§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Report of Amendments received (according to Order).
§ Clause 14 [Protection of farm animals exposed for sale]:
LORD ST. OSWALD moved to add to the clause:
or awaiting removal after being exposed for sale".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment to Clause 14 standing in my name on the Marshalled List. During our Second Reading debate last month the noble Lord, Lord Champion, welcomed the introduction of Clause 14 of the Bill, which, as I then explained, will enable my right honourable friend to ensure some minimum standard of comfort and treatment of farm animals while they are exposed for sale. When this clause was debated in another place some doubts were expressed about the adequacy of its wording, since it covers only the period while the animals 550 are exposed for sale, and there may be occasions when, due to lack of transport or for other reasons, animals remain in the market for some time after sale. In general, we should not expect calves, dairy cows or pigs, the animals most likely to suffer from exposure, to be moved from the sale pens while awaiting collection. Normally, therefore, we believe they will be adequately protected for the whole of the time they are in the market by any regulation made for their physical protection before sale.
§ However, my right honourable friend agreed to have another look at this point. The further inquiries we have made confirm that the clause, as drafted, would be sufficient in the great majority of cases; but clearly it might happen that animals needing protection might after sale be moved to other accommodation of lower standard to await collection. We are anxious that by such movements inside market premises animals should not lose the protection of the regulations we aim to make, and we do not wish the purpose of the clause to be in any way weakened. I therefore submit this Amendment for your Lordships' approval, so that the clause will clearly and specifically give the Minister power to make market regulations covering the whole of the time that animals are exposed for sale and while they are in a market awaiting collection. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 47, at end insert the said words.—(Lord St. Oswald.)
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I am sure noble Lords on this side wholly welcome this tightening up of the provisions of the Bill in this respect, and I should like to thank the noble Lord for looking at the matter and bringing forward this Amendment. I support it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16 [Fees]:
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved to add to subsection (4):
Notwithstanding the above, the maximum fee which shall be charged under section 2 (1) or section 3 (1) of the Horse Breeding Act, 1958, for such licence or permit to keep a stallion of a recognised native breed of pony shall be three guineas.
For the purposes of this section a pony of any of the following breeds shall be deemed
to be of a recognised native breed:—Connemara, Dale, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Highland, New Forest, Shetland, Welsh.
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, on the Committee stage of the Bill I moved a general Amendment to Clause 16 to limit the fees set out at the bottom of the table, and in particular to limit the fees chargeable on all pony stallions. This Amendment is slightly more limiting still, in that it includes only pony stallions of the native breeds of this country, because, on reconsidering the matter, I feel that the owners of stallions such as Arabs and small thoroughbreds can probably well afford to pay the full economic fee which the Ministry of Agriculture propose to charge.
§ In this clause the Government are trying to enable future Ministers to vary the fees more or less according to the actual cost of inspections and of issuing the licences or permits. At the moment, these fees are fixed under the Horse Breeding Act, 1958, and produce, I believe, about 5 per cent. of the actual cost of the inspections and of issuing the licences or permits. I agree with my noble friend that this means that there is far too big a subsidy, and the cost of the licences or permits should be raised. However, I am exceedingly nervous about the amount proposed to bring it on to a fully or almost fully economic basis.
§ My noble friend said in the Committee stage that the Government were considering making certain alterations in the procedure which would reduce costs. I should like to know what these alterations are. One of them, I imagine, is that once a stallion has reached the age of say, 10 or 12, it would no longer be subject to the periodic inspection, under the theory that any hereditary disease it was going to show it would have shown already by that age. I think there is a great deal to be said for that idea, although there are people who feel one should go on inspecting stallions so long as they are serving mares.
§ Secondly, presumably the Government propose reducing the number of inspections. I am slightly nervous about this, as I feel that a stallion could easily develop hereditary disease during the course of a year, and it would be a pity if an economy were made in this way and risks taken by doing this. I should therefore be interested to know exactly what 552 simplifications in procedure the Government are proposing to make, and how much of the present cost, which is in the neighbourhood of £20 to £22 per licence, they expect to be able to save. I have worked out some figures, and for the purposes of this argument I am going to presume that the Government will be able to save 50 per cent. of that cost, and that therefore it is likely that they will charge a fee somewhere in the region of 10 guineas. This may be too high, in which case, of course, the figures will be more in favour of their argument than in my favour. If, on the other hand, it is too low, they will be even more in my favour. I must remind your Lordships that we shall have no control at all over what the final fee will be, because it is going to be controlled by Order in Council subject to a Negative Resolution in another place.
§ First, I should like to point out that the Horse Breeding Act was passed only in 1958. I believe it is a Consolidation Act, but it does not say so in the Title, and I think many people feel, or have felt in the past, that the one guinea fixed by the Act of 1958 was likely to last for some time. I personally think it was a pity that this sum was not reviewed when that Act was passed, and it might have been raised gradually then, as I am sure it will come as a shock to many people to find out the amount it is likely to be raised by in this Bill. So far my arguments have applied to all classes of horse breeders who I feel may be aggrieved by the radical raising of the cost of a licence or permit by this Bill.
§ I should like to produce my particular arguments why I think the owners of native pony breeds should be subject to this rather low maximum. It is partly a question of geography, and partly one of mathematics. Native pony stallions very often stand in remote areas, and serve an extremely limited number of mares each year. The cost of transporting these mares any further would be justified neither by the value of the service, nor by the value of the subsequent foal. These stallions are also comparatively cheap to keep, and in these rural areas the cost of transport is high, and the difficulties of transport often quite considerable. It is, therefore, a convenience for a large number of 553 farmers and people interested in pony breeding to have a stallion which they can use available reasonably locally. The fact that it is a stallion which has been licensed makes sure, of course, that they are using a suitable stallion and one which is likely to improve the breed.
Many of these stallions serve as few as seven mares a year and their owners, in some cases, charge as little as two guineas. But let us take a slightly less extreme example and consider the stallion who serves ten mares a year, and whose owner charges five guineas for each service. A rise in its licensing fee of ten guineas would reduce its income, or would increase its cost as related to the total income that it fetches to its owner, by 20 per cent.; that is to say, ten guineas on 50 guineas; and a would mean raising its fee equally by 20 per cent. in order to recoup its costs. If we take the case of a moderate thoroughbred who serves 40 mares or so each year at 48 guineas—and this, I can assure your Lordships, is a very low fee for a thoroughbred—this would have the effect of increasing the cost of this particular animal by one half of 1 per cent., or five shillings per mare, a sum hardly worth recouping. Even if we take the travelling premium stallion, whose fee is usually in the neighbourhood of 10 guineas, he at least serves 40 to 50 mares a year and, therefore, the cost of the extra fee would be spread over a far greater number of mares, and his increase would work out at about only 2 per cent. That, I think, is the mathematical case for keeping the fees of the native pony stallions at a low figure of three guineas.
§ I should also think, from my own experience, and from facts which have been collected by the Highland Pony Society, that if the fee were increased beyond three guineas many stallions which at the moment were licensed would be either unlicensed or castrated. This would be a great pity. We want to improve the breed, and to do this we want to have every stallion licensed, and try to encourage every owner to have his stallion licensed. At the moment, you are allowed to keep a stallion in its own native area without a licence, provided that you do not show it or do not advertise it in any way at all. I am not quite sure whether 554 this means that it may serve only mares who belong to the same owner, or that if you came along with your mare and said, "Please may I make use of your stallion?" its owner would be permitted to allow it to serve outside mares. But he certainly would not be allowed to show it at the local shows, or to parade it around the country, which I think everyone will agree is one of the attractions of these shows.
§ I should also like to know the answer to two or three questions. How often will these stallions be inspected? Will a fee be charged each time the stallion is inspected, or every year; or only when the original licence or permit is issued? I believe that these questions are important. I should also like to ask by whom the stallions will be inspected. Most people are against having the livestock officer present at inspections. They feel that it is unreasonable to expect any man to be able to judge stallions, bulls and boars of all the many breeds. Some think that it might be left to the veterinary surgeon, in which case you would get an animal which was at least fit—no one would say how high class it was, but at least it would be fit and have no hereditary diseases. Others think that members of the judges' panel of the particular breed should accompany the veterinary surgeon, in order to give their opinion of the class of the animal concerned. I should therefore like to know by whom these inspections are going to take place. I also wonder whom the Ministry of Agriculture have consulted in drawing up this clause, and whom they will consult when they fix the fees. So far, the National Pony Society, which represents the vast majority of the owners of pony stallions in this country have not been consulted; and that seems very strange.
Finally, at the Committee stage of this Bill my noble friend said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247 (No. 57), col. 1046.]:
I understand that the service fees for pony stallions range from 5 to 50 guineas, set against values between 50 and 600 guineas, which compares with service fees for thoroughbreds ranging from 20 to 200 guineas. set against values between 200 and 2,000 guineas.
I find it difficult to believe that he means that; for, except for his minimum figure for pony stallions, I think that there is no correct figure there. On his minimum
figure, he might have said 2 guineas, but I am quite prepared to go with him in saying that the serious breeders all charge 5 guineas.
§ I have taken figures of the ponies advertised in the National Pony Society Review and the Horse and Hound (which, for obvious reasons, tend to be the best ponies in the country), and the maximum at which any of them is advertised is 20 guineas. There are three, all told, at that figure, and there are four more advertised at 15 guineas; otherwise they are all advertised at a lesser figure. If you take the average fee over all the native pony breeds, it works out at 10 guineas; and if you exclude the elite of the native pony breeds, which are the Welsh and the Dartmoor ponies, the average fee charged by the stallion owners, works out as low as 7½ guineas. If the fee for a licence or a permit is to be increased by from 5 to 10 guineas, this will be a severe inroad into their income (or, perhaps a better way of putting it, a severe extra piece of expenditure) and I feel that they will not be able to afford it.
§ He also said that the value of the ponies was between 50 and 600 guineas. I think that 600 guineas is on the high side. I should be very pleased to know of any pony other than a fully-trained polo pony, which is worth 600 guineas. However, I will not argue that point. But when he says that the service fee for thoroughbreds ranged from 20 to 200 guineas, that I simply will not accept at all. There are very few thoroughbreds below 48 guineas and quite a number between 500 and 600 guineas; and set against values of between 200 and 2,000 guineas, I doubt whether there is any thoroughbred stallion worth as little as 200 guineas. If there is, its owner certainly ought not to be allowed to keep it. Two thousand guineas seems to me an extraordinarily low maximum when we read of horses being syndicated for a quarter-of-a-million pounds. In my view, these figures were most misleading, and I should like the noble Lord to explain where he got them, or from whom he understood them. If this is the sort of standard of advice that his officers are giving him, I have no confidence in their setting a fair figure for pony stallions. I beg to move.556
Page 11, line 50, at end insert the said paragraphs.4—(The Duke of Atholl.)
THE MARQUESS OF WILLINGDON
My Lords, all pony breeders obviously are very deeply grateful to the noble Duke for the great trouble he has taken with this Amendment. I support it up to the hilt. There is only one rather small correction which I think it would be wise to make; that is, that an Arab is a horse and not a pony. It would only be a small Arab or thoroughbred which could serve a pony.
§ 3.55 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I recognise that the purpose of this Amendment is to safeguard the owners of pony stallions from the prospect of a heavy increase in licensing fees. At the Committee stage my noble friend suggested that this might be as great as 20 guineas, compared to the present 1 guinea. He has now brought down his estimate to a rise of 10 guineas. Though I cannot accept his Amendment—because this would prevent us from covering the costs we incur—I think I can reassure him upon the order of the increase which is in prospect.
If we were to maintain our present stallion licensing procedures, and to set out to cover their full cost in the initial fee for a licensing application, we should certainly have to make a very substantial increase in the fee. But our present costs are high because it has been our practice to reinspect licensed stallions annually. This is more than we are obliged to do under the Horse Breeding Act, and we find that the re-inspections lead to revocation of a licence only once in every 200 cases. In view of this we propose to discontinue the routine reinspections and to reinspect in only two classes of case: first, where a permit has been issued in place of a licence because of doubt about a stallion's suitability at the time of the first inspection, we shall reinspect for a licence upon expiry of the permit; and, secondly, we shall continue to reinspect wherever doubts arise about the fitness of a licensed stallion. These changes are a good deal more far-reaching than my noble friend had supposed we might have in mind. We shall be prepared to receive representations 557 from responsible organisations or individuals, such as horse and pony societies or veterinary surgeons, upon the desirability of reinspecting in any particular cases where doubts exist about such a stallion.
We are not reducing the number of stallions inspected in the first place and thus incurring the risks that my noble friend feared. All the same, this simplification in procedures, to which I referred briefly at the Committee stage, will effect a substantial saving in costs. While I cannot give a firm undertaking at this stage, we are hoping that it will enable us to cover our costs through a fee, for each first inspection of any stallion, of 5 guineas; that is to say, a rise of 4 guineas, and not of 10 as he had supposed. In answer to another question he put, we have no power to charge separately for the reinspections, and the only way in which we could cover our stallion licensing costs, while charging less than our costs for pony stallions, would be (and I should like him to bear this in mind) by charging more than our costs for other stallions. This is something we have undertaken not to do in fixing the sire licensing fees.
In regard to another point raised by my noble friend I would remind him that many pony stallions—including, I think, those he had in mind, such as mountain and moorland ponies, which are not travelled—are already exempt from licensing in their native districts, and they will remain exempt. To the best of my belief they are not restricted to servicing mares of the same owner. I had never supposed that they were, but I should not like to lay down the law on this point.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question? I think I am right in saying that these ponies may not be advertised; and, so far as I can gather from the Act, one of the conditions is that they should be virtually running wild—I agree that that is an exaggeration: they can be running in a field. But surely this is going to make it very difficult for people with a mare to choose a suitable stallion.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am afraid that I am not able to answer my noble friend on those finer points. My understanding is that, so far as horses are concerned, the more expensive thoroughbreds are not travelled, and are thus not 558 subject, and will not be subject, to licensing; but, as regards the advertising aspect of it and how they are to be kept, I am afraid that I am not informed on that. He asked how the stallions would be inspected. The answer is that they will be inspected by experienced veterinary surgeons.
During the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Willingdon and my noble friend who has moved this Amendment doubted whether the figure of 50 guineas I mentioned in the debate was a realistic figure as a service fee for a pony stallion. Both my noble friends were fully justified in calling this into question, and I am grateful that they did so, for it gives me an opportunity of correcting my earlier figure and of confirming that the figures I gave were very much on the high side. In fact, my information now is that one stallion is standing at 25 guineas, some more at 20 and the remainder at lower figures. In order to arrive at these conclusions and figures the Ministry has consulted the principal horse societies, including the British Horse Society, who speak for the pony societies as well as others. So far as I am aware, the figure of 50 guineas was the only inaccurate figure I gave, and I apologise to my noble friend and the House for misleading them.
I think I have gone quite a long way to settle the doubts and anxieties of my noble friend and I hope he will find what I have said reassuring. Since he referred on Committee stage and again on this occasion to the relatively short lapse of time since the 1958 Horse Breeding Act, in which the fee of one guinea is set, I ought perhaps to stress that the 1958 Act only consolidated earlier legislation, so that its details did not come under review. The licensing fee for a pony stallion has in fact been one guinea ever since 1921, as has that for other licensed stallions, so that we have not five but over 40 years of change in money values to contend with. The licensing fee is paid only once in a stallion's career; our purpose is only to meet the costs of the services provided; and even in the case of pony stallions the first one or two stud fees will more than cover it. I trust that in the light of these explanations and assurances my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I am still not at all happy about this. I 559 am, of course, delighted to hear my noble friend thinks the maximum will be five guineas, but I do not like the way he is doing it at all. I think it is exceedingly dangerous to have only one inspection of a stallion, early on in its life, which is, I gather, the intention. I myself once owned a stallion which was quite rightly failed at a subsequent inspection for ring-bone, which apparently had not materialised at the first inspection. I think this is a most dangerous procedure. I also do not like the idea of encouraging more people to have non-inspected stallions because they run in their own particular country and are not travelled. I could never make out what the technical definition of travelling a stallion is. It seems to me that we should aim, as in all our livestock, to have more, and not less, inspection, and I seriously wonder whether the Government are pursuing the right policy here. It seems to me they are saving very little money by pursuing this policy, and they might land themselves in quite a lot of trouble in the long run.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, if I might speak again with the leave of the House, I think my noble friend has overlooked the point I made earlier, that the only way in which we could cover the costs on pony stallions, which we have undertaken to do, without charging a reasonable fee, would be to charge more than the costs for other stallions, which we have in turn undertaken not to do
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION moved, after Clause 19 to insert the following new clause:
§ Notices to quit
§ ". In Section twenty-five of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948 (which relates to the giving and withholding of consents by the Agricultural Land Tribunal to the operation of notices to quit agricultural holdings) there shall be inserted after the words 'notice to quit' in the proviso to subsection (1), the following words—'(not being a notice to quit as to which the landlord has specified in his application for their consent that the carrying out of the purpose for which he proposes to terminate the tenancy is desirable for the purposes of the enactments relating to smallholdings)'".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am moving this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lindgren. Unfortunately, he cannot be present here 560 to-day so it falls to me to do it in his stead. The desirability of this Amendment was brought to his attention by the County Councils Association. The facts, as I understand them, are these: county councils are charged under the 1947 Agriculture Act with the duty of providing smallholdings for letting to persons with the idea of enabling them to become farmers on their own account. Those county councils are also charged with the task of managing their smallholdings in accordance with the rules of good estate management. In carrying out these duties, clearly it is necessary from time to time for the county councils to dispossess the tenants to whom they have let their smallholdings. The procedure for such dispossession is set out in the 1948 Agricultural Holdings Act, as amended by Section 3 of the Act of 1958.
§ The procedure provides that where a tenant objects to the notice to quit, the notice shall not be effective until the Agricultural Land Tribunal are, among other things, satisfied that the purpose for which possession is required by the landlord is desirable for the purposes of the enactments relating to smallholdings or allotments. But there is an overriding proviso, and that is that the Tribunal shall withhold consent to operation of the notice if, in all the circumstances, it would appear to them that a fair and reasonable landlord would not insist upon possession. It is to this proviso that the County Councils Association objects, because they say that a "fair and reasonable landlord", referred to in the proviso, might not be the same hypothetical individual as a fair and reasonable smallholding authority, principally, of course, because their interests in the land and its use are not the same.
On the one hand there is the private landlord, who might reasonably be supposed to be concerned with securing an adequate financial return from his land. On the other hand there are the county councils, the smallholdings authorities, who are obliged, in addition to having in mind the private landlord's considerations to ensure good husbandry, to consider their duty under the Act of 1947 and the underlying purpose for which that Act provided. The clash, as I see it, between what a private landlord might fairly and reasonably do and what a smallholdings authority is expected to do under the 1947 Act is set out in a
statement on a recent case. It is as follows:
A case occurred in West Suffolk where although the county council convinced the Agricultural Land Tribunal that the operation of the notice to quirt was desirable for the purposes of the enactments relating to small holdings, the Tribunal refused their consent under the proviso. In this case the tenant ran a haulage business in addition to farming the holding, and while the county council recognised that there was nothing improper or unusual in this, it was clearly a matter of degree, and in their view the tenant's haulage business had increased to such an extent that it could no longer be said that his possession of the land was for the purpose of enabling him to become a farmer on his own account. His chief livelihood was derived not from the land but from the haulage business. The Tribunal agreed, but nevertheless held that a fair and reasonable landlord would not in all the circumstances have insisted upon possession.
§ These smallholdings are provided out of public money for the express purpose of enabling persons with farming experience to become farmers on their own account. I am sure it was never the intention of Parliament to provide public money for a base for a haulage business, or any business other than farming. I have said this many times in going about the country and talking about agriculture: these smallholdings were intended to be the first step on the ladder of promotion from being a farm worker to becoming a farmer. For that express purpose they were set up under the Act of 1947 and carried on by subsequent Acts, and I think the intention was a good and sound one.
§ These considerations ought always to be borne in mind by the smallholdings authorities. They are not. Many Members of this House are members of such county councils and discharge their duties under this Act responsibly. I would say that, in the main, county councils never do anything other than carry out their duties in relation to the tenant, and of course to the nation—they never do other than act responsibly. It seems to me that the county councils ought to be given this Amendment to enable them properly to discharge the functions that have been laid upon them by Parliament, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give me a favourable reply. I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Lindgren.
After Clause 19, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Champion.)
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, the noble Lord has put forward a proposition that county councils should be enabled to treat smallholdings more severely than any good private landlord could, or would, seek to do. Surely the whole question at issue would be this: in this particular case, was the smallholding being neglected as the result of the ancillary occupation of the occupant? If it was, then the county council have a case. But as has been shown so often in crofts in Scotland, it is extremely difficult for the landholder to get a decent living unless he has some ancillary occupation. I should loathe for the principle to be accepted in your Lordships' House that simply because a person has a smallholding or a croft and has some other occupation which enables him to make a better livelihood but which, at the same time, does not impair his capabilities as a farmer, he should be ejected from his smallholding.
§ 4.13 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has presented his case as cogently as it could be presented—the case for the smallholdings authority who wish to regain possession of a smallholding because the existing occupier is, in their opinion, insufficiently capable of managing it or, as I understand, because he has used the farming ladder—I think this was the implication of the noble Lord—has managed it to such advantage that he is now able to step on to better things. I would always far rather meet the wishes of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, than refuse them. On this occasion I am not going to be able to do so.
It is not a new suggestion that we should give to smallholdings authorities in these circumstances special powers going beyond those available to private landlords (as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Mansfield) while removing safeguards from smallholders which are enjoyed by tenants of other landlords. We have heard this argument before, and I am afraid we still do not find it necessary to carry out what is suggested. Section 25 (1) of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, as amended, requires the Agricultural Land Tribunal to consent to the operation of a notice to quit if they are satisfied, inter alia, that the land is required for smallholdings purposes. The proviso 563 to this clause—it is this proviso which the noble Lord and his colleague seek to amend—requires the Tribunal to withhold consent if it appears to them that a fair and reasonable landlord would not insist on possession. The opposite case was presented also by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, most fairly, and the proposed Amendment would exclude from the scope of this proviso those cases where a notice to quit has been served because the land is required for statutory smallholdings purposes but not for all the other purposes for which the Agricultural Land Tribunal may give its consent. In effect, it seeks to put smallholdings authorities outside the scope of the moral principles which are laid down in this proviso. The noble Lord recognised this, and gave reasons why he thought this should be done.
When the Agriculture Bill, 1958, was under consideration, we gave special thought to this point and concluded that there was really no need to give this special dispensation in favour of smallholdings authorities. We felt then, and we still feel, that in taking into account all the circumstances of the case, as they are required to do by the proviso, the Tribunal, in deciding what a fair and reasonable landlord would do, would give due weight to the smallholdings authority's statutory duties.
Noble Lords will appreciate that a smallholdings authority, like any other landlord, can avail itself of the other provisions of Section 25 (1) of the Act. They can apply for the Tribunal's consent to terminate a tenancy in the interests of good husbandry or sound estate management. This should deal with the cases where the tenant is inefficient or where it is desired to remodel any smallholding in the interests of sound estate management. It is true that the Act does not provide specifically for the case where a tenant is too successful and where the authority may wish to take advantage of paragraph (c) to obtain possession of the smallholding for someone who needs it more. However, as I have said, I am sure that in those circumstances the Tribunal would take account of the fact that they were not dealing with the ordinary landlord but with a statutory smallholdings authority whose responsibilities to their tenants have to be 564 balanced with their statutory duty to provide smallholdings.
It would, I suggest, be contrary to the spirit of the Act, and to the spirit of Section 25 in particular, if we differentiated against one class of tenant in this way. In practice, we should be completely depriving him, and him alone, of the safeguard which is contained in this proviso. The safeguard is simply that in the view of the Agricultural Land Tribunal any action taken in terminating his tenancy is such as a fair and reasonable landlord would take, having regard to all the circumstances.
In asking me to reply to one section of his speech the noble Lord will appreciate that it would be quite wrong for me to enter into discussion on the merits of specific cases, or of a specific case. My right honourable friend has no authority over the Tribunal, which is a judicial body appointed by the Lord Chancellor. We have, however, been keeping records of the cases in which smallholdings authorities have applied to the Tribunal for consent to give notices to quit. Only eight cases have been heard since the 1958 Act came into force, and in five of those cases consent was given—five out of eight. That is not an unfavourable ratio. As I say, I am sorry not to meet the noble Lord's wishes; but we have given a great deal of thought to this matter, and I would ask him to withdraw his Amendment, in view of the fact that we cannot accept it.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I am bound to admit that I did not personally strongly support this Amendment, but, coming from the County Councils' Association, I thought that it might have a short run. I accept completely the noble Lord's answer, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 22 [Allowances to persons displaced from agricultural land]:
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD GRENFELL moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "may pay to him such" and insert "shall pay to him a". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I fully realise, first of all, that this Amendment, with Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7, are far-reaching, in that they would be an extension of the law as it 565 now stands, but I am convinced that there is a really good case for them. A short time ago I was a member of the Select Committee on the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Bill, of which Committee the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke so generously earlier this afternoon. Evidence put before us convinced us that there was a real case for an Amendment such as this in that Bill, and it was duly inserted.
§ The purpose of the Bill was to give sanction to inundate the Clywedog Valley for the purposes of making a reservoir. I would suggest to your Lordships that such will be the demand for water in the future that this may not be an isolated case; furthermore, the taking of agricultural land for different reasons will also he necessary. The inhabitants of that Valley are, in most cases, hill farmers who will lose, in part or in whole, their livelihood by inundation. It is not my object to-day to argue the value of bottom land and hill land in the context of farming, because, not being a farmer, I am in no position to do so. My argument rests on the individuals concerned, whoever they may be, who are about to be dispossessed, and those who in future may be in similar circumstances for any reason.
§ In the case I have quoted the people concerned had for the most part lived a community life in the Valley for many years. In many cases this disruption of their life comes to them yin later years when it is hard to start up in new surroundings. In one case family circumstances made a move a really tragic event. I believe it will be understood in this House that any move not only costs money, but also causes a considerable amount of inconvenience. This is accepted if the move is voluntary, but surely if the move is compulsory those concerned are entitled to reasonable compensation for their move. I stress the word "reasonable", for, naturally, one would not expect extravagant demands, such as a move beyond these shores, to be considered.
The Bill states that the local authority may pay to him such allowance
as they think fit towards his removal expenses and the loss which, in their opinion, he will sustain by reason of the resulting disturbance of his trade or business.
I cannot help feeling that this is a very one-sided proposition. Apart from the
exceedingly permissive factors, I would ask your Lordships to decide what is reasonable. Again, it would appear that a local authority has this right to decide. In the reservoir case which I mentioned it appeared to me that even if they had had the chance many of the people concerned have been unable adequately to plead their case. In fact, I have a shrewd suspicion that some of them talked little but Welsh. It is for this reason I have put in the arbitration clause.
§ Surely dispossessed people who have not the means to brief counsel should have someone who is an independent arbitrator to whom they can tell their story. It is always pleaded by local councils that they intend to act generously, but do not let us forget that there is always the excuse of "the ratepayers' money". I hope I have said enough to show that this rather one-sided interpretation of equity in the Bill is not in the interests of justice to the displaced person, and that my Amendment is reasonable and should appeal to your Lordships. I understand that the "big guns" of the law are going to be turned on to me by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. I look forward to hearing what he has to say, and I trust he may see fit to agree to this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 30, leave out ("may pay to him such") and insert ("shall pay to him a").—(Lord Grenfell).
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I reply straight away to the speech made by the noble Lord. This will not curtail the debate, but may assist your Lordships, and I hope you will permit me to take this course. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has made a powerful plea in support of his Amendment. He described it as presenting a really good case. I am afraid I cannot agree with him about that. Indeed, I rather suspect that when the noble Lord moved this Amendment he did not do so with much hope that the Government would find it possible to accept it, and I trust he will not be greatly disappointed when I say the Government cannot accept it.
What is proposed is a major amendment of the law, and an amendment of 567 the law which, if made, would benefit only the farming community. The National Farmers' Union, in their circular which they distributed to certain Members of your Lordships' House, including myself, in reference to this clause and the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, said:It is recognised that the present Bill is not a suitable medium for a major amendment of the law, and that any such amendment of the law must take account of the interests of other sections of the community, especially of small shopkeepers, who are also seriously affected by compulsory acquisition.I submit that this Bill is indeed not a suitable medium for the proposed major amendment of the law, and I am glad to be able to pray in aid the support of the National Farmers' Union when I say that.
But I do not propose to rest on that alone, strong ground though it may be. I propose to submit to your Lordships that it would be wrong in principle to make this provision in the Bill mandatory, and I should like to put before your Lordships the present position in regard to the law. When the Town and Country Planning Bill of 1959 was before your Lordships it contained a clause, Clause 13, which gave an acquiring authority, acquiring on compulsory acquisition or by agreement in circumstances corresponding to such an acquisition, discretionary power to pay a person displaced from a house or other building on the land a reasonable allowance towards his expenses in moving therefrom; and to pay any person carrying on a trade or business in the house or building a reasonable allowance towards the loss which, in their opinion, he would sustain by reason of the disturbance. So your Lordships will see that that clause in the 1959 Bill proposed that the acquiring authority should have a discretionary power in relation to displacement from a house or other building and for payment of a reasonable amount.
When that Bill came before your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, moved an Amendment to make it mandatory and not discretionary to make such payments; an Amendment which is in line with the Amendment now so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. My noble friend the then Lord 568 Chancellor, in replying to Lord Coleraine's Amendment, pointed out that an occupier of a house or business premises who has an interest for one year or more is entitled to notice to treat; that those who are entitled to notice to treat are, of course, entitled to compensation for the value of their interest in the land; that payment for the value of their interest in the land includes compensation for disturbance; and that compensation for disturbance, payable after notice to treat has been given, will include the removal expenses and any losses directly attributable to the disturbance by compulsory purchase. I am still talking about Section 13 of the 1959 Act, which, as I say, gave a discretionary power in addition to what was a compulsory obligation where notice to treat had to be served for the acquisition of an interest. This Section 13, as my noble friend pointed out, was intended to cover those who had no sufficient legal interest to entitle them to notice to treat.
My noble friend went on to say that in such cases the local authorities do not acquire the interest but merely serve notice to quit as landlords; and that to place a statutory obligation upon local authorities to pay compensation for removal expenses and for loss of business would be making an arbitrary distinction between private landlords, who can serve notice to quit without any such obligation, and local authorities in serving notice to quit. It would, of course, put a special burden on local authorities. I am reminding the House of the speech made by my noble friend the then Lord Chancellor. He then said that he did not see how such a distinction could be justified. My Lords, I must say that I find it difficult to see any justification for any such distinction. My noble friend also pointed out that discretionary powers, similar to those contained in Section 13 of the 1959 Act, also existed in the Housing and Town and Country Planning Acts and had been operated for many years, and that all that Section 13 proposed to give was a similar discretionary power when property was bought under powers other than those contained in these Acts. My Lords, in the light of this explanation the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, withdrew his Amendment, a precedent which I hope I can commend to the noble Lord who moved this Amendment to-day.
569 Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, is now Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act, 1961. The House will appreciate that this section applies only in relation to houses and other buildings, and the object of the clause in this Bill is to give the acquiring authorities similar discretionary powers in relation to land used for agriculture, if it is used for agriculture by way of a trade or business, and the person so using it is displaced. I hope that what I have said has made it clear that compensation is already paid under the existing law for the acquisition of an interest in land. The acquirer has to pay what the person being dispossessed is legally entitled to.
There may, however, be occasions when the occupier suffers, or thinks he has suffered, financial losses which do not flow from the possession of any legal interest which the occupier has, but flow from the fact that he has to leave the land. The law has recognised this possibility of additional loss in relation to houses or buildings in the Act passed in 1959. What we now propose is to extend this provision to land used for agriculture in the circumstances I have mentioned. At the present time the acquiring authority, where it has power to make such payments, has discretion to decide whether a payment should be made at all and, if a payment is made, what is a reasonable amount to pay.
I entirely agree that farmers are deserving of every sympathy, particularly at the present time after this hard winter. But it would not be right to put farmers in a special and unique position in this respect. If the power to pay is to remain discretionary, as I think it should—and the National Farmers' Union does not ask that it should be made otherwise in this Bill—then there is no room for arbitration. For, after all, you cannot arbitrate as to the extent of the discretionary payment. I would just say this, too, about the last of the Amendments that we are discussing. That proposes arbitration, but only if a difference arises in estimating the loss or expenses. It does not suggest arbitration on the question whether the loss or expenses alleged are the result of the disturbance. They may be only partly due to the disturbance, or not due to it at all, and 570 in any event there may be very great difficulty in quantifying the loss.
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships do not mind my intervening at this stage to try to put the present proposal against the background of the existing law, which is, of course, that, on compulsory acquisition of an interest, payment for disturbance must be paid. This provision and the provision of the 1959 Act give the acquiring authority power, in the circumstances contemplated in this Bill where there is no legal interest acquired, and therefore where the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act do not bite, to pay compensation over and above that payable on the acquisition of a legal interest. I must say that I think it not only right but a good thing that the acquiring authority should have power to make discretionary payments over and above what they are legally obliged to pay in circumstances such as these. I do not myself believe that it would be right to make it mandatory to make such payments, and I certainly do not think that it would be right to make such payments mandatory in the particular field of agricultural land, when it is not and cannot be made mandatory (and I put this forward as an alternative argument) in relation to the compulsory acquisition of houses or buildings.
I do not think this is the occasion on which to debate the major issue—namely, whether the discretionary powers which acquiring authorities have had for so long should now be made mandatory; nor, my Lords, do I think that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, can pray in aid in support of his argument on this Bill what happened with regard to the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Bill. What may happen on a Private Bill, between the Promoters of a Private Bill and the objectors, is one thing. But so far as the Government are concerned, we certainly, having considered this matter sympathetically and, as your Lordships will see, more than once—because it was considered in 1959—do not consider that this is the proper vehicle for making this particular change in the law. I myself see considerable valid objections to making a general change in relation to this discretionary power. What is in issue here, however, is the question whether the powers of the acquiring authorities in relation to farmers 571 should be made mandatory when they remain discretionary in relation to all other classes of occupiers whose land is compulsorily acquired but where the compulsory acquisition takes place without the acquisition of any interest in the land occupied by those people. I think that that differential would be wrong, and I accordingly invite your Lordships not to accept these Amendments.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ EARL COWLEY
My Lords, I am delighted to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. This is the type of Amendment which has been resisted by successive Governments—Labour, Liberal, Whig and Tory—because it nibbles away at bureaucratic power and asserts the right of the citizen. The Petition of Right was resisted by the King, and before the Crown Proceedings Act if one was knocked down by a Post Office van one had to go with cap in hand, and relief was given as a matter of grace. Now, of course, it is a matter of right.
This particular Amendment has an interesting history, and to date it has succeeded in appearing in only one Private Bill—that is, the Liverpool Corporation Act, 1957. This Amendment has been fully argued in another place, and on behalf of the Government it was argued by my right honourable and learned friend Mr. Peter Rawlinson. I should like to state that I consider his arguments—and they have been repeated here to-day—without foundation. I would take them point by point—and this appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, Tuesday, January 29, 1963, col. 344. The Solicitor General said:The Committee will recollect that the law of compensation which affects land other than agricultural land is at present contained in Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act, 1961, which followed Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959.What my learned friend is saying is. "Please do not alter the law because it is something new". He went on to say:That provides, over and above the general principle of compensation, which I will turn to in a moment, that ex-gratia payments for disturbances can be made by authorities who are acquiring compulsorily, and because that permissive power was given that put the compulsorily acquiring authority into the same position as a private landlord who might in certain circumstances desire to make an eex-gratia payment as a result of a disturbance.572 I consider that this is a red herring. What my learned friend is suggesting is that there is a similar clause in the Landlord and Tenant Act. Of course, there is not.
My learned friend went on to say:The principle of this compensation is that a tenant who is displaced should receive full compensation due to him arising from the displacement which he has suffered and arising out of his legal interests in the land from which he has been displaced ".This, my Lords, is a very fine, legal point. Do removal expenses and loss by disturbance flow from his legal interest in the land? It flows from his legal interest, but, of course, it is not part of the legal interest. It is a personal interest which does not pass with or form part of that interest. But that is not an argument why it should not be compensated.
My learned friend goes on:The effect of the Amendment would be to introduce an entirely new principle into our law with regard to compensation".My Lords, that is not true. The law of special and general damages has been part of our law for many years, and we have been able, by right, to recover damages from a fellow citizen. What my learned friend is saying is that it is a new principle to recover, by right, special damages from a local or Government Department. The other argument put forward was:It creates a new principle and puts agricultural tenants into a better position than other tenants of other kinds of land …".But agricultural tenants have been in a worse position since 1961, when the Land Compensation Act came into force, a period of two years. Will it now take two years to pass a further Act to bring the shopkeepers into line with the farmers?
Your Lordships might like to know that the President of the National Farmers' Union has, within the last few days, written again to the Minister of Agriculture to seek a meeting at high level to discuss a long memorandum which they submitted to the Minister, and to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, last June, stating the case for amending legislation on compensation on compulsory acquisition, the effect of which would be similar to that achieved by making Clause 22 mandatory.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has produced a series of arguments which are doubtless sound in law 573 but which, I submit to your Lordships, are deplorable in equity. In the first place, the series of Amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, does not make it mandatory that any payment should be made. What they do is to make it mandatory that the dispossessed farmer should have a right of appeal; and, in the event of his and the local authority's failure to agree upon an arbiter, one is to be provided by the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Surely we can trust a member of that august body to give a judgment which would be fair to the local authority as well as to the farmer.
I submit, too, that the position of a farmer is entirely different from that of a mere householder inasmuch as, by his compulsory removal, he may suffer from considerable loss beyond that which is apparent from the start. He may well have to dispose of his sheep stock. Should a private landlord desire and be able to dispossess a tenant, it is nearly always for the purpose of resuming the land for agricultural purposes, either by himself or by a new tenant, in which case the incoming occupier, be he landlord or new tenant, would have to take over the sheep stock, paying a fair price for it. But should it be a local authority which is going to take over the land for the purpose of making a reservoir, there is every chance that the whole of his sheep stock would have to be removed. This would mean, in the one case, an outgoing tenant taking them with him to his new home, if he has obtained one, at very considerable expense; or, more probably, he would be obliged to put them on the market in circumstances of a forced sale, in which case, again, he might lose very considerably by so doing. A farmer's position, therefore, is quite different from that of a householder.
I cannot see any reason why this unfortunate outgoing tenant should not at least have the opportunity of having his case reviewed; and if his claim proves to be justifiable, then adequate payment should be allotted to him by an independent arbitrator. The position of the Government here is completely contradictory to the stand taken by them on the last Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. There it was accepted that local authorities should not be put into a position different from 574 that of private landowners. Here apparently the principle is accepted that the local authority is to be put into this preferred position; and, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said, I would submit that the local authorities are a very mixed body, and while some would be only too willing to pay reasonable compensation others would, and will, stand on the letter of the law and say, "As we are not forced to pay a penny we are not going to pay". For that reason—though obviously this Amendment cannot be forced through in your Lordships' House to-day—I hope the Government will have second thoughts up to the point that they will consider whether some amendment of the law should not be made in some future Bill—it may be that it would be undesirable to make a major change in this one—so that what I can only regard as not only a possible but a probable cause of injustice to dispossessed farmers may be put right in the future.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on the very persuasive speech he made in support of the Amendment, and I would also thank the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, for the consideration he has given to this very important problem. Both noble Lords referred to the Clywedog Reservoir Bill, in which this particular case was argued in this House at some length. Nearly all speakers, all except the speaker for the Government and one other, were in favour of the proposed Amendment, or an Amendment on the lines of this one which would have a similar effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said that no doubt we should be getting other cases, and indeed there will be many other cases. In the newspapers to-day there is an account of a stormy meeting yesterday lasting three hours in Carmarthenshire in the Valley of the Gwendraeth. That is the next one that it is proposed to flood. In this case, it is not for a great English conurbation; it happens to be for the benefit of my own county next to it, Glamorgan. But the principle is the same, and we shall get many of these cases I am sure. The point is this: are people to be dispossessed being treated with justice?
In most of these cases, obviously, where land is taken for purposes of a reservoir, 575 and also in other cases such as those for road widening, it means a great deal of dislocation to the farmer. It affects not only his life, his home, but his business. If any noble Lord goes along these new roads he will see farm houses on one side and arterial roads built right through the farmyards. It is an enormous interference with the farmer and with the work of the farm. In the case of a reservoir the whole of the farm goes, although it was occupied by a man and his family whose forbears may have been there for generations. He and his family must be uprooted and must look for somewhere else to go. In these days when farm land is so expensive, it is very often impossible. They then drift into the towns and it is the old story, on a small scale, of what happened about 150 years ago when the common lands were enclosed. You get landless people drifting into the towns. It is particularly unjust to the tenant farmer because he gets very little compensation at all: he gets little more than a year's rent. The freeholder at least gets the value of the land; but the tenant farmer gets very little and is in no way compensated for the removal.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the tenant farmer is entitled to notice to treat, he is entitled to full compensation for disturbance; and I think the noble Lord should recognise that the farmer who is in occupation of the land, if he is entitled to notice to treat, will get compensation for disturbance of the kind indicated, without reliance on this clause.
§ LORD OGMORE
I will tell the noble and learned Lord what the farmer's entitlement is. His entitlement, under Section 34 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, is usually, as I said, one year's rent. In some cases it is possible for it to be greater; but in no case is it more than two years' rent. That is what we are talking about. He is entitled to compensation for disturbance under the Agricultural Holdings Act. I do not think it is enough; neither do the Government, because they have put in this clause in this Bill in order to permit the local authority, if it thinks fit, to give him more. They agree with me. I do not know why we are arguing. The Government and I agree that this is not sufficient.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the noble Lord will give way I think I might 576 make it clear. Under existing law, if the occupier is entitled to notice to treat he will get compensation for disturbance and that is more than one year's rent, or even two years' rent; and that applies to tenants. Some tenants will be entitled to notice to treat and some will not. Those entitled to notice to treat and having an interest in the land will get compensation for disturbance. This provision in this clause makes it possible to pay similar compensation for disturbance to those who have no interest in the land.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord would greatly enlighten some of us if he could say that the tenant farmer by reason of his entitlement to notice to quit and compensation will always be put in precisely the same position financially as he would have been if he had not been turned out; in other words, that the entire cost of getting a new farm, and so on, is met.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the tenant farmer is entitled to notice to treat he will get full compensation for disturbance, including the costs of removal and the rest. It is full compensatory payment. This particular clause does not touch on the position of those entitled to notice to treat. It gives power to extend the same thing to those who have no interest, or entitlement to an interest, in the land.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord help some of the uneducated by telling us what "treat" means.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
When you are in possession of a particular interest under the Lands Clauses Act (and speaking from memory, I think it is an interest for more than one year), the acquiring authority must give notice to treat. When you get notice to treat that invokes the whole of the Lands Clauses Act provisions, and you are entitled, as of right, to payment of compensation for what is acquired. The case law shows beyond doubt that the value of the interest is the value to the occupier; and in assessing that value the acquiring authority must take into account disturbance and expense that he will be put to by removing. That is covered. All this Bill seeks to cover in the case where there is no notice to 577 treat is covered under the existing law where there is notice to treat. Of course I was speaking about notice to treat and not notice to quit. They are different things.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
I do not know where we are now. As I understand it, notice can be given under the Agricultural Holdings Act (in which case there is usually a year's rent by way of compensation) or, if the authorities want the land earlier than the time allowed by that Act, they proceed under the Lands Clauses Act. The value then, as the noble and learned Lord said, is the truncated legal interest in the land. Here, again, it is usually no more than a year's rent, so that it does not matter whether the noble and learned Lord is right or I am about which Act it is. So far as the tenant farmer is concerned, it is no more than a year's rent.
To get back to the main issue, we want to see justice done. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has objected to the Amendment for two reasons. First, he says that this is a major amendment of the law and one which applies only to the farming community; therefore, this Bill is not a suitable medium for an Amendment of that kind. He opposes it on the odd ground that if we amend this clause in an agricultural Act, it will not apply to shopkeepers. I take it that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, never thought it would apply to shopkeepers. The best thing the Government can do is to make it apply to shopkeepers by the same sort of provision we now suggest should be made for farmers. Why should farmers fail to have justice done to them because justice to shopkeepers cannot be done in this Bill? I suggest that it is the Government's duty in another Bill to deal with shopkeepers.
The noble and learned Lord also says it is wrong to make it mandatory in this Bill, on the odd ground that private landlords are not bound to make compensation of this type if they give notice to their tenants. This has nothing to do with private landlords or with giving notice to tenants. This is a case where a local authority want to acquire land. It is not a question of landlord and tenant 578 at all, but of compulsory purchase, and the argument about private landlords does not seem to me to apply. In fact, the local authorities concerned may not be those in the district. That is one of the main points. In the case of both the Liverpool Bill and the Clywedog Reservoir Bill, with one or two exceptions, they are not local authorities in the area, but are miles and miles away from it. If we take authorities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, or smaller councils for that matter, they will feel, as one of the noble Earls opposite pointed out, that their first duty is to their own ratepayers.
As the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, quite rightly said, not all local authorities are particularly generously minded. I never heard such a tribute as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, paid to them. Not all local authorities have haloes around their heads. Indeed, some of them are not particulary good authorities. If there is any kind of hardship, the terms of this Amendment will take care of it. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, made a very strong point when he said that under this Amendment the tenants are not going to get anything tangible; all they will have is the right, if they do not agree with the authority which is compulsorily acquiring their property, to go to arbitration, and what they get under arbitration is not more than they are entitled to, but just what they are entitled to. I think this is a very reasonable Amendment, in spite of what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has said, and if it comes to a Division I ask your Lordships to support it.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords who have spoken. I realise that the justice we are trying here to give to the farmers would place them ahead of the shopkeepers, but I do not think that what has been done is enough. Evidence has proved this conclusively. I think that we have talked this question out this afternoon, and that it would be wrong on my part to force this Amendment through the House to-day. Hence, I would ask my noble and learned friend to think carefully on this subject. Naturally, if we had got this Amendment, I should have looked forward to legislation for the shopkeepers as well. But I do not feel that it would be politic to put this through 579 the House this afternoon, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment. May I also say that I shall not move Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 25:
§ Purchases of sugar from Republic of Ireland
§ 25. The Sugar Board shall purchase such sugar, at such prices, as the Minister may from time to time direct for the purpose of fulfilling any agreement made by him after the passing of this Act for the purchase of sugar to be used as an ingredient of goods to be exported from the Republic of Ireland.
§ 5.6 p.m.
LORD MERRIVALE moved, after "Minister" to insert:
after consultation with such persons as in his opinion represent the interests of producers and refiners of sugar in the Commonwealth ".
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put down this Amendment in view of the lack of consultation by Her Majesty's Government with interested parties in this country—the sugar industry—when the question of an agreement between the Minister of Agriculture of Southern Ireland and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was first mooted. When one considers the Sugar Act, 1956, which provided for the establishment of a Sugar Board and made other provisions—for instance, in regard to the effects on the sugar industry of the importation of sugar and related goods—one sees that full and detailed discussions took place between the Ministry of Food and the refiners during the long gestation period of that Act.
But in regard to the draft Irish Sugar Agreement, which is also concerned with the importation of sugar and related goods, curiously enough, there was no prior consultation whatever. On the Third Reading of this Bill in another place, on February 19, the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Scott-Hopkins, made the rather puzzling remark [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 672 (No. 61); cols. 389–390]:
As far as consultation is concerned, we do not in the normal way consult with the trade interests before agreements are made. We consult with them after the agreements have been made. This is what happened in this case.
I must say that I find this a rather strange procedure and certainly not one which
is conducive to encouraging the co-operation of the sugar industry with Her Majesty's Government.
§ In the case we are considering to-day, the industry was contacted on October 8, 1962, and, I understand, shown the draft Agreement. They raised objections as to its terms. On October 29—that is, only three weeks later—the British chargé d'Affaires, in Dublin was writing to the Irish Minister for Agriculture referring to the proposed arrangements for the purchase of sugar by our Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Then only three days later—on November 1 last year—the Bill we are now considering was published, with the enabling clause, Clause 25. I therefore feel it is hardly surprising that Sir Ian Lyle, in his wisdom, with the knowledge that he has acquired over the years working in the industry, and as chairman of one of the largest firms in this country, Tate and Lyle, at the company's sixtieth annual general meeting this year, should have expressed disquiet at this lack of prior consultation.
§ Surely it is a little ludicrous to consult with trade interests after an agreement has been made, when, as is apparent in this case, it is quite impossible to alter any of the terms or provisions of the Agreement. Had prior consultation taken place, the industry would have been in a position—and would certainly have taken advantage of it—to point out the various disadvantages in the Agreement that are apparent to them. In this way, time and trouble would have been saved, and possibly, also, the arrangements could have been brought in more smoothly; a great deal of discussion to which your Lordships have been subjected might not have been necessary; and, what is probably much more important, the Government would have been assured of the full and complete co-operation of the industry.
§ But, as things are at the moment, after the passage of this Bill through another place and in this House up to to-day, there are still five main points in the Agreement against which the industry feels strongly. I do not propose to refer to them now, because they have already been mentioned on Second Reading and discussed on the Committee stage, and I am sure my noble friend Lord St. Oswald is well aware of these five main points where disagreement still exists. I 581 feel that there are strong arguments in favour of prior consultation. I beg to move.
Page 18, line 35, after ("Minister'") insert the said words.—(Lord Merrivale.)
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, in rising to support this Amendment there are one or two things that I should like to say to supplement what has already been put before your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. I was much impressed, as everybody must have been, by the powerful protest made by the chairman of Tate and Lyle at the annual general meeting last week against the methods which the Government have used. What he said was:The weight that refiners' interests carry with the Government is clearly indicated by the ruthless bulldozing of the Irish Agreement and the refusal of the Board of Trade to deal with flagrantly subsidised imports of foreign refiners.I should like to supplement that comment by referring to the reply of the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill in this House to some of the questions which remain still unanswered or not cleared up.
Referring, on March 25, to the alleged hurt to the Irish resulting from "the regime", as the pricing arrangements were called, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 60), col. 24]:As I think I have explained, all foreign countries were placed at this trading disadvantage—in fact all countries, all suppliers, were placed at this disadvantage—but compensation was made for Commonwealth suppliers. The similar compensation was not made for the Irish Republic.That is only half a truth, and, as we all know, a half truth is sometimes worse than an untruth. The complete truth is this. Only signatories of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement received compensation. Countries such as India and Canada, both of whom have sent sugar to this country, received no compensation. The Irish Republic, therefore, are not merely being treated as though they were any Commonwealth country; not merely as though they were any Commonwealth exporting country, such as India or Canada, but as though they were an exporting member of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. They are not exporters of sugar; they are not members of the Commonwealth; and they are not mem- 582 bers of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.
One could comment also on what the noble Lord said in column 26. He there said:The plain truth is that sugar produced from Irish beet can seldom be competitive with that purchased in the world market.Surely this supports our contention that in order to send sugar into Northern Ireland the Irish require a subsidy, and that they would not have been able to develop this trade in Northern Ireland without the "hole in the tariff", as the unfair advantage was called, which they enjoyed prior to 1962, and that they require the subsidy being arranged in the Irish Sugar Agreement in order to be able to maintain their successful competition with British refiners in Northern Ireland. Again, in column 27, the noble Lord said:In response to representations of the refiners, an Amendment was introduced by the Government so that the Minister could only direct the Board to buy sugar from the parties to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. We did not say then that there would never be circumstances in which Parliament would think it justifiable to extend by legislation the powers of the Sugar Board.Surely that is a very weak (if "weak" is the right adjective) argument. It is very nearly equivalent to saying that the Minister at that time, Mr. Amory, I believe (as he then was), enticed the refiners into giving their undertakings and co-operating generally when the Amendment was introduced to limit the powers of the Board, while saying, at the same time, to himself, under his breath, "But I reserve the right, without consulting you, again to extend the powers of the Board when I want to." That is just what it amounted to.
This also, of course, omits the point that any such radical change of policy should have been openly acknowledged in separate legislation, and not submerged in a clause of this Miscellaneous Bill. No wonder that in another place the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food seems to have taken no part in the discussion over Clause 25. Indeed, he must have felt it embarrassing to have to acknowledge this foundling which was left on his doorstep where it had no right to be. I support the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I should also 583 like to support the Amendment. As my noble friend Lord Milverton has said, it is a matter of extreme surprise that this clause came to be inserted in this Bill. I should have thought that separate legislation should have been enacted on this, because Her Majesty's Government are surely setting a dangerous precedent here by extending the power of the Sugar Board into an entirely new sphere. They are trading in a country which is not in the Commonwealth, and a country, therefore, over which the Ministry of Food has no control. I understand that in framing the 1957 Act—my noble friend Lord Merrivale called it the 1956 Act—the Government had the opinion of the sugar refiners; I understand they had long consultations with them, and the sugar refiners co-operated extremely well with the Government and went out of their way to bring the Sugar Act into being.
The Irish Agreement appears to cut completely across this. I think it is monstrous that United Kingdom sugar refiners cannot compete in the British Isles on equal terms with Ireland as regards sugar. I could perhaps understand this if Her Majesty's Government had a quid pro quo with the Eire Government to allow Northern Irish goods into the South of Ireland without import duty. But even if they had that quid pro quo they would have to compensate the British sugar refiners accordingly. This seems extremely unfair, and it means that we are handing the Eire Government a subsidy, at the expense of the British taxpayer, to compete in the North of Ireland. I really cannot stomach this, and I wholeheartedly support my noble friend's Amendment.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, on studying Hansard I am appalled to find how many columns are taken up by my dissertations on this clause, mainly in an attempt to answer my noble friends Lord Merrivale and Lord Milverton. To-day, we have a total of another seven Amendments, one of which raises a new point, set down by my two noble friends. I do not think the House would lightly forgive me if I were to make a speech upon each of them. I therefore propose to make yet one more principal speech promoting the clause as it stands, and then to answer any points of detail 584 which may be raised by my noble friends on each individual Amendment, repeating myself as little as possible.
My Lords, may I make a suggestion to my noble friend? If, instead of reading out his brief word for word, he could précis it into about six principal points, I think we could grasp it so much better.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I have taken a certain amount of trouble to précis the points I want to make on the clause as a whole, and I do not think I can do better for my noble friend, or shorten it, while keeping it distinct, by departing from the brief which I have composed rather carefully myself. As I have said before, we regard this Agreement as beneficial to both countries—that is to say, our own country and the Irish Republic—and to the Commonwealth. It will provide, as I have shown, a new outlet which has been welcomed by Commonwealth sugar producers—I am still at a loss to understand why my noble friend Lord Milverton does not appreciate that. It is as a direct result of the discussions which led to the presentation of this draft Agreement that the Irish Sugar Company have purchased 15,000 tons of sugar from the West Indies, and this replaces foreign exports to the Irish Republic this year for the first time. The Irish Republic will purchase at least 5,000 tons from Commonwealth producers each year, and in many years they will buy much more—possibly as much as 25,000 tons.
This is also of value to British refiners, because the Agreement will remove their grievance that the export of refined sugar to Britain was covered by foreign imports. It is worth noting that the Irish Republic, like any other country which operates within a preference system for sugar, or any other commodity, is perfectly entitled to carry on trade in the way she has since the end of State trading in sugar in 1956, and for a very much longer period so far as the composite goods which are the subject of this clause are concerned.
As I have said in one of our earlier debates, if my noble friend is right and the trade cannot be maintained if based upon Commonwealth supplies of raw sugar or sugar beet grown in the Irish Republic, it is that much more difficult to understand why the Sugar Refiners 585 Association take such a poor view of the draft Agreement. If my noble friend was wrong (as I suspect he was), and the export trade in refined sugar to Northern Ireland continues, it will be restricted by this Agreement to the significantly lower level of 10,500 tons. This is a restriction written into the Agreement to which he is objecting. It is difficult to see how the British refiners could fail to benefit from such a reduction which has been agreed to by the Irish Government. As I said when we last discussed this matter, it is difficult to see anyone who is better placed to benefit from a reduction in sugar exports from the Irish Republic.
I think perhaps, in view of Lord Merrivale's references to objections, the time has come to say that, in complaining of the disadvantages, none of the speakers has specified or described what disadvantage this Agreement will have for the refiners in this country. My noble friend has not done so to-day. He mentioned five points of disagreement, but he did not say how he expected British refiners in this country to suffer—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but would he like me to mention again the five points? I thought he knew them by heart. If he wishes me to outline the five points which the refiners have against the Agreement, I shall be only too pleased to do so. Is the noble Lord aware of them?
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, what I have said is that we have not yet heard from either of the noble Lords how the British sugar refiners expect to suffer from this Agreement.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, they are suffering—shall we say?—from the point of view that they are not keen that the British consumer should be asked to pay a subsidy to Ireland. They also believe that the Irish will be able to compete in areas which, up to 1956, had been served only by Greenock and Liverpool. They also feel that the Agreement does not make available an additional outlet to Commonwealth producers that could not be provided by other means. They also feel that it does nothing to alleviate the unemployment situation in the two areas which I have just mentioned, where the figures are above the national average. Also, they feel, as has been mentioned 586 by my noble friend Lord Milverton, that the Agreement extends the powers of the Sugar Board absolutely in contravention of the spirit which was prevalent at the time of the passing of the Sugar Act.
My Lords, I, at the same time, ask the noble Lord, whether we are going to consider the benefits that may or may not accrue to the British refiners—and he has given a figure of the limit which is going to be placed on Eire exports to Northern Ireland. Could he give the figures over the last five or six years, so that we could then understand?
LORD ST. OSWALD
In answer to the last question, imports into Northern Ireland last year were 13,000 tons; and noble Lords already in a previous stage of the Bill had drawn attention to the fact that this does not appear to them to be a very great reduction though it might be thought a noticeable one. But a point I made in an earlier stage of the Bill and which I dislike repeating is that there was virtually no reason why 13,000 tons should be the limit of imports from Southern Ireland into Northern Ireland. We have now restricted imports to 10,500 tons from the previous 13,000 tons, but also from a potentially far higher figure.
I listened with great care to my noble friend Lord Merrivale enumerating his five objections. It was not the five objections which I wanted him to catalogue again. I wished him to say which of those five objections entailed any sort of suffering for the sugar refiners of this country, and he has not done so.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I add one thing to Lord Merrivale's points? One of the main objections which I, among others in this House, have made was the price which the noble Lord contemplates paying to the Irish under this Agreement. If the British refiners were given a similar sum they could find room for far more Commonwealth sugar than would be produced by the Irish under this arrangement. What is more, they would not ask for any special arrangements in connection with it. What we have tried to find out, and what the noble Lord, if I may say so with respect, has not yet told us, is what this compensation is being paid for.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I fear very much that my noble friend has not done me the honour of reading my 587 speeches. I can very well understand that, because I do not like reading them myself. I have explained what this compensation is for. What it is intended to compensate is the £150,000 which the Irish Republic forfeited last year as a result of the arrangement made for which Commonwealth sugar exporting countries were compensated and they were not. This added up to about £150,000 in the course of last year, and looks like continuing at the same rate. The idea was that this compensation would approximate to that in future years, and so balance the loss which the Irish sugar refiners would suffer.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I be allowed to interrupt the noble Lord once more? That is what puzzles me. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, summed it up in a sentence in a question in our last debate. He asked the noble Lord whether he understood him correctly that £150,000, or whatever the sum amounts to, is being paid as compensation to the Irish for the loss of a previous advantage to which they were not entitled.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I really am not going on with this point. I am quite prepared to debate with the noble Lord on whether or not they were entitled, but not at this moment. I have lost count of the number of times I have repeated this. The £150,000 was lost by the Irish in the course of last year's trading. The £150,000 which we estimated would accrue but which, in fact, will not accrue to the Irish Republic in the next year's trading was intended to compensate them, to balance out, next year's trading disadvantage, leaving behind on the books the £150,000 loss sustained in the course of last year's trading. I really hope I have made that clear.
I return now to the point I was discussing with my noble friend. He has certainly listed and catalogued the objections which the British sugar refiners have voiced to these arrangements, but he has not said how the British sugar refiners expect to suffer. We certainly do not consider that the Agreement will do anything but improve their circumstances, and I have been at pains to describe how we think those circumstances will improve. There is, in fact, no lack of proof that in the past we paid a proper regard 588 to the need to protect the refiners' interests. The figures speak for themselves. Imports of refined sugar fell from about 200,000 tons in 1961 to about 100,000 tons in 1962, as a result of the changes in the sugar régime and import quotas, and this was brought about intentionally on behalf of the refining industry by the Government at that time.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 proposed by my noble friend Lord Merrivale deal with consultation about directions given under this clause, and further Parliamentary approval of the Irish Sugar Agreement. Of those two my noble friend has so far moved only Amendment No. 8, so it is that with which I am dealing now.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, No. 9 does not deal with consultation; it deals with an Affirmative Resolution.
LORD ST. OSWALD
One refers to consultation, the other to Parliamentary approval. I gave an assurance on Committee stage that the House would be informed of any proposal to amend or extend the Agreement. My right honourable friend would naturally give the principal undertakings in the sugar industry in this country an opportunity to comment on any new proposals. I can also give my noble friend an assurance that before giving directions my right honourable friend would consult the Sugar Board and the representative organisations of the sugar industry in the United Kingdom. The interests of Commonwealth industries are the concern of the Governments of their countries and territories. They are, of course, interested in the sugar Agreement with the Irish Republic, and were informed of its terms at the end of the negotiations in the same way as the principal sugar undertakings in the United Kingdom were advised of the outcome of the discussions. I think that is as far as we are, or were, required to go, and I hope that my noble friend will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I must say that I find that a most unsatisfactory reply—and I say that in as humble and respectful way as possible. When the noble Lord says simply that an industry will be given opportunity to comment, that is about as vague a statement, I should have thought, as it could be. All we are asking by this Amendment is 589 that Her Majesty's Government should be prepared to enter into consultation with members representing the interests of producers and refiners; and those members would be chosen by the Minister himself. Therefore, I find the last words of my noble friend most disappointing. He spent most of the time outlining what Her Majesty's Government saw as the advantages of the draft Agreement. It seems a shame that much of those advantages which are seen by Her Majesty's Government which should accrue to both countries cannot be appreciated by the sugar refiners in this country. I can only think that the advantages cannot be as great as Her Majesty's Government believe. I must say that I am most dissatisfied and disappointed with the reply of my noble friend.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 5.47 p.m.
LORD MERRIVALE moved to add to the clause:
Provided that no agreement made after the passing of this Act and no modification or extension of such agreement shall have validity for the purposes of this section unless approved by Resolution of each House of Parliament.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 9 standing in my name on the Marshalled List. Apart from the fact that this Amendment is, I feel, fairly clear, I trust that it will also commend itself as being fairly reasonable; and I sincerely hope that it will commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, for it would give him the opportunity for another charming speech such as we heard earlier on this afternoon.
§ As your Lordships are well aware, it is the duty of the Special Orders Committee to examine certain Orders which require an Affirmative Resolution or an Address to Her Majesty. The Committee do not report on the expediency of an Order, but give an opinion as to whether the Order raises questions of policy or principle; also whether it is founded on precedent. This point was mentioned this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when we were considering the Location of Offices Bureau Order, 1963.
§ I think that your Lordships would agree that the draft Agreement does involve questions of policy and principle. 590 On this question of precedent, might I suggest that there are certain common factors?
Consider, for instance, the Protocol for the prolongation of the international Agreement of May 6, 1937, regarding the regulation of production and marketing of sugar; that is, Command Paper 8437. Chapter 6 refers to the establishment of an International Sugar Council for the general administration of that agreement. On December 15, 1958, my noble friend Lord Lansdowne moved:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the International Sugar Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1958, be made in the form of the draft laid before the House on November 26.
After debate that Motion was agreed to, and I feel that there is a certain similarity between that Motion and what the present Amendment is seeking to do regarding the present draft Agreement. Therefore, I feel that it is opportune that, before any Agreement such as we are considering to-day can be brought into operation, Parliament should be given an opportunity to discuss certain of its details. I think that your Lordships were told earlier this afternoon of the advantages of such a procedure. The fact, too, that such an Order as we had earlier to-day was not based on precedent did not stop your Lordships passing it. Therefore, feel that this method whereby Parliament has an opportunity of considering such Resolutions should commend itself to your Lordships with regard to such a draft Agreement. I beg leave to move this Amendment.
Page 18, line 38, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Merrivale.)
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment. There is nothing that I have to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has already said, except that the course of this Bill through this House has sufficiently illustrated how grave is the need, when this sort of thing happens, to have some provision which would allow Parliament the opportunity of a proper discussion of a new principle, isolated from a mass of irrelevant other clauses.
§ 5.53 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the Irish Sugar Agreement, and not just the extension of the powers of the Sugar 591 Board, has been the subject of debate at every stage on the passage of this Bill through both Houses of Parliament. Amendment No. 9 would provide for further debate. I should have thought it was clear that we consider that the Agreement will be a useful development to both countries and to the Commonwealth. It will not damage any United Kingdom interest and offers advantages which I have already described. We have already satisfied Parliament up to this late stage of the Bill as to these things, even if we have not satisfied my two noble friends. We see no reason why the Irish Sugar Agreement should be put under closer scrutiny than the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement itself or other subsidiary Agreements. Indeed, when the South Africa Bill was before the House last year with provision for the extension of the powers of the Sugar Board to purchase South African sugar, no change was made to provide for such a close scrutiny, and, in fact, no change was called for.
I cannot agree (if this is what my noble friend thinks) that there has been, or can be, any question of adding to the scope of directions to the Sugar Board without coming back to Parliament. We came back to Parliament for the South African adjustment last year, and we have come back to Parliament again now for powers to direct the Sugar Board to buy from Ireland. We think that this is all the scrutiny which Parliament should wish to have, and that it provides full safeguards for the matter in hand.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I do not propose to press this point. If the noble Lord, Her Majesty's Government and Parliament feel that sufficient scrutiny can be given, I am, of course, satisfied to leave it there. The only thing that I should like to say is that I am pleased that my noble friend has referred again to the South Africa Act, for I propose to mention it later. I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD MILVERTON moved to add to the clause:
Provided that any such agreement made before 31st December 1963 shall cease to be binding after three months (notwithstanding any provision to the contrary) if any losses of the Sugar Board under that agreement exceed the sum of £150,000 in any period of two successive accounting years.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. Clause 12 of the Anglo-Irish Sugar Agreement provides as follows:
Period of Agreement. This Agreement shall commence on the date hereto and shall expire on the 31st January 1967, subject to the right of either of the parties hereto to request a review of the provisions of this Agreement and to give to the other, not later than 31st March in any year notice in writing of intention to terminate this Agreement on the 20th June next following the date of such notice.
The effect of the Agreement would be that if the working of the Agreement cost the Sugar Board more than £150,000 in any two successive years they would be obliged to give notice of its termination, since they would no longer have powers to implement it under Clause 25 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Unless Her Majesty's Government contemplate unlimited liability, I suggest that this would be a reasonable Amendment.
Page 18, line 38, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Milverton.)
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Milverton has suggested that an Amendment is necessary to ensure that the Sugar Board's loss is kept within limits. We estimated that the loss on the refined sugar transaction under the Agreement would be £150,000 when the world price of raw sugar for the year was likely to be £25 per ton. This loss, as I explained rather earlier in this debate, would do no more than balance the additional surcharge which is accruing to the Sugar Board following the effect of our régime change on Irish exports. Raw sugar prices have not, in fact, been below about £20 per ton since the early days of the war; and even if this low price were to rule for a whole year the loss would not exceed £200,000. Thus, we feel that an effective limit is actually provided by the quantity of sugar purchased at a fixed price, and I do not feel that my noble friend's Amendment is in any way necessary.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, but I regard it as quite unsatisfactory, and I do not share his confidence that when the present boom in sugar prices has 593 ended the losses may not exceed the amount. But I do not wish to press this matter any further, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD MILVERTON moved to add to the clause:
Provided that any such agreement made after 31st December, 1963, shall cease to be binding (notwithstanding any provision to the contrary) if and as soon as any losses of the Sugar Board under that agreement exceed the sum of £100,000 in any period of two successive accounting years.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the next Amendment standing in my name. Its effect would be to prevent Clause 25 from being used by a future Government to enable them to implement any kind of an Anglo-Irish Sugar Agreement in the future, whatever its cost to this country. When the Bill was presented to Parliament the Government's estimate was that the clause would cost, perhaps, £150,000 per year, but as has been pointed out, everything depends upon the price of sugar. The effect of the Amendment would be that if any subsequent Agreement were made which involved expenditure by this country of more than £100,000 in any two successive years, the Agreement would become null and void or, if not, that new legislation would have to be introduced to cover it.
Page 18, line 38, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Milverton.)
§ 6.1 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the second Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Milverton would prejudice any modification of the Agreement after the end of this year, even if that change were to be to our advantage. In fact, damage was done to the Irish sugar trade to the tune of £150,000 a year at the beginning of 1962, and it is not possible to estimate what will be the cost of the assurance of a fixed price of £50 a ton for 10,000 tons of their beet sugar to Irish producers. It would be £150,000 if the world price of sugar averaged £25 in any year; £200,000 if it fell to the very low price of £20; £100,000 if the price were £30; and nothing if the price were £40. In fact, the price is now £62 per ton, and it is unlikely that anything will have to be paid this year. The cost to the Sugar Board will, in all likelihood, be nothing whatever this year, and the unfavourable 594 balance to the Irish Republic will remain as it was, uncompensated. In view of these financial facts, we think that my noble friend's Amendment is not necessary and would be prejudicial to the intention behind this clause.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I cannot express any satisfaction with the noble Lord's reply, because I do not believe in this myth of the £150,000 loss to the Irish company; but as the Government take this attitude I do not wish to press this Amendment any further, and beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD MERRIVALE moved to add to the clause:
( ) This section shall be of no effect after 30th June 1967.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the Committee stage of this Bill, my noble friend Lord St. Oswald said that the powers of the Sugar Board were extended last year by legislation when dealing with the position which arose out of the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth. During the Second Reading of the South Africa Bill on April 12 your Lordships rightly expressed concern that the interests of Swaziland should be safeguarded. I would remind your Lordships that paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule to the South Africa Act empowers the Minister to implement the Agreement which was signed on May 29, 1962, between the United Kingdom Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the South African Sugar Association.
Details of this Agreement may be seen in the Sugar Board's Annual Report up to the month of June, 1962. I should particularly like to draw the attention of my noble friend Lord St. Oswald to paragraph 2 of this Agreement, which is headed "Period of Contract". I should also like to draw his attention to the words of the noble and learned Viscount, the then Lord Chancellor, when on April 12 last year he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 239, col. 637]:
The Sugar Agreement is a bilateral trading agreement which is contractual, with a fixed term.
It was a fixed term of five years. What I am asking to-day is that this draft Agreement which we are now considering should also have a fixed term. Thus,
if Her Majesty's Government feel that there is a certain similarity—and I believe there is, from what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said—between a country which was once part of the Commonwealth and another country not technically in the Commonwealth but which benefits from a certain Commonwealth preference, I would hope that my noble friend will concede that there are certain grounds for a similar type of agreement or contract to be made.
Finally, I would ask him very seriously to bear in mind the words of the then Lord Chancellor, again on April 12 last year, during the passage of the South Africa Bill, when he said in regard to the Sugar Agreement [col. 637]:
It is obviously the sort of thing on which we ought to clear the ground, and I am only anxious to help.
I feel that in this case the ground has certainly not been cleared, and I only wish that my noble friend and his right honourable friend were more anxious to help. Therefore I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 18, line 38, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Merrivale.)
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, this third Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Merrivale would end the Agreement in 1967. What I have to say is, I fear, inevitably repetitive, and it was also challenged by my noble friend. The Agreement arises from a feature of the sugar régime, introduced in 1962, which damages Irish exporters to the tune of about £150,000 a year. This damage, which was not present under the conditions which governed the South African arrangement, will continue indefinitely and may well still be there in five years' time. It is not possible to say, therefore, how long the arrangements with the Irish should continue; nor is it fruitful to speculate about the circumstances obtaining when this Agreement expires. It may be appropriate then to extend the Agreement but that is not a matter which we feel should be settled now. I would therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, the only interpretation I can put on my noble friend's words, which I find a little dis- 596 quieting, is that it is expected by Her Majesty's Government that it might well be that the present damage to the Irish will go on indefinitely. It seems a very curious form of legislation that allows a draft Agreement to be provided which would enable the damage to go on for ever. I should have thought that the purpose of this draft Agreement was to alleviate any damage to the Irish company, if there was any damage. But I do not see at this stage any purpose in pressing this Amendment. I am very sorry that my noble friend would not agree that there was a certain similarity between this Agreement and the Agreement with South Africa. I should have thought that if in that case it could be for a fixed period, then if this draft Agreement had been satisfactorily drafted it also could have been for a fixed period. With those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, this Amendment is surely one which the Government will at last accept. The international sugar agreement is not at present in force, but it can be renegotiated this year. In the past the United Kingdom Government and the Governments of members of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement have been in favour of participating in this Agreement, by the terms of which producers undertake to limit their exports of sugar. If the United Kingdom follows past practice it will sign, perhaps this year, an international sugar agreement again. It will then not be possible as a signatory to the international agreement—to quote the phrase which has been used in relation to the Anglo-Irish Agreement—"to find new outlets for Commonwealth sugar", because the total outlets will be limited. The clause in the Irish Agreement, therefore, by which Ireland undertakes to import a minimum of 5.000 tons of Commonwealth sugar, will be of no benefit to producers. My Lords, I beg to move.
Page 18, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) If under any international sugar agreement a limit is imposed upon the total exports of Commonwealth sugar, then this section shall cease to have effect from the time when that limitation begins to operate.") —(Lord Milverton.)
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, this Amendment moved by my noble friend contains the new point to which I referred at an earler stage, in that it calls attention to the effect of any new international sugar agreement. But the sugar consumed in this country comes almost entirely from the Commonwealth and from domestic producers. It is very hard for me to visualise, as my noble friend would like me to do, our acceptance of a new international agreement which would require us to cut back our imports from the Commonwealth. However, having followed my noble friend with some difficulty into these realms of imagination, I come up against one hard fact which I do not think he has taken into account: that the practice internationally in establishing quotas has always been to take account of firm existing outlets as one of the principal factors.
What this clause is doing is to enlarge the export performance of the Commonwealth sugar-producing countries, so that, even if such an international agreement as my noble friend visualises were to be negotiated, the Commonwealth would still be in a better position by this clause than without it. As my noble friend knows, the export quota provisions of the International Sugar Agreement of 1958 have been inoperative since the beginning of 1962. The increased outlet for Commonwealth supplies is therefore of real value, but there is no purpose in speculating about the outcome of any future negotiating conference to establish export quotas to apply for future years. I can only repeat to my noble friend that firm outlets as well as past performances are taken into account at negotiating conferences, so that in fact this clause will aid rather than place an obstacle in the path of his own wishes on this matter.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I have listened to the noble Lord's replies on this sugar question with increasing amazement. I cannot accept the idea that these new outlets for Commonwealth sugar and so forth, which are going to be created under the Irish agreement, as has been said, would be taken as firmly established trade and so on. But it is no use for me to continue this argument. I do not accept any of the prophecies or the statements which the noble Lord has just made, and I think it would be difficult to 598 get those who are experienced in the trade to accept them, either. But with those few comments, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, there is nothing more for me to do about this, than to invite somebody to read through the debates in this House on the Second Reading, the Committee stage and the Report stage, to realise that we are dealing with a Government who are quite impenitent and uncommunicative on the subject of Amendments. With those few unsolicited comments, I would say that I do not propose to move the final Amendment to leave out Clause 25.