HL Deb 22 July 1937 vol 106 cc859-921

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Supplementary provisions as to contents of the Land Fertility Scheme.

3.—(1) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act as to the contents of the Land Fertility Scheme, the scheme may—

(h) provide for the making of arrangements for promoting research, investigation and instruction as to the use of lime and of basic slag as a means of promoting the fertility of the soil, and for the financing of such arrangements by means of sums to be collected from approved suppliers who are producers of lime or basic slag and from persons receiving contributions under this Part of this Act, respectively, not exceeding twopence for every ton of lime or basic slag in respect of which such a contribution is paid;

LORD CRANWORTH moved, in paragraph (h) of subsection (1), after "slag", where the word first occurs, to insert "and of their value compared with other fertilisers". The noble Lord said: This small Amendment has the praiseworthy intention of saving the Government money. I think myself that the Government have made out a good case for limiting their assistance at the present stage to the two fertilisers which they have accepted, lime and basic slag, but I feel they would not wish for lime and slag to be used when in fact they were not going to do as much good as another fertiliser, and when three-quarters of the amount of another fertiliser would do more good than putting on more slag for the sake of getting back a quarter of the price. I feel that the Government should gratefully accept this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 3, after ("slag") insert ("and of their value compared with other fertilisers").—(Lord Cranworth.)


I am afraid it is impossible for me to accept the Amendment, and I hope the noble Lord will appreciate the reason that I give. It is that in the Bill as it now stands the assistance to occupiers of land is limited in Part I to lime and basic slag. The insertion of the words of the Amendment would limit the generality of the clause, and further it would, I think, be undesirable because those words would suggest to the producers of lime, who will be finding part of the money, that their money is being spent on research and investigation and instruction in connection with other fertilisers in which they are not directly interested. I hope that after that explanation the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.


My Lords, I certainly shall not press my Amendment, but I am very doubtful of the strength of the argument the noble Earl has used.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Subsidy payments in respect of and under oats or barley.

6.—(1) If, in the case of the year nineteen hundred and thirty-seven or any of the following four years, the United Kingdom price per hundredweight of home-grown oats harvested in that year falls short of eight shillings by five pence or more, then, subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act, the appropriate Minister may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, make to the person who, at the beginning of the fourth day of June in that, year, was the occupier of any farm in the United Kingdom comprising land then under oats or land then under barley, a payment (hereafter in this Act referred to as a "subsidy payment") at the rate of an amount equal to six times the difference between the said price and eight shillings, or at the rate of one pound (whichever rate is the less), for each acre of that land which at the beginning of the said day was under oats or under barley, as the case may be:

(2) If the qualifying acreage of land under oats or under barley in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-eight or any of the following three years exceeds the standard acreage, the rate at which any subsidy payment may be made in respect of any land by reason of its having been under oats or under barley, as the case may be, in that year shall, subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act, be a rate bearing to the rate determined by the preceding subsection the same proportion as the standard acreage bears to the qualifying acreage of land under oats or under barley, as the case may be, in that year; and if the rate determined by the preceding provisions of this subsection is not an exact multiple of a penny, the odd fraction of a penny shall be disregarded.

In this subsection the expression "the standard acreage," in relation to oats or in relation to barley, means such acreage as the Ministers may by order declare to be the number of acres arrived at by multiplying by eleven-tenths the qualifying acreage of land under oats or under barley, as the case may be, in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-seven.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in subsection (1), where the words first occur, to leave out "United Kingdom." The noble Lord said: The present Amendment really entails a great many of the Amendments down on the Paper in my name. I wish to take out "United Kingdom" where they first occur in this particular section and three times in the succeeding subsections, and also to take out paragraph 3 of the First Schedule. The effect of these Amendments will be to enact that in the place of the Ministry striking an average price for the whole area of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, a separate average is struck for Scotland, for England and for Northern Ireland, to decide whether the growers in those separate areas are to receive any subsidy under this Bill or not. I am informed that for a very large number of years the price of oats in Scotland has been on the average 10d. per cwt. less than the average in England, and although when this matter was discussed in another place it was shown that in spite of that fact the average for Scotland during the past few years was the same as the average for the whole area—that is the average struck as it would be under this Bill—the reason for that is that, while the average price in England is higher than in Scotland, yet the price in Northern Ireland brought down the average of the whole area to the same as the average in Scotland.

Scotland does deserve a certain amount of special consideration in this Bill, because large parts of Scotland do not grow wheat and have a very poor chance of earning the wheat subsidy. I think that the area of Northern Ireland is too small to make a proper makeweight to bring the average of the whole down to the average of Scotland. It would be a much better proceeding to let each country earn its average on its own standard. To put it in a way with which we are all familiar, let every tub stand on its own bottom. I think that is a very sound principle. There is one point I would put forward to appeal to noble Lords living south of the Tweed who suffer from this misfortune. I have heard noble Lords ask why the payment of the subsidy should be deferred as late as April, seeing that in England there is no reason why the subsidy should not be paid at a much earlier date. The reason is that in Scotland the prices are not struck by the Sheriffs of the counties until February and sometimes as late as April, and therefore it is not easy to arrive at an average for Scotland until that time. So there is just this possibility, that if every country is put on its own average the English growers would be able to receive their money a little sooner.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 5, leave out ("United Kingdom").—(Lord Saltoun.)


I would like to support this Amendment. I have expressed the opinion, an opinion which I still hold, that there would be, at any rate for a very long period of time, no subsidy payable upon English-grown oats at all. It is conceivable that a subsidy might be payable upon Scottish oats if they were reduced to the average which apparently applies to oats grown in that country, and in that country alone. I believe it is true that normally the average price of oats in Scotland is substantially lower than the price in England. If that fact can be substantiated, which I believe it can, it seems to be an act of justice that the growers in Scotland, who are intended definitely to be benefited by this Bill, should be given the opportunity of receiving such benefit without being subject to the prices obtained for the better oats grown by better farmers who live in England.


The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, is quite right in saying that the average price for oats in Scotland is usually lower than the average price in England and Wales. Lord Saltoun was also correct when he said that the average price in Northern Ireland is lower than in Scotland. But weighted figures for the United Kingdom taken as a whole would, I think, compare equitably with the weighted figures for Scotland alone. May I elaborate this? The standard price of 8s. was fixed in relation to the United Kingdom as a whole, and the logical consequence of having three separate average prices would be to have three separate standard prices. There would also be no justification in having separate average prices for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. If separate market prices in different parts of the country are to be taken into account there is no particular virtue in determining the areas by political boundaries, seeing that prices vary in different markets in each country; for example, the price of oats in Aberdeen is always lower than the price of oats in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

If the subsidy scheme had been in operation during the last three years the rate of subsidy payment in Scotland would have been the same, with a separate average price for Scotland, as it would have been with the United Kingdom average price. The subsidy payment in England and Wales would have been very much less, and in Northern Ireland it would have been very much more. It is thought by those who reside in England that this would give rise to great dissatisfaction and complaint. The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has quoted certain figures. I would point out that the average price of oats in Scotland during the three years 1934 to 1936 was 6s. 2d., 5s. 3d. and 7s. 1d. respectively, and the estimated weighted average price for the United Kingdom for those same years was 6s. 2d., 5s. 5d. and 7s. The noble Lord was correct in the answer that he gave to his own Amendment when he said that the three-year average of the Scottish price is exactly the same as the estimated average for the United Kingdom, and the figure was 6s. 2d. Over that period the subsidy paid would have been 11s. per acre in each instance, whether under the procedure proposed in the Bill or whether it had been assessed with reference to Scotland alone. Therefore, the Scottish grower need have no apprehension that the use of a United Kingdom average price will work out inequitably.

LORD SALTOUN: I do not wish to press this Amendment, but there are two things I would like to point out. One is that the period the noble Earl gave is much too short to get a rule in agricultural matters, and the difference of 10d. a cwt. which our oats suffer in value as compared with England is an average established over a very long period. The other point is that, if it makes no difference to Scotland, there is no reason why the way I suggest should not be adopted. But there is a reason why it should be adopted, because at the present moment not only is the higher price of oats in England being used to deprive the Scottish and the Irish farmer of the subsidy which they think is due, but with Machiavellian cunning the Government is putting Scotland in the position, by her comparatively higher price of oats, of helping to deprive Northern Ireland, a country for which we have the warmest feelings, of its proper benefit.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in subsection (1), after "year," to insert "or in Scotland at the beginning of the twenty-eighth day of May." The noble Lord said: This is a very important Amendment, and when I first came into the House this afternoon I was emboldened to hope that the noble Earl would accept it, as he has a precisely similar Amendment down in respect to Northern Ireland after Clause 13. The position in Scotland is that it is almost universal that the day of entry and way-going for farm tenancy is May 28—that is, seven days before June 4 as mentioned in the Bill. In Scotland the law is that the crop belongs to the man who sows it, and the clear intention of this Bill is to pay the subsidy to the man who grows the crop. The subsidy is to be paid in respect of the crop. When a man leaves a farm in Scotland he may, or he may not, sell his crop to the incoming tenant. If he does not sell his crop to the incoming tenant, he has to arrange for the reaping of the crop himself, and, within certain legal limits, he has to arrange for its disposal. Of course, in the large majority of cases the outgoing tenant actually sells his crop to the incoming tenant.

Let us consider what is happening under this Bill. The man who grows oats on his land takes those oats to market, sells them, and receives the market price for them. He also receives the subsidy payable in respect of that oat crop. When a tenant leaves his farm on May 28, if he does not sell his crop to the incoming tenant, he has to sell it himself and he gets, as he would have got had he remained on the farm, the market price of the oats. But under this Bill his successor gets the subsidy in respect of these oats. Supposing he sells his crop to the incoming tenant, what does he sell? He sells his crop in the ground, and that will be valued and the price will be fixed by the Sheriff in the ensuing March. The incoming tenant will then pay to him the price of those oats, but the incoming tenant will not pay over to him the price of the subsidy because the outgoing tenant was never entitled to the subsidy. The subsidy does not operate until June 4, and how can any law compel a man to buy what belongs to him from a man to whom it does not belong? I could say a very great deal on this subject. It is a very important point, and it is one that is a perfectly simple matter of accounting. I am in hope that I can persuade the noble Earl in charge of the Bill, and I merely beg to move and see what is the result.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 11, after ("year") insert ("or in Scotland at the beginning of the twenty-eighth day of May").—(Lord Saltoun.)


The noble Lord is moving an Amendment similar to the one to be moved on Clause 32. In the first place I should like to point out that he is under a misconception in thinking he is moving something similar to the Amendment which is to be moved after Clause 13 by my noble friend Lord Feversham, which is simply being done for the purpose of making these conditions conform with the existing state of affairs in Northern Ireland where the annual agricultural return is rendered on the 1st day of June. I understand that the noble Lord is anxious to see that the tenant leaving his farm on May 28 in any subsidy year is fairly dealt with. The Amendment would, as the noble Lord has shown, have the effect that any subsidy accruing on crops of oats or barley harvested in that year would be payable to the outgoing tenant, but that would give rise to another difficulty. As was stated by my noble friend Lord Feversham on Second Reading, the farmers will, in 1938 and subsequent years, make their claims at the same time as they render their agricultural returns, which include statements of the acreage under oats or barley. Further, as provided by Clause 7 (1) of the Bill, growers of oats or barley who are also growers of wheat will have to choose at that time whether they elect to avail themselves of the subsidy on oats or barley or to receive such payments as may be due in respect of wheat.

The agricultural returns are made on June 4 throughout Great Britain, as they have been for many years, and there is no suggestion to alter this date. It is not suggested by the noble Lord that the agricultural return in Scotland should in future be made on May 28 in order to coincide with the making of a claim by the outgoing tenant. There are, of course, grave objections to such a course. There has been, for a long time, continuity in this respect, and we do not want to alter that continuity. It is also desirable to avoid duplication, as might happen if you had not the same date as in England. If this Amendment were accepted, the position would be that the outgoing tenant on May 28 would hold the right to the subsidy, while it would lie with another person to make and to substantiate the claim. With which of these would it lie to carry out the conditions of the subsidy as laid down in the Bill? I regret that the Government are unable to accept the Amendment. But I would suggest to the noble Lord that in the majority of cases of change of tenancy, it would and should be feasible, without amendment of the Bill, to provide for the subsidy payment to be dealt with by the valuator charged with the duty of fixing the payment to be made by the incoming to the outgoing tenant. And in the cases where the crop is not disposed of by the outgoing to the incoming tenant, the matter might be settled by agreement between the parties. In conclusion, perhaps I may add that no representations have been received by the Secretary of State from the organised agricultural community of Scotland, although they have discussed with him other points in the Bill.


I was rather interested to hear the explanation of the noble Lord who has replied on behalf of Scotland, but it does not get over all the difficulties by any means. There are people even in Scotland who do not always agree with their successors in their farms, and it is not always easy to get a valuator agreeable to both the outgoing and the incoming tenant. That is the first drag on the argument which the noble Lord has put forward. There is a more difficult argument still. I believe there are in England as well as in some cases in Scotland people who pay what is known as "backhanded rent." Under that system the new tenant does not pay rent at all until a year after he comes in. He pays the valuation as agreed between him and the outgoing tenant to the outgoing tenant. In the case of "back-handed rent," the man who goes out is still paying rent for the farm for a year after he goes out, and it is a nice point as to what would happen in that case if this provision was read as it actually stands in Clause 6.

The question is, then, whether it should not be paid to the man who has actually gone out, because he is still paying rent although he is not actually occupying the farm. I do not think that case is met at all. Quite frankly I do not think that this is going to be workable in Scotland. May 28 is grounded in the custom of the country, even almost more so than the law, and the man who has sown it is the owner of the crop. That is definite and cannot be got over, and why there should be an objection to paying the subsidy to the owner of the crop I cannot understand. No argument is required as to why the grower should receive the subsidy which the Bill says is to be paid to the grower of the crops. That question has not been answered, or at all events I am not satisfied with my noble friend's reply.


My Lords, I do not like to interfere with what appears to be a purely Scottish argument especially as some of the language is rather new to me. The word "valuator" is new to me, and "back-handed rent" is new to me, but it occurs to me that the May 28 tenancies in Scotland are absolutely on all fours with the March 25 tenancies in England, and England raises no objection to the Bill. I cannot see why Scotland should raise an objection simply because they have May 28.


I think the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will frankly acknowledge that I put my case to him quite fully yesterday when we discussed this matter. I rather admire the answer which the noble Lord (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal) has given me. Unless I knew pretty well what I was talking about I think his answer would have gravelled me, but it really is no answer at all, and for this reason. In the first place he suggests that until June 4 arrives we cannot tell whether the subsidy is going to be given under the Wheat Act or under the Oats Act. If you put in May 28 you will know on May 28; it will be decided then. That is going to be the testing day, not June 4. It is suggested by the noble Lord that an agreement might be arrived at between the parties. That is quite obviously wrong and illusory, for this reason. According to the Bill before your Lordships, that subsidy does not vest until June 4, and then it vests in the man who is the occupier of the farm in which the oat-sown lands are comprised, and his ownership is further attested by the entry in the Scottish Valuation Roll which the man is bound by law to make. The only person under the clause as it is now before your Lordships who is entitled to that subsidy at all is the incoming tenant and nobody else whether he buys the crops or whether he does not.

It has been suggested to me—I think it was suggested by the noble Earl in private conversation—that this Amendment might lead to difficulties because you would have the "cropping" entry sent up by one person on June 4 and the claim would come in from another person in respect of his occupation on May 28. That might possibly lead to difficulty in England, but to those of your Lordships who have no knowledge of affairs in Scotland I would like to explain that that cannot lead to any misunderstanding in Scotland, because every occupier of every holding in Scotland has every year to make a return to the Government of his holding and the fact that he is the occupier of it. There could be practically no difficulty for any Government official in ascertaining perfectly correctly that such-and-such a man was the occupier on May 28, and if the return were made by another man who is the occupier in the new Valuation Roll on June 4, it would be known that he was not the proper person to receive the subsidy.

There is one further small point. I do not like to talk highfalutin stuff but it does seem to me to be an important point. We are told that under this Bill the subsidy is going to be given to the growers of oats and that a subsidy may be given to the growers of barley. The legal grower of this barley in Scotland or of these oats is the outgoing tenant. I know Parliament can do anything it likes. It can pass an Act to give money to anybody; it can pass an Act to give money to me or to anybody else; but in practice we know that that is not the case. There is a principle governing these things, and if June 4 is going to be left in the Bill it means that in certain cases this subsidy is going to be given, not to the grower, but to somebody who has had nothing to do with growing the crop at all. I think that is such a bad moral principle—this carelessness in the distribution of public money—that for that reason alone I will press this Amendment.


My Lords, I should like to say how grateful I was to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, for giving me notice of his Amendment before it appeared at a very late hour on the Order Paper this morning. I am very grateful to him for having given me the opportunity of discussing the point of substance that does arise out of the Amendment. My noble friend Lord Strathcona has given a reply to the noble Lord on behalf of the Scottish Office. I would like to say this, that it is obvious that some date must be selected in order to operate this Part of the Bill, and for England, both from the administrative point of view and from the point of view of the convenience of the farmer himself, the most suitable date is that upon which the farmer makes his agricultural return, which has been established as June 4 since the Act of 1925 was passed. The point that arises out of the noble Lord's Amendment is whether it would be possible so to change that date as not to render it too inconvenient from the administrative point of view and from that of the individual farmer, and so as to coincide with the traditional system of a change of tenancy taking place on May 28. Your Lordships will appreciate that the Government Departments concerned have not had a very long time to reflect upon this very important point, and I would say that they would be pleased to consider this matter between now and the Report stage if the noble Lord would agree to that being done.


I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his assurance, but I would like to tell him that I have to be sitting on a Commission next week, and I anticipate for the next three weeks also, so that I cannot attend to the matter myself. If, however, he will take up the matter with my noble friend, I shall be very grateful. I do not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD HASTINGS moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Lord said: I feel that I should apologise to the House for having put down this all-inclusive Amendment which does a good deal more than I wish to do. The reason is that I was very greatly pressed yesterday and it was impossible with the short notice the Government gave us of the Committee stage to draft an Amendment in exactly the way I should wish to draft it. The noble Earl said with perfect truth on Tuesday, that it was not desirable to encourage the over-production of oats. If we took this subsection out of the Bill we should take oats out of the Bill and I do not wish to do that. I want to make that quite clear. What I propose to do now is to explain the position as well as I can and then not to press the Amendment at this stage, but to redraft it in a form which would really represent what I desire, without taking oats out of the Bill. I would like now to develop the argument that I have in mind.

I have told the noble Earl, as I have told his predecessors very often in this House, that there is and must always remain a fundamental objection to the restriction of production. By the reference in subsection (2) of Clause 6 at line 34 to the words "standard acreage" and by the words over the page further extending the definition of that, and again by what appears in subsection (4) and also in the Schedules, this Bill will quite definitely restrict production both of oats and of barley. The noble Earl said in his Second Reading speech that it would be undesirable to aim at restoring the acreage of oats and barley to anything like pre-War figures, in view of the smaller demand owing to the decline in the number of horses and in the consumption of beer. We know very well that the importation of foreign oats into this country is a trifling quantity, and to encourage the greater production of oats would eventually have the effect of so reducing the price of that crop to existing growers that they themselves would suffer a diminution in price to such an extent that they would be probably unable to grow oats at all.

I give the noble Earl his point about oats, but he went on, as I have already said, to decry any return to pre-War acreage of barley because of the reduction in the consumption of beer. That led to certain pleasantries and I was content to leave it at that. But the noble Earl knows as well as I do—and having figures at his disposal more readily than I have he will know it even better—that the importation of barley amounts to scores of thousands of tons every year, and that that importation, vast as it has been over a term of years, is ever increasing. That importation of barley is not only to a certain extent an importation of malting barley but the great bulk of it is an importation of feeding barley which competes directly with feeding barley grown by the barley growers throughout England. Incidentally, I think it would be well here to impress upon the noble Earl, and upon your Lordships, the fact that the quantity of barley grown at home for malting is very much less than it used to be for the reasons given in the Second Reading speech by the noble Earl, and that consequently a great quantity of the barley grown in the hope that it may be bought for malting has more often than not to be sold as grinding barley.

The noble Earl committed himself to the statement that it was not desirable to increase the production of barley. So long as our importations remain at their present colossal figure it really is quite impossible for the noble Earl or for anyone else to maintain that particular thesis. It is immensely to the advantage of this country that a greater quantity of barley should now be grown, because by so doing you are providing a relief to shipping in times of emergency, and you are making certain of animal feeding stuffs, which are only one degree less important than human foodstuffs for the perfectly simple reason that animal foodstuffs are eventually converted into human foodstuffs. I would ask the noble Earl to reconsider what he said in that particular regard. It cannot be held out to be undesirable to increase the production of British barley however you approach the matter. I have always objected, and I shall continue to object, to restriction of production unless such good reasons can be proposed as can be proposed in the case of oats. I have proved, I think successfully, that there is no possibility of an over-production of barley at the present time.

The noble Earl may say, and I think must say, that the reason for imposing a standard acreage in this Bill is the fact that, unless there was a standard acreage, there would be no limit to the liability which the State would assume in respect of the assistance—I will not call it the subsidy—that conceivably in certain circumstances might become payable. That would be a perfectly sound argument if the noble Earl was able to point out the likelihood of anything like a full acreage of barley applying for the assistance to which I have referred. When we discussed the matter on Second Reading the noble Earl invited me to enlarge my vision so that it might embrace those barley growers in the remoter parts of the kingdom who were unable to grow wheat and who were reduced to the growing only of oats and barley for their living.

Suppose I give him this point for the moment, what is the effect? The effect is acknowledged on the part of the noble Earl that only those growers who are unable to grow wheat will be the growers who can conceivably apply for this particular assistance, and they in their turn will be a mere fractional proportion of the total number of barley growers. It is a fact that the assistance to be given to barley growers cannot apply until the price of oats drops to 5d. less than 8s. per cwt. For that to happen it will mean that the barley grower himself is going to receive something less than 15s. a sack, a sack containing two cwts.; sixteen stones go to the sack of barley. Not only is that the case and not only will that have the effect of making it quite certain that the assistance given to any barley grower would be only a matter of a very few shillings, but it is also a fact that unless the farmer is growing more than four times as much barley as wheat it cannot pay him to apply for the assistance to the barley crop. That will have the effect at once, together with the arguments I have already advanced, of reducing the number of barley growers who can conceivably apply for assistance to that fractional proportion of the whole which is represented by those growers of whom the noble Earl spoke in his Second Reading speech.

We are therefore in this position. We are perfectly certain that it is unwise, in spite of anything that any Minister on any Government Bench may say, to limit the production of barley and not to endeavour to return as far as we can to a pre-War acreage. That, I think, is unarguable. We also have the fact that in no conceivable circumstance can there be any risk to the Exchequer by reason of the number of barley growers who can apply for the assistance which this Bill proposes to give them. It must be fundamentally unsound to insert into an Act of Parliament words definitely restricting the home production of British produce If words could be found which would limit the sum payable by the Exchequer, I should be perfectly content, but to say that Parliament in its wisdom does not desire to increase the production of barley is not right. Bearing also in mind that there are vast areas of this country which are better suited to the growth of that crop than of any other crop, it is not right to put into an Act of Parliament words which restrict production, which has not now reached the maximum extent necessary for the proper cultivation of the soil and which will in no way clash with the proper requirements of the Exchequer.

I greatly hope that the noble Earl will see his way to accept the principle of this Amendment. I have already told him that I do not propose to press this Amendment now, because, owing to my own default, I was unable to draw it in exactly the terms in which it ought to have been drawn. But I am prepared to do so by the Report stage. I do not want to cut out oats, and oats must be left in, but if the noble Earl could give me any encouragement, I should be only too glad to accept words convenient to himself and the Government which would eliminate barley from this, as I maintain, improper restriction of its production. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 30, leave out subsection (2).—(Lord Hastings.)


I understand that my noble friend means to move an Amendment to this present Amendment at a later stage—


On Report; that is right.


—so as not to bring his point to bear upon the production of oats. I have listened with interest to the general argument that has been propounded by Lord Hastings: that the Bill is going to limit the production of barley unduly. The noble Lord referred to a statement which I made in my Second Reading speech. May I again reiterate that the intention of the Government with regard to this Part of the Bill is to prevent a further decline in the arable area and to stabilise by certain price guarantees the production of cereals, including barley, at a reasonable level? There are in different parts of the country, as I intimated to the noble Lord on the last stage of the Bill, many who obtain little or no benefit from the Wheat Act. The noble Lord has now said that the occupiers of farms who are going to benefit from these proposals are a small fraction of the total number of barley producers, because the proposals will apply only to those parts of the country that cannot, owing to climatic conditions, grow wheat. That is not exactly the position, because there are large tracts of land, of which I myself have a portion, where they grow wheat but not in quantities comparable to their production of the other two cereal crops—barley and oats. It would be quite improper for those farmers who had a small acreage under wheat not to get the benefit of the larger crop under barley and oats. I can quote to the noble Lord numbers of instances in my own recollection where the farmer is growing perhaps only one-fifth or one-sixth wheat out of his total wheat, barley and oats acreage. It would then pay that man to go for the barley and oats subsidy under this Bill rather than the wheat deficiency payments under the Wheat Act of 1932. So I would suggest to the noble Lord that the small fraction to which he has referred is not nearly as small as he has made out.

The noble Lord has truly said to the Committee that we import a quantity of barley into this country. I have the figures before me, and they are as follows. In the year 1934 we imported 15,476,000 cwt.; in 1935 we imported 17,097,000 cwt.; and in 1936 we imported 18,332,000 cwt. The figure as far back as 1925 was still 15,000,000 cwt. Those figures show that there has been some increase in the importation of barley. That is no doubt due to the great increase that there has been under the Pig Scheme in the number of pigs in the country. The noble Lord, again, referred to the question of those farmers who rely upon the price of feeding barley, as there is a high percentage of barley that either is not cultivated for malting or does not go as malting barley for brewing purposes. The percentage of malting barley—that is, of the total production of barley—is 60 per cent., and I understand, if my recollection is right, that the Brewers' Society agreed to take about 70 per cent. of the barley produced in this country. There is no doubt that these proposals will benefit a large number of persons whom the noble Lord has not taken into consideration, for the reasons I have given. I shall be very pleased to see the way in which the noble Lord drafts his Amendment at the next stage.


I am greatly obliged to the noble Earl for what he has said, but I shall be still more obliged to him if he will—as I am quite certain he will—read what I said when it is published to-morrow morning. There are certain points he missed. I do not blame him for doing so; it is not very easy for the Government to appreciate every point at a moment's notice; but he has missed certain points and rather stressed one or two which seem to have but slight reference to the whole subject. I must of necessity withdraw my Amendment now, but I would very much like an opportunity of conferring with the noble Earl myself before I put on the Paper a draft that would implement what I really wish to do.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The Amendment in my name is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 37, after ("the") insert ("appropriate").—(The Earl of Feversham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7:

Subsidy payments and wheat deficiency payments to be alternative.

7.—(1) Where, in the case of any farm which at the beginning of the fourth day of June in any year comprised any land under oats or land under barley, there was at any time during the first eight months of that year comprised in that farm any land under wheat, the appropriate Minister shall not be authorised to make any subsidy payments in respect of any of the said land by reason of its having been under oats or under barley, as the case may be, in that year, unless the person who at the beginning of the said day was the occupier of that farm has, within such period in that year as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Ministers, elected, by notice given to the appropriate Minister in such manner as may be so prescribed, to avail himself of this Part of this Act in respect of that farm for that year.

(2) If, in respect of any farm, any person elects in accordance with this section to avail himself of this Part of this Act for any year, no deficiency payments shall be payable under the Wheat Act, 1932, in respect of any wheat harvested in that year and grown on land which at any time during the first eight months of that year was comprised in that farm.

The power conferred on the Wheat Commission by Section five of the said Act to make byelaws for giving effect to the provisions of that Act, shall include a power to make bye-laws for giving effect to the provisions of this subsection.

(3) With respect to the year nineteen hundred and thirty-seven and each of the following four years, the appropriate Minister shall, as soon as may be after the end of the period in that year prescribed by regulations under this section, cause to be prepared, and to be sent to the Wheat Commission, a list specifying, in relation to England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, the farms in respect of which persons have elected in accordance with this section to avail themselves of this Part of this Act for that year, and the persons respectively who have so elected.

LORD HASTINGS moved to leave out Clause 7. The noble Lord said: This clause, as can well be believed, is really a source of substantial grievance in Eastern England. The Government have determined that an individual who has profited by the Wheat Act shall not also be permitted to profit by the assistance now to be offered to the oat and barley grower. Of course there is substantial reason for that. It is not difficult to see that an argument can be advanced in favour of distributing as widely as possible over the country such assistance as Parliament can give. So far, so good, but in a later part of this Bill there is provided that which wheat growers have urged for a long period, an extension of the quantity of wheat to qualify for assistance. If there is one thing more important than another in agriculture it is to avoid the forcing of one form of production on farmers whose land is better suited to another form, and although I must be, and I naturally am, heartily in favour of the increased quota which will be eligible for assistance under the Wheat Act, I am exceedingly nervous that that which is to be attempted under Part I of the Bill, and that which is to be given under the extension of the quota, will have a contrary effect to that which is intended, unless the large-scale barley grower can be induced to remain in that particular form of production.

This Clause 7 definitely says to the barley grower on those wide areas of England which are so well suited to this crop: "You grow wheat." Looking at the matter from the standpoint of the landowner I feel very nervous. The proper balancing of agriculture is a matter to which all of us who have regard to those matters must give the greatest attention. We all of us know what has happened by the subsidisation of one form of production to the neglect of others. Take my own county. Not so many years ago dairying was a rarity; to-day we are one of the first dairying counties in England. Somebody else must have suffered from the fact; unquestionably they have. The same sort of thing has, of course, happened with regard to other forms of assistance, and it is going to happen now. Clause 7 is thoroughly bad from the standpoint of any individual who wishes to rebalance agriculture and prevent the cultivation of the wrong sort of crop.

That is the real argument. I cannot argue, and I would not argue, for any extension of the quantity of wheat available for assistance. I would not wish to argue against assistance being granted to the oat grower in Scotland or the barley grower in the less favoured parts of England, but what I am really frightened of is what I have already said, and that is why I have moved to leave out Clause 7. I would not like this Bill to pass into law without a word of warning having been uttered that the policy is wrong. However essential it may be from the financial standpoint, from the agricultural standpoint it is wholly wrong. Its effects will be seen at a later stage when further measures of fertilisation will be required by reason of the effects of the Government's present policy. The Government will see ultimately the consequences of their neglect to-day, and when that moment comes I shall have the thankless task of telling them, "I told you so." I wish to avoid that platitude by telling them now. That is why I move the deletion of this clause.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 7.—(Lord Hastings.)


The noble Lord has expressed this view on several occasions in this House. He does so because he comes from the Eastern part of this country, and he therefore expresses the common attitude adopted by those agriculturists who reside around him. One of the main objects of this Part of the Bill is to provide, as I have said, an assurance against low prices for those growers of barley and oats, particularly in Scotland and Wales and the North-West of England—Cumberland and Westmorland—who, owing to climatic conditions, cannot grow wheat at all or cannot get a satisfactory crop of wheat. I would suggest that the cereal policy of the Government must be regarded as a whole. In the Eastern Counties farmers are already obtaining considerable assistance under the Wheat Act, not to mention the Sugar Beet Subsidy, and the Bill will render that assistance still more valuable through the extension of the limit in the anticipated supply under Clause 13. I should point out to the noble Lord that, so far from the proposed subsidy being of no value to barley growers, it is estimated that in this year 1937 probably 300,000 acres of barley in England and Wales would be eligible, out of a probable total barley acreage of between 800,000 and 850,000 acres. That is, I think, a much larger acreage than the noble Lord contemplates.

It is of the utmost importance that, both against the possibility of a time of emergency and for good farm management, the Government should render assistance to those forms of cereal production upon which the farmer must rely to some considerable extent for feeding stuffs. I would not contend with the noble Lord upon that ground, but the burden of his argument is that the Government are not doing sufficient for the producer who, owing to the nature of the soil that he farms, is unable to produce, to any extent, any other crop than barley. I would again ask the noble Lord to review this portion of the Bill comprehensively and to see that, whereas the farmers of his part of the country have very greatly benefited from legislation passed during the last few years, there are other parts of the country which, as the noble Lord truly said, have not had equal benefits. This Bill is to give them that assistance which others have been able to enjoy in the production of wheat. It may be said by the noble Lord that we do not go far enough, but I think your Lordships will generally agree that this is a very advanced step, inasmuch as it will bring assistance in the form of a guarantee to those persons in Scotland and in the North-West of England that have not had the advantage of the assistance under the Wheat Act before.

I therefore hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment too far. This is a fundamental question that goes to the root of the Bill. I generally appreciate what the noble Lord has said, but this Bill is limited in its scope and extent, and my right honourable friend, in introducing the Bill in another place, made that declaration. It is to be hoped that if the present price of cereals is maintained as it has been during the course of the last few months, the pro- ducer will not suffer a heavy loss by the production of cereals and oats, and that therefore he will get his return more through the world market price than through any provision in this Bill. I hope that this statement that I have made will to some extent reinforce that made on the Second Reading.


I regret to say it, but I am left wholly without any satisfaction by the noble Earl's reply. In the first place, I would like to make it perfectly clear that when I addressed the House on the subject of the unbalancing of agriculture, I was in no sense representing the East Anglian view; I was representing the view of every practical agriculturist throughout the length and breadth of England and, I doubt not, of Scotland also. When I expressed regret that the large-scale barley grower should under this Bill receive no assistance I certainly was expressing a view not necessarily East Anglian, but a view which is shared along the coast of England from the North-East to the South. The noble Earl has held out the prospect of improvement being brought to the barley grower by reason of an improved world market, but the figures with which he substantiated my own remarks in respect of importations make it surely as clear as anything could be that the British barley grower is swamped by the unlimited importations which are coming into this country, and that, if his land is to be kept in proper cultivation, he is most urgently in need of a reasonable degree of protection and support.

The noble Earl referred to the benefits that were to be received, and have been received, under the Wheat Act. To-day wheat in the open market is selling at 44s. a quarter, and the Wheat Act is not going to bring any greater benefit at the present moment to the wheat grower than the market itself will give him. Then the noble Earl quoted some rather remarkable figures in respect of the anticipated number of barley growers who would stand to benefit under the Bill.




I apologise for the error, I should have said acres, though the acreage is of course represented in terms of barley growers. The noble Earl appears to forget that before any barley grower can apply—I do not say be eligible for but apply—for this assistance, which I think is so wrongly called a subsidy, his barley has to drop to a price which is 5d. less than 8s. per cwt. on the price of oats. His barley would be at a sore price indeed before he became desirous of claiming this assistance, and when he claims it it will be limited to £1 an acre. I do not want to depreciate anything that the Government are doing in this Bill—I am as grateful as anybody else—but I object fundamentally to its being put into this Bill that here is a subsidy for barley growers. There is nothing of the kind. I said on the Second Reading that all the barley grower will get out of this Bill is the sand thrown into his eyes, and I reiterate that statement. I do not propose to challenge a Division on this clause. I do not think I should, because I should really come up against Privilege in another place. But I have made my protest. I have done it with a purpose, and I shall not detain your Lordships any longer except to repeat that I am not satisfied with the noble Earl's reply.

On Question, Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Performance of administrative functions by Wheat Commission.

10.—(1) The Wheat Commission may perform on behalf of the appropriate Minister any such functions in connection with the administration of this Part of this Act as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, entrust to the Commission; but the Commission shall not be authorised by virtue of this subsection to pay any subsidy payment, or to exercise any of the powers of the Ministers or the appropriate Minister to make any order, regulations or rules.

(2) The appropriate Minister may, in accordance with directions of the Treasury, pay from time to thus to the Wheat Commission, out of moneys provided by Parliament, such sums as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine to be required for defraying the expenses properly incurred by the Commission in the performance of functions entrusted to them under this section.

(3) The reference in subsection (6) of Section ten of the Wheat Act, 1932, to the administrative expenses; of the Wheat Commission shall be construed as a reference to those expenses less the amount of any sums paid to the Commission under this section; but, save as aforesaid, any reference in that Act to moneys received by the Commission or to expenditure incurred by, or the administrative expenses of, the Commission, shall be construed as including a reference to sums paid to, or, as the case may be, to expenses incurred by, the Commission by virtue of this Part of this Act.

EARL PEEL had given Notice that he would move to leave out Clause 10. The noble Earl said: I put down an Amendment to leave out Clause 10 because there is a point on which I should like to get definite information from the Government. It affects the relations between the Wheat Commission and this new subsidy for oats and barley. I am sorry to call it a subsidy. I ought to call it something else, but for technical purposes I shall call it a subsidy. The point concerns the relations between the Wheat Commission and the duties suggested to be performed by the Wheat Commission under this Bill.

In order to make the matter quite clear, would your Lordships permit me to read a statement in another place by the Minister of Agriculture? Referring to Clause 10 (2), he said: Subsection (2) gives power to the appropriate Minister, with the approval of the Treasury, to make payments to the Wheat Commission to defray expenses incurred by the Commission in the performance of functions entrusted to them under the clause. That is for the obvious reason that if you allowed the cost of the oats and barley administration to fall upon them, you would be taking the course of asking them to pay something which the Government should pay. I ask your Lordships to pay particular attention to those words. In subsection (3) there is a provision in regard to the administrative expenses of the Commission. It is not the intention that the Wheat Commission should have to undertake the task of sending out the forms or receiving them back again. That will be done by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture in Scotland, and the expenses will be borne on the Votes of the Departments. But the clerical staff of the Wheat Commission may be of use to us as they have a Register of wheat growers, and they may also perform certain inspectorial functions in regard to the matter. It might be supposed from these references that the cost of the duties placed on the Wheat Commission by Part II of the Bill is to be paid out of the moneys provided by the Treasury. As I understand it—I am not sure that my version is correct—this is not so, and the Minister was referring only to special functions which may be laid on the Wheat Commission under Clause 10 of the Bill.

Rather a curious situation therefore arises. Under the Bill certain administrative duties must be undertaken by the Wheat Commission in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill when it becomes an Act. They will have various functions to perform. They first of all have got the unpleasant duty of not paying the wheat subsidy to any farmer who, according to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is misguided enough to elect for the oats and barley subsidy, and if they have so paid the money they will have to recover it. Not only that, but they have a whole range of duties forced upon them under the Bill. For instance, these lists are to be given of the farmers who have so elected. The Register of the Wheat Commission is by names rather than by farms, and there arises a difficulty. You have to translate the farms into farmers. You have to perform a number of rather difficult and technical duties which I need not go into, in order to be quite certain that the wheat subsidy is only paid to those persons who have not elected to have the other subsidy. In addition to that they perform other duties.

It will be necessary for the Wheat Commission, even when no payments are made and no certificates come up in the ordinary course, to assure themselves of the amount of wheat sold by farmers who have elected not to take the wheat subsidy. That casts upon them a considerable extra expense. I am not quarrelling with the decision of the Government, but they have decided that, as this new subsidy comes directly out of the taxes and not, as the wheat subsidy comes, out of the price of the flour produced by the millers and brought in by the importers, that duty is not to be performed by the Wheat Commission because they are not a body of civil servants like Government Departments, but occupy this rather interesting and separate statutory position. I am not questioning that decision at all. I am only saying that if duties—and I can assure your Lordships with positive knowledge that that will be so—are cast upon the Wheat Commission, they should be reimbursed out of the taxes for the duties they so perform.

The only argument I have ever heard for making them pay for the duties they perform is that under the Bill you extend the number of quarters eligible for subsidy, and more money therefore will go to the wheat farmers. Very likely that will be so, and probably, again, it will not be diminished to any very large extent—or Lord Hastings thinks not, any- how—by those farmers who wish to take the other subsidy. The distinction of course is this, that it must really be recognised that this subsidy for the barley and oats farmers comes from the taxes. The Wheat Fund comes from a totally separate and distinct source, and if more money is to be levied, and more money is therefore to be paid to the farmers by these present methods, there is no earthly reason why the expense of working this new subsidy should be paid out of the Wheat Fund. It is a question of principle. It amounts to this, that the Government are asking, if my interpretation is correct, that there should be a subsidy—or grant, if you like—made from the Wheat Fund to the taxes in order to perform these duties. See what a ridiculous position we are left in. Under Clause 10, if additional duties are called for from the Wheat Commission—and of course, as I say, the Wheat Commission is only too anxious to co-operate in every possible way, with the Ministry of Agriculture, its good friends, and with the Government—then a grant is made and they are reimbursed. That is under Clause 10. But under Clause 7, which casts certain duties on them, there is no reimbursement. Why there is this extraordinary distinction between Clause 7 and Clause 10 I fail to understand. I should like to see both things treated alike, because if the farmers' fund is not to be reimbursed and is to bear a burden because some farmers get more money under the new system, the same argument applies to the new duties. Anyhow, I submit they ought to be placed on the same footing.

I repeat that the Wheat Commission are perfectly ready to perform these duties, but if they are placed under duty by Act of Parliament to assist in the carrying out of this new form of subsidy for barley and oats, I suggest they should be reimbursed for their services, and that the cost should not fall on the Wheat Fund, not one penny of which comes out of the taxes. That is the whole point that I submit to your Lordships. I am going to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he will be good enough to tell us whether my interpretation is right. Perhaps I have misunderstood the Bill, and perhaps I am accusing the Treasury wrongly. I make no charge against the Ministry of Agriculture. I think I know where the pressure comes from. It may be I am entirely mistaken, and that the Treasury is not going to make any such invidious distinction, but is anxious that the Wheat Commission should be repaid for any services they have rendered or any expenses they have incurred in administering or assisting in administering a totally different subsidy.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 10.—(Earl Peel.)


I understand that the noble Earl, who has raised this matter as Chairman of the Wheat Commission, contends that extra work will be required in order to ensure that the grower with more than one farm does not get deficiency payments for a farm in respect of which he has opted for oats or barley. The Commission also think they will have extra duties in examining carefully any changes of occupation of farms during the year, in order to make sure whether or not deficiency payments for wheat grown on any such farm involved in a change of occupation are in order. That is quite correct. Extra duties are imposed upon the Wheat Commission under the Bill, but it has not been ascertained to what extent those functions and duties will be implemented by regulations. But I would point out that, as the result of the operation of the Bill, the Wheat Commission will in future be relieved of the necessity of dealing with a number of claims for comparatively small deficiency payments from those farmers to whom I made reference in the discussion on the last Amendment, who grow small quantities of wheat and much larger quantities of oats and barley and who will find it to their advantage to elect for oats and barley subsidy payments.

In consequence, the administrative expenses of the Commission will be reduced on that account, although I agree the reduction may not be very great. But the noble Earl will himself have realised the much greater advantage that will accrue to the growers, of wheat by raising the limit of the anticipated supply in respect of which deficiency payments may be made at the full rate from 27,000,000 cwts. to 36,000,000 cwts. The extent of the benefit to the wheat grower under that provision is of course considerable. I understand that the existing administrative expenses of the Wheat Commission only amount approximately to one halfpenny per cwt. of wheat.


That is because they are so economical. You cannot throw that in our teeth.


And any extra costs of administration arising through the alternative nature of the oats and barley subsidy and the wheat deficiency payment can only be a small proportion of the total expenses of the Commission, and can, therefore, have very little effect upon the amount received by growers of wheat. If as a result of the raising of the limit to 36,000,000 cwts. the wheat acreage increases 10 per cent, above the 1935 figure, which was the highest since the Wheat Act came into operation, the additional sum received by growers would be in the neighbourhood of £540,000 per annum on the average, assuming wheat prices fall as low as 35s. per quarter. The noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong, but I am given to understand that the total administrative expenses of the Wheat Commission amount to approximately £60,000 per annum. If the extra costs of administration amount to even as much as £3,000 a year, this is very small in relation to the total additional benefit that may accrue to growers through the operation of the Bill; in fact it is less than 1 per cent, of their possible gain. I would say to the noble Earl that this matter has been very fully and carefully considered by both the Agricultural Departments and the Treasury, and the Government regret that they cannot see their way to reimburse the Commission from the Exchequer for any additional expenses that may be incurred by them in the avoidance of payments under the Wheat Act to farmers who elect to receive oats and barley subsidies. The noble Earl has rightly said that this is a matter that has had to be laid before the Treasury, and I have given the Treasury view on the subject raised by the noble Earl.


The noble Earl has done his best to disguise the argument which my noble friend Lord Peel developed. He has informed us that the charge will be so small that really it is not worth bothering about, and that as growers will derive such infinitely greater benefit from the Bill than they will lose by virtue of this charge, the matter is hardly worth considering. But I would remind the noble Earl that they will not be the same growers, and I do not believe the oat and barley growers will derive benefit from this Bill. It is apparently the wheat grower who is going to pay. If he will explain how the wheat man gets the benefit from having the Wheat Commission charged with a certain expenditure in the operation of the oats and barley subsidy, well and good, but I did not derive that impression from what the noble Earl said.


Perhaps I might be allowed to inform the noble Lord that under this Bill the quantity of wheat which may qualify for the standard price of 45s. per quarter will be increased from six million to eight million quarters. Therefore, the wheat grower will benefit to this extent, that he will now receive a price of 45s. per quarter, whereas in past years the actual sum received by the farmer has been less than that figure.


I thank the noble Earl for that perfectly plain statement, but I would point out that in order that he should gain this advantage he is to be mulcted in the small sum to which my noble friend Earl Peel draws attention. The psychology of farmers is one which is understood by some but not by all in your Lordships' House. If they get it into their minds that the operation of this Bill is going in some way to depreciate the value of the Wheat Commission's remarkable work, there will be more trouble stored up for the Ministry of Agriculture in that way than in almost any other of which I can think. If the noble Earl can induce the Treasury between now and the Report stage to take some view different from that which he has expressed I think he would be doing a very good turn to the Ministry of Agriculture itself. I do not know whether my noble friend intends to divide the Committee—presumably he does not—but I would invite the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, to see what he can do with the Treasury between now and the Report stage.


I would like to say a word in reply to the noble Earl's state- ment. I always use very mild language in this House, otherwise I might say that his statement was almost scandalous and against good morals and good economy. What did he tell us? The Wheat Commission have conducted their affairs very successfully but now a grave charge is brought against them by the noble Earl. He says: "Your expenses of administration are only £60,000 a year." Generally, in administration, you are criticised if your expenses are large, but the charge brought by the noble Earl is that they are so small that the Commission can easily afford another £3,000 or £4,000.


I did not at all wish to give that impression. I merely wished to emphasise that the charges under this Bill would at the maximum amount to £3,000, whereas the total expenditure of the Wheat Commission is £60,000.


The noble Earl is renewing his error, it seems to me. I do not care whether it is £3,000 or £3. It is not the business of the Treasury to levy this charge on the Wheat Fund. The Government are going about saying how generously they are going to assist the farmers, and that they are going to give them a special subsidy. When it comes to the management of that subsidy they will not bear the charge themselves but say that a portion of that charge must be borne by the Wheat Fund which has nothing whatever to do with it. My objection is on principle and I am not concerned with whether the sum is small in relation to the administrative expenses of the Wheat Fund. It really seems as if we must increase them if we are charged with spending too little. It is a matter of principle. If these duties are to be carried out by the Wheat Commission then they ought to be reimbursed by the Treasury which is spending Government money whereas the Wheat Commission spends not Government money but money levied in another way.

I dare say that the Treasury do not like to see bodies levying money on which they would like to put their hands, but I do not think they ought to scrape off this £3,000 or £4,000 from a body like the Wheat Commission and then say: "Look how well we have administered this Act. We have not spent so much as we need have done, because we have charged something on the Wheat Fund." I hope that the noble Earl is not quite right in saying that necessarily there is going to be this great increase. He forgets that if he is going to make a very great success of the oats and barley subsidy a good many people will cease to grow wheat and will grow oats and barley. However that may be, although I am sorry I cannot get any satisfaction from the noble Earl, I do not want to go to a Division. But I would say to the noble Earl: "Try a fall with the Treasury over it." We all of us have fought the Treasury at times. If the noble Earl succeeds in getting money out of the Treasury he will have achieved a position in your Lordships' House which few noble Lords have achieved, and I hope that before the Report stage he will be able to give me some satisfaction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11:

Persons to and by whom payments, elections and applications may be made.

11. Any reference in the preceding provisions of this Part of this Act to the person who, at the beginning of the fourth day of June in any particular year was the occupier of a farm, shall be construed as including a reference to any person who, if any subsidy payment that might lawfully be made by reason of land comprised at that time in that farm having been under oats or under barley in that year were a debt which had then accrued due to the person who was then the occupier of the farm, would for the time being be entitled to claim that subsidy payment.

LORD HASTINGS moved to omit Clause 11. The noble Lord said: I move to omit this clause because I am quite unable to understand it. I have sought information in various quarters and I even went to the length of consulting a legal luminary in the matter. That legal luminary, alter looking at the clause for some little time, said: "If you want to know my private opinion the draftsman of that clause was fit to be certified." That is all the assistance I got. I have tried very hard to understand the clause, but I am not able to understand it, and therefore I propose that it be left out because I do not think it is proper that your Lordships should give assent to the inclusion in this Bill of a clause which it is not possible to understand. I appeal to the noble Earl to give an explanation in English as she is usually spoken so that we can clear our minds.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 11.—(Lord Hastings.)


I quite agree that at first sight this clause looks very obscure, but all it does is to provide for cases in which by reason of death or because of something to which the noble Lord alluded, certification for insanity, or because of bankruptcy, the occupier is unable to claim any subsidy payable. It puts in his shoes the person responsible for his affairs, thereby enabling the subsidy to be obtainable on behalf of the person who by reason of his disability is unable to make the claim himself.


The noble Earl has given us a very simple statement. Can he tell us why the clause does not say that?


Certainly I will not attempt to do so, having no legal qualifications.


Would the noble Earl think it unreasonable to try to induce those in authority to draft the clause in some different way and bring it up on Report in a form that can be understood? There will be a time when ordinary people living in the country will have to purchase copies of the Act and will have to interpret it. To their minds the clause conveys nothing at all as it stands. Surely it should not be very difficult to draft it in a form in which it can be understood. If the noble Earl could undertake to do that I am sure your Lordships' House would facilitate its passage on Report with gratitude.


If this clause has in time to be interpreted it will, of course, be interpreted by His Majesty's Judges and not by those unqualified to interpret legal language.

On Question, Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Amendments of 22 & 23 Geo. 5. c. 24]:

LORD CRANWORTH moved to insert the following new subsection: (1) Subsection (3) of Section two of the Wheat Act, 1932 (which subsection defines the expression 'standard price' for the purpose of that Act) shall have effect as if for the words 'ten shillings' there were substituted the words 'twelve shillings'; and the provisions of and the powers conferred by the proviso to that subsection upon the committee referred to therein and upon the Minister shall extend and apply to the standard price as re-defined by this subsection.

The noble Lord said: This is a substantial Amendment. If it is accepted the Government will take a few steps further down the road which they intend to tread if I understand them rightly, inasmuch as it will stop the drift from the land, and it will do at least something, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Addison, "to make farming pay." The present Minister somewhat paraphrased those words: he said "give a reasonable price to the farmer." I am just a little hopeful that this Amendment may be accepted, and for two reasons. The first is that when I mentioned this subject in the Second Reading debate the noble Earl passed it by, I thought, with a pleased smile, but at all events he passed it by with silence, and I have always heard that silence constitutes consent. The second reason is that this Amendment would cost the Treasury nothing at all, not a penny, and therefore no question of Privilege or Financial Resolutions need be considered by your Lordships. This Amendment can be considered purely on its merits, and I venture to suggest to your Lordships that its merits are exactly the same as those of the original measure.

Of all the agricultural measures that have been brought in by this and the last Government, the Wheat Act is the only one which has been one hundred per cent. successful. When that Wheat Act was brought in, the difference between the standard price and the actual price of wheat was considerably less than the difference between the new standard price and the price that wheat stands at now. As my noble friend Lord Hastings pointed out just now, the price of wheat is at least 44s. a quarter, the standard price being 45s. The actual price has been at least 44s. and has been considerably over 45s., and there is good reason to fear, or think, or hope, as the case may be, that that price of 44s. is likely in the near future to rise, and possibly rise considerably. Drought has had its say, and what is still more important is the question of soil erosion in the great wheat-bearing areas, which makes it extremely likely that the price will rise to at least 50s. and even to 55s.

It is desirable to grow wheat in this country, and more than ever desirable if other countries are finding a difficulty in exporting wheat. I saw in yesterday's paper that America will have no wheat to export this year, and other countries are getting short of wheat. It is eminently desirable, not only from the point of view of the farmer, not only from the point of view of some security in wartime, but from all points of view, that we should grow more wheat. There is presumably another reason why this Act originally came in, and that was the cost of production. I think it is quite indisputable, and I feel that the noble Earl will agree with me, that the cost of production of wheat has gone up, since the Wheat Act came in, by a sum comparable to that sum to which I propose that the standard price should be raised. Quite clearly, if this Wheat Act can be amended in the way in which it is already amended in the Bill, it can also be amended in the way in which I suggest it shall be amended. As the noble Earl knows very well, the whole of the wheat-growing areas, and also most of the areas that do not grow wheat, have pressed that the standard price should be raised. I believe that this Amendment would give more satisfaction than any other Amendment that has been put down, and I beg, with the greatest confidence and the greatest hope, to move it.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 42, at the beginning, insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Cranworth.)


I desire to support my noble friend Lord Cranworth in this Amendment as strongly as I possibly can, more particularly because of the last reason that he gave. Means have to be found to meet the ever-increasing costs of production. Fertilisers are costing more, labour is costing more, and a figure which was applicable a few years ago is no longer applicable and no longer produces any profit to the man who draws it from the Wheat Commission. This Amendment would give a great deal of hope to the labouring population. They realise, as we all do, that the costs of production which are now falling upon the farmer have got to a point at which he cannot meet them, and they would be as anxious as we are that something should be done to enable him to meet them. My noble friend has pointed out that this Amendment can be accepted without the cost of a penny to the State or to the taxpayer. It can be accepted without imposing any levies or charges greater than, or indeed as great as, were imposed when the original fixation of price was arranged. The world price of wheat to-day makes that possible. There is nothing in Statute, by-law or Order in Council which debars the Wheat Commission itself from revising its figure, and, of course, Parliament has the power to move in this matter whenever it pleases. There does not seem to me to be any sound reason why this Amendment should not be accepted. I am not going to assume that the noble Earl is not going to accept it, but if he does not I am going to urge my noble friend to go to a Division, so that the Committee may decide. I beg to support my noble friend.


I am sure that both the noble Lords who have spoken will remember the Committee, composed of a few persons under Sir John Beale, which was called the Standard Price Committee and which reported in June, 1935. By that date they had arrived at a definite conclusion that it was undesirable at that time to make any alteration in the standard price. But they added that there were still unstable factors in the agricultural situation, and they suggested that a similar inquiry might be desirable after a further period. The Wheat Commission have recently made a number of suggestions for minor amendments to the Wheat Act. One of these suggestions is that provision should be made that at some future date the question of the standard price should be reviewed by a Standard Price Committee similar to that of 1935, and that that Committee should start its work in 1938, and that the Minister should have power, subject to the approval of Parliament, to alter the standard price in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.

It is hoped to introduce a Bill amending the Wheat Act next Session. In this connection the proposal for a triennial review of the standard price is under consideration. I hope that with that announcement noble Lords will see that it is the better way in which to approach the subject in view of the manner in which it was approached previously. Owing to lack of Parliamentary time, it was impossible this Session to bring forward a Bill to amend the Wheat Act. That Bill will be brought forward next Session, and therefore the noble Lord will not at this stage of the Bill, I hope, press the Amendment.


I thank the noble Earl very much for his most interesting statement. I wish to get it quite clear in my mind. Is it to this effect, that next Session, or next year, it is intended that a Bill will be introduced which will set up a Committee which shall definitely review the standard price once every three years? Have I got it right?


The intention is to bring in a Bill to make certain Amendments to the Wheat Act, and one of the suggestions of the Wheat Commission is that the setting up of a Standard Price Committee should be included, as an instruction to the Minister, in the Bill, and that is a matter which would be under consideration when the whole subject of amendment of the Wheat Act came under review.


Did the noble Earl say under "favourable" consideration?


It is a recommendation of the Wheat Commission, and therefore it will receive from my right honourable friend that regard to which any recommendation from that body would be entitled.


The noble Earl guarded himself with deep care, and I do not blame him. I welcome the hope, the good hope, of new legislation on those lines, and if my noble friend will agree with me I shall be content to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM moved, after Clause 13, to insert the following clause:

Application of Part II to Northern Ireland.

". The preceding provisions of this Part of this Act shall, in the application thereof to Northern Ireland, have effect as if for any reference in those provisions to the fourth day of June there were substituted a reference to the first day of June."

The noble Earl said: This is little more than a drafting Amendment, and its purpose has already been explained in discussion.

Amendment moved— After Clause 13 insert the said new clause. —(The Earl of Feversham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 14:

Exchequer grants for defraying land drainage expenses in England and Wales.

(2) The drainage authorities to which this section applies are all drainage authorities as defined by Section eighty-one of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, except catchment boards, and except the council of any county borough which has not established an agricultural committee constituted in accordance with a scheme approved by the Minister.

LORD CRANWORTH moved, at the beginning of subsection (2), after "The drainage authorities," to insert "including those in process of absorption into catchment boards." The noble Lord said: This is really little more than a drafting Amendment, I think. The intention of it is this. I understand that certain catchment boards are shortly to absorb certain internal drainage boards. These internal drainage boards will have the benefit of this Part of the Bill, but will lose that benefit if they are absorbed, and the intention is that they shall not lose that benefit by merely an act of administration.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 39, after ("authorities") insert the said words.—(Lord Cranworth.)


I would like to say one word in favour of this Amendment, having had experience of the Thames for so long a time. Under Clause 14, I understand, the catchment boards are going to be excluded from any benefits under the Bill which would be extended to internal drainage boards. I think the tendency in the future will be for catchment boards to take over the duties of the internal drainage boards. Of course the care of the main river, into which all the water has to come on its way to the sea, is the important feature of the system, and it is very inconvenient that internal drainage boards should have the control over certain tributaries. They might let water down or keep it back, and those responsible for the prevention of floods would find it very difficult to carry out their duties unless they had some control. That has been experienced in the Lea where there are no internal drainage boards at all, and the question is whether under Clause 14 the catchment board of the Lea will be deprived of the benefits which they would have received supposing there had been internal drainage boards. I hope it will be possible to introduce words to that effect.

In the case of the Thames we had this experience, that at flood time as much as 1,000,000,000 gallons more water from the River Wey had to be dealt with. I said: "What are you going to do about this? We shall have to spend more money to get this water into the sea." It cost £300,000. That money has been spent, and I think wisely spent, but in this particular instance the engineer for the Wey scheme and the engineer for the Thames scheme was one and the same person, and therefore we could work together and prevent water coming into the Thames too soon. The same thing is going, I think, to happen in the case of the Thames. The internal drainage boards will be absorbed by the catchment board, and I think it would be a discouragement to the catchment board if they are going to lose any benefit which might have accrued to them had the internal drainage boards been continued. I do not tie myself to the particular words of this Amendment, but I hope that the Minister will be able to meet this case, because it would be one of hardship.


I would like to assure noble Lords quite definitely that the catchment boards will be eligible to receive the grants that are now proposed in their capacity as internal drainage boards, but I should perhaps, in view of the speech of Lord Desborough, make one distinction between that general statement and the position, as I understand it, with regard to the River Thames catchment area, because—the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—I understand that the Conservancy, which is the catchment board for the area, has applied to the Ministry for the confirmation of a scheme, prepared by them under the Land Drainage Act, for the abolition of the internal drainage boards within that area. But concurrently with this proposal, they have also applied to the Ministry for the addition to the main river under their jurisdiction of a large number of other watercourses, including those now within the districts of the internal drainage boards proposed to be abolished. I gather that these two applications have received a certain degree of opposition, and they are at present sub judice.


With regard to the Thames there is only one dissentient. All the rest have agreed.


I am glad to hear that. But in the event of the proposals being ultimately approved, as they have to be approved, by the Minister, the catchment board would then be in a position to apply for grants under the provisions of the Land Drainage Act, which is quite independent of the present Bill, which in itself does not affect catchment boards and only makes grants available to lesser drainage authorities.


I thank the noble Earl, and naturally I accept his assurance and beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15:

Exchequer grants towards drainage expenditure in Scotland.

15. Without prejudice to any other power exercisable by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, that Department may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, make grants of such amounts and subject to such conditions as the Treasury may from time to time approve to owners or occupiers of agriculture land in Scotland in respect of expenditure on the drainage thereof.

LORD CRANWORTH moved to leave out "Department of Agriculture for Scotland, that Department" and to insert "Minister, he." The noble Lord said: The purport of this Amendment will be quite obvious to your Lordships. It is not intended for one moment to take away from the happy land of Scotland what they have got, but I do object a little to the attitude of the Government, who appear rather to like treating agriculture like a school treat, where they say to a little boy: "You cannot have a second bun because the little girl has not had a slice of cake yet." I rather deprecate that. But on the grounds of simple logic also I want to move this Amendment. When we press, as we have pressed all along, that field draining, ditching and pipe draining should be included in the Bill, the answer of the noble Earl has been: "One step at a time. You cannot have that, because you must get the water off by the internal drainage boards. The internal drainage boards will clear the water off, and then will be the time for the ditches to have our attention." When you come to Scotland the Government say: "You shall have the land drains because you have not got an internal drainage board." It seems to me one of the most illogical arguments I have ever heard, and I really do press that England should have the advantage that accrues to the happier land of Scotland.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 16, leave out from ("the") to ("may") in line 17, and insert ("Minister, he").—(Lord Cranworth.)


I realised when this Amendment was put down that the purpose of it was not to limit the drainage activities in Scotland but to apply those activities in the matter of field drainage to this country. I referred at considerable length to this in my Second Reading speech. There is no question of our not wishing to provide facilities for drainage, as the noble Lord suggested. It is solely that at present we have readied a stage where the activities undertaken by the catchment boards have been to some extent successful in clearing our main watercourses. I think it would be contrary to the accepted laws of land drainage, and possibly highly dangerous, to risk bringing a lot of extra water into the minor watercourses before they are in a position to receive it. That would be the situation that would come about if extensive field drainage were done. It is for this reason that the Government have decided to encourage minor arterial drainage work as the obvious second step to the clearance of the main rivers, which is now being dealt with by the catchment boards. When that second step has been successfully undertaken, the question of assistance being given to field drainage would naturally arise.


The noble Earl has made a very plausible reply, which may be all right as far as those large areas of England are concerned which are fairly flat in character, where the discharge of a large amount of new water might, as he says, cause extensive flooding. But I would remind him that there are in England and in Wales very large tracts of country which do not materially differ from Scotland, inasmuch as the streams are very rapid and precipitous in character and can quite easily carry away any extra water thrown into them. These streams often drain large expanses of boggy hillside, and I must say it seems to me to be hardly reasonable to exclude these large areas, simply because other areas could not with safety have these measures applied to them. Might I respectfully suggest that it would be to the advantage of agriculture in these areas if applications for grants were to be considered and met where the Ministry were satisfied that this discharge of extra water would not in any way be likely to cause flooding? Because I do think that to refuse these parts of England, which are very little different from Scotland in their character, assistance which has certainly been of very great help to Scotland is hardly reasonable, and I do think it would bear rather hardly upon the English farmer, who feels a quite justifiable grievance.


The noble Earl will remember that on the Second Reading I expressed some surprise that in no part of Part III was the amount of the grants designated. I had rather hoped that the noble Earl would have been able to put down an Amendment for this stage touching on that matter. I would ask him to consider before we get to the Report stage whether it would not be better to try to include in the Bill itself some kind of indication of the amount of the grants that are likely to be payable to drainage authorities when they apply for them. As I said on the Second Reading, those amounts cannot even be discovered by reference to the Financial Resolution passed in another place. You have to refer to the Memorandum introducing the Financial Resolution, which of course is not in the ordinary way available to the public.

But more particularly relevant to the matter now in hand is the point I desire to touch upon now. There will be under this Part of the Bill a certain amount of intermediate drainage done, at the expense partly of the ratepayer and partly of the taxpayer. Under this Bill I am hoping that a great deal will be done, but I fear that labour difficulties will prevent as much being done as we should have hoped. But there is no provision made in this Part of the Bill for any form of record being kept of the work which is going to be done. It has occurred to several of us, discussing this very important matter, that the absence of a record might have the most disastrous effect later, if and when the State determines to extend its drainage operations to the fields themselves. The noble Earl will be with me when I remind him that, just as all these interim streams fall into rivers and can, by reason of then-size, be discovered, so also must all field drains, culverts, and the like fall into the kind of drain or stream that is to be dealt with under this particular Part of the Bill. But these culverts and outfalls are not so easily discoverable as are those that fall into rivers dealt with by the catchment boards.

There are some of us who regard it as of the greatest importance that in any work of this kind undertaken by public money a record should be kept of the outfalls in the field drains which come into these interim drainage arrangements. I am not proposing, naturally, that this should be included in the measure, but I hope the noble Earl will take note of it because, in administrative regulation, that kind of thing can be provided for, and it would be most unfortunate if, by reason of forgetfulness or haphazard management, that essential factor was lost sight of. I hope greatly that arrangements will be made for plans of all work done under this Part of the Bill to be kept in the proper place where they will be available at a later stage. That may be thought not to be too relevant to the Amendment brought forward by my noble friend, and I admit it is not, but I must make my excuses, because it was the only opportunity I had of referring to a matter which, it will be agreed, is of some public importance.

With regard to this Amendment my noble friend has made out a case, and I would remind the noble Earl that there is no reference in the Bill to the limit of grants available, so that it would be very difficult for Privilege to be claimed. There is no mention of a sum or a ratio, and therefore it would be extraordinarily difficult to claim Privilege if the House decided to agree to my noble friend's Amendment to insist that field drainage should be applied to England as also to Scotland. But it will be recognised clearly that the cost would be very great, and possibly on that ground my noble friend will not press his Amendment. I would, however, remind the noble Earl and the Government generally that by allowing Clause 15 to pass with their authority into the law of the land, they have established a precedent for the same kind of favour being extended to England in a short space of time, from which they will be unable to get away. The last thing an Englishman would feel would be jealousy of Scotland, but there is a feeling south of the Border that eventually we should be allowed to have some, at least, of the good things extended to our brothers on the other side of the Tweed. It is a very useful precedent for those of us who live in England, and we shall not forget it.


I am not very much convinced by the logic of the noble Earl, because he repeated what he said before, but I feel, with my noble friend Lord Hastings, that this is a matter of money. May I make this suggestion? I understood that the noble Earl agreed to have a pow-wow with the Treasury on another matter. Perhaps he will have a private talk with them on this point, too, and see how soon he will have the money available for this particular Amendment.


I should have said, with reference to the speech of my noble friend Lord Mansfield, that I fully appreciate that there are parts of England which correspond in topographical lay-out to Scotland, which are not enclosed, and where drainage that could not be said to be field drainage as such could be effected as a minor drainage operation under the lesser drainage authorities. I am given to understand that it is being considered whether the grants provided within the framework of this Bill could be extended to that particular kind of work. That would be limited, if it was found possible, to unenclosed spaces of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Hastings has taken this opportunity of raising the point he brought forward. I would remind the noble Lord that the activities undertaken by the lesser drainage authorities will be on the surface and they will be open. There will not be, so far as I am aware, any underground drainage operations. Therefore, the necessity for records would not be so great as it would be in the case of field drainage. At the same time, I am given to understand that maps are collected and registered at the appropriate place of the lesser drainage authority, and these maps, if they should prove to be of any use or service, can be referred to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.

Clause 18:

Veterinary inspectors.

18—(1) As from the commencement of this Part of this Act, the functions of veterinary inspectors in Great Britain under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1894 to 1935, and any enactments relating to milk or to dairies, and the functions of veterinary inspectors in England and veterinary officers in Scotland under any arrangements made by virtue of Section nine of the Milk Act, 1934, shall, in accordance with directions given by the Minister, be discharged by veterinary inspectors appointed for the purpose by him under Section five of the Board of Agriculture Act, 1889, and the provisions of any enactment relating to such functions shall have effect accordingly.

LORD CRANWORTH moved to insert at the end of subsection (1): The Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture shall supervise and direct such veterinary inspectors in the discharge of their duties and shall be responsible directly to the Minister in relation thereto. The noble Lord said: This Amendment was put down by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe and myself for slightly different reasons. The main reason that induced the noble Viscount to put it down was that he considers it would give a greater feeling of superiority to the Chief Veterinary Officer. Indeed, he expresses the opinion that the service generally suffers to a certain extent from a slight inferiority complex, and he considers it would be to the great advantage of the profession, and of all their clients, if this procedure were followed. I understand it is the same procedure as takes place in the Ministry of Health. I put my name to the Amendment for a different reason—for a reason I indicated during the Second Reading. I regard this particular Part of the Bill with deadly fear. I am afraid of scientific cranks, and I look with some hope to the Minister to stand as a bulwark between me and such cranks. For these two reasons I beg to move this Amendment, which I think is not unimportant.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 10, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Cranworth.)


This Amendment was moved in another place and much Parliamentary time was devoted to the discussion of it. The Amendment raises two issues. It raises, first, the general question as to whether it is proper for Parliament to give statutory instructions to a Minister with regard to the administrative arrangements which he makes within his Department for carrying out efficiently the duties for which he is responsible to Parliament. Secondly, it raises the question whether it is, in fact, a desirable administrative arrangement that the Chief Veterinary Officer should report directly to the Minister in relation to the duties of the veterinary inspectors appointed to the centralised veterinary service.

With regard to the first point, the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, on behalf of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, has referred to the practice that is followed at the Ministry of Health, but I would remind the noble Lord that there is no statutory provision that compels the Minister of Health to appoint a Chief Medical Officer of Health and says that the Chief Medical Officer of Health has to have direct access to the Minister. That is done in accordance with administrative convenience and at the wish of the Minister himself. I believe, without going at any length into the whole constitutional question, your Lordships will appreciate that there is not, as far as I know, any precedent for such a provision being included in any Statute, and I would suggest on those grounds that the noble Lord should not press his Amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, has referred to the desire on his part that the Permanent Secretary should, administratively, be responsible for the activities of the Central Veterinary Service to act, as he terms it, as a check upon their activities. That is a matter of opinion, and I would not wish to enlarge upon it to any great extent at this stage; but I would say that, from the administrative angle, it is thought that all work undertaken by a Government Department must be administered in the team spirit, and it is the Permanent Secretary who is responsible from year to year for the efficient administration of his Department. In his turn he is responsible to the Minister. It would be quite contrary to precedent for the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture to be responsible for other than his own veterinary work and for that of the staff under him. The normal way in which these things are done is by conference, and wherever representation to the Minister was necessary, there is no doubt whatever that the Chief Veterinary Officer would have access to him at any time to raise a point for which he was responsible. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.


I should like to thank the noble Earl for his explanation. To me he throws a new light, and I have no doubt a correct light, on the procedure.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19:

Special payments in connection until the eradication of bovine tuberculosis.

(3) The Minister shall, as soon as may be after any arrangements made by him have been approved for the purposes of this section by the Treasury, lay particulars of the arrangements before Parliament.

LORD SEMPILL moved to add to subsection (3): and if either House of Parliament within the next twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such particulars are laid before it resolves that the arrangements be annulled, the arrangements shall forthwith be void, but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder or to the making of new arrangements The noble Lord said: In subsection (3) it is provided that the Minister is required to lay upon the Table of each House particulars of the arrangements made by him under subsection (1) and approved by the Treasury for payment to the owners of herds of sums for securing that those herds will be free from tuberculosis. Subsection (3), however, does not provide that either House, if it is not satisfied with these arrangements, has any power of control. I submit to your Lordships that it is desirable that Parliament should retain in its own hands the power to veto arrangements of which it does not approve, and the proposed Amendment provides this power in common form by the usual procedure of a Resolution. I would also remind your Lordships that in another place a similar addition was made to subsection (4) of Clause 21. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 23, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Sempill.)


The proposal of the subsection is for the laying on the Table of particulars of arrangements, and this follows the procedure adopted under the provisions of Section 9, subsection (3), of the Milk Act of 1934. This clause as a whole is a re-enactment of Section 9 of that Act, with an extension of objects mentioned in subsection (1), enabling the Ministers to make grants in respect of beef herds, and also to remove the limit of financial expenditure. I would remind your Lordships that you did not consider the negative Resolution procedure necessary when making the original provision under the 1934 Act, and since this is little more than a re-enactment of those provisions it is difficult to see why your Lordships' House should wish to alter the procedure from that which was then decided upon. I would suggest to the noble Lord who has moved the Amendment that for those reasons he should not press it.


This matter may have been omitted from the previous Act, but I think Parliament ought to scrutinise very carefully every extension of absolutism of this kind. After all, there can be no harm in Parliament having a right to scrutinise these regulations, and to annul them if it seems to Parliament that they are wrong. There should be only one supreme power in this country, and that is the King and Parliament. I always view with the very greatest suspicion these arrangements that have to be tabled but do not have to be approved or disapproved. One can never tell how far, by this simple method of extension, they may be carried.


I also should like to support this Amendment. Part IV of this Bill is not going to be too easy for the Government to work. The noble Earl just now spoke of team work, but by reason of Part IV an end is to be put to the team work which has hitherto been carried on by county councils. Naturally all county councils are going to do their best for both parties, and to see that this is worked properly. At the same time, I think that Parliament should be able to retain the power of veto, and that the county councils should be able to submit to Parliament any objections which they may have to any proposed arrangements.


I should like to ask what is the use of laying these particulars before Parliament if Parliament is to have no say in the matter and if there is no provision for Parliament to amend or refuse assent if it thinks fit? It is quite a usual thing to have such a provision as that when particulars are laid before Parliament and there seems no reason why that custom should not be followed in this Bill.


This is little more than a re-enactment of the Milk Act, and I should have thought that it was sufficient if, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, there were opportunities of examining the arrangements when they are laid before Parliament. There will be ample opportunity by such a procedure to bring any points of criticism before the respective Ministers and to register dissent from the proposals. The Minister, assuming, as one does assume, that he is a reasonable person, would naturally take those representations fully into account. This is an instance where by introducing the procedure of Resolution we should be increasing the already very heavy burden that there is upon your Lordships' House. I would point out to your Lordships that Clause 19 (3) provides: The Minister shall, as soon as may be after any arrangements made by him have been approved for the purposes of this section by the Treasury, lay particulars of the arrangements before Parliament. I hope that will be sufficient to satisfy the noble Lord.


May I point out to the noble Earl that this is the subsection to which I object? What is the purpose of laying particulars before Parliament if we are not allowed to say whether we approve them or not in the ordinary manner set forth in almost every Act under which a Minister has to lay regulations before Parliament before they become effective? The fact that that is not done under the Milk Act does not mean that it is not necessary under this measure.


May I say that if registering dissent merely means interviewing the Minister I have found that Ministers are very hard to persuade?


I think the answer is that there can be general discussion upon matters laid by the Minister before Parliament. If procedure by Resolution is not provided for, that does not necessarily mean that discussion is vetoed. However, if it is the wish of your Lordships that in this particular instance the procedure should be extended, I shall be only too glad to refer the matter again to my right honourable friend and bring it up again at a later stage.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clauses 20 and 21 agreed to.

Clause 22:

Eradication areas and attested areas.

22. The powers of the Minister under Section twenty-two of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, shall include power to make orders—

THE EARL OF GLASGOW moved, after "power" ["power to make orders"] to insert "after consultation with the local authority of the area." The noble Earl said: This is a guarding Amendment. We hope by a future Amendment very shortly to get the noble Earl to agree that the Minister should take over the whole of the services in connection with diseases of animals. If that is done this Amendment will not be necessary. Nevertheless in my opinion it is a good Amendment because I think the Minister should consult with interested local authorities before making orders which may have a very serious effect on administration in the locality and on the industry in the area of the local authority. There may be a good many orders—slaughtering orders, restriction of movement orders and compensation orders and orders dealing with various things. It seems to be only reasonable that there should be some arrangement by which local authorities should have their rights in this matter protected, and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to accept this amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 29, after ("power") insert ("after consultation with the local authority of the area.").—(The Earl of Glasgow.)


I should like to support this Amendment rather strongly, because I have a feeling that this Part of the Bill is likely to lead to a lot of friction between local authorities and the Minister. This Amendment will do a good deal, I think, to stop that friction and help in the easy working of the Act. I hope that it will be accepted.


I should like to support all that has been said on this Amendment. I do believe that it would help very considerably towards the easier working of the Act and that there would be considerably less friction if consultation took place. Consultation, after all, does not mean that the veterinary authorities must take the advice of the local authorities; it merely means that there shall be a chance of ventilating the question and that certain matters will not be overlooked.


I fully appreciate the importance that noble Lords who have spoken on this Amendment attach to consultation with local authorities before any steps are taken to declare an area for the purposes of Clause 22. The fullest consultation will have to take place with producers, and, indeed, with the local authorities concerned. I would remind your Lordships that my right honourable friend gave an explicit assurance on this matter in another place that he would, before making any arrangements, consult in every case with the local authorities. I can only repeat to your Lordships that assurance. I would like also to remind your Lordships that it is not only the local authorities that should be consulted. There are other bodies who will equally need to be consulted and whose advice will be invaluable in the inauguration of this central service. There are producers and a long list of other people. In view of that fact I suggest to your Lordships that it would be more satisfactory if you would accept the assurance given by the Minister that consultation will take place and not insert this Amendment in the Bill.


I thank the noble Earl for what he has said, but I really cannot see why this Amendment should not be inserted. It would do no harm. This is the first occasion on which I have moved an Amendment in your Lordships' House and I would like to press it to a Division, but I will not.


May I say one word in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow? I went through exactly the same mental process as that through which I think he has been going—namely, of feeling that this was an eminently reasonable Amendment. I do not think, however, that it is quite as simple a matter as appears on the Paper. As the noble Earl will appreciate, there are an immense number of cases in which, not only in regard to agriculture, diseases of animals and the like, the State and local authorities are working together over a common field. I am advised that although in all those cases consultation, as my noble friend has said, also in fact takes place, yet in none of those Acts, as far as I know, do these words in terms appear. Therefore it is felt by those who are responsible for advising on these matters, and who, indeed, are responsible for keeping the general administration of the country in order, that if these words, which, on the face of them, appear eminently reasonable, were inserted here, it would have a rather uncertain and unsettling effect upon a great many other Statutes which I do not profess at the moment to have present to my mind.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clauses 23 and 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Superannuation rights of veterinary inspectors]:


This is drafting.

Amendment moved—

Page 17, line 14, at end insert: ("(a) the expression 'veterinary inspector' includes a person who, immediately before the commencement of this Part of this Act, was a veterinary officer in Scotland;".—(The Earl of Feversham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 26 to 31 agreed to.

Clause 32:

Application to Scotland.

32. In the application of this Act to Scotland—

LORD ROWALLAN moved to insert the following new paragraph: (d) Section eighteen shall be read and construed as if alter the words 'this Part of this Act' there were inserted the words 'the functions of the local authorities under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1894 to 1935, shall be transferred to the Minister and' and as if the words 'and any enactments relating to milk or to dairies, and the functions of veterinary inspectors in England and veterinary officers in Scotland under any arrangements made by virtue of Section nine of the Milk Act, 1934' were omitted.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is confined entirely to the application clause to Scotland. I have no doubt that there are those who feel that Scotland is getting all the plums under agricultural legislation at the present time, that this is another plum that she is receiving, and also that perhaps some concessions should be given to England. I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that under this Bill the three duties of the local authorities under the Diseases of Animals Act are taken over by the Central Veterinary Service; that is to say, the routine veterinary inspection of dairy herds under the Milk and Dairies Legislation; tuberculin testing and veterinary inspection under the Milk (Special Designations) Order of the Department of Health for Scotland; and diagnostic inquiries into the various scheduled diseases, including tuberculosis. These are the three chief veterinary duties of the local authorities at the present time, and these are being taken away.

The contention of the noble Lord who supports me in this matter, of myself, and also of the County Councils' Association of Scotland, is that if these three main portions of the duties of the local authorities are to be taken away, there is no logical reason for leaving the local authorities with certain duties which they have to undertake and for the expense of which they are responsible but over which they feel that they have no control whatsoever. In other words, the control is taken out of their hands but the responsibility and expenditure are theirs. The first of these is the publication of the orders of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. There are a great number of orders, and they are likely to be very greatly increased, I should imagine, under the new Bill. Then there is the direction of the work of inspectors of the local authorities—that is, mainly, of the police—in giving effect to the various orders. That remains one of the duties of the local authorities. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this part of their duties seems to give to a junior inspector of the Department of Agriculture the right to give orders to the chief constable of the county. I should be very glad to hear that that is not the case, but it certainly seems to be so under this Bill as it stands.

Then there are also the arrangements for the issue of licences for the holding of livestock markets in certain infected areas and of special markets for imported animals; for the issue of movement licences for animals in scheduled areas; for the enforcement and supervision of the orders relating to the paving of livestock markets; and for the cleansing and disinfection of such markets and of railway and road vehicles used for animals, the dipping of sheep for sheep scab, and other preventive disease orders. Under this new régime no executive duties are to be left to the counties at all. They are to have no control; they are merely to be used as billposters and charwomen. I submit that it is causing them difficulty to see why, when so much has been taken away in the interests, admittedly, of unification and co-ordination, they should be left with these duties, which could easily be dispensed with or administered from some other source. Admittedly the services of the police are necessary, but there is no reason why certain arrangements should not be come to with county councils for the services of the police, which are given in many other directions and on many other occasions. I submit that this Amendment should receive your support and that you should see your way to concede the unanimous desire of the county councils of Scotland that they should be relieved of this burden of having to pay and undertake responsibilities over which they have no control whatsoever. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 30, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Rowallan.)


I should like to add a very few words to what the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, has so well put. In Scotland, as I said on the Second Reading and as I think is common ground, we have built up a very efficient health service on the keenness and enthusiasm of the personnel of the health service of the various counties, which has a very high standard. These men are going to find their whole organisation torn in half: that one part of their duties is taken away and centred in officers of the Central Government, and yet that other persons in their employment are at the orders of these officers. You may not perhaps find that a junior veterinary surgeon will give orders to a chief constable, but you will find other anomalies. Take the case of tuberculosis, which was mentioned the other night. The Chief Medical Officer ascertains that it is bovine tuberculosis through his own staff, through his bacteriologist. He then communicates with the Minister's officer, the veterinary surgeon, who has to set to work to chase down the cow which is responsible for that tuberculosis. The veterinary surgeon can only do that, as the Bill stands, through the servants of the local authority, and if they fail, his expressions of disappointment, which may be very severe, are made of course to the servants of the local authority. You get an impossible situation. That is, I submit, a very strong point. People should not have responsibility when they have not got control. That is the feeling of the local authorities.

There is one other point. It is common ground that what I have said about the health services of Scotland is true, and also that their organisation is going to be rudely disturbed by the passage of this Bill. But it is claimed that that is because other parts of the country are not so far advanced and have to be brought up to a standard. The position remains, in fact, that the health services of Scotland are going to be the catspaw to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. I hope the noble Earl will give very grave consideration in his reply to our feelings about the matter. I do not know whether the noble Lord is going to press this Amendment to a Division or not. If he does, I shall certainly support him, and I hope most of your Lordships will do so. But if he is not going to press it to a Division and if we have got to accept the position, then what I have to say for the local authorities in Scotland is this: If the object of the Government is ultimately to take over the administration of the Diseases of Animals Acts; if it is also the determined intention of the Government to put all these veterinary health services on such a basis that they are going to raise the standard not only to what it is in Scotland, to-day, but to carry the thing to even greater heights, such as we hope to attain under our own scheme in Scotland; then, as true partners, we are ready to make the sacrifice. But if our health services are going to be shattered in order to ginger up other people to a standard which is under our own standard, then it is not good enough, and you are asking us to make a sacrifice which we ought not to be asked to make.


The noble Lord who moved this Amendment has, I understand, two objects. The first is to transfer to the Minister not only the functions of veterinary inspectors of local authorities under the Diseases of Animals Acts, but also other functions of the local authorities under those Acts. The second is to provide that the existing functions of veterinary inspectors and veterinary officers in Scotland under any of the enactments relating to milk or to dairies, and under any arrangements made under Section 9 of the Milk Act, 1934, shall continue to be administered in Scotland as they are at present; that is, by the local authorities.

As regards the first object, the noble Lord is well aware that the Diseases of Animals Acts impose upon local authorities not only the duties of a veterinary character arising under the Acts and various orders of the Minister, but also the numerous other duties of an administrative and executive character which are indispensable to the proper administration of the Acts. In other words, the Acts necessitate not only the examination of cattle by professional veterinary officers, with the object of determining the existence or otherwise of disease, but also the consequential action of an executive character required to control and eradicate disease, and to administer and enforce the various preventive measures. I will not enumerate what those duties include, for Lord Rowallan knows them better than I do, but the local authorities are empowered to enforce the general orders made by the Minister for the prevention of the spread of diseases, such as the paving, cleansing and disinfection of livestock markets, the cleansing and disinfection of railway and road vehicles, the boiling of animal foodstuffs, the destruction of hay and straw packing material, the disposal of meat wrappers, and such details as that.

In addition the police, as such, independently of their duties as inspectors where they are so appointed, are required to receive from stock owners notices of suspected cases of disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever, sheep scab, anthrax and so forth, and transmit them either to the Ministry or other proper authority. Apart from these executive duties local authorities are also empowered to make internal regulations relating to the dipping of sheep, and to authorise, when required, the holding under certain conditions of livestock markets in declared infected areas, or for the exposure of imported animals. All these duties and functions of a non-veterinary character are vital to the achievement of the objects for which the Diseases of Animals Acts and orders of the Minister thereunder exist, and the non-veterinary inspectors of local authorities and the police are essential to enable them to be carried out. If it were assumed for a moment that all these duties were transferred to the Ministry it would be necessary for the local authorities to retain their administrative and executive functions of a non-veterinary character.

For these reasons they would require the services of their inspectors and the police and, in relation to the Diseases of Animals Acts, it would cut right across the intentions of a central veterinary service if it were contemplated that the numerous activities to which I have referred, meat inspection and the sanitary provisions under the Milk and Dairies Orders, were to be effected by the central service. It is on those grounds that very grave difficulties would arise in the administration of what we hope is to be a service which is directed essentially to the better eradication of animal diseases generally. It would be a matter far greater than that embraced in the Diseases of Animals Acts, and it would be a matter far larger than that contemplated in this Bill. For that reason it is a matter of regret that I cannot, on behalf of the Government, say to the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment that it can be further considered.


I am sorry to hear that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill takes up such an attitude, because I realise perfectly well that up to the present time the Diseases of Animals Acts have worked fairly satisfactorily and smoothly under the county councils. I would point out, however, that in the past, when the Councils had to put up with what I may call the tribulations of the Diseases of Animals Acts in heavy outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, there have been crises and panic. These instances, however, have been few and far between. This possible cause of friction is going to be constant and not merely at times of crisis. It is going to be constant serious friction. There is going to be constantly this feeling that one side or the other is overstepping its duties, that possibly the man who is in charge of the disinfection of the market is setting at nought the labours of the man in charge of the prevention and eradication of disease. I cannot believe that the divided control in the prevention of disease and the diagnosis of disease which we are going to have under this clause is ever going to succeed. I do not press this Amendment to-day, but I will reserve my right to move an Amendment in the Bill at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF GLASGOW moved to insert the following new paragraph: (d) It shall be the duty of officers appointed by the Minister to furnish any information reasonably required by the local authority or their medical officer of health in regard to any disease of animals affecting or likely to affect the health of persons resident in the area of the authority, and to trace the source of infection wherever reasonably practicable.

The noble Earl said: It is provided that a certificate of a veterinary inspector to the effect that an animal is or was afflicted with the disease specified in the certificate shall for the purposes of the Act be conclusive evidence in all Courts of Justice of the matter certified. The exclusion of the Courts of Justice in a question affecting property of value is not a desirable principle, and in future the protection afforded by the executive direction of a lay local authority, or committee of a local authority, will no longer be available to the owner under the new scheme. Under the present administration the lay authority generally know all about it, and would not allow a veterinary officer, perhaps inexperienced, to commit an injustice. The point is that you are doing away with the local lay committee. In any important question you would go straight to the veterinary officer, who would naturally have to back up his own man. I think this is a reasonable Amendment, and might possibly be accepted.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 30, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(The Earl of Glasgow.)


This Amendment deals in rather more specific terms with a question which is fully covered by the provisions of subsection (3) of Clause 18 in relation to Great Britain as a whole. It is fully recognised that the services of a veterinary inspector are, and will still be, required at times by local authorities to enable them to discharge their functions in relation to public health. It is for this reason that provision is made in Clause 18 (3) requiring the Minister to make arrangements for placing the services of veterinary inspectors at the disposal of the local authorities. For example, in connection with meat inspection in Scotland, a veterinary inspector may be called in to give a decision where meat has been condemned by the detention officer, and it is proposed that arrangements should be made by the Minister under which the services of a veterinary inspector of the Ministry should be made available for this purpose. As this is a purely public health service, an appropriate fee, fixed after consultation with the local authority and with the approval of the Treasury, will be charged.

The services of veterinary inspectors of the Ministry will also be made available for inspections of cattle carried out in consequence of notifications received from medical officers of health under the Milk and Dairies Acts or the Infectious Disease (Prevention) Act, 1890, that the consumption of milk from a certain specified herd is likely to cause tuberculosis, or is suspected to have caused some other infectious disease. This is very largely an animal health service and it is not proposed that fees should be charged in these cases. The purpose of this Amendment is therefore fully covered by subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 18 which have already been passed by your Lordships.


My reading of subsections (3) and (4) was that they concerned the provision of meat inspectors and other services by the Ministry to the local authority, but this Amendment raises an entirely different question. It is that when once one of the Ministry's veterinary inspectors had been in charge of a case where tuberculosis is suspected, he shall be asked to give the greatest possible assistance to the medical officers whose duty it will be to follow up that case and try to trace its source in the interests of public health. It seems to me that the two cases are not allied at all; that the one is a permanent service for meat inspection, and the other is the special call of the local authorities on the veterinary authorities, who are already expected to have the information, or at any rate who are easily able to obtain the information, which the medical authorities in the county require.


I should like to assure the noble Lord that where a medical officer has been informed of a tubercular case of bovine origin the inspectors, whether they be full-time or part-time under the veterinary service, will act in the closest co-operation with the medical officer in tracking the herd from which the disease arose. That will be a practice to be continued in the future as much as, and I hope a great deal more than, it has been in the past. I would wish to give the assurance to the noble Lord that it not only benefits the large centres of population, for which the medical officer of health is responsible, in tracking and eliminating so dangerous a disease as tuberculosis, but it will also be of the greatest benefit to the agricultural industry, and the farmers in particular, because it will be a means whereby the veterinary service can trace and find the particular disease which they wish to eradicate, f would like to give the most explicit assurance to the noble Lord that that will be carried out.


I cannot say I feel extremely satisfied at the noble Earl's answer, but there is nothing left but to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule [Enactments repealed]

LORD SALTOUN moved, in the third column (extent of repeal) in the references to the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, to leave out the last "and" and to insert "subsection (5) of Section forty-four; and." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is a very simple one. Section 44 of the Diseases of Animals Act enacts that the certificate of a veterinary surgeon that an animal is suffering from a disease shall be conclusive evidence in a Court of Law that the animal is in fact suffering from that disease. That is felt as a grievance by many people, and I submit that it is a very bad provision, because, supposing a veterinary surgeon certifies that a horse is suffering from anthrax and an analysis takes place and it is shown that that horse does not suffer from anthrax, still in any Court of Law where the case comes up the certificate of the veterinary surgeon that the horse is suffering from anthrax has to be taken by the Court. I submit that it is not right, in any Court in the world, to take a paper certificate when the actual facts are open to the investigation of the Court. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 22, leave out ("and") and insert ("subsection (5) of Section forty-four; and").—(Lord Saltoun.)


The effect of this Amendment would be to render a positive diagnosis of scheduled disease open to challenge in the Courts and thus cut across a fundamental principle of the Diseases of Animals Acts—namely, that as the Minister is responsible for any administrative action necessary in connection with an outbreak of disease, he must accept full responsibility for the diagnosis on which such action is based. The Minister would be in an impossible position if, for instance, a positive diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease, in consequence of which the usual stringent conditions restricting the holding of markets and the movement of animals over a wide area is imposed, was subsequently upset in the Courts. Rapidity of action is essential in dealing with outbreaks of disease, and it is therefore of the greatest importance that there should be no possible doubt about the legal effect of the certificate as to the existence of disease on which such action is based. In view of that explanation, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I still think it is not a logical position, and not right, that a certificate which may be false, when it is proved to be false, should yet be the basis of civil action for damages or some of that kind. I really do not think I ought to withdraw this Amendment, but there is not a large enough House to press it, and I hope the noble Lord will take the matter into further consideration.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Third Schedule agreed to.


An Act to assist farmers to increase the fertility of their land; to provide for payment of a subsidy to farmers in respect of their crops of oats and barley, and to raise the limit of the quantity of wheat in respect of which deficiency payments under the Wheat Act, 1932, may be made at the full rate; to make further grants for land drainage; to promote the eradication of diseases of animals and poultry, and with that object to establish a national service of veterinary inspectors; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

LORD HASTINGS moved, to leave out "for payment of a subsidy to" and insert "against heavy financial loss by." The noble Lord said: There is nothing in respect of which farmers all over the country are so sensitive as that they should be held up to the general public and the taxpayer as mendicants in receipt of charity. Unhappily, there is just that element of truth in it which makes it impossible to deny, and it is unquestionable that in certain respects the farming community have, through no fault of their own, been compelled to ask for and accept the assistance of the general taxpayer. In this particular instance, and in respect of the Amendment I have down, the words as drawn, "to provide for payment of a subsidy to farmers in respect of their crops of oats and barley" are definitely untrue. They are an attempt to saddle the farming community with the odium of being in receipt of yet another subsidy when, at the very most, a few will, in certain remote circumstances, be entitled to apply for some assistance to aid them in the event of heavy financial loss. There are none who can be said ever to be likely to be in receipt of a subsidy. The circumstances of the present day are such that whatever provision the Treasury may have made to meet this Part of the Bill is most unlikely ever to have to be paid. That it should go forth that "Here are those farmers once again to receive a subsidy at the expense of the general taxpayer" is certainly misleading to the public and grossly unfair to the farming community.

I desire, if I may, to change the title so that it shall literally describe what is intended to be done, and that is "to provide against heavy financial loss by farmers in respect of their crops of oats and barley." Deprivation of self-respect is a very serious matter, and any noble Lord who has any acquaintance whatever with the independent agricultural community will realise the extreme sensitiveness they feel, and have felt, in regard to these subsidies. While I am very well aware that no alteration of words is going to affect the purpose, intent, or effect of the Bill, this Amendment at least puts in proper language what is being done and does not represent to the public a situation which is most unlikely ever to arise. I do beg the Government to consider this. It is a psychological matter. It does not affect policy; it does not affect money; but it does affect the self-respect of the farming community as a whole. I would ask that the truth should be allowed to come out in this instance and that the title should be altered.

Amendment moved— In line 2 of the title, leave out from ("from") to ("farmers") and insert ("against heavy financial loss by").—(Lord Hastings.)


I have listened to the case that the noble Lord has put for the amendment of the title. It is true that the subsidy payments for oats and barley only operate if prices fall below the standard price of 8s. by 5d. or more. On the other hand, it is equally true that the payments are perhaps properly described as a subsidy, inasmuch as they may begin to accrue before the farmers would in many cases be involved in heavy financial loss. When the maximum rate of £1 per acre operates it would certainly be true to say that the subsidy payments are then an insurance against heavy financial loss. I recognise the point which the noble Lord so well put that this is more a question of psychology for the farming community generally than a matter of policy. In view of the strong feeling of members of your Lordships' House upon this point, and in view of the opinion that there is, according to the noble Lord, throughout the country on this point, and, further, in view of the opinion expressed in the debate on the Second Reading, I feel I should be justified in accepting the Amendment.


I am deeply grateful to the noble Earl for that concession. I can assure him it will be very greatly appreciated by the farming community as a whole and by the land-owning community also as a whole. It introduces into the Bill words which are infinitely more suitable to the purpose than were there before, and on behalf of the farming community I beg to thank the Government for their consideration.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Title, as amended, agreed to.