HL Deb 22 July 1936 vol 102 cc142-57

LORD STRACHIE had the following Notice on the Paper:—To move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is to be deprecated that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is a member of this House, whereby the agricultural interest is injuriously affected; and to move for Papers.


My Lords, I regret that owing to illness the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, is unable to be in his place today, and I beg leave to be allowed to move the Motion standing in his name. I must ask the indulgence of your Lordships if I do so without that facility of expression and ability with which I know Lord Strachie would have placed the matter before you. I am encouraged in moving this Motion because I believe it expresses the very strong feeling that exists in many parts of the House. Your Lordships will recollect that in the discussion on the Sugar Industry (Reorganisation) Bill my noble friend Lord Hastings made a very emphatic protest with regard to the position in which this House was placed owing to the fact that neither the Minister of Agriculture nor the Parliamentary Under-Secretary was present on the Front Bench. That was, of course, in no sense a reflection on the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, who conducted that measure through your Lordships' House. Nobody who recollects the work which the noble Earl did at the Ministry of Agriculture and his conduct of Bills on behalf of that Ministry could venture to criticise the way in which the Sugar Industry (Reorganisation) Bill and other measures were conducted in this House. One cannot, however, reasonably hope or expect that the noble Earl, whose knowledge of agricultural subjects is so great, can maintain in the new office that he holds at the Board of Education that close touch with details of agricultural schemes and legislation the Government may bring forward Which he has had in the past.

I venture to say that, it is due to this House that we should have direct representation of the Ministry of Agriculture on the Front Bench here. My noble friend Lord Hastings pointed out, and it was perfectly true, that he was not speaking for himself only in the protest he made on May 7, but that he represented feeling which was present in every part of the House, not only on these Benches but on the Benches opposite as well. I suppose it would not be unfair to say that in this Assembly there are available a very large number of members who have the most intimate knowledge of agriculture in the various aspects of that great industry, and who therefore can bring to the discussion and detailed consideration of legislation proposed in connection with the great schemes of organisation initiated by the present Government, a wealth of knowledge and of experience that can but be, as I am sure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will agree, of the greatest utility.

I venture to say that those schemes are by no means complete at the present time, and many require emendation. When we get, for instance, the proposals which constitute the long-range policy of the Government as regards meat and the cattle industry of the country, they will require a most careful scrutiny by this House, as has been necessary in the past, however well drawn the scheme may be. Besides that, of course, there are constantly coming up in this House questions of first-rate importance in connection with the industry of agriculture, and I think the House will probably agree with me that it is of the greatest importance, in the discussion of those details into which it is the duty of this House to go, that this House should have as it were first-hand information from the Ministry, instead of what now must be, of course, but a partial knowledge even by the most industrious member of the Front Bench who takes the subject up in order to be able to cope with one particular view. In these circumstances, I think it is not unfair to say that it is due to this House, in the interests of sound and proper legislation, and the care and attention that should be devoted to the elaboration of those schemes, that we should have a direct representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in this House.

It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that when the Parliamentary Secretary was appointed to the Ministry of Agriculture it was in a large degree due to the fact that what is the position of this House at the moment was at that time the position of the House of Commons. That is to say, the Ministry of Agriculture was not then represented in the House of Commons by anybody directly or indirectly concerned with the office of the Ministry, and it was understood, as it was explained, that by the creation of this office there would be two representatives available, one for each House, who by the nature of their work and contact with that office would be in a position to afford to either Chamber that knowledge of detail which might be necessary in coping with any question that arose. Therefore, I venture to say, speaking as a Back Bencher, that there is practically no reason why, with two officers of that nature existing in the Ministry, each House should not have that direct representation to which I have already referred.

I need not go into any justification of the argument as to the expert knowledge of members of this House. It would be invidious for me to mention names, but many will occur to the House of noble Lords on whose advice and with whose help many of the great schemes which have been inaugurated have been materially improved in the course of their passage through Parliament. We were told in May by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was in charge at the moment, towards the end of the debate, that he was fully conscious of the strength of the feeling in this House on this particular matter, and he assured us that he would make representations to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. That was in May. We are now at July 22, and it is a matter of profound surprise to many of us that we have had no pronouncement from the Government with regard to the matter. I am sure, of course, that the representations were made to the noble Viscount who leads the House, and I am sure that no one can look after matters connected with the dignity of this House with more appropriateness or more sincerity than the noble Viscount himself. I am only anxious to-day, in putting forward this Motion on behalf of Lord Strachie, to ask for such information as we can be given as to what the Government propose in order to deal with this matter.

It is a question which has aroused, as I have already said, a great deal of feeling in the House, and that is so because many of us are most anxious that the proposals of the Government for schemes and legislation on agricultural matters should be of the greatest utility. At the present time, when we are considering the provision of the food supplies of the country in case of any grave emergency, it is most essential that everything should be done in co-operation between Parliament and the Government of the day to ensure these supplies. In conclusion I can only assure the noble Viscount who leads the House that, strong as is the feeling with regard to this matter in this House, it is in the spirit of anxiety to assist the Government in every direction that I bog to move the Motion which stands in the name of Lord Strachie.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is to be deprecated that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is a member of this House, whereby the agricultural interest is injuriously affected.—(Lord O'Hagan.)


My Lords, I desire to support this Motion so ably and clearly submitted to this House by my noble friend Lord O'Hagan in the absence of that veteran Parliamentary champion of agriculture, Lord Strachie, whose absence owing, unfortunately, to illness, I am sure we must all deplore on the present occasion. It would have been particularly appropriate if the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, had been here to-day, because some of us can remember, and I am sure the present Leader of the House will remember, that the noble Lord was placed for several years in a most anomalous position, in consequence of the fact that the President of the Board of Agriculture, as he was then called, Lord Carrington, subsequently Lord Lincolnshire, was the only person authorised in either House of Parliament to speak with authority on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. The position became so anomalous, and even under those existing conditions and circumstances so difficult, for those who desired to criticise the policy of the Department of Agriculture or to inquire more meticulously as to its activities and the interpretation of its Bills, that a deputation representing all the then Parties in the House of Commons waited, I think it was in the year 1912, upon the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, which was introduced by his brother-in-law, Sir Charles Tennant, speaking on behalf of the Central Landowners' Association, then known as the Central Land Association, of which I suppose I may regard myself as having been not only one of the founders but one of the chief spokesmen in another place.

The representation that was then made to the then Prime Minister was to the effect that there ought, quite clearly and for the convenience of both Houses, to be a representative of the Department of Agriculture in each House, so that where a Minister was sitting in one House there should be a Parliamentary Secretary sitting in the other House. Mr. Asquith made a very clear statement in reply, telling us that for some years the matter had been one of anxiety to himself. He made it perfectly clear that our representation was fully justified and that he was prepared, without qualification, to accede to our request. I do not know whether it would be right for me to say so, but in those days talking about agriculture, at least in the House of Commons, was like a voice crying in the wilderness, and I for my part had every reason to know what an uphill task it was to bring any matter of urgent agricultural importance to the serious attention of any Government, of whatever political complexion it might be formed. Things have changed. Now agriculture is regarded as a vital interest throughout the country, and there is in process of development a very important and, let us hope, permanent agricultural policy, based on the understanding that the maintenance of the production of food is of vital importance to the stability and, indeed, to the physical welfare of the country. That policy is also of great Imperial importance, at least since the Ottawa Conference of some four years ago.

There can be no question, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has rightly said, that there are a very much larger number of Parliamentarians who are fully equipped to speak upon agricultural problems in this House than there are normally in another place. Indeed I do not think I should be exaggerating if I suggest that there are certain noble Lords who address your Lordships' House on these topics who speak with a clarity and knowledge and persistent eloquence—and I have in mind particularly my noble friend Lord Hastings—which have neither now nor in the past been surpassed, if indeed they have been equalled, by any spokesman on such a subject in another place. I go further and say this, that I cannot conceive of any really long-range agricultural policy being considered and approved in Parliament without its impinging quite considerably on considerations of vital importance to other parts of the Empire. I do not think any of your Lordships will disagree when I suggest that this House at least, where there are a considerable number of what are popularly called ex-Pro-Consuls, is particularly well-equipped to present what I may call the Dominion standpoint on agricultural problems affecting not merely this country but the whole British Empire.

We have had recently some experience of what happens when Agricultural Bills, or Bills of agricultural importance, are presented to, or are discussed in, this House. If I may venture to say so to the noble Viscount who leads this House, there is something a little unconvincing, if indeed it is not a little undignified, in watching messengers passing from the Front Government Bench in order to obtain some authority, or at any rate some advice, from a certain little box in the corner of this House containing those very well-informed gentlemen who represent the Civil Service as employed in the particularly well-equipped Ministry of Agriculture at the present time. When I had the honour of sitting on that Bench, as representing the Ministry of Agriculture, I at least felt that in face of a strong opinion expressed by authoritative persons in relation to any Agricultural Bill, I had a considerable amount of latitude as well as definite personal information to enable me to give a definite answer and, if possible, to make some concession to reasoned and convincing arguments with regard to the amendment of those measures.

That, of course, is not the case to-day. Under present conditions, when agriculture is deemed of almost paramount importance to any other industrial problem in this country, for us to have sitting on the Front Bench what I may call a maid-of-all-work who is not definitely associated with the Ministry of Agriculture is not altogether worthy of the dignity and prestige of your Lordships' House. Having explained as definitely as I can the origin of the institution of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, and realising that the reason for which a Parliamentary Secretary was appointed in 1912 still exists, surely it cannot be right that that reason should now be altogether ignored, and that there should be a Minister in one House only, when the Parliamentary Secretary was definitely appointed to ensure that there should be a Minister in both Houses when agricultural matters are under discussion. I should like to appeal very earnestly to the Leader of the House to give a sympathetic response to the plea which has been made by my noble friend Lord O'Hagan.


My Lords, I am sure that the Government themselves will welcome this opportunity of giving an explanation of a matter which has certainly produced a great deal of talk and comment, not very favourable, among noble Lords sitting on these Benches. I am not going to speak at any length on the subject. I only wish to say that I think, even in this Session, while there has not been a very great deal of agricultural business, the inconveniences of not having a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in this House have been very marked. I expect that in the next Session we shall get more important agricultural business to deal with, and I would like to suggest to the Leader of the House that it will be exceedingly inconvenient if there is no real representative of the Ministry in this House when the measures that are foreshadowed come forward. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to tell us that the present is only a temporary arrangement. I remember the time, as does my noble friend who has just sat down, when the Minister of Agriculture was appointed. He was appointed specially in order that there might be a representative of that Ministry in each House of Parliament, and this is the first occasion, I believe, on which that rule has been broken. I hope that the noble Viscount who leads the House will be able to assure us that when important business concerning agriculture comes before us next Session, as I think it is bound to do, we shall have some direct representative of the Ministry in this House to deal with it.


My Lords, I only want to say a very few words in support of this Motion. As my noble friend Lord Bledisloe has pointed out, if there is one subject on which your Lordship' House is more well informed than another it is perhaps agriculture, and it is most desirable that the fullest use should be made of that knowledge by having a direct representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in this House. Agricultural legislation in the future is bound to follow the prevailing tendency, the tendency, that is to say, of more and more interference with the ordinary working of the ordinary farm—interference with the detail of farm working. To be able to criticise or to assist in framing that legislation it is most desirable that people should have an intimate and up-to-date knowledge of practical farming. In the old and more leisurely days there may have been very many people in another place with such an intimate and practical knowledge of farming, but in these days, when the House of Commons is worked as hard as it is—and not only in the House itself but also in the constituencies—no member of that House has really a chance to keep pace with modern developments in farming. Not only that, but he has his other constituents, and he cannot give undue attention to the farming matters in his constituency; whereas in your Lordships' House we still occasionally have a little leisure, and many of us are looking after our own farms, and we are therefore in a position to offer really useful criticism and help. If there is no representative here the fullest use cannot be made of that advice.

I can imagine no more, unsatisfactory a situation than having, as the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, an occupant of the Front Bench not connected with that Ministry, during the Committee stage of a complicated Bill which is being tackled by various members of your Lordships' House on matters of detail. Such a representative has continually to be referring to the advisers of a Department which he represents but of which he is not a member, and must feel it extremely difficult to give a decisive Yes or No, or indeed, as we have seen on many occasions, finding it necessary to say No and giving no reason. It is neither satisfactory to the noble Lord who makes that answer nor to the noble Lord who receives it. It is true at the moment that we are fortunate in that my noble friend Lord De la Warr is on many occasions still answering for the Ministry of Agriculture. His very long experience in that Department makes him very familiar with it and capable of giving us excellent replies. On the other hand, he will not for ever be able to reply for the Ministry of Agriculture, and in any case underlying this is a matter of principle and not of individuals. I feel quite certain that if he can, the noble Viscount who leads the House will give a sympathetic answer, because he perhaps is one of those members of your Lordships' House who knows as much about agriculture and the Department of Agriculture as anyone, and he must realise the difficulty.


My Lords, in view of the number and importance of the speeches made in support of this Resolution by former Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and others, it would ill become me to take up the time of the House for many minutes; but I do know that the number of voices sometimes adds weight when a matter is subsequently considered by higher authorities. I feel that we are very fortunate in having a distinguished Leader of the House who in another place has been very closely associated with agriculture and was once Chairman of the Agricultural Committee there. Therefore, while we have the fullest measure of sympathy from him, in so far as he is able to give expression to it in that high position, at the same time I have been hoping that before now we might have had some definite reply to the representations which I think have been made—whether officially or not I do not know—in other quarters. I was indeed hoping that a pronouncement would have been made on the question. After all, we have had a great many important agricultural measures before us, even this Session. There have been questions relating to milk, the final settlement practically of the sugar question—a matter of extreme importance to large agricultural areas—and the insurance of agricultural workers, and we know that before long there will be a settlement, which we hope will be final, of the meat issue. One could also name many other important agricultural topics which are bound to come before the House before very long.

Agriculture becomes more and more important in this country as the years go on, and it is the chief source of really new wealth that we have. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, referred to changing conditions. It is certainly true that there are marketing schemes which are being developed on every kind of subject, and there is hardly an issue of importance which can be raised in this House which is not, either directly or indirectly, linked up with the question of agriculture. I would therefore like to urge, with great respect, that we press, and continue to press, for direct representation in this House of the Ministry of Agriculture, for no nation that neglects its agriculture can hope to retain a great place among the peoples of the world.


My Lords, I would first of all like to associate myself with the feeling of regret that has been expressed by my noble friend behind me who moved this Resolution and by others, at the enforced absence of the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, from this debate, and then I would like to thank all those who have taken part in the debate for the extremely helpful spirit with which they have made their contributions to a matter the importance of which I certainly fully recognise. I think that, except on one or two points of detail to which I will pass in a moment, I find myself in almost complete agreement with the broad lines of the argument that those speeches have laid before your Lordships' House. It is the accustomed boast of this House that we can command the services of experts in relation to whatever topic may from time to time engage our attention. It is that quality that I suppose distinguishes this House, in spite of whatever noble Lords opposite may from time to time feel it in their hearts to say against it, from almost any other Second Chamber that I know of in any part of the world. And if that is true generally of the House, it is most especially true, as noble Lords this afternoon have reminded us, of the capacity of the House in relation to matters agricultural. The House does indeed possess, as has been said, a wealth of agricultural knowledge which surpasses that, as I think my noble friend Lord Bledisloe said, which can usually claim to be possessed by another place.

No one who realises, as most of us, perhaps all of us, I fancy realise, to what a great extent the English countryside has been the background of British thought, speaking largely, and how greatly the quality of the temper of the British countryside has been responsible for the balance and poise of English political thought that is, and has always, I fancy, been the envy of the world, will be in any danger of under-estimating the value to the country that the agricultural knowledge possessed in this House can be, or of under-estimating the great strength that that knowledge gives to your Lordships' House to-day. It is quite true that in fact the position that noble Lords wish to see established in this matter has been almost generally followed since the Parliamentary Secretaryship to the Ministry of Agriculture was established. I think my noble friend Lord Bledisloe was in error in mentioning 1912.


I was doubtful about that.


I think the actual year in which, as he reminded us, Lord Strachie first filled that office was 1909. It is almost true to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Bayford, said, that ever since that time the Ministry of Agriculture—the Board of Agriculture as it used to be called—has been evenly represented between the two Houses. It is not quite true, because there were two gaps in that direct representation in the years that the Ministry of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong were in office, in 1924 and 1929. There was also the interlude during the War in which, however, the representation was met, as your Lordships will remember, by the presence in this House of an unpaid extra Parliamentary Secretary, an office that was, if my memory serves me aright, successively held by the Duke of Marlborough, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, and, I rather think, by the noble Lord, Lord Goschen. But with the exception of these minor details, the facts were as my noble friend has stated them.

There is no difference of opinion, therefore, between us as to the degree to which we should wish to see followed what my noble friend Lord O'Hagan desires as the ideal plan. Your Lordships will, however, realise that what is ideal is not always possible. Recognising, as I do certainly to the full, the great claims that agriculture and those who speak for it can make in this matter as regards this House, your Lordships will not overlook the fact that, owing I suppose to a multitude of considerations that this is not the occasion to detail, there are many other departments in our public life to-day that are exacting constantly a growing measure of public interest and attention. There is on the Paper, your Lordships will have observed, an expression of opinion that it would be undesirable not to maintain the direct representation of the Foreign Office in this House consequent upon the transfer from that office of my noble friend Lord Stanhope. Matters of defence are constantly engaging a greater and greater measure of our thought, and your Lordships will not, I know, be under any danger of overlooking the difficulties in such a matter as this of the Prime Minister of whatever Government it may be at any particular time.

I think it is probable that the difficulties of the Prime Minister in this respect are greater if he happens to be the head of a National Government than if he is the head of a Party Government, because it is obvious that the wealth of talent that may be thought to be gathered into the ranks of the National Government is drawn from wider sources and that, consequently, the just distribution of the opportunities of service to all that widely drawn talent involves rather more difficult calculations on the part of whoever is responsible than in the case of a purely Party Government. I would like your Lordships also to remember this. We have been speaking about the Ministry of Agriculture of ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years ago. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches (Viscount Bledisloe), or any of my noble friends behind me, would readily recognise that the work and the business of a Minister of Agriculture is a very different thing to-day from what it was fifteen or twenty years ago. The complexity of his administration and of his policy that justifies your Lordships in my judgment in bringing forward this demand to-day, has also another effect, that it does impose an immensely increased burden upon the actual holder of the office in whatever House he may happen to sit. Your Lordships will readily believe what a weight of questions, motions and deputations and so on is always descending upon the Minister of Agriculture in another place, and I do not think perhaps, from the point of view of the Minister in another place, that it could possibly be denied that the interests of agriculture are the better served from that limited point of view by gaining some relief for him from that constant burden of attendance in another place in order that he might have more opportunity to consider in reasonable tranquillity the principles and the policy that it is his duty to pursue and to present to Parliament.

Therefore, while as I have said I go the whole way in feeling with my noble friend who moved the Motion, I should hesitate to say that I quite subscribe to the doctrine that agricultural interests as a whole had been, or were being, injuriously affected. All that, of course, has a special weight at a time when the mass of allied industries that are concerned in agriculture are being, or are sought to be, co-ordinated and replanned to meet modern difficulties and modern conditions. Accordingly some persons have made a suggestion that the right solution of this question is that there shall be an additional Under-Secretary recognised as part of the normal machine of the office in order to ensure that the two objects should be simultaneously secured—namely, relief to the Minister if he was in the other House by giving him help, and at the same time direct representation in your Lordships' House. But that provision, I am advised, would demand legislation. It would also constitute an expansion of what many people describe as the bureaucracy, and, I should suspect, would perhaps incur the strictures of my noble friend Lord Mount Temple, who would regard any such development, I should fear, with apprehension if not with jealousy.

It is, if I may interject a parenthesis for a moment, true to say—and I think my noble friends who spoke recognised it—that it is only technically up to now that agriculture has been unrepresented in this House. I am quite sure that all your Lordships will agree with me that my noble friend Earl De La Warr, who has accepted a new love in the shape of the Board of Education, shows by his demeanour that he has by no means forsaken his first and older love of the Ministry of Agriculture. I am certain that those who attended the rather technical and difficult discussions on the Tithe Bill would readily recognise that he showed great grasp of an extremely difficult subject with which it was not too easy for any of your Lordships to make yourselves completely and readily familiar. I think, perhaps, in justice to him, I ought to defend him from the not over-critical and not unfriendly reproach of my noble friend on the Cross Benches in regard to—


The very last thing I had in my mind was to convey reproach. I think again the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has somewhat misunderstood me. I desire very strongly to pay my tribute to the extreme efficiency of the noble Earl. All I wanted to point out was that he had no direct authority from the Department and therefore was unable effectively to meet criticisms or answer questions.


I was not, for a moment, assuming that my noble friend meant more than that, and if he had allowed me to finish my sentence I was going on to say that, however much the noble Earl had been a direct representative of agriculture, I was sure my noble friend on the Cross Benches would be the first to agree, with the long experience he has had in the House of Commons, that on technical matters, especially where very difficult questions of finance were concerned, it was almost inevitable in another place as well as in your Lordships' House for the Minister in charge of the Bill to satisfy himself that it was possible or was not possible to say a particular thing to which his own knowledge would lead him to wish to make a direct answer. That is all I have to say, because I thought it was to my noble friend that the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches made the reference.

At the same time, it is, of course, quite obvious in the peculiar position that the noble Earl who now answers for the Ministry of Agriculture occupies, that his familiarity with agricultural topics must, with the passage of time from the office in which he was up to six months ago, gradually grow less. For some time past it has been quite evident to me on the private representations made by some of my noble friends behind me that that was a position that it was not desirable on the whole to maintain indefinitely. Accordingly, as I think they know, and indeed acting on their suggestions, I have been able, on several occasions during the last few months, to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the strong feeling of the House in this matter, a matter indeed on which, as your Lordships will believe, he was not wholly uninformed. I think I can say that the Prime Minister has always had this particular difficulty and the desirability of its solution very present to his mind, and if I may also say so, that no passage of any such Motion as this would be necessary to remind the Prime Minister of the importance of the issue and the importance which your Lordships attach to it.

Quite independently, some few months ago the Prime Minister reached a certain conclusion on this matter to which he proposed then to give effect after the forthcoming Parliamentary Recess. For various reasons, into which your Lordships will not wish me to enter now, it was impossible to make any announcement at that time, but I am now able to inform your Lordships that it is the intention of the Prime Minister before Parliament re-assembles to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture shall be directly represented again in your Lordships' House.


Hear, hear.


I hope in view of that plain answer to my noble friend that he will not feel it necessary to press his Motion on the present occasion, for the reason, as I explained, that it goes somewhat further than one on which I personally should be able to associate myself with him. I hope that he and his friends who have acted with him during the last two months on this issue, will feel that the position they set out to secure has been met, and that in the Prime Minister they have not had a person who had to be convinced against his will, but one who was silently an ally with them throughout.


My Lords, I am sure that we on this side of the House and those who have taken part in this discussion welcome the announcement which the noble Viscount has made as to the intention of the Prime Minister. I would like to add one or two things with regard to what has fallen from the noble Viscount. I am glad that he expressed the feeling that we were justified, or rather that Lord Strachie was justified, in putting this Motion on the Order Paper in your Lordships' House and myself in bringing it forward. I am bound to say that it is a great encouragement to us to find that the Leader of the House, as we anticipated, agrees with the principle that is enunciated in the Motion. I find some difficulty, however, in expressing, or rather in achieving, profound sympathy with the Prime Minister in the difficulties in which he has found himself in the course of the last four months, because we must appreciate that his difficulties were created, as I imagine, by himself. At the same time it is good to have the assurance given to us by the Leader of the House, and to know that there is no difference between ourselves and the Front Bench, or I believe the Government as a whole, with regard to the ideal in this matter. We were only anxious that this ideal, being one of those, unlike most ideals, that it is not difficult to bring into effective operation, should be attained, and we now know that it will be achieved in the course of the next few months.

I would like to say one word in passing with regard to one remark which fell from the noble Viscount, although I think he applied his remark to Lord Bledisloe. I endeavoured to express to him that in moving the Motion there was no idea, at all of any reflection on the manner in which the noble Earl has been responsible for agricultural matters in this House during the present Session. It has been clear, however, that in spite of all the intimate knowledge he has had, and the access which he still has to the Ministry, he was not quite, at least so it has impressed some of us, as intimately knowledgeable on some of the points raised as might possibly have been expected in the case of somebody who had been actually working at the Ministry. At the same time I am glad to feel that we have arrived at this assurance, and I am very grateful to him for it. In the circumstances, by leave of the House, I will not press my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.