HL Deb 10 August 1921 vol 43 cc405-47

Amendments reported (according to Order).

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 The Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920, are hereby repealed as from the first day of October, nineteen hunched and twenty-one: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 day of September, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, any legal proceedings are pending in England and Wales to which the 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 be, 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.
  4. (d) This repeal shall not prejudice the powers of the Minister for dealing with injurious weeds under section four, subsection (10) of the Agriculture Act, 1920.


Before the noble Earl moves his Amendment to Clause 1 there is a question I desire to put to him, of which I have given him private notice, with regard to proviso (a). This proviso states: 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— The question is raised mainly by Scottish agriculturists, and it is as to whether this proviso is a sufficient safeguard for Section 3 of the Corn Production Act, 1917, which deals with changes of tenancy and lays down the method of payment of the minimum prices. Section (3) of the Corn Production Act lays down that the tenant who is in occupation of the farm on September 1 is deemed to be the occupier who is entitled to receive payment under the Act. It is a question of importance, particularly in Scotland, because the man in possession on September 1 is not the man who laid down the crop. Section 3 lays down, in a manner clear to the legal mind but not to the mind of the agriculturist, how these payments are to be made, and the question is whether proviso (a) in Clause 1 of this Bill is a sufficient safeguard against the provisions of the Corn Production Act, 1917.


My Lords, I think I had better make a short statement in reply as to the effect of the clause. The Acts of 1917 and 1920 enable the person who is the occupier on September 1 to make a claim for the guarantee and the repeal does not take effect until October 1. It is clear that by the date of the repeal the claim will have accrued. Under the Interpretation Act, 1889, such right is preserved, notwithstanding the repeal. The power to take any proceedings in respect of a claim is further dealt with in paragraph (a) of Clause 1. I am advised that there is no doubt as to the rights of claim being preserved, and that, at any rate, is the view upon which the Government is prepared to act. With regard to the point raised by my noble friend, as to whether the outgoing tenant's claim to compensation for a 1921 crop will be effected by the repeal, this right will have accrued before the repeal, and will not be affected by the repeal, but will be ascertained in accordance with Section 3, (1), (b), of the Corn Production Act, 1917.


I am much obliged to my noble friend for his reply. One can only wish that it were rather more clearly stated in the language of this Bill.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved, after paragraph (b), to insert the following new paragraph— (c)"All powers with respect to the destruction of injurious weeds shall continue to be exercise-able as if such of the provisions of the Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920, as are specified in the Schedule of this Act, had not been repealed but were continued in force as set out with the necessary modifications in the said Schedule; and

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment. I may remind your Lordships that I promised to look into this matter and to consider the possibility of preserving the existing powers of dealing with injurious weeds under Section 4, subsection (10), of the Agriculture Act, 1920. I then indicated that this involved not only the section referred to but a considerable number of other provisions of the Act which is now being repealed. I have had to bear in mind that any provision on this subject, in order that it may be within the scope of the Bill, must take the form of modified exception from the repeal proposed by the Bill. I also think it is essential, if there is not to be great confusion as to the provisions that are to be made, that all these provisions should be set out, in full, and I have done this in a, schedule which appears later on the paper. Though the Government are prepared to accept this limited legislation as to the destruction of injurious weeds, it must be understood that the Ministry cannot pledge themselves to defray the expense of any considerable organisation in the various counties to deal with the matter. I think, however, it is quite possible that some useful work in this direction might be accomplished without any considerable expense.

That is how the case stands. Your Lordships will remember that, at the time when this Amendment was inserted, I stated that the Government wished to deal with this matter in a separate Bill, and to introduce it next session. But there seemed to be a general opinion in your Lordships' House that it should be placed in this Bill. I hear, however, from different persons whom I have consulted: since, that there is a strong opinion that I ought to have taken a Division on that occasion, and that there are a great number-of your Lordships who think that this is mixing matters up, and that it will involve a certain amount of expense and control' of cultivation. In fulfilment of my promise I have had Amendments prepared, and shall move them; but if your Lordships consider that it is a mistake to deal with the question in this manner, and that it would be better to deal with it in a Bill another year, you are perfectly able, of course, to take a Division on the question whether these words shall be inserted. If that were done, I must make it clear that there must be an honourable understanding that Lord Dynevor's Amend- ment, which I accepted, could not remain in the Bill, because, we do not think that Amendment is sufficient for dealing with the question, or quite in order.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 7, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


My Lords, I, for my part, welcome the noble Earl's Amendment, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that it does riot go nearly so far in this respect—


You have an Amendment on that subject later on, have you not?


I want, if I may, to explain it. I shall only take two minutes, and then I shall not give any trouble hereafter. I should like to point out that the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, went further, because it enabled the Minister of Agriculture to schedule from time to time lists of injurious weeds, by Order which should lie on the Table of both Houses. As it is, this Amendment anticipates a schedule which contains weeds of five descriptions, only. There are two varieties of thistle, two of dock, and the large variety of groundsel which is generally known as ragwort.

I should like to point out that, although in certain parts of the country these weeds undoubtedly are seriously troublesome, there are other parts of the country where other weeds are more serious pests, and, in order to meet local difficulties, they would undoubtedly have to be scheduled eventually amongst injurious weeds. I may draw very special attention to the sow thistle, or sonchus. It is not a true thistle, but it is possibly a more serious pest in the west of England than any other weed. There are also the poppy, which is a very serious pest in the east of England, the coltsfoot and the common groundsel. All these are wind-sown weeds, which may be carried from the land of a careless farmer to the land of a good husbandman. I should like to urge that the Ministry of Agriculture, as is contemplated by Lord Dynevor's Amendment, should be given the power from time to time to schedule those weeds which are represented to be the most serious pests in any district in the country. It is true that thistles and docks are serious weeds in most parts of the country, but when you conic to a weed like ragwort, although in Scotland it has become a very serious pest, it is not so serious in many parts of England.


My Lords, I was responsible for the words in the Bill which my noble friend wishes to be substituted for other words. The noble Earl does not think that my words would quite meet the case. I am not quite sure that they would not have done so, but I notice that the noble Earl is later on going to move a most Herculean schedule. I do not wish to deprive him of the pleasure of moving that schedule, and I therefore agree to his proposal.


My Lords, I am one of those who think that it is a great pity that this matter has been put into the Bill. I think several of us believed that my noble friend opposite intended to divide the House on it. He did not seem to think, however, that he would obtain sufficient support. From the two speakers whom we have heard, I gather that this goes considerably further than was originally intended. My noble friend opposite said that this would involve a large number of officials going all over the country. Primarily, as I understand this Bill, it is intended to repeal the control of agriculture, whereas the Amendment proposed seems to me to continue the control. Again, if it is going to be at all effective, it means a very large number of officials. I think your Lordships will agree that all these weeds are most undesirable, but it is a very great pity that this has been introduced in the Bill.


My Lords, I rather thought, when this Amendment was before the Committee, that it was one which was absolutely forced upon the Government without very much consideration. Of course, I am merely a young member of this House, but I have seen certain noble Lords opposite perpetually criticising the Government, and they very often do so on the score of expenditure. The whole reason why this Bill is before the House at all, or is under amendment, is entirely a question of expense. The Government, as I understand it, entered into a contract with the farmers, the condition precedent of which was that the Government were to pay certain guarantees, and in return for that the farmer was condemned to put up with various controls, inspections and all sorts of delightful amusements, which may have pleased noble Lords opposite. Time went on and the Government found they could not fulfil their contract, and so they rescinded it. It is done in many businesses all over the world, and by agreement between both parties.

Then, when they come to rescind their contract, up jump certain noble Lords, who say: "No, we must not have this or that, and this system of control ought to be re-inserted," and they re-insert it in the shape of certain subsections. For instance, when the question of weeds cropped up, the noble Earl (the Earl of Ancaster), who replied on the Amendment, said that if they were to look after weeds properly it would entail a system of motor cars and inspectors, and he really could not agree to it. Up jumped one noble Lord—Lord Hastings, I think—and said he had a perfect horror of such things. Then Lord Selborne rose and said: "Oh, well, we want to avoid this, and will do so by having county inspectors, instead of having inspectors sent down by the Board of Agriculture." In the case of county inspectors, it is the ratepayer who has to pay. I am connected with certain ratepayers' associations, and I am certain that we shall strongly object to the large extra expense, if there is to be county action in this form. It is to be remembered that the public were never asked whether they wanted these county committees or not. They were foisted on the county councils, and the public had never had an opportunity of expressing any opinion. The county councils do not retire annually, and therefore the public cannot express an opinion for a number of years, but if the ratepayers find that increasing expense is put upon them, by re-creating control, they will do their best to change the county councils whenever they get an opportunity.

In the meantime, I suggest that a Division should be taken on this matter. I grant that weeds are undesirable, but cannot they be dealt with by the parish councils? Lord Bledisloe smiles. I do not know the part of the world in which he lives, but, so far as my part of the country is concerned, on one parish council there is a Judge of the High Court, on another we have the squire, who is a member of a family which has resided there since the time of Henry VIII, and on two others there are Peers, one being a noble Lord who usually sits opposite, and I am upon another. We get on perfectly well with the Labour members, and we shall strongly object to great expense being foisted upon the county in the shape of inspectors with motor-cars, coming fifty or sixty miles. Each inspector will no doubt be accompanied by two men, because one witness alone is not sufficient evidence. They will all be entitled to their expenses, and therefore, for looking at a few weeds, the cost for a first inspection will be about £40, and for a second inspection another £40. Then they will begin to institute proceedings, and more expense will follow, whereas if the matter be left to the parish it will be done without any expense at all, and the parish council is quite a capable body for looking after it. I shall therefore support the noble Duke.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has quoted me, but he has quoted me incorrectly. I never said that county councils would do the work through inspectors, but through the agricultural members of the county councils, who, in their own districts, would know of the flagrant cases which had to be dealt with. If the duty is entrusted to the agricultural committees of the county councils, a very great reform will be effected at very small expense. It is very seldom that I differ on anything from the noble Duke, who first of all opposed this proposal. I ask your Lordships to consider what the state of affairs really is at the present moment. This is the only civilised country in the world in which a slovenly farmer may flood his neighbour's land with every kind of hideous weed, the seed of which is wind-borne. There is not only the slovenly farmer, but there are the railway embankments, of which perhaps the noble Duke knows something, and the wide borders of the roads, for which the local authorities are responsible. At the present moment, you may have a first-rate farm on one side of the hedge, and, on the other, yards and yards of thistles on land belonging to the local authority. And this is the only country in the world in which such a state of things could exist. After all, because some of your Lordships object to control in one form, it is not necessary that you should object to control in another form. You do not object to control which prevents your neighbour from infecting you with some horrible disease, and why should you object to control which will prevent the slovenly farmer, or the careless railway company, from flooding your land with weeds?


My Lords, I think that the noble Earl is correct. I do not see where the great expense comes in. It is very well known in the district where the slovenly farmers are, and all you have to do is to write to the authority and they send -down, and then I believe the expense of pulling up the noxious weeds falls upon the slovenly farmer himself.


Yes, on the delinquent.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in paragraph (c), to leave out"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," and to insert"and under any other enactment, unless and until His Majesty by Order in Council directs that such powers and duties shall be exercised by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, which direction it shall be lawful for His Majesty."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I want to call your attention to subsection (c) of Clause 1, which provides that— 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.

I think your Lordships will agree that this is giving too much power to the Board of Agriculture. In fact, it is making it into a bureaucracy of a very strong kind. It was criticised very seriously in another place, and I put down an Amendment for the Committee stage, but I took an opportunity which I had of seeing the Secretary for Scotland, and therefore I did not move the Amendment. The Secretary for Scotland and his officials and I have met, and we came to agreed words, which I now propose to move. I should like to ask my noble friend who speaks for Scotland in your Lordships' House to convey our appreciation to the Secretary of Scotland for having met us in the way he has done.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 15, leave out from ("1920") to ("to") in line 19, and insert the said words.—(Lord Saltoun.)


The Government are prepared to accept the Amendment in its present form, and I will convey to my right hon. friend the message of thanks from the noble Lord.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SALTOUN moved to leave out the words"thereafter have power to constitute an agricultural committee for that area"at the end of paragraph (c), and to insert"continue to have power to constitute such bodies: Provided that before any Order in Council is made under this section a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for not less than thirty days on which such House is sitting, and unless both Houses by resolution approve of such draft no further proceedings shall be taken thereon without prejudice to the making of a new draft Order."

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 20, leave out from (" shall ") to end of paragraph (c) and insert the said words.— (Lord,Saltoun.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 2, lines 22 to 25, leave out paragraph (d). —(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4.

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

4. Whereas it is expedient that local joint conciliation committees representative of persons (whether owners or occupiers of agricultural land) 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 of labour: Now, therefore—

(1) 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 of such committees.

(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, be 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 of the organisation representing employers or workmen by whom the vacating member was nominated.

(3) Any joint conciliation committee winch 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, if the committees so desire, 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,

(4) 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, provided that wages shall not be recoverable under this subsection unless proceedings for such recovery shall have been commenced before the expiration of three months after the date when the wages became due.

(5) 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 art application by either an employer or a workman made for such a certificate, the committee or sub-committee 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: Provided that a workman shall not be entitled to recover arrears of wages at the rate agreed by the Committee except in respect of a period not exceeding six weeks next preceding the commencement by the workman of procedings for the recovery thereof.

(6) A joint conciliation committee may appoint an independent person to act as chairman without the power to vote.

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

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

(9) 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 for market gardens or nursery grounds, but not woodland, 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 BLEDISLOEmoved, in subsection (1), to leave out "have power to". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment would make it incumbent on the Minister of Agriculture to take some steps in every area in the country in order to secure the voluntary formation of conciliation committees. I move the Amendment mainly with the object of eliciting from the Parliamentary Secretary some assurance that the Minister does, in fact, intend to take these steps in every part of the country because, if he does not do so, it is quite apparent that there might be very serious economic effects, say in two contiguous counties where the conditions are absolutely the same, but where, in consequence of a conciliation committee being formed in one of them, the wage might be substantially higher than in the adjoining area where there was no conciliation committee, and where the matter was left to private contract between employer and employed. If the noble Earl gives such an assurance I shall not press my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 21 and 22, leave out ("have power to").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord has said I do not think it necessary to argue this Amendment. The Minister does intend to take whatever steps he thinks best adapted to get conciliation committees established, and, with that object in view, he has already bad a meeting of the secretaries of the existing district wages boards in order to consult with them and in order to get these conciliation committees started all over the country. He has made a special point that it is most important that theinterim, conciliation committees, which are set up later in the Bill, should meet the very moment this Bill passes, and consider the question.


I do not wish to press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF SELBORNE moved in subsection (1), after "power" to insert "with the concurrence in each case of the agricultural committee or 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: My Lords, the scheme of this Bill is to encourage in every county the setting up of voluntary conciliation committees to deal with questions of wages and tours. There is no direction in respect of the setting up of these committees, except that they are to be representative of the employers and the employed. The Ministry does not necessarily come into the matter at all, except in two ways. In the first place, the general duty is imposed upon the Minister to do what he can to assist in the formation of these committees. When once they are formed he has nothing to do with their working, but if they desire that the force of law should be given to their unanimous agreement, then the Minister is again brought in.

The way this will work is that, in order to have the force of law behind its decisions, a Committee formed in any county for any area must eventually obtain the recognition of the Minister. I ask the House to consider what is going to happen. Rival committees may be set up in different counties. One group of employers and one group of workmen may propose a committee; another group of employers and another group of workmen may propose another committee. Even where there is not an actual rivalry for the committee in one given area, it may very easily happen that two committees are formed, each claiming a part of the same area. The adjustment of these committees, both in respect of their composition and of the area which they will occupy, will be a very difficult matter.

How is the Minister going to decide which committees ought to be recognised, how many are required for a given county, and what area.each committee in the county should occupy? Is he going to decide that matter alone, in Whitehall? Surely not Surely he will seek local advice. He will take means to inquire whether those who have approached him are really representative of the classes they pretend to represent, and also whether the general opinion of employers and employed in the county is that this is the best committee for the purpose. The proper authority for him to consult is the agricultural committee of the county council. That is a statutory authority; in part it is thoroughly representative, by its constitution, of all agricultural interests within the county; and in large part it is nominated by the Minister himself, and therefore he ought to have great confidence in it. For that reason, I hold that, in order to obviate mistakes, to make sure that the right committees are appointed for the right areas in every county, the Minister ought, as a matter of constitutional practice, to consult the agricultural committee of the county council.

If that had been all that I had in my mind I should have been content with the word "consultation," but I have put down the word "concurrence" on Report, as I put it down in Committee, for a reason which I want quite frankly to state to your Lordships. If I knew that the present Minister for Agriculture was going to occupy his place permanently I should be quite satisfied with "consultation." But I have no such assurance. Who is going to occupy that honourable office in the future? I can imagine, in the time of a Labour Ministry, a Labour Minister of Agriculture who, using the powers conferred upon him by this Bill as it stands at present, would recognise for a county or for a part of a county a conciliation committee which was very agreeable to his Party, but which was in no sense truly representative of the employers of the county. I can imagine, in fact, such a Minister recognising as the conciliation committee a body which had no real title to that office.

But when once that has been recognised by the Minister, look what follows. This body, which might be composed very much to the satisfaction of the Labour Party, but not to the satisfaction of the representatives of the employers, would then be able to fix rates of wages and hours, and the Ministry could give statutory effect to their recommendation, and a legal rate of wages would be forced on that county, or on part of it, by a body whose title to represent the employers at any rate was repudiated by the people in the county. That is the reason why I suggest that it is a reasonable and wise safeguard to put into this Bill words to the effect that before any such committee is recognised the Minister shall obtain the concurrence of the agricultural committee of the county council.

The other evening my noble friend, Lord Emmott, objected that delay might ensue. I do not think that is likely to occur. As I have already said, the members of the agricultural committee are largely the nominees of the Minister himself. They will be extremely anxious to see that proper bodies are instituted within their county, and I do not think that any friction or delay, which can reasonably be avoided, is likely to ensue. Even if I thought there would be a little delay, I should submit respectfully to your Lordships that the evil is less than that which is possible under the Bill as drafted now—a future Minister recognising as a conciliation committee a body having no real title to that honourable office.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 22, after ("power") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Selborne.)


My Lords, I have listened with much interest to the arguments which the noble Lord brought forward in support of his Amendment, which he also moved during the Committee stage. I am afraid I can only repeat to a large extent what I said on that occasion and state, first of all, that the Ministry are unable to take the same view as he does and that they do not think the Amendment is a desirable one. There seems to be still a certain amount of confusion about the idea that somebody ought to have power to set up the conciliation committee. That is not the case. The conciliation committees are voluntary bodies and will practically create themselves. The only bodies that are being created, and are not actually voluntary, are those we are setting up asinterimbeginning bodies, if I may call them—namely, the old wages boards without the appointed members. The Ministry is taking steps, as I said in regard to a previous Amendment, to get all these temporary conciliation committees to work at once, and it will be for the members of those committees to decide upon the areas and to decide as they see fit whether a county shall or shall not be split up.

After all, it is a question of bargaining between two bodies of people—the employers and the employed. It is no more the business of a county council, or the agricultural committee of a county council, to dictate to a conciliation committee how it is to be constituted and the area over which its ukase is to run than for a county borough to interfere with a body set up by builders and bricklayers to settle questions of hours of work and wages in the building trade. What is the object of dragging in the agricultural committee to deal with questions which it is not in the least for them to decide? It is a question for the employers and employed to decide. It is not a question for a county council, not is it a question for the Minister, and the Minister is not going to decide it. The Minister is setting up theseinterimconciliation committees, and after they are set up, the question will be one for the employers and employed, and for them alone.

A further argument which I think ought to carry some weight is this. The first question I should like to ask is: Are the agricultural committees of county councils demanding that they shall be called upon to perform this duty? I do not believe that one of them is; and I know that two county councils in my immediate locality have passed resolutions to the effect that the agricultural committee should be abolished altogether, because they think it is useless and a waste of money. I mention that only to show that some county councils apparently are not so very anxious about their agricultural committees, and do not want this work thrust upon them.

The noble Earl made it a great point that Labour is represented on these agricultural committees. To what extent? I do not know what may be the case in Hampshire, but I think it will be found that on most agricultural committees of county councils there are generally about two Labour members appointed; they are not very numerous. Is it to be supposed that a large body of men belonging to the Agricultural Workers' Union, or to some other large union of agricultural workers, will consent to be dictated to by a committee which is altogether unrepresentative of Labour except for two appointed members, as to the constitution of areas and other matters connected with the setting up and working of these conciliation committees? I do not know that I can offer further objections. I made a speech on this subject on the Committee stage, and I most earnestly ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment, because I feel perfectly certain it would not tend to the harmonious working of the Bill or add to the efficiency or success of the conciliation committees in the future.


My Lords, I do not altogether follow the noble Earl opposite when he says that the Minister would have nothing to do with the formation of these conciliation committees. I think the noble Earl can scarcely have remembered the terms of the Bill when he said that, because the Minister is to "take such steps—"


Quite so.


Taking steps mast have, some meaning. What is he going to do?


He is taking steps now.


I am sure he is. He is also to take steps at the end of two years, because he is to take steps for the formation of these voluntary bodies after theinterimperiod. All that is covered by the words of the clause. What steps is he going to take?


He will consult the organised bodies.


Certainly he will consult the organised bodies.

He will I expect, use a great; deal of influence, and he will be right to do so under the terms of the Bill as we are passing it. He will probably make suggestions. Otherwise, I do not understand why he is imported at all. Why need we bother to enact that the Minister is to take steps unless they are to be effective steps? It is not to be merely the summoning of a number of people to consult together; or is that all that is going to be done? I venture to say that when this Bill becomes an Act and this Clause comes to be worked, there will be a regular procedure under which the Minister will communicate with various people. He will probably have representatives who will go down into the counties, visit the various organisations which are concerned, and try to produce conciliation committees. We all know what is the result of inspectors coming down from central bodies. They acquire authority and power; they are very powerful people. Those of us who work on county councils have seen them in action, and have heard them declareex cathedrawhat the Minister in London will consent to and what he will not consent to, and they exercise an influence which is very effective.

If I may say so, I think my noble friend altogether underrates the power he is putting into the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture under these words. I am sure that minimises he it. But when the provision comes to be worked, I am sure he will find that the Minister will use a very great deal of influence, and very necessary influence, that somebody should use if the whole machinery of this Bill is not to be ineffective and chaotic. What does my noble friend who moved this Amendment say? He says, it is not safe after our experience of the way central authorities work—after our experience of this growing bureaucracy which we resent—to leave this in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture alone, having regard to the fact that the Minister of Agriculture in the future—in the very near future, if I am to judge from the aspect of the political situation of the moment—may be a totally different person from my right hon. friend who is now so worthily presiding at this Office. Then, we ask, what is the obvious thing? The reply is, to substitute for the full authority of the Minister the influence of the agricultural committee of the county council. They are the people who represent agriculture in the county. My noble friend evidently dislikes the agricultural committees. All I can say is, that in my county we have a first-rate agricultural committee, of which we are very proud. It has done an immense amount of good.


In the County of Durham I believe they are all Labour members.


I do not despise Labour members quite in the way members of the Government do. I am speaking not of the County of Durham, to which I have not the honour to belong, but of the County of Hertfordshire, to which I have the honour to belong, and I say that these agricultural committees have in many respects done a great deal of good, and they do represent the local feeling. They will prevent this bureaucratic influence from the centre acting beyond measure, and going in wrong directions. Whatever power is conferred upon the Minister by this clause—and, although the words are carefully chosen, it is considerable power—that power will be much more safely exercised after consultation with, and, if necessary, the concurrence of, the agricultural committee, than if the Minister were left to act alone.


My Lords, I think the noble Marquess who has just sat down hit the right nail on the head, although he did not attack it in precisely the way that I should have done myself. I am not specially anxious to see the county agricultural committees included in this business. But I am prepared to support the suggestion of my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that they should be included, for the reasons given by the noble Marquess who has just spoken. If subsection (1) could be omitted altogether, and if the Minister was not introduced into the picture at all until the committees have been formed and entrusted with the power shown in the latter part of subsection (3), I should be quite content, and should not attempt to introduce the agricultural committees. But I think that they will in most cases—certainly in the agricultural counties—act as a necessary corrective to the over-centralisation which appears also to be encouraged in this subsection (1).

When it is said that the Minister is to take steps to secure the voluntary formation of committees, I suspect, as the noble Marquess does, that something more is likely to be involved than mere encouragement. Voluntary committees can be formed for the agricultural business, as they can be formed for other business, without the direct interference of the public Departments, and if, as I indicated in my speech on the Second Reading, the counties could be left entirely alone to form their committees in their own way, I think that would be the best course. Some would form them better than others, and more promptly than others, but I should prefer them to the centralisation which seems to me to be necessarily involved in the proposals of the Bill as they stand. Therefore, as a kind of corrective to this over-centralisation, I should be prepared to support Lord Selborne's Amendment.


My Lords, I think Lord Crewe concedes that somebody must take the initiative, and probably it is wise that the Ministry of Agriculture, which is in permanent session, so to speak, with its own skilled staff, should bear that responsibility. I do not know if Lord Crewe meant to sugggest that the initiative should rest with the county councils.


No. Perhaps I might explain, if I did not make myself clear. As proposed by the Bill, persons who are members of the district committee are to remain for two years, or until a committee is formed. I should assume that, in the great majority of counties, within those two years committees would be formed. The committees no doubt, in the first instance, will be very largely composed, as I think His Majesty's Government admit, of the same persons who now form the district wages board, and I should be prepared to leave that to the counties.


I will not press that too far. It is clear that someone must take the initial responsibility. There must be some experienced person, or body, to bring the parties together, and to arrange the hundred and one details which will arise about, for instance, overlapping borders, the amalgamation of different parts of counties, the water-sheds, and many other things. These things will never be done if left to voluntary bodies. There are lots of people who would like to drop these things altogether, and would do so unless there is somebody to take the steps laid down in line 22. You may be sure unless what the Bill proposes is done, that there will be parts of the country in which what is required will not be done at all. Lord Selborne says that he is quite prepared to concede this if it were only during the tenure of the present Minister of Agriculture, whom he believes to be impartial, and therefore to be trusted in this matter. I agree that the Minister may change, and Lord Selborne is apprehensive about the future. But precisely the same thing applies to the county committees. They may change; and, on the whole, if I were to be attacked, I would rather be attacked by an unsympathetic Minister than by an unsympathetic agricultural committee.

It is no good our pretending that these county agricultural committees are representative of the artisan population in agriculture. They are not. I do not suppose that three per cent.—not five per cent. certainly—in the counties with which I am acquainted are agricultural labourers, and I would remind your Lordships that agricultural labourers are a considerable element in the question of wages. Moreover, I have heard debate after debate in this House, in which your Lordships have protested against this accumulation of work upon the shoulders of the county authority. My noble friend behind me has quoted cases in which county councils are imploring that these committees shall be liquidated. The county councils do not want to be mixed up in questions of wages and matters of jurisdiction. Those things are alien to their work and traditions, and I am sure that the long-sighted persons among county councillors will realise that once they become involved in these things, and once these questions are brought into the work of county government, the great and well-deserving influence of the county councils will be very much prejudiced. From the point of view of the councils alone, I hope that this Amendment will not be accepted. I do not think it is right that committees of this kind should be asked to exercise a veto upon the steps taken by the Government, which are voluntary steps. I think we shall introduce confusion, we shall divide responsibility, and as far as I can see, we shall conciliate neither party of the agricultural world.


My Lords, I am bound to say that my great fear in this connection is that the Ministry may now or hereafter fall altogether too much under the domination of various organised bodies and trade unions, it may be of farmers on the one side or workers on the other. The noble Earl opposite has already told us that the Minister is not going to act directly on his own judgment or discretion; in fact, I believe he has already commenced to take into consultation with him the representatives of these various sectional organisations.

I should like to ask the noble Earl who has just spoken what was the object of his own Government, less than two years ago, setting up all over the country county agricultural committees. They were described at the time as being the agents of the Government for the purpose of agricultural administration in their respective areas, though, in fact, they are apparently now not deemed to be even of an agricultural complexion and they are not deemed competent to give advice upon an agricultural matter such as this. It may or may not be wise to insist upon the concurrence of these bodies, but I think there would be a great deal of advantage in taking them into consultation, and for the reason that there is no other body which can so well advise the Minister as to what shall be the separate areas for which these new bodies may be established. I may remind your Lordships that it is not proposed to continue in every case the areas, and the wage committees that cover those areas, which have existed in the past. It is proposed to have much smaller areas in many cases, and therefore presumably to apportion the county into various smaller areas and set up separate committees to cover those areas. Surely the two trade unions are not the best people to consult as to the apportionment of the county for purely agricultural purposes. I should have thought that a county agricultural committee was the body best equipped for that purpose, and I venture to submit if the noble Lord is not prepared to accept the word "concurrence" he might, in order to oil the wheels, agree that the county committee shall at any rate be taken into consultation, and if he is prepared to do that I should urge my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that he should substitute that for the word "concurrence" in order that we may come to an amicable arrangement in this matter.


My Lords, I sincerely hope that this Amendment will not be carried. I cannot see what on earth the county council has to do with this matter. What will happen will be this. The great question in county council elections will be as to who shall get a majority to recommend conciliation boards. Leave us alone. This proposal of Lord Selborne's is to give the county councils a certain power of recommendation. I have sat on a county council for a good many years, though I do not sit on one now, and I may say that they have plenty to do already. For heaven's sake do not put this upon them. It will only lead to their fighting like Kilkenny cats as to who shall apply it. You will not get one step further. Leave these conciliation committees to be formed by the people themselves. If you let them work out their own salvation they will work a great deal better than you think, and they will entirely upset the calculations of the people who are hoping that it will turn out a failure.


My Lords, I hope you will grant me your indulgence. This is a matter in which I have been personally interested because I have been a member of the wages committee of Devonshire, and also a member of the agricultural committee. I sincerely hope that this Amendment will be defeated, because, in the first place, it will press very hardly on the agricultural labourer. I have in my hand a list of the members of the agricultural committee of which I am a member, which shows that twenty-eight are nominated by the county council, two are agricultural labourers, two are ladies, and there are sixteen additional members. Only two out of forty-eight are agricultural labourers, and represent the interests of the agricultural labouring class. If this Amendment is carried, therefore, it will press very hardly on the agricultural labourers of a big agricultural county like Devonshire.

In the second place, the agricultural committee only meets periodically. We had a meeting on May 19; our next meeting is on September 15; we have another meeting on November 17; and the meeting after that is on February 16, next year. If you confer this duty on agricultural committees it seems to me there must be necessarily a considerable delay. In addition to that the work of the agricultural committees has been split up into several sub-committees, but in no case has anyone been appointed to the agricultural committee with the understanding that he would be called upon to discharge so important a duty as the duty which the noble Earl would confer upon hint. I must confess I sincerely hope the Government will stand firm in this matter, because if they do not it will not only make the working of their measure extremely difficult but it will certainly not be of any advantage to the agricultural community.


My Lords, I very much regret I am not able to support my noble friend, Lord Selborne. I think he is aware that on this question I did not support hint in Committee. I sincerely hope your Lordships will not let this Amendment pass, because it will undermine the whole principle of the conciliation committees and the freedom and latitude which is given them by the Bill which I am most anxious to retain.


My Lords, one reason given for the Amendment is the difficulty as to what would happen under the Bill if the Labour Party came into power. I am not qualified to speak for Labour, but I fancy if a Labour Party did come into power the first thing they would do would be to set up an agricultural wages board, and in that I think they would have the sympathy of a very large and influential section of the population.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "adapted for sowing" and insert ("calculated to secure"). The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 22 and 23, leave out ("adapted for sowing") and insert ("calculated to secure").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, the next Amendment in my name is drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 37, leave out ("whom") and insert ("which").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved, at the end of subsection (2), to insert "An organisation by which any person who is a member of a district wages committee at the date of passing of this Act was nominated as such may at any time before the first day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, appoint another person to act in the place of that person as a member of the joint conciliation committee."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is an Amendment which makes it quite clear that, an organisation can only change its representation on the conciliation committee once. I promised to make that point clear. I do not think that it is worth going into it at any great length. The point is that we thought it was only fair to these different organisations that they should have the power in the first instance of changing their umbers. Under the old wages board they naturally appointed members who were fighters, because they had to fight and prove their case before the appointed members, and naturally they wanted people who were good advocates to put their case, whether they were employers or employed. It may be considered by these different organisations that under the conciliation committees it would be more advisable to have people of less combative, temperament and more inclined for conciliation. The effect of this Amendment will be to enable these organisations, if thought fit, to change their members once, but not after that. It was argued by many noble Lords that as the Bill stood it would be possible for these organisations, for all time, to turn out a representative who voted against their opinions. I hope your Lordships will accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 38, at end insert the said words. —(The Earl of Ancaster.)


My Lords, as I was responsible for moving out the obnoxious subsection may I say that I see no objection to the present modification. As the district wages committees have been in existence for some time it will be necessary to allow them to make these alterations if they so desire.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (3), after "rate of wages," to insert"and the date from and the period for which it shall operate." The noble Lord said: In the Amendment in the name of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill the date from and the period during which the wage shall operate are left in one case to the discretion of the district committee and in the other to the discretion of the Minister. I think that in both cases it should rest with the local committee. I do not desire to press the noble Earl to alter his Amendment if he can show us some good reason why the date from which the wage shall operate should be a matter for the discretion of the Minister, whereas the period is to be a matter for the discretion of the local committee. I will, however, not press the Amendment.

Amendment, moved— Page 3, line 40, after ("wages") insert ("and the date from and the pert el for which it shall operate").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF ANCASTERmoved in subsection (3), before "may if the committees so desire," to insert "and has agreed as to the period, whether a specified period or a period terminable by notice, during which the rate is to operate." The noble Earl said: This Amendment; and the one which follows it, are really drafting and intended to carry out what was meant by the clause and apparently desired by your Lordships. The Minister has no power to determine the period for which the rate is to operate; this must be a matter for the committee to agree upon. He must, however, be in a position, when advertising the rate, to name some prospective date from which it will become legally enforceable, so that employers may have proper notice of their obligations.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 1, at end insert the said words.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 2, leave out ("committees so desire") and insert ("committee so desires")—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 4, leave out from ("cause") to ("operate") in line 5, and insert ("particulars of the agreed rate, and the agreed period and the date (being such date subsequent to the date of the advertisement as the Minister may determine) from which the rate is to").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 21, at end insert ("or in respect of a period exceeding six weeks").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


My Lords, perhaps this will be a convenient moment for me to put a question to the noble Earl as to what is included in the term "wages"; whether anything more is meant than a money wage. Whether legally or not, the wages hoards did deal with something else. They dealt with cottage rents, and I want to be clear whether any power is given under this Bill to these committees to deal with the matter of cottage rents. There is no mention of it in the Bill. What are mentioned are wages and hours, and I want to be clear as to whether these conciliation committees are to have legal power to deal with cottage rents.

It is a subject on which I feel more strongly than on almost anything else. Anything more anomalous than the present position of farm cottage rents I cannot conceive. If there happens to be a cottage attached to a farm the fortunate possessor gets it at an uneconomic rent, and his fellow workman, who is not so fortunate, has to get a cottage somewhere else, in a quarter where the population is thick, and pay a rent sometimes twice, or three times, or perhaps four times, as much as his fellow workman. The whole thing is absolutely anomalous, and I hope there is nothing in this Bill which will permit these conciliation committees to interfere between employer and employed as to what is a fair rent for the farm cottage.


The conciliation committees will have power to take into consideration cottage rents in dealing with the subject of wages. When their two representatives meet, the employers and employed, they will decide on the rate of wages, and where a cottage is included in the rate they will settle what extra or less wages shall be paid in consequence. It will be. a matter for the conciliation committee to decide.


My Lords, this is really an important matter. I assume that the conciliation committees will take over all the duties that the agricultural wages boards have undertaken in regard to privileges, such as, for instance, the rent of a cottage valued at 3s. per week as a substitute for a cash wage. I presume that potato grounds and other privileges which are recognised will continue under the conciliation committees. I hope the noble Earl will forgive me if I ask him to make that point quite clear.


These conciliation committees will be composed of farmers and workmen who will know something, probably a good deal, about the conditions of labour in their part of the country, and I think it is certain that when they come to make any rate of wages they will have under consideration the whole customs and habits of the district. It will be for the two parties to come to an agreement. If they do not these may be a strike or lock-out, but it is for the conciliation committees to agree upon all these matters. The noble Earl, Lord Grey, I think, moved an Amendment the other night to leave out certain Northern counties, where it was the custom—I am giving this only as an instance—to hire a man for some months, or perhaps a year at a time. That will be taken into consideration by the conciliation committee. They would have to draw up a rate of wages, and if it were the custom to give a man meal or a free cottage or something of that kind, that would be taken into consideration by the farmers and labourers when they met. I do not think I can explain the matter further than that.


My Lords, surely there is one difficulty to which the noble Earl has not alluded. Nobody is better aware than he that the people who will be representing the employers on the conciliation boards will not, as a rule, be the people to whom the cottages belong, or who are in any way concerned with their rents. It is understood that the representatives of employers and labourers on the conciliation committees will be, in the main, and in some cases, I imagine, solely, tenant farmers. On the other hand, as the noble Earl is very well aware, on a great many estates the tenant farmers have nothing whatever to do with cottages, and that, appears to me to create an application which the noble Earl's reply does not quite cover.


My Lords, I hesitate to offer a legal opinion on a Bill which it is my business to endeavour to construe only when it becomes an Act. I think this discussion has gone a long way beyond the words of the Bill. These joint conciliation committees may agree to anything they like, without any result except, of course, that each side may act upon what it is prepared to do without compulsion. Taking the words in subsections (4) and (5), "where a rate of wages has been agreed, confirmed and. advertised" and so forth, and then the words "shall be an implied term of every contract" to pay wages, and putting these two things together, the only thing that these conciliation committees can do, so far as I can see, is to agree upon a rate of wages, whereupon, after some mechanical processes, that rate of wages will become a contract which can be sued on. A rate of wages has nothing to do with a cottage, and particularly has it nothing to do with a particular cottage.

I do not know what an agreement upon a rate of wages applicable to a number of persons has to do with the value of particular cottages in which individual persons happen to be allowed to reside. If there is a custom of the country to allow various things to workmen, it may be that, in fixing the rate of wages, they should say that one rate of wages applies where that custom is acted upon, and that where it is not acted upon; another rate of wages will apply. But I do not at present understand how they can bring in cottages at all. I may perhaps, parenthetically, doubt whether the "rate of wages" gives them any power over hours, but a great many of your Lordships seemed to think that it would be so, and, being one who does not think that the arrangement will work at all, I do not think it incumbent upon me at eight minutes to eight to explain in what way, or for what reasons, it will not work.


My Lords, I venture to hope that the noble Earl opposite will consider this matter before the Third Reading, because I think the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, has brought up a very important matter which has hitherto been entirely overlooked. You are entirely scrapping the central wages board, which decided for various parts of the country what, was the permitted value per week of a cottage for this purpose. This is not decided by the local committees. The Bill gives power to deal only with wages and hours. It is true that in days gone by the central committee were able to define by their orders the word "wages" as including all remuneration whether in meal or malt, in kind or in money, to the agricultural worker. But now that the central wages board disappears, and you specifically say in the Bill that the local committees are to deal with wages and hours only, and there is no one to enlarge the interpretation of wages into remuneration of all kinds, it seems to me that your local committees are either going to actultra vires, or they are not going to fill the picture that is filled at the present time by the central wages board. I hope something will be done before the Third Reading to make it clear what is the scope, and what are the powers, of these committees, and whether in the future, as in the past, wages are to be based on the presumption that every cottage is worth 3s. a week, no more and no less. If something of that sort is not Clone, you are going to have a most unequal, and in some cases most unfair, settlement, owing to the lack of any clear statement of what wages mean.


I shall be very pleased to look into the matter before the Third Reading.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved— Page 4, line 24, leave out ("agreement") and insert ("contract") Page 4,line 29, leave out ("agreement") and insert ("contract") Page 4,line 32, leave out ("agreement") and insert ("contract'') Page 4,line 36, leave out ("made"). Page 5, line 2, leave out from ("committee") to end of line 7.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

THE EARL OF ANCASTERmoved, at the end of subsection (6), to insert the words: "Except in respect of any particular matter in respect of which the committee agrees that the chairman shall have the power to vote." The noble Earl said: This Amendment deals with the rather important question of the chairman. It is a question of whether the chairman should have a vote or not. As your Lordships are aware', we decided that he was not to have a vote, but this Amendment is to insert"except in respect of any particular matter in respect of which the committee agrees that the chairman shall have the power to vote." That is to enable the committee to give the chairman a vote ad hoc; that is to say, on a particular question they can allow him, or request him, to vote, if they think fit. I think there was considerable weight in your Lordships' contention the other evening that it would never do to have this One man given a vote, and then, once he had been given the vote, to allow him to exercise it on all future occasions, so that he would simply then remain for good and all as a sort of fixed arbitrator, and we should get back to the old principle. We do think, on the other hand, that it is a little too far to go to say that on no occasion, even if the Committee themselves desired it, should the chairman be able to have a vote. If the committee are all agreed that, for one particular subject, the chairman should have a vote, they should be allowed to carry out their wishes. For that purpose I propose this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 10, at end insert (" except in respect of any particular matters in respect of which the committee agrees that the chairman shall have the power to vote").—(The Earl of Ancasler.)


My Lords, as I was responsible for the Amendment carried

in Committee, may I express the hope that your Lordships will not accept this Amendment? I still think that the noble Earl is confusing two different things—that is to say, the office of chairman, who is a continuing president of this committee, with that of arbiter or arbitrator, who will be called in ad hoc to settle some particular difficulty.


To save time, may I reply to that at once? If the committee wish to bring in an arbitrator ad hoc they can do so. If they want to ask their chairman to act as arbitrator ad hoc they can give him a vote, and they can take it away again. If they want an outside arbitrator to come in, they can have one.


They can have the chairman as an outside arbitrator if they think fit, but many of us feel very strongly that the chairman should not be regarded in any way as a partisan. Once he has acted on an arbitration and given a vote on that particular question, he is bound to be regarded as a partisan. We think he should act from the start, being chairman of this committee, as an independent person who gives no vote at all. He would have to hold the balance between conflicting claims, and guide them along the path of conciliation.

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

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34; Not-Contents,29.

Birkenhead, V.(L. Chancellor.) Mar and Kellie, E. Colebrooke, L.
Morton, E. Faringdon, L.
Sutherland, D. Onslow, E. Gorell, L.
Exeter, M. Plymouth, E. Hylton, L.
Ancaster, E. Portsmouth, E. Killanin, L,
Bradford, E. Chilston, V. Lee of Fareham, L.
Chesterfield, E. Peel, V. Ludlow, L.
Clarendon, E. Redesdale, L.
Kimberley, E. Abinger, L. Saltoun, L.
Lucan, E. Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.) Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]
Lytton, E. Armaghdale, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Malmesbury, E. Clwyd, L. Wigan, L.(L. Crawford.)
Bedford, D. Selborne, E. Ebury, L
Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
Bath, M. Goschen, V.
Crewe, M. Hood, V. Erskine, L.
Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Harris, L.
Ampthill, L. Lawrence, L.
Salisbury, M. Bledisloe, L.[Teller.] Monk Bretton, L.
Brownlow, L. O'Hagan, L. [Teller.]
Dartmouth, E. Clinton, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Doncaster, E.(D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Cottesloe, L. Strachie, L.
Denman, L. Sumner, L.
Midleton, E. Dynevor, L. Vernon, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


The next Amendment is drafting, and is put in to satisfy a noble Lord.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 21, after (" woodland ") insert (" or woodland nurseries").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6:

Repeal of s. 15 of 10 & 11 Geo. 5 c. 76.

6. Section fifteen of the Agriculture Act, 1920' is hereby repealed.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved to leave out Clause 6. The noble Earl said: In view of the fact that Clause 6 was inserted in Committee at a late hour and by a small majority in a thin House, I propose to ask your Lordships to delete the clause. I am not aware of the practice of this House as to confining Amendments of a Bill to such as fall fairly within the scope of the Bill, though not strictly within the precise words of the Title which no doubt is capable of amendment, but I suggest that such would be a convenient practice. There can be no question that a repeal of Section 15 of the Agriculture Act, 1920, is riot within the scope of a Bill to -repeal the Corn Production Acts, as it forms no part of those Acts, nor is the repeal of subsection (1) of that section an amendment of that section that can be said to be a consequential amendment, i.e., consequential on the repeal of the Corn Production Acts.

The Title, as amended, is therefore inappropriate to cover the clause as proposed to be amended, and even more inappropriate to the repeal of the entire section. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the merits of the subsection which Lord Strachie now proposes to repeal, but I may point out that the subsection does not operate until Regulations have been made and been allowed by your Lordships' House to come into operation, so that its repeal eau only be supported by the view that your Lordships fear that the time might come when this House would assent to the subsection being brought into operation and that it is undesirable that your Lordships should have the opportunity of departing from the decision you arrived at on this section. I must therefore ask your Lordships to delete the clause.


My Lords, I will not follow the noble Earl into the question of procedure, because it is quite clear that the Title of a Bill has often been altered in another place. I am rather surprised at the noble Earl saying it is an inconvenient thing to repeal part of a Bill when what is being clone by this very Bill is to repeal part of a Bill which was only passed six months ago. His argument is a double-edged one, and applies more to himself than to me. I will content myself with a quotation from the speech of the noble Earl in the Second Reading debate on the Bill of 1920, when he said:— There is also a very dangerous clause in this Bill, and one which, I believe, has never occurred in any system of nationalisation before. What does it say I It says the owner of a property is not to be the judge of what are suitable repairs to his building or laud; ho is not to be the judge of improvements to his property. A third party, a Government agent, is to be the judge of what repairs are necessary and what improvements are to be carried out, not at the nation's expense, but at the man's expense whose land is nationalised.


That was on Second Reading, but it was all altered in Committee.


It was altered only in this sense, that power was given to the Government to make Regulations, and, if the Government was supported by Parliament, those Regulations would conic into effect. But the noble Lord voted against the Third Reading of the Bill, although there were very few who did so. I did not, although I disliked it very much. That shows he was not satisfied with these Regulations, and I do not see how he can pretend to disagree with the view that the landlord ought to be the judge of what improvements should be made, and not the tenant. It does seem very unfair, especially in these days, with the enormous expense of labour and of material, to put it into the power of any tenant to insist on certain improvements if the Government are successful in carrying these Regulations. The Minister of Agriculture has himself told me that he means to bring this in again and to carry it next session. That is a very fair challenge to me. I see no reason, therefore, why I should not persist now, and try once for all to stop these Regulations being made. It was a much sounder principle which the noble Earl enunciated on the Second Reading, that the landlord, and not the Government, or even Parliament, should be the judge of what improvements ought to be made.


Really the point is not whether Section 15 of the Act of last year is good or had. There may be other good or bad parts in the unrepealed portions of the Act. My contention is that it is irrelevant to this Bill. The sole object of this Bill is to deal with the wages boards and prices, which are contingent on wages boards. Section 15 deals with the amendment of the law as to improvements. I dare say there is great justice in what Lord Strachie says, and I dare say a great many of your Lordships share his view. But at this juncture of the Bill, which does not deal with this matter at all—and, in point of fact, Lord Strachie's Amendment is outside the Title of the Bill—I do not think it is fair for those who criticise the improvements clause to do so without giving a similar chance to the other people, who may have different views on that subject from ourselves. We are taking advantage, without notice, of the tenant farmer. People think that this Section 15 requires amendment—I am quite ready to concede that it does—but the proper time to amend it is by a separate Bill, dealing with the whole question of improvements, and on an occasion when everybody can state his case. That we should choose one clause that we dislike, and cut it out, without allowing the matter to be fully discussed, would lay us open to very serious animadversion.


When the noble Earl complains that those who are entitled to speak for the tenant farmers have not had au opportunity of considering this matter, that is entirely due to the manner in which His Majesty's Government press their legislation forward. Nobody asked that this matter should be considered in a great hurry, at the forced close of the session. There is no reason why it should not have come up to us very much earlier, with the possibility of this matter, among other matters, being fully considered.


I only meant that, so far as I was concerned, T never dreamt that there was even going to be a Division upon it.


I most respectfully protest against the suggestion made by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill that there is anything irregular in the present proceedings before your Lordships. There was nothing irregular in Committee, but it is in the.highest degree irregular to question the decision of your Lordships' House upon the next stage. The decision was made by your Lordships' House, and that governed us as a matter of order. We are the supreme judges of order in our own House, and there is nothing more to be said. As regards the merits of the matter, I feel that the Government are not entitled to complain that certain alterations are made in the principal Act, because the very nature of their Bill is to repeal part of the principal Act, and if your Lordships desire that something else should be repealed that does not seem to me to be at all a surprising matter. I do not think the Government have made out a strong case for reversing what was passed in Committee. The usual practice is to accept what has been done on a particular stage until a strong argument is alleged to reverse it. I should personally vote in favour of maintaining what the House has already agreed to, unless a strong argument is advanced to the contrary.


My Lords, it is a pity that the noble Earl has not reminded himself of some of the speeches which were made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture before the introduction of the Agriculture Bill into Parliament, because, if there was one thing which was emphasised more than another, it was that this great Agriculture Bill, which was going to provide a national agricultural policy for all time, was a well-balanced structure, which would provide advantages for every section of the agricultural community—landowners, tenant farmers, and workmen—and would also impose upon them certain responsibilities and duties of an onerous character.

What is it that has actually happened I Your Lordships will notice that the part of the Bill which relates to farmers and workpeople has been scrapped so far as it imposed burdens upon them; but that part of the Bill remains intact which imposes upon landowners burdens which are supposed to correspond to the inconveniences or burdens imposed by the Agriculture Act upon other sections of the agricultural community. We do not ask, as I think we might, that the whole of Part II should be similarly scrapped, but we ask for the repeal of one single subsection of a section.of that Act which imposes new and very onerous burdens upon what is now relatively a very poverty-stricken section of the population, in view of the fact that we are faced now with decreasing prosperity in the agricultural industry, which the landlord is bound to feel ultimately at least as much as the other two sections of the community. The point is that this provision should be repealed in order that no new burden should be thrown—not on the initiative of the landlord or the tenant, but by a Government mandate—upon landowners who may be wholly unable to meet it, in consequence of the fact that certain of their tenants have sufficient money in their pockets and are prepared to expend it upon an improvement which they may desire, which the Ministry may authorise, but which may be of no possible use to a subsequent tenant.


Then the landowners pay no compensation.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.


I now beg to move the insertion of the new schedule which appears in my name on the Marshalled List of Amendments.

Amendment moved—

After Clause 7 insert the following Schedule—

Provisions of the Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920, relating to the destruction of injurious weeds as continued in force.


My Lords, I do not wish to say anything upon the merits of this question. I rise for one moment only upon a question of order, because one must be careful that doctrines are not laid down which may be a little misleading hereafter. There are questions upon which your Lordships have inadvertently reached conclusions which have made it debatable afterwards whether the result was harmonious with your Lordships' practice. When attention has been thereafter directed to those points your Lordships have reconsidered them. Whether this is such a case I do not stop to inquire. But the noble Earl has said that the position which has been taken is practically on the verge.

On Question, Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 31; Not-Contents, 26.

Bedford, D. Midleton, E. Elgin, E. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
Morton, E.
Bath, M. Erskine, L.
Crewe, M. Goschen V. Harris, L.
Exeter, M. Hood, V. Lawrence, L.
Salisbury, M. Ampthill, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Bledisloe, L. [Teller.] O'Hagan, L.
Dartmouth, E. Brownlow, L. Redesdale, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Clinton, L. Saltoun, L.
Denman, L. Strachie L. [Teller.]
Malmesbury, E. Dynevor, L. Sumner, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Ebury, L. Vernon, L.
Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.) Onslow, E. Colebrooke, L.
Plymouth, E. Faringdon, L.
Sutherland, D. Portsmouth, E. Gorell, L.
Hylton, L.
Ancaster, E. Chilston, V. Killanin, L,
Bradford, E. Peel, V. Lee of Fareham, L.
Chesterfield, E. Ludlow, L.
Clarendon, E. Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.) Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]
Lucan, E. Armaghdale, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Lytton, E. Clwyd, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)

(1) Where the Minister is satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Schedule applies growing upon any land, he may serve upon the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him to cut down or destroy the weeds in the manner and within the time specified in the notice.

(2) Where, under this Schedule, notice is served on a tenant a copy of the notice shall at the same time be served on the landlord.

(3) Where a notice has been served under this Schedule on the occupier of any land requiring him within a time specified in the notice to cut down or destroy weeds and that person unreasonably fails to comply with the requirements of the notice, he shall on summary conviction be liable, in respect of each offence, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds mal to a. further fine not exceeding twenty shillings for every day dining which the default continues after conviction:

Provided that—

  1. (a) Proceedings for an offence under this paragraph shall not be instituted except by the Minister; and
  2. (b) The Minister shall be entitled to execute any work specified in the notice and to recover summarily as a civil debt from the person in default the reasonable cost of executing such work in a proper manner, and the right of instituting any such proceedings shall not be prejudiced by the fact that the Minister has executed the work specified in the notice.

(4) Any person authorised in that behalf by the Minister or by any body of persons exercising any powers of the Minister on his behalf may, for the purpose of carrying this Schedule into effect, on the production, if so required, of his authority, enter on and inspect any land. The occupier shall in all such cases be served with notice of the date on which the inspection is to take place.

If any person prevents or obstructs the entry for the purpose of this Schedule upon any land of any person authorised under this Schedule he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.

(5) Every notice required to be served under this Schedule on the occupier of any land may either be served personally on him or sent by registered post to or left at his usual place of abode in the United Kingdom, and in case any person on whom any such notice is to be served is absent from the United Kingdom, and his usual place of abode in the United Kingdom after diligent inquiry be found, the notice may be served by affixing a copy thereof on some conspicuous part of the land.

(6) The Minister may authorise the Agricultural Committee of any county or borough to exercise on behalf of the Minister any of the powers of the Minister under this Schedule.

(7) Any expenses incurred by the Minister under this Schedule up to an amount approved by the Treasury shall be defrayed out of the monies provided by Parliament.

(8) The injurious weeds to which this Schedule applies are the following, that his to say, Spear Thistle (Carduus Lanceolatus L), Creeping, or Field Thistle (Carduus Arvensis Curt), Curled Dock (Rumex Crispus L), Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex Obtusifolius L), and Ragwort (Senecio Jacobæa L).

(9) In this Schedule the expression"owner"includes a person entitled for his life or other limited estate, and the expression"occupier"means in the case of any public road the authority by whom the road is being maintained and. in the case of unoccupied land the person entitled to the occupation thereof.

(10) This Schedule shall apply to Scotland with the following modifications:—

  1. (i) The Board of Agriculture for Scotland shall be substituted for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  2. 444
  3. (ii) For the reference to the Agricultura Committee of any county or borough there shall be substituted a reference to the body of persons constituted for any area under the powers specified in paragraph (d) of the proviso to section one of this Act.

The provision requiring that proceedings for an offence shall not be instituted except by the Minister shall not apply.

This Schedule shall not apply to Ireland.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


Your Lordships will see that I propose to amend the suggested new Schedule. My first Amendment, which is purely drafting, is to leave out in line I of paragraph (8) the word "applies" and to insert"shall apply." Then I add subsequently, in line 5 of the same paragraph, "and such other injurious weeds as the Minister may, from time to time, by regulation prescribe." I wish to remind the noble Earl that under the Agriculture Act there is a provision for the making of Regulations prescribing the injurious weeds to which this subsection applies. As matters stand, your Lordships are asked to stereotype in this Bill five weeds only, to the exclusion of all other weeds which every expert admits ought eventually to be dealt with in the same manner. May I also remind your Lordships that there are several Acts now being administered by the Ministry of Agriculture—notably, the Injurious Insects and Pests Act—under which it is possible for the Ministry to make lists of pests which are injuring agriculture and which ought to be dealt with in a similar manner to noxious weeds? I hope, as I am simply attempting to make this provision more workable and more effective in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture for the time being, that the noble Earl will accept the Amendment.

Amendment to the Amendment moved— Line 5, at end insert (" and such other injurious weeds as the Minister may from time to time by regulation prescribe ").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


I am unable to accept this Amendment. I should like to say at the outset that it would mean Orders lying on the Table, and after my past experience of Orders lying on the Table of this House, I do not think it is a desirable way of treating the matter. But that is not really the serious objection. The serious objection is this. You are going to allow any future Minister to put into Orders any number of weeds, and thereby you are setting up the whole system of control of cultivation again. I do not intend, at this late hour of the night, to enter into a long speech, but I w ill give one simple instance. It is possible that I, as a farmer, may have some charlock in my fields, and, if the noble Lord's Amendment is carried, I may be ordered by tie agricultural committee to spend £50 or £60 on boys pulling up the charlock.


That is not a wind-sown seed.


I admit it is a nasty weed. But what is the use of saving that you are to abolish control of cultivation, and then make it possible for agricultural committees to conic down and order farmers to get rid of all sorts of weeds. The committee may order farmers to furrow their fields two years running, and they may order them to employ labour in pulling out weeds. I can assure the noble Lord that no farmer would accept this Amendment for a minute.


It is already the law of the land that farmers can be ordered to get rid of weeds.


It is not the law of the land that agricultural committees can give an order such as they would be able to give if this Amendment were carried. This simply means that you would restore control of cultivation, and for that reason I cannot accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I am rather surprised at the attitude of the noble Earl opposite, because he, for the first time, has shown alarm at what the Office which he now adorns may do in the future. He is so afraid that some future Minister of Agriculture may make Regulations which would eat se a recrudescence of complete control of agricultural cultivation. I cannot see that that fear is in any sense well-grounded. I think that the analogy which Lord Bledisloe mentioned is a very sound one. Just as it is possible, with more knowledge, to add certain noxious insects to those that can be dealt with by Regulation, so the same power may be conferred upon the Minister of Agriculture under this Act, to add noxious weeds. As the noble Lord behind me, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out, it is a power which exists at present, and so far as I know no complaint has been made in regard to it. Why the five weeds which are mentioned in the Bill as it stands should have the special compliment of being picked out for censure in the Bill I confess I do not know. They are by no means universally dangerous. Some of them, as we know, are very noxious indeed in different parts of England, but I am certain there are others in some other parts of Great Britain which might very well be added, and I am exceedingly sorry, therefore, that the noble Earl has not seen his way to accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I think the attitude of the Government is most extraordinary. I say with some confidence that it dies not represent the view of any important agricultural organisation in the country. I am quite convinced that the.Royal Agricultural Society would not take the view that the noble Earl has expressed, nor do I believe the National Agricultural Council would take it. At the present moment the law is that the Minister of Agriculture has power to schedule these noxious weeds, and thereupon there is authority to deal with them. Why every weed except the five mentioned in the schedule should henceforth be protected under the special blessing of the Under-Secretary for Agriculture is beyond my power of understanding.

Surely it is madness to carry decontrol to the extent that my noble friend does. Because you are getting rid of the power of controlling, through agricultural committees, the methods of cultivation of the farmer, it does not follow that you should allow the bad farmer to grow any weeds he likes. All that my noble friend's Amendment does is to put it within the discretion of the Minister of Agriculture, under proper conditions, to increase the list of weeds included at present in the Schedule. I have the honour myself of being at this moment a. member of what is called the Advisory Committee on Agriculture, a committee drawn from the National Council of Agriculture, and I have been present at meetings at which the Minister has discussed this very matter, and has impressed on the Committee the enormous importance of dealing with the question of noxious weeds. Now my noble friend comes down and says: Preserve the liberty of the bad farmer to ruin the good farmer by weeds.

On Question, Amendment to the Amendment negatived.

On Question, Amendment to insert the proposed schedule agreed to.


An Act, to repeal the Corn Production Acts, 1917 and 1920, to make provision as to payments under those Acts in respect of the crops of the current year, to provide funds for agricultural development, to promote the formation of joint conciliation committees for the industry of agriculture, and to make certain consequential amendments in sections twelve and fifteen of the Agriculture Act, 1920.

Amendment moved— Leave out (' sections twelve and fifteen ") and insert (" section twelve, and to repeal subsection (1) of section fifteen ").—(Lord Strachie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.