HL Deb 07 April 1949 vol 161 cc1053-73

3.6 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill, the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, if I may use the expression, is rather a "mixed bag." There are various provisions in it to amend the law on certain matters, but I think the main and most important parts deal with payments for schemes in connection with the agricultural expansion programme. I feel that in this House I need not argue the case for more food production and the necessity for obtaining more food as soon as we can. If I remember rightly, the expansion programme received a welcome from all sides of the House when it was first announced. Everyone realises the extreme importance of obtaining as much home-produced food as we can. Therefore, I hope that the measure now before your Lordships will also be favourably received.

With your Lordships' permission, I should like to go through the main provisions of the Bill, dealing with the more important ones in a certain amount of detail. The first provision, and the one which evoked considerable discussion in another place, concerns the calf subsidy. I would again remind your Lordships that there is an urgent need to secure more meat for this country, and we wish to breed up our beef herds as soon as possible. Speed is important. Therefore, it became necessary to try to devise some scheme which would encourage the breeders of calves to go ahead as soon as possible. The scheme which we devised gave subsidies amounting to £4 for a steer calf and £3 for a heifer if the animal was reared up to twelve months and had been born between August 21, 1947, and September 30, 1949. We have power to continue the scheme up to 1951. It is still under consideration whether, in the first place, the scheme should be continued and, in the second, whether there should be any variation from the scheme as it now is. I think we can reasonably claim that the scheme has been successful. If we take the increase between September, 1947, and September, 1948, we find that in the latter year there were 281,000 more calves than in the former, representing an increase of about 20 per. cent.


If I may interrupt, does that figure include heifer calves?


Yes; it includes both steer and heifer calves.


Can the noble Earl tell us what proportion were beef calves?


I speak from memory, but I think about 10 per cent. were heifer calves.


No more?


No more. I cannot give that as an exact figure, but I think it is approximately correct. If we take the returns for December, we see that the figure was 369,000, so it does lock as though the scheme, whatever its defects may be, is at least increasing generally the supply of calves. The scheme has been criticised on the ground that it is too expensive and that we are paying a subsidy on calves which would have been reared in any case. I think, however, that there are good answers to those criticisms.

In the first place, one must remember that under our system of holding February reviews, in which we consider what prices shall be given to the guaranteed commodities, we take into consideration the level of profit in the agricultural industry. When introducing the expansion programme, we decided, as a matter of policy, to give sufficient remuneration to the farmers so that, on the whole, the industry could invest capital to make itself more efficient; in other words, if this subsidy on calves had not been given, there would have had to be an increase on other items, in order to give the industry as a whole the global figure we had in mind. Therefore, one cannot look upon this amount given for calves as a complete loss to the country. The second answer to these criticisms is the fact that no other satisfactory scheme has been suggested. During the Second Reading of the Bill in another place, there was a great deal of discussion on the point, but I do not think anyone produced an alternative or more reasonable scheme. Certainly my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture would be grateful for any suggestions for alternatives. Finally, in answer to these criticisms, I would say that anyway we have produced the calves.

The next important point in regard to our food expansion programme is dealt with in Clause 4. For some considerable time, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, artificial insemination services have been gradually expanding throughout the country, and have met with great success. But they have been more or less confined to dairy herds. It occurred to us, however, that there were a good many dairy cows which were not really suitable for breeding replacements for dairy herds—they did not produce enough milk, or were unsuitable for some other reason—and yet these animals might produce useful beef. In order to encourage this, the Minister of Agriculture announced in August, 1947, that a free artificial insemination service would be provided for these cows, so that they could be bred up with colour-marking bulls—in other words, one would know that the progeny of these rather indifferent cows would be reared for beef and would not be likely to be sold as replacements for dairy herds. Again, I think that on the whole we have had success, and if we look at the figures we find that the advance has been considerable. In this free beef service, from October, 1947, to September, 1948, there were 12,600 inseminations. The estimate for the second year (and it is only an estimate) is 32,000 and, judging by the tendency that is showing itself it is hoped that in the third year there will be something like 80,000 inseminations. Meanwhile, of course, our husbandry officers are watching this service very carefully, to see that it is not abused in any way and that no irregularities crop up; and so far we have found that there has been hardly any abuse of it.

The next item which concerns our food production is dealt with in Clause 5, the purpose of which is to encourage the conservation of grass and fodder crops. On the whole we believe—and the Government have thought this matter out very carefully—that one of the greatest potential increases in our food production that we can make is in the increase of grass. There are in grazings large areas of marginal land which could be improved beyond measure, and by a big campaign of propaganda and education we are trying to encourage the improvement of our grassland generally. One particular item with which the clause deals is intended to help communal grass-drying centres. It is not designed to help the individual farmer who has just a small grass-drier, but to help the farmers with small areas of grass who, if they combined together, would find it well worth their while to produce this extremely nourishing food. Therefore, in approved cases we can give one-third of the capital cost as a grant to the farmers' co-operative societies or marketing boards, and we can grant a loan of a further one-third of approved schemes. The condition attached to this assistance is that a scheme should be non-profit making, and we hope that generally it will cause an expansion of this particular form of fodder conservation. Incidentally, this is not in any way an indication that we do not consider silage of great importance. We certainly do. But in the modern methods of making pit silage there is not the same capital cost, so we do not intend to include it within the terms of this particular clause. The Milk Marketing Board have been extremely progressive on this subject. They have established nineteen centres in England and Wales and are carrying out some very good research under the auspices of the Agricultural Research Council. Therefore tinder Clause 6 we extend the appropriate powers under the Defence Regulations, which would otherwise expire in 1950, so that they can carry on these extremely useful activities.

Various other items are dealt with which are not directly connected with the food expansion programme, and perhaps I might mention one or two of them which may be of interest to your Lordships. First, I would like to deal with Clause 7. This clause relates to our intention in the new Milk and Dairies Regulations to give medical officers of health power to prohibit the sale of milk which is suspected of being infected with bovine diseases, such as undulant fever or tuberculosis. It may well be that cows giving tubercular milk may not show any direct symptoms. Laboratory tests take some considerable time (six weeks or more) and we think it would be very unfair to farmers who might be prohibited during that time from selling their milk just because one cow or another might be infected. Therefore we consider it right that he should be reimbursed for his losses, and that this compensation should be payable by the local authority. On the other hand, some local authorities have in the past been rather reluctant to enforce such provisions on a large scale, as it would be a very big item in their expenditure account. Therefore we think it fair that the Ministry of Health should be able to reimburse these local authorities up to 75 per cent. of their expenses.

I think the project embodied in Clause 8 is an extremely estimable one, for it allows the Minister of Agriculture to give training to potential farm workers. Clause 10 deals with the technical, legal definition of the word "co-operative." It was found that "co-operative" did not apply as we had thought it did to certain land settlement organisations, and this clause should completely regularise the position. Clause 11 imposes greater penalties on people keeping a live Colorado beetle and for the importing of a Colorado beetle. This particular pest is spreading up the North Coast of the Continent, and we are worried as to the disastrous effect on our potato crop if the beetle should get loose in this country. Therefore it is considered very necessary to impose a rather more severe penalty on those infringing the regulations. I do not wish to bother your Lordships with the smaller technical items, but I hope that I have said enough to win your approval for this very varied and, I suggest, extremely necessary Bill. I beg to move that it be now given a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Huntingdon.)

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, this is a Bill with a somewhat insignificant title, but nevertheless it has a considerable significance, mainly for the agricultural population. The noble Earl has explained very lucidly—as he always does—the aims and provisions of the Bill; indeed, it provides a most refreshing change, in that this is one of the few Bills which have come before me recently which I have been able to understand at the first time of reading. I found that a great relief. The noble Earl has told us of the intention of the Bill—to help in increasing by £100,000,000, the agricultural production envisaged in 1947. I am sure that all your Lordships will be in sympathy with that intention, and that we, shall all do our best to assist the noble Earl in achieving that most laudable object.

At the moment, Clauses 1 and 3 appear to be the most important clauses in the Bill because, of the £33,000,000 of public money which it is proposed to spend under this Bill, no less than £30,000,000 comes under the calf-rearing subsidy scheme. I feel that we shall all be in sympathy with the object of which the noble Earl has told us—that of increasing the remarkably miserable ration that a portion of our population (a portion which includes the whole of the agricultural community) find on their plates once a week. We shall judge this Bill and its clauses by the effect which it has in increasing that production. That, indeed, will be the justification for the measure.

Before passing to other matters, I should like to make two preliminary remarks. The first is that the Minister does not appear to be very fond of his offspring, and the noble Earl himself did not show any marked enthusiasm. In fact, the Minister said, almost in so many words, "If you know of a better 'ole, I shall be only too pleased to go to it." One or two "better 'oles" were shown to him, but he said that the security offered did not appear to be sufficient. It is up to your Lordships to see whether you cannot find a still better "hole." My second remark is this. I have read, and have heard it said, that this calf subsidy must be a good thing, because no farmer has ever said anything against it. But how could any farmer say anything against it? Take the ordinary farmer like myself—when he receives one of these free gifts, how does he look at it? He has noticed that his expenses go up and up—sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, but quite inevitably.

In that connection I received rather a jolt the other day. I looked at some accounts of mine for 1939 and I noted the increases shown this year in respect of quite subsidiary items, such as threshing, thatching, blacksmith's work, repairs and so on. Their cost had increased in 1949, as compared with the total for 1939, by more than the whole of my Schedule A assessment. That is rather remarkable. When a farmer notes and tots up these increases, and then looks to see what help he is to receive under the promises given him—and, indeed, carried out under the Agriculture Act—he takes pencil and paper, to ascertain whether the assistance equals the total of his increased expenditure. I regret to say that it seldom does. That is how the farmer looks at the matter. One cannot expect him to look a gift horse in the mouth, because if he does he may lose the substance and find no shadow coming along in its place. So one cannot expect any farmer, apart from those very distinguished bodies which do admirable work in Bedford Square, to object to receiving a subsidy.

I think we must remember that any increase in the beef production of this country is bound to be rather a long-term job, though perhaps not quite such a long-term job as the rather pessimistic Ministry of Food seem to envisage. Some of your Lordships may have noticed that a representative of that Ministry stated that after consulting—consulting, mark you!—technical experts, they had come to the conclusion that the gestation of a cow took eleven months. In my experience, I have looked for the happy event after a somewhat shorter period—though I am bound to say that I am an incurable optimist. However, let us leave it at that. Going back, or rather forward, from this, I think that we should try to see where this increase in beef production is actually going to take place in (shall we say?) three years' time. I must confess that I am interested in this subsidy, because I keep a herd of cattle. I regret to say that the noble Earl will receive no increase from me, because for many years I have brought up all the calves I breed. Those people who keep purely dairy herds are, of course, in the habit of bringing up all their heifer calves but very few of their bull calves. It is possible that now, under this subsidy, some of those bull calves will elude the scrutiny of the certifying officer, and will be brought up. That is rather a poor look-out for those of us who look forward, before we die, to having once again a plate of really good beef—something to which we have not been accustomed during the last ten years. Why that should be so I do not know; but certainly it is so.

I take it that the increases will come mainly from the small commercial herds, and particularly, perhaps, from what are often called flying herds—that is, herds not necessarily of either sex, and whose owners make replacement by buying in the open market. I anticipate (and no doubt it will be the case) that those people will get rather more for their calves than they do now, and the bulk of the subsidy will go to those people who rear them off. I see no objection to that at all. The noble Earl gave us some figures. There was one figure which I had already noted; that was that production, I think, during the first year was 369,000 calves. If those of your Lordships who are good mathematicians will multiply that figure by four (to give the figure for four years) they will find that the result is 1,476,000. If they will then divide that figure into the £30,000,000 total of the subsidy, they will find that it comes to something more than £20 a calf. In spite of what the noble Earl said so convincingly, I find it difficult to believe that that is an economic proposition.

I would like to bring to the attention of the noble Earl one other point, on the administration of this subsidy. These calves are now marked in the right ear by punching out of the tender ear a round hole half an inch in diameter. I put it to him, first, that this is an unduly cruel method of marking a calf and, secondly, that the marking is in the wrong ear. The right ear has always been held to be the breeder's ear, on which he puts his own marks. To my knowledge, there has been a unanimous protest on this matter from the National Cattle Breeders' Association, and I trust the noble Earl will deal sympathetically with it.

I pass to Clause 4, dealing with artificial insemination, about which the noble Earl spoke kindly. I find little to commend itself in this clause. As I see it, in many herds there are certain cows which give no milk and which are unsuitable for breeding beef cattle under ordinary methods. Surely those are not the sort of animals to be used. I think they should be fallowed out and sent to the butcher to provide meat here and now, rather than very dubiously in three and a half years' time. I think this clause is altogether wrong. If His Majesty's Government are anxious (as I know they are) to increase the production of beef without reducing the supply of milk, I find it difficult to understand why they do not give more encouragement to dual-purpose herds. I must confess that I am interested in this matter because I have for long bred dual-purpose cattle. Over a period of years they have done remarkably well, and I have every confidence that they will do a lot better in future.

I think that Clause 5, which deals with grass drying, is potentially capable of being even more important than that dealing with the calf-rearing subsidy. We know how important the drying of grass, more especially of lucerne, has been during the last war. But surely it is vastly more important now, when the subsidy on feeding stuffs has been taken off. That was a disastrous blow to farmers, who found to their amazement, if they are the same as I am, that the cost of feeding stuffs increased at one blow by roughly 100 per cent. This makes the buying of feeding stuffs no longer a commercial proposition, except in very rare cases. That has had another effect, also. The trouble with grass drying up to the present has been that it has been just on the margin of being an economic product. In some cases it just paid. In others, it did not. Therefore, I agree that it was deserving of a subsidy. Now, by a stroke of the pen, it is made a very profitable proposition indeed, and I cannot help wondering whether, when this subsidy was agreed upon, the effect of taking off the subsidy on feeding stuffs had really been considered by the Ministry. Perhaps the noble Earl will tell us later on.

I find it difficult to understand why this very large subsidy should be confined to a limited number of people, very worthy, no doubt, but no better than others. The Bill says that a subsidy may be given to an individual farmer, but in his speech this afternoon the noble Earl told us that it would never be given, and was not intended to be given, to the individual farmer. Not being a politician, except as a side line, I find it difficult to understand the use of hanging out an attractive bait before a farmer and then telling him that in no circumstances will he be allowed to eat it. Another point occurs to me. I believe that there must be a great future in this country for small drying plants. I am told that in America, and also, I think, in Denmark, a small and cheap drying plant is produced which can be used on a comparatively small individual farm. I do not see why our own manufacturers should not be able to produce an equally good plant. I submit that they might well be given encouragement to this end by His Majesty's Government. The noble Earl said that this subsidy was to be given on a non-profit-sharing basis. I should like to know more about that. As I understand it (and my own co-operative has one of these drying plants) the farmer who produces the grass or lucerne will get his dried grass in proportion to the grass he has produced. The grass he gets will be a very valuable product; probably it will be nearly twice as valuable after drying as it was on production. Is it the intention of His Majesty's Government that these farmers shall pass on to their neighbours the profit on this product? If so, from what I know of farmers, I cannot help thinking the Government are somewhat optimistic.

Turning to Clause 6, which gives power to the Milk Marketing Board, I am sure that all noble Lords will be in favour of this. I have the highest opinion of the work done by the Milk Marketing Board, probably because I was not unconnected with this work, as I was for some years a member of the Board. In regard to Clause 7, dealing with the repayment of money by local authorities, I am sure we all feel that this is a measure of justice to the local authority and farmer concerned. I and one rather remarkable thing, not in the Bill, but in the Explanatory Memorandum which, for some reason, does not reach so far as your Lordships' House—I do not know why, because it is a very good Memorandum. The Memorandum envisages that the expenditure will reach the region of £1,000. I have heard in your Lordships' House, and have read frequently in the newspapers, of the frightful loss to human life due to contaminated milk. I have been told that 2,000 people die every year as a result of bovine tuberculosis, and tens of thousands more suffer from divers ills. Are we to believe that a sum of £1,000 of public money will cure the whole of that? The truth of the matter is that a thousand people suffer from drinking too little milk to every one who suffers from drinking impure milk. If anyone wants an unsolicited testimonial to the purity of milk in this country, he could not find anything better than that paragraph in the Explanatory Memorandum.

Clause 8, which concerns additional labour, will please everybody, I am sure, because we all know that more labour to drive the plough, or drive the pen—which is equally important in agriculture to-day—is desirable. I would point out to the noble Earl that the key to the utilisation of these men must lie in agricultural housing which still lags woefully behind.

Clause 9 was not mentioned by the noble Earl. That is the clause under which the Government take powers to obtain tenant right for the farms which war agricultural committees took over during the war. I have every sympathy with this clause. I feel that the Government recognise, with some dismay, the enormous sums that the war agricultural committees inevitably cost during the war, and are anxious to get back as much as possible. I cannot find in this clause—though I expect it is there—anything in regard to dilapidations. Presumably, if the Ministry are to claim tenant right, they will be prepared to pay for the dilapidations. Although I have heard it said that every farm handed back by the county executive committees is in a better state than it was when taken over, in my experience that is not always the case. In my county we farm a lot of marginal land of very low fertility. We took about three or four crops of rye, each getting worse one after the other. At the end there was no fertility of any sort, and the land was much worse. That land has to be brought back by the owner, by the planting of lupins, and either ploughing them in or feeding them to the sheep. I hope the noble Earl will be able to reassure me on that point, as I feel certain he would not wish any injustice done in this matter.

I am sure we shall all be in agreement with Clause 10, and with the clause that makes the giving of hospitality to the Colorado beetle a more expensive luxury. But I always remember asking my father sixty odd years ago: "What is the Colorado beetle?" He said: "My boy, the Colorado beetle is the farmers' best friend." I said: "Why?" He said: "If it were not for the Colorado beetle, no one in this country would grow potatoes at a profit." I think my father showed a certain amount of sense in that view. Nevertheless, we in this country do not wish to give hospitality to the Colorado beetle. I would say in conclusion that though I have criticised some parts of the Bill, I hope your Lordships will have every sympathy with it, and with the intention that lies behind it. I feel confident that your Lordships will wish to give this Bill a Second Reading.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I have some hesitation in rising to address your Lordships after listening to the most illuminating, humorous and well-informed speech of my noble friend Lord Cranworth. There is, indeed, little that I can say, except by way of emphasising some of the points which the noble Lord has raised. I was relieved when he ended his speech with a reasonably hearty welcome to the Bill; I was afraid that there might be a danger of his coming down on the other side. I myself welcome the Bill and, if the noble Earl opposite will allow me to say so, I welcomed the clear and concise manner in which be submitted its provisions to the House. From my point of view, perhaps his explanation was almost too concise; I should have liked, in some particulars, rather greater elaboration.

With regard to the calf subsidy scheme, I welcome at long last the definite premium which the Government are attempting to put upon the production of beef in this country. I will not say it is wrong, but during the war and immediately following it, until recently, there was a definite encouragement by the Government of the production of milk, and, relatively or incidentally, discouragement of the production of beef. Of course, as is found in Denmark—a country which is mainly productive of butter and cheese—the more milk production, and the production of the various by-products of milk, is encouraged, the more a premium is placed upon the destruction of young bovine animals for veal. Most of your Lordships will realise that, although there has been available an ever-decreasing quantity of beef, there has been available, relatively, a considerable amount of veal. That, of course, is an indication of the premature slaughter of a large number of young animals which are not capable of yielding milk. I hope that in consequence of the provisions of Clause 1 of this Bill that process will come to an end.

My noble friend Lord Cranworth said he rejoiced at the ease of interpretation of this Bill. Perhaps it is due to my advancing age, but I find some of the clauses in the Bill rather difficult to interpret, owing to the over-elaboration of legal phraseology. However that may be, although I have not attempted to understand everything the Bill says, I have fully understood what the noble Earl has clearly stated as its meaning. In several parts of the Bill, where periods are mentioned, it looks as if there is to be a sort of ex post facto operation of this Bill. Your Lordships will notice, even in regard to calves, that these animals which are described as calves may have been born eighteen months ago. I do not know whether, in respect of animals born eighteen months ago, subsidies will be paid now to persons who did not demand subsidies on or soon after the birth of the calves. I should have thought, in any case, that the word "calf" was not the right word to use in the first clause in the Bill. I think the words "bovine animal" would be more correct. I venture to suggest such an Amendment to the legal adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture. The clause uses the queer expression "steer calf," whirls I take it means a castrated animal that is not capable of yielding milk. It is an expression that, in my long experience of agricultural phraseology, I do not remember coming across.

My noble friend Lord Cranworth made an incidental reference—and I should like to refer to it more emphatically—to the attitude of the Government towards dual-purpose cattle. It is no good pretending that the Government during the war period did not definitely discourage dual-purpose cattle. I regret it very much, and for two reasons: first, because to those like my noble friend Lord Cranworth, who have done great work in this country in encouraging the development of the Red Poll amongst other dual-purpose animals—an encouragement which has been greatly welcomed in various countries of the British Commonwealth—it has been rather discouraging to find that, in the supposed interests of milk production, the dual-purpose animal has been discouraged in favour of the Channel Island, the Friesian or other breeds that are preponderantly milk-producing animals. May I venture to suggest that, taking the long-term view, it is not necessarily good policy? Many of us are coming more and more to the conclusion—and we are supported in this by experts—that if too great a premium is put upon milk production, the period during which those animals will be capable of yielding milk is probably being shortened. There is a growing impression, held very much in overseas countries, that, taking the long view, the 2,000 or 3,000 gallon cow is not a sound economic proposition. She requires an immense amount of food, particularly concentrated food, to produce the milk, and the animal has a milk life probably considerably less than that of the best dual-purpose animal.

I stress this matter because only during the last week I have had a representation from Southern Rhodesia, where they have been trying to develop the Red Poll breed as being possibly the most valuable animal they can possess. A very distinguished agriculturist—I am sure under the influence of the war-time policy of the Ministry of Agriculture—has lately visited that country propounding the view that the Red Poll is not the type of animal to be encouraged, because it is not looked upon with favour as a milk producer in this country. At a time when we are asking our overseas Dominions—and this applies especially to Rhodesia—to do all in their power to raise animals for supplying larger quantities of beef to this country, I venture to say that all persons of authority should be extremely careful about deprecating the development of a breed like the Red Poll, which is a dual-purpose breed often capable of producing a thousand gallons of milk within the lactation period and eventually yielding to the butcher a considerable amount of high quality beef.

I am rather sorry that in Clause 5, where the conservation of what I might call preserved herbage is encouraged, there is no reference to silage. Largely owing to the activities of Imperial Chemical Industries, there was during the early period of the war quite a boom in silage making. Many of us—and particularly in the West of England—found that silage was a very good investment for the feeding to cattle of what is really a highly concentrated food. So long as your herbage is cut at an early stage—that includes both grass and clover—you are able to provide a food which, apart from its water content, is equivalent in value to cattle cake and other concentrated animal foods. During the last two years, that keenness for the production of silage has abated considerably in many parts of the country. I venture to say that any added stimulus that can be given would prove well worth while from the Government's point of view.

For my part, I strongly favour financial assistance from the Government for the production of dried grass. Up to recently, at any rate, only a relatively rich man has been able to provide himself with a grass drier, and even then he is not certain that it is going to prove an economic proposition. Many of the earlier grass driers which were on the market some six years ago have not proved an economic proposition. But if, under this clause, it is possible to provide the smaller graziers—or, shall I say, the small farmers of grass farms—with some means of drying their grass without excessive cost, I am inclined to think that, in the long run, the output will prove a valuable substitute for the imported concentrated cattle foods which to-day are so sadly lacking. I welcome the statement that this scheme is to be worked on a nonprofit-making basis.

Incidentally, as an old cheesemaker, I would mention that the grass-fed cheese is probably always of higher quality than cheese from the milk of animals which have been raised upon artificial feeding stuffs. I hope this scheme will provide the country with a better quality cheese than some which we have been compelled to consume, in all too small quantities, during the last few years. I welcome heartily Clause 8—about which the Minister did not say very much—the object of which is to provide training for men and women, apparently of any age, who have not sufficient knowledge to apply for the many posts which are now available to persons with agricultural qualifications but who are prepared to undertake agricultural or horticultural occupations. I should like to ask the Minister what is intended by the word "facilities;" what facilities in this connection are likely to be provided, and how soon will they be available? There is a great dearth to-day, particularly in the West of England, of persons of almost any age—so long as they are not too old—who are prepared to undertake agricultural or horticultural work and who, in doing so, are likely to prove an economic proposition in face of the relatively high wage which now has to be paid.

As regards Clause 7, I notice from the noble Earl's explanation that he has in mind under the term "animals whose milk is infected or suspected of being infected," the prevalence of tuberculosis or of undulant fever—in other words, contagious abortion. Would such compensation be payable to farmers the diseases of whose cattle included mastitis? Mastitis is to-day the most prevalent of all cattle diseases—and, incidentally, it is more effective in reducing the output of milk than is any other of the contagious or infectious diseases.

Finally, with regard to smallholdings, I noted that the noble Earl went into some detail concerning Clause 10, but I am assuming that its object is to provide smallholders to a greater extent with facilities, for co-operative purchase and cooperative sale—facilities such as are possessed to-day by the larger and more businesslike farmers: namely, to enable their raw materials to be purchased in bulk and, more particularly, for their products to be sold under the best market conditions. The excellent Land Settlement Association has magnificently pointed the way to making smallholdings an economic success; and I hope and assume that this clause is intended to apply the policy and the activities of the Land Settlement Association to smallholders generally, under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and its officials. Co-operation among smallholders, as most of your Lordships know, has not proved altogether a success in this country; co-operation is a movement which is not very popular in our individualistic countryside. Nor has it proved successful from the economic point of view; many of these smallholders may be excellent husbandmen, but they have gone down through lack of business capacity and the difficulty of marketing their products. As I understand this clause, it is intended to help these people and to enable them to make a commercial success of their small undertakings.

I will not attempt to say any more; I have already taken up far too much of your Lordships' time. I for my part, wish the Bill all success. I wish we could avoid having numerous Miscellaneous Provisions Bills, and I hope that some day they will be co-ordinated in some measure which will enable the ordinary practitioner to know what is the law of the land in regard to many of the provisions which we are incorporating in a multiplicity of Bills.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say at the outset how glad I am that noble Lords have welcomed this Bill, in two extremely learned and useful speeches. At the same time, I should like to try to answer one or two points that have been raised. First, in regard to feeding stuffs, I would point out to the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, that one of the objects in taking off the subsidy from imported feeding stuffs was to encourage the farmer to be more self-supporting and to stimulate our silage making and grass drying. We have attempted in the new prices to compensate the farmers for the losses they have sustained in the matter of imported feeding stuffs, and I think that the general rise in prices should, to a large extent, have compensated for that loss. We cannot tell how grass drying will develop and, therefore, there are in the Bill these powers under which we can extend loans if necessary. The idea is to get farmers to send their grass to co-operative plants and receive it back in the form of the dried product, rather than that it should be sold on a commercial basis—in which case I do not think a Government grant could be expected.

The noble Lord raised a point concerning the marking of calves on the right ear. It is not easy to find a space for these marks, and the object in specifying the right ear was to avoid the Ministry of Food's mark, which is on the left ear. There are indeed so many marks that have to be made that it is quite a problem to fit in a new one. The provision in question is an attempt to meet the point. Another question that tie noble Lord raised concerned tenant right. I do not think that dilapiclations arise here; tenant right surely should apply only to land and seeds and crops on the land rather than to buildings. I do not quite understand why the noble Lord raised the matter of dilapidations in this connection.


"Dilapidations" is. I think, a useful term when tenant right is made. The landlord then has a right to counterclaim for default on the part of the tenant, whether that default is voluntary or involuntary. Usually, land given up is subject to betterment. I pointed out that there are some cases in which not only is there no betterment: there is, if I may coin the word, "worsenment"; and it is in that sense that I used the word "dilapidations," because I do not know of any other word that does, in fact, apply.


May I endorse that opinion? In certain parts of the country the use of the word "dilapidations" is not confined solely to buildings. It affects deterioration of the holding generally, and is so used by surveyors and valuers.


I am glad to accept the correction of noble Lords on this point. The intention of this clause is merely to put the Minister in the same position as any ordinary farmer, because it so happens that occupation of land taken over by him for farming constitutes a tenancy. It was found, however, that the Minister had no tenant right at all, and this clause has been inserted here to give him just the normal rights. I will look into the question of dipalidations before the next stage of the Bill.

I now turn to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, who also raised various points. I do not want to go into the really formidable problem of dual-purpose breeds for beef and milk production. That, I think, raises too wide a scope for the present debate. But I have noted the noble Viscount's remarks, and I must say that I hope we have not in any way depreciated the value of English stock abroad. As for silage, it has increased considerably in this country during the last two years. In 1947, for example, something like 250,000 tons were made, and in 1948 something like 620,000 tons. We want to encourage that in every possible way, for it is an extremely useful commodity. I gave in my first speech approximate figures of the increase under the calf subsidy scheme. I am afraid the figure was not quite accurate, but I have now better and later figures. Roughly speaking, there was, up to last September, an increase in the United Kingdom of 369,000 calves, and of these there were 147,000 steers and 222,000 heifers. I must have made a mistake in the increase. I will look into the question of mastitis: I could not give an answer to that offhand.

In regard to Clause 10, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is perfectly right in regard to co-operative land settlements. The intention was to give as many facilities and powers as possible, but we ran into difficulties on the legal interpretation of the word "co-operative." As used, it was held to be a benevolent arrangement which did not give the Minister the right to prohibit individual sales of produce in a scheme which had been a co-operative one. The object of this clause is purely to regularise the position and to give him the necessary powers. I am glad that the idea of training is welcomed for I think the training of potential agricultural workers is most important. Actually, the intention is to pay for maintenance, travelling expenses, housing accommodation, and expenses for recreation and welfare. Of course, we shall have to wait until the Bill becomes an Act, but we hope to put the idea into operation as soon as possible.


Does that mean that the training would be on the farms and not in a Government-provided institution?


I think it would depend a little. There is a big Y.M.C.A. scheme in operation. In that particular case, we intend to help financially. Also, there is a scheme for ex-Service men and a scheme for young people leaving school at the school-leaving age up to the age of eighteen. I will obtain further details of these schemes and let the noble Viscount have them. Those are the main points which have been raised in this debate. I can only say that I am glad that this Bill has received such a welcome, and I hope that your Lordships will now accord it a speedy Second Reading.


My Lords, there is one question arising out of these figures which the noble Earl has just given us and which I found rather surprising. Would the noble Earl look with favour upon a suggestion that the calf subsidy should be increased as regards steers and diminished as regard heifers? I tell your Lordships quite frankly that I believe that the best method of obtaining more beef production is to increase the price of beef in the same way as has been done in the case of pigs. I cannot see the difference between the two.


In answer to the noble Lord's question as to increasing the price of beef, if we raised the price by a penny a pound it would prove to be slightly more expensive than the present calf subsidy scheme, and we thought it would take longer to produce an effect. By this method we are helping breeders right away, cutting out the delay which would have occurred before a final price affected breeding. We would also have had some difficulty by putting up the price of beef, in that we would be paying for Irish store cattle whereas here we are definitely subsidising our own calves. That is my main point. The other point, concerning the relationship between the subsidy on the heifer calf and the subsidy on the steer calf is under consideration, as is the question of how long the scheme itself will be carried on.


I should like to thank the noble Earl for his remarks on that point.


I do not wish to take up any more of your Lordships' time. I am glad that this Bill has received a favourable welcome.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.