HL Deb 09 July 1957 vol 204 cc821-71

2.57 p.m.

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Provision for stability of particular guarantees

(6) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, the power of the Minister to vary a determination made in pursuance of an order under section one of this Act in respect of any produce specified in the First Schedule to this Act, or to vary during a guarantee period an order made under that section in respect of any such produce, Shall not be exercised in a manner which, in his opinion, would reduce the amounts payable to the producers of that produce unless—

  1. (a) the reduction is made in pursuance of the conclusions of the Ministers from the annual review last held before the commencement of that period; or
  2. (b) the Ministers are satisfied, in consequence of a special review, that the reduction is expedient in the public interest.

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (6) after "would" to insert "increase or". The noble Lord said: I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. The first three Amendments all go together; the second and third being consequential on the first. Throughout the Bill, and particularly in this part, reductions both in guarantee and in other respects are freely mentioned, but there does not appear to me to be any means whereby the Minister can increase the amounts paid to the producers in respect of guaranteed prices. Under subsection (6), the Minister can reduce the amounts payable, the maximum reduction having been fixed in a previous subsection. There are two grounds on which he can reduce the amounts payable. The first is by reason of what may have happened in the Annual Review the previous year; and the second is if, after a Special Review of prices has taken place, the Minister considers it; expedient in the public interest that some reduction should be made.

I envisage that the same set of circumstances may be in reverse. There may come, a time when no reduction falls to be made but when it would be expedient in the public interest that some increase in prices to the producer should be forthcoming. I am hoping that the words which I suggest will be introduced into the Bill so that the Minister is assured not only that he has power to reduce the amounts payable, subject to the percentages referred to in the Bill, but that he can, on occasion, increase them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 11, after ("would") insert ("increase or ").—(Lord Wise.)


Clause 1 (4) of the Bill says in effect that subject to the following provisions in Part 1 the guaranteed price for any scheduled product determined after an Annual Review may be subsequently varied by the Minister. Clause 2 (6) then goes on, however, to restrict the discretion of the Minister to vary a guaranteed price in such a way as to reduce the payment to producers—which is what the noble Lord has said—but at the same time it leaves unfettered his discretion to vary a guaranteed price so as to increase the producer's return. The effect of the noble Lord's three Amendments would be to prevent the Minister from increasing a guaranteed price between Annual Reviews unless the increase were also in pursuance of the conclusions of Ministers from previous Annual Reviews, or from conclusions after holding a Special Review.

As at present drafted, the Bill follows the provisions of Section 3 (2) of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Unexpected circumstances may arise between Annual Reviews which might justify the Minister in increasing the guaranteed price or making payments of additional sums to producers in some other way. This happened, for example, last year, when there was an unexpectedly heavy fall in the guaranteed price of fat cattle and when the additional payments to producers were made. In such circumstances, there may be no need for taking the formal step of holding a Special Review—indeed, the extent of the loss falling on one section of the industry only might not be such, when viewed against the economic circumstances of the industry as a whole, as to justify a Special Review. In this connection, it must be borne in mind that, as explained in paragraphs 19 and 20 of the White Paper on the long-term assurances, the unions have accepted that Special Reviews should be held only if the relevant effect of a particular cost-change is more than three-quarters of 1 per cent. of the total value of the guarantees. I hope that the noble Lord appreciates that in fact his Amendment would limit the Minister's power to increase more than the Bill as it stands. Therefore, I trust he will not press the Amendment.


In view of the assurances which the Minister has given, that it is possible for the Minister to increase producers' prices, should occasion arise, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Provision for stability of overall guarantee

3.—(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of section two of this Act, any guaranteed prices or factors relevant to the operation of guaranteed prices determined in pursuance of orders under section one of this Act for guarantee periods beginning in any year shall be such as to secure that the aggregate value of all those prices together with the aggregate value of all relevant production grants payable in respect of annual grant periods beginning in that year, is not less than the amount produced— (a) by taking ninety-seven and a half per per cent. of the sum of the aggregate values of the corresponding prices determined and production grants paid or payable in respect of guarantee periods and grant periods beginning in the last previous year; and

3.3 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, in subsection (1) (a), to leave out "ninety-seven-and-a-half per cent. of". The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. I expect it must be obvious to the Committee that I wish to raise the whole issue of the way this piece of Government policy is being made statutory. The situation seems to me to be a difficult one for the members of the agricultural industry, in view of the things which were so brilliantly said on Second Reading by my noble friend Lord Archibald. Moreover, the point that I want to bring to the notice of the Government is one which was debated at considerable length in another place in Standing Committee, and I have never yet seen any really adequate answer to the general case which was then put.

We have already said—I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that this is true—that we are grateful that the necessity for a long-term policy has been accepted in principle. It has taken a long time for that to come; and in the course of the interim period there have been, in our view at any rate, departures from some of the most important principles of the 1947 Act. But this long-term policy must not result—as, judging by experience already it seems likely to—in lower prices to the farming industry as an industry; and in prices being taken more or less upon a scale—although I agree that that scale is modulated in certain circumstances year by year. In contrast, practically every other industry in the country can go to the general public and demand from them whatever price they like, having regard to the state of their production, the general rise in their fixed overheads, such as charges for capital, wages, and prices in the international market from which they obtain their raw materials. The question of what profits they make or anything of that kind does not arise: it is simply in the hands of the industry to extract (though I am not saying they always do this) the highest price they can, the best profit they can make. In this way they can put themselves in an entirely different position from that of agriculture, because what they do not expend in increased wages they can plough back, as capital investment, for the expansion of that industry. That is the position of industry in general; but it is not the position of agriculture—not at all.

In the first place, agriculture is subjected to what is, I suppose, an almost compulsory adhesion to an award which is literally a statutory award of wage increases—and wages have been steadily going up. That fixed overhead has to be met. Farmers are subject to all the vagaries of general industry in the constantly increasing cost of capital to be put into the industry, mostly by loan or borrowing. Whether it is long-term loans from the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, bank advances or private loans, we see the same thing operating: capital is costing mere to raise.

But when it comes to the actual price that farmers can get for their commodities, they are in an entirely different position from the majority of other industries in the country. I am not against a measure of control of price, especially in an industry which, because of its necessity to the country, as well as the fact that it has all these outside conditions to meet, receives Government grants in aid. Therefore, in the general interest of the consumer and the taxpayer I am not against—indeed, my Party has always been in favour of—a reasonable control of price. But, of course, it becomes quite impossible for the agricultural industry to maintain its position if, in an interpretation of the Government's long-term policy there is a constant drive to reduce the price of the commodities, whereas the Price Review figure always leaves a substantial amount of the extra cost to the farmer to be made up by what is called increased efficiency by the farmer.

Since the last Review the farmer has once more been called upon to meet not only another wage award but also increased transport charges. Something like £1 ¾ million is to be added to the figure of £24 million extra cost for which the Government did not see fit to give any assistance at all to the industry. All that was to be made up by increased efficiency on the part of the industry. I wonder what sort of thing would be said by almost all the other industries of the country if that kind of condition were laid upon them in return for what the State does for them—for the State does a great deal for other industries. It has done it by the de-rating machinery and by the very considerable safeguards of tariffs. But it has never laid on those industries conditions such as are laid upon the agricultural industry here; and in order to retain permanently, or even for a long period, those benefits provided the industry must conform to increases of efficiency of £25 million, £30 million or £40 million per annum, according to the standard of judgment of Her Majesty's Government. No such condition is laid upon the rest of industry.

What is the fact to-day? One need only pick up a newspaper this week and read the ordinary returns of the cattle markets to see how the Government, in what is a subsidised product, penalise themselves by their policy in having constantly, week by week, to increase their subsidy on cattle because of this dogma of free competition in the markets. The farmer is no better off as a result, except that he has a price for his cattle which is nearer stability than it otherwise would be. It is the same with other agricultural commodities which are being marketed.

I hope that my noble friend Lord Archibald will not mind my quoting that brilliant phrase of his speech on Second Reading, as he will not want to make it a second time. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 204, col. 311] that the Bill makes the agricultural industry an island of deflation in a steadily rising flood of inflation. That is true, for almost everywhere agricultural prices to the farmers are going down. There is no real control of price in the sale of most of the commodities to the public, and what the farmer is losing in price is often not being passed on to the consumer. I saw in the Farmer and Stockbreeder in the early part of April, a statement by a Mr. Morris, who obviously knew both sides of the fence, for he was a producer and also a retailer of milk and had studied the retail arrangements. Whereas 5d. per gallon was being deducted from the farmer because of the state of the trade, he said "We are being treated very well as retailers. We are not being treated nearly so well as producers. I can buy a gallon of tuberculin-tested milk, bottled, at 4s. and a fraction of a penny, and I am allowed to sell it at 5s. 8d."

To pursue now a so-called long-term policy in which it is fixed in advance that the tendency will always be to deflate the farmer's price, whatever may be the rise in his costs, seems to be a pure anomaly. This is not the kind of figure which ought to appear in the Statutes of this country. We on this side of the House are proud of the general foundation established for the progress of agriculture in the 1947 Act. We remember with great interest the basis of the opposition to that Bill in the Standing Committee in another place; those opposed to that measure did not want to accept Clause 1 at any price. We are glad to see that after all these years of experience, the fundamentals of Clause 1 are put into this Bill. But when it comes to drafting administrative action based on a Statute like this, at a time when the whole tendency will be for inflation as at present, with a steady fall in prices paid to the farmer and with costs having then to be met from some other wonderful and blessed thing called "increase of efficiency" which nobody can measure—something in which there can never be a real level of achievement in this vast industry throughout the Kingdom but which can always react to the detriment of the individual farmer, his living and his family—we find that Her Majesty's Government fail to take the necessary steps.

I want to be fair. In the modulation of this process to which I have referred, some increases have been given here and there, but there is not a farmer—unless he is a very large farmer, with large capital resources—who has not found himself, on the whole, worse off in the last three years than he has been at any other time since the operation of the 1947 Act. That is the real fact. It is supported over and over again by our knowledge of the facts. If necessary, I could demonstrate it myself but I am not going to do that here this afternoon. I feel that we have a perfect right to move this Amendment to see what Her Majesty's Government really have to say about it. I do not think it would harm the general scheme one whit if this figure were to be omitted altogether. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 27, leave out ("ninety-seven-and-a-half per cent. of").—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

3.17 p.m.


I was most interested in the speech just made by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition. There is one point which I thought he might mention. He knows it as well as I do, because he is a practical farmer. We do not seem to take into consideration what a great gamble farming is and the fact that it is the Clerk of the Weather who decides. One may have everything in apple-pie order to have a magnificent harvest; then the weather turns against one and a great deal of the crop is lost. I can remember, as no doubt many noble Lords who farm can remember, that only three or four years ago, right through the area where I live, we never got in our hay. We got it cut but could never get it in, and in the end we had to burn it all. That shows what a great gamble farming really is, in all senses of the word, whether in regard to crops or the production of milk, beef or anything else. The weather has an enormous amount to do with it and that is one of the things that we cannot control I hope that the Minister, in dealing with this Bill, will take that seriously into consideration, so that if there is any disaster such as occasionally happens with regard to the weather, the farmer will be helped out of his difficulties.


After the flattering things that my noble Leader has said, it would be ungracious of me not to support him on this Amendment. But that is not the reason for my supporting him; I support his Amendment on its merits. May I say, in the first place, that the decision to protect agriculture by a series of deficiency payments was a decision made by the Government, not by the agricultural industry. I believe I am right in saying that when this matter was under discussion the farmers' unions indicated that instead of deficiency payments they would prefer the normal method of protection by tariff. I am not going to argue the merits of the one against the other, but I emphasise the point that the decision to make it deficiency payments was a Government decision.

That being so, I do not think the Ministry of Agriculture should always take a weak attitude towards the Treasury and be apologetic about the amount that they have to spend on deficiency payments when they have, in fact, themselves determined on deficiency payments as a method of policy. They should have the courage to stand up to the implications of the policy instead of—which is what we are seeing—showing this desire to reduce the burden on the Treasury translated into a system of reducing the earnings, the wages, of the farmers.

Let me give an example of what happens to-day. If wages in, say, the engineering industry go up possibly by sixpence an hour, then the farmer who gets a repair job done by a local agricultural engineer finds his bill for the repair has gone up from what it would have been a year ago. And if he goes into it he finds that not only is the wage item in the bill increased by the sixpence but the 50 per cent., or whatever the percentage may be, that goes on for overheads is applied to the extra sixpence, so that the agricultural engineering firm is, in fact, making another threepence profit. The Ministry do not do anything to encourage agricultural engineers to absorb their increased costs by increased efficiency. That is an argument which is reserved for the farmers only. It may be very Haltering for the farmers to single them out as the one industry in the country which is expected to be so efficient that it can absorb a substantial part of its rising costs, but I am bound to say it is expensive flattery, and there is a degree of insulation in this which is really becoming too much to be borne.

No farmers, I think, would grumble if, on its being found that they were able to produce more cheaply by reason of increased efficiency, they were asked to share the advantages of that with the consumer. I think all farmers would rejoice if they were able to produce more cheaply and to share on a reasonable basis with the consumer. But that is not what is happening. The farmer produces more cheaply and he gets no benefit from it. And, apparently, neither does the consumer; the benefits seem to fall down the cracks somewhere between the primary producer and the consumer. In the circumstances, I think it is not unreasonable to ask that year by year increases or decreases in costs should be taken into account, and that, at least, there should not be this psychological acceptance of the idea that there should automatically be a decrease of 2½ per cent. I think it would be very encouraging for the industry if the Amendment were accepted.


I think that both the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, are really suffering under a considerable delusion. Lord Archibald claims that no industry except farming shows this increase in efficiency. To be honest, the figures taken for agriculture are based on the figures for industry, and possibly are actually lower in some cases than the generally accepted figures for industry throughout the country.


I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but may I point out that I did not say that no other industry showed increased efficiency. I said that other industries were not expected to absorb increased costs only by means of increased efficiency. That is quite a different thing.


I think they are expected to absorb a considerable amount of increased costs by increased efficiency. To say that the farming community are expected to put the whole of their increased efficiency towards the whole of their increased costs is equally not true. We have never suggested that, neither has the industry said that we have asked them to do it. We ask them to accept a proportion, and I think we are justified in doing so. The noble Lord said, I think, that over the last few years farmers had received no benefit at all from their increased efficiency. I cannot quote all the figures this afternoon, but that just is not true. Farmers have had a very reasonable share of the benefit from their increased efficiency.


In that case, why has net income not increased?


If the noble Lord would care to refer to the speech which I made in this House not so very long ago, he will see that I quoted the position as being that on the normal weather basis net income would be higher than it had ever been before. That seems to me hardly a decrease in the income. The noble Viscount, in moving this Amendment, has, in fact, asked for a pure "cost plus" basis for this calculation. We feel—and, in fact, so do the representatives of the industry—that it is only right and fair that there should be a certain amount of latitude allowed to the Government to the extent of 2½ per cent. The National Farmers' Union themselves fully accepted that there must be a little scope for the Government to weigh up all the various factors that they have to weigh up, including the figure for increased efficiency.

The trend of the speeches of both the noble Lords opposite has been that this 2½ per cent. is something that is going to come off every year. That, again, is an entirely false assumption. Two and a half per cent. is the maximum reduction possible. The amount certainly was not reduced by that last year, and there is no reason to assume at all that it will be so in the future. This part of the Bill adds very considerably to the Act of 1947 and it gives assurance where in fact it was badly lacking. It gives the industry a very considerable safeguard. Perhaps I might point out that in 1951, when the Party of the noble Lords opposite were in power, in fact, they gave an award of some £43 million against a total cost increase of £76 million. If this Bill had been in operation then, the award which they would have had to have given would have been very considerably more than the £43 million which they, in fact, gave. I feel it is really giving the industry a reasonable assurance, and that it is only fair that there should be scope for adjustment. So I would ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.


It seems clear that we are going to get nothing out of the Government to-day. Therefore, in parting with this particular matter, I think it might be as well to point out one or two things that rise in my mind as a result of the Minister's reply. I think the Government are moving true to form. They are returning to the "every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost" sort of line in their general economic policy, as distinct from real controls in the interests of national prosperity. This really seems a repetition for the farming industry of what started in 1920, with the repeal of the Corn Production Act. The presentation made by the Government in this matter must make every thinking farmer very careful as to what he is going to do in the future. When we compare the success and prosperity of different classes of industry—rural and industrial, manufacturing and agrarian—the great difference is not in the wonderful increase in efficiency of other industries, not in their absorption of the increased costs and constantly rising wages, but in the fact that these are based on the complete freedom they have had in the prices they charge the community. Farmers have had no such freedom in fixing their prices. That seems to me to have been completely overlooked by the Government in their consideration—and I am sure that it is a sincere consideration—of what is a fair deal for farmers.

As regards the other part of the noble Earl's reply to my noble friend about what happens to the margins between the price the farmer gets and the price of his products when they get to the consumer, I do not think that there is any shadow of doubt about what happens. It can be seen over and over again every day in the markets. If the noble Earl were to get up and tell us, for example, what it is costing the taxpayer in deficiency payments now, on the Government's basic policy, it would be perfectly well seen. When a man buys a Grade 1 steer for beef at £5 per cwt., the Ministry make up a large deficiency payment to the farmer; but what is the public getting? Is the public really getting cheaper meat because that is the butcher's price in the market? Will the noble Earl say that the general public are getting anything like the advantage they should have from these heavy declines in the market? I feel that the economists who are at work in the Treasury and sometimes advising the Ministry of Agriculture produce this result: that it is always the primary producer and the primary commodities who receive the first attack from the deflationists. That is what started the crash in 1921 and led to the awful disaster of lowering standards of life and growing unemployment from 1920 onwards. It is because I do not want to see that happen that I disagree so fundamentally with the Government's policy. I shall ask my colleagues to divide.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Application to sugar beet prices]:

3.40 p.m.

EARL ST. ALDWYN moved, to leave out the third "and". The noble Earl said: With your Lordships' permission I will speak to Amendments Nos. 5 to 10 inclusive together and I would ask your Lordships to approve an alteration due to a printing error on the first page of the Marshalled List of Amendments. Amendment No. 9 should read: Page 6, line 3, leave out from (' 1956 ') to the first (' for ') and so on. The point is that there are two words "for" in line 4. These are all drafting Amendments which have been found to be necessary if Clause 4 is satisfactorily to achieve its purpose of bringing the guaranteed prices of sugar beet, which are fixed under Section 17 of the Sugar Act, 1956, within the

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 63.

Jowitt, E. Burden, L. [Teller.] Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Darwen, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Greenhill, L. Ogmore, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Haden-Guest, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Hall, V. Henderson, L. Sempill, L.
Hyndley, V. Latham, L. Shepherd, L.
Lawson, L. Silkin, L.
Archibald, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Wise, L.
Boyd-Orr, L.
Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Grantchester, L.
Hailsham, V. Hampton, L.
Home, E. (L. President.) Soulbury, V. Hastings, L.
Templewood, V. Hawke, L.
Wellington, D. Jessel, L.
Amulree, L. Leconfield, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Ashton of Hyde, L. Lyle of Westbourne, L.
Lansdowne, M. Baden-Powell, L. Mancroft, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Milverton, L.
Albemarle, E. Balfour of Inchrye, L. Moyne, L.
Bathurst, E. Barnby, L. Newall, L.
Glasgow, E. Birdwood, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Lonsdale, E. Braye, L. Rathcavan, L.
Munster, E.
Onslow, E. [Teller.] Cawley, L. Rea, L.
Perth, E. Chesham, L. Remnant, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Conesford, L. Salter, L.
Selborne, E. Cornwallis, L. Sandys, L.
Digby, L. Sinha, L.
Bridgeman, V. Dynevor, L. Somers, L.
Cilcennin, V. Fairfax of Cameron [Teller.] Strathclyde, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Forbes, L. Teviot, L.
Davidson, V. Freyberg, L. Westwood, L.
Falmouth, V. Glentanar, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

ambit of the long-term assurances of Clauses 2 and 3 of this Bill.

Clause 4 says that references in Clauses 2 and 3 to orders under Clause 1 or to prices determined or to be determined for any guarantee period in pursuance of such an order, shall be construed as including references to section seventeen of the Sugar Act, 1956, and to prices determined or to be determined under that section… We are advised that the present wording of the clause is not satisfactory, because there are, in fact, no references in Clauses 2 and 3 to any prices "to be determined". Also, it does not properly bring to bear upon sugar beet the provisions of Clause 2 (3), which says that if there has been a change on the basis of a guarantee this must be allowed for in comparing the guaranteed prices for one year with that for the previous year. Nor does it properly bring to bear upon sugar beet the proviso to Clause 2 (4). This says, in effect, that if an order under Clause 1 applies primarily, but not exclusively, to a standard quantity, the Minister may direct that, for the purposes of the comparison between guaranteed prices in different years, only the standard quantity shall be taken into account. These difficulties in the present drafting are all corrected by the Amendments which I now move. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 48, leave out ("and ").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 49, leave out ("or to be determined ").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 1, after ("order") insert ("and to the arrangements in force under the said section one ").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 2, after ("references") insert ("respectively").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 3, leave out from ("1956") to the first ("for") in line 4, and insert ("to the prices initially determined under the said section seventeen ").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 5, at end add ("and to the arrangements in force under the said section seventeen, and the power to give directions under the proviso to subsection (4) of section two of this Act shall be exercisable in relation to home grown beet as if any directions under the said section seventeen were an order under the said section one.").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5:

Power to make provision for protection of guarantees

5.—(1) For the purpose of supporting any arrangements in force by virtue of an order under section one of this Act, and in particular of securing that payments (whether made by or on behalf of the Minister under any such order or by a Board to whom payments are so made) are made in proper cases only, the Minister may by order make provision—

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, after the first paragraph of subsection (1) to insert: (a) for regulating the treatment, storage, distribution or use of any produce to which the order applies or for controlling the prices to be charged for any such produce; The noble Viscount said: This clause has a perfectly clear purpose, which is indicated in the rubric: "Power to make provision for protection of guarantees." I am entirely in favour of the general purpose of the clause, but what I want your Lordships to see is that, unless we can do something of the kind I suggest in this Amendment, then there will be no guarantee to the farmer that he will have such conditions created for him that he will be able, in an expanding industry, to find an expanding market because the ultimate prices are reasonable in relation to what he himself gets for the product. That will involve making proper controlled arrangements for storage, and the like, in regard to certain of the commodities, the improvement of, say, refrigeration in some cases and of cleaning in others—and some of these matters are covered by the one or two agriculture marketing schemes that exist.

With regard to the prices to be charged ultimately for any such produce, if we are to protect the guarantees it seems to me that we shall have to see that what the farmer gets £x for, the consumer also gets at a reasonable price. In the case of one or two necessities such as milk, Governments of the day have seen more or less—more in some cases, and less in others—that it is necessary for the general public health that milk should reach the consumers at a price which they can reasonably afford in order to provide for the health of their families. But in more recent days the attention of the Government has been turned to trying to get reductions in its national overall Budget, and in its health and welfare schemes. The Government have considerably increased the price of milk to the recipients of milk through those channels, which in my view is a great blunder.

As I have indicated in regard to meat and certain other commodities, their system is working in quite the other direction, and where a grant is made by the Government in respect of low prices in the open market the Government itself, following its own deficiency payments, have to make such a large grant as to be a burden on the taxpayer. Yet, in spite of the fact that the wholesale purchaser of the agricultural commodity gets a most substantial reduction in the price which has hitherto been charged, there is no corresponding decrease to the general consumer. That can be obtained only if the Government are prepared to control prices. Competition in that sense is obviously not working at all, and in consequence the general tendency is for labour to be leaving the agricultural industry and for labour in the distributive industries to be constantly increasing. In all the Governments with which I have been connected, either in or out of office, I have always heard the argument that what this country needs most of all is a trained, loyal, diligent nation of producers, and that, while distribution is necessary, our general economy should be so ordered that the distributive costs are kept at the lowest possible level. Yet the system which is going on now seems to be in the opposite direction.

I believe the Government could help a great deal by putting this paragraph at the end of this good clause in the Bill—because in general it is a good clause for the protection of the guarantees. I hope the Government will have the courage to take a step forward, and not be kept back because it is somebody else's political dogma. I hope they will act in the interests of the nation at large and endeavour to see that agriculture keeps prosperous and expands, and be prepared to make grants for that purpose and see that the consumers also get the advantage. That can be done quite adequately if this paragraph is put in and operated in the right spirit. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 11, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)


The purpose of Clause 5 as it stands is to enable the Minister to make, by order, such provisions as are necessary to ensure that the guaranteed payments are given only to those who are entitled to them, and that the Exchequer is thereby protected. We have experience of the kind of powers needed for this purpose, and are in fact relying now upon orders made under Defence Regulations for the protection of certain of the guarantee arrangements. In the light of that experience, we think that the powers given to the Minister under Clause 5 in its present form will fully meet that need.

The words of the Amendment proposed by the noble Viscount go a great deal wider, as I am sure all your Lordships will appreciate. They might, I think, be held—and I think probably the noble Viscount would like them to be held—to justify drastic interference with free enterprise in relation to any produce mentioned in the First Schedule. The Government have no intention of drastic intervention in marketing, especially as there are nowadays large producer-controlled organisations concerned with all the products listed in the First Schedule, except cereals, and they do not consider that a comprehensive provision of this kind is warranted for the purpose of Clause 5. The noble Viscount referred to milk. I admit that in that one special case retail prices are at present controlled under Defence Regulations. The Government are still considering whether to seek permanent powers to control the retail price of milk when the Defence Regulations are revoked, but if they decided to do so they would certainly not regard the present Bill as an appropriate basis for statutory retail price control.


Would the noble Earl allow me to ask him a question with regard to the price of milk? He said, quite correctly, that there is an overall control of the price of milk, carried out, I suppose, by the Milk Marketing Board under the powers given to them. What guarantee has the farmer in this matter that his product is being properly marketed? Take, for example, the present flush of milk. Milk was being sold in April and May in all counties, with the exception of Cornwall, for less than 1s. a gallon. For the same commodity the retail customer is paying 5s. 8d. a gallon. The benefit goes to the people who turn this milk into other forms of food such as cheese, ice cream, milk chocolate and all those things which have such a large margin of profit. It seems to me that if, to keep up with the expansion capable in agriculture, you cannot get some control of those prices to make sure that reasonable quantities are sold, then your whole scheme is always in great danger.


I should like to correct the noble Viscount on one point. The retail price of liquid milk for human consumption is controlled by the Government. The price of milk for manufacturing is the best price which the producers' board can get. As the noble Viscount will appreciate, we have flush periods every year. Frankly, I do not see how we are going to avoid them. During those periods it is difficult to get rid of all the milk, even for processing. But even this year we succeeded in having no waste of milk at all, which does the industry great credit.


Would not the Minister agree that if we get those commodities sold at a reasonable price retail, or at reasonable wholesale prices to the firms who distribute them retail, we should get a better demand for the extending quantities? That is what we are after—to get real control of price so that we can get justice for the producer.


There is a great demand for these home-produced products. There is no difficulty in dealing with the normal side, but it is difficult to expect manufacturers to have equipment just to deal with a great flush in May and June, because inevitably that will have to stand idle for a good deal of the rest of the year. Until we can control this flush, which at the moment is largely governed by nature, I am afraid we shall continue to have that position.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Repeal of certain enactments relating to livestock and cereals

10.—(1) The Livestock Industry Act, 1937, and Parts I, II, and III of the Agricultural Development Act, 1939 (which made provision for the payment of subsidies in respect of home-grown oats and barley, for promoting the sales of such barley and for the payment of subsidies in respect of fat sheep) shall cease to have effect.

4.0 p.m.

LORD MILVERTON moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "The Livestock Industry Act, 1937, and"). The noble Lord said: I am aware that this Amendment wears rather a strange appearance, and I do not wish to stand before your Lordships as the apostle of obsolescence or to support what has been declared, with almost unobtrusive airiness, in the Explanatory Memorandum an "obsolete" Act. But I wish to take this opportunity of suggesting that in sweeping away this Act something more than what is obsolete is being removed, and that is the beginning, at any rate, of a very desirable control of livestock markets. Clause 10 seeks to repeal that particular Act, the Livestock Industry Act, 1937, but Section 17 of that Act provides for the making of by-laws for regulating the holding and conduct of auctions in respect of livestock at premises where markets are held, and also for fixing or limiting the charges which persons holding such markets may make, and for regulating the management of such premises and for fixing the days on which and the times at which such premises may be used for holding livestock markets. Section 33 of that Act enables a scheme to be made for regulating the carrying on of the business of effecting sales by auction of livestock at market premises.

The reason given for the proposed repeal of this Act, and consequently of the two sections, is that the Act is an "obsolete enactment." I am advised that the local authorities concerned are strongly of the opinion that Sections 17 and 33 of the 1937 Act should not be repealed—at any rate not quite so sweepingly—without something being placed in their stead. There is, in the view of the local authorities, a need not only to retain existing powers to control auctioneers but for additional powers to be conferred upon local authorities who are market owners. I would add that I have no doubt that, through an oversight, there was no consultation, as is usual in these cases, with the Association of Municipal Corporations before the Bill was introduced. Such consultation would have enabled the authorities, and that Association representing the authorities, to express their views, and provided at any rate some opportunity for the market authorities to be heard. What is at stake is a principle rather than particular statutory provisions. I am aware that neither Section 17, to which I have just referred, nor Section 33 of the Livestock Industry Act confers any powers upon local authorities.

Section 17, in providing for the making of by-laws regulating auctions and charges, confers the by-law-making power upon the Livestock Commission, an independent body constituted under the 1937 Act. Section 33, in enabling a scheme to be made for regulating sales by auction of livestock at market premises, also confers the scheme-making power upon that Commission. What is of concern is the lack of power to control auctioneers at livestock markets, and anything which would take away the existing powers of control would make it very difficult to achieve the efficiency which benefits the buyer, the seller, the auctioneers themselves and the ratepayers, who are, after all, the owners of the market.

For that reason I have seized this rather belated opportunity (because the point escaped notice earlier) to oppose in principle the repeal of the Livestock Industry Act, 1937, to which, almost, as it were, by a side wind and without any consultation with the Association of Municipal Corporations, representing local authority market owners, we are now asked to agree. As your Lordships are aware, the Association to which I have referred represents all the county boroughs and non-county boroughs in England and Wales, and all but one of the metropolitan boroughs. Many of those local authorities can and do operate livestock markets, and they are very concerned about the weakness in the degree of control they are able to exercise in their markets with respect to the number of auctioneers who may claim rights to sell stock therein.

The proper marketing of cattle, I am advised, is one of the pillars of the agricultural industry, and it is accordingly most desirable, surely, that the marketing should be properly regulated. There should be no question of undesirable persons being allowed to set up to auction cattle in public markets. Persons who have little or no experience should not have those rights. I suggest to your Lordships it is most desirable, too, that the owners of public markets should have complete control over those who use the local authorities' premises for their trade. The reputation of a market depends not only on having a large variety of stock of every kind but on the efficient way in which the business is conducted. Where market owners can control the number of auctioneers operating in the market, they can control a rota system, with consequent benefit to the buyer, the seller, the auctioneers themselves and the ratepayers who are the owners of the market. A market authority can—and many do—possess powers to refuse unsatisfactory stock. Why should they not be in a position to refuse unsatisfactory auctioneers? A local authority is running a cattle market not for the personal profit of its members but for the benefit of the ratepayers as a whole. Why should a local authority, just because it is a local authority, be placed in the position of having to permit a person of bad reputation or of financial instability to carry on business in its market premises?

Coming back to the point with which I started, there is in this Act which we are asked to abolish legislative precedent for the further powers which I have suggested are desirable. They are contained in Section 33 of the Livestock Industry Act, 1937, which provides that service schemes prepared under that Act may make provision … for securing that … a person shall not, except under the authority of … the body administering the scheme, carry on the business of effecting sales by auction of livestock, or any particular description of livestock, on premises to which livestock markets bye-laws apply. It is my suggestion that that kind of control should be not only retained but enlarged, and should be given to local authorities. I appreciate that that is a matter which cannot easily be dealt with in this way by this Amendment. I also appreciate that at the end of what I have to say there will be little alternative for me other than to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment.

Before doing anything of that kind, I would make of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill a simple request—namely, that he will give an assurance that he will provide for the Association which represents local authorities in charge of markets, or in charge of the premises, an opportunity of discussing with suitable persons in the Ministry the question which I have outlined and which admits of much greater elaboration with those officials. It is a simple request, and I suggest that before this Bill proceeds to its Report Stage and Third Reading, it would be not only desirable but in keeping with precedent that this consultation with local authorities concerned should be allowed to take place. I am not asking for any assurance to-day that the Minister will agree to their wishes, but merely that he will listen to what they have to say before even he refuses to do it. I suggest that it is a reasonable request. I am not in any way implying that they have been deliberately sidestepped. I think it probably was an oversight that they were not consulted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 41, leave out ("The Livestock Industry Act, 1937, and").—(Lord Milverton.)


The powers of the Livestock Commission have been with the agricultural Minister since 1939, by virtue of the Defence (Agriculture and Fisheries) Regulations, 1939, but no general by-law under Section 17 of the Livestock Industry Act has ever been made, and by-laws applicable to particular markets have been confined in use to limiting a few occasional markets to be held on particular days. Representations have been made by the Association of Municipal Corporations about the desirability of giving local authority market owners the power to limit the numbers and to select the auctioneers practising at their markets. After consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, we told them that there appeared to be no adequate case for giving local authorities power to restrict the Common Law rights of any person to buy or sell goods in a public market, either directly or through an agent or auctioneer, provided that the market by-laws are complied with. Of course, these by-laws can be made by the local authorities independently of the Livestock Industry Act.

However, we are fully prepared to watch the situation and, if experience reveals a real need to revive any part of the 1937 Act, we will consult with the interests concerned to see how best we can meet that need. I am quite prepared to say that we should be glad to meet the representatives to whom the noble Lord has referred. Although, of course, I cannot commit the Government to making any concessions, we shall be most willing to receive them in the next week or so.


I should like to thank the noble Earl for the assurances that he has given. That is all that I would ask at the present moment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Interpretation of Part I]:

4.16 p.m.

LORD WISE moved, in the definition of "consultation with producers," after "with" to insert "any person or." The noble Lord said: Consultation with producers is mentioned in Clause 9 of the Bill, which says that the Minister shall exercise certain powers with the consent of the Treasury and after consultation with producers. I seek by this Amendment to amend the definition of "consultation with producers" in Clause 11 by including the words "any person or" before "such bodies of persons." It may be said that, further on, the Bill says that the Minister shall consult with such bodies of persons as appear…to represent the interests of producers…. But a case may arise where it may be necessary for the Minister to consult with one individual rather than with those who represent bodies of agricultural producers. There may be a specialist; there may be a local farmer of influence who may not be a member of recognised bodies of producers; there may be somebody who can bring to bear on the carrying out of this measure matters upon which the Minister may wish to consult. In order to tidy up the definition, and to give the Minister power to consult with one individual as well as with such bodies of persons, I thought the words "any person or" should be introduced into the definition. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 27, after ("with") insert ("any person or").—(Lord Wise.)


The definition of the expression in the Bill follows exactly the wording used in certain places in Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Section 2 (3) of that Act, which remains on the Statute Book, refers to consultation with such bodies of persons as appear to them,"— that is, the Ministers— to represent the interests of producers in the agricultural industry. Section 4 (3) of that Act refers to consultation with such bodies of persons as appear to the appropriate Ministers to represent the interests of producers of the produce in question. Similar wording is employed in Section 6 (1), but of course the later sections are replaced by Part 1 of the Bill. It may be said that precedent is not an infallible guide, but the Agriculture Act, 1947, has been in operation for ten years, and no difficulty whatever has arisen from the use of this form of wording which has been adopted again in the Bill. I do not know whether the noble Lord is suffering from slight misapprehension here, but while the Minister must consult these bodies who represent the various sections of the industry, he is perfectly free as to whether he consults individuals as well. If it were made compulsory for him to consult individuals, he would be in a rather difficult position, because no single individual can represent the interests of the producers as a whole. They, surely, must be represented by some body or bodies, and not by an individual. Therefore, while assuring the noble Lord that the Minister will be perfectly free to con-suit with any individuals he may wish to consult, I would ask him not to press this Amendment.


I fail to find in the Bill any reference to consultations with one individual but in view of what the Minister has said I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WISE had given notice of an Amendment in the definition of "produce", after "dead)" to insert, "mentioned in the First Schedule to this Act". The noble Lord said: Since I drafted that Amendment, rather restricting it to the produce referred to in the First Schedule of the Bill, I find that the Minister has the right to extend the meaning of "produce" under Clause 8 (1) and possibly it would be better to leave that power in the hands of the Minister rather than restrict him by including these words in this particular definition. So, unless the noble Lord the Minister wishes to reply, I will not move my Amendment.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:

Grants for long term improvements of agricultural land

(2) An application under this section may be made by any person having an interest in the land far the benefit of which such an improvement is proposed or by any person intending to acquire such an interest if the improvement is approved, and shall contain such particulars as the Minister may require.

(3) An application under this section may propose more than one improvement and the Minister may, as he thinks fit, either refuse to approve a proposed improvement or approve it in whole or in part and subject to any conditions he may specify; but he shall not approve any improvement unless he is satisfied— (a) that the land for the benefit of which the improvement is proposed is agricultural land occupied together with buildings and is capable of yielding a sufficient livelihood to an occupier reasonably skilled in husbandry, or will be capable of doing so as a result of the improvement; and (c) that the improvement is of such a nature that a prudent landlord, having regard to its cost and to all other circumstances would be willing to make it.

4.23 p.m.

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (2), to leave out all words from "proposed" down to and including approved. The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to Clause 12 (2). By this Amendment I seek to omit from that particular subsection the words: or by any person intending to acquire such an interest if the improvement is approved, Here I have in mind the point that unless somebody has a definite interest as owner or occupier of a property to which an improvement takes place, he should not, whether or not he desires to acquire an interest in the future, have the right to make application to the Minister for a grant for such improvement. If these words are left in, the door is open to anybody else who may wish to purchase a particular property in the future or to acquire any interest at all; he can go to the Minister at any time before he has acquired that interest and obtain the Minister's consent to an improvement That is a benefit which we, as legislators, should not nut into the hands of any individual.

It may be said in reply that this sentence refers to people who have a vested interest, or some future interest, in a particular property, either through the hereditary system or in any other way. It appears to me, however, that this sentence refers to a possible purchaser or somebody who may wish to obtain possession of a property but who will not do so unless the Minister has already granted the application on the improvement. For that reason I feel that these words are undesirable and may lead to a good deal of misrepresentation and mischief in regard to properties as a whole. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 14, leave out from ("proposed") to ("and") in line 15.—(Lord Wise.)


This provision enabling the Minister to treat with persons intending to acquire an interest, which follows the precedent of the Hill Farming Act, 1946, is meant purely to simplify and speed up the administrative process when a farm is changing hands. For example, in the later stages of a sale, between the exchange of contracts and completion, it will be convenient to be able to deal with the prospective owner, particularly as the vendor will not always be willing to act for him. I should like to mention here that an assurance was given in another place that we should see to it, by administrative means, that serious consideration will not be given to any application from outside parties without satisfying ourselves that the approach is made with the full knowledge of the present owner. Naturally a prospective purchaser is entitled to demand that an initial inquiry should be treated confidentially, but it would be made clear to him at an early stage that we could not act behind the present owner's back. I can assure the noble Lord that that is the object here—to ensure that we shall not get delays when an obvious purchaser is coming in or when a new tenant who has already agreed to take the farm is not actually in possession. We do not want work to be held up because of the fact that technically he is not actually the occupier.


On the assurance of the noble Earl the Minister that this particular subsection is not open to abuse and will not be open to abuse, and that the Minister will see to it that proper safeguards are given, not only to owners but to tenants of property, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WISE moved in subsection (3) (a), after "occupied" to insert "as such or". The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 go together, and with the permission of the Committee I should like to speak upon the two. If your Lordships will refer to Clause 12 (3) you will see that the land for the benefit of which the improvement is proposed is agricultural land occupied together with buildings. What I seek to do here is to make the benefits attachable not only to agricultural land occupied together with buildings but also to bare land, and in the next Amendment I include small holdings.

In the Agriculture Act, 1947, the expression "agricultural land" is defined in this way: 'agricultural land ' means land used for agriculture which is so used for the purposes of a trade or business, or which is designated by the Minister for the purposes of this subsection, and includes any land so designated as land which in the opinion of the Minister ought to be brought into use for agriculture. It provides that pleasure grounds and such like should not be treated as agricultural land. The point I have to make here is that there may be many stretches of good pasture land or grazing land which could well be formed into an economic unit—which is what we are referring to throughout the Bill—if provided with buildings. According to the Bill, if there are no buildings on an area of land—it may be reasonably large or fairly small but yet sufficient to provide a proper livelihood—it is not possible to obtain an improvement grant for the erection of the buildings.

If noble Lords will refer to the Second Schedule of the Bill they will see there many matters which are eligible for improvement grants. They will find that many of these improvements can, in effect, refer to land without buildings. For instance, paragraph 1 of the Second Schedule refers to Erection, alteration, enlargement or reconditioning of permanent farm buildings … The third paragraph reads: Making an improvement of roads, fords and bridges The fifth reads: Provision of pens and other fixed equipment for use in connection, with the sheltering, gathering, marking, dipping, spraying, treatment or feeding of sheep and cattle. Later in the Schedule we get mention of Reclamation of waste land. Removal of hedges … and so on. All these are matters set out in the Second Schedule as eligible for improvement grants which can attach themselves to bare land as well as land with buildings. I am sure that considerable uneconomic units can still remain uneconomic unless we can provide them either with buildings or some convenient place where occupiers can feed or winter or summer cattle or sheep as the case may be.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister, on this occasion, will open the Bill wider and bring in the stretches of land which can be made into small farms and small holdings. It is well within my experience that when a county council buy a farm for the purpose of small holdings they erect houses and buildings on portions of that farm, if it is a large one, in order that they may make separate economic units. I am particularly anxious that no suitable land in this country should be left in a state in which it is not an economic unit by reason of the operation of this particular measure. I hope that the Government will therefore agree that they can bring in such a definition as I suggest in these two Amendments, and that their improvement grants will attach to land with buildings, land without buildings or smallholdings. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 23, after ("occupied") insert ("as such or").—(Lord Wise.)


We refrained advisedly from asking for the power for which the noble Lord is now asking, because the underlying principle of the scheme is that the object of the grants is to improve existing farms, not to create new ones In this country there is virtually no virgin agricultural land, and the creation of new farms can really only come from splitting up existing holdings into smaller parts. The usual result of this is to replace one good livelihood by two or more relatively poor ones for a larger number of occupiers, and while these might produce in greater quantity, the net product is unlikely to be any larger: in other words, there is no expectation of increased efficiency as the result of it.

With the present shortage of tenancies, there is some temptation to landowners to split up holdings on a speculative basis. This may well increase the total rent obtainable, or show a profit on sale with vacant possession, but the nation is unlikely to benefit from better returns or, therefore, by way of reduction in price guarantees. The formula adopted in the Hill will not prevent grants for reclamation of derelict land which is to be incorporated in an equipped holding, nor will it prevent the provision of buildings for bare land farmed in conjunction with a nearby farm already provided with some buildings. I appreciate that the noble Lord wants to see more units; created, but, while I have considerable sympathy with that, I feel that the risk of creating too many small uneconomic units of a type which we are not anxious to encourage is too great to take.


I am deeply disappointed by what the Minister has said, for I feel that I have a case here. Cases are well known outside your Lordships' House where assistance has been given in the development for agriculture of bare land. But if the Government do not feel inclined to give way, there is nothing more I can say about it. I am afraid I must, with reluctance, withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.39 p.m.

LORD WISE moved in subsection (3) (a) to leave out "reasonably skilled in husbandry" and insert actively engaged in agriculture and with experience of the practice of good husbandry". The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with a question of some importance in regard to improvement benefit and the land. The words which I am taking objection to in this Amendment occur in Clause 12 (3) (a). They are "reasonably skilled in husbandry." It seems to me that these words are very difficult of interpretation, and I have suggested in my Amendment that there should be substituted the words actively engaged in agriculture and with experience of the practice of good husbandry. Perhaps I may not be well advised in using the word "actively". If the Government would accept the Amendment without that particular word, that would satisfy me in the circumstances.

In regard to this particular matter we should cast our minds back to the Agriculture Act, 1947, in which good husbandry was defined, and if we are making grants to these farmers we should be assured that the practice of "good husbandry", not just "husbandry", should take place. I do not want to weary your Lordships with the definition of good husbandry in the Agriculture Act, 1947. There is a full definition in Clause 11 of that Act, which deals with the efficient and proper cultivation of the land, the stocking of the land, the securing and maintaining of crops, the protection and preservation of crops and the necessary work of maintenance and repair. It is a full definition of what we want to ensure from the occupiers of land to which improvement grants apply. For that reason I have suggested in this Amendment that the words "reasonably skilled in husbandry" should be widened so that it would be better understood that these grants are for the purpose of promoting on all our farms good husbandry as defined by the 1947 Act. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 25, leave out the words ("reasonably skilled in husbandry") and insert ("actively engaged in agriculture and with experience of the practice of good husbandry").—(Lord Wise.)


We are chiefly concerned in this Bill with the improvement of the land, and I think that we should deprecate any proposal that grant should systematically be refused to the actual occupier because of a low standard of farming. If we take the case of the landlord who, looking ahead to the day when the present tenant will go, considers that it is an advantage to make an improvement now, I think that it would be unfair, to say the least, to deprive him of the right to a grant merely because the present occupier is inefficient. Perhaps the noble Lord feels that there is a section of farmers who employ managers or bailiffs and whose own knowledge of farming is not very great. They have been called "hobby farmers". I should like to say clearly that, from my experience and from the experience of my Department, many things said about "hobby farmers" are not well founded. Many of these farmers, although they may not know exactly when certain crops should be planted and what mixture should be sown in certain fields, have the broad future of agriculture much more in their minds than some farmers who deal with the day-to-day work of the farm, and it would be a pity to see these people deprived of assistance in raising the standard of their farms.


I was hoping that the noble Earl might accept my suggested Amendment to my own Amendment. He knows full well that I am much concerned with the livelihood of those engaged in agriculture. I admit that there are many others who play important parts in the industry and make their contribution to its economics and to the country's production. I have nothing whatever to say against "hobby farmers "—the expression came from the noble Earl and not from me—but he knows that I am particularly anxious that there should be a sufficient livelihood for the men who work on the farms, who know their jobs and practise good husbandry, and that is the part of my Amendment which I want to press.


They will get grant just as much as anybody else.


I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

EARL ST. ALDWYN moved, in subsection (3), to add to paragraph (c): himself or to pay compensation (whether or not he was liable under any enactment to do so) to a tenant for making it". The noble Earl said: This Amendment slightly modifies the terms of the "prudent landlord" test. As Clause 12 (3) (c) stands, the Minister may approve an improvement for grant if it is of such a nature that a prudent landlord, having regard to its cost and all other circumstances, would be willing to make it. With the Amendment, the Minister may also approve the improvement if a prudent landlord would be willing to pay compensation, irrespective of any statutory liability to do so, to a tenant for making it. In an earlier announcement, I stated that grant will be payable to landlords, owner-occupiers and tenants who must, where this is necessary under the Agricultural Holdings Acts, obtain the approval of their landlord or of the appropriate Minister, but that the cost and the extent of the improvement must not exceed the provision which a prudent landlord might be expected to make or to be disproportionate to the capacity of the unit to support it.

I am indebted to my colleagues on the Advisory Committee on the Farm Improvement Scheme for querying whether the formula in Clause 12 (3) (c), really gives effect to this intention. On further consideration, we have come to the conclusion that there is a risk that it might tie our hands too tightly in relation to improvements made by tenants with their landlord's consent, or to the same improvements if made by owner-occupiers. The formula covers the usual case where a landlord might well have made the improvement but agreed as a matter of convenience, that his tenant should do so; but it does not safely cover the case where it is not in doubt that the improvement is of permanent value, but where, because its value is uncertain, the prudent landlord will expect the tenant to make it under an agreement to accept compensation from the landlord on outgoing. This is a common practice where, for example, permanent poultry equipment, such as a deep litter house is involved.

The references in the Amendment to "compensation" deserve a word of explanation The Agricultural Holdings Acts provide for statutory compensation where the improvement appears in the appropriate Schedule. Most of the improvements in the Second Schedule to the Bill are covered by the compensation provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act, but not quite all—for example, shelter belts or cattle grids on highways. For clarity, therefore, the words "whether or not he was liable under any enactment to do so" are included, to show that the test is simply a test of whether a prudent landlord would be willing to pay compensation voluntarily, because it was worth his while to do so. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 33, at end insert ("himself or to pay compensation (whether or not he was liable under any enactment to do so) to a tenant for making it").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Amount and payment of grants under s. 12]:

EARL ST. ALDWYN moved, in subsection (2), after regulations, where that word occurs a second time, to insert "or of a specified part of any such improvement". The noble Earl said: With your Lordships' permission, I will speak to Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 together. These Amendments modify the provision of standard costs in Clause 13 (2). The regulations which the Minister may make to provide for standard costs are limited, as subsection (2) stands, to any improvements specified in the regulations. We are advised that this does not give power, in the case of complex improvements, to specify parts of such improvements. The first Amendment gives the power which is now lacking. The second Amendment is consequential, and provides for grants to be calculated in two parts: the part to which standard cost applies gets grant at the standard rate in the regulations, and the remainder is grant-aided on the basis of the actual cost.

This Amendment may prove to be of considerable practical importance. A preliminary study carried out on behalf of the Advisory Committee on the Farm Improvement Scheme has suggested that under quite a large number of heads in the Second Schedule the farmer might get a fair amount of grant on his own personal labour if the regulations enabled improvements to be divided into separate operations; the simpler ones, like site preparation and concreting, capable of being done by the farmer himself, being put on standard costs, while the skilled work: needing a contractor is left on actual costs. The Advisory Committee have not yet reached any final view of the question of standard costs, but in view of the interest shown in both Houses in finding some way of assisting the farmer's own work, we feel sure that Amendments to make sure that the power to do so is sufficiently widely drawn will be welcome. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 7, after ("regulations") insert the said words.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 14, leave out ("subject") and insert (" or, where the regulations make provision for the cost of part only of an improvement, one-third of the sum of the amount so specified for that part and of the actual cost (so far as approved by the Minister as having been reasonably incurred) of the remainder of the improvement, subject in either case").—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (4), after "persons" to insert "having an interest in the land". The noble Lord said: This Amendment is somewhat on the lines of Amendment No. 15, which I moved previously. Clause 13 (4) of the Bill says: The grant shall be payable to the person or persons by whom or on whose behalf the work required for making the improvement is done… I seek to insert after the word "persons" the words, "having an interest in the land." I think that if the payment of a grant is made it should be made only to a person who has a definite interest in the land at that time. No money should be paid to anybody who is likely to wish to acquire an interest in that land. I do not think it is right to pay out public money in such circumstances. The grants should be payable only to a sitting owner or tenant, and not to any outsider. It may be suggested that it should be paid to the builder as the person who carries out the work; but surely it can be paid to the owner or the tenant who makes application for the grant, and to whom the grant is approved by the Minister. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 19, after ("persons") insert the said words.—(Lord Wise.)


The object of the wording, as it stands in the Bill, is that grant can be paid, for instance, to the contractor; and it may be convenient to all parties that it should be paid direct to him and not to have to go through the actual owner or occupier. The other cases which have proved quite frequent in the Hill Farming Act, which is rather similar, are where a group of owners get one of their number to act on their behalf and, organise a scheme to deal with the finance of it. It is much easier if the whole grant can be paid direct to him instead of having to pay it to each individual. Those are the types of cases intended to be covered by this clause. It is with a view to assisting the occupiers, rather than the reverse, that these words are in the Bill.


I should certainly prefer to have the grant paid direct to the owner or tenant. I realise that there may be circumstances in which it is paid to the owner or tenant and may go somewhere where it will not be paid to the contractor. So long as the Minister is certain that he has full powers to exercise his judgment in this respect, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14:

Revocation of approval and recovery of grant

14.—(1) Where, after the Minister has approved a proposed improvement, it appears to him that the work required for making the improvement has been badly done, or has been or is being unreasonably delayed, or is unlikely to be completed, or that any condition subject to which the approval was given has not been or will not be complied with, he may revoke the approval in whole or in part.

(2) Before revoking his approval the Minister shall afford to the applicant for the grant and to any other person who is an owner or occupier of the land concerned or satisfies his that representations by him ought to be taken into consideration an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed for the purpose by the Minister, and shall consider the report of that person.

4.57 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved to add to subsection (2): which report, or such part of the report as the Minister may determine, shall be made available to the applicant. The noble Viscount said: The whole point of this Amendment can be seen quite easily from reading subsection (2) of Clause 14, as it stands. Here the Minister takes power to afford to the applicant for the grant and to any other person who is an owner or occupier of the land concerned or satisfies him that representations by him ought to be taken into consideration an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed for the purpose by the Minister, and shall consider the report of that person. All this is in connection with any revocation that the Minister's Department might wish to make in a particular case. All I seek to do is to insert words which will ensure that the report so received shall be made available to the applicant. I think that that is fundamental justice. It may be argued that there will be parts of the report which will have to be regarded as confidential. If there are facts brought against the particular person by the Minister's representatives to support a revocation of the grant, then any detailed report, surely, should be fully familiar to the applicant concerned, if he is afterwards to be given an opportunity to have an inquiry. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see that not only is justice done in these matters, but that it is seen in the Statute to be done. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 38, at end insert the said words.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)


In another place it was stated that we should wish to give aggrieved persons every opportunity to state their case as freely as possible and, where we could, to give them the reasons for refusal. But it was stated there also—and I have to repeat it—that we could not go so far as to disclose confidential reports. There is one thing which should be borne in mind here, and that is that the Franks Report on Administrative Tribunals and Enquiries is expected quite shortly, and it is highly relevant. I think it would be wrong to create a precedent on a rather minor point in this Agriculture Bill. I think one should also bear in mind that the person making the report, if he feels that all or part of it may be made public, will be less inclined to speak his mind with complete clarity, complete forth-rightness, than if he feels it is a confidential report. Documents of this sort are one of the main means whereby the administrative machine of Government works. If we start allowing what always have been, and, I firmly believe, always should be, confidential reports to be made public, I think we should see a grave falling off in the standard of administration.


I must say that I do not feel very happy about this matter. It seems to me that, unless I have misapprehended the Bill, anybody who is going to make application for a grant in aid of the improvements to be brought about will have had the matter inquired into at the beginning. The Ministry will have the advantage of quite confidential reports at that point, as to whether the farmer or owner concerned, as the case may be, is likely to make good use of the grant. The type of improvement to be brought about will have been examined; his plans will have been checked, and the whole project will have been thoroughly investigated. All I am asking is that, after all those things have been done and the grant has been made, if it is going to be revoked afterwards and the Ministry are going to take powers to see that such a person can have an inquiry into the decision to revoke, then the report upon which the revocation has been made should be supplied to the man when he comes to be heard at the inquiry. I think that is a reasonable thing to ask, and I hope it will be done.


I wonder whether the noble Earl would tell us whether, when the Minister has revoked an order, the man will be given the reasons in writing by the Minister, so that he can at least see What they are? I can understand the difficulties of the whole report being made available, but will the reasons be stated in writing?


As I said earlier, where we can we shall certainly give the reasons for refusal, and I imagine that they would be given in writing. I cannot see any reason why that should not be done.


I do not think the Minister has answered my last point.


What the noble Viscount is asking me to do is to accept his Amendment.


Or show that my second argument is not good.


As I said earlier, we do not feel that it is right that these reports should be made available, on the ground that the Franks Committee Report will be issued very shortly. I should certainly not like your Lordships to feel that I am hanging all the case on that Report, because I am not. We believe that it is a vital part of the machinery of Government that these reports should be confidential, so that the Minister can get the best out of them.


I am not quite happy, because here is a case where money has been paid over to a man who has spent it. He is then to be asked to return it—a very embarrassing situation for many people. I cannot think that is right, unless the Minister is prepared to give in writing at any rate the reasons which cause him to make that difficult decision—a decision which might cause grave embarrassment to a particular owner or occupier. Perhaps the Minister would consider that point before we come to the next stage of the Bill.


I will certainly consider that point, but do not forget that the Minister has to take the individual into court. He cannot get the money back purely on the report of a person appointed by him, without going to court. He can act on that report, but he will still have to go to court.


May I ask the noble Earl how much warning will be given to the recipient of a loan before it is taken back?


That is rather difficult to say. The grant may not have been paid over. It depends a great deal on the standard of the work done. If the standard of the work is bad and the job is highly unsatisfactory, then the grant will not be paid over. If part has been paid, and the remainder of the work is then unsatisfactory, that part is the portion which the Minister will try to get back. I am afraid that I cannot give a time as to what notice will be given. It certainly will not be a short notice, because there is a considerable amount of work to be done by the committee and various representatives of other Ministries.


I am still unhappy about this point. I do not want to prolong the discussion, and I think the suggestion made by the noble Lord opposite, that some further consideration should be given to it before the Report stage, is a wise one. I do not propose to withdraw my Amendment, but I shall not divide against it at the present time. If I withdraw it, it might look as if I were agreeing in some measure with the Minister, and that is not so. I do not think we have yet received a proper answer. It is no good arguing that we can afford, in a Statute of this kind, to wait for the Franks Report unless we are to have an Amendment after the Report to every similar piece of legislation, whatever Department is affected. I rather doubt whether that is likely to happen. We have had serious embarrassment, even in connection with the Ministry of Agriculture, in one or two cases in the past—I do not mean to name them, or to go into details.

I think it would be advisable if, between now and the Report stage, the Minister himself could authorise the noble Earl to say definitely what he thinks will happen in these cases. Will adequate notice be given, as the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, said just now? Secondly, will the reasons be stated in writing; and, thirdly, what real reason is there for not letting the man who has been promised a Government grant see the cause upon which the refusal is based? I think that is reasonable. If the Government could put into the Bill something like this Amendment, they would not only do justice but would let the people see that the English Statutes can show justice at any time.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

5.10 p.m.

EARL BATHURST moved to add to the clause:

"(4) An improvement scheme may be revoked or varied at any time by the appropriate Minister—

  1. (a) on application in that behalf being made to him by the person or persons who under the scheme, as it stands, immediately before the revocation, or variation, is or are responsible for doing the work described therein; or
  2. (b) in the absence of such application if that person, or each of those persons, consents."

The noble Earl said: The reason for this Amendment is to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will agree to the principle that a landowner should have the right to appeal to the Minister to vary or change a grant that may have already been made. Suppose circumstances should change suddenly, without any previous notice to the owner: it would seem fair that the owner should be able to get either a different grant, or possibly a larger or smaller one should that be necessary. The kind of situation I have in mind is where a tenant dies suddenly and a new tenant comes in to take over the holding on which a grant had been given and possibly already paid, but the new tenant does not wish to take over those particular buildings and a new scheme may be needed. A landowner should have that right to ask the Minister to vary the grant.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 43, at end insert the said subsection.—(Earl Bathurst.)


The wording here follows very closely the wording of Section 4 of the Hill Farming Act, 1946, which makes a similar provision for hill farming land improvement schemes. This Amendment is not necessary to enable the changes contemplated by the noble Earl to be made. The Hill Farming Act is on different lines from Part II of this Bill. The Hill Farming Act provides not for individual improvements but for comprehensive schemes for doing everything which requires to be done to bring the farm up to a full state of efficiency. A hill farming scheme is approved or rejected as a whole and, without the provision in Section 4, grant would have to be repaid if the scheme were stopped or changed in the middle.

But this Bill deals with individual improvements and, as each is completed, grant will usually be paid on it as a separate item. If the owner decides not to go on with a second improvement, he does not get grant on it, but it does not affect his entitlement to grant on the earlier improvement. A formal revocation or variation would thus have no utility.

It is true that sometimes grant for one item of improvement will be made conditional on another improvement being done at the same time. For example, where a cowhouse is built, it may be a requirement that a water supply is provided. That case will be governed by Clause 14 (1) which provides that, if a condition of the approval has not been complied with, the Minister may revoke the approval in whole or in part. This power is permissive and, if the Minister were satisfied that the breach of the condition had a reasonable explanation, he would not be bound to use the power. In practice, we envisage that if an owner has second thoughts after an improvement or a group of improvements has been approved, he should simply re-apply, and, if we are satisfied, we should give a fresh approval. Nothing more than that is required.


I beg to thank the noble Earl for his reply, and especially the last paragraph in it, which I think is exactly what landowners would like to hear. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16:

Grants towards costs of amalgamation

(2) An application under this section may be made within the time within which applications under section twelve of this Act may be made and may propose any transactions necessary or expedient for securing that agricultural land which is not an economic unit, but which together with some other agricultural land could form an economic unit, shall be owned and occupied with that other land; and the said costs are surveyor's fees and legal costs, stamp duty on any conveyance, tenancy agreement or mortgage, and any compensation for disturbance payable under section thirty-four of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948.

LORD WISE had given Notice of four Amendments, the last of which was to leave out Clause 16 and insert a new clause. The noble Lord said: With the permission of the House, I should like to deal with the next four Amendments together. I do not propose to move Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 as the points in those Amendments have already been dealt with in two previous Amendments this afternoon. I should like to say a few words on Amendment No. 28 to explain the reason for the proposal of this new clause.


Perhaps the noble Lord will formally move Amendment No. 25 when he comes to it, and then withdraw it.


I should like to say a few words on the reason for the proposed new clause. Under Clause 16 as it stands in the Bill, it is possible for the Government to make a grant in regard to surveyor's, fees and legal costs, stamp duty on any conveyance, tenancy agreement or mortgage, and any compensation for disturbance payable under section thirty-four of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. That is in regard to the amalgamation of units, which amalgamation may entail certain costs to the owners or the tenants. This may necessitate certain compensation, but I think that it is wrong in principle that we should agree to pay such costs to anybody. They are costs which generally fall upon either the landlords or the tenants in regard to land matters, and, if amalgamation takes place, it may be that these costs will be high or low according to the area of land and the circumstances involved. But for the Government to suggest that they will pay one-third of the cost in regard to those amalgamations is, I think, wrong. As noble Lords will see, in the new clause which I have drafted on the basis of the old clause, leaving out the question of the costs, I am not averse from amalgamations, if amalgamations of land or units can take place; it is simply the question of costs. I join issue with the Government on this matter and think it would be better that the door should not be open to all sorts of amalgamations to be brought to the Government and for part of the costs of amalgamation to be backed by the State.

In regard to Amendment No. 27, noble Lords will see that the new clause which I suggest embodies part of Clause 16 (3) as follows: An application under this section may be made by any person having an interest in any of the land the ownership and occupation of which as an economic unit is proposed in the application…. But what I seek to do is to give the occupier of the land notice of such application. Under the clause as it stands at present, there is no liability on the part of the owner to inform the occupier of the land that an application has been made for an amalgamation. I think that that is wrong and that the occupier should be informed as to what may happen to his particular farm or area of land. I will move according to the direction of the Lord Chairman in regard to the various Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 29, after ("land") insert ("as such or occupied with buildings or as a small holding ").—(Lord Wise.)


I am not quite clear upon which Amendment I am supposed to be talking.


May I rise again to say that we have already dealt with that point and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg now to move Amendment No. 27.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 40, after ("approved") insert (" provided that the occupier of the land has been notified of the application").—(Lord Wise.)


Are we speaking on Amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 29?


I think the Lord Chairman wishes the noble Earl to speak on Amendment No. 27.


If I may say so, the noble Earl the Minister can answer to all the Amendments as explained, but the noble Lord has simply formally moved Amendment No. 27 so that the noble Earl can talk to it.

5.20 p.m.


First of all, on Amendment No. 27, we have already given an assurance, which I am happy to repeat, that we shall see that all the interested parties are informed. It may be possible to ask why we prefer to deal with this matter by administrative means. I think the answer is this: it is not always feasible to guarantee to notify the occupier in every case, although as a rule he is easy to identify and to inform. But problems will arise. We have come across this difficulty on a number of occasions in administering Part II of the Agriculture Act. In fact, the occupier in law may not be the farmer himself, but a trustee holding the tenancy on his behalf, or the executors of a will. In such cases it would, I think, be preferable for the Minister not to be precluded in the last resort from entertaining the application. But, where possible, I can assure the noble Lord that we will certainly notify all those concerned.

Now there is the question of the noble Lord's new Clause 16 and the deletion of Clause 17. As the noble Lord has said, our object is to pay grants of one-third of the cost of certain incidental expenses on these amalgamation transactions. His new Clause 16 and the deletion of Clause 17 in fact leaves intact the power to approve or reject proposals, but removes entirely the power to pay any grant. The effect of this, legally, is to rob the provision for amalgamation of all practical purpose. No one would have any reason to ask the Minister for approval, for it could not lead to a grant, and refusal of approval would not affect their freedom of action under the general law.

The case for these grants is that they are complementary to the improvement grants. I think it is generally agreed that it would be wrong to pay grants to improve holdings which can never produce a decent living; and I think it follows that an uneconomic holding will simply go from bad to worse unless something is done for it. The amalgamation grants are offered to make these holdings large enough to be economic and so suitable for improvement grants. On Second Reading I gave the noble Lord some figures of what the cost of an amalgamation on a 40-acre holding might be, and I will not weary your Lordships by repeating them now. But they are considerable, and if we are to help these units which, on their own, can never come to anything worth while or be anything less than a burden to their occupiers, I feel that we must have these amalgamation grants.


Would my noble friend say whether he is prepared to see that the occupier and the owner are informed in these cases? Because I gather that the person interested in the land may be some quite different body.


I can certainly give my noble friend that assurance.


In view of what the noble Earl has said, there is nothing else that I can do. I am against the payment of money from State funds for this particular purpose. If there is any cost arising from an amalgamation or the sale or purchase of land, then those dealing with that particular transaction should pay it. I am afraid that this may lead to applications elsewhere, which I think would be a disadvantage. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 27, and do not move Amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.

Clause 19:

Supplementary provisions as to orders and regulations

19.—(1) Any power of the Ministers to make orders, or regulations under this Part of this Act shall be exercised with the consent of the Treasury.

5.26 p.m.

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (1) to leave out "with the consent of the Treasury" and to insert "by them". The noble Lord said: I have been quite peaceful through the earlier part of the afternoon and this may be a somewhat rebellious Amendment. But in this particular instance, in regard to Part I of the Bill where there are varying amounts of money involved in the payment of grants, I thought it right and proper that the Minister should consult not only the Treasury, as he does, but also the producers. In regard to this particular Part of the Bill, in which the amount of money is allocated over a period of ten years (the sum being £50 million, and not exceeding £55 million), it would be in order for the Ministers, as authorised Ministers of State who are to approve these various schemes and grants, to be masters of their own house and to carry out the work under the Bill without having to go to the Treasury for consent to spend the money. The amount is fixed. I take it that the allocation is in the hands of the Ministers. The refusal or the giving of the grants is in the hands of the respective Ministers, and I think the time has come when, if Ministers are authorised by Act of Parliament to carry out the wishes of Parliament, they should have the full authority to carry out the administrative work and put the Act into operation. I may find myself in trouble in trying to "wash out" the Treasury in this instance; nevertheless. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 26, leave out from ("exercised") to end of line 27 and insert ("by them").—(Lord Wise.)


If it had been the intention that the Minister should have unfettered control over £55 million, then it would have been put in the Bill as £55 million and not as £50 million, with a possible extension if, it was required. I think it is normal practice that the Treasury, having agreed to the allocation of certain grants for a certain purpose, are more than content that the Minister responsible should get on with it. But where there is a proviso that there can be an extension under certain conditions, if it should be required but is not in the original demand from the Treasury, the Treasury must, I think, be consulted. At that particular time, when the £50 million is used up and the Minister of Agriculture says, "I want my extra £5 million," the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be able to consider the circumstances applicable at that particular time and decide whether the state of the country is such that they can afford that extra £5 million. I think that is only reasonable. If it had been the intention of Her Majesty's Government that £55 million should be the total figure in any circumstances, that would have been written in as £55 million and there would not have been the need to go back again.


I am very sorry. I was trying to give the Minister of Agriculture the freedom which is spoken about so much at the present time, but if the noble Earl the Minister is still anxious that the Treasury should help to allocate the money, I can say no more. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clauses 20 to 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Constitution of the Authority]:

5.32 p.m.


In the absence of my noble Leader I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name. It deals with the composition of the Authority and provides that there shall be two persons, instead of one, capable of representing the interests of persons employed in agriculture. This matter has been spoken about in the past. It was mentioned on Second Reading and in another place, and I believe it is the desire of those employed in agriculture that there should be an increase in their representation. It may be said by the Minister that if we increase the representation of agricultural workers we shall have to increase the representation of other bodies also, and the total number of members of the Authority. But workers in the pig industry are very concerned and knowledgeable, and from many points of view it would be better to do so, for it would not only create interest among agricultural workers in their industry but would enable them, as members, to give assistance and advice to the Authority. I know that if that were done, it would be very acceptable to farm workers generally, and particularly to members of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. They would appreciate that their interests were being safeguarded by additional membership of that Authority. I hope, therefore, that on this occasion Her Majesty's Government will grant what we on this side of the House desire. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 23, leave out ("one shall be a person") and insert ("two shall be persons").—(Lord Wise.)


As the noble Lord opposite has said, we are most anxious not to increase the size of this body. The Reorganisation Commission said that it was very necessary to limit the numbers of an Authority of this kind to enable it to act as efficiently as possible. As the Committee will remember, the Commission recommended that there should be two members representing agricultural workers but they did not recommend any members to represent employees of processors or distributors. We felt that it was very necessary that there should be equal representation of workers on both the production and the distributive sides of the industry, and we have taken one worker from each. We believe that is right. If we were to accede to the noble Lord's request, we should undoubtedly have to increase other representations, and before long we should have a very large Authority or a very unbalanced one. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept this Amendment.


I regret the reply of the Minister, which will also be received with regret in many quarters by workers engaged in the industry. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clauses 25 to 36 agreed to.

Clause 37:

Short title, commencement and extent


(2) This Act, except subsection (3) of section thirty-six, shall come into force on the first day of September, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven.


On behalf of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name. It is self-explanatory. It seeks to amend the words "first day of September" to "first day of August". It was mentioned in another place that it is desired that this Bill should become an Act at the earliest possible moment, in order that improvements which are contemplated may be started, and possibly finished, by the time the winter comes upon us. For that reason the date is suggested as August 1 rather than September 1. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 39, leave out ("September") and insert ("August").—(Lord Wise.)


Your Lordships will remember that when this Bill first came before another place there was considerable pressure for the date of operation to be brought forward. We are now within some three weeks of the proposed new date, and I think your Lordships will appreciate the very considerable administrative problem that would be created by suddenly bringing forward the date from September 1 to August 1. By now, most people have made their plans for work to be done this autumn and it would be of little help to them to have the date brought forward, apart from the very considerable difficulties which that would make on the administrative side.

It might be helpful if I were to give the Committee such information as I have on how these requests are coming in. Dealing with provisional applications, which were invited from May 1, in England and Wales the numbers received actually fell from 1,750 in May to 1,550 in June. On the other hand, the number of inspections that took place rose from 250 in May to 1,150 in June. Assuming that applications continue to come in at the expected rate of about 1,650 per month, we should be able to cope with them; but for the immediate future it must be confessed that we are slightly in arrears. The first inspection is not always the only one necessary before a scheme can be approved. The applications are fairly evenly divided over the whole country but possibly the south-western region is leading, with 800 applications received and 250 inspections carried out.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

Second Schedule [Improvements eligible for grant under s. 12]:

LORD WISE moved to add to the Schedule: 3. Provision or improvements of heating equipment. The noble Lord said: On behalf of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, I beg to move this Amendment. In the Second Schedule there are listed at least twelve different kinds of improvements which are eligible for grant. My noble Leader seeks to add an additional one—namely, the provision or improvements of heating equipment. I understand that under the Bill it is possible in regard to improvements to accept buildings for heating purposes, but that it may be difficult to accept movable or fixed equipment. I move this Amendment in the hope that heating equipment may be considered amongst other things. There is a provision in the Bill in regard to electric light and power, but whether heating might come under that particular heading or not I could not say. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 25, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Wise.)


The Amendment which the noble Lord has just moved embraces a large number of items. "Heating equipment" covers such items as boilers, immersion heaters and electrical sterilising equipment; infra-red heaters and lamps for pigs; the heating equipment in incubators, the motors and fans for air blowers in grain-dryers and grass-dryers; and, of course, coal and oil-fired heating installations in horticultural glasshouses. It is not our intention to assist by grant this type of equipment, which is largely of far too short a life to make it worth while doing so. It is our intention to assist in the case of buildings in which grain-drying plant is housed but certainly not with the actual plant itself—certainly not with the motors and blowers and the actual heaters. I am afraid that we must exclude short-lived material of this sort.


Could the noble Earl state whether it is intended to include grain storage bins?


Yes, the intention is to include grain storage bins.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment adds to the Schedule of improvements which may be grant-aided, railway crossings and creeps to enable farm traffic to cross railway lines. They are usually known as "accommodation crossings". The Schedule, as it stands, would cover these in some cases, but not all. If the crossing were a bridge, or linked two stretches of farm road, it would be eligible as part of the bridge or road; but if it were a level crossing or creep simply connecting two fields, it would not. An Amendment is needed to make accommodation crossings generally admissible. Widening of crossings is often desirable to enable modern farm machinery to pass, and generally anything that can be done to mitigate the effect of severance by railway lines will, I think, be welcome. The need relates particularly to crossings over railways, as the railway authorities, while prepared to improve these crossings, usually expect the cost to be met in full by the interested parties. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 26, leave out ("and bridges") and insert ("bridges, railway crossings and creeps.")—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.