HL Deb 21 July 1921 vol 45 cc1214-20

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1

Sale of corn to be by weight.

1. From and after the commencement of this Act, every contract, bargain, sale or dealing relating to corn shall, unless it is made or had by weight only and in terms of and by reference to the hundredweight of one hundred and twelve imperial standard pounds, be null and void:

Provided that this Act shall not apply to any contract, bargain, sale or dealing—

  1. (i) for or relating to a less quantity of corn than one hundred and twelve imperial standard pounds—
  2. (ii) for or relating to corn which at the date of the contract, bargain, sale or dealing is not within the United Kingdom, or to corn imported into the United Kingdom so long as the same shall remain in the warehouse, or store, or shed where the same shall have been first stored on importation;
  3. (iii) for or relating to corn imported into the United Kingdom in cases where such contract, bargain, sale, or dealing provides for delivery in the original bags in which the corn was imported (subject only to rebagging in replacement of damaged bags);
  4. (iv) for or relating to corn growing on or in the land or to corn unthreshed.

LORD EMMOTT moved, in the proviso, after paragraph (iii), to insert the following new paragraph: (iv) for or relating to corn exported or reexported from the United Kingdom. The noble Lord said: My Lords, there are two small Amendments, but Amendments of some substance, which, I think, would greatly improve this Bill, that I propose to move at this stage of the measure. In reference to the fear expressed by my noble friend, Lord Strachie, when this measure was last under discussion, that any Amendments here would endanger the progress of this Bill, I think that the particular Amendments which I am proposing will very much improve the prospects of a smooth acceptance of your Lordships' Amendments in another place. I will state why.

The only opposition of which I have heard has come from the National Federation of Corn Associations and from the Millers' Association. Mr. Wiles, the President of the National Federation of Corn Associations, has expressed the opinion to me that if the Amendment about exports is accepted there would be little in the measure to which he objects, and Mr. Carr has expressed a similar opinion to me as President of the National Association of Millers. If these Amendments are accepted I shall appeal to those gentlemen not further to oppose this measure in the other House. I think, if I am met on those matters, it would hardly be fair to prolong the opposition to a measure which has been generally accepted in principle.

My first Amendment is to insert the following new paragraph in Clause 1— (iv) for or relating to corn exported or re-exported from the United Kingdom. It may be that the wording can be improved. This Bill is to get rid of the chaos of weights and measures in the country. It is not meant to prejudice foreign trade. The import trade has already been excepted, and the export trade ought also to be excepted, both on the ground of logic, which does not matter very much, and on practical grounds, which matter a good deal. As I understand it, the British milling trade has made great advances during the last few years. It has put in improved machinery; it has adopted up-to-date methods; it has developed the export side of its trade, and it does a great deal of that export trade in metric weights and measures and in foreign money. That applies to the export trade both in flour and in offal.

The noble Lord in charge of this Bill, Lord Clinton, stated, in the debate on Second Reading, that the export trade for 1920 was very small. I am sure that the figures he used were correct, but if he had looked at the export trade for the first six months of this year he would have seen that it had reverted to something like its pre-war figures. In the first six months of 1921, 929,000 cwts. of flour and wheat meal were exported as against only 80,000 in the first six months of 1920; the value of the former 'quantity being £1,326,000, and of the later only £126,843. As regards re-exports, 1,215,000 cwts. were sent out in the first six months of 1921 as against only 61,000 cwts. in the first six months of 1920—that is, twenty times as much this year as last.


Could the noble Lord say how much of those exports went to British possessions and how much to foreign countries?


I am sorry I cannot do that, because, of course, I have only the figures from the 'Trade and Navigation Returns; I have not had time to get particulars from the Customs. Besides that, there is a large export trade in bran, pollards and other kinds of feeding stuffs. For the first six months of 1921 that trade amounted to 560,000 cwts., against only 63,000 cwts. for 1920. Such a trade as that is not negligible, and the part of it which goes to the Continent is not negligible. A great deal of it goes to the Continent, particularly to Scandinavia. I have with me contract forms and pro forma invoices, which I think hay e been sent to the noble Lord, and which show that the trade has been generally done in tons of 1,000 kilos and also in foreign money. There is a clause in the contract which shows that those contracts are subject to English law and that where me party is, or even both parties are, domiciled outside this country they are deemed, for the purpose of the contract, to be domiciled in England, and the contract is subject to English law and arbitrative. In those circumstances I hope that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will be able to accept my Amendment and also that it, may not be opposed by the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, who speaks for the Ministry of Agriculture. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Emmott.)


My Lords, it would, I think, be convenient at this stage if I stated that the Ministry offer no objection to this Amendment. But they consider that the Amendment should be moved differently and they propose that it should run: "In the case of corn sold or contracted to be sold for export from the United Kingdom." I understand that the word "re-exported" as suggested by Lord Emmott is not required and that the validity of the contract should be determined at the time the contract is made and should not depend on what may or may not happen afterwards. Of course, if a man in this country buys corn for export from another person in this country, and says it is for export at the time, and later on does not like his bargain, he might be able to get out of it by saying that owing to a railway strike, or the country having gone to war, or some other reason, he is unable to buy the corn for export and therefore cries off his bargain. I am advised therefore that the Amendment should be in the form which I have suggested, and if the noble Lord would so move it the Ministry would be pleased to accept it.


So far as I can follow, I that is an improvement. 1 do not quite know why the words "in the case of" are used instead of my words "for or relating to; but I have no objection to them, and I am willing to move the Amendment in that form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 2, at end insert (" (iv.) in the case of corn sold or contracted to be sold for export from the Kingdom").—(Lord Emmott.)


My Lords, I believe that the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, in so far at it relates to the re-export of corn, is unnecessary, because we understand that it is already covered by subsection (2) of Clause 1. If it is desired to make that more certain by the new Amendment, then there is no objection. The question of exports is very much more important, because it refers to corn grown or flour milled in this country. The whole object of the measure is to bring about some uniformity in the weights and measures by which corn is sold, and it is clear that the confusion will remain to some extent if purchases continue to be made by different weights and measures. Apart from the danger which I foresee to uniformity—a thing which I do not want to lose—there is another which has been alluded to by the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster. A purchaser may buy torn nominally for export. He may not export it, and the unfortunate farmer or miller will no longer be able to fulfill his contract or to obtain the money value for it. I believe that the Amendment which has been proposed to the noble Lord's amendment will to a certain extent meet that point. I ant not, clear as to how far it will meet it, but it is intended to meet it, and from my point of view it is an improvement.

The figures quoted by the noble Lord are very much larger than those I gave the House during the last stage of this Bill. I quoted then only 80,000 cwts. as going to foreign countries. I would very much like to know how much of the 929,000 cwts. mentioned by the noble Lord really go to foreign countries. Any part of that quantity which goes to British Possessions is really not. affected by this Bill, because it will be sold in ewts. in any case. The whole story of the export of this grain is really somewhat of a mystery. Everybody knows that we do not grow enough grain or flour in this country for the needs of our own population. What we export, therefore, cannot in any sense be surplus; it must be corn which has to be replaced by imports later on. Why this trade has grown to such proportions it is very difficult to say. It does not appear to be of any particular advantage to anyone.

While on principle I shall not raise any serious objection to this Amendment, I welcome the assurance of the noble Lord that the acceptance of it here may improve the chances of the Bill in another place. I hope he will do his best to carry that out. I appeal also to my noble friends on the Front Bench, the Earl of Ancaster and the Earl of Crawford (who spoke for the Board of Trade on previous occasions), in view of this Amendment dealing with the foreign trade having been accepted, to use their influence with the Department concerned to see that facilities are given for the passing of this amended private Bill when it reaches another place. In that hope I accept the Amendment as amended by the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6:


6. In this Act the expression "corn" shall, where the context permits, include wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize and the flour, meal and bran derived therefrom, and any mixture thereof, and this Act shall apply to dried peas, dried beans, linseed and potatoes, and to tile seed of grass, clover, vetches, swedes, field turnips, rape, field cabbages, field Kale field khol-rabi, mangels, beet and sugar-beet, flax, and sainfoin in like manner as it applies to corn.


moved to leave out "flour." The noble Lord said: My Lords, the next Amendment is for the elimination of the word "flour." The ordinary sack of flour, as stated, is 280 lbs. That happens to be 2½ cwts. Flour is sold by weight, but not in cwts. The reasons for this Amendment are these. The American and Canadian importer of flour will not be affected by this Bill, and he will, to a certain extent, be in a favourable position as compared with the English miller. This trade has always been done in shillings and pence per sack. To convert the price to price per cwt. could only be done where the amount is divisible by five. You can only do it in the case of every fifth-penny, so to speak. For instance, 35s. a sack would be 14 s. a cwt.; 35s. 5d. would be 14s. 2d. per cwt., but 35s. ld. would be 14s . 0.4d. per cwt., and 35s. 2d. would be 14s. 0.8d. In four pennies out of five you would have an awkward fraction. The milling and the baking trades have used the sack, and, I understand, only the sack, practically from time immemorial, as the unit of trade.

Putting flour into this Bill would be of no advantage to the farmer, but, I think, rather a disadvantage, because English flour milled in England would, in these circumstances, be subject to a restriction from which American imported flour would be free. I am also told that there is far more reason for excluding flour than malt, which is not in the Interpretation Clause. In regard to this matter I have had a letter sent to me written to Mr. Carr, M.P., by the Minister of Agriculture, Sir Arthur Griffith Boscawen, saying that so far as the Ministry is concerned he has no objection to this Amendment. I hope, therefore, that Lord Clinton will be able to accept it.

Amendment moved— Clause 6, page 3, line 27, leave out "flour."—(Lord Emmott.)


My Lords, the ordinary measures in which flour is used fit in perfectly well with the cwt., which we propose should be used in future, and I am not in the least frightened by the difficulties in calculating prices. We shall soon begin to think in terms of the cwt. rather than in the terms of the sack. I am certain that this is not a matter which should weight strongly with your Lordships, but I agree that the question of selling flour is not really an agricultural subject, and for that reason I do not propose to oppose the Amendment.


May I say that so far as I am concerned I will use my best endeavours with my right hon. friend, Mr. Baldwin, to give facilities to this Bill later on?

On Question, Amendment agreed to.