HL Deb 18 February 1943 vol 126 cc113-61

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by Earl Dc La Warr on Tuesday last—namely, That this House is of the opinion that a sound agriculture is vital to the economic and social wellbeing of this country and urges the Government to carry out its pledge to formulate an agreed All-Party agricultural policy.


My Lords, during the last thirty-three years I suppose that probably I have participated in agricultural debates in the two Houses of Parliament more than any other surviving Parliamentarian, but always, I am bound to confess, with a sense of frustration when any attempt is made to impress upon the Government the vital importance of presenting to the country a comprehensive policy or any definite assurance as to the permanent stability of our most vital industry. The atmosphere is markedly different to-day in these corridors, and I for my part welcome most whole-heartedly this debate initiated with such ability and eloquent fervour by my noble friend Lord De La Warr, as disclosing a genuine attempt on the part of leading Parliamentarians of all three political Parties to lift British agriculture at long last out of the cockpit of political controversy into the higher sphere of national well-being and enhanced national security.

It is somewhat significant, and indeed an element of hope, that at least three of those Peers who have framed or signed the agreed scheme to which the noble Earl referred have occupied Ministerial posts in the English Department of Agriculture and that most of this consentient group are themselves practical farmers. One telling sentence which impressed me considerably in the noble Earl's opening speech I make bold to repeat, if only to endorse it with the utmost emphasis. It was that if we in this country are to take a lead in framing a world food policy, we must set our own house in order. The noble Lord who leads the Opposition, and whose sympathetic participation in this debate is likely to prove historic, put a very searching question: Do we really want to use the land as it ought to be used? I suggest that this question should touch the conscience and the patriotism of every member of your Lordships' House. The noble Duke, in the short reply which he was able to make to the first part of this debate on Tuesday, referred with some justifiable pride to the somewhat amazing effort that has been made during the war period by all sections of land cultivators, large and small, to save this country in time of need from the possibilities of starvation. I am sure we must all endorse that tribute; and the tribute is all the more well deserved when one comes to consider the really parlous condition in which every section of the agricultural community found itself at the outbreak of the present war.

The noble Duke, I am sure to the satisfaction of all those who have promoted this debate, endorsed and confirmed the assurance referred to in the Motion, and significantly mentioned the new attitude towards home food production reflected in certain resolutions which have been passed in recent months by prominent industrial and commercial bodies. He specifically mentioned the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the London Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries and the Wholesale Textile Association, and the words that he quoted as used in the resolution of the last-named body are words which I hope will be pressed home as worthy of serious consideration by the Government—namely, "that a long-term policy for the restoration of British agriculture should be placed in the forefront of the post-war reconstruction programme." I am sure none of us can ask more than that.

We must all be conscious that, if the agricultural community is going to be placed upon a more stable footing there must be, in effect, some concession from the claims which have been made politically and industrially, and not always vocally, on the part of the great industrial population of tins country. Already we hear considerable talk of the post-war export trade. It is, of course, the export of the factory goods of this great industrial country, and the international reactions which are bound up with it, that have been very largely responsible for the starvation of what is an even more vital industry, that of agriculture. It seems to me that at the earliest. possible date we ought to see if we cannot effect some definite concordat with those who represent the great manufacturing and colliery industries of this country concerned in the export trade, not merely to test the genuineness of the professions that many of them are collectively making to-day, but to make it quite certain that even if, which I am afraid is a little doubtful, post-war export trade is fully revived as compared to what obtained before the war, in any case care shall be taken that it will not result in once more landing the agricultural industry into a state of penury and destitution.

The most reverend Prelate, in the delightful speech which he addressed to us on Tuesday, represented, in my judgment quite truly, that agriculture is not merely an industry but a way of life, a way of life conducive to the happiness of mankind and to the health of body and mind. I could not help recollecting when he made that remark, a very interesting experience that I had when I first paid a visit to Denmark some twenty-five years ago and went to see one of the famous agricultural Folk High Schools in that country. It was in the island of Funen, which represents the most fertile and central part of Denmark. I was met at the door of this school by a director—I think he was a padre—who had been in control for several years. He showed me into a beautiful assembly hall which had on its walls attractive mural paintings of standing corn, of well-formed dairy cattle, and of fruit trees in blossom; and just by way of starting conversation I said to him: "What do you teach them here?" His answer, which I shall never forget, was: "We teach them first of all to love and fear God, and in the second place we teach them that it is the height of patriotism to win from the soil of their country the greatest possible amount of wealth." I wondered why he used the word "wealth" and I asked him what exactly he meant by it. He explained that the true meaning of wealth was welfare and in that sense he was using the word—welfare, not merely material but physical, moral, social and spiritual.

If I may say so, I have found the same high inspiration in the course of many agricultural tours of investigation in different parts of the world. I have found the same high inspiration permeating the rural policy, irrespective of Party creeds, of New Zealand, where for five years I had the honour of joining with my two Governments in the planning and promotion of rural betterment. I have found it also in several other countries, including more particularly Holland and Belgium and parts of Czechoslovakia—ideals which have persisted continuously during the last half century. During that period all these countries have steadily improved the average standard of agricultural achievement and farm output, whereas Great Britain, which stood pre-eminent in all branches of husbandry up to seventy years ago, has, on the average, receded under peace conditions. It has receded in food output, in skill, in soil fertility and up-to-date equipment, and this in spite of our agricultural research work, excelling in quality and economic value that of any other country in the world.

Incidentally, in seeking for improvement do not let us ignore the lessons which other countries can now teach us. A century ago when we were founding England's premier research station of Rothamsted, her premier agricultural college of Cirencester, and her premier agricultural society, the Royal Agricultural Society, we were freely acknowledging the deep debt that we owed to eminent agricultural scientists and practitioners in Sweden, Switzerland, France, Hanover, and Holland. Let us not be so insular as not to realize that there are many countries in the world to-day that can teach us many valuable lessons in regard to the improvement of our agricultural practice, not excluding Russia. Some of the scientific work, some of the research work which is done in relation to agricultural production in Russia, and the carriage of the results of that research on to the collective farms of that country, is well worthy both of note and of imitation.

The main trouble in this country has been that, unlike so many other civilized countries, Great Britain has had no plan, no continuous or comprehensive objective. There cannot be that, of course, unless there is something in the nature of a concordat between the political Parties as to what that comprehensive policy and that objective shall be. I do not know to what extent the scheme for which the noble Earl is largely responsible has passed into the hands of members of your Lordships' House, but I understand it is likely to appear shortly in print, and I trust that those of your Lordships who are interested in this vital topic will take the trouble to study it. That scheme, now being presented to the Government and to Parliament, naturally asks in its opening sentences what should be the basic aims of a future agricultural policy. I have attempted to summarize them, and I think I should be right in summarizing them by saying that they are a reasonably high measure of national security in time of war and of human nutrition in time of peace, and, for these purposes, the optimum use of the land of this country and the maintenance undiminished of its soil fertility.

In passing, it may be said that if the land is to be put to its optimum user and if its fertility is to be maintained, and if it is to produce those food products which the nation most needs, there must be, whether we like it or not, something in the nature of control. I do not like the word "control," which seems to militate against Britishers' sense of freedom, but there must be control, or at least direction or regulation. I was a good deal struck by a sentence which appeared in a leading article in The Times on February 2 last. "Regulation," it read—and I like the word "regulation" better than "control"—"is not the antithesis of freedom but a condition of it." With that expression of opinion, I would heartily concur. If our agriculture is to be regulated or directed, or, if you wish to call it so, controlled, it is quite obvious that we must have an efficient Government agency to exercise that direction, regulation or control. I, for my part, see no alternative to the continued system, in somewhat different shape and in some respects with somewhat different personnel, of our county war agricultural executive committees.

Stress is laid on the production of protective foods, foods which have been made familiar to us as to their character, nature and effect by that distinguished scientist Sir John Orr. They include, of course, products such as milk in particular, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and to some extent meat. The scheme, incidentally, limits the production of wheat—or shall I say the abnormal production of wheat?—except as a factor in good husbandry. Well, for my own part, although, frankly, I have signed that scheme, I should hesitate to place too severe a limitation on wheat output unless in the future there is some guarantee that we have a Navy adequate to protect our trade routes. Britain cannot, at any rate in my judgment, be self-contained in the matter of even essential foods, nor is it wise, as I think my noble friend Lord Phillimore said in the debate last Tuesday, that she should attempt to be. But her potentialities of output—and, by the way, we were told by the noble Duke of the increase since 1939 by no less than 70 per cent. upon which I am sure we can all congratulate the land cultivators of this country—her potentialities of output far exceed anything that has yet been attempted. She can supply, I am confident, from her own soil, two-thirds at leak of her food requirements, and if, through increased prosperity—and I wish the manufacturing community would bear this sufficiently in mind—the purchasing power of her present impoverished countryside be raised appreciably, our home manufacturers will derive some compensating advantage, in my judgment a material compensating advantage, for the partial loss of their oversea trade.

I do ask that in this matter of regulation or control there should be adequate knowledge and sufficient experience on the part of those who exercise it. The control, too, should be wholly unswayed by political or sectional prejudices. I go further, and suggest that the State, having decided on the optimum user of cultivable land, solely from the standpoint of national advantage, should then prescribe to every region or county what quota of each essential product it must contribute to the national pool, and, through efficient local executive committees, the task of each individual agriculturist. I use the word "agriculturist" advisedly because I do not mean it to apply to one section only of the agricultural community. Not until that individual, whether he be owner, farm tenant or farm worker, fails to fulfil his allotted task should he be displaced, superseded or penalized. Every qualified countryman who faithfully carries out the behests of the Government should be guaranteed against financial loss as the result of their execution.

Of all of the protective foods which are being so much stressed at the present time, milk must, in my judgment, be placed absolutely first. The average yield per female bovine, cow or heifer, could, without difficulty, be raised by at least one-third, and this I do want to emphasize as much as I can. The average yield could, without difficulty, be raised by at least one-third by the suppression of four widely prevalent diseases—sterility, mastitis, Johne's disease, and contagious abortion. That is without taking into account bovine tuberculosis. The veterinary experts estimate that there is avoidable under-production of no less than 200,000,000 gallons a year by reason of these four diseases, and, as I say, that is without taking into account tuberculosis. Also it is undisputed that by artificial insemination alone the low average annual yield of 500 gallons per cow could, within five years, be raised to no less than 750 gallons. There is no question whatever that a very large amount of disease today is unfortunately conveyed by careless and insanitary use of bulls in the process of service.

Now, I am going to suggest one development that is almost consequential, if you are going effectively to eliminate the more serious diseases affecting milk production among your cattle, and that is the desirability of making the veterinary service of farm live stock a national matter. I have every reason to believe, and I think I shall be supported in this by the bulk of the veterinary profession, that the free veterinary service of farm live stock would be a profitable national investment. Of course, there is no doubt moreover that the milk output could be materially improved if only farmers, the average small-scale farmers of this country, knew a little bit more about feeding balanced foodstuffs to their bovine stock. There is still, unfortunately, in the absence in this country of adequate technical and scientific education for our young farmers, a terrible confusion in the minds of many farmers as to what constitutes the balanced ration which is required for a high-yielding dairy cow. That is a matter which requires very considerable attention and supervision in our post-war farming policy. In Denmark, if I may refer to a country with which I am well acquainted, it is not considered any sort of interference with the liberty or enterprise of a farmer that he should be visited periodically—at intervals of no more than three months—by a friendly provincial supervisor who guides him and advises him, without using any compulsion, with regard to the best way of feeding his stock in order to get the largest possible returns, and, incidentally, larger farming profits.


A Government employee, or an employee of the Co-operatives?


A Government employee. In addition to the Government employees, in most parts of Denmark, and notably in Jutland, the farmers' co-operative organizations who, of course, are warm supporters of this policy, add considerably to the advice and help which the Government inspectors are prepared to give. Something of the same sort is provided by provincial inspectors in the Dominion of New Zealand.

There is one other important matter to which I want to refer, and I am tempted to do so because of the remark made by the noble Marquess who sits on the Front Liberal Bench, and who made a special plea for the economic salvation of the small farmer. The most reverend Prelate echoed the same sentiment when he said: "Look after the small man." Personally, I am quite in sympathy with the idea that the small man, who generally goes to the wall nowadays in an economic sense, should be safeguarded as a material factor in our agricultural economy, and for this if for no other reason, that the small man—the small-holder or relatively small farmer, or at any rate his son—is badly wanted in the Dominions to-day as a fresh and vitalizing element from the old country to permeate and invigorate the rural economy and the agricultural population of these overseas territories. Nothing has been left so forcibly on my mind, after five years' residence in New Zealand, as the growing need for this factor, not merely for vitalizing with new blood the British section—which in New Zealand is absolutely dominant—of the Dominion population, but for strengthening even more solidly the link which binds the whole of the British Empire together.

I wish to refer to this matter, however, for a very different reason also. I am afraid that, whatever we do, there is imminent—indeed, it has already begun—such a revolution in the whole of our rural economy as will put the small man in peril. In the eighteenth century the English peasant was almost wiped out by the enclosure of the commons, and, in spite of the loss to the countryside and to the country as a whole of that valuable element, it must be admitted that, from an economic and national point of view, the greater and more economic output of food which resulted from the change fully justified it. In the same way we are faced to-day, whether we like it or not, with a similar or even greater revolution as a result of the ultra-mechanization of the agricultural industry. I foresee that, whether wet like it or not, over large areas of England the hedges, and hedgerow timber, will have to be swept away, the old-fashioned methods of small-scale farming will have to be scrapped. In order that the machines may do their work economically and with the highest efficiency, the farms will have to be larger, the fields will have to be larger, and also, to a considerable extent, in my judgment, the smaller estates will have to be merged in larger ones or, preferably, form part of a federation which will make the best possible use of such equipment as they may own in common, and make it available for this larger-scale mechanical husbandry. It is not a prospect to which I look forward particularly, especially if it is going to affect the valuable human element at present to be found on the soil of this country, but it is inevitable, and in any post-war planning we have to face it.

The noble Marquess expressed the fear that, if such a development took place, there would be fewer farm workers on the land in this country. I do not believe it. Over a hundred years ago, when the power-loom in the textile industry superseded the old-fashioned manual processes, the industry developed enormously; there were more workers than before, and they were better paid. Similarly, in Norfolk a hundred years ago there were workers' strikes against the introduction of thrashing machines. In both cases experience proved not only that more workers were required in the industry as a result of the change, but that those workers could justifiably lay claim to higher remuneration.

The most reverend Prelate was, I think, alone in reminding us that there is considerable anxiety on the part of our farmers lest, when the peril of food shortage has ceased with victory, their claims will be forgotten, as they were after the last war. That anxiety does exist and must be dispelled, and in my judgment it can be dispelled only by an early announcement on the part of the Government of an agreed policy for agriculture which will safeguard their interests in the future. The noble Lord, the Minister of Food, is, I understand, going to reply to this debate. I yield to no one in my admiration for the efficiency of his administration, for his courage, his vision, his equity in food allocation and, if I may say so, his almost parental care for the maintenance of the national physique and the future of our race. He does not represent food producers; he stands for the basic food requirements of the whole nation and the preservation of its stamina to undertake the tremendous tasks which await it in the future. He cannot fail to have realized how the national security and the physical well-being of this great and highsouled people have been imperilled by the starvation of the British countryside and by the relative starvation of all who seek to make a living from its soil. There is no one who can, without suspicion of prejudice or bias, more effectively or more convincingly submit an agreed plan to the present All-Party Government. We beg him to do so, and thus make his historic tenure of office a milestone on the road to permanent national rehabilitation.


My Lords, the object of this debate and of the plans which my noble friend Lord De La Warr and his colleagues in all quarters of your Lordships' House have put before the Government, is to try to help the Government in formulating a scheme which will implement their pledge to agriculture—the pledge which all of us were delighted to hear repeated by the noble Duke at the conclusion of the debate on Tuesday. Nobody can have listened without some emotion to my noble friend Lord Cranworth when he described the feelings of doubt under which the agricultural community are labouring and the gallant spirit in which, in spite of doubts and past history, they have come again to the rescue of the nation. No one can fail to ask himself what there is this time to prevent the same fate overcoming the Government's pledge. I want in the first instance to offer to your Lordships one or two reasons why I think we have some ground to hope for a more successful issue of the affair this time.

My noble friend below me (Lord De La Warr), in his speech—which, if I may say so, was a most admirable one—based and re-based our policy on three foundation stones. One is nutrition. If I put nutrition first I may be putting it in a different order from my noble friend, but that does not matter. In the matter of nutrition the state of affairs is very different from what it was twenty-five years ago. Then the epoch-making discoveries of Sir Edward Mellanby and others in the field of vitamins had only just been made; they were made during the war, and they were proved, to the astonishment of a sceptical world, by the experiments which were carried out in Vienna on the children with rickets after the war. That now is a matter of history, and it cannot but encourage us to think that on the one hand you have this tremendous science of vitamins which is now common knowledge, and on the other the admitted fact that so large a proportion of the population, even in the most advanced countries, are still suffering from malnutrition. There is a tremendous fact in favour of hope for the future.

The second of our foundation stones is stability of prices, and there we have on the other side of the ledger what I consider the startling fact that, during the inter-war period the prices of staple food commodities, taken on an average over the whole period, and evening out the boom and the slump, was just such a price, more or less, which would have given an efficient producer an adequate return for his efforts. How much rather would that producer have had that steady price throughout that period than to have suffered the hazards of the slump and the temporary prosperity of the boom. The third foundation stone of my noble friend was cheap food, brought about by efficient production and efficient distribution. There we have the encouragement of the immense improvement in scientific knowledge in connexion with food production which has taken place since the last war. And in the field of production there is also another fact. I have seen it mentioned that there is an increase of something like two million people in the distributive trades since the last war. If so, then there is room for rationalization, and the nearer we can bring the producer to the consumer in that matter the better it will be, I think, for both and for the country.

My noble friend and his group say: "We do not want a policy of subsidies, we want a policy of common sense, and we believe that it is attainable." It is much easier to pronounce general principles of that sort than it is to give effect to them and produce a workable plan. We realize, and of course the Government realize, that the whole fabric of our post-war trade is involved in this agricultural policy. We are all of us conscious of the importance to this country of our exports. We are all of us conscious of the intimate relationships which exports and imports bear to one another, and it would be folly to expect the Government at this stage to produce a cut-and-dried scheme, complete in every detail. But there are, again, indications in this wider sphere which give us some ground for hope.

There is the wheat agreement of 1941. Under the wheat agreement, as your Lordships know, the main wheat producing countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Argentine, have come together and have agreed to a basis of imports into this country, and I believe there is also some understanding as to the disposal of surpluses. I think that is an augury of great hopefulness. We do realize that foreign trade is indivisible and that it is not a matter of raw materials alone. The whole question of foreign trade is involved and the prospect of having to organize foreign trade on a basis which will be at once complementary and co-operative, and at the same time will maintain the advantages of competitive private enterprise in the individual countries and the individual trades, is one which is big enough to daunt the bravest and the most realistic Government. But again, there are some hopeful factors. It is now realized that prosperity is indivisible. It is realized that a rising standard of living in one country cannot but help not only that country but the rest of the world.

Another thing is realized since the last war. The lessons of the war debts and of reparations, I believe, have been learnt. I believe it is now generally understood that goods and services can only be paid for by goods and services, and I believe the countries of the world will realize that, unless they can get together and evolve a workable plan on a colossal scale, our efforts are indeed doomed to failure. Other countries are in the same boat as we are. Primary producing countries have developed their secondary industries, and we cannot grudge them that. South Africa is becoming industrialized, even New Zealand is setting up industries, and the same thing is happening in South America. And there is no doubt, I think, that, with the market that we have to offer, we shall have great prizes to offer when it comes to making such arrangements as will have to be made. I say boldly that this cannot be done without planning. I use the word "planning" without hesitation, in spite of the tendency which I note with regret to use the expressions "planning" and "planner" as terms of contempt—because that is what is happening. If foresight and organization are contemptible, then planning is contemptible; if foresight and organization are admirable, then planning is admirable. And moreover, planning is not only planning, but it is essential. In this rapidly shrinking world, with all the complications of modern civilization, I defy anybody seriously to say that planning is either unnecessary or contemptible.

One other word on that. We have to think about it now in spite of our absorption in winning the war. I yield to none in my consciousness of the vital necessity of winning the war, but unless we can win both the war and the peace then the war need never have been won. I believe that the contempt which is poured on planning arises from a misunderstanding. Those people who do not like planners think that planning means a rigid plan which is going to be imposed in advance once and for all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course we must proceed by trial and error. The greatest scientific researches in the world have proceeded by trial and error, and it is by trial and error on a proper plan that we shall continue to make progress in human civilization. We must recognize that price stability means price control, and price control means production con- trol. I believe that these two conclusions are inescapable. The vision and the vista which they call up of what some noble Lord described as a dictatorship of the bureaucracy frankly appals me. I have no solution for that except that it is perfectly clear that some new kind of administration will have to be developed. Our Civil Sevice is admirable, but it is not meant for that sort of job, and somehow or other some new system of government and control of these mighty organizations will have to be evolved.

The policy which we are endeavouring to put before your Lordships is an agreed policy. Members of every Party in the country support it, and it will be supported from every quarter of your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess (Lord Crewe), speaking for the Liberals on Tuesday, certainly did not dissent, and in order to reinforce myself with Liberal support I should like to read one sentence from a speech made by a prominent Liberal in another place. He said: After the war agriculture must never become bankrupt again and be treated as a pauperized industry. It will mean a revolution in our land system if our fanners are to have a square deal which will put them in at least as good a position as the farmers in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. That expresses our view, and I derive encouragement, as did my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, from the fact that the Minister of Food is going to reply to this debate. The industry of agriculture has, certainly since the last war, been the Cinderella of our industries. I like to think that Cinderella has now found her Prince Charming in the Minister of Food, and I hope they will marry and live happily ever after. It is true that we have never had an agricultural policy; it is true that until the war we have never had a food policy; and it is very satisfactory that now, at last, perhaps, this happy marriage has been already consummated, because we have a food policy which does coincide with the human needs of the people. So long ago as 1937 the Medical Research Council published in its annual report an article on the ideal system of nutrition. It is remarkable how closely conditions to-day coincide with what were then suggested. That is what agricultural policy must aim at in the future. Our agriculture must subserve our requirements of nutrition.

In conclusion, I want to say that I am convinced that there is; in fact, no conflict between the industry of agriculture and the manufacturing industries. I believe that is the greatest assurance of success for the Government in formulating an agricultural policy. I was greatly reassured by the quotations which the noble Duke (the Duke of Norfolk) read on Tuesday from various authoritative bodies. He quoted the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the London Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of British industries, and the Wholesale Textile Association, all saying in more or less the same language that a prosperous agriculture is a necessary condition to the continuance of our national prosperity. I believe profoundly that that is the case. I believe there are large manufacturing interests which do not yet fully realize the truth of that saying. To these I would say, "What shall it profit a country if it gain the whole industrial world and lose its own soul?" I believe that the soul of this country resides much more in the countryside than in the towns. I believe that the urbanization of our population and our country was the greatest misfortune that befell us since the last war. If the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, and his colleagues at the Ministry of Agriculture can devize a policy which will restore agriculture, they will at the same time restore the hope of a prosperous countryside, and I believe they will save the soul of our nation alive.


My Lords, it is extremely difficult to follow immediately after the noble Lord who has just sat down. His always sound reasoning and his amazing knowledge make that very difficult for one who merely comes before you as a humble Back Bencher, yet as one who, in this debate and on many other occasions, has been extraordinarily proud of the fact that he is privileged to be a member of your Lordships' House. I say that because on Tuesday and again to-day the high level of the speeches, and not only their high level but the moving nature of those speeches, which so obviously came from the heart, were very impressive to one who is not so versed in Parliamentary affairs as are those speakers. May I, however, speak as one who spends nearly all day and very often a great part of the evening with agricultural folk?

A wide area has been covered in this debate, and I should like for one moment to get right back to the first half of the terms of the Motion that we are discussing—namely, "that a sound agriculture is vital to the economic and social well-being of this country." I do not believe there is, but is there anyone in this House who disagrees with that? If there is, as an agriculturist I implore him to say so now or for ever hold his peace. Assuming that nearly every sane man and woman agrees with the proposition, is it not possible for the Government and all those interested in this great subject to get together and really frame an All-Party policy? How to achieve this task there is no need for me to tell you, because some of us have been trying to do it during the year that has gone. All of us must drop some of our prejudices. There has got to be a give-and-take spirit in any discussions in which we take part with this great object in view. If I may humbly say so, I was delighted to read an article by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, in the Sunday Times last Sunday, and still more to listen to that wonderfully moving speech that he made to us on Tuesday. In that article he expressed the spirit in which this great problem has got to be faced, and I only hope that every leader, everybody who has influence in any political Party, will copy his good example.

We have covered a very wide area in this debate, and I want for a moment to go right back to earth in the shape of finance. It is a mere platitude to say that any policy for the future of agriculture must permit of adequate capital being available for the maintenance and upkeep of the agricultural industry and the farms and buildings on it, and must see that credit facilities are assured to those who are credit worthy. Now there may be some who will disagree with what I am going to say next, but I believe that this country owes a great debt of gratitude to the banks. Many millions of pounds were lent to agriculture in those years of depression before the war. If it had not been for the banks and the few real landlords that were left, and also—a fact which perhaps we are often very apt to forget—if there had not been something left of the money that farmers were allowed to make in the last war, I do not believe that many of you would be sitting her to-day supplied with food, nor that there would have been so, many well-farmed farms left in this country to come to cur rescue in the time of crisis.

You, my Lords, and the Government must make the country get this into its mind, that agriculture must be made credit-worthy, and then you will find credit forthcoming for the industry. Financial stability in agriculture can only be safeguarded by steady prices and stable markets. Those wages which are now on a better scale can only be maintained if those prices are guaranteed. It has been said already in this debate, but I am going to say it again because I owe no man anything in my allegiance to the agricultural worker, that the agricultural worker is much more skilled than many people in other walks of life who are drawing double his wages, and the agricultural worker has a right to find that his industry is given a chance to enable it to pay him something worthy of his skill. That is enough, perhaps, about finance.

There is something else that has not been touched upon very much; it is perhaps too parochial and local for a debate of this scope—land drainage. Many millions of acres in this country still require draining. While much has been done in the last three years, there is much more to be done, and that which has been done has got to be maintained and kept up. Catchment boards must have the necessary funds. At present they are limited in the amount for which they are able to ask, or shall I say in the amounts for which they dare to ask? Internal drainage boards are held in check by their natural desire not to put a burden on those within their area on whom they have to levy drainage rates. Surely the time has arrived to ensure that the whole policy of land drainage is co-ordinated right away from the main streams up to the ditches on the farms. The job of a catchment board is to drain land, and in my humble opinion the cost of maintaining the sea defences and the estuary defences should be a national charge. It is the nation's duty now to defend its shores against invasion; it should be the nation's duty to defend its shores against the encroachment of the sea. If that is made possible a great deal of financial burden will be taken off catchment boards and they will be able to do their proper job, which is land drainage.

Further, I want to say a word about ownership and management. This subject has perhaps gone rather into the background in the wide range of this debate. The pledge that we were given, which has been renewed I am glad to say, does possibly give hope that there is going to be a future on the land. But I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to be impertinent enough to quote what I said when I had the honour to, address the Farmers' Club at their centenary meeting. I then used these words: I feel sure that if that pledge is implemented we in agriculture shall have to submit to a certain measure of control. If in the future we are to have guaranteed prices, guaranteed markets and a stable industry there is no doubt we shall have to maintain a standard of efficiency. In that farmers' and landowners' gathering there was not a single dissentient voice to those words. Given a proper fair deal they are ready to undertake their agricultural obligations to the nation to maintain a standard of management and productivity; but if they undertake to do that, and if they undertake, as they will, to come under that control, then I think landowners and farmers have a right to make the claim that, if the standard of their equipment is maintained, if their land is retained for agricultural purposes, and if they keep faith with the nation in the standard of their production, they should be left in full individual ownership and occupation of their land. Landowners, farmer and farm workers, really must have had a greater regard for their land than their pockets to have got through the trials and tribulations they have had to meet in the last twenty years. Cannot we therefore now all agree on a policy that will enable them to use that land as they want to do in the service of the people and the nation?

But there is something more that I want to see come out of this, and that is a chance of opportunity for all. The farm worker was admirably described on Tuesday by one who loves him as "the salt of the earth." Now cannot we all agree on a policy that would give him an opportunity to rise in the ranks of his great profession and become a master man? Surely we can all agree on a policy of education to give them scientific knowledge to add to the wonderful practical knowledge they already possess. There is, however, one word of warning to be said. Do not let us make the mistake we made at the end of the last war when we put ex-Service men on to small holdings and left them there stranded. The small man when he starts wants a fatherly guiding hand. Cannot we all agree that there should be parent farms—probably at the end of the war, the Government will have in their hands perfectly suitable farms which have had to be taken over—with twenty or thirty small men round them, so that those men could get from the parent farms their machinery, their fertilizers, their feeding stuffs, which perhaps they cannot buy themselves or grow on their own little farms? Those parent farms could perhaps do even more good than that by giving advice and help at the time when it is really wanted. I should like to see that opportunity granted to those who labour on the land.

I think every one of us will acknowledge—it has been acknowledged in this debate—the wonderful efforts the agricultural community have made. Is it not feasible for us to ask a question as to how and why that has been accomplished? Because there is no miracle in it really. Fair prices and fair treatment have enabled countless thousands who live by the land to cultivate their land in a way they have been wanting to do for years. That is the answer. Political discussions, political arguments have been silenced during the war. It has not been in the nation's interest to advocate cheap food at any cost. As a. result the people on the land have had a chance to show to what heights of production the land can rise. Farmers and farm workers can look back with pride on the greatest achievement in food production that any of us is ever likely to see, and I believe that opinion will be endorsed by the Minister of Food himself. There have been no Party policies but only one policy—to feed the nation; and nobly these people have done it. Surely this is the time to consolidate all that wonderful endeavour and to work out a scheme for the future that will enable agriculture to take its true place. That is what we are asking to-day, that it should have a chance to take its true place in our economic life and remain for many years to come free from the vacillations of Party politics.

Indeed, cannot we go further? Surely now is the time, when we are beginning to understand our Allies and they are beginning to understand us, to start discussions on the question of world price levels. That is the crux of the whole policy. Cannot producers be brought together as they were by Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith in 1938? Then we were only concerned with the Dominions, but cannot we expand those discussions now to producers all over the world, or those anyhow that we can get in touch with? Planning is going on everywhere and I hope that somehow we shall seize this real chance of planning—planning, as has been said, for the nutrition of the peoples of the world—so that out of the muddles and miseries of the past there can come some great scheme that will atone for the old neglect and indifference to the agricultural industry and will really mean a new life for our greatest and oldest industry. I beg to support with all my heart the Resolution moved by the noble Earl.


My Lords, it is customary when a speaker addresses this House on a Resolution like the one before us to thank the noble Lord for putting it down, so I thank my noble friend Earl De La Warr for putting down this Resolution. But it does not mean anything. It does not mean anything at all. I have seen these Resolutions in this House now for ten years and I have listened to my noble friend Viscount Bledisloe for thirty-two years, in one House or the other, making speeches on these Resolutions, but practically nothing ever comes of them. We hear impassioned speeches like the one to which we have just listened, and I admit that it moved me very deeply. I felt my sympathy with agriculture mounting higher and higher. I felt my sympathy with the agricultural labourer mounting higher and higher. But nothing happens thereafter. At the same time, there is a policy that could be put before His Majesty's Government which would quite simply grapple with the situation instead of only talking about it. That policy would simply be to decide to leave the market of Britain to British producers, because of course in agriculture there is a larger market than British producers can supply. If and when your Lordships' House and the British Government decide that the market of Great Britain is the property of the British pro- ducer, at that same moment the agricultural problem will be disposed of.

That is what some of us have been trying to persuade the country to do for some time. We have always said—those who think and speak as I do—that the land of Britain could produce sufficient food for the people of Britain. It was a disappointment to hear my noble friend Viscount Bledisloe make a counter statement to-day. It is the first time I think I have ever heard him do that, although in 1935 I heard him speak optimistically about the future of agriculture. If it is a fact that we can produce already, as one speaker has said, two-thirds or more of the food-stuffs that feed our people—two-thirds or more at a time when the demand is much in excess of that existing in time of peace—when another 300,000 acres of land and all the airfields have been brought back into cultivation, with developing methods, it is quite likely that we can get to the point where we can produce enough for our needs. It is true that to get any admission that we can produce sufficient food-stuffs for our purpose has taken two wars and twenty-five years of peace. But I venture to say it is also true that in the last thirty years, covering two wars, we have paid far more for foodstuffs on account of the folly of the policy of imports than we would have had to pay if we had produced that food on our own account for our own people. The policy of imports has been a disastrous policy, because we have had to increase our agricultural output without regard to, costs, and that has been a reason for the amount that the Government have had to pay in subsidies.

It is not my intention, with other speakers to follow me in this very orderly House, to take up much more time, so I must at once pass on to the county war agricultural executive committees. It is my sincere hope that when the war is over these committees will all be abolished—the whole lot of them. I hope, too, to see the large number of inspectors reduced. On the miserable acres I cultivate I am visited by as many as nine inspectors. If I could go in for milk production, I should have three or four more, to say nothing of a pest inspector. I want to cut them down and to cut down the forms we fill up. I want to destroy bureaucracy—to do damage and injury to bureaucracy which has done so much harm to us. Nine inspectors for my tiny little farm! I cannot imagine the farming industry or anyone acquainted with the farming population being willing to hand over farming to committees. No; what we require in the agricultural industry is the market to which we are entitled, our rightful market, and, next, constant expansion of output like every other industry. Like every manufacturing industry we want a constantly rising level of output, and we can get it by methods of cultivation, by expanding our acreage, and by the increased use of machinery. It has got to be taken into account, of course, that expansion involves having freedom from the restrictions that existed before the war, of which we complained so much and suffered under to such an extent.

I was much interested in the statement of my noble friend Earl De La Warr, to the effect that he was against restrictions before the war and against restrictions now. That was my interpretation of what he said. I fully understand the noble Earl being against restrictions now, and I am glad he was against them then. But there is this difference in the positions. He did not say so then but he does say so now. It would have been better had he said so then as well as now. Then I listened to Lord Cranworth's contribution to this interesting debate which has extended over two days on a Resolution that does not mean anything. Lord Cranworth said that Mr. Morrison was a great agricultural Minister. That is what he said two days ago. Five years ago when Mr. Morrison was the Minister Lord Cranworth was saying: "The position of agriculture is just as bad as I can recollect." Well, Lord Cranworth's recollection must be failing for he had apparently forgotten about Mr. Morrison's part in agriculture five years ago when he was limiting, confining and restricting production from the land by every law which he could persuade Parliament to pass.

Then there was Lord Bingley, the father of the pig scheme. His words spoke for him in the debate but his deeds spoke for him before the war. He praised the committees that are in existence now, and he wants the controls to continue. He established the controls and he was king of the committees. But farmers do not want control, they do not want committees. They want the opportunity to secure markets for themselves. That is what they desire over and above every- thing else and Lord Bingley should know it. He comes to this House with a novel remedy for the complaints of agriculture. He suggests doing away with slaughterhouses and Death Duties.

Now of the most reverend Prelate I am a most humble follower, if not perhaps in ecclesiastical matters, certainly in this matter. Like him I want more cottages for the agricultural labourer. I want 30,000 cottages now. If the House will help now and here to get those cottages that will be far better than spending two days discussing a Resolution which I suggest does not mean anything. And I say I want 30,000 cottages now. There is plenty of building of cottages and other accommodation for munition workers. There have been plenty of huts and bungalows put up for them, and at various places up and down the country unoccupied hostels are to be found. These hostels are not in occupation at this moment, and I say that, although the agricultural labourer is just as much a war worker as anyone employed on munitions, he gets no consideration at all. And here in this House, where the intellect of the farming industry resides, is the place where insistence should become so determined that the Government will give way to us.

Lord Balfour of Burleigh I thought was going to get on to an old-time free trade speech. He went a bit of the way but not all of it. He talked about foreign trade and its relation to agriculture. That is what did us in in those years before the war—the foreign trade interest. I hope that, in the future, agriculture will not be sacrificed to foreign trade. Then Lord Balfour spoke of planning and I rather thought that he made the accusation against me that I was going too far in my opposition to planning. If that is so, I will restrain my opposition in the future and will attack only wasteful planning, but I am bound to say that I think most planning now is wasteful. The noble Lord knows that I refer, so far as agriculture is concerned, to planning for development after the war—wishful planning, as it has been termed. How can you with common sense develop plans for agriculture after the war? What about the Argentine, for instance? Are we going to have beef sent over here from the Argentine after the war, or not? And is the market which we have formerly enjoyed over there for our products to be closed to us after the war? What about Denmark? Are we to get no Danish butter and eggs and bacon after the war? What about eggs from Belgium? How many hens are there left in Belgium? Will anybody by any process of wishful planning bring me an inventory showing the number of hens that are left in Belgium? Obviously these are matters which can only be properly taken into consideration after the war has ended. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, himself, said so in passing, before he went into details of the projects of the wishful planners.

Here I want to refer for one moment to the plan that we in the agricultural industry all object to so strongly. That is the plan suggested in the statement made by Lord Cranworth, when he spoke in the debate two days ago, that after the war was over he hoped we would all go in for communal feeding. Well, we are not going to go in for communal feeding after the war. I speak for the people in this matter. We fight for liberty, and liberty includes the right to eat where and what we like. We are not going to be tied down after the war as to what we eat, what we drink or what we read. It is true that what is best for you is what you like best. That of course applies especially to eating. That is the way we propose to go on after the war. And nothing that noble Lords prepare in the way of wishful planning will interfere in the very least with the intention expressed by the voice of the people which I echo here to-day.

Now I would make one observation on this proposal for an agreement of Parties. An agreement of Parties can never get us anywhere in connexion with agriculture. It is not an agreement of Parties that we require unless it carries with it the recognition of our right to our own market. I had thought at first of putting down an Amendment to the Resolution, but I was not sufficiently well acquainted with the procedure, so I thought I would save the opportunity for another occasion. One last word from a man who has been on this task and duty for a long time. That word refers to the War Cabinet. Do you think agriculture will get a great deal of help from the War Cabinet? I have known all these members for the last twenty years, and have often had to listen to them and sometimes talk to them—talk back at them, I ought to say. We cannot expect a great deal from them for agriculture. Not one of them is interested in agriculture. There is no voice in the Cabinet that will speak for the agricultural industry.


In the War Cabinet.


In the War Cabinet, yes; I must at once qualify my remark by admitting that in the Cabinet we have an extremely good Minister of Agriculture, who is most desirous of looking after its interests, as my noble friend Lord Woolton very well knows. The Minister of Agriculture has stood up many a time for the agricultural industry, and I give him high praise. But the War Cabinet know nothing about agriculture. I hope the time will come, and come swiftly, when this House will determine to influence the War Cabinet, and to influence the War Cabinet by the same methods as those which are being practised, I understand, at this very moment elsewhere.

House adjourned during pleasure, and resumed by the LORD CHANCELLOR.


My Lords, like others who have spoken in this debate, I do so with affection and concern for the land and for the people on it; but the standard of the debate has been so high that it is difficult for anyone from the countryside to live up to it. The noble Lord who has just sat down has always been in the forefront of the fight for British agriculture and British industry, and I hope that his remarks and the remarks of other noble Lords who have spoken will bear more fruit on this occasion than has been the case in the past. I am very pleased to have an opportunity of submitting a few comments in support of the Motion before the House. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, has referred to the group who are associated with him. While I can claim no share in the authorship of the proposals which have been made, I was invited to join the group, and I was exceedingly glad to do so because of the great importance and value of finding a middle way acceptable to a wide variety of opinion, and one which will contain good principles and not be a bad compromise between conflicting views.

I feel that in some respects a very considerable measure of agreement between different bodies in this country is essential. A very good outline has been presented. It may not be complete, but the guiding principles are sound—the references to the choice and selection of crops and stock, and the recognition of the great natural opportunities of our soil and climate. I have also seen recommendations from other organizations representing the farming community and the landowners, and I do not feel that there need be any insuperable difficulty in reconciling the various views expressed. As has already been said, it would be very difficult to improve upon the most excellent article by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, which appeared last Sunday. I fully agree, as I am sure all of us must, with the importance of approaching this subject and the strong differences of opinion which exist regarding it in a conciliatory and constructive spirit.

The quotations made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, were most encouraging. It is behaps well to bear in mind the thousands of millions of pounds lost by British investors in foreign countries through default or bankruptcy or owing to war. It is now recognized that British agriculture offers a vast field for other industries. The conditions here and elsewhere after the war will make it essential for us to have a thriving agriculture. Its requirements from other industries will be very varied. Much of them will consist of housing and buildings, of which at first there will be a shortage, and there will have to be rationing of materials and progress will be slow; but, if we have someone, or some people, in the Government with vision and good sense, who will guide and direct the reconstruction of British farming, a contribution will follow from all of us which should satisfy all political views. In spite of what has just been said about the county agricultural executive committees, I feel that for several years after the war these committees—adapted, of course, to post-war conditions—will be necessary, and that they will be able to play a part between the Government and the farmers. It still requires someone with great business ability to find a way to secure the big saving in marketing and distribution costs which is possible between the producer and the consumer.

The field has been so well covered in this debate that there is perhaps little left to be discussed, but I should like to say something about the ownership and management and taxation of land, a subject which I think deserves more consideration than it usually obtains. It is also time, perhaps, to say more than usual about the ownership of land, because of the very active campaign which has been going on for a considerable time against individual ownership. The reproach is often brought against landowners that they do not stand up and speak up enough on their own behalf; and, unless they do so, their case will go by default. I think it is fair to speak up not only for those of us who are concerned with land management to-day, but also for our relations and others in the Fighting Services, who are away now, but who will want a say in the matter, and who still believe in their right to continue in the ownership of land. I must say emphatically, therefore, that the nationalization of all the land of the country would not be accepted by us and could not be part of an agreed policy. I do not say that in any provocative spirit. I believe that what people want is that the job should be well done, and they are more concerned with that than with the extent to which the land is owned and managed by the State. I would follow up what I have said, therefore, by an acknowledgment of the responsibility of owners for the best use of land and for its efficient management.

We have advanced a long way during the war, and we are now forced to submit to a large measure of control. I was glad to hear the noble Lord just now advocating a return to complete freedom of action, but I do feel, with others, that some control by agricultural committees under wise direction from above will have to continue. I may say that I find wide agreement among owners and in organizations representing landowners, as to the necessity for the proper use and management of land in future; they consider it reasonable that Parliament and the nation should insist on this. There are indications to-day that those who perhaps are most opposed to us politically in regard to the principle of land ownership, are endeavouring on their side to meet us, and we on our side can do, and I am sure we offer to do, much to close the gap and to secure agreement. If there is to be an extension of State ownership, surely it is better that it should be gradual and in natural stages, by acquiring land which is not properly managed, or is neglected by the present owners, or land needed for forestry, or for special purposes. Good stewardship will be very difficult at first after the war, and will be limited by materials, under any form of ownership. I hope there are a sufficient number of people being trained now either as executive officers for committees or as managers for estates, who will be able to do what is required later. That would certainly be an advantage.

It is fair to ask for greater security for owners as well as farmers, especially for those who, through adverse times, have borne the brunt of it and who have continued to manage their estates well and to bring their tenant farmers through that period. There is room for a combination of different forms of industry—the landlord and tenant system, the farmer-occupying owner, and ownership by the State, which is incidentally the largest of all already. The middle way again is best, but bad or neglected landownership and bad farming should be excluded. It is clear from all this that sales of land and changes of ownership may have to be faced, and will be necessary if there are cases in which owners, even with modifications in taxation, or any other assistance, are unable to manage their estates properly. But the suppression or elimination altogether of landowners does not seem to be called for here, and is not practised in other democratic countries.

I would like to add one or two further remarks about the management and equipment of the land and the way in which it is most adversely affected by the present application of taxation to land or to income from land. After the war improvements and renewals will be required on a vast scale, and there will be an accumulation of deferred expenditure on a scale due to the war which is probably not realized by people not concerned with land. It is also not generally realized to what an extent the call-up necessary for the Fighting Services and for other war work has injured the management of land, attention to buildings, and the building of new cottages. I was glad to hear from the suggestion of a noble Lord who spoke just now that there might be a possibility of new cottages being built. We are far from that stage in Scotland, where most of our local tradesmen and joiners have been called up, and there is no one available even for minor and essential repairs. With a more favourable outlook for farming and the renewal of confidence resulting from greater security, the maintenance of agricultural land under private ownership and the provision of new equipment will be much easier.

But there is another question which is dependent upon this and which must be faced. That is a more suitable method of taxing land. At present Income Tax on expenditure on repairs can be recovered through the estate maintenance claim, and it is a tremendous help, but it is confined to maintenance of the status quo, and everyone is now agreed that what was sufficient fifty, or twenty, or even a few years ago, is far from being enough now for the proper working of most farms. There does seem to be a strong case for some modification of the form of taxation and for charging a proportion only to Income Tax to represent the increased cost. Expenditure on new work and improvements is subject both to annual taxation, Income Tax and perhaps Surtax, and Death Duties, involving the payment of double taxation within a very short period. Possibly the whole value of any improvements thus goes to the State, and this must have a very restrictive effect on development and the supply of equipment. It is often stated that taxation of capital and expenditure on land and farming are much more severe than in the case of other industries. To allow recovery of taxation on even 50 per cent. of some of this expenditure, treating half as equivalent to maintenance and half as new, or else making the same allowance in the next assessment for Death Duties, would be valuable and need not conflict with principles of taxation.

The remission of Death Duties on land, scheduled and properly used for farming and food production, has been recommended from a variety of directions by people who have studied its adverse effect, and if Parliament were to support a modification in this direction British farming would immediately be established on a sounder basis. But with many years of Parliamentary experience I realize a great weakness in asking for a privileged posi- tion for any one section of the community. I suggest that without asking for exemption or favouritism there must be other and better ways in which the Treasury can obtain its quota without preventing the full and proper development of land. The argument is used by members of the Party opposite that land would increase in value to the advantage of its present owner if there is a modification in Death Duties, but surely this can be met and overcome, either by payment, on sale of the land, of any Death Duties that are due, or by fixing, say, a 10 per cent. sales tax on land in its place.

I suggest that much can be done in the way of relief from taxation, and this is a matter that ought to be tackled now. Is it not possible for the Government representatives for farming and food to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to allow his advisers at the Treasury to make suggestions to him for a better method of applying the taxes so that the Treasury may attain its quota in a form which would not inflict the injury it now inflicts on the industry? I feel that this should be done, and it ought to be looked into at the present time. In conclusion, I am convinced that we on the land can guarantee a very valuable contribution to the nation in return for any assistance that is given to the industry now.


My Lords, the purpose of our debate to-day and on Tuesday has been to urge on the Government that now is the time to redeem their promise to formulate an agreed line of national agricultural policy. From all sides of the House, following the lead of the noble Earl who introduced the subject, we have had speeches which should influence the Government and encourage them to fulfil that promise. The noble Earl who introduced the debate said he was actuated by "a devotion to the land of this, our own country and of those who live on it and by it." The speakers who have followed him have brought out from every point and every angle the interest which members of your Lordships' House can show and on which they can give the country a lead. In spite of the very vigorous speech to which we have listened from the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, who said that our whole debate both to-day and on Tuesday was futile, I cannot believe that many, if any, of your Lordships really agree that that is so. I have grave doubts whether he himself thought so because, if he did, he would not have given us that very vigorous contribution to the debate.

The subject is an important one, the field is a wide one. Many of the speakers who have followed the noble Earl have referred to the miracles which have been performed by the farmers and those who work on the land in the production of food for the people during the war. I suppose that, by and large, we must attribute that to the idea of mass production, to getting together in co-operation, and to mechanization. Many of these subjects have been dealt with in the various speeches, but there is one point I should like to stress. It has been touched on first of all by the most reverend Prelate and by two other speakers in the debate. I refer to the value to the country of the small farmer. Following the question so ably and so forcibly put by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, I would ask, is it not possible to find some place which will give an opportunity to the agricultural labourer to promote his own interests, to produce a greater quantity of wholesome food, and to put him on the ladder of independence? I believe it is, and I believe we have already at our hand illustrations which make it possible for that to be brought into a plan for national agricultural development.

My noble kinsman, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and the most reverend Prelate, spoke of the national calamity of migration from country to town, and how important it was that the population should be established in the country in wholesome surroundings and with a decent outlook. The same note was struck by the Minister of Economic Warfare when replying to the debate on education and youth service yesterday. He referred to the fact that the tendency of modern education was to produce a surfeit of bank clerks and typists whereas our need is for men and women to fill other occupations. In an interjection which probably was not heard in the Press Gallery, the noble Lord who generally sits at this corner of the Front Opposition Bench said, "Educate the agricultural labourer." That is what is needed—not educate them into being bank clerks and typists, but draw them out, draw them up, into an appreciation of the value and importance of their own profession, their own skilled work; draw out their talents, and give them an opportunity of improving their position and their livelihood. That is what is needed and that is what is possible.

I am a Scotsman, but I am not speaking to-day from the point of view of Scotland. I am speaking from the point of view of the experiments and experience of the Land Settlement Association of England and Wales of which I have the honour at present to be Chairman. We have had a number of experiments, starting after the last war, with the idea of providing an opportunity for work on the land in smallholdings for those who have been a long time out of employment, particularly in the mining industry. By degrees the experiments have taken a wider aspect and different statistics have been available in consequence. The present position is that there appear to be three main things to be satisfied if the capable ambitious worker is to be retained in agriculture. He must be satisfied that he is able to get a reasonable wage for his work which, as many speakers have already said, is a skilled occupation. That may be got by an increase of the basic agricultural wage. That has already been to some extent achieved, but there is a further possibility—and it is here that the smallholding comes in—that the man may not be satisfied even with the fact that he is able to get a better wage or that he is able to get further promotion to a wage-earning position with a salary larger than was possible before, but wishes to find his way to independence. That is the note which I should like to stress as being brought into the picture by a system of small holdings.

The experience of the Land Settlement Association has been built up on the same picture of co-operation as that which I think was splendidly put before us by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis. He referred to it as the "parent" farm with a number of smallholders round it. Our term has been more "group holdings." We have gone in for a certain number of holdings grouped together on the basis that here you have a number of people who are advised by one individual, the estate manager. I use the word "advised" because they are not definitely controlled, they are advised as to how they should cultivate and as to what will produce the best results. There is also the very important feature of co-operative buying and selling. It has been found that, as the result of these two things being brought together, it has been possible to raise the relative earning capacity of the small holder year by year.

Undoubtedly in the early years of the Land Settlement Association there were failures, but there are bound to be failures in every new scheme. Lately, however, there has been a steady development of the return available for each holder. It is unwise perhaps to deduce too conclusive facts from figures obtained under war conditions, but I should like to say that as a result of a very careful analysis made for us recently by our statisticians some most remarkable figures were revealed. I do not want to quote these, because as I say they are abnormal, but the normal figures themselves give us encouragement to think that a man of normal ability occupying one of our holdings should, on fine average, be able to earn, exclusive of rent, £5 a week, provided that prices remain reasonably stable. I have put the figure at £5, but that is really a long way below the average which the last returns have shown. From those facts I suggest that the request put to the Government by Lord Cornwallis is possible of achievement. We have here facts and figures available for anyone to sift and digest, and I believe there is the foundation for a development which should form part of the national scheme.

There are only two other points which I should like to make. One is this. Is there a real demand for these holdings? It is a little difficult to answer that question categorically, because owing to war conditions a number of those who were accommodated in these holdings found other employment and went back to their ordinary trade or profession. Therefore those. holdings became vacant, but a certain proportion of them have now been filled by men with agricultural experience, and as a result of that experiment a great deal of wider and more valuable information can now be given. The net summing up of the position is that in general all we can say about the demand is that in most instances we have a waiting list on practically every estate for those who wish to occupy the holdings that may become vacant.

Finally, I should like to put this point, and I hope that it may have its special interest to the Minister of Food who will be replying to the debate. In addition to this possibility of small holdings, we are encouraging the men and women of this country to take a real interest in the production and consumption of really wholesome food such as vegetables. That in itself is an asset to the population. I therefore urge the inclusion of small holdings in the framing of a scheme of agriculture, because that would encourage the growing and consumption of vegetables and would encourage the bringing up of a family in the wholesome surroundings of the countryside. If we agree, and if we can get the Government to agree to proceed at once with that which is most needed in the country, the provision of proper housing, then we shall encourage the production and consumption of wholesome food. Above all, we shall go a long way towards giving the agricultural labourer, the man who works on the land, the opportunity which he most desires of getting his foot on to the first step of the ladder of independence and making himself a citizen who feels a real pride in his own country.


My Lords, as one who has been deeply concerned with agriculture since my youth in association both with farmers and labourers, and also having listened for many years to the debates in this House of an agricultural nature, I think I may say without any fear of contradiction that this debate has dealt with the subject as it should be dealt with, not merely from the angle of the industry itself but from both the national and international angles. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said this is a matter involving national and international security, and that it is all-important that this country should take a leading place in planning a world food policy. Practically every speaker has been impressed with the fact that this industry is the most fundamental of all industries both in this country and in the world generally. I trust that the Government have been similarly impressed. After all, real wealth is created by it, and, as I submit, both the nation's real wealth and welfare are based upon it. It is on this account that at last, at long last, as is evidenced by the quotations given by the noble Duke on Tuesday, important industrial bodies are recognizing that it is essential that there should be an adequate balance between agriculture and industry to ensure that real prosperity in this and indeed in every other country should be secured. As Lord De La Warr pointed out, without such a balance on the one hand and international co-operation and action on the other, the potential wealth, and, indeed, in the long run, the very welfare of the nations, will be, as they are to-day, severely jeopardized.

That all too little known and understood fact, that some seventy or eighty per cent. of the world's population are food producers, is tremendous in its implication. It seems to me having listened to this debate that it really does take in all the policy put forward by that group in your Lordships' House who have spoken so eloquently during the course of this debate. International co-operation in the organization of the world market is of the very greatest importance, and I have little doubt that His Majesty's Government realize this importance and are increasingly conscious of it. The noble Lord opposite told us—I am not quite sure if I am quoting him correctly—that there were no friends of agriculture in the War Cabinet.


No agriculturists.


I am sorry that that is true. At the same time when we are talking on a subject of this sort I think your Lordships will agree that this is not a matter purely affecting agriculture, because agriculture is so interwoven with the general industry of the country and of the world that it must receive adequate attention in the consideration of the post-war position. I have no doubt at all that those who listened to the debate not so long ago will agree as to the great importance of the organization of civil aviation after the war, and that international planning on that subject is well within the possibility of the post-war situation. But I venture to submit that it is still more important to organize world markets in essential food-stuffs. To come to the narrower but intimately connected postwar policy at home, here we ought to be quite sure, as my noble friend Lord Addison said, what it is we want to do. Do we really want to make food production a progressive industry? I am going to assume that we do. In many parts of Europe, in some Dominions, and in the United States, agriculture has been over-developed with the consequent disastrous result of lost fertility and all that that implies. My noble friend Earl De La Warr, Lord Phillimore and others, have developed that point. The repercussion of that fact on world well-being is incalculable. It has been brought out very clearly in this debate that our nation can buy their food at far too expensive a price, at the expense both of our own population as a whole ultimately, and immediately of our agricultural population.

So much has been said, far better than I can express it, of the pressing need for a real agricultural policy, both short-term and long-term, that I will not enlarge upon it except to say that here at home our agriculture has been underdeveloped—I am talking of peace-time—and the natural balance of life, social, economic and intellectual (and may I add spiritual?) has been undermined with pernicious results in our national life. There are many things that need to be done to restore the balance. As I see it, the essential problem is to develop agriculture in this country, and with that it may be that the solution of the unemployment problem is also wrapped up. I will not labour the point which has already been made in this debate. To what my noble friend Lord Cranworth pointed out in his most interesting and helpful speech as agreed points, I think we may add that post-war economic policy should be directed to raise the material standard of life. This I think we may take to mean improvement in six things—food, housing and clothing, and supplies of water, light and heat. I feel sure that the most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York would agree with me in that because he has already done yeoman service in advocating the raising of the standard of living, notably in his plea for adequate and better housing.

I will not at this late stage in the debate elaborate concrete proposals for agricultural post-war policy because so much has been said of the points to which attention must be directed by the Government, but I would like to say a word on the question of prices. I welcome the repeated declarations by most noble Lords who have spoken that this is the fundamental question. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, spoke of stabilized markets and stabilized prices. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, said still more emphatically that the question of prices was absolutely basic. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said the industry must be made to pay. It was also implicit in the valuable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, when he talked of fair prices and the avoidance of "savings" in prices to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has referred. Again to-day we have had that point most eloquently brought out by speakers who have preceded me. What could give more confidence to the farmer than fixed standard prices, as I prefer to call them? It seems to many of us that what is wanted in this all-important matter of prices is to complete what has already been done—complete the standard price system into a definite scale of prices graded in accordance with policy. Implicit in this question is also the question of the adequacy of wages, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Addison, said, especially of an independent national authority to fix standard prices.

We have to give the farmer first claim on the home market, as the noble Lord opposite so truly said in the course of his remarkable speech. Side by side with this we need to secure the balance from overseas by allocations, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, in his sketch of the proposals that he has brought forward. Further and of great importance, we have to reorganize on a scientific basis that it is possible to continue after the war, our extremely costly system of distribution. I will not say more about the financial side except that there is need to build up through an agricultural bank or otherwise resources to finance these developments. I think the very remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, filled many of us with new enthusiasm and admiration for the speaker and gave us a good deal to think about. I am inclined to think that once these fundamentals are incorporated in a long-.term policy involving adequate land equipment and use, and a reliable living for people who use the land properly, as Lord Addison said, better housing, better education and better training, and improvement in methods will follow. I would go so far as to say that our immediate purpose, which I believe is perfectly practicable, would be to double our pre-war output and double the number of individuals employed in and about agriculture. Be that as it may: I believe that a policy based on the principles which so many of your Lordships have emphasized in this debate would, in the economic sphere, give both wealth and employment, and, in the social sphere, provide an attractive and health-giving life for the workers.

I would add this. The noble Duke has said: "Surely no one wishes to see all the money and labour that have been expended on the agricultural effort during this war wasted when the war is over." Some of us have had fateful experience with regard to this, and so have the farming community. They have an all too vivid recollection of what happened to agriculture after the last war. It is true, on the other hand; as the noble Duke has implied, that there is to-day a wider appreciation of the relative importance of agriculture among industrialists and townspeople. But, in view of past experience, I would all the more urge upon this All-Party Government the paramount importance—for the nation's sake even, apart from agriculture alone—of the formulation of an agreed All-Party agricultural policy. The interests involved are nation-wide and, I believe, world-wide, as the noble Earl has said. I do most warmly support the Motion before the House.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook has said to-day that Resolutions such as this do not usually get results. I believe the noble Lord has probably put forward that view in order to stir the authorities into demonstrating that the exception proves the rule. I only hope that the statement made by Lord Beaverbrook will, in this case, be found not to be true. Your Lordships may remember that on July 30, 1941, I proposed a Resolution in these words: "That an agreed long-term policy for agriculture is essential in the interests of the nation." That Resolution was debated, and was accepted by His Majesty's Government and by the House. But, of course, nothing has happened up to now. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, replying for the Government read the pledge which the Minister of Agriculture gave in November, 1940: The Government, representative as it is of all major political Parties, recognizes the importance of maintaining after the war a healthy and well-balanced agriculture as an essential and permanent feature of national policy. The noble Duke again read that pledge last Tuesday, and I only hope that the next time that a debate on agriculture takes place in this House we shall have the policy, and not merely a pledge to produce the policy.

I do not intend to take up more than a very few moments of your Lordships' time, but it seems to me now and it seemed to me in July, 1941, that the key word for any long-term agreed agricultural policy is "security." I put forward then what I suggested were the five necessary securities: (1) Security for the land itself by the maintenance of fertility; (2) security of good wages and improved amenities for the farm worker; (3) security and guaranteed reasonably profitable prices for the farmer; (4) security for the efficient landowner; and (5) security for the provision of adequate finance. I do not intend to go into all these matters again because I went very fully into them in July, 1941. I only wish to say that as I thought then that agreement between the political Parties was absolutely necessary for a long-term policy, I think so all the more now. In addition, if it were possible, we should have agreement between the three partners on the land, the owner, the farmer and the farm worker. I think if we could have that it would greatly assist His Majesty's Government to make up their minds on a policy for the industry. I would point out that the agricultural industry is particularly individualist. Lord Beaverbrook has said that on his farm he has had nine inspectors, and I feel sure all of us who farm sympathize with him very much. We hope that after the war there may be fewer inspectors. But I think that the county war agricultural executive committees have done very great work during the war, and it may be that in order to promote efficiency in agriculture some form of these committees should carry on. The difference between bureaucracy and the county war agricultural executive committees is that the committees are composed of farmers, landowners and local people, whereas the functions of bureaucracy are usually carried out from above, from Whitehall. The farmer in my opinion is an anti-bureaucrat, but he has given his voluntary services in war-time to the utmost to help food production. I only hope, therefore, that in any agreed agricultural policy the help which the individual landowner on the spot can give, the individual farmer on the spot can give, and the individual farm worker on the spot can give, will really be used to promote a prosperous agriculture.

I hope that the 3,000 cottages, which the Minister of Health has recently announced will be built, will be only the forerunners of many, many more. Three thousand cottages is a very small number spread about over the country. When I was talking to the Minister of Health yesterday he certainly expressed the hope that this effort was only the forerunner of a larger building scheme if labour and materials were available. Speaking as a landowner I would like to say that I hope landowners themselves will be given the opportunity, a little later, of building these cottages, and that the rural district councils will not be the only builders of cottages in the years to come. I will conclude by saying that I trust we shall hear a very satisfactory reply from the noble Lord, the Minister of Food, and that I would like to support the mover of this Resolution. I hope that the Resolution moved on February 16, 1943, will have much quicker results than my Resolution moved on July 30, 1941.


My Lords, I think that this debate will, at any rate, bring great satisfaction and encouragement to the farming community in this country. It is customary for this House in these days to be illuminating both in the breadth of statesmanship and in the breadth of knowledge that it brings to our current problems. I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that during these two days we have had quite an unusual debate. It is a debate that appears to have risen to emotional heights, and I think it has risen to such heights because, indeed, it has been carried on by people who have really cared for the land and cared for the people who work on the land. I have found it very interesting to listen to, and, as the debate has gone on, neither the interests of privilege nor the trammels of Party have in one single speech diverted your Lordships from a clear analysis of the value and the necessity of sound husbandry.

The noble Lord, Lord Addison, asked a very simple question. He asked do we want to use the land? We have during this debate expressed very clear principles. Your Lordships have agreed that proper use of the land is an affair of the people and not, in the long run, an affair of the landlord or the owner. You have agreed that landlords who do not use their land properly in the national interest ought to lose control of it, and that farmers who are either indolent or incompetent ought to be removed. You have agreed that this industry shall no longer depend, as it did for such a very long time in the past, on very cheap labour, which was held down to the countryside either by its own inability to move or, arid more pathetically, by its inherent love of the soil, which it could not bear to leave, in spite of the fact that it was living on almost starvation wages. There has been a startling unanimity of view on all these subjects.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, who was accused by Lord Beaverbrook of having made these speeches for an awfully long time, said that in this instance he had noted a remarkable change in the atmosphere. He said, and perhaps rightly, that that change in the atmosphere was due to the fact that it was entirely free from politics. I do not think that agriculture has made much out of being associated with politics. It has been a very political trade, and yet, in spite of all that, it was left before this war started as a very depressed trade. I believe that the debate which we have had will not only encourage the farmers but bring a stimulus to people both in the countryside and in the towns, people who in these days, it seems to me, are very eagerly looking for leadership, who are striving very hard to find some practical idealism, and who are looking to a new Britain and a better way of life. The debate has done something, I am certain, to assure the people who are working on the land of some security. The noble Lord, Lord Brocket, complained that in spite of the fact that he made a speech about this subject in 1941 the Government had not yet produced their plan for security. He did not complain only of his own speech being ignored, but of the speeches of others being ignored also. Probably the worst thing that the Government could do would be to produce plans which were based on what Lord Beaverbrook would so rightly call wishful thinking. We do not want, this time, to make promises that we are not going to fulfil. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that we should avoid any patchwork plan, and that we should look at the position as a whole—both the position in this country and the position, so far as we can see what it is going to be, in other countries.

I do not think that your Lordships will expect me to do any more than welcome the debate and give the assurance that the Government will welcome it too. It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said, that there is not an eminent agriculturist in the War Cabinet; but in the Government we have a very good agriculturist in Mr. Hudson, and he is forceful in giving expression to his beliefs, which on this subject are very deep and firm. I do not propose to comment in much detail on the speeches which have been made. I was asked by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, whether I would close the debate for the Government largely, I suppose, because he could riot be here himself, but partly, perhaps, because he thought that my Ministerial view of this subject might be of some interest to your Lordships. I approach the subject Ministerially, of course, from a different angle from that from which most of your Lordships have spoken; I approach it always from the angle of the consumer, not of the producer, the farmer. But let me say this: the consumer would have been in very sore straits during the last two years if it had not been for the farmers of the country. We should have been starved; we should, indeed, have lost the war. We could not have carried on if it had not been for the great enterprise that the farmer has shown.

My attitude towards this problem of agriculture is that I put agriculture alongside the Army and the Navy and the Air Force as the fourth side in the defensive square of our tactics. I hope that there it will remain. We have, I suppose, always treated it in the way in which we have treated the Army and the Navy. That is to say, when there has been a war on we have recognized our great obligation to it, but when the war is over we have proceeded to treat agriculture with the same indifference as we have shown towards the other Forces. I hope that we have learnt something from this second dose of experience. We saw our error quite clearly in the last war—"The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be." But when the war was over we forgot all that. We were very busy doing something else—I forget what it was—and we forgot it.

The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, will have gathered, I think, from the way I am addressing your Lordships that I am supporting his Motion. It is customary for a Minister, at the end of a debate like this, to express the hope that the noble Lord will accept the assurances which the Government have given and withdraw his Motion. I intended to ask the noble Earl to do that if the words "and to move for Papers" had appeared at the end of his Motion, because I have never been able to find out, since I came into your Lordships' House, exactly what happens if a Motion for Papers is carried; but since he was good enough not to add those words, I am not going to ask him to withdraw his Motion. I am going to associate myself with it in every possible way and with great vigour. Some of your Lordships have indicated that they would be happier if we came down to details at this stage. They say that we gave assurances about our intentions in 1940, and they wonder why we cannot go a little further now than to give assurances of our intentions.

Well, what will be the position in the future is not yet very clearly defined. We have at any rate stated principles, and the truth is that we have been pretty much occupied during that period since 1940. We have not only been occupied with the war but we have been learning a lot of things, and we have been learning a lot of things about agriculture. We have been learning from experience, and so has the farmer. I was sorry to hear Lord O'Hagan say that we had neither a short-term policy nor a long-term policy. That is not true. We have a very definite short-term policy in agriculture, and all of you who have had experience of the bureaucrats to whom Lord Beaver-brook refers knows perfectly well that these war agricultural committees have been giving very precise directions as to what people should do. Our short-term policy has been all right. It is the longterm one that we have not yet defined, and which people indeed are very in terested in. During this time I say we have learnt by experience. The farmer has been learning and his efficiency has increased enormously. Some time ago I had the pleasure of going with the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, to see some areas in Kent that but a year ago had been entirely desolate and of no value to anybody and which were then producing wheat.

We have learnt something else too, as a Government, I think. The country has learnt that you cannot build an efficient industry on starvation prices. Of course that has been known in the commercial world for a long time. We are just beginning to learn it now in so far as it refers to agriculture. We have learnt also that modern farming demands capital, enough financial security to take some risks, to make progress, to try out new methods and to be able to face whatever the weather of the following season is going to produce, without undue fears. Well, you know we have tried to give that sort of confidence to people during this war. My Department has had a perfectly clear and defined policy. It has given to the farmers guaranteed marketing and guaranteed prices, and told them to produce everything they could produce because we wanted it. In return it has done something else. I said "produce everything they could produce." That is not true; I made a misstatement. The Government have told the farmers what to produce. We have been prepared to take any quantity at a price which they knew beforehand, and which I venture to think has always been a good price. There have been two points of view about that occasionally, but that is just healthy and reasonable.

Moreover, during the whole of that time we have kept the consumer costs steady, but the taxpayer has had to dip into his pocket and pay a little. In return for that payment what have we had? I was going to say we have had security for the country. That would be an over-statement of the case. It has helped the security of the country, but this surely is important: we not only have had the food but we have had the right kind of food. We have made a beginning at any rate in establishing a nutritional standard for this country. I am very grateful for such things as your Lordships have said about my personal part in that matter, and perhaps Lord Bledisloe will not mind if I now say publicly how much I owe to his tutelage in this matter, which I have had ever since I came into office. We are getting along on that line.

Your Lordships will notice that in another place we have, at any rate pros-pectively, the probability—I do not know how the debate is going: that is the reason for my hesitation of language for the moment—the probability that we shall have children's allowances and a very considerable extension of the feeding of school children. All these things arise directly out of our determination to establish some good, sound nutritional policy in this country. We have put the demand for milk, I believe, on a permanent footing, we have done a great deal towards educating the public in the value of vegetables, and I hope we have done something in educating them in how to cook them. There are other things that we have to do. I was interested in what Lord Bledisloe said on the subject of eradicating diseases from the dairy herd. That, indeed, is a long-term proposal. It will take a great deal of time to carry that out. There is something else that we must do, and I think do in the public interest without delay. We must seek to make it as sure as we reasonably can that the milk that goes to the public is safe milk

I do not want to keep the House, but I feel I must just say something from another angle. Of course, we have had this prosperous state of agriculture at a time when our imports have been severely curtailed and very stringently regulated. I imagine that when the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said that he did not want any regulation he would be prepared to agree that we must have some regulation of imports into this country.




Many of us are thinking in that direction. But of course we must sell abroad. We must recognize that we have to buy and sell abroad, that we are a commercial nation, and that we must not so regulate, so curtail, our imports as unnecessarily to restrict our export trade. I believe that that can be cone. And I would say this to Lord Bledisloe: My experience in the past, as you know, has been mainly in dealing with commerce and banking, not with agriculture, but I see no line of cleavage between the true interests of a productive industry and the interests of agriculture. It seems to me that these two things live together, and must live together in this country, and that it has been nothing short of a calamity that in the past we have—as we undoubtedly have, in our eagerness to make cheap purchases—sacrificed unnecessarily the interests of the people who are working on the land.

I should have liked to spend sonic little time in dealing with the question of the small man. I am very glad that the most reverend Prelate, the Archbishop of York, urged that we should not in the development of agriculture force the small man out of existence. On the other hand, we must realize that there is no particular virtue in smallness. If people are going to be small, then there is no reason why they should not be efficient as well. There is no reason why the community should pay for keeping small people, as though they were a sort of domestic pet that we want to keep about the country. I believe that the small man can play a very efficient part in production, but he has got to learn something. He will have to learn how to co-operate with other small men. We shall have to have some standardization of production and of markets. On that subject of marketing, which a number of your Lordships have mentioned, I do not think we have learnt very much during this war. I have been trying to learn about it in practice, and I am humble in my mind as a result. I have made many efforts. Your Lordships will remember I tried to work out a scheme of vegetable marketing. It was the best I could do at the time. It met with the unqualified hostility of all the people in whose interests I was trying to work. Lord Bingley spoke about slaughterhouses. I have done my best with the slaughter-houses. There were, when we started, 16,000 of them, and now there are only 650, and I gather that Lord Bingley thinks there ought to be still fewer. Perhaps he is right. But I did riot find that anybody was very keen about reducing the number of slaughter-houses when we did it.

Your Lordships may remember that I promised, under great pressure from the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and Lord Addison, to try and do something about the rationalization of milk deliveries. That has not met with what I would call a warm reception from the producer-retailers.


A hot reception!


Perhaps I used the wrong adjective. It is an interesting scheme and, by the way, I am going ahead with it. I am not very interested in the immediate reception of my schemes. The people always abuse them when they start, but when they get to know them better they like them better. That particular scheme, as I have said, is going ahead. We have schemes now operating in 389 areas in this country—areas with over 10,000 people in each—and the plan as a whole will eventually operate among 27,000,000 people in this country, and is already operating among 13,000,000. That scheme is a very interesting one, because it is the first we have had in which it has been decided beforehand, and agreed to by the trade, that if there is any reduction in cost as a result of the process of rationalization, that reduction shall go back to the Exchequer and not go to the trades that made it. We have almost taken what some of my colleagues would call the "profit motive" out of rationalization, but we have had the good will of the trade, and the scheme is going, and I believe it is going well.

No statutory marketing scheme we have had as yet has succeeded in making goods cheaper to the public. That is a fact from the agricultural point of view that I regret, because even if the goods were not made cheaper to the public, if the public agreed to pay the higher rate, then if we were able to get a system of marketing that reduced the cost of distribution that extra amount might be available for the producers. I am sorry if I sound depressing on this point, but I am a little depressed myself on this issue. I want to tell your Lordships that my Department is now actively engaged in trying to work out some plan that will reduce the margin of distributive costs. My view is that they have got to come down. I just have not found out how to do it yet. During this war there is one thing we have found as a result of the controls we have had. During this war food is, in fact, being distributed to the people of this country with less expense in labour, less expense in transport, and fewer intermediary dealers than ever before. These gains are worth keeping. They are held tentatively, but the outcry against the fish-zoning scheme must have demonstrated to your Lordships, as it did to me, how hard is the way of the pioneer.

I am satisfied that it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to seek to promote such organization of agricultural production, processing, and marketing as will give the industry a sound prospect of economic stability. Your Lordships may rely upon His Majesty's Government using such capacity and experience as we have in the production of such plans as will, with the co-operation of the trades concerned, achieve this end. As Minister of Food I join in welcoming this Motion. I base myself on agriculture as one of the vital defence services of an island nation which can never be certain when evil and envious enemies will attack it again. I base myself on its value, both in peace and in war, in providing the people of this land with those fresh foods that they need to maintain a sound nutritional basis of life. Finally, I know that for all of us, town-dwellers no less than countrymen, a prosperous husbandry is necessary. It is necessary for the preservation of our countryside, and for the refreshment, beauty, and strength that it brings into the lives of us all.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, speaking on behalf of the Government, has been good enough to accept my Motion, it does not rest with me to add very much except to thank him and his colleague the Duke of Norfolk for their replies which, to some extent, are certainly encouraging although as yet not very definite. Might I be allowed to take this opportunity of addressing one word to the one dissentient voice in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook? I was very sorry that he should term this Motion "meaningless." The actual words, "that a sound agriculture is vital to the social and economic wellbeing of this country," mean a very great deal to me and a great deal to a great number of other people in this country. I believe that if we all genuinely felt the truth of these words our problem would be virtually solved, because we all know that where there is a will there is a way. The Motion only becomes meaningless if it is pressed to the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has pressed it. If we, the friends and advisers of the farmers, tell them to press their interests to the point of sacrificing other great national interests, if we tell them to demand the control of markets in their favour but to be prepared to accept no control at all in the interests of society generally, then we are the worst possible friends of farmers and of agriculture.

I do not want to enter into any quarrel with the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, on this point. I know that for years he has been a champion of agriculture, and, I believe, a very genuine one. I think he has frequently given farmers extremely bad advice, but he has always done it in the spirit of one who wished to help the agricultural industry. Therefore, I prefer not to enter into a debate with him on this subject. I wish we could all join hands to help this great industry. I know the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, always enjoys a scrap, but in this particular case I hope he and all the friends of agriculture, will agree not to scrap over it now. I hope your Lordships will feel that this debate has been of assistance to the agricultural industry, and that the Government will feel that the ideas which have been put forward will be helpful. I hope, too, they will take encouragement from this debate, and that it will not be regarded by them as being in any way ungrateful if I say that, in addition to taking encouragement, they will also realize that this House is not only anxious to help but if in future we do not get a more definite assurance than we have had now, it is also quite willing to push.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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