out that point would be met. The sole thing that we desire, in regard to these conciliation committees, is that the representatives of the employers shall be people who employ workmen in agriculture. This will not leave out any owner of land in any way whatsoever, provided that he is occupying land and employing people in agriculture. Personally, I think it would be a mistake to put in the word"owners." It might perhaps read better, but I do not think it would have quite the effect that noble Lords desire, while it would leave open the door for non-resident owners, employing nobody in agriculture, to say that they ought to be represented on the conciliation committees.


I think there is a good deal in what the noble Earl has said by way of objection to the Amendment of Lord Bledisloe, which is perhaps too drastic, and does not give any latitude to the Minister. I would draw attention to an Amendment which I have down later on the Paper, and which comes before Lord Clinton's Amendment. It says: in line 19, after "steps, "insert" and shall have regard to the representation of all classes of persons employing workmen in agriculture." That is merely drawing the attention of the Minister to the fact that it is desirable that all classes, including owners, should be considered in this matter. I am ready to admit that the fact of the Government saying they are ready to accept the Amendment to leave out"woodlands"has some effect, but that interpretation is very much larger indeed than that which was included in the previous Act, because then you had orchards and osier beds and other things included. It is very desirable that some words such as those suggested in my Amendment should be put in, and my reason for saying that is this. In another place, the Minister of Agriculture was always referring to the National Farmers' Union, and also to the Agricultural Labourers' Union, as if those were the only two bodies to be consulted. I can assure the noble Earl in charge of this Bill that there is a very strong feeling amongst landowners that the Bill contemplates dealing only with the National Farmers' Union as regards the employment of labour, and that such bodies as the Central Chamber of Agriculture and the Central Landowners' Association, will not be consulted. It was remarkable, when this Bill was going through another place, that, except in reference to Scotland, the Minister of Agriculture never seemed to have any regard to the bodies which directly represent landowners in this matter. He always spoke of the National Farmers' Union. He said the National Farmers' Union agrees to this, or disapproves of that, and never said anything as to the attitude of the landowners. It seems only right, therefore, that there should be some direction in this Bill to the effect that I have indicated, not only for the benefit of the present Minister of Agriculture, but for anyone who may come after him. We do not know who may succeed him, and I think it is very desirable that landowners, as such, should be considered in this matter, because they are large employers of labour, and some of the best employers.


I think the real difficulty of this clause arises not from any conflict between the words in the clause and the words as proposed by the noble Lord, but because the clause itself does not seem to have been drafted by anyone who quite knew what he wanted to attain. I draw attention to that because I think it is characteristic of Clause 4 and the whole of its subsections, and if I can get an opportunity at the proper time I am going to try to show your Lordships that the whole of the clause is unworkable.

Except for the possible difficulty that the reference is to "persons" and not "all persons," I should have thought it was quite clear that these committees were to consist of employers on the one hand and of employees on the other, and of nobody else. I do not suppose it was intended, and. I can hardly think it is the case, that the fact that you are an owner of land should be a disqualification for exercising your rights as an employer of agricultural workmen. Therefore, strictly speaking, I think the noble Lord's Amendment, though it does no harm, is not really required, because all that those words would do would be to show that it did not matter whether you owned the agricultural land or occupied the agricultural land, provided you employed workmen in agriculture upon that land.

On the other hand, I do not understand that it is proposed from this side to expand this clause in such a way as to make it the right of landowners who do not employ anybody to be represented on these conciliation committees which deal with the wage and so forth, of the workmen who are employed. I do not suppose it is said that because one happens to be trustee of some building land which is not cultivated at all, therefore one is entitled to any representation on a conciliation committee of this kind. To my mind the real point is that this will not work except through organisations either that have been formed, or that will be formed, to represent classes of persons. It is evidently built upon those lines. It evidently means that the committees are to represent two sides, and somehow or other some organisation is to get its own men in on the one side or on the other. If that is what is intended, I am sure that what will happen will he that persons who employworkmen in agriculture, and are organised, will be very active to secure the whole of the representation on their side of the committee, and a large number of persons who employ workmen in agriculture, and who get on so well with their workmen that they have never on either side required any organisation at all, will find that they are left out in the cold. And they are left out in the cold precisely for the same reason that half the people in this country are left out in the cold—namely, that they are not organised and do not make themselves noisy, and therefore do not make themselves heard.

There will be thousands of persons not very actively concerned in agriculture, but who at the same time farm a bit and own some land and employ some men, who will find that as they do not belong to a tenant farmers' union—and so far as I know there is no particular landowners' union that will be sufficiently powerful to succeed in this matter—they may be left out altogether, or elbowed out, simply because, though they are persons employing workmen in agriculture, there is no machinery in this clause which enables them to get any representation on the committee at all.

The same thing I am sure will be found when we come to discuss the words, in the first subsection, about taking steps best adapted for the formation of these committees—words so vague that I am perfectly satisfied that they cannot be worked at all, except by the absolute good will and consent of those concerned. They will break down the moment any conflict of claims arises. Unless this clause is redrafted in order to define exactly how these committees are to be formed, and who is to be entitiled to have a voice in electing members of them, and what organisations are to be entitled to a share in the representation, I am perfectly satisfied that in working it would at once come to a conflict between rival interests, for the solution of which conflict the clause provides no machinery whatever, and either it would not work, or, if it did work, it would work by sheer tyranny. For the moment, I would venture to suggest, whether the noble Lord's Amendment is accepted or not (and it can do no harm), that on the Report stage some attention should be drawn to the difficulties I have tried to point out, with a view to making the thing work, as I suppose, if there are to be conciliation committees at all, we hope they will work.


I should like to say one word in answer to what was said by the noble Earl. The words "persons employing workmen in agriculture," as they stand at present, cover the whole definition; therefore, if the words proposed to be inserted by the noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, were inserted none of the difficulties would arise to which the noble Earl has called attention.]t would not give any right of representation to an absentee landlord; it would not give any right of representation to a landlord who did not employ workmen in agriculture; and therefore, I must say that I hope that the words will be adopted. I think the objections of the noble Earl would not apply. The words do define, and I think properly define, the class of persons who ought to be represented if they employ agricultural labour.


If it is the general wish of the noble Lords that the words should be inserted I have no objection to accepting the Amendment. The only thing is that I must consider, before the Report stage, whether it will let in people who are not employing anybody in agriculture and have no right to representation.


I think Lord Bledisloe's Amendment is open to some objections, and I am under the impression that the proposal in my name is perhaps better suitable to the purpose than the one the noble Lord has set down. I said that I would accept either Amendment, whichever the noble Earl wished, but on the whole to leave out the word "owner" seems to sue of some advantage in this connection.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BLEDISLOEmoved, immediately before subsection (1), to substitute "of labour" for "or conditions of employment." The noble Lord said: It is rather an important question which I propose to raise, by asking your Lordships to leave out the words "or conditions of employment" and simply add the words "of labour" so that the words will read: "for the purpose of dealing with wages or hours of labour." Some noble Lords have urged upon me that I ought to move the omission of the word"hours"as well, but I should like to point out that as regards hours, so long as wages are reckoned by the week it is obvious that the question of hours must be a material question in considering whether the wages are adequate. But you come to a totally different question when you extend, for the first time in this Bill, the powers of the local wage committees to conditions of employment.

The whole position is now governed by Section 4 of Part II of the Corn Production Act, 1917, and there is nothing whatever in that section which covers any question other than the wages of agricultural workers. If you are going to extend the operation of these committees to conditions of labour, they may take into account such questions as housing, half-holidays, and the use of machinery, which have nothing whatever to do with the particular functions these committees apparently are to be asked to discharge. It seems undesirable, when your Lordships are anxious to lift Government control off agriculture, to extend it in this respect by including within the scope of these committees conditions of employment as well as wages and hours.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("or conditions of employment") and insert ("of labour")—(Lord Bledisloe.)


The effect of this Amendment will be to limit the conciliation committees to questions dealing with wages and hours of labour, though it is difficult to see how any provision in an Act can prevent a conciliation committee, if they thought fit, arriving at an agreement as to conditions of employment. It is obvious that wages and hours of employment are the primary matters likely to be dealt with by these committees, but I am not satisfied that there may not be some question arising as to conditions of employment, perhaps not directly connected with wages and hours of labour. Although it is not very material whether the words "or conditions of employment" are struck out or not, I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment. Some questions may arise in which it may be desirable that conciliation committees should be able to deal with conditions of employment, and I hope, therefore, he will not press the Amendment.


Has the noble Earl considered whether the words "conditions of employment" may not bring us into the old difficulty into which the wages boards got on the subject of cottages? The noble Lord, Lord Lee of Fareham, gave us a pledge, when the original Bill was before your Lordships, that the question of cottages should no longer be considered by them. I cannot see how, under the words "or conditions of employment," you can rule out the possibility of their taking cottages into consideration, and proceeding to fix the rent, as sonic of the wages boards have done. I hope the Amendment will be pressed.


The noble Earl has remarked that there is nothing obligatory in the arrangement arrived at by these committees, except on rates of wages. Does not that practically involve that what is decided about hours and overtime is also enforceable? How is it possible to make the rate of wages an obligation without also making an obligation whatever may be agreed upon by the committee; for instance, on the question of payment for overtime?


I think that point should be considered again before the Report stage. Unless the hours are fixed by the conciliation committee they will not know at what hour to begin paying the rate for overtime. I am obliged to the noble Marquess for having put that point; it is certainly one which should be considered. On the general question as to conditions of employment," I should still regret if the words were struck out. A case has occurred to me; it may be far-fetched, but it is one which the conciliation committee might have to take into consideration. I know of farms where they are in the habit of bringing some 500 or 600 people from the neighbouring town in motor lorries in order to work a large area cultivated as market gardens. It may be said that the carting of these people would be a question of"conditions of employment," while the question of railway or 'bus fares enters into the subject. I do not wish to oppose the Amendment if noble Lords think it advisable these words should be left out, but at the same time I hope it will not be pressed.


In the original Act there is not a single word about "conditions of employment." I have react Part II and the clause under which the wages boards were instituted, and there is not a single word about "conditions." I entirely agree with the Marquess of Crewe that wages and hours and overtime go together.


May I put the point of view of the agricultural labourer? He is tenacious of the local conditions under which he works. If you are to allow conditions of employment to be altered, they may be altered against the wish of the agricultural labourer. I ask that he should be allowed to keep all the conditions of employment and that they should not be interfered with.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT GALWAYmoved to leave out subsection (1). The noble Viscount said: This subsection gives very wide powers to the Minister of Agriculture. During this session we have had some experience of the danger of putting into the hands of a Minister power to make what Regulations lie may think fit, and it is very desirable that we should have some idea as to what is meant by "shall have power to take such steps as they think best adapted for securing- the voluntary formation and continuance" of these committees. What I think the country expects when this Bill is passed is that we shall have as little control as possible from the Ministry of Agriculture. Most people consider, and it is, I believe, the intention of the Government, that there should be as many conciliation committees formed as is advisable to ensure the peaceful working of the measure. From my own experience, I am satisfied that there should be several conciliation committees in each county. Employers and workmen are more likely to agree if they are governed by a conciliation committee on which are sitting people whom they know and trust, than if they are governed by a committee which lives at a distance.

I should like to have some assurance from the noble Lord that there is no intention whatever of the Ministry of Agriculture placing any limitation on the number of conciliation boards that might be thought advisable in any county. I certainly think we also ought to know a little more as to whether these steps are going to be taken immediately and in what form action is going to be taken. I therefore move the Amendment which stands in my name, trusting I may have some satisfactory assurance from the noble Earl in charge of the Bill as to what intention the Government have of using these very wide powers that are given to them.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 16 to 21, leave out subsection (1)—(Viscount Galway.)


On the next five or six pages of the Amendment Paper there are a number of Amendments to leave out subsections, followed by Amendments to amend those subsections. I think it would be most convenient if I adopted the form of Question "to leave out the, first word of the subsection" in every case. If that be not accepted, the rights of other noble Lords are safe The Question, therefore, is whether the word "Now be omitted.


The procedure laid down by the Lord Chairman makes it convenient, I think, that I should speak upon the Amendment which stands in my name. I have not put down this Amendment, and two consequential Amendments which appear later on the Paper, out of any affection that I feel for these conciliation boards or for the agricultural committees. I regard both as set up more or less expressly for the purpose of interfering with the liberty of the subject, and neither of them, therefore, to be encouraged. But it is evident that in the country, as well as in your Lordships' House, there is a preponderance of opinion in favour of constituting these conciliation committees, and it appears to me to be wise, if it be possible so to do, to set up these committees in a business-like manner.

We have heard already on the authority of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, that in the absence of good will the whole of this clause is literally unworkable. I think it is evident that that must be so. We cannot find—at least I cannot find—throughout the later clauses any words establishing the authority whose business it shall be to take the initiative in the matter of forming these committees. We can find nothing in this clause which lays it down sufficiently clearly how these committees shall be constituted. If it be desirable to set up conciliation committees at all, surely the subjects with which they deal are of such enormous importance locally that it is desirable to set them up in a manner which all can understand, and which will give them a chance of working when they are set up.

As every noble Lord knows perfectly well, the wages paid and payable constitute perhaps the most important subject in the agriculturist's life. The farmer or employer of agricultural labour, who has to pay his labourers week by week, must know exactly what he has to pay The labourer, equally, requires to know what he is going to receive, and he requires to have his point of view properly represented on a committee properly constituted. Under this clause, as it stands at the present moment, it would appear that the district wages committees which are now in existence shall continue in existence for a more or less indefinite period, and that they will, in the nature of things, become the parents of the new conciliation committees, even if they do not become the new conciliation committees themselves. That is a matter which will give grave dissatisfaction in considerable areas throughout the country. The district wages committees are not invariably constituted in accordance with the present day views of employers and employed in agriculture.

I acknowledge that the Minister of Agriculture retains to himself the right to take such steps as he may think best for securing the voluntary formation and continuance of the committees. But what power will there be under this clause as it stands for individuals or organisations not now represented on the district wages committees to make their views felt in the constitution of new committees? In a given county there may be at present not more than one, or two, or three district wages committees. That county may require a dozen conciliation committees, and may not be at all satisfied with the meagre representation that it now has on existing district wages committees. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill will no doubt be able to assure me that my fears are really unfounded, because the Minister of Agriculture retains to himself so much power. But I think the community at large would prefer to find in the Act of Parliament under which they have to work some direct guide as to how they are to proceed, and not to leave all these things in the nebulous condition in which they stand now, and in the hands of a Ministry whose constitution may not always command the confidence that it commands at the present time.

I have ventured to put down words which, I suggest, leave nothing lacking in definiteness. I have suggested that the agricultural committee of the county concerned shall have the initiative in the matter of setting up these committees. It places a duty upon them, but, if I may be allowed to refer to a later Amendment, I do not propose that these agricultural committees shall have anything to do with the constitution of the conciliation committee or have any powers over them. Their business is begun and ended in setting up these committees, establishing them, and seeing that they are established within three months of the date on which this Act conics into force. I have also endeavoured in my Amendment to cover the point of providing a sufficient number of conciliation committees by placing upon the agricultural committee the duty of considering the number that will be required throughout the county.

The agricultural committees existing in each county are bodies well understood in their respective counties. They are accessible bodies, easily got at by any person or body of persons who wish for representation or wish to set up a conciliation committee. The Ministry of Agriculture is not easily accessible. The agricultural committee understands the county and knows its opinions on this subject of conciliation committees, and suggest that, the agricultural committees being existence and continuing in existence, it is desirable that they should he set up as the constituted authority, if I may use those words. It is they who are to have the initiative, and, if we put these words into the Bill, we shall at least know that these conciliation committees, which we have just agreed are desirable, are going to be established, Unless some such words are inserted, we have no guarantee that they are going to be established. Shall I be in order in moving my Amendment?


The Amendment before the House is to leave out the subsection. I think that has to be decided before the noble Lord's Amendment can be actually moved.


May I refer to what is really a point of order that I think it is desirable your Lordships should have before you in considering this matter? Of course, the whole of Clause 4 is really the pith of the Bill, so far as discussion is concerned, and, to a very large number—at least I hope it is very large—of members of your Lordships' House, the subsection which makes the decision of the conciliation committee enforceable is the most important part of the clause. But I think I make no mistake in saying that, as the Amendment Paper stands, the Amendment which is now before the House is the only one upon which we can, strictly speaking, discuss and effectually take action upon that part of subsection (5) which makes any rate of wages agreed, confirmed and advertised, an implied term in every contract of employment.

Your Lordships will notice that the noble Viscount., Lord Chaplin, had an Amendment to leave out subsection (5), and, of course, if he had been here to move his Amendment., we should have had an opportunity upon it to leave out subsection (5), although the whole of the rest of Clause 4 might stand. Unless some other noble Lord is intending to move Lord Chaplin's Amendment for him—I do not know whether that is the case—I think I am right in saying that the only way in Committee, as the Amendment Paper stands, of cutting out the compulsory feature in this clause, is to carry the Amendment of the noble Viscount opposite. Of course, it is true, as the Lord Chairman was good enough to remind me, that anyone can voluntarily move Lord Chaplin's Amendments for him, but possibly that may not happen, and I am satisfied that the best way of discussing this clause is to be free to deal with the whole of it, because each part reflects upon the imperfections of the other parts, and it is very ineffectual trying to discuss it subsection by subsection. I therefore ask to be allowed to address myself to the noble Viscount's Amendment as getting rid of the whole of the clause, because I think it is clear that, apart from the biassed and optimistic words of the recital, if you get rid of subsection (1) all the other subsections fall to the ground, because there is nothing to tack them on to. What is the position?


May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord in order I ask the guidance of the Lord Chairman as to the desire of the House, on a Motion to leave out initial words, that we should discuss the whole clause, and the whole of the Amendments on that clause. If that be done it will be difficult to know what we are actually doing.


I fear I was not successful in making my object plain. It would not be strictly in order, I suppose, on an Amendment to leave out lines 16 to 21 on page 3, to make any extended allusion to the subsection on page 4. But for the purpose of showing that the whole scheme of the clause is unsatisfactory, it is necessary to refer not only to subsection (1) but to other subsections, and therefore I am not suggesting that we should discuss all the Amendments, at once, but that the whole of the clause must necessarily be referred to if the opposition to the fundamental part of it., which is at the beginning, is to be made effectual. If one is to be effectual in one's opposition to the proposal that the various Ministers of Agriculture shall have power to take such steps as they think best adapted for securing the -voluntary formation and continuance of conciliation committees, surely one must be in a position to inquire what those conciliation committees will do when formed and when continued, because the advisability of maintaining them depends upon what they are going to do when they are constituted. I am, of course, in the hands of your Lordships, but I desire to bring the discussion within the most effectual focus I can find.


I should not hesitate to say that there are precedents both ways, and perhaps it is for your Lordships' convenience that a general discussion should take place on the whole clause, on the first important Amendment. I gather, not having been into this very deeply, that the Amendment of Lord Hastings, although not technically before your Lordships' House, will follow on the Amendment to omit the subsection, and that it does raise a very broad question of policy. On the other hand, there is the question at the end, that the clause stand part of the Bill. It rests entirely with your Lordships when a general discussion shall take place. In my view one course is as convenient as the other.


My object in moving my Amendment was to obtain from the noble Earl an explanation as to the lines which the Government intended to take. If I am satisfied by that, my Amendment can be withdrawn.


I think it would perhaps be more convenient if, first of all, I answered the noble Viscount who has moved this Amendment, and then, if he is satisfied with my explanation and withdraws his Amendment, it will be open for me to go into the further question regarding agricultural committees. The object of this subsection—I do not think it is very obscure—is to enable the two Government Departments concerned to do what they can to organise the formation of committees, and to assist, as I have already said, by a small Department consisting mainly of officers who have already had experience in industrial questions. I should like to make it perfectly clear that the Department cannot enforce any one of their views. First of all, these committees are to be formed, or the areas for which they stand are to be formed The Ministry take no power themselves in that way, but we believe that the Ministry, with this special staff of experts, is the best party to apply to if the districts wish for help and information as to how they should proceed in setting up voluntary conciliation committees. We wish in no way to put compulsion upon anybody, and in fact there is no compulsion involved in the question. When the different parties, employers and employed, wish for the assistance of the Department, the Department is there to help them. That is the whole meaning of the subsection, and, although, if that explanation is satisfactory, we shall come to the Amendment of Lord Hastings, we believe that the Ministry, with people acquainted with the procedure and the formation of these conciliation committees, is the proper body to give help.


Is there any limit of numbers?


There is no intention whatever to limit the number of conciliation committees or areas. If any area wishes to set up a conciliation committee all the Ministry shall be satisfied of is that the people who wish to form themselves into conciliation committees are representative of the employers and employed in that district.


With regard to the Amendment of Lord Hastings, its object apparently is to strike out the compulsory power of the Minister to take such steps as he thinks necessary, and makes it compulsory upon the agricultural committee to do so. It goes, of course, a great deal further than the present clause, because he uses the word"maintain," and that, of course, may mean (I do not know whether he intends it) to pay salaries and expenses and otherwise maintain the conciliation committees. But that wording could, of course, very easily be altered. Do your Lordships think it sound, however, that these very great powers should be put into the hands of agricultural committees—many of them, no doubt, most valuable bodies, but many of them such as could not properly be described in that manner? I think it is too strong a step to take. I very much prefer the next Amendment, whereby the power is exercised with the concurrence of the agricultural committee of the county council. It is a very considerable advantage for the Minister himself that he should have the agricultural opinion, so far as it exists, in the county, which he might get from some of these committees, and it would, I think, satisfy the county itself that the areas of the county are properly laid out. I hope my noble friend, Lord Hastings, will consider whether it would not be better for him not to move his Amendment, but to take the discussion on the one to be moved later by Lord Selborne.


Personally, I feel some difficulty in making a choice between the two alternatives, but I am bound to say that, on balance, I think there is an advantage in securing such a measure of uniformity between different areas in the county as the intervention of the Minister would involve. It seems to me that there is a real danger of having in some counties no committee at all, in other counties a committee which is coterminous with the county, and in other counties a committee representing possibly the district of the rural district council, or some similar area. It is obviously to the general advantage of the agricultural community that there should be some uniformity obtaining throughout the whole country, and for that reason I should be rather inclined to favour the Amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, bearing in mind that he, too, desires that there should be a consultation with, or the concurrence of, the county agricultural committee, which, after all, is best able to tell him what are the agricultural conditions prevailing in its area.


I hope that Lord Selborne's Amendment will be the one adopted. There are one or two excellent reasons for that. The noble Earl pointed out, for instance, the voluntary character of subsection (1). I am not inclined myself to alter that into the compulsory form which is in Lord Hastings' Amendment. All that is really necessary as regards the agricultural committee, either in the way of concurrence (I like the word "concurrence" myself) or in any other way proper to protect the local interests, would certainly be achieved and safeguarded under the noble Earl's Amendment.


Both these Amendments are excellent, but I rather like the Amendment of Lord Hastings, because it does not stereotype everything. My noble friend behind me wants a standard throughout the length and breadth of the country. I have another objection. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill has spoken about the setting up of a Labour Department. We have seen what has happened in that respect in the past. We set up a Department, and it grows and grows. And this Department will grow also. We know how the Ministry of Agriculture has expanded already, and according to the papers, the Minister himself contemplates reducing the expenditure by 36 per cent. But it is not the way to reduce expenditure to set up another Department. I cannot help thinking it is very much better to let each county council adopt its own scheme for each separate locality. I am all in favour of decentralisation, but this is centralisation once more. We shall have a large number of officials going about all over the country, consulting these various county councils at great expense, giving them advice, and saying: "You ought to concur with us in this particular matter." On the ground of expenditure, therefore, I shall certainly support Lord Hastings' Amendment.


I do not know whether this is the right time to speak upon my Amendment—I only wish to facilitate things. My proposal is to insert, after "power," the words:"with the concurrence in each case of the agricultural committee of the council of the county concerned as to the constitution and area of jurisdiction of any such joint conciliation committees." The effect of Lord Hastings' Amendment is to transfer the initiative in this matter from the Minister to each county council. I have no objection to that in itself, but I am not quite sure whether it fits in with the scheme of the clause as drafted. I should not be surprised if my noble friend in charge of the Bill pointed out that, if Lord Hastings' Amendment were carried, many subsequent Amendments would be necessary. It was because I thought that was so that I was content to leave the initiative in the hands of the Ministry, and accept the scheme of the drafting of the clause, provided that the Government would accept my Amendment, the intention of which is to make the concurrence of the agricultural committee of the county council necessary in each case before the Minister could recognise one of these joint. conciliation committees.

I put down the Amendment for two reasons. In the first place, admirable as the Ministry of Agriculture is, there is a universal tendency in Government Departments towards a sealed pattern. What we want above all things is to get away from the sealed pattern. I very seldom disagree in these matters with my noble friend, Lord Bledisloe, but I doubt whether he has entirely considered the full effect of the language he has just used. The circumstances of all our counties vary enormously, and because one county thinks that one joint conciliation committee will serve the whole county there is no reason why another county, where the circumstances are quite different, should not have several joint conciliation committees. Of these conditions the agricultural committee of the county council, in my judgment, is a much better judge than the Ministry of Agriculture. In the second place—and I lay great stress on this—in this purely voluntary movement there may be a conflict of ambitions and a conflict of interests. Several joint conciliation committees may come into birth in one county, not with carefully adjudicated areas, but with overlapping areas, and claiming concurrent jurisdiction. Or again, I can conceive a misguided Minister of Agriculture recognising as a fit joint conciliation committee a body that really was not at all representative of all the interests that ought to be represented in that particular county, or in that particular area of a county. Of all those matters I suggest that the agricultural committee of the county council is the best judge, and therefore my suggestion was, while leaving the initiative in the hands of the Minister, to make it incumbent upon him in every case to secure the concurrence—and I mean that word; I do not mean that he should have secured the consent and approval—of the agricultural committee of the county council.


I should like to ask my noble friend, Lord Selborne, a question on his Amendment. I do riot agree either with the Amendment of Lord Galway or with those of Lord Hastings and Lord Selborne. In his Amendment Lord Selborne leaves it to the agricultural committee to settle the area of jurisdiction, but surely the agricultural committee of a county council has no jurisdiction beyond its area. Where several counties meet, the boundaries of the farms are not necessarily the same as those of the counties, and the farms sometimes spread out into two or three counties. I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, how he would meet a situation of that sort, which, under his Amendment, would concern the agricultural committees of two or three counties.


The reply to my noble friend is that I do not think his difficulty is one which absolutely floors me. The Minister of Agriculture will consult the agricultural committee of a county council only in respect of land which is in that county If a joint conciliation committee is to be set up to deal with part of one county and part of another the Minister, of course, will consult the agricultural committees of both the county councils concerned.


And I have no doubt, in pursuing what my noble friend has said, that that is what will have to be done. My impression is (and in this I differ from my noble friend behind me) that it is a case that very often must arise. I think it will be found that in areas where the system of farming is uniform, conciliation committees may very often overlap county boundaries. I am glad, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, has raised the question, because it is one of considerable importance.


I should like to raise one point in connection with the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, which I take to be before the House. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, pointed out with considerable emphasis that under the Amendment he is suggesting the initiative would remain with the Ministry of Agriculture. It is precisely because some of us feel that the definition of the initiative in the Bill as it stands is so vague that we are very much inclined to support Lord Hastings' Amendment which definitely puts upon county agricultural committees the duty of setting up conciliation committees and defining the area over which they shall have jurisdiction. If that Amendment were adopted, I feel that more would be done in the matter than is possible under the Bill as it stands.


We have had a general discussion on the question of whether those persons who wish to set up a. conciliation committee should or should not go to the Minister of Agriculture for advice. The opinion of the Ministry of Agriculture is that they, the Ministry, are the best persons to give advice in such cases. We think that we can give better advice and direction than a county council can. I have already said something which has raised the ire of the noble Lord, Lord Strachie. We have one officer who has given us advice on this question, and in my opinion this officer, who is a public servant and is well acquainted with the working of conciliation boards and matters pertaining to industrial disputes, is a far better person to help us in this matter than an official of any county council. At present the staff of a county council has absolutely nothing at all to do with trade disputes and conciliation boards, and the matter is entirely new to the county councils themselves.

There is another argument I should like to urge upon your Lordships in regard to this matter. I am not at all certain whether the county councillors and aldermen would be so delighted to have this work thrust upon them. It is work which must, to a large extent, if not entirely, deal with labour questions. The setting up of conciliation committees and the definition of their areas are labour questions, and up to the present county councils in England and Wales, thank goodness, have been very, very little involved in such questions. I am not at all certain that the county councils will be very pleased at having a new duty thrown upon them, and at the same time becoming involved in labour disputes. There are plenty of people who take the view that the agricultural committees of county councils should lay down regulations for conciliation committees and bring them into existence. Noble Lords who hold that view will no doubt support the Amendment. We hold, on the contrary, that they are not the best bodies for the purpose. They have no expert advisers, and when all is said and done it would be a very great mistake for them to do it.

The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, made a good point—that you may very likely get districts partly in two or three different counties. We all know that there are some places (chiefly famous for the great prize fights which have been held there) where three counties join. In such a place there may be a piece of very good land or of shocking bad land, with perhaps twenty or thirty villages, where the conditions of agriculture are very much the same, but at the same time the land is in three different counties and it would be desirable that twenty or thirty parishes, all lying in the same area with the same kind of land to deal with, should settle upon their conciliation committee and write to the Ministry of Agriculture, saying: "We are under rather special conditions and we wish to set up our own conciliation committee here. Will you help us to form it, and tell us how to set to work?" That is the plain reason why we wish to make it perfectly open and free to any party to form conciliation committees to deal with this question of employment.

We do not wish to dictate to anyone. All that the Minister of Agriculture desires to do, as I said in answer to a previous Amendment, is to have somebody at the Ministry who can give help to those who are desirous of forming conciliation committees. We are of opinion that the matter is one which is best left to voluntary effort and that the Ministry will be better able to help those who wish to set up conciliation committees than the county councils can be. That is the answer on the general question. It would be impossible for me to accept the Amendment of Lord Hastings, whereby the agricultural committee of the county council are to set up these bodies. We do not think that this is the right thing to be done, and we very much object to that part of the Amendment which says that they "shall define the area over which each of such committees shall have jurisdiction."

We cannot accept the Amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. Of course "with the concurrence of" means that the county councils would have the power of vetoing any decision arrived at by the Ministry of Agriculture as regards the formation of any one of these conciliation committees, of which the Ministry does not approve. We think that if a body of people in certain parishes like to form a conciliation committee, and they satisfy the Ministry of Agriculture that the people they have drawn together are representative of employers and employed their arrangement should not be upset by the county council. We do not feel so strongly on the question of consulting the county council as the noble Lord, who is particularly anxious, before we take a step, that the agricultural committee of the county council should be consulted. We do not object to that, but we think it may give rise to certain delay, and on the whole the Ministry desire to adhere to their original plan—namely, that the formation of these committees should be of a voluntary nature, and that the Ministry of Agriculture should be there to assist in the formation of the committees. We do not wish to place the formation of the committees under the agricultural committees of the county councils.


I confess that many of us on this side of the House regret very much the line that the noble Earl has taken upon this Amendment. We do not share with him his opinion of the capacity of the agricultural committees of the county councils. He says that he does not think they are capable of forming a sound opinion upon wages and hours. But in our agricultural counties some of the best authorities on agriculture in the country are members of the county councils, and probably a large majority of the members of the county council to which I belong have a considerable knowledge of agriculture, while some of its members know at least as much about wages and hours, and how they ought to be arranged, as does the Ministry of Agriculture. We have learned in the last few years to distrust the pressure from a central organisation. We have seen each of the Departments in turn—the Ministry of Health, of course, very much so—setting up a central organisation by means of which the Department wields influence upon the localities. Most of us have got to distrust that interference and to dislike it. We would much rather rely upon the knowledge of our localities possessed by those in those localities. Persons in a locality know best the relations which ought to exist among the various classes of the community to which- they belong.

I also think that the difficulties—and in this respect I do not quite agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe—of arranging as between county and county are not so great as he imagined. The truth is, we have to accommodate ourselves to county administration, and in almost all departments practically we do accept the county boundaries as the proper boundaries for working purposes. Whatever system is adopted—whether the system of the Government, or the system which my noble friends on this side of the House are urging—I think it will be found, as a matter of practice, that nearly always the county boundaries will be accepted as bounding the areas. The whole county will not necessarily, and always, be the area. There may be exceptions, and in respect of those exceptions my noble friend's Amendment will allow sufficient elasticity. But as a general rule, knowing what I do of county feeling, I think it will be found that the county boundary will be generally followed.

As between the two Amendments—the Amendment of Lord Hastings and that of my noble friend, Lord Selborne—that is a matter for your Lordships to decide I must say that in some respects I am very much attracted to that of Lord Hastings, because by it we get rid of too much interference by the Ministry of Agriculture. If it be thought, as I believe it is thought by a great many of your Lordships, that a certain measure of uniformity might be induced—not a complete measure of uniformity, we should all deplore that very much—by the intervention of the county council, then we should adopt the Amendment in the name of Lord Selborne.


The noble Marquess who spoke last referred to the possibility of a conciliation committee being formed and overlapping one county, or possibly more than one county, boundary. It certainly seems to me that in various parts of England this is likely to occur. But the noble Marquess was in error in supposing that I thought a great difficulty would arise on that account. Two or more county agricultural committees could no doubt, so far as they may be introduced into the system, quite easily conic to terms upon the formation of such a committee. I am bound to say that of the two Amendments which have been discussed together, I prefer that moved by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, for this reason. I see a distinct value in the assistance, of the Ministry of Agriculture at the preliminary stage of the formation of these committees. As has already been said, without prescribing anything like a wooden uniformity, I agree with what was said by the noble Earl who represents the Department that valuable advice can be given by the experienced officials of the Ministry on certain points concerning the formation and work of the committees.

As I ventured to say on Second Reading, I have far graver doubts about the continued interference of the Ministry of Agriculture at a later stage, when the confirmation of schemes arrived at by the conciliation committees is in question. But that does not arise at this moment, and so far as initiative is concerned I am quite prepared that the Ministry should take a leading part in it. At the same time I hope that my noble friend, Lord Selborne, will adhere to his proposition that the concurrence of the county agricultural committees should be required when the schemes for local conciliation committees are formed, both as regards their constitution and their areas.


I intervene with sonic diffidence only for a moment for the purpose of making a suggestion. I very much prefer the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, to that of Lord Hastings. I mean that I prefer the Government plan, with an Amendment somewhat on the lines suggested. But the noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill made one very serious objection to Lord Selborne's Amendment, and that was that there would be two bodies with a power of veto—the agricultural committee of the county council and the Ministry. I am afraid that this clause, as at present drawn, may not work at all, and I think there is a great deal in what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, said on that point. But if the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, could modify his Amendment by inserting after "council," "consultation in each case,'' that, it seems to me, would remove some of the difficulties. Otherwise, I do not see how it is going to work, if there are to be two people with a veto, and nobody with real power.


I feel that the Amendment which stands in my name has been attacked by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill for making suggestions which, in fact, it does not make. He says that it would involve the comity council in labour disputes. I think I am correct in attributing those words to him. I do not wish agricultural committees of the council to be engaged in labour disputes, nor to have any control of or anything whatever to do with the conciliation committees other than the duty of setting them up. I endeavoured to make clear that there is, under the Bill, no obligation upon anybody to set up these conciliation committees. These conciliation committees are going to form an exceedingly important part of the agriculturist's life. They are going to govern many of the things which are of the greatest importance to him, and it is really necessary that the committees should be set up—at least, that is my view.

All I have invited the noble Lord to do is to accept an Amendment which will give somebody the duty of setting up these conciliation committees. That is really all I wish for. He has enormously strengthened me in my wish to establish these agricultural committees as the constituting authority by informing your Lordships of this staff of officials which exist at the Ministry. It filled me with horror to think that those highly qualified gentlemen were going to be given the duty of setting up these conciliation committees. What in the name of fortune can they know about the conditions which exist in the far-flung corners of English agricultural counties? Surely the agricultural committees which exist in those counties are better qualified to know for what areas conciliation committees should be set up, and how those conciliation committees should be constituted than any official of the Ministry, however high his qualifications. Are there not enough officials at the Ministry of Agriculture already? They have risen from a few in number to a vast army, and surely one of the ambitions of every agriculturist is to see their number reduced by 50 or 75 or 90 per cent. at time earliest possible moment. Lord Clinton found fault with the word "maintain," which naturally would permit of the interpretation he put upon it. Possibly if the House would permit me, I might take out the word "Maintain" and insert the words keep in being." My only object was that when the representatives died others should take their place. That was all I had in mind.

The noble Earl in charge of the Bill gave me the impression that the Ministry was going to be deprived of the power of adjudicating in disputes if any should arise. But surely under subsections (4) and (5) of the clause, the Minister has to have the agreement submitted to him for confirmation and he retains all the power that he would wish to retain over the rate of wages which has been agreed upon in the conciliation committee. I cannot for the life of me see how the county council or agricultural committee are going to be involved in labour disputes If I felt that was so I would instantly withdraw my Amendment. But I cannot see how that can be. All I want to do is to establish them as conciliation committees. I believe there is a sufficient amount of support for the Amendment which I have put on the paper to justify me in going forward with it, and therefore I do not propose to withdraw it.


I am afraid noble Lords are tired of hearing me, but I will try to put one practical case, because I think when we talk about this hoard of officials and this great Department, set up by the Ministry of Agriculture lately, noble Lords are getting a little off the track. I will try to put an actual case which may occur. As you are aware, by this clause it is proposed to continue the existing wages boards without the appointed members, and those people shall act for two years as a conciliation committee until other conciliation committees are set up. During that time any districts which wish to break away from the existing conciliation committee will write to the Minister of Agriculture and ask what steps they are to take, and whether they can be helped to set up a conciliation committee, and we shall give our best advice as to how they can set to work about it. In reply to their request for advice they would probably get an answer a great deal more quickly than they would from the agricultural committee of the county council. They will then proceed to make arrangements for setting up this conciliation committee. When they have done it all the Minister will want to know is that that conciliation committee so set up does represent the employers and employed. This conciliation committee is formed already; they do represent employers and employed; and they may go ahead.

Now I will give what I consider, and I think a great many noble Lords will also consider, one of the drawbacks of placing it in the hands of the county council to proceed to define areas for these conciliation committees. You have, as I say, this conciliation committee existing now— namely, the present wages board, turned into a conciliation committee. Let us imagine for a moment that they cannot agree and there is a big strike. If the county council have defined the area for the conciliation committee, you cannot get away from that; but if it is left in the free and open state in which it is left in this Bill, there is nothing to prevent any noble Lord in this House, in the event of a big strike coming, consulting with a certain number of his tenants or adjoining landowners and saying: "We cannot go on with this strike. It is disastrous to all of us. We will call together representatives of ourselves and you will call together men who represent the workmen. If you can only agree there is nothing to prevent your setting up a conciliation committee and settling the strike in your district."

As long as you leave this clause open and free in every way to voluntary endeavour, the Ministry of Agriculture only acting as an aid and adviser, I think your Lordships, if I may say so, will be rightly advised If, however, you think it is a question of the county council knowing the county better than the Ministry of Agriculture, that is not the real question. The question is that tile people who employ in a particular district are people who know what the conditions of labour should be, and what the difference between them and their workmen is. I say, do not for goodness sake put in this Bill an Amendment which will prevent employers and employed in a district being able to go to the Ministry of Agriculture and getting all that they wish. I earnestly hope that the Bill will be left as it is drawn.


I say it respectfully, but the noble Earl does not seem to know the terms of his own Bill. The Bill does not place the initiative on any section of persons within a county. It places the initiative on the Minister, and lain prepared to see it rest with the Minister as long as he obtains that local advice which the council in each county can give him. When the noble Earl says that it is some particular district of a county which has the initiative, that is not the Bill. The Bill says the Minister shall have power, and I think we should make it obligatory on the Minister to take these steps.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

THE EARL OF SELBORNEmoved, in subsection (1), after "power," to insert "with the concurrence in each case of the agricultural committee or agricultural committees of the council of the county or counties concerned as to the constitution and area of jurisdiction of any such joint conciliation committees." The noble Earl said: I need not make another speech, but I want to answer the remarks of Lord Emmott. I cannot agree with him. I do not think, if my Amendment is carried, that in the practical working of the measure there will be any difficulty whatever of achieving agreement between the Minister of Agriculture and the agricultural committee of the county council in respect of any good scheme. No serious delay is involved, and "concurrence" is necessary for this reason. I am sorry not to be able to adopt the view of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill and accept "consultation." If I knew that the present Minister for Agriculture was always going to be at the Ministry of Agriculture I should be quite prepared to take the word "consultation," but I have no such assurance, and I am not prepared to trust ally unknown Minister of Agriculture in the future as to the recognition of these very important voluntary conciliation committees. If the agricultural committee

Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.


The Amendment which I now move is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 21, leave out ("thereof ") and insert ("of such committees")—(Lord Bledisloe.)


I accept it.

of the county council is to be consulted and its "concurrence" obtained, then I am sure that no body which does not really represent all interests in the county will receive recognition.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 19, after ("power") insert the said words—(The Earl of Selborme.)


If it had been only a question of consultation I think perhaps the Minister of Agriculture could have accepted the Amendment, but with the word "concurrence" in I am unable to accept it.

On Question, Whether the words proposed shall be here inserted?—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 33; Not-Contents, 35.

Bath, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Hastings, L.
Camden, M. Hindlip, L. [Teller.]
Crewe, M. Ailwyn L. Lawrence, L.
Lincolnshire M. (L Great Chamberlain.) Avebury, L. Monckton L. (V.Galway.)
Bledisloe, L. O'Hagan, L.
Salisbury, M. Clinton, L. Parmoor, L
Crawshaw, L. Redesdale, L.
Grey, E. Denman, L. Southwark, L.
Mayo,E. Ebury, L. Strachie, L.
Midleton, E. Emmott, L. Sumner,
Morton, E. Erskine, L. [Teller. Terrington, L.
Selborne, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L. Vernon, J.
Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.) Malmesbury, E. Dewar, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Dynevor, L.
Sutherland, D. Portsmouth, E. Faringdon, L.
Gisborough, L.
Exeter, M.Hylton L. Sandhurst, V. [L. Clumberlain.) Hylton, L.
Ancaster, E. Abinger, L. Illingworth, L.
Bradford, E. Annesley, L. (L. Valentia.) Kintore, L. (E Kintore.)
Chesterfield, E. Boston, L. Lamington, L.
Clarendon, E. Channing of Wellingborough, L. Shandon, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry,) Cochrane of Cults, L. Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]
Colebrooke, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Lucan, E. Cottesloe, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)
Lytton, E. Cozens-Hardy, L. Wyfold, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD STRACHIEmoved to omit all subsections after subsection (1). The noble Lord said: My noble friend behind me (Lord Bledisloe) prefers that I should move this Amendment. It deals with the whole question of the wages boards because, in effect, it leaves out the whole clause. I shall have to deal at some length with this Amendment, to justify myself in desiring to strike out the most important part of Clause 4, but it should be noted that I really strike out only that part which deals with compulsion. That is practically what it conies to. I am justified in saying that, because in the Bill as originally introduced in another place, and as it passed its Second Reading there, the whole of the clause that I am proposing to leave out was absent. It is also a very remarkable fact that when that Bill reached the Report stage, although it had been made to apply to Scotland in the Standing Committee, the feeling in Scotland against compulsory powers was so strong that the Government allowed Scotland to contract out of the whole of that clause, except the first subsection.

What were the arguments used for allowing Scotland to contract out? It wag said that the conciliation boards were not wanted there, unless they were to be entirely voluntary. Curiously enough, the Chamber of Agriculture for Scotland was brought into consultation on this question of the wages boards, although in England the Minister neglected to ask the Central Chamber of Agriculture their views upon it, and merely asked the views of the National Farmers' Union. The National Farmers' Union in Scotland, as well as the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, were unanimously opposed to anything except conciliation boards The Agricultural Labourers' Union in Scotland expressed no dissent, as the Secretary for Scotland pointed out. They were quite prepared merely to have the conciliation boards because they believed entirely in collective bargaining. I never could see why we should not have collective bargaining in England, just as they have in Scotland, because although it may be true that the Agricultural Labourers' Union and the Workers' Union are not as powerful in England as they are in Scotland, on the other hand they have, no doubt, come to stay, will grow in strength, and would be a very valuable asset in dealing with this question on one side or the other. It is surely better that we should have a free play of opinion between employers and employed without any Government interference.

In the past we have had sufficient experience in this country of what lamentable effects Government action has had in interfering with hours and wages. It is not necessary to remind your Lordships what an utter mess and failure the Government made in interfering with the hours of the miners in the coal pits, and how the Sankey Commission upset everything, gave satisfaction to nobody, and was a complete failure. We all know that the outcome of that Commission was the lamentable coal strike that has taken place. I believe that if the employers and the employed had been left entirely alone, and there had been no control in the coal trade, we should not had have that destructive strike, for which I am afraid we are going to suffer for a great many years to come.

As regards the question whether, in this country, the National Farmers' Union agree with this clause, it has been said in the House of Commons that this Union had been consulted, and it was implied that they did agree. On the other hand, we have a resolution of the Council of the National Farmers' Union, and this Council, which is the only body which has a right to speak for the Union as a whole, passed a very emphatic resolution— That this Council reminds His Majesty's Government and the Agricultural Committee of the House of Commons of the promise to farmers of complete economic freedom in the event of the withdrawal of the guarantees provided under Part I of the Agriculture Act, and demands its fulfilment both in the letter and in the spirit The Council further sees no reason to exclude England and Wales from the freedom proposed to be granted to Scotland in this connection. It is perfectly clear from this resolution what views are held by that great body, the National Farmers' Union, a body which may truly be said to represent the largest majority of farmers, although I do not contend for one moment that it is the only body that represents employers, whether as owners or occupiers of the land. However, it is the most important body in this country representing employers of agricultural labour.

What does that resolution say? It points out that there is no reason why England should be treated differently from Scotland, and it also asks, as has been asked in this discussion before, why the Government should not carry out, in the letter and in the spirit, the statement that has been made time after time, that when the subsidies went the wages boards went too. We never heard any explanation in the House of Commons, nor, when I challenged the noble Earl, the Parliamentary Secretary, with regard to this matter, did he give a detailed and full explanation of this sudden change of front in the House of Commons, after the Second Reading of the Bill, when the Government refused to carry out what was an honourable understanding and bargain—namely, that if subsidies went compulsory wages boards went at the same time. I cannot see that the Minister of Agriculture in the House of Commons ever attempted to explain this extraordinary change of front, and it is the more extraordinary when we reflect that the Minister of Agriculture, when bringing in this Bill, was most emphatic in what he said upon the question of these compulsory wages boards. He said that, undoubtedly these compulsory wages boards had led to unemployment, and many difficulties of that kind. He said that the wages boards were only intended to set up a minimum wage, but on the other hand, we, all know what they did. They standardised wages, and set up a maximum wage, which made it difficult for any man to be employed, except at that standard rate of wage.

As a matter of fact, there was no provision under the late Act, and if you pass this clause as it now stands there will still be no provision, to see that the good and skilful workman gets any better wages than the less competent and less skilled workman. The standardisation of wages has had the effect of disregarding skill and fitness on the part of the worker. That was exactly the position taken up by the Minister in the House of Commons, and so I do not suppose that the noble Earl opposite will say that it is an improper thing that you should have some regard to the fitness and skill of the workman, and not have a standard wage for all classes of workmen.

This Bill also sets up that rigid standard of hours which seems to me to be so inapplicable to agriculture. Nobody desires that agricultural labourers should be employed for too many hours, but working in agriculture is a very different thing from working in a factory. For two or three hours during the day, owing to heavy rain or snow, a workman on the land may be unable to do anything at all, and yet that time comes within his hours of labour, and he is not allowed to make the loss good. Therefore, it seems to me perfectly impossible to do as the Government desire to do now. No one spoke more strongly against rigid hours than did Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen in the House of Commons, but I say that the Government are asking you to set up rigid factory hours and conditions in the country, because these wages boards, if set up, are practically the same as the old wages boards, with this difference only, that the Government officials are not, there.

Now, as regards the general aspect of the case, I should like to say again that we cannot too strongly insist that if you have these wages boards, with compulsion at the back- of them, it is very doubtful indeed whether you will get the farmers in a large number of counties to function this matter at all. I have had an opportunity of speaking to large numbers of farmers, and one and all said that while they were most anxious to set up conciliation boards of a purely voluntary nature, if, on the other hand, there was compulsion as regards the decisions of these committees, they would have nothing whatever to do with them, and would refuse to function this matter. Why cannot the Government go back to their original proposal, which must have had some reason for it, and which was only carrying out the pledge that they had given to the farmers of the country—namely, that if the subsidy came to an end, equally, compulsion should come to an end, and these boards be entirely voluntary?

I believe that if your Lordships continue this clause as it is you will strike a very serious blow at the setting up of these conciliation committees. I dare say the noble Earl opposite knows as well as I do that farmers are a class whom you cannot drive and can only lead. If you leave these conciliation boards voluntary, I am sure there will be no difficulty in getting both sides to meet and go amicably into the matter. No compulsion is necessary, except the compulsion of public opinion, which, in the past, has played a great part. We have a precedent as to that in the case of the railway companies, where the conciliation boards, although there is no compulsion behind them, are acting most admirably. I beg to move my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 22, leave out from the beginning of the line to the end of the clause.—(Lord Strachie.)


Following the course which I adopted on a previous Amendment, I will put the Question in this form: "That the first word of subsection (2) stand part."


The noble Lord has asked why this clause has come into the Bill. It has come into the Bill undoubtedly owing to a compromise. The position was this. Those who represent, or profess to represent, labour in another place, frankly stated that they were determined that the wages boards should continue. Those whom the noble Lord says represent the greater part of the tenant farmers equally declared that the wages boards must come to an end. Undoubtedly, this clause, as it is drawn, is a compromise between the two parties. I will only say this. In the first instance, not only were the Labourers' Union consulted and also the Farmers' Union, but also some of the leading members of the House of Commons on agricultural matters.


Does the noble Earl say that the Farmers' Union accepted this clause?


I do not think they care for the clause, but they have accepted it as it stands. It is an agreed clause. They would rather be without it, I admit, but equally the labourers' unions required the wages boards to be kept, and, as I say, this clause does represent an agreement arrived at between the Farmers' Union and the Labourers' Unions concerned. It is on those grounds that it is introduced in its present form. The noble Lord asks why Scotland is not treated in the same way. It is because there the unions representing farmers and labourers take a different view of the matter. The Secretary for Scotland said on this subject that the Farm Servants' Union in Scotland, a powerful homogeneous body, thinks that it can, by collective bargaining, secure better wages for farm servants in Scotland than any wages board can secure for them, and he added:"It is significant to observe that the current rate of wages in Scotland is higher to-day than the minimum wage fixed by the Wages Board in Scotland." We know that that is not the case in England, because, as a matter of fact, the wages fixed by the Wages Board are practically the current rate of wages at this time.

The noble Lord seems to have a strong objection to the continuance of the old members of the wages boards, that is, those who represent the labourers and those who represent the employers. That is done solely with the object of bridging over a gulf, as the Act will come to an end on October 1, and the time is very short for setting up conciliation committees. For a period of two years, or until other conciliation committees are formed this committee will function as a conciliation committee. But here, again, I think the noble Lord draws too black a picture when he speaks of these conciliation committees having rigid hours of work and rigid scales of pay, and not giving sufficient exemptions in certain cases. These committees will have to agree. In the past the Wages Board did not have to agree. The Wages Board always had a majority to decide, and there were always the appointed members: who were able to vote with employers or employed, and cast their decision into one scale or the other, and, having done that, their finding was binding on all concerned.

That is not the case here. There will be no appointed members, and, in order to reach a decision on these matters, there will have to be agreement between employers and employed. If the noble Lord reads further on in the clause he will see that, in the case of their not agreeing, or otherwise if they wish to do so, they can call in a chairman, either with a vote or without a vote. But the decisions of this committee must be unanimous in order that an agreement may be arrived at, and they will have no power to settle anything as regards hours or wages until they are agreed. There is a great difference between that and the old Wages Board, and we regard this clause as of the very highest importance, not only from the fact that it is a form of compromise between the two parties mainly concerned, but also because it bridges over the awkward gulf between the passing of the.Act and the setting up of new conciliation committees. On these grounds I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment to a Division.


I think the noble Earl is a little in error in imagining that the district wages committees at present in existence and still less the appointed members of those committees, had any final power of settling wages in the districts in which they operated. As a matter of fact, all they did was to make a recommendation to the Central Wages Board in London, and the order came from the Central Wages Board, and it was not at their discretion at all.


Were not there appointed members on the Central Wages Board?


Yes, but the final word did not rest with the appointed members on the district wages committees.


No, but the Central Wages Board, of course, goes. It is not kept in this clause.


I may be in error in interpreting what the noble Earl said just now. If so, I express my regret. But, of course, if in this country the agricultural labourers' unions were as strong as they are in Scotland—and it is very unfortunate that in their opinion, at any rate, they are not—we could scrap once and for all the whole of this Government interference as between master and man in respect of agricultural employment, and very lunch better it would be if we could do so. But, assuming that we cannot do so, and that we cannot absolutely follow the Scottish precedent, surely there are two things that we want to aim at—first of all, at the earliest possible date to discontinue any Government interference with contracts between farmer and workman on our British farms, and, in the second place, to cease at the earliest possible moment the rigid bureaucratic system under which the wages boards and the district wages committees operate at the present time.

I support this Amendment mainly on the ground that Lord Sumner has urged before the House—namely, that the whole of the rest of this clause is so complicated and so unworkable that, unless it is substantially re-cast, it is almost bound to become a dead letter; and, if it does not become a dead letter, it is bound, in my judgment, to create such an amount of feeling and bitterness as between farmers and their employees that we should be better without it. There must, I think, in England and Wales at any rate, be conciliation committees and not a perpetuation of district wages committees; and these committees must exist in every county, not in a few counties only. As the matter stands, under the somewhat complicated scheme which constitutes the remainder of this clause, it is almost undoubted that the district wages committees will continue, without the appointed members, to be the bodies to deal with wages.

That is not the object of this Bill. The object of this Bill is to set up conciliation committees with a much greater element of good will and conciliation than there has ever been before, and to bring, as far as possible, master and man into amicable relations one with the other. As the Bill stands at present—and an Amendment is going to be moved on Report on this particular subject—the Minister may or may not take any steps in the matter to set up these conciliation committees. He has the power of doing so, but he may not exercise that power. Again I am not referring, of course, to the particular Minister who is at the head of the Ministry of Agriculture to-day, but the Minister for the time being may or may not act if he chooses, and the whole of this part of this Bill becomes an absolute dead letter. For my part, I support this Amendment mainly as a protest against the complicated, rigid, and unworkable character of the remaining subsections of this clause.


In all the debates in your Lordships' House that I have had the advantage of attending I do not think I have ever heard so remarkable and, may I add, so regrettable an explanation of a Government Bill as that which has been advanced just now by the noble Earl opposite. The residue of this clause proposes that employers and workmen shall not be allowed to make an agreement which suits both of them perfectly well as to employment and remuneration for that employment. None of your Lordships, on however good terms lie may be with any one of his workmen, and however intelligently willing that workman may be to agree, is to be allowed to agree as to employment or wages, nor is the workman to be allowed to agree, except upon terms which are to be fixed over his head, and are to be absolutely compulsory, agreed by voluntary conciliation committees, in the constitution of which the employer may have, and certainly at present has, no fixed share at all.

It is not disputed that this kind of arrangement is not good enough for Scotland and that Scotland will not stand it, but England is asked to submit to it. It is not disputed that if ever there was a perfectly well understood bargain between two classes of the community the first Corn Production Act was that bargain. The consideration for accepting the committee which was to fix wages was the agreed subsidy and the guaranteed price for the grain, and the two things hung together. The only reason given on behalf of the Government for scrapping that arrangement, without any hesitation or apparent feeling of misgiving at all, is that two trade unions have been consulted outside Parliament and, more or less reluctantly on one side, have said something which amounts to an acceptance, and that in another place a bargain has been made—what to do? To undo the bargain which was made by Statute.

In those circumstances I think that many of your Lordships will feel, as Lord Bledisloe has said, that it is our duty by way of protest against this manner of treatment to reject such a thing as that. What is the good of being a second and co-ordinate branch of the Legislature if we are asked to reverse a bargain arrived at a few months ago, upon the bare ground that it has all been settled elsewhere, and that there is no more to be said about it than to ratify something that has been agreed upon by what are called the representatives of those who are interested in the industry? There is no man or woman in the whole country who is not interested in freedom of contract. The introduction of a system by which wages are to be fixed on a large scale and made compulsory by bodies which are not representative bodies, as Parliament is, is the introduction of a new system which a few years ago Parliament would not have listened to and which, in my view, will have the most serious results.

As to the working of the system under this clause, Lord Bledisloe has pointed out that as the Bill stands the Minister shall have power to take such steps as he thinks best adapted for securing the formation of these voluntary committees. It will be a very large undertaking for the whole country because, as has been pointed out, many counties may have to have conciliation committees for different parts of their area. Can anyone say how long the Ministry of Agriculture may take before it succeeds in securing the voluntary formation of a suitable number of committees? It depends a good deal, no doubt, upon the driving force of the Minister of the moment. It depends a good deal, indeed, upon the zeal of the Government, of which he is a member, for carrying out this reform. In the meantime, the wages boards are to go on as before. I will not say absolutely as before, but in substance the wages boards at present existing are to continue under this Bill for the space of two years, unless the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture are so strenuous and so successful that they are superseded by some other institution.

Then, if the joint conciliation committee comes into existence, and if they can manage to agree upon a rate of wages—which I should think very probably they would not, seeing that employers and employees are to vote as two separate blocks and to be set off one against the other—the. Minister may or may not confirm their agreement. If he confirms the agreement the rate of wages then becomes one which forms an implied part of every contract of employment, and it will remain fixed until a new agreement can be arrived at to unfix it. If a further fall in wages becomes desirable, what is the prospect of such an agreement being arrived at as will lead to the reversal of the arrangement which was made in the first blush of the meetings of a conciliation committee?

The scheme is that the people who are members of the two bodies—the representatives of the employers and the representatives of the employees—shall be, in case of any vacancy, made up to their full number by the organisation which represents the employers or the workmen, as the case may be, and which nominated them. Further, that the organisation representing the employers or workmen by whom any member of any such committee was nominated or appointed may at any time appoint another person to be a member of the committee in place of that existing member. That is to say, that every member of these committees is a mere delegate, He may be turned out of his place if he shows too much independence and someone more amenable may be put into his place. Is it at all likely that wages will ever be agreed upon between two bodies so constituted and so likely to be reformed? Is it at all likely that if there is ever a first agreement there will be any further agreement to modify the wages so fixed? What is the reason for leaving in the hands of tile Minister the right to say Aye or No whether the agreement, when arrived at, is to have any application or not?

I cannot but think that the functions of your Lordships' House will be of very small value for legislative purposes, if upon the mere contention that it has been agreed somewhere else and it only remains for us to agree also, a scheme like this—which, as I said before, is unworkable—shall not only be substituted for freedom of contract but shall actually impose upon everybody, whether he be represented or not represented, one uniform, cast-iron system of universal wages for his district, regardless of any particular hours and conditions of employment there may be, and subject to amendment only by going before the committee and persuading it to be so good as to grant some kind of certificate of exemption. I shall vote in favour of the Motion of the noble Lord.


I have no doubt that those who agree with the noble and learned Lord, that the whole of this scheme is unworkable, are quite justified in attempting to put this clause out of the Bill. In the same way I think those who want to make it unworkable are going the best way about it. On the other hand, I look upon this as part of the whole scheme, and as a somewhat ingenious way of getting out of a very difficult position, and I want to see it worked. You are going to get into a position of really great difficulty if, at the very beginning, you allow the Ministry to possess no power to regulate wages or set up conciliation committees at all. We shall be doing a very bad turn to a scheme which is an attempt to set up conciliation and to create good will in the country districts, unless the methods of the Bill are adopted. If there is no continuity with the present wages boards, it is quite certain that in a large number of districts there can be no conciliation committee at work during the period. What will happen during that time it is exceedingly difficult to say, but it does seem a somewhat simple method that the district wages boards which, on the whole, have worked well in the past, should, until other boards are

set up, continue to settle the wages for that district.


I must press the noble Earl to give me a direct answer to my question How can he say that the National Farmers' Union have agreed to this when on July 20 they said that they wished for complete economic freedom in the event of the withdrawal of guarantees? They went on to say: "The council further sees no reason why England and Wales should be excluded from the freedom proposed to be granted to Scotland." That resolution was passed by the National Farmers' Union. How does the noble Earl reconcile that with what he said?


I can only state now what I said before. I was present at a meeting which was attended by representatives of the National Farmers' Union and of the two chief labourers' unions concerned, and also by several leading members of the House of Commons. I have already said that the Farmers' Union stated they would sooner be without the wages boards. The Labourers' Union—


What was the date?


I forget for the moment, but, after discussion, the compromise which I have stated was arrived at and agreed to in another place. I can only say, in addition, that it is a little curious in these debates that the moment there is any question that tells against the noble Lord he instantly belittles the Farmers' Union, but when he wants to make a case in his favour, and they help him to do so, then there is nobody like the Farmers' Union.

On Question, Whether the first word of subsection (2) shall stand part of the clause?—

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents. 11.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

LORD BLEDISLOEmoved to omit "form" ["form a joint conciliation committee"] and substitute "be." The noble Lord said: As the clause stands it is not quite clear whether the district wages committee, until a joint conciliation committee is formed, is to form a joint conciliation committee or actually to constitute a joint conciliation committee. It is not very happy drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 28, leave out ("form") and insert ("be").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


Yes, I accept that.

LORD DYNEVORmoved, at the end of subsection (3), to insert "and the organisation by whom any member of a district wages committee was nominated may at any time appoint another person to act in the place of that existing member and thereupon the existing member shall vacate office." The noble Lord said: This Amendment I must ask your Lordships to take in conjunction with the next one which stands on the Paper in the names of Viscount Chaplin, Lord Clinton, Lord Bledisloe and myself, which is to delete subsection (3). In subsection (3) the word "committee" is used. It is not clear from the wording of the Bill whether it refers to a district wages committee or to a conciliation committee, but if that subsection goes the point need not be dealt with, because my words will come in instead.

The district wages committee is to act whilst the conciliation committee is being set up. Some of the representatives were appointed by the Farmers' Union and some by the Labourers' Union, and some of them who have now full powers as a district wages committee might not wish to work with the new conciliation committee. There should be an opportunity for those to be replaced by their respective organisations. Some of them may remain members and not attend the meetings, and there will be nothing to compel them to vacate their seats. Therefore, their organisation should be able to replace them. It is also possible that certain members may have expressed very strong views one way or the other which would be fatal to conciliation. I hope your Lordships and the Government will accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 35, at end insert ("and the organisation by whom any member of a district wages committee is nominated may at any time appoint another person to act in the place of that existing member and thereupon the existing member shall vacate office.")—(Lord Dynceor.)


I understand that this Amendment is either inspired by, or at least approved by, the Minister of Agriculture or his Department. For my part I venture to hope that your Lordships will give the most strenuous opposition to this Amendment, because, in effect, it perpetuates the same noxious principle which is embodied in subsection (3). Your Lordships will remember that under subsection (3), which some of us desire to excise altogether, that if any member is really conciliatory and desires to effect some compromise between the views of the two parties represented, he is undoubtedly going to be hounded out at a moment's notice by the machine which appoints him. Anything embodying to a greater extent the tyranny of trades unionism it is difficult to imagine. I have no doubt the noble Earl opposite will say there is sonic distinction between the district wages committee and the voluntary conciliation committee in this connection. It is obvious that in a large majority of the counties of England the district wages committee will be the conciliation committee; in fact, until the Minister takes action to set up some different body, it is provided by the Bill that they shall be the conciliation committee and shall have all the powers which this Clause 4 confers upon them in the matter of fixing wages.

As I ventured to put to your Lordships yesterday I would again ask the question, what is going to happen under this Bill?

You are going to have a certain number of representatives of the National Farmers' Union on one side of the table and you are going to have a similar number of representatives of the two workers' unions on the other side of the table. There will be no necessity whatever for appointing a chairman, and in most cases I should imagine a chairman will not come to be appointed. Furthermore, each side is to vote collectively, giving one vote and no more. What is going to be the result? If anyone attempts under this new system to express a dissentient view contrary to the dictates of the machine, under this provision embodied in subsection (3), the machine can immediately operate and say: "That man shall hereafter cease to be a member of the conciliation committee." That is not conciliation; that is nothing less than tyranny. I hope your Lordships will not accept this Amendment, because it will in effect be carrying out the noxious principle contained in subsection (3).

But what I particularly desire to draw your Lordships' attention to is that you are superseding in this respect a quite admirable system which already exists, and why should you alter it? Under the present system, as embodied in an order which was issued last December regulating the proceedings of the district wages committees, and which is still in operation, the term of office of an appointed member shall be two years. Of course that now goes, and the term of office of a representative member—that means a member representing either of these trade unions—shall be three years. There is no opportunity there for a man to be turned off a committee because he desires to be conciliatory, or because he expresses a view dissentient to that of the machine which appoints him. It goes on to say—and this is to meet the point put by my noble friend, Lord Dynevor—that every member of the wages board shall have one vote, not a collective vote, but an individual vote. The order continues:"If at any meeting the number members present representing employers and workers respectively is unequal "—that means if one stays away through illness or otherwise—" it shall be open to the chairman, or in his absence, the deputy chairman, to require the side which is in the majority to arrange that one or more of their members shall refrain from voting so as to preserve equality."

There, at any rate, you have a system which cannot possibly do injustice to the two different points of view which come to be represented on the district wages board, but at any rate you leave it open to any member of the committee to express his own view, and, if the numbers are equal, to vote according to his conscience and. according to the necessities of the case. I hope you will not support this system of a somewhat intolerant machine which is adumbrated in subsection (3), and, whether it be a district wages board or a conciliation committee properly so-called, you will support the view that this system should not; be abolished.


I am prepared to accept Lord Dynevor's Amendment. As I understand, it merely limits the replacement by the different organisations to the interim, committees, and I think that is a wise thing to do. I think it is better that power to fill up vacancies or to alter representations should be limited to the existing committees. It might also be a very necessary thing, on behalf of the different organisations represented, that they should change their representation and have power to do it. The noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, says the moment a man shows any disposition to come to terms and be reasonable his organisation will promptly turn him out and elect somebody else. That can cut both ways. Personally, I should Lave thought if these new committees are going to be not a wages board but a conciliation committee, the object of their being there would be to try to make terms and come together.

As long as they had these appointed members who, as I said before, were in the position of umpires being able to cast their votes one way or another, it was very important for the Labourers' Union or Farmers' Union to send an extremist to argue the case for them; but when it comes to sending people to a conciliation committee it is probable that instead of the Association doing as the noble Lord suggests, kicking out their peaceful men, the people likely to come to an agreement, and putting hot-heads in their place, in the very nature of things they will try to come to terms. To allow the organisation which has appointed members to the wages board during the period of interregnum to replace members appears to be a desirable thing. The effect would be not to appoint hot-heads but, on the other hand, to select peaceful men who would try to come to agreement. These committees have no powers until they come to terms and make an agreement. It seems to be imagined that those who are to form these committees will be pure partisans and will not try to arrive at any agreement. If they do not, nothing happens. Our hope is that they will come to an agreement, and, instead of taking the opinion of Lord Bledisloe that none but extremists will be sent to these committees, I think there will be a desire, at any rate, towards the end of a strike, to turn the extremists out and replace them by more sensible and more peaceful representatives.


I think the noble Earl takes a somewhat sanguine view as to what is likely to happen when he assumes that these arrangements which have been made for voting, not according to the common sense displayed by individuals but according to the ticket of some organisation, will lead to the establishment of a conciliatory spirit. The whole thing is on a wrong basis. If you are to attempt to establish conciliation committees they ought to be freely appointed and composed of people of various modifications of view. It does not matter very much whether people are extreme or moderate if they have to vote under the orders of a particular party. What they have to do is to vote according to the orders of the organisation which sends them. I entirely dislike the plan of a block vote. I believe it to be thoroughly mischievous, and I am sorry the arrangement which has been arrived at, which I can only describe as a backstairs arrangement, with the presumed representatives of one or two organisations, has brought about the adoption of this particular system. I entirely agree with Lord Bledisloe on this matter and I shall support him if he continues to oppose the proposal.


I do not think the noble Earl in charge of the Bill really answered Lord Bledisloe. The real point is this. How can a man act impartially and moderately in these matters if he is liable to be dismissed at any time by the ipse dixit of the organisation which he represents? You cannot have either judicial or impartial qualities under such conditions. I agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, as to voting en bloc. To have the power of dismissing a man because he does not obey the views of a caucus appears to be a monstrous proposition.


I find it difficult to understand the object of the Amendment or the subsection which it is to replace. I agree with Lord Parmoor that you are putting the members of these boards in a most intolerable situation if, at any moment they vote against orders, they are liable to be dismissed. I can understand that at the commencement of a new system there might be some alteration in members, but that such a plan should continue for two years is perfectly intolerable, and I hope your Lordships will not agree to the Amendment.


There is one point on which perhaps I was not quite clear. As I understand it is a question of once only that a member can be changed; that is my information. It is now suggested, in view of the different functions that these committees will have to carry out, that the organisations, if they wish, may change their representatives; and it is considered that they should be allowed to do so.


I am surprised that Lord Dynevor, with whom I have great pleasure usually in acting, should have made himself responsible for such an Amendment. Let us consider what an extraordinary proposal it is. In another place this clause was quite proper, as originally drawn, to the effect that if a vacancy occurs in one of the present district committees in the normal way, it shall be filled by the appointment of a member by the organisation by whom the vacating member was nominated. That is quite right. This Amendment does not do what the Earl of Ancaster says—namely, that if they like to make one change they may make it. It puts every single member absolutely at the orders of the central organisation of the body which appointed him. If he in any way acts as they disapprove he is instantly dismissed, and if his successor the following week again incurs the displeasure of the central organisation he may be dismissed, too. I cannot conceive how any self-respecting man would sit in such circumstances. I hope the Amendment will not be carried. There is no such provision in regard to the existing wages boards. The members of the existing wages boards, so far as they are not appointed by the Minister to balance the employers and employed, are representatives, of organisations, but they are appointed for a definite period of years, and hi those years cannot be turned out at the beck and call of their organisations.


Speaking with some experience of conciliation boards, may I say that I entirely agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken? It would make it quite impracticable for conciliation to work if an Amendment of this nature was in existence. Instead of making for conciliation it would make for discord.

On Question, Amendment negatived.—

LORD CLINTONmoved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: This is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 36 to 42, leave out subsection (3)—(Lord Clinton.)


had on Amendment to the Paper to leave out subsection (3) and insert the following new subsection— It shall be the duty of the agricultural committee of the council of the county concerned, to invite all organisations representing agricultural employers or workmen within the area for which it is intended to set up a conciliation committee to nominate persons to represent them on the aforesaid committee, and such nominations shall be accepted by the county agricultural committee, provided always that the number of nominations accepted as representative of the employers and workers' organisations respectively shall be equal. The noble Lord said: With the approval of your Lordships and of the, Lord Chairman, I shall alter the words on the Paper "the agricultural committee of the council of the county concerned." to "Minister," because the agricultural committee of the council of the county concerned has not been permitted to have any jurisdiction in the matter. In the later part of the Amendment also I shall have to take out the words "county agricultural committee," which appear on the Paper, and insert the word "Minister."

My purpose is, of course, perfectly plain. I desire to lay upon the Minister of Agriculture the duty to consult all organisations which represent agricultural employers or workmen, and not merely those organisations which have somewhat monopolised attention in the past. Some objection may be raised to the use of the word "organisation," because there are undoubtedly a large number of noble Lords in this House and of persons outside who would prefer that the independence of the individual should remain. But I consider that this Amendment gives ample scope, and leaves the Minister perfectly free to summon or call upon individuals to form part of these conciliation committees. It merely makes it obligatory on him to consult all organisations, either now established or to come into being in the future, and not to limit consideration to the organisations which at present exist. The purpose is, of course, to deprive the National Farmers' Union of the monopoly which it now enjoys on the side of the employers, and to make it possible for other labourers' organisations coining into being in opposition to the present labourers' organisations to take part in this work.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 36, insert the following new subsection: It shall be the duty of the Minister to invite all organisations representing agricultural employers or workmen within the area for which it is intended to set up a conciliation committee to nominate persons to represent them on the aforesaid committee, and such nominations shall be accepted by the Minister, provided always that the number of nominations accepted as representative of the employers' and workers' organisations respectively shall be equal."—(Lord Hastings.)


I hope the noble Lord will not press this Amendment. I think it is not necessary, and that it is brought forward under rather a mistaken idea as to the functions of the Minister in this matter. I have said several times during the evening that it is hoped that these conciliation committees will spring up voluntarily. It is not the intention of the Minister to invite persons or organisations to set them up, nor is it the intention of the Minister to accept nominations. In fact, the whole point is that persons in the district are to get together, if they wish to form a conciliation committee, and the Ministry will be ready to give them assistance in the work before them. The initiative, however, of inviting people to come and join these conciliation committees, and then of accepting nominations, is not intended to be assumed by the Minister. All he wishes to do is to satisfy himself that the persons who have applied to be members and to form a conciliation committee are persons who represent the employers and employed in that district.

If I may say so, I do not think it is wise or necessary to throw upon the Minister the onus of having to write round to any organisations there may be in different parts of the country asking them to set to work and send representatives to form conciliation committees. The Minister wishes them to act on their own initiative, and, when they have acted, he wishes to help them in every way in the formation of their committees and in their duties, as soon as he is satisfied that they are representative.


I think the object of my noble friend in moving this Amendment is a perfectly good one, and that it should facilitate to a very considerable extent the setting up of these committees. The noble Earl said that it is not the intention of the Minister to accept nominations or to initiate these committees. It is laid down, however, that he is to take such steps as he thinks best adapted to securing their voluntary formation. Does not that imply that he is going to meet organisations for the purpose of getting these conciliation committees set up? Is it intended that he should leave the councils entirely alone and merely wait until nominations are sent in? I do not believe for a moment that conciliation committees will be set up if he takes such a very neutral and aloof attitude. I am not certain that I agree entirely with the wording of this Amendment; I should like it altered in one or two particulars. I do not know whether my noble friend would consider it further, and, perhaps, defer it until the Report stage, to see if it could not be drafted in a different form.


I entirely agree with what the noble Earl has said, and I should have thought that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment would also agree. The effect of this Amendment, if it is carried, is to make the Minister the real body instead of the advisory body. It is concentration in a very real form, and it is inconsistent with what the noble Earl pointed out earlier in the evening that this sort of duty is not to be thrown upon the Minister, who was merely to act in an advisory capacity, whenever local bodies might come for assistance. I really think that this is inconsistent with the noble Lord's objection to centralised interference.


As a matter of fact, it is my intention to place upon somebody the duty of initiating these conciliation committees. I tried to do it in another form in an Amendment which was not approved, and I am now hoping to make the Minister responsible for setting them up, because I entirely agree with my noble friend, Lord Clinton, that these conciliation committees will not spring up of their own volition from the various parts of the counties, and that they will require initiative on the part of somebody to set them going. I was hoping the Ministry would do that. I wished, by my Amendment, to make it obligatory upon the Minister to consult all organisations representing employers and employed, not in any way to the exclusion of individuals, before he allowed these conciliation committees to be constituted. In deference to my noble friend's suggestion, that the drafting is not by any means perfect—I do not pretend for a moment that it is—I am perfectly prepared to withdraw the Amendment on the understanding that it will be brought up again in a proper form on Report.


If the noble Lord is going to bring this Amendment up in another form, will he be good enough to pay attention to this particular point? The Amendment, as it now stands, makes the Minister invite ever organisation—whatever an organisation may be; I do not know, and it is not defined—to send in nominations, and then it forces the Minister to accept the nominations. Supposing there are a dozen societies all of which send in ten times as many nominations as there are vacancies upon the conciliation committee. The correlative of that is that you force the Minister, in his own name, to turn down 90 per cent. of the nominations he has received. I think that is rather a serious obligation to put upon the Government.


I quite realise that.


Why should the Minister of Agriculture be compelled to say that nine out of ten of the gentlemen whose names have been sent up are unfit? If the noble Lord tries to avoid that particular difficulty, it will be, from the point of view of the Minister of Agriculture, a very great help.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.