I beg to move,
That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to produce an effective long-term policy for British agriculture.
The House will appreciate that it is the Opposition who have proposed a debate on agriculture. This is an important industry and this is the last opportunity for this Parliament to debate some of its problems. For a long period Parliament has been preoccupied with the details of agricultural legislation. From time to time we have discussed Orders and Schemes which have flown from that legislation. Today, we have an opportunity to discuss the broad sweep of agricultural policy. It is the duty of the Opposition to analyse and criticise and to indicate their alternative principles and policies.
We must ask ourselves, first, what should be our policy for agriculture. Do we need a positive policy? This important industry must be considered in relation to that broad question. Agriculture provides food for the nation and an important living for our farmers and farm-workers. Opportunities are provided for many people engaged in the ancillary industries which are of importance to the countryside—the fertiliser and the agricultural engineering industries, to mention only two.
Agriculture makes a major contribution to the economic growth of the country and plays an important part in the solution of our balance of payments problems. As I have always said—I am sure that I carry the House with me—to achieve a policy we must consider various interests, and these interests must be balanced.
There are, first, the interests of the producers, the farmers and farmworkers; and, secondly, the interests of the consumers. I trust that this afternoon we shall bear in mind that the Minister of Agriculture is also Minister of Food and, therefore, that it is right and proper to bear in mind the effect of any policy on consumer interests. Thirdly, there are our obligations to the Commonwealth, which are important, in view of the discussions on Commonwealth matters soon to be held in this country at the Prime Ministers' conference. Fourthly, we must remember our obligations to E.F.T.A. and lastly our obligations to the G.A.T.T.
In the post-war period successive Governments sought to balance these interests. Often they have been reconciled, but sometimes they have not. In the immediate post-war years we had a Labour Government who, in 1945, had to face a world food shortage. Gradually, as the 1950s came upon us, we saw the emergence of an imbalance between the agricultural production of the more affluent Western world and that of underdeveloped countries, especially in Africa and Asia. I recognise that there are exceptions. I recall conducting a survey in Southern Italy for the Council of Europe, where the poor living conditions in backward agricultural communities created serious problems for the Italian Government. A brave effort was made to conquer these problems.
Today, we have a world in which there is the possibility of surpluses. At the same time, a great many people are still hungry and countries are underdeveloped. We have to consider a number of new factors. First, there is a change in the pattern of diet. There is a demand for meat and meat products which is apparent in a dramatic fashion in Asia, for example, in Japan. Another new factor is the increased use of fertilisers and pesticides and a third is the development of what is known as "agribusiness", the growth of larger units and the consequent creation of increased production. This leads to serious social problems in the agricultural industry. We must ask ourselves how successive Governments have matched up to the changing post-war agricultural situation.
The Labour Government of 1945 passed the 1947 Act, which is still a charter for the industry. In 1947, this country was engaged in a major production drive. There are hon. Members opposite who sometimes seek to belittle the work of that Government, but I still believe that Tom Williams—Lord Williams of Barnburgh, as he now is—was the best Minister of Agriculture that we have ever had. I make no apology today for the work of that Labour Government. I should like to refer the Minister to the childish sneer which is contained in a recently published Tory document, "Agriculture and the Nation".
On page 52, there is a statement that Socialists have held office during only nine of the 45 years since 1918 and for six years in the last 20 years. It is stated:
They have, therefore, had comparatively little influence on the evolution of agricultural policy since the end of the First World War.
This is rather remarkable in a Tory document as usually the Tories are more accurate. On page 53 it is stated:
The Agriculture Act, 1947, and the companion Act, the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, were, nevertheless, the foundation of post-war agricultural legislation.
It is remarkable how the Tories change.
Since 1952, there has been a period of uncertainty, of drift, of indecision. Here and there, pressure of events has forced the Government to act. There were two major problems. In previous agricultural debates we have discussed these at great length. First, there was the growing problem of Exchequer support. I need not quote the White Paper which was submitted to us after the Price Review negotiations. Support is now running at approximately £204 million. I need not quote the estimates for 1964–65 covering, first, the guarantees to Review products and, secondly, production grants running at over £100 million. There has been growing Exchequer support.
In farm incomes, despite the last Price Review, there has been a relative decline. I have with me documents which every hon. Member must have received from the National Farmers' Union. They indicate in great detail some of the difficulties which the farming community have experienced over the last 10 or 11 years. The National Farmers' Union Annual Review, 1964, Vol. 19, No. 1, says that
in real terms, net income is estimated to be 10 per cent. below the 1952–53 level; on the basis of normal weather conditions, it is nearly 4 per cent. lower. Production, however, during the same period has risen by some 27 per cent. These facts demonstrate that the industry has had little or no reward for its increased production and productivity in the last decade.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have had to face increasing pressure from organised farm opinion in rural constituencies. Considerable difficulties have been created for small producers. From the end of the 'fifties to the beginning of the 'sixties there has been a virtual crisis in the countryside. This is not just my view. I quote a distinguished right hon. Member opposite, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who said in 1960, when speaking of the then Minister of Agriculture:
However, I want my right hon. Friend to realise that my farming constituents and people in agriculture generally are worried, not because of the prices which he has imposed, but because, unlike the Budget, his White Paper contained no clear policy and no reassurance for the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May, 1960; Vol. 623, c. 975.]
That was on 16th May, 1916. [Laughter.] I mean 1960; the right hon. Member is far in advance of 1916, but many hon. Members opposite are not. There has been no coherent policy and the problem seems to be insoluble in spite of the promise given by the Government to stand by the guarantees in the 1957 legislation.
Then we come to the Common Market negotiations. The present Minister of Agriculture clutched at the Common Market solution. I make my position clear on this matter. I respect those who believed that the answer was to be found in the European solution and that we should advance to a form of federalism, but for the Minister and some of his colleagues it was an escape route. He had no agricultural policy. If Whitehall was to do nothing, Brussels would.
The Minister of Agriculture and the present Secretary of State for Industry and Trade were virtually the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Common Market politics. The tragedy is that they never really negotiated. They were too enthusiastic for entry. The Minister of Agriculture lauded the managed market which he now condemns when he chides the Liberal Party. He even defended the cereals regulations, which were one of the first groups of regulations emerging from the Common Market discussions.
We have always stressed that the interests of British agriculture must be safeguarded. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the late Leader of the Opposition and the party, at its Brighton conference, all stressed that our own agriculture should not be thrown overboard. The Prime Minister has said that this is "a dead duck". It seems to be a funny duck, for it still squeaks. I should like to know what Government policy is on this matter. I am suspicious. I still believe that the Government would like to solve many of their problems by going into the Common Market. I hope that the Minister will reply to this argument.
Coming to matters affecting home conditions, the right hon. Gentleman said at Exeter, at the beginning of this year:
The difference between Conservative and Labour agriculture policies was that, while the former favoured a free market system and a minimum of regulations. Labour wanted controlled commodity commissions, with all the paraphernalia of State trading.
How naïve can hon. Members opposite be? I am sure that the Minister was speaking from the Conservative Central Office brief and not from one of the excellent briefs from his own Department.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman say that this is the choice? Is he aware that the Government have taken over some of the most rigid control systems ever introduced to the industry. The Agriculture and Horticulture Act, 1964, gives the Minister tremendous powers of control. These are not minimum regulations. My hon. Friends—indeed, hon. Members opposite—stressed time and again that Part I of this very important Act has given the Government greater power over agricultural imports than any other Government has had. It has aroused considerable controversy. Part I enables the Minister to control, by means of import levies and a minimum price system, products coming into this country. These are not minimum regulations, but a Ministry control and planning operation. He knows that he was talking nonsense at Exeter. The Government, by the pressure of events, have had to adopt a measure of planning.
What about the Minister's agreement on meat products? What about the bacon agreement? We are now controlling the market and British industry has been given a share of the British market. For 1963–64, it is to be about 216,000 tons. British producers are to have an allocation. The simple fact is that the logic of events has forced the Government to act and, inevitably, there will be some measure of State interference. I once called the right hon. Gentleman a crypto-Socialist. I think that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) would call him something worse than that.
The agricultural issue is not one between public and private enterprise, between planning and no planning, between organised marketing and free trade. It is not an issue between cooperation or non-co-operation. The question is: what should be the degree of partnership between the State—that is, public enterprise—and private enterprise? How far should the Government intervene? To what degree shall there be State or Government planning? What degree shall there be of organised marketing? What degree of co-operation will take place between private producers, and how far will the State—that is, the Government—help in this process? The real issue is, how far is the community involved?
First, how far will we give Exchequer aid? Secondly, how far will we still plan assured markets and guaranteed prices? Thirdly, how far will we keep intact the basic principles of the 1947 and 1957 Acts? I have never said that these Acts should be sacrosanct. They should be adapted to changing conditions. What will be the degree of planning within the industry itself, and what form will it take? Will it be private and public, or will there be a combination of both?
The remarks of the Minister at Exeter were very silly. They were almost as stupid as the fatuous remark of the Prime Minister that we have a junk yard of nationalisation. The National Agricultural Advisory Service is a nationalised concern. Is that a junk yard? I should like to know. I ask the Prime Minister, who is here: is the Forestry Commission, for which the Ministry of Agriculture has a responsibility, a junk yard of nationalisation? Is the position in agriculture, where the State has intervened very well, in keeping with his frank talk? Will the Prime Minister respond to my challenge? Are these bodies covered by his silly remark? He remains silent. No doubt he will reserve his answer for Conservative women's gatherings, where he cannot be heckled.
I come to some of the main issues in agriculture. We must consider the issue of support and production, the problem of marketing and the rôle of imports and the structure and our obligations. I have always argued that the deficiency payment system is a right one. I have accepted it in principle. I have also accepted the view that production grants are a means of injecting capital into different parts of the industry. Nevertheless, this Exchequer support should be controlled and supervised, and that is why, on previous occasions, we have always sought, in administration, to analyse critically some aspects of Government financial policy.
I have accepted, too, the principle that we must have standard quantities. This
is a view which we stressed in the 1947 Act, in which it was said that we should produce
such part of the nation's food and other agricultural produce as in the national interest it is desirable to produce in the United Kingdom".
Incidentally, that part of the Act was opposed by hon. Members opposite, but now they accept standard quantities. Will these standard quantities be restricted? The Scottish National Farmers' Union has been critical. The National Farmers' Union for England and Wales has accepted the principle of guarantees and standard quantities with reservations. Nevertheless, as I have said, we on this side are prepared to examine where support has gone and how far it has benefited the industry.
As I have shown, many small producers have faced hardships. Many of them have not benefited from the increased Exchequer support. We have the example of our small milk producers. Whether the Minister likes it or not, there could well be a milk crisis this year if we have unfavourable weather conditions. We have seen a pattern emerging in the industry. [Laughter.] This is no laughing matter. I will give the Secretary of State for Scotland the figures for England and Wales. I am sure that the figures for Scotland are just as bad.
From 1955 to 1964, there has been a strong decline in the number of registered milk producers. The reason is that they have been dissatisfied with the Government's pricing policy. In 1955, the number of registered producers was 142,792. By 1960, it had dropped to 123,137. By the end of March this year, it had dropped again to 105,576. I know that many of these producers have not gone out of business; they have switched production. But many of them—in Cornwall, Devon, and other parts of the West Country and in Cumberland and Wales—have had to face a very serious crisis for a long time as a result of the policy pursued by the Government.
There has been a failure on the part of the Government to make their intentions clear. This view has been expressed by many leaders in the industry. What is the production policy of the Government? I should like to see a five-year policy. I believe that this is possible. The representatives of the industry and the Government could meet every year during the February Price Review negotiations. There should be some indication of a broad policy pursued by the Government. This view is held by the National Economic Development Council. In the Council's "Growth of the United Kingdom Economy to 1966" there are some suggestions for the Government to take up.
The section dealing with agriculture, on page 67, states—and no doubt this may coincide with the N.F.U.'s point of view:
Effective planning is limited to some extent by uncertainly about national food requirements and prices of farm products. Particular problems to which the industry has drawn attention are"—
and it then goes on to talk about more effective marketing, and so on. It is accepted that we could improve our production policy by more effective planning. That is the Opposition's view.
We have always argued that a deficiency payment system working in a free market will inevitably produce the crises which we had at the end of 1961. In February, 1962, the Minister had to come to the House and ask for an increased estimate of nearly £90 million. That is why we argue that the main emphasis should be on a marketing policy.
For the last 10 years the Government have done literally nothing. We have had a period of drift. The Minister has dillied and dallied. He is a Minister of dilly and dally. He has always said, "Leave it to the industry. I wash my hands of it. It is not for me". He said that over meat. He would never have introduced the Verdon Smith Committee if there had not been that crisis. It was during the crisis debate over the Estimates that he announced the Verdon Smith Committee. He says, "Leave it to a committee. Let the committee come to conclusions and we will look at the matter again." No doubt we shall have a period of delay.
What do the Government propose to do about the Verdon Smith Committee? I have tabled Questions on this matter. Are we to have a reply before the General Election, or will the Government evade the issue? The importance of meat marketing has been brought out by the recent shortages of beef following reduced imports from our traditional suppliers like Argentina. No doubt today many hon Members will devote their speeches exclusively to the question of meat. Are the Government certain that the meat crisis, which is still with us—I use the word "crisis" in a wide sense—is due to shortages because of the position in Argentina?
On page 36 of the Commonwealth Economic Committee's Intelligence Bulletin for June, 1964, there are some extremely interesting figures about Argentina's position. They show that Argentine exports of meat to the United Kingdom from January to April, 1963, were running at 100,000 tons. They are now down to 51,000 tons. But for France the figures for the first few months of 1963 was 300 tons. The latest figure is 2,700 tons For Italy, the figure was 27,000 tons. The figure for 1964 is 36,000 tons. For Western Germany, the figure has gone from 5,500 to 26,200 tons. For Switzerland, it has gone from 600 to 4,100 tons. For other European countries, too, there has been a tremendous increase.
In other words, a large proportion of Argentine exports is now going to the Common Market countries and Switzerland. Is that the real reason for the trouble, or is the drought in the Argentine the reason why we have not had supplies in this country? We negotiated a voluntary agreement with the Argentine. We want to know now what the Government are doing about Commonwealth supplies, too. What assurances are we giving to Australia and New Zealand, for example? We have a right to know because our Commonwealth producers were for some time discouraged by the Government's attitude towards the Common Market.
In the pig and bacon industry, are we still to have uncertainty and a policy of "stop-go", such as we had for a long time? Our producers want to know what the Government's intentions are. No doubt, the Minister has read what is said in the editorial in the July issue of that very important journal, Pig Farming:
From the pig industry's point of view, the Government's record has been one long failure to foresee the need for expansion.
This is not Transport House speaking. These are the words of the leading pig farming journal:
Two years ago the Ministry back room boys by their miscalculations of the market's needs deprived producers, it is estimated, of £7 million, and at the last Price Review Mr. Soames blundered when he cut prices by 6d. a score, knowing that it would be touch and go whether we could fulfil our share of the home bacon market.
In pig farming there is great uncertainty, because the Government have had no marketing policy.
We have had no indication of the Government's policy for horticulture. Over and over again, my hon. Friends have stressed the need for proper marketing arrangements. For instance, in our debates on the Horticulture Act, 1960, we stressed that the Horticultural Marketing Council, which was then to be set up, should have some powers and opportunities to deal with imports and advise the Government. Our recommendation was rejected, and we know the sad history. The Horticultural Marketing Council has now died and there is no body to take its place. Are we to have a statutory authority? What do the Government propose to do, particularly in relation to the provision of wholesale markets, to give just one example?
There has been prolonged delay in deciding what to do about Covent Garden Market, arousing criticisms even from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now that a decision has been reached to go to Nine Elms, what do the Government intend to do? Are we to have a regional plan for wholesale markets in central London and outer London? We have waited too long already. These are vital questions affecting not only London, but many other parts of the country.
What about existing marketing schemes? Are the Government satisfied that they are adequate? For instance, what is to be the position of the Egg Marketing Board and what are its powers to be? Are we to have a wider scheme? The industry is now facing a critical period when there could be considerable over-production and many of our small producers could go out of business. What do the Government propose to do?
Now, the main issue, imports. The Government have sought to co-ordinate imports with home production according to the terms of the 1964 Act, but is the Minister proposing to create some real machinery for this purpose? Last May, he declared in this Chamber that machinery would, perhaps, have to be adapted or adopted. He said:
The detailed arrangements for the different commodities which we would aim to agree with our overseas suppliers might well need to include: a body to keep under review the level of supplies and also the phasing of those supplies in our markets in the light of changes in the pattern here and overseas and other factors such as the opening up of new markets."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 449.]
I admit that he went on to say that it might be unwise then to decide on the machinery before we could see clearly what its task would be. Can he now see clearly? Are we to have some new machinery? All we get from the right hon. Gentleman is a silly gibe at the Labour Party's proposals on commodity commissions.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the National Association of Corn and Agricultural Merchants and the compound feedingstuff manufacturers have had something to say about this. I shall not quote from their documents—they have been submitted to hon. Members on both sides—but these very important bodies in the industry have come out in favour of a commodity commission. I admit that they do not want a trading commission, but they do require some new machinery. So far, the Government have done nothing; they have merely said, "We will enlarge part of the Civil Service". Are we to have new administrative machinery to match the implications of the new legislation which has been brought forward? This is a vital question.
What do the Government intend as regards the structure of the industry? They have spoken with two voices. The Minister seems to suffer from schizophrenia, wishing, on the one hand, to give aid to small farmers, while, on the other, wishing to squeeze them out. This has been the effect of the Government's policy, of course, and we have seen what has happened. What does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do for many of our small farmers in the hill farm areas? We must examine closely some of the difficulties created by his review of the cow subsidy, for instance. What sort of development scheme are we to have for our hill areas?
As for the poultry industry, do the Government intend to sit back and see large monopolies dominating the scene? This is an industry which shows the features of both vertical and horizontal integration to a large extent. Is the Egg Marketing Board to be given powers? Is the small producer to be finally driven out? Do the Government intend to encourage more producer co-operation, and when will they get a move on with marketing? Are there to be credit facilities, as we suggest in our policy document, through the creation of a new credit agency backed by the Treasury? This is a vial question for many of our small producers. Is the National Agricultural Advisory Service to be expanded? The industry wants to know.
Lastly, what is the Government's attitude towards wider international questions? Some time ago, the National Farmers' Union produced a very imaginative farm and food policy, a policy approved by producers at their national conference. I want a new world authority. Although we see within parts of the Western World the accumulation of great surpluses, millions of our fellow beings are still starving. As the late Ernest Bevin once said, we can never have peace out of hunger. How right he was! The tractor and the plough become more important than the machine gun and the tank. This is where we want more British initiative. It is not idealism. I want a world food board for sound, practical reasons. We should have a world food board to stabilise the prices of agricultural commodities on the world's markets, including the provision of the necessary funds for the stablising operation. Secondly, we want a world food board to establish a world food reserve adequate for any emergency. Thirdly, we want it to provide funds for financing the disposal of surplus agricultural products.
There is now a world food programme organisation, but I want this body to cooperate also with organisations concerned with international credits for agricultural and industrial production and development. In my view, this is a "must". It is the sort of thing which a Minister of Agriculture, backed by an imaginative Government, should be doing at United Nations level. It is vitally important because, in the end, whatever we do as regards our own production policy at home must be matched with developments elsewhere.
I want an organisation of this kind to supervise international commodity agreements. I want this country to have a confrontation of its own policy with other national policies in O.E.C.D. and also with Commonwealth countries. I want the limited agreements, such as the Bacon Agreement and the agreements we have with New Zealand and Australia, to be supervised by this wider organisation.
What do the Government intend to do? The simple fact is that they have done nothing. For these reasons, we say that the Government have followed a policy of indecision, have had no imagination, and can be removed only by going to the electorate.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
welcomes the developments in the Government's agricultural policies, which provide the best basis for the continuing prosperity of the industry".
I am very grateful—I am more grateful than I expected to be at this moment—to hon. Members opposite for giving us the opportunity to have a debate on agricultural policy. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) on being the only Scot visible on the Opposition benches for this important occasion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Look behind."] I was aware, having looked behind me, of the considerable support for the Government, including that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
This support has enabled us to listen to a speech by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) which did part of what he set out at the beginning to do. He said that it was the duty of the Opposition to analyse the position, to criticise it, and above all—he said this at the beginning of his speech—to declare in the coming months their own policy for agriculture. I know that the hon. Gentleman belongs to the rapidly dwindling number of people who believe that the Opposition may become the Government, but I should have thought that at this stage we would have had a serious attempt to produce a policy and set forward the ideas the Opposition will offer to the electorate in the coming months.
The hon. Gentleman says that the Opposition will do that, but what better occasion than this? I am certain that the farming community all over the country will read the hon. Gentleman's speech carefully. It contained a great deal of good sense, largely supporting the policies which the Government have, in fact, carried out.
The second reason why I am grateful to hon. Members opposite for giving us the opportunity of this debate is that I believe that it will be possible to demonstrate how futile the Opposition Motion has been. I shall be able to show—my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when he winds up, will be able to drive many of the points home—not only that we had a clearly defined policy, but that we have already made a powerful start in implementing the new approach to our present-day problems on the lines outlined by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in May, 1963.
What is more, I shall show that that policy is still in the course of further development, with prospects of still further benefit to producers and the public generally. The main objective of our policy is this. We have always stood behind the principles of the 1947 Act. The hon. Gentleman referred to Lord Williams of Barnburgh as the sponsor of that Act, and I agree with him. We stand for the promotion and maintenance of a thriving agriculture, but there has been a technological revolution in production.
The position is very different today, as the hon. Gentleman admitted, from what it was in 1945 or 1947. We welcome this revolution, and we have done much to promote it both by our research programmes and by our advisory services. But we have seen that changes are needed, if these advances are not to be frustrated by the disorganisation of the market by surplus supplies, possibly small surpluses and temporary ones, whether from home or from overseas.
Let me remind the House what the Government have already done to provide for this new situation in regard to the main farm commodities. In all cases I will remind the House of what we have already accomplished in implementing the broad programme announced by my right hon. Friend in May of last year and what we have in hand to do still further to bring that policy to its full fruition.
Let us look at the main commodities. First in importance for British farmers is milk, which accounts for about 23 per cent. of the value of farm sales. The home farmer supplies the whole of the nation's requirements of liquid milk. Up to two years ago, milk output was rising much faster than liquid consumption. Because so much of the extra milk had to be sold for manufacture at low prices, farmers were experiencing a steady erosion of the pool price paid by the boards.
By the beginning of 1963 there were signs that farmers were realising the need to stabilise production. Although output was severely affected by the winter of 1962–63, taking that year as a whole output was virtually unchanged from the previous year, 1961–62. In 1963–64, output has been about 3 per cent. lower than in either of the previous two years. The effect of this has been seen in the supplies of milk available for manufacture and in the rise of the pool price.
The hard winter of 1962–63 also had its effects on milk production throughout Western Europe. Butter prices on our market rose steadily until the autumn of last year, but the quota arrangements which we have with our overseas suppliers are essentially flexible, and we have been able to maintain fairly steady prices since last autumn. The supplies we hope to obtain from North America in the next three months will further help to stabilise the position.
Milk yields at home are now resuming their upward trend and, although there has been heavier culling in the dairy herd than usual on account of the strong demand for beef, I expect a recovery in the milk producing herd in the coming year. The increase in the number of heifers in calf from 742,000 in March, 1963, to 782,000 in March, 1964, is a healthy sign. We were able, at the last Annual Review, to make a substantial increase in the guaranteed price of milk. There is no question of a shortage of milk for liquid consumption, unless one accepts the hon. Gentleman's theory that, if the weather is disastrously bad, there could be a shortage. So there could be in every other single agricultural commodity in this country and in any other. The Government would like to see the increase in milk production kept in line with the continuing growth of liquid consumption, because only in this way can the pool price be maintained.
There has been a most striking increase in the production of cereals. Grain production has risen by more than one-third in the last five years. Barley production has doubled. The market has done very well in absorbing these increased supplies, but it has been evident for some time that action was needed to match both home and overseas supplies more closely to the needs of the market. All too often prices were depressed by weak selling of the home crops and by the incursion of supplies from overseas at what one might call bargain basement prices. The subsidy bill on cereals rose from £52 million in 1958–59 to £77 million in 1963–64.
As a result of successful negotiations with our overseas suppliers, and of discussions with the farmers' unions at the last Annual Review, we are introducing for the coming year the system of standard quantities and target indicator prices for the home crops of wheat and barley and minimum import prices for the competing grains from overseas. In this way we intend to bring greater stability to the market and to provide reasonable opportunities for both home and overseas suppliers to share in the growth of our market. We are not setting out to raise prices or to impose any burden on the consumer, but we shall have brought the Exchequer cost of support under control; and we have provided a framework in which to develop the improvements in marketing of our home cereals crops, to which I shall refer later.
Now, if I may say a word or two about pigs. In the past, pig production was bedevilled by the uncertainties caused by recurrent pig cycles—pigs were either muck or money. Both the Government and the farmers' representatives were in agreement in thinking that we must seek to avoid excessive fluctuations in pig numbers. The flexible guarantee arrangement introduced in 1961, and tightened up at the 1963 Review, has given us a real measure of stability, and the prospects are of continued stability for as far ahead as we can presently see at a high level of around 12 million pigs a year.
As a result, the demand for pork and other pigmeat products, which two years ago was falling behind the rapid expansion of production and causing low market prices and high subsidy payments, has been able to catch up. In recognition of the strength of the demand for pork, and the existence of the Bacon Market Understanding, we were able this year to raise the middle band of the flexible guarantee to give producers an immediate increase in their price. Greater stability of production and of prices goes a long way to promoting a more healthy market and guarantee position. Not only does it enable our pig producers to have greater confidence; it should also provide the sort of conditions favourable to the economic operation of our pig processing industries.
Bacon is in a rather different position from pork. Imports constitute a big part of our total supply. Through the Bacon Market Understanding, we aim to secure more stable prices for bacon on our market. Our bacon curers, anxious to maintain and, indeed, expand their share of the market—and with an interest in regular purchases of pigs under contract with producers—are naturally concerned lest the bacon and pork markets should pull in opposite directions.
I understand the reasons for their concern. Indeed, it was because of this that we undertook to examine with them and the other interests whether further provisions are necessary to influence or regulate United Kingdom bacon production at the levels laid down in the Bacon Understanding. We are pressing on with this examination. Moreover, the price relationships between the bacon and pork markets have been better recently from the point of view of the curing industry.
The hon. Member for Workington made some play with the beef situation. He accused the Government of a lack of foresight and said that we should have done more to encourage home production. I must remind him that over the four years from 1959–60 to 1963–64 home production of beef has been increased by 30 per cent. Without seeking to claim too much, I consider that to be an extremely reasonable record.
We now produce at home more than 70 per cent. of our beef. As long ago as the White Paper of December, 1960, we said that there was clearly scope for expansion of beef production. We raised the guaranteed price by 10s. a cwt. at the 1961 Review, and this year we gave a further stimulus of 3s. a cwt. and increased the steer calf subsidy by 10s. a head.
To understand the real cause of our difficulties we must look overseas. It has been estimated that only about 6 per cent. of world beef production passes into international trade. Quite small changes in either production or consumption in the exporting countries can, therefore, bring about disproportionately large fluctuations in the volume of exports. In addition, prices are sensitive to marginal changes in supply.
For these reasons the beef market has been subject to instability, though there has never been anything like a world surplus of beef. Supplies and prices of other meats on our market have fluctuated considerably too, and it was against this background that my right hon. Friend made his statement of 22nd May, 1963, announcing the Government's intention to secure greater stability in the meat market.
The basis of our proposal to our overseas suppliers regarding beef and lamb was that supplies should initially be stabilised at current levels, with the opportunity to share in the expansion of the market. In return, the overseas suppliers would have agreed not to exercise rights of unrestricted entry in terms of quantity. This was a considerable decision for them, but one which, in principle, they were willing to take.
The negotiations broke down largely because the exporting countries were insisting on the right to send quantities which were both greater than we thought appropriate in market terms and which would have given an undue share of the market to imports as compared with home production. The total quantities we were prepared to write into the agreement as annual minima were substantially in excess of what imports now seem likely to be in 1964. Concurrently with our own negotiations, there have been discussions in Geneva by the G.A.T.T. Meat group, of which the United Kingdom is a member, on an international agreement for meat. This group has been set up largely because the exporting countries wished, as part of the Kennedy Round, to improve their opportunities for access on reasonable terms into the markets in the industrial countries and because of the general desire to bring greater stability into the meat markets.
We, as an importing country, look to overseas suppliers to maintain a reasonable continuity of supply to our market. There can be no stability if supplies from overseas are here one month and not the next. If our traditional suppliers are to secure their future access, we must look to them to recognise an obligation to maintain an assured and reasonably level supply to our market.
This was the approach on which we we were prepared to negotiate, and we believe that these principles are capable of wider application. Britain's' constructive approach has been welcomed and has met with support from a number of both importing and exporting countries. The United States has, in fact, carried through agreements with its major suppliers of beef on very similar lines to those that we have been advocating. We are continuing to work in the G.A.T.T. meat group towards an international agreement as part of the Kennedy Round. Depending on the progress made there we shall decide whether it is necessary to resume discussions with our suppliers on special arrangements for the United Kingdom market.
I do not wish to make a party point, but to clear up an important matter. I have with me Cmnd. Paper 2339, in which it is stated that the Minister of Agricul- ture, Fisheries and Food and his colleagues negotiated with many countries—and I have particularly in mind the United States—and reached agreements which, according to the White Paper, are terminable on four-months' notice, or, according to paragraph 12, if special and specific reasons arise. Would the Minister comment on that, bearing in mind the fact that the United States has been increasing its acreage under wheat and now has 21 million acres of wheat, also remembering that the wheat lobbies at international organisations and conferences are bound to become even more important as the years go by?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that these agreements—and he refers to cereal agreements, I take it—are terminable. That must be so with any agreement of that sort. The important thing is to be able to bring the major countries—the United States, Canada, Australia, and so on—round the table, and start by fixing some agreements that we all intend to keep. That is the first step, and it is right that it should be taken.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman wants to bind the country to five-year or 10-year agreements, because in all these things the markets change very quickly indeed. The House saw what happened to the whole cereal and wheat production in Russia last year, and how it changed the whole world picture overnight.
In the meantime, a Meat Study Group has been set; up, consisting of the United Kingdom and its principal suppliers, where we can exchange information about supplies to our market. We believe that this will make an important contribution to the better phasing of the available supplies than has sometimes been the case in the past. It is now well known that the present high beef prices result partly from a shortage of imports and partly from the strong demand for beef on the Continent. But let us get this matter in perspective. My right hon. Friend will deal with particular points later in the debate. While in the April to June quarter just ended beef supplies are down on the corresponding quarter of last year, the total supplies of all other carcase meat and poultry have been well maintained and, indeed, are slightly higher than in the corresponding period last year.
Certainly, the beef shortage has led to higher beef prices on Smithfield, and this has had some effect on the prices of other meats. Because of the high level of demand, and because supplies cannot be rapidly increased, prices of beef are bound for some time to stay higher than in the past. We should not be justified at present in taking any steps to stop or restrict exports. If we were to try to lower the price on our market by interfering with the export trade, this would widen the gap between our price and Continental prices and the only result would be to divert supplies away from our market to the Continent. Depending, as we do, on imports for some 30 per cent. of our beef supplies, we cannot hope, in times of shortage like this, to insulate our market from other free markets.
We must expect, therefore, that beef prices will remain high so long as a strong demand and a virtually free market exist on the Continent. The price of beef on the Continent is still much higher than in the United Kingdom, and demand there seems likely to remain high for at least several months.
The hon. Member for Workington stressed the importance of marketing. I intend to say something on this subject in relation to the three main sectors, horticulture, cereals and meat. First, horticulture, where good marketing is vital. The grower's produce goes from holding to housewife unprocessed; and it is mainly highly perishable produce. Because of this, marketing is the immediate concern of the grower, and good marketing pays him immediate dividends.
We are helping him to reap those dividends, first, by providing grants for a wide range of marketing equipment. The new Horticulture Improvement Scheme, now approved by Parliament, extends the list of eligible equipment, and includes, for the first time, buildings and equipment for co-operative markets. Secondly, we are helping growers with the working capital they need to form or expand marketing co-operatives. Thirdly, we are making grants available to the small grower to help him key in his production to the demands of the market. Then, fourthly—and I attach the utmost importance to this—we are helping to ease the bottleneck through which the great bulk of horticultural produce flows.
I mean, of course, the wholesale markets. I have seen it suggested that there is no future for the wholesale market; and that not even the stimulus of the grants we are providing will induce market authorities to rebuild. I should like to rebut both those suggestions most emphatically. I am convinced that—at any rate, over the next 20 or 30 years—the great bulk of the horticultural produce grown in this country will continue to pass through the wholesale markets.
Every major country in Western Europe is building new markets. America, the land—one could say the home—of the supermarket, is building new markets. Here, no less than there, new or improved markets are vital to the future prosperity of horticulture. It is, therefore, a very welcome fact that nearly every authority responsible for an important market that needs redevelopment has positive plans for that redevelopment. It is the main purpose of the grants to accelerate the translation of those plans into action, and I am glad to say that many of the leading market authorities have already made approaches in connection with the new grants.
But new markets alone will not ensure good produce. If the produce from our holdings is to stand up to foreign competition it must be equally well graded. That is why we have taken powers to introduce compulsory grading. Draft grades for the first five commodities—apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers and cauliflowers—will go to the growers and traders for comment within the next few weeks. We shall begin to train the first intakes of grading inspectors in the autumn. This is an urgent task, and we are tackling it as fast as we can.
All this adds up to a comprehensive programme for better marketing. I am sure that the industry will respond to these measures, for I think that it is increasingly understood that only good and competitive marketing can bring the assurance of future prosperity.
The marketing of cereals is an extremely intricate problem, and has stood up remarkably well, I think that the House should realise, over a period when wheat and barley production at home has doubled over the last 10 years. None the less, I do not think that anyone on either side of the House would doubt that there is room for improvement. The main problem is one of phasing our supplies, both home supplies and imports. If this is achieved satisfactorily it is equally good for the farmers and for the buyers.
The Government introduced a seasonal scale of guaranteed prices for wheat some years ago, and an incentive scheme for barley. This has helped both the growers and the users, but the users would, I think, like to be certain of greater regularity of marketing arrangements. The users of home-grown wheat would like to be able, if possible, to be as certain of getting home grain at specific times as they are able to achieve with imported grain, where they can make forward contracts with firm delivery dates.
The second problem which makes phasing difficult is that of the weak sellers, to whom I have referred earlier, who, in the autumn, perhaps, want to get rid of a crop as quickly as possible, because they either want or need the cash, rather than wait to see how the market goes. This problem needs a good deal of further thought by the National Fanners' Unions and ourselves before we can be certain of the right answer. Certainly, one key problem is adequate marketing intelligence on the supply of these grains, the demand for them and their prices, so that we can phase both home and imported supplies.
The Ministry is now putting out regular and detailed reports every month, and I think that this has been of great benefit to the trade and to the farmers. But the House knows that we import half of our total supplies of grain, and a happy solution of the complex problems of the cereals trade can only be found if all sides will work together, whether they are farmers, importers, compounders and other sections of the trade, or the Government. It is the only way of getting better marketing. Discussions are now going on, and in my view we must try to get the right answer rather than the quick answer which the hon. Gentleman would like.
There is also the meat marketing problem. The hon. Gentleman referred to the problems which a sudden surplus threw up in 1961. As with cereals, I think that the phasing of our meat supplies is the key to a good deal of this problem.
We set up the Verdon Smith Committee in April, 1962, and that Committee reported in January of this year. It was looking at all these problems—the phasing, the whole question of fatstock and meat marketing—mainly at home, though obviously the supplies from abroad had to come within its consideration. The House, I am sure, is familiar with the detailed points that this Committee found were weak in our marketing system.
The central theme again, to my mind, was the lack of market intelligence, as in cereals, and also perhaps, particularly for me, speaking as a Scotsman, a lack of quality specification. The special characteristics of supply and demand in the meat industry led the Verdon Smith Committee to come out strongly against central ownership and trading, which at the time was supported by the National Farmers' Union, and the Committee's reasons for rejecting this seem to the Government to amount to an impressive case which it is difficult to refute.
The Committee's approach, therefore, was based on these main points, that competition was essential in the meat trade but that it should be made more effective by new and better marketing aids and by promotion and co-ordination of research It recommended that a fat-stock and meat authority should be set up to carry out these and related functions. This would, indeed, be a major step forward, but the Government have, rightly I think, been collecting the views from all the many interests concerned.
The hon. Member for Workington wants an answer today—or a week ago, or whatever it may be. This Committee took just on two years to look at this extremely complicated problem, and I do not think it is fair that the Government should not be allowed some time to collect the views from the many interests concerned before they make a decision.
But is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there was plenty of information about some of the problems discussed by the Verdon Smith Committee? That is really an excuse. May I have a simple answer to my question? Are we to have a statement on the Verdon Smith Committee's recommendations before the General Election?
It depends how the consultations go. Just to explain to the hon. Gentleman the sort of problem, the National Farmers' Unions at one time, as he knows, were backing the complete meat marketing board. The Verdon Smith Committee came down against it. Of course, we knew the problem beforehand, but, naturally, the National Farmers' Union asked at one point for time to consider the problems, because we are dealing with something where 200,000 farmers are contributing in one way or another in respect of fatstock, and a good many of them are the small ones about whom the hon. Gentleman was talking.
Of course the farmers are entitled to know where the Government stand. The farmers did not get one iota of policy out of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Equally, the National Farmers' Union, as the representative of the farmers, is perfectly entitled to have extra time to consider this, and it has asked for that from the Government.
There has been a considerable growth in the contract system which has been growing up recently and which, we think, is a useful step. But do we need perhaps some even more positive steps than the Verdon Smith Committee recommended? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I think that perhaps we do. If so, do we need an authority, or should we perhaps go for an expansion of producer groups? These are the sort of problems the National Farmers' Union is asking us to consider with it, and we are doing so. The trade is, of course, equally concerned in a very big way.
If I could sum up our approach on marketing, we believe that individual enterprise and the freedom of our traders to exercise their judgment and initiative provide the best assurance that the housewife will be able to obtain the food she wants at reasonable prices. We need a degree of planning and overall management of the market, but we recognise that it is the producers and the traders of this country who are the driving force for the whole of the economy. We should provide a framework within which they can operate to ensure the steady expansion of production and trade which is essential to growth and the rising standards of living we all aim to enjoy.
When the debate opened, I hoped—I was doubtful about it—that I should get a clear picture of the Opposition's policies. I know that the party opposite has had a good deal to say—not today in the House, but outside it—about commodity commissions and the virtues of long-term contracts. But the Opposition must also, if this is their policy, make clear—I hope today, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) who will be winding up for them, but certainly very soon—what the duties and responsibilities of these commissions are to be and the extent to which they would take over the functions which the trade performs.
It is now 17 years since the Lucas Committee put forward the idea of commodity commissions. That was at a time when food supplies were short and a great many people expected the shortages to continue indefinitely. The situation today is totally different in every respect; yet it appears that the Opposition have not advanced their thinking one iota. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I am wrong, the right hon. Member for Belper—
May I answer the right hon. Gentleman? He has asked me a question.
No; the right hon. Gentleman will be able to do so.
But the right hon. Gentleman has challenged me.
The right hon. Gentleman will be able, I am sure, to clear up all these points for the benefit of the House.
It is easily said that commodity commissions would co-ordinate home production and imports. But how are they to do it? Would they acquire the ownership of the home produce, as the Lucas Committee recommended? What part would they play in the operation of the guarantee system? How extensive would their financial operations be? How far would they be responsible to the Minister and Parliament for the conduct of their operations? These are key questions to which we are entitled to have answers.
The hon. Member for Workington seemed to have in mind that the commodity commissions would be more concerned with controlling imports and making long-term contracts. Would the commissions tie up the whole of our imports under long-term contracts? How could they forecast exactly what we should need five or 10 years ahead? If the contracts covered only part of our imports, they obviously would not prevent supplies which were not under contract from being attracted to our markets if they proved more remunerative. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Workington wants to answer all these points just now, he can, but I think that he would probably like a few moments just to get his breath. We have already seen that quite small changes in supplies can have a substantial effect on prices in our market, and even where supplies were under contract, they would not be proof against the effects of drought or other natural hazards such as are now affecting our free market.
The hon. Member for Workington did not tell us anything about the powers to be enjoyed by the commodity commissions in the field of trade. Are they to have such sweeping powers that they will be able to control their respective trades and dictate to meat wholesalers, butchers, millers, bakers, compounders and so on, or are they going to put these people out of business? The House is entitled to know the answers to these points. If the commissions are neither to trade nor to regulate the market, what are they to do? All we are told is that they will co-ordinate production and imports.
Are they to enter into commercial treaties, negotiating bacon agreements with Denmark, butter agreements with New Zealand or cereal agreements with Canada and the U.S.A.? If the Opposition accept that the vitally important field of commodity policy is the respon- sibility of the Government, then their commodity commissions cannot be anything more than merely bodies to give advice to the Minister or agents to act on his behalf.
These are questions which I am certain need answering, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who winds up will do his best to address himself to them and take the opportunity which the Opposition themselves have sought, through this debate, to explain to the trades and the agricultural industry what they would intend to impose upon them.
I shudder to ask the right hon. Gentleman one more point, but perhaps—and I have had many questions on this recently from the farmers—he could tell us what are the Opposition's intentions on the wealth tax. There are many farmers who have 150 or 200 acres and no other assets, and I think that they should be told clearly and frankly where they stand if the wealth tax is part of the Opposition's policy for the future.
No one can possibly rise for the first time in the House without some feeling of awe and without being at least a little apprehensive. I think that this is especially so when, as now, a new Member is rising during a somewhat controversial debate. I shall fully understand if any hon. Member feels that anything I say cannot pass without immediate comment. I had hoped that I would be making my maiden speech after the General Election, because I hoped that my predecessor, Mr. Percy Wells, might have been in the House to have heard it. I think it true to say that Percy Wells has been held in very high regard by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and, I think, not only ill high regard but also with some affection. I think that that is even rarer.
There is no doubt at all, as we in the Faversham constituency know, that he fought very hard for his constituents. Right from the early days after the First World War he fought for the farm workers, and I can remember him telling us of negotiations in which he engaged in which farm workers wages were raised to 9d. an hour. He worked until the end as a member of the Central Agricultural Wages Board and took part in the negotiations for the last rise agreed not so long ago.
I must say, too, that I consider myself fortunate to have had the benefit of spending 2½ years with him and the benefit of his guidance during this time. I think, therefore, that it is appropriate that as his successor I should speak first on agriculture. Percy Wells had also a keen sense of humour, so that I do not think that he would mind if I were to try to establish my right to speak on farming policy by a lighter reference to the Faversham by-election. Hon. Members will remember that the by-election was fought the day after Derby Day. Two days before polling day my principal opponent was rash enough to describe me as the Santa Claus of Faversham. I am not a racing man, but I understand that Santa Claus did win the Derby, and this has left me with an even greater love of animals than I had before and, therefore, a greater desire to speak about agricultural matters.
Last week also provided an almost irresistible desire to speak for the very same reason in the debate on sport and leisure, and in view of the fact that Santa Claus was an Irish horse it almost persuaded me to speak in the international affairs debate as well. But there is another reason which provided equal grounds for seeking to speak in that debate and this one and that is an interest in Commonwealth agriculture. This is partly because of a close Australian family tie. When speaking in the House about people outside Parliament one has to speak very carefully, but in fact my closest supporter not only campaigned and cooked for me but voted for me as well, a combination that requires remarkable devotion. She happens to be an Australian, and was described by one Sunday newspaper during the by-election as "Labour's Secret Weapon". I can only say that this is one Anglo-Australian venture which got off the launching pad the first time.
However, to come to more serious matters facing the House, the Faversham constituency is one of just a handful of Labour held constituencies in which the farm vote has been very influential. One of the main points upon which I should like to dwell this afternoon is the need to relate farming policy more closely to land policy. In spite of improved techniques which have made land more economical, I think it is true to say that there is a growing shortage of valuable farm land, especially in the South of England, and I think it is important to save as much of this land as possible. It has been said on one occasion that the onus of proof when deciding to use agricultural land for other purposes, as put forward by the Scatt Committee on land utilisation, was that potential alternative users should have to prove that it was in the national interest to use the land for agricultural purposes. but I think that usually the custom since then has been that the agricultural user must prove that it is needed for agricultural purposes rather than the other way round.
While I think that that is the right onus of proof and the one most commonly followed, I think it is also essential that the agricultural owner gets a fair hearing, but sometimes he does not. It is essential to protect this valuable agricultural land and this is one reason why we in Faversham have been so very disappointed as have others in other parts of Kent that the Isle of Sheppey was left out of the South-East Plan. This affects hon. Members on both sides of the House and people outside the House. The Isle of Sheppey was not even mentioned in the Government's South-East Study. This is an area where there is ample land for industrial and housing development purposes without ruining some of the valuable horticultural and agricultural land in other parts of the area, especially in the Sittingbourne and Faversham districts.
During the past six or seven weeks some hon. Members on both sides of the House have had an opportunity to find out just where the Isle of Sheppey is, and other hon. Members on both sides of the House have probably also found out not only where it is on the map but that it is on the map. I realise that this matter is not a direct responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture, but I hope he may use his influence with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to bring to his attention the fact that there is land available on the Isle of Sheppey which by being used for industrial and housing purposes would keep valuable horticultural and agricultural land in other parts of Kent much freer from the pressure exercised upon it at the moment.
I say, too, that the Government owe a duty to the Isle of Sheppey to bring more industrial development there, because the unemployment level has remained around the 6 per cent. mark ever since the closure of the dockyard. I do not intend to dwell upon this matter more this afternoon but rather on the less controversial aspects. I think it is agreed by local people on all sides that there is a need to protect farmland. It was stated in the Kent Development Plan in the paragraph headed "Major urban areas which, from an agricultural standpoint can be expanded" that the Sheerness, Queenborough and Minister area could be developed to the south, south-east and south-west.
It also said in the paragraph headed "Major Urban Areas to whose expansion there is serious agricultural objection" that these areas should not be expanded, Sittingbourne to the east, south and west and Faversham also to the east, south and west, where there is valuable agricultural land.
With regard to the part of the plan concerned with agriculture particularly, it said that in the Sittingbourne and Milton vicinity
no further material expansion … could easily be justified by a regional planning policy having regard to the very good agricultural land on the periphery of the town and the existence of other centres, such as Sheerness and the Lower Medway complex.
It further said under a paragraph headed "The North Kent Fruit Belt":
that is, the advantages of the land—
combine to make this the most favoured area in the country"—
not simply in the county of Kent but in the country—
for the production of tree fruit. Cherry and pear orchards predominate with small acreages of soft fruits, hops and market garden crops It is clearly in the national interest that … this unique area should be reserved, without qualification, for agriculture.
I think that a substantial case has been made out for efforts to be made to see that the pressure is brought off the land in these areas and that the land on Sheppey should be used instead. It is true that this must go hand in hand with a policy to deal with land prices, which have the effect of increasing the
pressure on agricultural land, and it is something which we had a great deal to talk about on both sides in the by-election campaign.
The way in which price increases have taken place in the area can be seen from one or two examples. There is the case of a house in the Sittingbourne area which was sold for £4,850 just over two years ago, and just over two months ago it was sold for £5,500—a tremendous increase in a short time. There is another plot of land in Sittingbourne which was bought for £6,000 and three years later, quite recently, it was sold for £0,000. In the nearby outskirts of the town there is a plot of land where barley is now growing. That land cost £1,000 an acre, four times the normal price for agricultural land. This shows that there is likely to be a growing pressure on the land in this area.
It is true to say that not only in our area but in other areas as well many people pay a quarter of their incomes on mortgages, and it is not surprising, therefore, that people, for instance on our new estates, see some sense in the arguments which the Labour Party has been putting forward in connection with Labour's Crown Land Commission proposal to stabilise land prices. It may be going too far to say that these will bring down land prices, but certainly it is the one plan yet put forward which will have the effect of stabilising land prices.
One other example which I should like to give concerns a farmer in my area who was saying how difficult it is to get hold of agricultural land. The wife of the farmer told me that they farm 100 acres, which is not a very large farm area, but their son is shortly completing his studies and they want to put him on the farm as well. Unfortunately, it is too small for an extra farmer to manage a complete section of the farm himself, and so they are anxious to get hold of an extra 50 acres. But this cannot be done at the moment. This is one example of the sort of shortages which farmers are finding.
Here again the Labour Party's plan to relieve farmers, and perhaps especially the more elderly ones, from the burden of land which they cannot manage for one reason or another, by providing them with a good lump sum or an annuity to be dealt with by an Agricultural Land Commission would help to remove the difficulty of land which is being held by farmers who do not really want it and so help to provide it for those who really do. I should like to mention one warning about the Agricultural Land Commission. Any land that it acquires, it must sell as soon as possible. This is essential.
One other matter to which I should like to refer, and one which I have already mentioned, is that Faversham is a very large horticultural area. I have already mentioned cherries, apples, pears, peas and hops in another connection, and I dare say that some hon. Members might prefer hops to some of the other commodities. I should like to ask the Minister about the future of the apple and pear import quota. The Minister is expected to announce shortly the import quotas for next year, and I do not think there is any doubt that farmers are anxious to emphasise that this is the only way to protect top-fruit producers from competition from countries which are inherently capable of producing apples more cheaply than we can in view of our soil, climate and living conditions.
A considerable number of people in my area have invested a great deal of money in production, storage and packing equipment associated with top-fruit, and I know that they would like to know what proposals the Government have for the long-term future of horticulture. In particular, anxiety is felt amongst the farming community over long-term arrangements. Whilst it is true that in their last agriculture and horticulture Measure the Government provided substantial sums to improve horticultural production and marketing, the question of the extent to which the industry might or might not be swamped with imports has been left open and very uncertain. A long-term assurance would be of extreme value to the farming community.
There are many other problems connected with agriculture which we could discuss. The only other one to which I should like to refer is that to which my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) has referred, and that is the need to get world food surpluses dealt with as a matter of extreme urgency. This is a practical necessity and will be of great value to the developed and developing countries. Another important point is that it appeals to people's sense of idealism, and one cannot always say that about all the matters which are discussed either in this House or elsewhere. This is one of the fundamental problems and one of the biggest issues which will face the next Parliament. It is the duty of this Parliament to hold out hope for what will happen when the new Parliament is elected in October, and I hope that this will be one of the tasks which that Parliament will deal with enthusiastically.
I may have touched upon some controversial matters in a maiden speech, and it may be unusual, but I think that the importance and value of Parliament is that Members can put forward their views and discuss their own policies sincerely. It is in this spirit, I hope, by putting forward my own views with sincerity, that I have tried to speak in this debate.
I should like, on behalf of the whole House, to offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston). He made a clear and engaging speech and I thought that he well fulfilled our tradition of avoiding controversy. We all remember with affection his predecessor, Mr. Percy Wells, and the way in which he looked after his constituency. I thought that the hon. Gentleman's references to the problems of his constituency fully lived up to the example set by his predecessor. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I should like to refer to the hon. Member's closing remarks. I am certain that I speak on behalf of both sides of the House when I say that the biggest problem for the next five years will be the world food problem. This was touched on by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), though he had forgotten that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade had put forward 11 points at Geneva to the United Nations, presenting Her Majesty's Government's policy on this very problem. I hope that we will not have to wait until October for further developments. After all, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers are coming here very shortly—at the beginning of July. I hope that the Government will discuss with them these problems of the stabilisation of commodity prices, the disposal of surpluses and a way of helping developing countries to get an income from their produce.
I want to concentrate my remarks on the question of meat. During the Whit-sun Recess a number of speeches were made by members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said,
Meat policy is in total disarray.
He was speaking in Inverness on 23rd May. Although the right hon. Gentleman thought that meat policy was in total disarray, he has not troubled to come to this debate. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling), who is present today, wrote in the Co-operative News:
The meat trade is completely chaotic. No one knows what is going on. Farmers, importers, wholesalers, and traders have to guess.
It was clear from the speech today of the hon. Member for Workington that he did not know what was going on in the meat trade.
I am not sure that that is what my right hon. Friend wants, but the hon. Member for Hillsborough said that the meat trade was chaotic. In fact, the meat trade is doing an extremely good job—far better than that done in any other country. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who is to wind up the debate, said:
We are in this jam about our meat supplies because of the policy the Government pursues.
After that blast from the Whitsuntide beaches, the N.F.U. publication, The British Farmer, stated:
Now that the top brass of the Labour Party has taken up the meat cudgels and uttered war-like cries about the total disarray of the Government's policy it is morally bound or politically obliged to lay about Mr. Soames next week in the Commons.
That was 30th May. Nothing happened. Hon. Members opposite have forgotten about the meat trade being in disarray. The hon. Member for Workington had very little to say today about the meat problem and still less to say about how the Opposition would deal with it.
We should have been in total disarray over meat and in chaos if the Government had not pursued many years ago a policy to increase supplies of beef in this country. The three steps which they took were, first, to increase the guaranteed price from 106s. in 1951 to 170s. this year; secondly, to bring in the Farm Improvement Scheme, which has provided the buildings, especially the yards, for the production of more meat; and, thirdly, to introduce the hill cattle subsidy scheme, with the result that we now have more cattle on the hills.
The hon. Member for Workington quoted a criticism which I made of Government policy. But that was about four years ago when I was complaining that the Government's policy on guaranteed prices, good as it was, was bound to be incomplete unless it dealt with imports. The hon. Member no doubt had forgotten that last year the Government dealt with that. I do not say that they accepted my advice, but we now have a policy for more production at home with some control of imports. [Interruption.] I know that the hon. Gentleman will be making a speech later. If he would make his remarks then, I will listen to him in silence.
As a result of the Government's policy, there has been a remarkable transformation in the beef position, and it is well to have it on the record. In the first four months of 1951, British agriculture was producing 140,000 tons of beef and veal. From January to April, this year it produced 330,000 tons. That is a tremendous increase in 13 years. The prospects for the future show that there should be an even greater increase because in 1951 the number of cattle below one year was about the 2 million mark. The last figure available, for June, 1963, shows that the number is just below the 3 million mark. I agree that some of those cattle will be going into the dairy industry, but there is the prospect and possibility of greater beef production in this country.
In 1951, 58 per cent. of our total supplies of beef were home produced. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said today, last year we produced 73 per cent. of our total supplies. This has happened at a time when there has been a decrease in beef supplies throughout the world. It is interesting to note that last year nearly all the continental countries were producing less meat. The reports say that in France less meat was produced and that they have had to decrease their exports by 36 per cent. In Italy less meat has been produced. The demand is growing steadily and Italian imports last year went up by 170,000 tons. In West Germany last year numbers went down by 250,000 head, and they are having to import. In Austria there was a drop of 5 per cent., and the number of cattle are down in Denmark.
We are to be congratulated, especially the farmers—and I think that the Government should take a certain share of the credit—in having brought about this revolution in beef production, out we must realise that there will be need for a further increase in beef production in this country for some time ahead. There will be a general meat shortage. That is nothing to be ashamed of. As the developing countries obtain a higher standard of living, they are turning to eating beef. Countries on the ranching type of meat production, as is carried out in the Argentine, tend to turn to dairy farming. Therefore, we cannot expect large imports of beef in the next few years. My right hon. Friend is perfectly right to try to get a phased agreement so that we have regular imports, but we cannot again expect to reach a beef import figure of 390,000 tons as was the case in the early part of the 1950s. We should be thinking about how we can put the matter right.
At the moment we are importing roughly 500,000 store cattle a year, chiefly from Ireland. With the continual rise in meat prices throughout the world, and with the developments in Southern Irish farming, I doubt very much whether that store cattle trade will continue. We vitally need stores. How can we increase the production of store cattle in this country?
I notice in "Agra Europe", a paper on continental farming, that the French statistical service put out inquiries to a selection of dairy farmers in France asking them why they had chosen dairy farming rather than beef farming, and that the reason which was tabulated was that in 75 per cent. of the cases it was because they got more regular receipts out of milk than out of beef. I believe that this is the key to the problem. Take the farmer on the uplands. He is in milk because he has a small amount of capital and he needs regular payments, and therefore he has to rely on his monthly cheque.
I would say to my right hon. Friend that if he could devise some way of giving the small farmer regular advance payments on his store cattle I believe that by this means he would do more than by any other to get our position right, so that we did not have shortages of meat and, indeed, could increase our beef production still further than we are doing at the present day.
The other worry I have is that—if I am right that the key to the whole of this problem of an increase in beef production rests on the quantity of our store cattle—we have got to realise that the kind of intensive beef production which many of us practise today, particularly in producing 8 cwt. worth of "barley" beef in 11 months, is not really economic for the nation, when we remember that if that animal went on traditional feeding we should be getting 12 cwt. in probably two and a half years. It looks economic, through getting a quicker turnover, but so long as we have a shortage of store cattle we really ought to be encouraging people to produce heavier weights over the longer period. In that way we should get more meat out of the quantity of cattle available. I see the hon. Gentleman smiling.
I was smiling, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, but I was wondering how in butchers' shops one could serve some modern customers who want 2½ lb. of sirloin out of 15 cwt. cattle.
What we are dealing with is the Friesian animal. It can produce beef in 11 months but otherwise it is no good till the animal is two and a half years old; two and a half year old steers are saleable but not so economic to feed.
However, I shall leave that there giving my right hon. Friend the thought whether he can give greater encouragement to produce heavier weights over the longer term.
My other point is on the question of Australian meat. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Workington talked rather glibly about how he would like to have long-term contracts with Australia. Do let us remember that at present any meat which we get from Australia can only be for the manufacturing trade in this country. The ordinary housewife certainly would not like the 15 cwt. beef cattle the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) was talking about. Nor would she like to eat Australian frozen meat. I believe that Australia has a great future in helping us over our meat problem and that what we must try to get is chilled meat coming from Australia.
I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he winds up this debate, will let us know if there is any hope of any arrangements with shipping companies for developing the "chiller" trade with Australia. Australia is sending meat to America for manufacture, but I believe Australia to be anxious to develop a quality meat trade with Britain, if she can get the refrigeration space in ships for the purpose.
Broadly, I think that the future of our beef industry depends on the farmers of Britain. They have done well in the past. They must be encouraged to do even better in the future. I notice that the Verdon Smith Report was talking of what I believe to be the best development for the marketing of beef—by contract. Whilst the Report put in qualifications, it recommended that the authority should set out model contracts. I think that is one of the matters that my right hon. Friend and the Ministry might be thinking about even now, trying to suggest model contracts for the contracting of beef, because I believe that the contract system is the way to get right the amount and quality of beef produced, with close consultation between the buyer and the producer. It works well already, and many of the large firms in Smithfield are doing it. I believe that if it were extended to farmers and groups of farmers the better our beef would be, and the smaller would be the difference in price between the producer's price and the market price.
I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the policy which he has developed, following the 1947 Act, in the 1957 Act and in the 1964 Act. The policy has had very great success in all branches of agriculture, but especially the one I have been talking about, particularly today. Nothing shocked me more in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Workington than when he said that in his view neither the 1947 Act nor the 1957 Act was sacrosanct.
The House has listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), bat I regret that it did not match the level of the debate as a whole, and that he so departed from his usual level. He sought to score a debating point about the criticism of the meat trade. No matter who uttered the criticism, the facts are there. The complexity of the trade and the chaotic state of the trade are all set out in this Blue Book, and no matter who makes the criticism, whether a Conservative, Liberal or Labour Member of Parliament, the actual stark reality of the British meat trade is that it is chaotic.
The Verdon Smith Report, on page 208, says:
The auction system is a complex mixture of a competitive marketing system and a routine with social and economic side-effects which play a part in the life of the countryside and small towns Slaughterhouses, particularly in England and Wales, have been affected by considerable oscillations"—
which is a euphemism for chaos in the slaughterhouses—
in Government policy over the last 25 years. Imports are a significant proportion of supplies and also a significant element in the economics of the main meat exporting countries.
Let us cut out the hyperbole of politicians on political rostrums. If the meat trade is in a difficult position the right hon. Gentleman has to find an answer for it, and I believe that we on
this side of the House are justified in criticising the Government, who are proud of the fact that they have been in power for thirteen years. We are justified in saying that the position is more chaotic than ever it was before, and has become so especially since this Government have been in power.
Let us take another economic fact about meat and this time look at the Annual Review and Determination of Guarantees, 1964, Cmnd. 2315. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton knows what he is speaking about, never mind his quips. From the graphs on page 19 of this document, we see that even less meat is imported from abroad than pre-war. The 64-dollar question for our farmers who produce is, what share of the market are they entitled to?
This is our constructive criticism of the Conservative Government. Somewhere, some day, somebody must come to the conclusion what proportion of the gross national product is to be devoted to agriculture. Is it to be 4, 4½ or 3 per cent.? That difference of ½ or 1 per cent. when playing with small farmers up in the hills or on the uplands, even the dairy farmer and the big people, can be chaotic in its effect upon individuals.
Are the Government taking a kind of che sarà sarà or manana attitude that if we have a gentle euthanasia of the small farmers—in Leek, on the uplands of Wales and elsewhere—bit by bit, while farm income may go up, people who traditionally have devoted their lives to agriculture will be told what to do by arid economists, like those who produce such erudite documents for the Institute of Economic Affairs, to which I am a subscriber, and who write articles oozing with intellectuality and completely lacking the earthy wisdom of the good old English farmer.
I turn to this weighty document—pedantic, verbose, tautological and weighty with economic platitudes.
Otherwise, it is all right?
At page 58, after looking at certain reports, we are told:
Such a reform would create the economic and legal environment"—
Fancy having to stick in about the legal environment when thinking about milking a cow or taking a boar to the sow!
Such a reform would create the economic and legal environment within which a more efficient, a more vigorous, independent and prosperous agriculture can develop, because it will be more securely based on service to free consumers than on uncertain alms from harassed, capricious and importunate politicians.
If that is supposed to be balanced writing in referring to the problem of agriculture, my name is not what it is as the hon. Member for Leek.
My criticism is that we are having so many people writing books about farming who are not really in the job and who are not working and rubbing up against the facts of farming. They produce blueprints from their swivel chairs. We get so many of them that the advice of the people on the job is often neglected. Outside the type of advice that we get from the National Farmers' Union, we must remember that much more advice should be taken from the small farmer before we decide that it is uneconomic to keep the small farmer going. We all know that the small farmer has suffered. If I had my way in my party, the Motion would have been ten times rougher than it is. It is in too gentlemanly language.
I accuse the party opposite of messing about with agriculture for two years. Agriculture is at a standstill. As the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) does not have my copy of the Tory Party policy which he is after, I will quote from page 19 of "Agriculture and the Nation". This is done in green, which is a good colour for the Tory Party these days. On page 19, it states:
The European Economic Community has also emphasised that trade policy in agricultural products should take into account not only internal agricultural considerations, but also the need to maintain trade with third countries. This is a liberal approach with which we fully agree and would like to see implemented in practice,
What we and the British farmer want to know is where the party opposite stands at the General Election on the Common Market and whether that party will put into its election manifesto its aim to get into the Common Market. We are entitled to know.
My accusation against the party opposite, who are turning out pamphlets down Victoria Street—there is one yammering pamphlet, ululating—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] "Ululating" is Parliamentary, although my feet may not be. We are entitled to know. The British public were entitled to know how much the party opposite would mess about British agriculture in its five years of stolen power. It did not tell the British farmer, in Leek or in Wales, the Welshman or the Scotsman, that after a certain period of power it intended to go into discussions leading, if it could, to the Common Market without consulting the electorate.
In one of the greatest changes in the history of the British people and British agriculture, one of the greatest changes in the history of our relationship with the Commonwealth and one of the greatest changes in the relationship of our country with Europe—namely, the Common Market—not a word came out of the party opposite at the last General Election.
Tonight, I am asking, will the party opposite go to Faversham, Leek, Cornwall and the rural areas and be square with the public and say, "If you put us into power for the next five years, we, the Tory Government, are taking you into the Common Market"? I want an answer tonight.
But the hon. Member will not get it.
Let us have no weak answers to the fiddling little questions that hon. Members opposite have been asking. They are the bunch, on the benches opposite, who have the experts behind them. If they want statistics, they can get them. They have computers to serve them. They can add up all the little sums and then come with the answers off the back of the arithmetic book—and half of them are wrong, anyway.
This is the challenge here tonight from this side of the House. The Labour movement—and, much more important than the Labour movement, the British people—want to know what the party opposite will do with British agriculture if it gets into power for the next five years. If the Tories intend taking us into the Common Market, let them put it in black and white in their election manifesto and fight on the rostrums on this issue concerning agriculture. I will give way if any hon. Member opposite wants to give me the answer. There is one hon. Member who is usually rude, the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir R. Dudley Williams), who is muttering with his finger halfway down his throat. I will sit down if he will answer. I am accustomed to his mutterings.
There is no difference between the two sides of the House about the need for Exchequer support. The questions are how much support, to what it is to be related and what responsibilities it is to entail. One of the responsibilities is that the consumer must have a fair deal. More effort should be made to explain to the British public that the support is not given away, but is only money moved from one pocket to another, because of the £400 million a year which is saved in balance of payments. If it were not for these support prices, these food stakes would have to be bought overseas. By operating in this manner, we keep the country healthy and in good husbandry, and, if it should ever be needed strategically, agriculture is one of the most important lines of our defence.
Let us get rid of the silly idea, which is sometimes put forward when subsidies are paid out, that they are money down the drain. There must be checks on them by the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, for taxpayers have to be protected from the rapacity of those who might try to fiddle; but the impression that the farming community is swindling Exchequer grants and subsidies is a travesty of the facts, for 99·99 per cent. of the farmers are taking their subsidies justly and without any effort to cheat the public.
The one man left is the little farmer, who is standing with his back to the barn. As he generally does, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton again said much with which the House agreed when he said that if we could find a means of getting something similar to the milk cheque going into the pocket of the livestock man, we would make a major change in his traditional position. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle), who is a butcher, that the pattern of eating has altered. Whereas my grandfather would eat a whole leg, nowadays what is wanted is a dainty little joint for the wenches of today. They do not want great legs of meat, for there are no longer the great families. The meat trade has to cater for the modern kind of family.
There is no quarrel between us about the necessity for having standard quantities. We have to find a formula and the use of standard quantities was the method adopted in the 1947 Act. When hon. Members opposite talk about White Papers and bureaucracy, they should remember the minimum import prices and levy arrangements for cereals which are used by the Ministry of Agriculture and all the forms that such work entails. There are many forms to be filled in giving details of registration, prices and so on.
But if a Minister is to try to regulate supplies and to get a fair share of imports balanced with a reasonable share of home production, then, no matter how much the economists and journalists may scoff, forms and papers have to be produced in this complex society in which we now live. I know how difficult it it, but I ask that as soon as possible the Minister should project his policy and put a plan before the farmers and hon. Members so that we can debate production of cereals and livestock.
The Bacon Agreement, Cmnd. 2318, is to come into force on 1st April. We are producing 615,000 tons a year with a reserve capacity of 2,500. Has the Parliamentary Secretary any information to give the House about the Bacon Marketing Board and how it is likely to work? Can he say whether the Bacon Agreement looks like being a success? The Agreement is among ourselves Denmark, Poland, Hungary, the Irish Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden, Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. I believe that it can give a chance to our pig and bacon producers.
I have spoken long enough and, although there are three other points which I want to make, out of fairness to my colleagues and opponents I shall shortly sit down. However, before doing so I should like to suggest that the forestry programme be linked with upland areas, which small farmers look like leaving. By the end of the century, we could have 10 million acres of forestry—our present ambition is 5 million acres. With 10 million acres, we would have a 60-year rotation with the conifers being thinned out every 20 years. In cubic feet, Hoppus measure, our conifer production could be twice as good as Germany's and four times as good as Finland's.
For a century we have neglected our forestry programme. Its value can be seen in Scotland and in the North-East and in Liverpool in the production of hardboard and plywood. Whatever party is in power after the General Election, it should plan timber production for the next 40 years. By the end of the century, 500,000 people could be employed in forestry. I do not want to spin it out now, but I hope that at some time the Minister will consider a rapid expansion of our forestry programme which in some upland areas could take the place of small farming.
Finally, there was an interesting suggestion in this week's issue of the Farmers' Weekly. It is only a small suggestion, but it could earn a lot of money for upland farmers and for areas round the Welsh lakes. Only a small amount of money would be required for research and this could easily be undertaken by a university. The research might cost only about £2,000. Those of us who have travelled in the Far East have seen fish bred in paddy fields in China and throughout the South-East of Asia right down to Indonesia so that the peoples of these areas have their proteins, rice and carbohydrates. Could we not expand fishing in some upland areas where the streams are still fresh and clean, and in this way work against pollution? Schemes like this, and especially forestry, must be considered for upland areas. In these areas modern farming as we now know it is becoming increasingly difficult.
I conclude by repeating my accusation that the Government have neglected British agriculture, especially for the last two years, by messing about with the Common Market to the detriment of British farmers.
Mr. David Ronton:
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) said that there were too many people writing books about agriculture, but I thought that that was a rather ungenerous complaint, because if he had not read and quoted them so eloquently the House of Commons would have been the loser.
I was so entranced by the hon. Gentleman's phrases, gestures, and fine footwork that I did not get completely the thread of everything he said. I gathered, however, that he wants to know where we stand on the Common Market. He will no doubt get a very good answer to that, but I think that we are entitled to know where the Socialist Party stands on the question of nationalisation, which is a much more immediate threat if there is any possibility, which I hope there is not, of the other side winning the next General Election.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the small farmer, and here I strike a note of sympathy with what he said, because I probably have as many small farmers in my constituency as there are in any farming constituency in the country, because the Huntingdonshire County Council has the largest smallholding estate in the country. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that in any farming policy the interests of the small farmers must be considered, and preferably a good many of the small farmers themselves need to be consulted.
But, having said all that, I think that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) made a major mistake in their speeches, because when nearly everything is going so well in farming and the outlook for the future is as healthy as it is today, speeches like the two to which I have referred do not ring true. What is more, it makes it rather easy for us on this side to draw comparisons between things as they are and the dismal state of affairs which the Opposition would like to see, but cannot with such a successful Minister of Agriculture as we have.
The same may be said of the Opposition's Motion which regrets the failure to produce an effective long-term policy. This is just playing politics with farming. We have the 1957 Act with its long-term guarantees, which was not only a welcome blessing when it was introduced, but—and I think that we should bear this in mind—to the great benefit of the farmers the Government have kept well within its limits and have not made anything like the full use of its power to reduce guaranteed prices which that Act gives. Now we have the 1964 Act with import controls and minimum import prices linked with commodity agreements, and we are entering a phase which gives even better long-term prospects.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success in getting this policy going. It was much needed and it has great possibilities. Indeed, one splendid thing about it is that it can be used to achieve further expansion in our farming industry if the policy is applied in the right way.
In some circles "expansion" is a controversial word when applied to farm production. When applied to anything else it is regarded as sheer necessity, and I have never understood the reason for these two different attitudes. I am glad to say that farm production has increased by more than 20 per cent. since 1951, and that it is now running at more than 80 per cent. above the pre-war level and is still rising. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland point out that we are now producing 70 per cent. of our own beef.
The expansion which has taken place so far has been due to three things: first, capital injected by the Government on behalf of the taxpayers; secondly, increased efficiency of our farmers; and, thirdly—and this is sometimes overlooked—greater output by our farm workers. The British farm worker helps to feed 30 people a year, whereas the Russian farm worker by comparison feeds only five people a year.
During the last eight years British farming has increased its output faster than any industry has done, and I dread to think how our balance of payments would have suffered if we had not had that expansion in farm production. I was glad to understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland that that expansion will continue, and here I come to the rather pertinent question asked by the hon. Member for Leek, who wanted to know what proportion of the gross national product would be devoted to agriculture. I put it another way. How much further expansion should be aimed at and encouraged in the years to come?
I hope that we shall have the largest possible further expansion in farm production and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he has fresh fields yet to conquer, but his battle will probably be in Whitehall. Guns may be tired in Fleet Street, but farmers will be cheering him from the shires.
The Liberal Party will perhaps on this occasion sit on the fence, but that will be a change—
No. We are very firm allies. But sitting on the fence for the Liberal Party will be a change from its previous habit of fighting on both sides where farming is concerned. The Labour Party would be so keen to get things planned that expansion would be left to chance.
I have four reasons for advocating maximum further expansion, and this is all that I want to talk about in my short speech. First, it is a good thing in itself. Farming is still our largest industry by any criterion that we can apply—the number of people employed in it, the capital sunk in it, the total value of its product, or whichever yardstick is used. Surely it is best that it should flourish like other industries do in the modern world, and it can flourish fully only if it expands continuously and considerably.
My second reason is economic. We live in a highly competitive world and one which is becoming more so. We have had numerous balance of payments scares and even crises since the war, some of which might have been avoided altogether if we had relied less on food imports and more on our own capacity. I therefore suggest that the aim should be to enable our farm industry to make the greatest possible contribution to our economic strength, and this goes back to the question put by the hon. Member for Leek.
I am familiar with the arguments of those who say that we must import so that we can export. Exports are, of course, vital, but foreign markets are competitive and uncertain, and I doubt the wisdom in the long term of basing our economic stability and prosperity on the assumption that exports and imports should always be the overriding economic factor, and that farming should fit in as best it can. Surely it would be best to consider, first, what maximum contribution can be made by our greatest industry, always provided, of course, that it is operating efficiently and economically.
My third reason is that our population is increasing very rapidly, and the main demands made by a growing population are for food and for houses. They are conflicting demands and I was rather interested in the remark of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), in his very interesting maiden speech, when he said that we need to link farming policy more closely with land policy, and I would add with population policy, too.
In considering how to feed our people in future, we need to consider the long-term implications, and this brings me back to the economic argument. If the terms of trade should turn against us at some time in the future, and not remain as relatively favourable as they are now, and look like remaining for the rest of this decade, we or those who follow us will have a tough job feeding our increased population in the years to come. But this can be provided against or mitigated if in the meanwhile the Government have embarked on a policy of maximum continuous expansion of food production here.
My fourth reason—which I need mention only briefly, because it has already been discussed—is that we should make our proper contribution towards solving the world food problem. We can do it either by exporting some of our own food to the needy countries, or by making ourselves as nearly independent of food imports as we can. I know that we have a long way to go, but that is a contribution that we could make, and that is a further reason why we should aim at a policy of continuous considerable expansion of farm production.
Therefore, although I congratulate my right hon. Friend—and I do it most warmly, as a neighbour, and as a colleague in the House—and I wish him well, I express the hope that he will agree in principle to a policy which gives the highest priority to agricultural expansion. I am glad that under the 1964 Act he has taken powers which will make this possible to a very great extent.
I agree entirely with many of the points made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton). I agree with what he said about small farmers, and the necessity to consult them. I also agree with his last point, about maximum continuous expansion. I disagree with him on some of his facts, but I am in general agreement with him.
I am pleased that my party has made it possible for us to have this debate.
I am glad to have Liberal support.
Agriculture is an important industry; indeed, to many hon. Members it is our most important industry. Nevertheless, although requests have been made by hon. Members from both sides of the House—and in particular from hon. Members opposite—the Leader of the House has consistently refused to allow Government time for a debate on this industry. I therefore thank my own party for making the debate possible.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House are agreed that, especially since the war, agriculture has a splendid production record. There is no need to elaborate it. Since the war production has increased by about 86 per cent., and less than 4 per cent. of our total employed population produce about 50 per cent. of our food. We can all be proud of this record, especially since it has been achieved at a time when the labour force has been continually running down. In fact, since the war it has fallen by 200,000. I regard agriculture as not only our oldest but our most important industry, with an annual output of £1,800 million.
My hon. Friends and I believe that people who invest their money and labour in agriculture are entitled to as good a return as is obtained by those who invest their money and labour in other industries. There can be no doubt what an important job is done in the production of food, as compared with some of the articles produced by other industries.
Many of those who invest their money in food production, and, certainly, those who invest their labour in it, are not getting a fair deal. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not here now, because his last question to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr Peart) concerned a wealth tax on farmers. I can give an effective reply to that question. I have here a booklet issued by the National Farmers' Union, which sets out farm incomes for last year. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is very familiar with it.
The 1947 Agriculture Act has been mentioned more than once this afternoon. Earlier, its architect was in the Gallery, listening to the opening speeches. The objective of that great Act was to provide proper remuneration and living conditions for farmers and farm workers, and an adequate return for investors in the industry. Until the return of a Conservative Government, in 1951, there was undoubtedly general satisfaction among farmers and farm workers, but it is generally agreed that since then there has been a gradual deterioration.
The little booklet to which I have referred, entitled "Farm Incomes, The Facts", tells us that last year two out of every five farmers earned less than £600 and two out of every three less than £1,000.
I understood that the hon. Gentleman was replying, in part, to a question asked by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland concerning the wealth tax pro-nosed by some hon. Members opposite. The hon. Gentleman appeared to confine his remarks to income, but some people think that the wealth tax should apply to capital. Does the hon. Member agree with that?
The question put by the Secretary of State for Scotland referred to a wealth tax, and he talked of farmers farming up to 200 acres. The farmers to whom I have referred all farm less than 200 acres. The inference is plain for everybody to see: in many cases there is insufficient for these small farmers to live on, never mind their being able to pay a wealth tax.
If further evidence is needed, I should point out that it is only just over a year ago that farmers from Norfolk came to the House to lobby their Members of Parliament, and the main plank of their complaint against the Government was that their incomes were so low that they did not get sufficient to pay their farm workers the wage that they were entitled to. Because the Minister refused to see the farmers I was deputed to hand him a petition signed by hundreds of Norfolk farmers.
The Parliamentary Secretary will recall that only last week I showed him a letter I had received from a small farmer constituent of mine who stated quite clearly that the £70 which is in dispute between him and the Ministry represented the difference between his swimming and sinking. Many small farmers are in a similar situation. After the latest Farm Price Review we know that many farmers were very dissatisfied.
The Government Amendment gives the impression that agriculture is a prosperous industry. It talks about "continuing prosperity in agriculture." This is one of the things that I fail to understand. When the average income of small farmers is £795 a year we cannot regard them as prosperous, in these days. Obviously, farmers with such small incomes are not enjoying prosperity. It is not unknown for many many small farmers to be "gobbled up" by their big brothers.
Another indication of the lack of prosperity in the industry is the disinclination of youngsters to take advantage of the agricultural apprenticeship schemes. Norfolk is an important agricultural county, but there hardly any young people are prepared to join the scheme. The same thing applies in many other counties.
I am glad that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire paid such a glowing tribute to the farm workers. The Secretary of State for Scotland did not bother to mention them. The farm workers have played an important part in agricultural production. Here I must declare an interest as I am honorary vice-president of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. The tribute of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was one of many which have been paid to the efforts of farm workers. It is all very well to pay such tributes, but they do not fill hungry bellies.
The national minimum wage for farm workers is still only £9 10s. a week and for many it is also the maximum. All hon. Members will agree that that is a miserable pittance for workers in an industry which hon. Members opposite maintain is so prosperous. If the industry is as prosperous as they say, the small farmers and the farm workers whom I represent are not getting their fair share of that prosperity and should have better treatment.
There is a difference in the average earnings of farm workers and industrial workers amounting to £4 10s. to the disadvantage of farm workers. I am not saying that the industrial workers receive too much, but I say emphatically that farm workers get far too little. It was reported only last week that the average family income is about £22 a week. To the farm worker an income of £22 a week would be like living in fairyland. I think that I have proved by the figures which I have quoted that, if the agriculture industry is so prosperous, the farm workers who do such a good job in helping to produce that prosperity are not getting their fair share of the prosperity.
Farm workers are still subject to the tied cottage system. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like to mention that. Only three weeks ago a family in my constituency, a father, mother and four children, were turned out of a tied cottage and had nowhere to go. Most fair-minded people would agree that in the year 1964 such a state of affairs should never be allowed. I am glad that the Labour Party, which will form the next Government, has given a definite assurance that under a Labour Government no farm worker will be turned out of a tied cottage until a suitable alternative accommodation has been provided.
I wish to know what are the proposals of the Government for the future of small farmers and I recall what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) about the undoubted intention of the Government, a couple of years ago, to take this country into the Common Market. Had that happened, it would have been the end for thousands of our small farmers. The Labour Party believes that the efficient small farmers who have played such an important part in the history of the industry, have an important part to play in the future and that they should be encouraged.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will note that I wish his right hon. Friend to take up with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the question of Purchase Tax on blackcurrant juice. Blackcurrant crops are grown mainly by small farmers. Because of the imposition of this tax a great many people who previously produced such crops now find it unprofitable to do so. Any relief in this direction would be much appreciated.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Workington have referred to the World Health Bank. Despite our record production figures, I think it possible for even more food to be produced by our farmers. In the Western world we have food surpluses and in other parts of the world millions of people are starving. I do not believe it impossible for a country such as ours, where £2,000 million a year are spent on defence, to find a means to divert food surpluses to areas where that food is so urgently needed.
I support the pleas which have been made for such a course of action and I hope that the Minister will agree that something should be done along these lines.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) began by trying to defend his party on the subject of a capital wealth tax. I do not think that he gave the answer to the question which we want answered. We are told by his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that there will be a wealth tax imposed on all capital sums of over £20,000. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland quoted a figure of 200 acres per farm at £100 an acre capital value. That adds up to £20,000. We wish to know whether a wealth tax would be applied to farms. Perhaps my right hon. Friend and I may receive an answer to that question from the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) if he replies for the Opposition. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who is at present occupying the Opposition Front Bench, will make a note that the Secretary of State for Scotland and I would like a balanced and fair answer to that question.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West welcomed the fact that there is a debate today on farming. So do 1, first because this probably will be the last opportunity I shall have to address this House on farming, or on anything else, and secondly, because there seemed to be some doubt in the minds of hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite about whether they wanted a debate on farming. In fact we had to provoke them two or three weeks ago when Questions about meat were being asked. We asked whether it would be possible to have a debate on farming and the Opposition were completely silent.
The Opposition Motion says:
That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to produce an effective long-term policy for British agriculture.
I shall try to answer that. Before doing so, I wish to refer to two strange things which were said by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). In an incautious moment he hinted that the 1947 Act, the Bible of the Labour Party, needed revision. I agree that Section 1 of that Act gives immense discretion to any Government to advocate and arrange such volume of production as they think to be in the national interest to be produced and it is worded in a very wide phrase. If we are to revise that, we should know in what way it is to be done. I cannot believe that the hon. Member would be such a traitor to Lord Williams that he would ever dare to suggest that consciously. I think he must have been done in an aside semi-consciously in the state of excitement he gets into sometimes.
Secondly, and certainly more seriously, he was prepared to advocate five-year guarantees. I am all in favour of the longest term for guarantees as is possible but let us consider the question of pigs. The pig is such a prolific animal that if we based the guarantee in the year 1964 on 11,750,000 pigs and that was just enough to tip the scale for increased pig production and then continued the guarantee for five years, the whole country would be smothered in pigs. The Treasury would have to go on paying. These are the sort of practical points which are extremely difficult to organise five years ahead. We can do that kind of thing in relation to some things but not for all.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) talked about expansion. I agree with him that we want to expand, but in what? Are we to expand in egg production? As the years go by, according to the Egg Marketing Board, there will be an increase in the laying flock. What shall we do about that? Do we want to encourage expansion in egg production? If so, what are we to do about the guarantees? These are one or two difficulties about giving five-year guarantees. I suggest that the hon. Member for Workington was talking through his hat when he talked like that in a serious debate such as this, which will be read by farmers throughout the country in an effort to penetrate the inner secrets of Labour agriculture policy before the election.
What is our policy? I shall try briefly to show that there is and has been an effective long-term policy in British agriculture. As has been said already, we want stability. On that I refer to paragraph 3 of the Annual Review, which says:
In formulating such arrangements, the Government's aim has been to secure a greater degree of stability in the market.
As the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) said, we want a balance between imports and home production. Paragraph 4 says:
The Government's objective has also been to maintain a fair and reasonable balance between home production and imports, starting from broadly the present proportions of our market which are supplied from home production and imports.
This is already laid down in the Price Review which was published last March.
It is said that the farmers want an increased share of the market. I turn to paragraph 7 and I read:
the Government intend to provide British farmers, and also overseas suppliers, with the opportunity of securing a fair share in the growth of the market. The Government intend to increase the levels of the standard quantities as required to provide this opportunity for home producers in the future.
The effective policy is there.
We want a share in the general prosperity of the country. I read in paragraph 11:
In the light of these objectives and considerations it will be the Government's intention, subject to consideration of all the relevant factors at each Annual Review, to make such determinations as will advance these objectives and provide the opportunity for
agricultural producers to share in the growing prosperity of the community generally.
The Review also says that in view of this it will be possible in future because of the new arrangements
to give greater weight to farmers' returns than would have been possible in the absence of such arrangements".
There is an effective policy, one with which we can go into the future with confidence. I entirely reject the terms of the Motion and I support the Amendment.
I have mentioned eggs. I want to add one more thing about future policy. We are now exporting in one way or another about £48 million to £50 million of agricultural produce a year.
More than that.
It was about £50 million last year. It is quite a considerable sum. Figures have been given for cattle, horses, grain and so on. I forget the actual details. This year we have exported eggs to our troops in Germany. We have opportunities for selling pedigree stock in far greater quantities than before to countries such as Russia and Czechoslovakia. At the moment there is a Czechoslovakian delegation looking at animals in Scotland. Resulting sales-may not amount to a large sum, but this all helps.
One of the biggest difficulties in the past has been that although under the G.A.T.T. it has been possible to export provided no one complained, if anyone complained because of the subsidy element in the export we had to stop. If we are to have the Kennedy Round again, that part of the general arrangements for lowering taxes, even though we keep our subsidies on to protect the standard of life of our farmers, should be dealt with in such a way as to allow us to export in the ordinary commercial sense to other countries where there is a need.
This is quite separate from the F.A.O. conception of sending foodstuffs to developing countries in order to increase their nutritional standards of diet. We can do that with cereals and so on. In the new arrangements under the G.A.T.T. we should be left freer to export agricultural products than we are at present. I leave that thought with my right hon. Friend. I believe that, if our agriculture is to expand, British farmers want not only their share of the British market today and an expanding share of the British market in the future but a further expansion through their ability to export, whether it be cattle, eggs or milk products, whatever it may be, to countries abroad.
May I now change the tune? In this lovely June weather, farmers in Scotland are not worrying very much about politics. They are watching their crops, which are looking lovely. They are getting in their hay, they are hoeing their roots, they are watching the potatoes grow, which are too early to get the diseases whatever the disease may be. At this time of the year, the countryside is something which everyone connected with the land will realise is lovely. We have forgotten the bad weather, the diseases we suffered from, the bad lambing in some hill areas, and the difficulties of cultivation in the spring. We have forgotten these things, and we are looking forward optimistically to the future.
Although this is the season of the big agricultural shows—we had a very good one in the Highlands last week—there are always two worries in the back of farmers' minds. One is the danger of disease. We had a tragic example at the Highland Fair last week when pigs worth £50,000 had to be slaughtered. They were prize pigs, probably the best pigs in Scotland and, indeed, in Britain, but they had to be destroyed because of swine fever. This is one of the risks always at the back of farmers' minds.
The other is costs. Costs are continually rising, whether it be for fertilisers, for labour or whatever it may be. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West that the agricultural worker deserves everything he gets—perhaps I should say that I hope that he will get everything he deserves. Normally, this is taken into account in the Price Review. By an increase in efficiency farmers can manage to pay better wages as arranged by the agricultural wages board. But two wage awards in a year is a bit "hot". It is very difficult to absorb two wage awards in one year. The second will be in September. [Interruption.] Yes, it is fixed for Scotland anyway. It seems to me, with all respect to the National Union of Agricultural Workers and the union members on the wages board, that it should be arranged that there be only one wage increase a year, because the farmers can only recoup in increased prices once a year. I will not say more than that, but it is another worry that, out of the blue and for the first time, there should be two wage increases in one year.
We are hoping for a good harvest. Although we are instinctively against change, if we are thinking in terms of politics at all, I think it right to say that we are prepared to accept change in the interests of the nation, if it is rightly thought to be in the interests of the nation, but we do not want to be left behind. One of the main complaints last year was that, whereas industrial income was rising, farming income was not. I hope, therefore, that the paragraph in the Price Review White Paper which I have already read will be taken seriously by the next Government—which, I have no doubt, will be a Tory Government—and that there will be a greater return for farmers to make up for the very serious losses they had two years ago.
I conclude with three points. The first was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, the question of cereal products and stability of prices. May I relate a personal experience? I put in a grain drier. It cost me quite a lot of money. I did it with the object of conserving the grain so that I could sell when the merchant wanted it. I did it last year, and I did it the year before, but I have not had an extra penny out of all the money I put in as a reward of doing what the merchants wanted done and what my right hon. Friend says should be done. This is wrong. Admittedly, there is a differential, 1s. 3d. plus, if one keeps it long enough—I am talking about barley—but it is admitted now that this is not enough. It ought to be possible to recoup by increased prices from the merchants in the spring the capital cost of such a grain drier, which, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) will know, is fairly high. This ought to be possible if I, for instance, contract and agree to have the grain ready to be delivered to the merchants whenever they want it, in March, April, May or June. But no one would give me a contract. I have tried.
I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend, in further negotiations on the arrangements for the marketing of cereals, will bear this point in mind, that those of us who are going out of our way to try to meet the needs of the merchants and compounders do expect them to have the decency to enable us to recoup part at least of the extra expense we have gone to in trying to deliver the grain dry and in good condition at any time they want it.
My second point is a small one, but it seems to have been wholly overlooked and omitted when the Horticulture Act, 1960 was passed. Forest tree nurseries are not eligible for assistance under the Horticulture Acts, 1960 or 1964, because the 1964 Act depends on the definition in the 1960 Act. This is stupid. One is supposed to get round it by planting a few rose bushes, prunus trees and ornamental shrubs, in which case part of the forest tree nurseries becomes eligible.
But forest tree nurseries are not forestry. They do not qualify for any forestry grant. It is only when one arrives at the stage of taking trees out of the nursery and putting them in the woods to be planted that they become eligible for grant. This is a small point; it may not affect many people, but it seems stupid to have omitted it. I suppose that I must take part of the blame for missing it myself. It was never brought to my attention until last month, and it is far too late to do anything now. I read the whole of the proceedings on the 1960 Act and the 1964 Act, and it was never mentioned once.
Did not the hon. Gentleman bring it up in Committee?
No one brought it up. It is a very strange omission, and I hope that it will be put right in the next Parliament.
Third, the price of sugar beet. We had an increase of 3s. 4d. a ton in the price of sugar beet which was 16 per cent. sugar. This is an expensive crop to grow. We have only one factory in Scotland, which is capable of handling 16,000 or 17,000 acres. It was allocated a little more this year, the official allocation being, I think, 14,000 or 15,000 acres. In fact the contracted acreage was down to 11,000. If it gets any lower, the existence of the Cupar factory and the livelihood of the workers in it will be in jeopardy. The costs of producing sugar from sugar beet are very high. This is not entirely a Scottish problem. I believe that the same problem has arisen in one or two English factories, particularly in the Kidderminster area, where they have not been able to take up then-acreage.
I therefore hope that at the next Price Review my right hon. Friend will make a determined effort to increase the price of sugar beet. Last year it was increased by only 3s. 4d. This year the transport cost arrangements were modified to such a extent that the position was against the farmer's interests. He had to pay more for transport than he used to. In view of the increased costs, if we want to keep the acreage up and the factory in being we estimate we would require £1 a ton extra. In view of the world price of sugar, which is far higher than it used to be, and in view of the Commonwealth price of sugar, which is nowhere near the British price of sugar, there would seem to be room, without in any way interfering with the price of sugar to the housewife, to give us another £1 a ton and thereby encourage the Scottish farmer to grow more sugar beet and keep the factory in Fife in full production.
I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will fight very hard, because there seems to be absolutely no reason why it should not be done. It is a very good crop, although in my own experience the tops are not as valuable as some say for fattening lambs. Nevertheless, it is a very good crop to grow. It is an additional alternative in the rotation of crops, which is a useful thing to have. In case we get too many potatoes from Lincolnshire, it is an alternative crop in the rotation. In every way, it is a crop which ought to be encouraged. Instead, in this Price Review it has been so discouraged that we are 4,000 or 5,000 acres short of what we should have.
I emphatically repudiate the Motion. I believe that the Conservative and Unionist Government have deserved well of the country in agriculture. I believe that the farmers, broadly speaking, are satisfied with their conditions. They have their doubts, because they are conservative with a small "c": they do not like change. Nevertheless, they are prepared to accept change from this Government, because they can rely on this Government to see that they are not let down.
The hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) fired a series of questions at the beginning of his speech, but, as they were exclusively directed at the Labour Party, and as I am not my brother's keeper, he would not, I think, expect me to answer them.
The hon. Gentleman's experience as a barley grower, with which I have much sympathy, would perhaps have been easier had he been a Russian barley grower, because he will recollect that, by the Schachtian economics of Her Majesty's present Government, when the barley growers in Russia were planning to export barley to this country at £17 a ton they were asked by this Government if they would be so kind as artificially to uplift the price to £20 a ton so that it would not compete with the price of our own growers. Had the hon. Gentleman been a Russian barley grower, perhaps he would have had an artificial bonus.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think it presumptuous of me if I say that we will miss him very much indeed from our agricultural debates. There are a band of us who meet regularly on these occasions—not as regularly as one would wish. My best recollection of the hon. Gentleman, which I shall always carry, is of a furious argument between him and the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) as to whether potatoes should or should not be put under clamps. I cannot remember which hon. Gentleman had the better of the exchange, nor can I remember what it was really about.
May I also add my words of congratulation on the admirable maiden speech of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston). His speech was lucid and interesting. The constituency points were of general application. Above all, his speech contained a humour which, I hope, will sharpen some of the duller moments of the House in the future. I have had the advantage of being produced by the hon. Gentleman in a broadcast by the B.B.C. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman is now no longer in a position to do that, unless we both take advantage of the wide facilities provided by the Postmaster-General for illegal broadcasting.
May I say to the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Ren-ton) that it is hardly fitting of a politician who calls himself a National Liberal and a Conservative to criticise others for what he calls fighting on both sides. I fly a Liberal flag, and I nail it to a Liberal mast. It is not for me a flag of convenience to be put on somebody else's mast because that happens to be taller and on a bigger ship.
I warmly welcome the debate, but I must say that I regret the rarity of the occasions upon which we debate agriculture. I hope that it will be noted in the country that this time has not been provided by the Government. Many of us are getting a little tired of asking the Leader of the House for time merely to be told, "This is an affair for the Opposition. Let them provide a Supply Day". If that is the view of the functions of government, I suggest that the Opposition, and indeed the Liberal Party, are given an increased allocation, because we at least know what to do with Supply Days.
As in the last debate we had on foreign affairs, there are so many issues touching on today's subject for debate which one wants to discuss that it is very difficult to compress them into the compass of one debate. There is the Price Review. There is the standard quantities concept, about which I personally am very uneasy. There is the state of our agreements on imports. There is the meat position. There is the hill cow subsidy review. There is the operation of the Egg Marketing Board and other statutory bodies.
There is, the position of private afforestation schemes, which are artificially forcing up the price of land and which are not subject to the same planning as is the Forestry Commission. There is the problem of rural development generally. There is the development of factory farming. There are other what I call signposts for agriculture.
I had at one time felt tempted, to teach the Leader of the House a lesson, to make a long speech upon each of these subjects in turn, but such was my respect for the House that I felt that I must select a very few. Therefore, I should like briefly to touch on what I might call the signposts for the future for agriculture, the position in regard to meat, how I think that production grants and credit facilities should be extended, and particularly a dispute in egg marketing.
I found the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland very disturbing. He asked all sorts of questions about commodity commissions—what powers would they have; could they control imports; would they have exclusive monopolistic powers; what position would they have in regard to research. He spoke rather like a man who had never heard of commodity commissions before and to whom they held out the fear of the unknown.
The right hon. Gentleman belongs to an Administration who applied to join the European Common Market—unfortunately, too late in the day. This is an organisation which has a managed market. That managed market is operated by commodity commissions. Those commodity commissions have target prices. Those commodity commissions have power to buy in the market to hold the price. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government went round the country telling the farmers that they had no need to worry about this system. They told the farmers that they were satisfied that it was an excellent system and, even though they had made violent speeches against it in the 1959 election, that violent opposition no longer held true.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is now somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for this idea and whether the Conservative Party is going back to the position that it adopted in 1959?
I noticed, when I was speaking, that the hon. Member appeared to be disagreeing with me and it was at that point that I asked those questions about commodity commissions. I wondered, since I thought that the hon. Member was nodding, whether he would care to make his party's position clear. I was not talking about the sort of commodity commissions that exist in the European Community, but was wondering what the view of the hon. Member was on this issue.
What an extraordinary position—that the Government of the day should believe that they must be told all about these commissions. Obviously, they have not made up their mind on them. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that it is not the job of the Opposition, but of the Government, to decide these issues. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know the sort of powers these commodity commissions will have he should read the Verdon Smith Report. I recommend paragraph 845, where he will see that these aspects are discussed in some detail. I must say, from the Answer the Prime Minister gave me on 9th June and from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman today, that further digestion of the admirable Verdon Smith Report would be meritorious from the Government's point of view.
However, I wish, first, to deal with the general philosophy—the general pattern—we want to see in farming. The 1947 and 1957 Acts, which all three parties voted for, had as their intention to give a measure of security to the farming community, to provide a regular flow of food at the right price to the housewife and to maintain a relatively free import policy. We now know that in recent years those Acts have failed to achieve those objectives.
Although the cost of farm support has risen from £190 million in 1954–55 to £20 million in 1964–65, the Index of Retail Prices has still gone up by 15 per cent. Although the net output of the farming community has gone up by 50 per cent. since the war, their incomes have gone up barely 10 per cent. compared with the 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. in other parts of the economy. Therefore, the aim of keeping down food prices and giving stability to the farmer has not been achieved. It is obvious that those Acts have to some extent been successful, but certainly not to the extent it was hoped—and they have certainly not enabled the farmer to keep pace with other sections of the community. Indeed, the taxpayer has been facing an increasingly higher subsidy bill.
As a result of all this, the Government, rightly, introduced a Measure which gave them certain powers regarding the limitation of imports. We Liberals go much further, and support the concept of the managed market. We consider this to be the only logical way of dealing with these matters. We supported the idea of the managed market in Europe and we are equally in favour of it for this country. A managed market, with target prices to be fixed after an Annual Price Review, with commodity commissions for cereals and meat, with powers to intervene on the market by stocks and to advise the Minister to regulate markets, is obviously the only answer.
I believe that it would enable the farmer more and more to derive his income from the market and less and less from support. This would be the right way to move forward. We could also hope for more efficient marketing, particularly when one considers that at present for every £1 the consumer pays, only 6s. goes back to the farmer. If one studies the margins of meat profits elsewhere one finds that, for example, in Germany the housewife and farmer have a price not nearly as far apart as the price which exists in terms of meat profits in this country. It is essential that we work towards a managed market, but we will not be successful in doing that unless and until we have commodity commissions, at any rate for these two products.
This brings me to the subject of meat, and it is interesting to note that while we had a surplus in 1961—and needed a £78 million Supplementary Estimate—we have had a shortage in 1964. Both events appear to have had one thing in common—that they took the Minister by surprise. Despite the massive labours of the Verdon Smith Committee, the Government have not yet agreed to a single measure or proposal put forward in that Report. Why, for example, have the Government not been able to do something along the lines of the sug-
gestion made in paragraph 895, where it is stated:
To enable consumers to judge and compare prices and to improve competition between retailers, we recommend that, as a minimum requirement, all meat retailers should display in a prominent position comprehensive price lists of the meat currently being offered for sale; and further that, if it is practicable, the marketing of cuts of meat with both the price per lb. and the total price of the joint should be made compulsory …".
Surely it should have been possible for the Government to have introduced a suggestion of that sort by now. There is no reason why months and months of negotiation should be necessary to ensure that that suggestion is enforced. Why, for example, have the Government not taken any action over the suggestion the Verdon Smith Committee made in paragraph 899, where it is stated:
Genuine price competition is … the correct means to ensure the efficiency of the retail meat trade. … Attempts by retailers to prevent wholesalers from selling meat directly to caterers and institutions are not in the interests of efficient distribution …".
In paragraph 892, the Committee suggested that far more evidence about the chain of costs involved in the various centres should be made available to the public. It was on this subject that the Prime Minister was, perhaps, not as familiar as he might have been with the contents of the Verdon Smith Report, because on 9th June I asked the right hon. Gentleman:
… whether, to allay widespread anxiety over margins charged in the meat distributing trade, he will instruct the President of the Board of Trade to consult the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with a view to publishing simultaneously each week the retail prices of meat already collected weekly by the Ministry of Labour …
to which the right hon. Gentleman replied:
In its report to Agriculture Ministers last February the Verdon Smith Committee stated that it could find no evidence that margins in the wholesale or retail meat trades in the period 1958–62 as a whole had been excessive.
Obviously, the Prime Minister had not read the Report properly, because he should have known that in paragraph 487 the Committee stated:
As we have already pointed out, detailed comparison of wholesale and retail prices is impossible because of the inadequacies of the data, and the results of the survey of independent retailers' accounts ending in 1962 were probably considerably influenced by their trade
in the second half of 1961. We therefore regard this evidence as inconclusive.
The Prime Minister told me that there was no evidence to support the allegation, but that was certainly not what the Verdon Smith Report stated, for that Report specifically spoke of "the inadequacies of data".
It is interesting to note that in his reply to me on 9th June the Prime Minister said, after I had pressed him to go further:
I am certain that my right hon. Friend is always willing to consider whether he can give any better figures which would serve the public …
Following that, I asked the right hon. Gentleman, since none of those figures were published in any event, whether he realised that it was difficult for the consumer to judge whether or not the figures were good, to which the right hon. Gentleman replied:
I did not say that these figures were published. I said that if my right hon. Friend could help the public in any way he would certainly do so. But this is certainly not a way in which the public could be helped."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June 1964; Vol. 696, c. 235–6.]
I urge the Government to give us more information about their intentions in regard to these statistics because there is no doubt that if we do not have a statutory authority, such as that recommended by the Verdon Smith Committee, we will certainly need some form of board which will be in a position to make forecasts of important trends and pricings and advise the Minister.
The third point to which I wish to refer today is the question of production grants. I am certain that not only is the purpose of agricultural support to provide a steady flow of foodstuffs, but also to give a reasonable price with reasonable security to the farmer. Production grants are vital if farmers are to become more efficient and competitive. I would like to see the Small Farmer Scheme extended, at least as a start. It has been a good scheme, but at present accounts for only 2 per cent. of the total bill. We should abolish the man-hours formula, which is hopelessly archaic and artificial, and in its place I would like to see grants of up to 50 per cent. available for the erection, alteration and enlargement of permanent farm buildings, excluding farm houses. I know that under Part II one can get one- third grant spread over 10 years, but more often than not that does not go to the large man.
Another form of assistance is the hill cow subsidy payments. I come from a part of the country where we are having an extensive review of the eligibility of farmers to continue to receive assistance. Unfortunately, our worst fears have now been realised. I am happy to see that the Secretary of State for Scotland appears to be getting a fair amount of enjoyment from my speech, but perhaps I may tell him something that may alter his expression. I am talking of a series of farmers who have every expectation of being put out of business by the Government and by this act; and this will not be forgotten.
The latest available figures in Devon show that 436 farms have been reviewed to see whether they were eligible for continued hill cow subsidy payment. Of those, 254 have been declared ineligible, and I understand that, so far, of 100 appeals, 10 have been successful, three have been partly successful, and 87 have been rejected. In North Devon alone, 52 farms have been reviewed; three have been kept in, three have been partially kept in, in the case of three there has been no decision, and 39 have been excluded.
That means that farmers who came in on the inducement of the hill cow subsidy scheme, whose land at the time was not thought suitable for any other purpose, are suddenly to have this assistance withdrawn from them. This is not a review so much as a complete reinterpre-tation of the scheme ab initio.
Perhaps I may give an example of how viciously—and one may say that—this review is working. A farm at Knowstone, in my constituency, is 750 ft. up. In 1952, it was selected by the agricultural executive committee as a representative example for the whole of the West of how, £ for £, the Livestock Rearing Act could help on marginal land. The land is marshy, and one finds the breeding herd hidden for the most part by heavier rushes. This has been a livestock rearing area for centuries—it was really not much good for anything else. As I say, this farm was such a perfect example of the sort of terrain for which the hill cow subsidy was meant that it was the subject of articles in the farming Press, and was specially selected by the A.E.C. in 1952.
The farmer has now been told that it is suitable for crops, dairying, and the fattening of cattle or sheep. I should have thought that to be an impossible act even for the Archangel Gabriel, were he to turn his hand to such an activity. The farmer appealed, and has received a duplicated form—there are so many of them they have to be duplicated—to say that his appeal has been rejected. That man now loses his subsidy, his winter keep, he is left with a very barren farm, and his income will at once drop by £750. I would, therefore, ask the Minister to look again at how this review is being carried out in the West Country, because very many small farmers who hve no alternative means of gaining a livelihood are finding that the carpet is being pulled from under their feet.
Page 44 of the Conservative Party's publication on agriculture, referred to by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), says, of credit:
The Conservative Party has never believed in easy credit for agriculture.
How right that is. When one considers that the average interest charges on loans to the agricultural community run to about £26 million a year, one begins to realise how vital credit is to farmers, and particularly to small farmers.
A survey recently carried out at the University of Exeter showed that 40 farms that had benefited from the Small Farmer Scheme had insufficient capital. The farmers bought seeds and fertilisers with Government assistance, and then found that they had not enough money to buy the cattle or sheep to put on the ground that benefited from the fertiliser and seed put in the soil.
We have to tackle afresh the whole idea of credit for the agricultural industry. The L.I.C. is doing quite a good job, but it cannot make advances on the security of any holding under 50 acres. The A.M.C. can only lend at Bank Rate plus 1½ per cent., and thereafter must show a profit on borrowings. I should like to see both the L.I.C. and the A.M.C. closed down, and a land bank established which could give credit facilities of up to 100 per cent. of the value of the farm, at current rates of interest, backed initially by the Treasury, and which could also guarantee other banks making loans. There is nothing radical in that suggestion; many other countries successfully operate such banks. If we are to have the concept of a managed market, production grants properly angled and credit readily available, then agriculture can face a secure and expanding future.
I want to refer with emphasis to the activities of the Egg Marketing Board. The House knows that under the Egg Marketing Scheme the Board was given wide powers. All producers except those with flocks of 50 or under were required to register, and all eggs were to be sold by the Board, except in those instances where a licence was granted to sell direct to consumers or retailers.
A problem now arises relating to what are known as "seconds"—second-quality eggs. Prior to 1st January, 1964, egg packing stations could sell second-quality eggs to anyone they wished, but as a result of an announcement made by the Board on 24th October, 1962, only processers approved by the Board could purchase second-quality eggs. That date—24th October, 1962—is very important. This trade is worth nearly £1½ million per annum, and it becomes apparent that the Board was in possession of a monopoly, and a very valuable monopoly. Since the Board was set up by Parliament, since it was armed with statutory powers by Parliament, since the Minister has already, under Section 19 of the 1958 Agriculture Act, made a reference to a committee of investigation about the activities of the Board, one is entitled to ask whether that power of approval has been exercised wisely and fairly.
One small farm in the West Country—in the constituency of the Parliamentary Secretary—takes the view that the Board has not acted fairly, but has, in fact, acted in a way that is not only manifestly unjust, but which will put this small company right out of business. I think that the facts will show that the Egg Marketing Board has behaved disgracefully that the committee of investigation has not probed sufficiently into the available evidence and, even on the evidence available, has reached conclusions that are totally unacceptable. Here I pay tribute to the newspapers who have probed this case.
What are the facts of this case? There are two men in Cornwall, Mr. Roose and Mr. Baker, both of whom have been in the egg industry for several years; Mr. Roose, back to 1958, and Mr. Baker from 1961. At the end of 1961, a large bakery firm in Plymouth stated that it was not any longer prepared to buy unpasteurised liquid eggs, but that if pasteurised eggs could be produced locally it would be happy to give the processers a long-term assurance. Mr. Roose and Mr. Baker therefore decided to pasteurise liquid eggs for bakery and other industrial purposes. They had every right to do this. Second quality eggs were freely purchasable from packing stations. It was a trade they understood.
In March, 1962, they had discussions with a firm which was a supplier. It was a little time before the specifications arrived, because the plant was manufactured only in America, but eventually—in September, 1962—they received their quotation, and on 5th October they paid a deposit of £390 on nearly £1,300 worth of equipment. So, on 5th October, they had entered into a contract, had paid their deposit, had agreed to take delivery and had hire-purchase facilities with a firm which would help them to pay off the balance.
Suddenly on 24th October, with no prior warning, came an announcement from the Board that it, and it alone, would decide who had the right to process second quality eggs. Straight away these men wrote to the Board and said, "We should like to tell you that we are in this business and have just bought some very expensive equipment, and we take it that it will be in order for us to buy eggs from you." The Board replied on 19th November that it surmised that the installation of the plant had been stimulated by the news of the announcement that the monopoly would be handed out. There was not a shred of evidence for this conclusion, but throughout this has been the reaction of the Board.
That was the attitude of the Board. What is much more serious is what followed—the evasion of the Board. By December, 1962, it wrote and said that it could not give a guarantee and was not hopeful of granting a franchise because, in any event, a very great deal of preparatory work had still to be done. But we already know from the findings of the Committee of Investigation, on page 10, that before the Board made the decision it had already virtually selected as the Board's agents a firm in Taunton, which was thereby going to be given a monopoly for the whole of the South-West. There was no question of inviting applications; there was no question of going through the applications on their merits. There was a prior arrangement before there was any question of a public announcement, and this firm, to the exclusion of all others, was promised a monopoly.
It took the Board one year to "come clean" and say definitely that this little firm should not be supplied. We now know that there has been a carve-up between 10 firms, and that the Board met the 10 successful firms after the Cornish application had been received and that that application, from all that one can tell, was never properly considered by the Board. The effect is that the men I mentioned face bankruptcy and ruin because they cannot get supplies as they are not one of the 10 processors approved by the Board.
The Board went further, and it is this behaviour which leads the Committee of Investigation, set up by the Minister, with a Queen's Counsel presiding, to say that there were no grounds for complaints that the Board acted unreasonably. The Board felt that it had to give excuses for its rejection. It had already given a monopoly before announcing the scheme. It said that the standards at the packing station did not comply with the Board's standards of hygiene and quality.
That has been rebutted by the finding of the Committee of Investigation. We also know that, although these allegations were made on 5th February, it was not until 6th February that the Board carried out an inspection. So it rejected on 5th February and inspected on 6th February. This is the Board of which the Queen's Counsel said that there were no grounds for complaint that the Board had acted unreasonably.
There is a final point of interest. The Board is told by the Committee of Investigation that if it had broken the
contract with the company supplying their machinery no action for damages would follow, in the view of the Queen's Counsel who presided, because a man from the selling company had stated that he did not think his firm would ask for the cost of installation or for the deposit to be forfeited. This comes from a Queen's Counsel who says, on page 10:
In the absence of anything in writing, we do not know precisely what passed between the parties to this contract when the question of a possible breach was raised.
On that evidence he concludes that no action could have been brought.
In an Answer to a Question today from the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) the Minister was asked whether he would make a Section 20 direction to the Board, and he has refused. In a sense, the Minister has no alternative but to refuse. By Section 20(4,a) he can make a direction only if he has not been told by the Committee that there have been errors or omissions. Therefore, the only course open to the Minister is to order a fresh inquiry, and, in my view, this he has the power to do. If the Parliamentary Secretary has any doubt, I am prepared to argue the legal toss with him on a later occasion.
I merely say that, first, the inquiry dealt only with the facts submitted. The transcript of evidence is not available, and I believe that the Minister should request both sides to agree that it should be disclosed. The interests of persons affected have been ignored, and the series of conclusions reached are either inadequate or based on non-existent evidence.
I should like to know how the lucky 10 were selected, and when. We know, for example, that the managing director of one of the lucky 10, given this "licence to make money", was formerly a member of the Special Committee. It would be interesting to know whether he had attended a meeting of the 10, and if so, in which capacity—as a member of the special committee granting the franchise or as the managing director of a firm about to receive it.
I should like the Minister to agree that the little firm that I have mentioned is not asking for special treatment. It is asking for fair treatment, and it has not been given it. I would ask the Minister to agree that it is a valuable monopoly which is being granted, and that it is vital in the public interest to ensure that the power is being fairly exercised. It is clear that prior agreement was granted to the Taunton firm—before the publication of the scheme. It is clear that there was no proper consideration of the application of the Cornish firm. It is clear that the rejection was based on a report which was written before the inspection was carried out. It is clear that there was a long and unreasonable delay before these people were finally told that they would not be permitted to have supplies.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in this case the firm has been wrongly treated by a statutory Board. It is a firm which faces ruin. These people have as much right to have their claim considered as any other company connected with the egg industry. If we are to have this worst type of bureaucracy on the part of a public board, with arrogance, deceit and evasion, as it seems to be, surely this is a case where the Minister must decide there should be a thorough inquiry, and that, pending that inquiry, the firm should be allowed to buy second quality eggs, upon which it depends for economic survival.
We have all fallowed with great interest what has been said by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) about some aspects of this case concerning pasteurised eggs and the licences given by the British Egg Marketing Board. I shall be interested to know what the Minister himself has to say about it when he replies to the debate.
I am left with the thought that if members of the Liberal Party are so horrified by the actions of the statutory marketing board, would they, would the farmers and would Parliament really like to be under the thumb of commodity commissions, which would have just the same kind of powers and would be exercising them widespread? I doubt it.
There are two things to be said about that. The first is whether one has statutory bodies, and the second is whether one allows them to exercise their powers wisely and justly. The answer to the first point is, "Yes, one can be in favour of them." The answer to the second point is, "They must act wisely and justly."
Sir A. Hard:
Yes, and, the hon. Gentleman will agree, they should be subject to the kind of inquiry which has been made into the pasteurised eggs—and perhaps that will give no satisfaction to the people concerned.
Since 1945, I must have taken part in a score or more of agricultural debates, when we have ranged widely round the problems of the land and farming in Britain. I do not remember an occasion when a Motion of criticism—for this is not a Motion of censure—has been based on such a rag-bag of odd bits and pieces, quite incoherently sewn together with some vague generalities. This is certainly not a Motion of censure; it is very mild. It says:
That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to produce an effective long-term policy for British agriculture.
I was disappointed not to have had something more clear and definite from the Opposition Front Bench. I was rather looking forward to hearing what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) would say for his party. Now I have got to wait until later this evening.
I wonder what sense some of the speeches in this debate will make in the country. Those of us who earn our living by farming, and who are in close touch with farmers and farm workers, know that our industry has never shown more vitality than today. Of course, it has its problems. One can always conjure up a whole host of things, including Purchase Tax on blackcurrants and goodness knows what else, with which to criticise the Government of the day.
In fact, under a Conservative Government, for the last 12 years, the industry has generated a vitality which is the envy of the world. Why is it that Russia asked us to put on a show in Moscow? Why is it that next week's Royal Show, at Stoneleigh, will attract hundreds and possibly thousands of overseas visitors to see our livestock, our ways of farming, our equipment and machinery which we have developed and for which there is a market overseas worth over £100 million a year? These are all signs of a vigorous industry which has not been suffering under the maladministration of the Government for 12 years. I am doubtful whether much of what has been said on the benches opposite will worry farmers and farm workers. They have a job to do and will get on with it.
I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) was right when he drew attention to the value of the consistent policy of Conservative Governments in fostering and supporting meat production, and particularly beef production. Indeed, how fortunate we are that this has been a successful policy. We should be having much less beef than we consume today and paying very much higher prices if we had not pursued this policy. One only has to look around to judge how food prices have moved in neighbouring countries compared with our own. This is one of the best testimonies to the dual benefits which our policy has provided—stability and assurances for the farmer, and steady supplies to the consumer at world prices or below.
I have a table of figures given in the United Nations Monthly Bulletin of Statistics showing how food prices have risen in this country and in other European countries between 1956 and December, 1963. Food prices in the United Kingdom have risen by 13 per cent., a very modest rise when set against rises of 50 per cent. in France; 39 per cent. in Sweden; 22 per cent. in the Netherlands; 19 per cent. in Germany; and 19 per cent. in Italy. Our record is good. Our policy has achieved its purpose. It has increased and maintained home production of food and it has assured our consumers steady prices and a good range of quality supplies.
I was interested when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland referred to the high prices now ruling for beef. I do not think that they are really high. They may seem high for us, but they are not high by world standards. In fact, they are still low. If that were not so, we should not have Continental buyers coming here to purchase livestock in Scotland and the Eastern counties. We must accept that beef prices will stay fairly high so long as cattle stocks in Europe are at a low level. We are maintaining and increasing ours, but we shall not draw big supplies of beef from the Argentine in the next few years, nor indeed from Australia because her standard of living is rising and she is consuming more of her better quality beef. We do not care for the low-quality frozen beef, which finds a rather better market in the United States, where it is used for manufacturing purposes.
When we look at these comparisons in food prices, we find that ours have stayed comparatively steady and our price increases have been modest. Our policy has paid good dividends. I was about to say that the Opposition should have waited, but, on reflection, I do not think that they should have paused any longer. They paused long enough before putting down the Motion. But if the Opposition had looked around the countryside to see what was going on and had "taken the temperature", they would have seen that they could not get much out of a debate criticising the Government's agricultural policy.
In my time in the House since 1945, we have had a succession of Ministers of Agriculture who devoted their talents and powers to the good of British agriculture, and in that way they have served the country well. I include in that company Lord Williams of Barnburgh, the first Minister of Agriculture I knew in this House, right through to the present Minister. Our present Minister—quite a different man from Lord Williams, and a very effective Minister in today's conditions—is doing a good job for our agriculture and for the country.
I only hope that whoever is the next Minister—whatever may be the complexion of the Government—will do an equally good job so that British agriculture will, as our Amendment says, continue to prosper.
I wish to join issue with the hon. Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd). It is not the policy of this Government which has produced this upsurge of vitality in agriculture; it is the increasing efficiency of the farmers and productivity of the workers. That was brought about by the security provided, in the first place, by the 1947 Act. It is this policy which the Government have over the years attempted to erode.
That is one of the reasons why we have put down this Motion. Now the Government are seeking, in this election year, to draw a veil over the gradual erosion of that policy and they have produced a Price Review which is to be a sort of smokescreen. The Prime Minister said some time ago that it was not possible, when speaking about the adverse balance of payments, to judge the situation by the figures for one month. It is certainly impossible to judge the Government's agricultural policy by one Annual Price Review—and that in an election year.
We have been accused of making political capital out of this; and who can blame us? The circumstances are very suspicious, for several reasons. In the last eight Price Reviews there have been five disagreements between the Minister and the fanners. Yet there was no disagreement in 1955, before the election, and no disagreement this year, again before the election. I ask the farming community to observe, however, that there were disagreements in the year immediately after the election. I am sure that members of the farming community will draw their conclusions from that.
Secondly, this is the first Review when increased costs to farmers have been fully recouped. This is a very remarkable change. For the past ten years the average under-recoupment to the farmers has been at the rate of £17½ million per annum. Then we have had an increase in the price of milk—true, at the expense of the housewife. But still, the Government claim, here is an increase in the price of milk. We welcome that increase for the producer; it is most opportune. But again it represents a new trend, a change, in Government policy because milk producers have had hard times.
Between 1955 and 1963, the average price of milk declined by 10 per cent., although, I might add, the retail price increased by 28 per cent.
The Government have certainly failed to produce an effective long-term policy for meat.
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but when people talk about disarray and chaos in this question I do not think that they are putting it too high. I welcome the powers which the Government have taken to regulate imports. I welcome what the Secretary of State for Scotland said today about the negotiations with other countries, which I hope will succeed. But a vital part of the problem is left untouched, and that is the marketing of meat. This is the heart and core of the matter.
We have had the Verdon Smith Report. This was an object lesson in how not to go about solving a great commercial problem. The Verdon Smith Committee produced an accurate, interesting and very useful account of the production and sale of meat. It was admirable and could not have been better. But the recommendations had nothing to do with the case. Given the facts, the recommendations, such as they were—and they were very trivial, although some of them were quite useful—were completely incomprehensible.
I should like to deal with some of the facts which the Verdon Smith Committee produced, but let me first deal with the facts produced by the National Farmers' Union. That body took from 1958 to 1962 a sample of 357 typical farms, concerned mainly with livestock, and their conclusions showed that their profits went up by 3 per cent. That is not much with a declining purchasing power. The Verdon Smith Report pointed out that in the same period the profits of provincial wholesalers went up by 51 per cent. and the profits of retailers went up by 36 per cent. Yet this Committee said that it did not think that these profits were unreasonable and that there was no reason to alter the system because of them. If ever there were a complete non sequitur, I should say that that was it. Because it is the system which is at fault. There is no doubt about that, and yet the Verdon Smith recommendation is to entrench the system more firmly, to make it more dominant in the marketing of meat.
The increased efficiency and technical advance which the farmers have brought about demand new techniques in marketing. The farmers have done their share, but they have not been met by increased efficiency and unless and until we can secure a modernised and effective system of marketing the producer will not be assured of a fair return and the consumer certainly will not pay a reasonable price. There is to be no marketing board, as the N.F.U. suggested. There is to be no centralised organisation. That is the recommendation of the Verdon Smith Committee.
I should like to know what the Minister thinks about this. We had a sort of preliminary skirmishing from the Secretary of State for Scotland, but, speaking as a Welsh Member, I want to know what the Minister who represents for this purpose my part of the world, thinks. First, he left it to the industry. Then he left it to a Committee. Now he cannot leave it to anybody else. He really must tell us now what he proposes to do The Secretary of State for Scotland said today: "We must have more time." Someone asked him whether he would give a decision before the election. If he waits until after the election, he will have all the time that he wants. I hope that we shall hear something more definite about this matter before the debate is over.
I want to say a few words about the small farmer. My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), in his robust speech with its unmistakable Celtic fervour and flavour which appealed to me very much, spoke movingly about the problems of the small farmer. We are continually being told that we must consider adjustments in subsidies and price support for the industry. If we are to do that, they must be adjustments which will prevent too large a share from going to some farmers and not enough to others. The subsidy was never intended by Parliament to swell the profits of big business or great fertiliser firms. We all know that it has in fact swollen the profits of great fertiliser firms. Lord Nether-thorpe showed once again what a shrewd businessman he was when he left the presidential chair of the N.F.U. for the chair of Fisons.
There is no doubt that the small farmer is not getting his fair share. He has had the thinnest time of all. With the agricultural worker, he is the hardest worker in the industry. Very often he gets about the equivalent of the agricultural wage, and sometimes even less. There are farmers in marginal areas of Wales, Scotland and the West Country who at the end of the day, when all their accounts have been settled, have as much to live on as if they were on National Assistance. I have such cases in my constituency.
Those people are the least represented in any negotiations. They have the smallest "cut" of the subsidies. The small dairy farmer—who represents the majority of the smaller farmers, certainly in Wales—gets no subsidy, not a penny farthing. Even in the Farm Improvement Scheme, which, we are told, is so admirable, the prudent landlord clause militates against him because the return on the investment is so small. When providing buildings for a large farmer, the risk is not very great, but for the small farmer it is not such a good investment.
There are rumours of the possibility that milk farmers will have transport discrimination made against them. That is to say, farmers who live at a great distance from London or other great population centres will get less for their milk than those living in the areas nearer to the great cities. I believe that the Milk Marketing Board has expressed its opinion against this idea. I hope that the Minister tonight will give us a categorical answer because this is a matter of great importance to marginal farmers, that this will not happen.
The great asset of the small farmer is his labour, but he needs credit. This is where I so much agree with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). The small farmer needs credit and assistance to pay for equipment, for timber, cement and whatever he needs to re-equip his farm. Instead of giving him a grant equivalent to one-third of the cost, I believe it would be better to give him a long-term loan. But it is credit at reasonable rates that the small farmer needs.
It is strange that the banks seem to apply two totally different standards to industry, on the one hand, and to agriculture, on the other hand.
The Minister disagrees, but if he went to a bank in disguise as a small farmer—[Laughter.]—I admit that he would find it difficult so to disguise himself—he would find the chances of getting a loan very small, whereas he would be able to bluff his way into some sort of credit for a small industry.
What is to be done for the small farmer who is struggling on marginal land? All kinds of solutions have been put forward. One is to amalgamate the small farmers into viable units. If they are willing, well and good. If not, what are we to do? Pension them off? Euthanasia, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leek suggested? Are they to be starved out?
I am convinced that the solution which is suggested by the Labour Party—of ensuring that the small farmers get their credits at reasonable rates, through a credit organisation backed by the Treasury—is the only conceivable way. We should thank heaven for the small farmer, for his sturdy independence and the fact that he is prepared to carry on, on the very small pittance which he earns.
Wherever they are, the small farmers represent a good solid backing in the community, whether in Wales, the West Country, Scotland or the North of England. They have a sense of vocation, like the small farmer who said, "A man toils among the hills on his bit of land, not because he is out to make a fortune, but because this is a way of life which, he knows, is good for him and for his family". We ought to be glad that that spirit still exists.
A debate on agriculture in the House of Commons is always regarded as the preserve of the agriculturists or of those who represent rural constituencies. It is, however, a vital matter for the House as a whole. When we consider subsidies, here is a question which has to be faced by the whole community. The subsidies, do not let us forget, were intended to benefit the consumer as well as the farmer. The consumer will suffer if those subsidies are done away with or drastically reduced.
In that case, the consumer would have two alternatives. Either he would have to pay the farmer his full production costs, as he pays for the products of every other industry, or he would have to be dependent upon foreign imports, in which event he would certainly be held to ransom. Therefore, when considering this matter as a whole, as a House of Commons and representing all constituencies, we must consider whether we are prepared to see an increase, and a considerable one, in the price of food.
We too often forget that the balance of payments is greatly affected by agriculture. If there were a deterioration in the balance of payments, and there is an idea that there might be—the figures are due soon—how much greater would that deterioration be were it not for the contribution of agriculture? The greatest single contribution that is made to our import bill by any industry is made by agriculture. As an important import saver, the increase in agricultural production since the war is worth nearly £400 million a year. That is quite a contribution. If the production of agriculture declined, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and any Government would be hard put to it to find how to fill the gap.
Agriculture is a great and vital industry, vital to the economy of the country. It is because we honestly and sincerely believe that the Government have failed to produce a long-term policy for the industry that we on this side have moved our Motion today.
The noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) has a very nice sense of humour and I am sure that we all enjoyed her reference to the big Minister as a small farmer. We all agree with her in her sympathy with the small farmer. However, there are some things which she said I must disagree with her about.
The noble Lady said that the Price Review was a smokescreen. Well, of course, the awards made under the Review were made because the facts warranted them. My right hon. Friend has had four price reviews; two of them have been agreed, and two not agreed; but the fact remains that we were able, fortunately, to have a nice Price Review this time, and that was because the facts warranted it.
The noble Lady said that there is no long-term policy for meat. I should like to point out that, thanks to Government encouragement, 73 per cent., I believe, of the beef we consume is now produced in this country. The Minister will, no doubt, make a statement in due course about the Verdon Smith Report.
Having listened to the speeches from the opposite side, I would repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) said, that they form a sort of rag-bag of accusations which do not add up to justification for the charges set out in the Motion. When I read the Motion I thought it was very unwise of the party opposite to make these charges, because the policy which my right hon. Friend is engaged in implementing is the right one, and it is the one most likely to provide long-term stability for British farming, as far as we are able to look ahead at present. It will certainly put a bottom in the market and will enable our people to go on getting food at reasonable prices.
It is, of course, a logical adaptation of the system of guaranteed prices with unrestricted food imports combined with anti-dumping duties which all responsible people, including the N.F.U., agreed to be best suited to the country's needs and to our responsibilities to the Commonwealth, but it had been breaking down latterly because world conditions have changed from conditions of shortage when the scheme was devised to the present-day conditions when there are surpluses in a great many countries. Of course, to get the right system of support for agriculture is the first priority, and hand in hand with that we have to get improved marketing. That is exactly what the Government are already helping to do under the 1963 Act and the new Agriculture and Horticulture Act which has just been passed.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) muttered something about this being a chance for the party opposite to declare its policy. I have been listening, and I am very disappointed, that the party opposite does not seem to have any coherent policy. Before the debate I searched "Signposts to the Sixties" very minutely to see whether there was anything about agriculture in it. There is not a word, any more than there is a word about defence. One would have thought that there would have been something in that document about these two very important subjects; but no, nothing at all.
It is very strange—though, perhaps it is not very strange, because on these two particular subjects the party opposite is strangely divided. As far as I can make out, apart from general references to a world food plan, combined with international commodity agreements and commodity commissions for cereals and livestock, we know very little of what that party has in mind and we have no details of how these things it proposes would work.
I am sometimes rather sorry for the hon. Member for Workington because we get people like the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—I regret that he is not here—saying that farmers can produce as much as they like because a Labour Government could easily dispose of it in a hungry world. I do not know how he would combine that with the policy of international commodity agreements. I do not think that one could combine the two. The hon. Member for Coventry, East did not reveal how it was to be done. He is a very brilliant man, mentally, but is not renowned for consistency.
Let us take three pegs on which the Socialist Party appears to hang its policy. First there is a world food programme under U.N.O. and the F.A.O. with the object of raising the level of nutrition in countries where nutrition is low. It is not the brain child of the party opposite. It has been going a long time, and the Government already support it, and we are, I believe, the third largest subscriber, but anyone who has talked to Dr. Boerma, who is in charge of it, will appreciate the practical difficulties and realise that, encouraging though progress is, one cannot expect rapid or spectacular results, and it would be quite dishonest to suggest that this is going to provide any magic or simple solution to the problems which confront Western European agriculture.
As for commodity agreements, the Government have for some time been discussing these under G.A.T.T. auspices. As for commodity commissions, one feels one must ask hon. Members opposite how exactly they would work and whether they would have powers to control imports. I hope we shall get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up, because control of imports, as far as I can see, is a responsibility which the Government and Parliament should not delegate to any outside body. I have a nasty feeling that what the party opposite is really hankering after is a return to its beloved system of controls, State trading, and bulk buying.
Long-term contracts, the virtue of which the party opposite is always ramming down our throats, can be very useful in certain conditions, but they are apt to lose their attraction in times of plenty. We have been told by some Socialists that the recent beef shortages could have been remedied by long-term contracts, but no amount of Socialist planning or long-term contracts can alter climate or prevent droughts in the Argentine, and, as for the beef shortage, as has been pointed out before, there were plenty of other forms of meat available.
This is probably the last debate on agriculture which we are likely to have in this Parliament, and, that being so, I should like to hand a bouquet to my right hon. Friend the Minister. There can be few more difficult jobs than that of Minister of Agriculture. My right hon. Friend is not unaccustomed to receiving brickbats: one cannot please all the farmers all the time; it seems to me that sometimes one cannot please any of them.
I would say that in these last years, with food surpluses increasing, my right hon. Friend has had a more than usually difficult task, because while we were quite rightly negotiating to see if we could get acceptable terms to go into the Common Market we could not, for obvious reasons, which some people did not see, make any alteration to our support system. So it was a most frustrating time, and I do not believe that even if the Archangel Gabriel had come down from heaven to become Minister of Agriculture at that time he would have made a better do of it than my right hon. Friend. It is all the more creditable that my right hon. Friend has been able to achieve what he has in this year.
Today the industry, I am sure, is in good heart. I am thankful to say that the small livestock farmer is in a much happier position than he has been for several years. This is very important in the West Country where I come from, as we have a preponderance of small livestock farmers there.
I should like to quote a letter from a farmer constituent whose comments are not always so complimentary, and I pass this on to my right hon. Friend. This is what he says:
In the farming world prospects are brighter than they have been for a year or two, and I should like to assure the Minister that in the West Country at least there is quiet confidence, which the industry so badly needed. At every market there is a good trade for all stock, and the future for milk and meat is very promising.
As a farmer myself in a small way, I believe this to be true, and when I look at my milk cheque and livestock sales I feel much happier.
What was the date of that letter?
About three weeks ago.
Yes, after the Price Review.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) referred to the question of hill cattle and hill cow subsidy. We know the importance of making the best use of our uplands in this country, and my right hon. Friend knows that I have been worried about this question of the review of the hill cow subsidy. We know that my right hon. Friend has a statutory obligation to review these subsidies and that he is anxious to do the right thing and to be fair. I sincerely trust that in any marginal case where there is doubt, the farmer will be given the benefit of the doubt and treated as generously as possible.
In paying tribute to my right hon. Friend for what he has done, I should like also to thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has been unfailingly sympathetic and helpful whenever I have brought my troubles and problems to him. The Minister has never courted publicity and whatever he has done, whether it has been popular or unpopular, he has done it believing it to be in the best interests of the industry. He has been a good steward and in the last year has laid the foundations of an effective long-term policy. I therefore hope and believe that the House will roundly reject the Motion.
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme), because what I want to say is fairly new to the debate. I say at once that I have no practical experience of agricultural production. I know very little about farming, but I know something about marketing and the distribution of agricultural produce. In particular, I know something about the distribution of meat, and I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the marketing of meat. I introduce into the debate the view of the distributor and, because of my knowledge of retail distribution, the view of the consumer and, because the taxpayer is affected, the view of the taxpayer.
There is a distinct danger of the debate being dominated by hon. Members who have an expert knowledge of farming, many of them with practical experience. It would be wrong for the debate to be so unbalanced and I propose to balance it by dealing with the view of the distributor and the consumer. I am glad to have heard the opinions of farmers on both sides of the House. I have been anxious to hear something of the controversy about the application of the deficiency payments system to large as against small farmers and especially to small hill farmers as against the large farmers.
I have been concerned about this because we have been told by the national Press that big business has invaded large-scale fanning which is rapidly becoming commercialised. I do not know whether that is true, but I am told that that is the tendency. If it is true, there arises the question of whether the original purpose of subsidising farming is still justified in those cases where there is intensive commercialism.
However, what I am eager to discover is whether those connected with the final business of agricultural produce, those who hand it over the shop-counter or deal with it on the butcher's block, are having as far a crack of the whip as the farmer. If in what has been a misapplication of the 1964 legislation, or a miscalculation of imports, the Minister has injured those people, injuring their businesses as well as their relations with the general public, which now believes that the high prices of meat revealed over the last few months mean that butchers have been overcharging, then I am glad to have the opportunity to contradict that impression.
I want the original idea of subsidising agriculture to be effective. I want there to be equity between the big and small producer and I want the use of the taxpayer's money to be reflected in the prices of meat, milk, bread, eggs and so on. I am not the only one thinking like that. That view is expressed in a leading article in The Guardian this morning. I do not grumble about British farmers being subsidised—indeed, before I have finished I shall have questioned whether the subsidies are enough—if subsidies keep prices stable and low and keep agriculture efficient.
Even though there have been great increases in the totals of subsidies over the last few years, I am not one of those who grumble about those totals, because I believe that subsidies have helped towards greater efficiency in British agriculture. I question whether they have yet met the need to keep prices low and stable commensurate with what has been paid.
I come from a non-agricultural district. The last farm in my area has now been sold because the farmer found that he could get more from ground rents for the new houses built on his land than he could from farming it. I have discussed the economic problems of this country with many industrial workers. They all agree that the payment of subsidies to agriculture has been justified, but they do not like the attitude adopted by the Government in recent times. They do not like the "go-as-you-please" attitude of the Government, because they consider that it has resulted in the Government adopting the motto that nothing matters.
The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) referred to the Minister adopting a disguise to enable him to put a certain point of view to the small farmer. Workers in the heavy industry think that the Minister must be very good at amateur dramatics, and that at the moment he is disguised as Micawber waiting for something to turn up. They take that view because they do not consider that they are getting a fair crack of the whip. They do not consider that the latest meat prices are justified in view of the subsidies which are being paid. They agree that it is right to pay subsidies to farmers, but only if those subsidies are properly controlled. They are convinced that something is wrong somewhere.
Two years ago the Minister brought in a Supplementary Estimate for about £98 million, £68 million of which was to subsidise cattle. At that time there was no problem about importing foreign cattle. There was a good flow, we were at the peak kill in this country, and bacon pigs were being fattened for pork and pushed on to the market. This resulted in the British taxpayer having to find an extra £68 million to meet the deficiency payment system. Johnnie Dubb, the British taxpayer, had to pay that extra £68 million. If the original idea for subsidising British agriculture had been really effective, the payment of that money would have been reflected in the price of meat. Paradoxically enough, the retail price of meat increased at a time when the heaviest subsidisation took place, so Johnnie Dubb had to pay twice—first in subsidies, and then in extra retail prices.
Three months ago the British taxpayer was faced with the reverse situation. Instead of there being a plethora of meat, there was a scarcity. The man in the street was told that as there had been a drought in the Argentine we could not get supplies from there. The Minister knows that we have told Australia and New Zealand to find new markets for their meat. They have turned to Japan, where they get a better wholesale price than they do in this country. The result is that, despite the increase in the numbers of our own cattle, we do not have enough meat to feed our people.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) quoted from page 36 of the Intelligence Bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Economic Committee. Page 35 of that document shows that the total cattle sold in Argentina this year was 25 per cent. down on last year. It is not simply a question of the distribution of exports. The problem arises from fewer cattle being available.
I shall deal with that point, but the fact is that Argentine exports to many Continental countries have been greater this year than for many years past. The 1964 Act led to the cutting oft of Argentine supplies at a time when they were vitally necessary here, and the scarcity led to increased prices.
I speak with knowledge of workers in the distributive trades, in the meat processing factories, and in slaughter houses. It was my job to help to organise these people, before I had the honour of being elected to this House. I have received reports from responsible trade union officers in every district of the country on the meat crisis of the last three months. If I may paraphrase these reports, they say that workers in wholesale meat distribution and those engaged in meat processing are suffering as a result of the meat crisis, as redundancies are common throughout the country. This happened at a time when we were nearing the peak kill. Slaughtermen who should have been working overtime were being sent home on what is called the fall back wage. Workers in the meat processing factories were dismissed as redundant. These serious effects were felt not only in the meat processing factories, but also in the bacon factories. The Minister knows that I have these reports. He has had them.
I do not say that I disapprove of the 1964 Act in general. It is right that the Government should have some control over imports. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen was very near the truth in what she said; the Minister cut off too many supplies at the wrong time. Even though a mistake was made, I approve of the 1964 Act. I believe that it may prove to be of general benefit.
My real purpose is speaking is to dispel the illusion that butchers were living in a financial paradise during the meat crisis. On 12 April this year an enterprising journalist went to an auction where a bullock was sold, and traced that bullock right through from the slaughterhouse to the butcher's block, weighing everything and comparing prices. He gave a factual report to his newspaper. I thought that I would do the same thing in respect of a bullock of the same weight, so I went to a butcher friend of mine and we traced a bullock— 20 months old and 952 lbs. on the hoof-right through until the stage where my butcher friend bought it from the wholesaler.
The farmer who sold the bullock did not get very much profit. Although, after 20 months of looking after it and spending about £70 or £71, he made a profit of only £20. That prompted me to think that our farm subsidies were not quite as good as they might be. The bullock eventually became two sides of beef; the hide, the offal, and the hoofs had disappeared. The carcase, or the two sides, then weighed about 530 lbs. The butcher then had to start trimming and boning, and by the time he had done that he had 410 lbs. of meat, for which he had paid 2s. 7½d. a lb. He paid about £69 for the whole carcase.
He had 410 lbs. of meat, and the price of the highest cut was 8s. 6d. a lb. Many people would think that he would get 8s. 6d. a lb. for the whole of the 410 lbs. Nothing of the kind. It is not possible to get so much fillet steak, rump steak and porterhouse steak out of one bullock. Half of that 410 lbs. he had to sell at less than cost price because it was rough stuff. When we finished reckoning up we found that he had made £11 on two sides of a bullock that had cost him £69.
Whatever the Verdon Smith Committee may say and whatever mistakes it may have made about the profits that go to the wholesaler, in terms of gross value, 1d. per lb. is usually charged, and this is reduced to ¼d. per lb. net. For a bullock of the type I have referred to the profit will be £1. Nor does the farmer make a tremendous profit. Therefore, in my view taking the situation as a whole the general public is not unfairly treated. Surely the time has come when what is happening on the production side of industry and the distribution side should be more fully revealed in the interests of an educated democracy, so that people may understand completely.
I do not wish to deal too harshly with the Government. I condemn them only for making a mistake. It was a costly mistake for some. When I visit old people in my constituency and ask them what they have to eat I find that rarely has it included the best cuts of meat. When old people who have—as most of them have—given of their best in the service of their country and industry—cannot afford to buy meat, at the time of life when they are going down the Western slope, something should be done to remedy such a serious state of affairs.
As was said in the leading article in The Guardian this morning, there should be a complete review of the system of production and distribution, so that there can be a more complete understanding on the part of the general public.
I hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) will forgive me if I do not follow him to closely into the intricacies of the meat trade apart from saying that he made a very energetic and interesting speech. I wish to refer to two outstanding speeches which might be regarded as the first and the last, namely; the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), with which he began his Parliamentary life, and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), which will probably be his last Parliamentary speech. I reiterate what has been said by other hon. Members, that we hope to hear the hon. Member for Faversham on many future occasions.
To be perhaps more controversial, I wish to record my regret that the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) should have referred to the ex-president of the National Farmers' Union in the way in which she did. I knew Mr. Turner, as he was then, extremely well, and in common with many other people who met him when he was president I have the utmost confidence in him.
This has been a varied and an interesting debate. The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) took us through the "paddy fields" of Wales and the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) went into great detail about an egg-processing plant in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Knowing my hon. Friend, we may be sure that this matter can be safely left in his hands to be dealt with impartially and fairly without the hon. Member for Devon, North sticking a long and inquiring nose into it. I should have thought that there were quite a number of matters in North Devon, some of which have made headlines in the national Press, to which the hon. Member could well turn with more satisfaction to his constituents and possibly to Members of Parliament who are responsible for adjoining areas.
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) is being less than fair to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). He drew attention to a case concerning action by the Egg Marketing Board. There was no reflection on the Parliamentary Secretary. Those of us who know something of the case felt that the hon. Member for Devon, North made a good point in suggesting that there should be some further inquiry.
I am obliged to the hon. Member far his views. Of course, one can interpret the action of the hon. Member for Devon, North in differing ways. Some of us think that he might have read about the case for the first time in the newspapers on Sunday and believed that he could get a bit of publicity out of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
All hon. Members, particularly those on this side of the House, are extremely grateful to the Opposition for releasing a Supply Day for this debate. It is true to say that the countryside has never been in better trim than it is today. It is also true that in the past 10 years farmers—and many of us on both sides of the House live close to the land—have grown to have more confidence in their Government—
—than they ever had in the years 1946 to 1951 when farmers could sell whatever they grew. Today they are producing under entirely different conditions.
It is so much more difficult to produce goods and satisfy those who produce them from the land when in many parts of the world there is a surplus of food. That is quite different from satisfying farmers when people will virtually eat anything that the farmers turn out. The picture is very different today. Production statistics do not lie. Production has increased, fertility yields have improved, and efficiency has improved beyond imagination. This largely is due to the imagination of successive Conservative Governments who have encouraged and financed modernisation throughout the industry.
The old picture of the perhaps gaitered farmer or farm rustic is still with us, but in the fields in the past decade he has been joined by a younger, more vigorous man dressed in a boiler suit or a pair of blue overalls, who in his way is a mechanical wizard. The picture of the old farmer with his stick is slowly being replaced by that of the more versatile, younger man in overalls. That transformation is not the result of an accident but has been encouraged by successive Conservative legislation.
Referring again to modernisation, I point out that increased efficiency in agriculture in the past decade has amounted to about £250 million in total. It does not need a statistician of the calibre of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to work out that in another 10 years at this rate under good Conservative Government efficiency will improve by another £250 million. At that rate, we shall be going a long way to providing still the cheapest and best food in the world, with the greatest variety for the British housewife, but at the same low prices in the future without the same amount of Government support as has been given in the past.
The hon. Gentleman has drawn a picture of successive Tory Governments bringing about an evolution from the old style farmer to the man in the boiler suit. This has occurred in every country in the world, even in Communist countries. It has nothing to do with Tory Governments.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to Scotland when he speaks of every other country in the world. All I can say is that many farms in the great majority of countries on the Continent of Europe have never felt the wheels of the petrol engine vehicle or the tractor. There is a vast difference.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) is no fool.
Would my hon. Friend say that about the hon. Gentleman?
I see the hon. Member for Workington looking a little surprised. However, he knows that in this Conservative basket of eggs there are no bad ones to pull out. Many of us on this side were wondering why he had chosen this subject for discussion, and, before we heard him, we thought he might take the opportunity to elaborate the new, vital and vivid Socialist policy for agriculture which awaits an expectant Britain.
We waited with interest to hear what he would say, but we heard virtually nothing at all about Socialist policy. We heard very little of the detail of the 15 points to which the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) referred in his speech at Swaffham, which, we understood, represented the blueprint for a Socialist agricultural policy for the coming years. I shall, therefore, be unique on this side of the House, perhaps, in referring to that speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He will forgive me if I do not go through it all. I wish to refer to the summary at the end of it and ask him whether he will be good enough, for the benefit of the House and the country, to elaborate some of the matters which are not as clear as we should like.
The fifteenth point is:
A Socialist policy would considerably widen the scope of the Forestry Commission for the benefit of all employed in the industry.
That sounds laudable enough, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the past year or two, an expanded forestry programme has been agreed upon which now calls for the planting of 450,000 acres over a ten-year period as opposed to 300,000 acres before.
Second, how will the additional land be obtained? Is it to be confiscated by compulsory powers, as, I understand, is suggested in the Scottish version of "Signposts for the Sixties", whether people want to dispose of their land or not? We should like to know whether land is to be nationalised for this purpose.
The hon. Gentleman asks, "Why not nationalise the land in Scotland?" Perhaps that is what the hierarchy of his party think. But I want to know what the right hon. Gentleman thinks, because he, I believe, speaks a little more for the Labour Party as a whole.
Only a little more.
The second point which intrigues many of us on this side is in Socialist land commission. Farmers, especially if the Socialists come to power, face a pretty sticky time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] At one end of the scale, farmers near towns, villages or any built-up areas—there are many thousands of such farmers—will have all their fringe land confiscated by some statutory body. At what cost will that land be taken from the agricultural community? Will this statutory body compensate the farmers at less than the price they paid for it? At the other end of the scale, if a farmer wants to leave his farm, apparently the land commission will take over the farm and presumably put another person in it and let him carry on farming under the auspices of the State.
It seems to me that there will be two types of land confiscation, whatever the Socialists call it—first, the peripheral land round villages, towns and developing areas; and, secondly, willy-nilly, here and there, even in South Ayrshire, land is to be confiscated by people farming and put to some dubious use by the State.
Another point which amuses me considerably in the summary by the Socialist Party of its agricultural policy is point No. 3, which is that they will ensure the sensible regulation of the major food imports through commodity commissions. Actually, it does not amuse me. It frightens me to think of the Socialist commodity commissions—their cereal commissions, their meat commissions. A member of the Socialist Party has said that one of the first things the Socialists will do when they form their meat commission is get rid of all the slaughterhouses and centralise the slaughterhouse policy in two or three big State-owned abattoirs.
This gives me an opportunity to compare this wholesale confiscation policy of the Socialists with the policy the Conservative Government have followed since the Slaughterhouse Act, 1958. We have encouraged the small slaughterhouse man to remain in business, provided that he is efficient. In my constituency, there is a small slaughterhouse man who caters for two or three villages. The Government have made him, much against his will, spend almost £5,000 on new equipment—chilling equipment, refrigeration equipment, and sanitary arrangements in his slaughterhouse to bring it up to date.
Who is he?
The butcher concerned is Marcus Stevens, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to know. This butcher has been asked to spend nearly £5,000 on this project of making a really good first-class slaughterhouse. The Conservative Government do not believe in their complete abolition because they happen to be nuisances under the centralisation of the whole slaughterhouse industry under two or three State-owned corporations. On the contrary, the Conservative Government have encouraged the small man to remain, if he is efficient and does a good job.
I have had the chance to mention only three of the main points in the Socialist fabrication for agriculture. Before I close, I want to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton). The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I know, if I, as one who has attended these agricultural debates pretty frequently, say that I have heard previously one or two of the points he made so ably and efficiently. In particular, I hear the tied cottage plea by the hon. Member every time with irritation. He thinks that this is something of which the Conservative Party should be ashamed, but has he really gone into this matter? What is the difference between a tied cottage for, say, a tractor driver and one in which the country policeman lives? What is the difference between one tied cottage and another which the vicar has for his rectory?
Will the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West tell me the difference between the tied house in which the village school teacher lives and the tied cottage which is the home of the local bank manager? I am sure that, on reflection, the hon. Member will see that there are many industries and jobs where tied houses are essential.
Since the hon. Member has asked me so many questions, will he tell me of one instance where a vicar, bank manager, policeman or school teacher living in a tied cottage has been turned out of it with nowhere to go?
Order. The hon. Gentleman has spoken once and it is not in order for him to try to make another speech.
Although I did not find the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) completely agreeable, he was, at least, the first hon. Member opposite not only to ask questions about our policy but to appear to have taken the trouble to have read the speech which I made almost a year ago, at Swaffham, for the purpose of stating our position. He had certainly read it, but I wish that I could say that he had understood it. However, I am grateful for his having read it.
For me, coming back to these fields which I used to walk, after so many years, is a very great pleasure. It is also rewarding to find that the problems one left behind so long ago are still being trotted out, indicating that the Government have still not yet found answers to them. Although it is a long time since I last walked these fields, I must say that I used to regard these matters, as I still do, as of vital importance to the national economy. My entry into the debate today leads me to say that these matters are still of extreme importance to the nation.
I am sure that the whole House will join me in saying how impressed we were by the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston). It may be a partisan observation to say that he won a most gallant and distinguished victory. But it is by no means partisan to say that all hon. Members were impressed by his first speech here. I have told him privately how impressed I was and that he did very much better than I did when I made my maiden speech. I hope that these remarks will encourage him to enter our debates regularly in future.
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland was in some respects astonishing. It could be divided into three parts. First, his speech was fairly consistent with that of any of his colleagues might make nowadays—wholly complacent. He gave the impression that there was no problem, no shortage of food supplies, no high prices in the shops and no bother about future production. Everything was being beautifully done, according to the right hon. Gentleman. All I need say is that his remarks need not be answered by me. He was effectively, elegantly and vigorously answered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), whose answer was more valuable for the purpose of debating than mine would be, particularly that part of his speech in which he spoke about beef supplies.
The second part of the Secretary of State's speech dealt with the residual problems. He went on for a very long time reciting problems that are not only 13 years old, but on many of which I remember being given very much the same brief rather more than 13 years ago. He trotted them out in much the same terms, and they are clearly still problems 13 years after the Conservatives succeeded us as the Government.
The third part of the right hon. Gentleman's compound was what was quite clearly 10 minutes of Central Office political padding—the obvious sub-heading was "Part III 'We want to know.'" I must say that for men who have not been able to find an answer to a single one of the problems we left behind 13 years ago to say that they want from us, in a few weeks, answers to all the problems that they are leaving behind seems to be going rather far.
It is time that this came to an end. We get it in every debate, and it is not peculiar to the Conservatives. It has happened before. They are not the first Administration, in their dying days, to think of the device of asking the Opposition, who are clearly about to become the Government, what they would say. It was done before them. It was done by the Labour Party towards the end of our period of government, and it was answered classically by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). I commend this answer to the Minister of Agriculture and also to the Prime Minister.
The right hon. Member for Woodford was speaking as Leader of the Opposition in a debate in which, quite clearly—I have not read the whole debate, but it is apparent from the context—a number of hon. Members on the Government side had been asking, "Tell us what you will do." The right hon. Gentleman said:
What was the reply of the Government? It was the same as they are so anxious to use today, namely, ' Please say exactly what your economies would be.' They do not ask this in order to gain good advice but in order that their canvassers at by-elections, or at a General Election, can go from door to door and endeavour to accuse"—
us, in this case—
of being the enemies of social welfare and improvement.
The right hon. Gentleman ended that part of his speech by saying:
That has certainly been the atmosphere in this debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1622.]
He might have been speaking about this debate.
That was the third part of the Secretary of State's speech, and it has already been dealt with. We have had it for so many years. I imagine that if we went back to the days of Gladstone and Disraeli, or as far back as we like, we would still find it—the old froth of debate.
The issues that we really have to discuss are stated in part in The Guardian this morning. They are, first, the ensuring of supplies of food to the consumers, and, secondly, the prices in the shops—not in Smithfield Market, as the Secretary of State said. I do not know about Scotland, but here in London the housewives do not buy in Smithfield. What we must have in mind are the prices at which the food arrives at and is charged to the housewives in the shops. The Guardian thought that to be the whole story, but it is only part.
The issues we have to settle go further. They involve the conditions of production—that is, rewards, terms of work, return on capital for the farmers, and the conditions of the farm workers, the reconciliation of that with our necessary external trade policy, and the contribution that the taxpayer—no matter that he is also consumer—should be required to make to them.
In dealing with these issues, there have been some reflections in the debate to which I would refer. There has been a good deal of emphasis on the expansion in agricultural production for which this industry has been responsible. I heard particularly the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton), among others, on this subject. Of course, it is absolutely true. I myself quoted at the Guildhall, at the opening of the Dairy Exhibition, the very figures to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State referred. There has been a tremendous expansion by the agricultural industry, far beyond anything that the rest of the nation understands. I entirely agree about all this. Our balance of payments problem would look absolutely impossible but for the tremendous expansion for which the industry is responsible. There would be no chance of touching that problem but for this expansion.
But the point is—I do not think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite really face up to this—that this expansion has been left very much to chance already. It has occurred in all kinds of unrelated parts of the industry, and it has caused problems which have always been dealt with only after the event. It has been unrelated to the world food situation and to the level of prices and, consequent upon that, of taxpayers' payments.
The Government have continually been trying to deal with the expansion subsequent to its happening, and this has led to the tremendous fluctation in producers' prices and the general downward trend in producers' incomes over the last few years'. Although we applaud the production expansion, many a farmer—particularly many a small farmer and many a farm worker—has had cause to regret it because of the farm price changes which have been made in the subsequent Price Reviews.
Another thing which has characterised the debate has been the repeated references to the 1947 Act and the claim from the Government Benches that we are all 1947 "Acters" now. We are aware that we are all land nationalisers now. The Minister of Housing and Local Government is one of the great land nationalisers. We are all planners and 1947 "Acters" now. One would never believe that in the Standing Committee we went through enormous agonies to get the essential Part I of the Act through against total and maintained opposition all the way through.
But my criticism is not that the Tories have come to the repentance stool and confessed. One must hope for that, even on the part of Tories. My criticism is that they have not maintained the 1947 Act. The price guarantees provided for in the Act have been abandoned. The 1957 Act did that. Part II, the other half of the bargain—the provision for efficiency on the part of the producers—has been repealed. The Tories repealed that one because they abandoned the other.
The provisions about tenant security and rent control have been abandoned. Part IV of the Act, which provided for a smallholdings ladder for the small man, has been made totally nugatory by the Tories. The right hon. Gentleman well knows this because he has had a conflict with me about the way in which he has been treating the Derbyshire Smallholdings Committee, which wanted to do the job and has been totally prevented by him.
So the Tories have destroyed the Act, the Act which they tried to oppose when it came in. They have destroyed it during its lifetime. All this sudden pretence that they are in favour of the Act is merely something put up for the greater misleading, as they would hope, of the farmers during the coming General Election. The consequences of all this have fallen on the taxpayers, the consumers, the producers and the distributors, and it is not a bad thing to look at how they have fallen.
As for the taxpayer, the consequence of the Government's agricultural policy has been that his requirement for support has gone up by about £100 million—almost 50 per cent.—in the last 10 years. The prices to the consumer have gone up. One can go over a whole range of things from bread to meat, taking in butter, milk, sugar, tea and margarine on the way, and the prices of these commodities have gone up by anything from one and a half to two or three times in the same period. The taxpayer is paying half as much again, and so is the consumer. The producer's returns have gone down by about 17 per cent. in real terms—not in money terms—since 1951.
If one analysed the situation a bit closer and looked at the N.F.U. farm account scheme, one would find that the actual amount that is left as a return on capital in that period is hardly existent. The taxpayer is paying more, the consumer is paying more, and the producer is getting less. What is the answer to this equation? The answer is in the distributor, and it is quite fascinating to look at the Verdon Smith Report and the N.F.U. survey on the question of distributors' margins. Whereas everybody else is paying more or receiving less, the distributors' margins—that is, retailers and wholesalers—for meat have gone up by anything from one-third to one-half, and in the case of the cereal people by anything from 64 per cent. to 100 per cent. These are the men who have gained out of this policy. I repeat—the taxpayer up, the consumer up, the producer down. The only beneficiaries from this policy have been the distributors and, for the most part, the wholesalers.
Present agricultural policy makes little or no contribution to the solution of problems that face us and which have been mentioned by hon. Members opposite. I was immensely impressed when I heard the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton. The tremendous problem of the hungry nations of the world is with us and will be ahead of us for years to come. It is a problem which is compounded of many things but, in part, of getting some food surpluses from the well-developed agricultural nations to those other countries. Our present agricultural policy makes no contribution to that at all. Indeed, at the very point where we might be about to produce a surplus, action is taken by the Government to stop it.
The policy makes no contribution to the problem of the under-developed nations, the poor nations, which might also be the hungry nations. This is a different problem. The poor nations have primary products to sell, and they therefore need long-term contracts, assurances and security. The policy makes no provision for them. In a sense we are making things worse because the agreement which the Minister made not so long ago with the Australians and others was that we should provide a floor from which we could buy from them, but no ceiling. It is not surprising that when Mr. Khrushchev was asked, "Please do not sell wheat to us below X price" he simply could not understand the ways of capitalism.
There was a time when I could not understand this. I sympathise with Mr. Khrushchev. Once I could not understand him. In this case, I can. He said that he could not understand why the suppliers should be asked, "Please do not supply us cheaply; please charge us more". We are saying, "We will put a floor in, but we will not put a ceiling in". We are putting ourselves in an impossible position with the developed nations, but we are making no contribution to the under-developed nations.
The third respect in which the agricultural policy of the Government is making no contribution is this. It has brought to a virtual halt the reorganisation and redevelopment of home agriculture. The Government have virtually adopted a Pontius Pilate attitude of washing their hands of reorganisation and redevelopment of our home farming. It is quite true that the election year review—I was fascinated to see the way in which some hon. Members hid behind the electioneering review—like the Price Reviews conducted in previous election years, has partially obscured the view. I think that I am right in saying that the only time that we get an agreed review is in an election year.
Despite that, there is surely no doubt that over the last 13 years the Conservatives have increased the farmers' problems without helping the interests of the consumer, the taxpayer or the overseas supplier, and especially the Commonwealth overseas supplier. I emphasise that, while all of those who come from what the hon. Member for Harborough called "the shires" think a lot of our farmers, let us keep in mind when debating agricultural policy in this House that it is as much a matter of the consumer and the taxpayer as it is of our constituents in the shires.
The issues for settlement, if we can settle them, seem to me to be these. First, to establish the headings of a policy which will resolve or mitigate the conflict which clearly exists between the interests of the taxpayer, consumer and producer. It seems to us that the way to do that is by restoring long-term confidence and belief in stability of market and prices to the producers; to ensure that the consumers benefit out of this by virtue of guarantees of supplies and stability of price; to justify it all to the taxpayer in terms of better use of basic national resources; and an ability to align our external trade and even foreign policy aims with home market economic direction and development.
I need not spend more time proving that the Government have failed to do any of those. The major interest on the benches opposite today has, once again, almost flatteringly, been in how we would deal with it, and how we will deal with it, in a few weeks' time.
As the hon. Member for Harborough pointed out, in a speech on 17th July last which I am surprised hon. Members opposite have not paid mote attention to, I set out the matter in a number of points In the time remaining to me I will rapidly go through them again.
More rapidly then ever.
Hon. Members opposite do not mind spending six hours in asking the questions. The thought that I would give any answers is an awful nuisance to them.
The trouble is that we know all this stuff, but we want it spelled out in greater detail.
The hon. Gentleman—and he is not unique in this—spoke before he thought.
I will give as much time to this as I can. There are six broad headings of the policy that we will do our best to implement when we come to power. First, we must attach much more importance to and somehow try to succeed much better than hon. Members opposite have done in establishing a world food plan.
Nobody imagines that this is solely in our hands—of course it is not—but much greater leadership must come from here. This involves two different things. One is the production and distribution of surpluses from the developed agricultural countries, of whom we are one, as an attack on hunger and the second is the negotiating of long-term commodity agreements for our requirements with the underdeveloped primary producers overseas.
I recognise that proposals have been made at Geneva by the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade, but, alas, they are so late. We are all a bit cynical in this country about the deathbed repentances of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. People overseas are much more so. The proposals which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman at Geneva are so late and so timid and there is so little for which they provide. Secondly, we have to provide an orderly and integrated machinery for the assessment of our own requirements and possible supplies and for the marketing of those supplies. Around this has turned a good deal of the discussion from the Government side of the House today.
We have said that there are two ways of doing that. They are complementary. One is by setting up commodity commissions and the other is encouraging the industry to establish rather more producer boards with real marketing powers. I do not mean some of the half-baked things that pass for marketing boards these days. Nobody will want me to defend the case for producer marketing boards. I am sure that we are at one on this problem. The problem with right hon. and hon. Members opposite seems to me to be about commodity commissions. In paragraph 16 of the speech which I made at Swaffham, rather more than a year ago, which must have been analysed in the Ministry, I set out the way in which I thought that commodity commissions could work. There are a variety of ways in which they coud operate.
One of the functions of a commodity commission is to work for the Minister, who, obviously, would retain full and final power. Ultimate decisions must be those of the Minister. They could not be anything other in any Government. The commodity commissions must have the duty of assessing supplies and requirements and, subject ultimately to the decisions of Ministers, the integrating of the home supplies, which are obtained via the home producer boards, and the overseas supplies, which may be wholly or in part obtained by the commodity commission, and then integrated and traded in by the private trade or by the commodity commission. It could be either.
It sounds a mess.
I rather waited for that; I was sure that somebody would say it.
I wonder whether right hon. and hon. Members opposite have looked at the way in which the Sugar Board operates. There is a Sugar Board—I see the Prime Minister nodding—which is in the same position as a commodity commission. It could be called a commission. There is a Sugar Corporation, which could be called a marketing board. The Sugar Board buys from overseas—the Commonwealth—and the Sugar Corporation buys from home. The private trade buys anything else from overseas, "Mr. Cube" is happy and Tate and Lyle stays in business.
The Sugar Board operates for the community. There is a price pooling arrangement. There are long-term contracts for our suppliers, there are long-term contracts for our producers here at home and the whole thing works.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say—this is a genuine inquiry—how that would have helped in the recent meat situation? Whatever arrangement we had with the Argentine, it could not have helped. A commodity commission could not deal with that sort of situation.
The hon. Member thought that it was a mess, but, quite clearly, it works at the moment, and it could work in other fields, too. There are a number of other ways in which it could work, as I set out originally. It would work with any other commodity. Hon. Gentlemen think it is funny to mimic and to put their fingers up. If I knew the hon. Gentleman's constituency I would name him. It is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells). I am sure this his constituents would think that two fingers held up like that is not upholding them.
It can be done in other ways with other commodities, but there are just three or four other things which I should like to deal with.
The third thing we would do would be to maintain the Price Review, not simply as it is done now, but we should return to the idea of prices for assured quantities and try to move away from this terrible annual fight over the whole field, and to move as quickly as we could with long-term global decisions, but with annual changes with changes in production costs and other things of that kind—which is not what is done now. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to say that is not what is done now.
Fourthly, we should give much more assistance and encouragement to producers—in research, through the Agricultural Research Council, and so on, and an extension of it through the advisory service which I think the Conservative Party quite wantonly reduced in the field of its operation; through greater training facilities for farmers and farm workers; through much greater credit provisions, which my noble Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) was talking about, for small fanners, and also for cooperatives for requisites, operations and sales.
Fifthly, we would have arrangements to enable those who, because they are marginal farmers, or are farming marginal land—and the two things are quite different—or have holdings which are too small, wish to go out, to go out decently, through the land commission paying them annuities or lump-sum payments, and assuming their land, thus being able to help the regrouping of units to make it easier for young would-be farmers, who are competent and have the capital, to get land.
Finally, we should insist upon much better conditions for the employed workers. We know that the number of employed workers on the land must decrease. We recognise that it is decreasing and will decrease. The tragic thing is that far too big a proportion of the decrease is among those aged between 25 and 41. I think that I am right in saying that it is about 50 per cent. of the whole. It is certainly very large. Yet it is that very age-group we want to retain on the land. This is partly a matter of wages, partly a matter of conditions. I am glad to repeat now in the House what I said outside, that a Labour Government would introduce legislation to ensure that the agricultural wages board can bring in sick pay schemes for farm workers.
We would end the tied cottage tragedy. That does not mean not recognising that tied cottages are required. [Laughter.] That sort of giggle shows the incompetence of hon. Members opposite. Tied cottages there will always have to be for a limited number of jobs on the land, but it means recognising that evictions cannot take place until alternative accommodation has been found. It means providing a genuine farm ladder of opportunities via small holdings for good workers in an industry where opportunites for becoming managerial people are so few.
This is our answer to the problem. These are the headings of an agricultural policy which would make sense for those who live in the shires, for farming, whether farmers or farm workers, and all others, who, as consumers or taxpayers, are very dependent on this vital area of our economy.
I trust that the Motion will be supported in the Division Lobby.
I am delighted to be able to add my congratulations: to those of many who have spoken in the debate to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) on his most thoughtful maiden speech, which all of us who were lucky enough to hear it enjoyed, not only for its matter but for the manner in which it was delivered. Like the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), I have had the opportunity of saying this privately to the hon. Member, and we hope that in the immediate future we will hear him often.
The hon. Member referred to the need for encouraging housing and industrial development to take place on the worse, as opposed to the better, agricultural land. I agree with him. This is a most important matter, and I assure him that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I and our officials are always in the closest touch to ensure that when agricultural land is taken, as of course it must be with an expanding population and the industry which goes with it, whenever possible development is channelled towards the worse as opposed to the better agricultural land. The hon. Gentleman referred, in particular, to the Isle of Sheppey in his constituency, and he will of course know that the Isle of Sheppey has some of the better land in his county.
On a Supply day a year ago we had a debate on agriculture, during which I told the House of the changes which the Government intended to make in their arrangements for food and agriculture both at home and abroad. The debate ranged widely over the fortunes and interests of the industry as a whole. In that debate, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said:
We endorse the main principle of policy which has now been accepted by the Minister and put forward by him today …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 455.]
There was no Division at the end of that debate.
Today, a year later, the Opposition have put down a Motion:
The right hon. Gentleman based it, first, on the assertion that the consumer was not getting value out of these arrangements; secondly, that we had not moved towards world food agreements and the channelling of food towards the poorer nations; and, thirdly, that agriculture had not prospered over these years as it should have done. I should like to say a word on each.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the last major debate on this subject on 22nd May, 1963. On that occasion we moved to reduce his salary.
But when we came to debate the measures which we had put forward flowing from this, the hon. Gentleman accepted—though I am sure that there were many of his right hon. and hon. Friends who did not readily do so—the line of policy as set out by the Government.
Dealing with consumer interest, the right hon. Gentleman said that prices had risen in the shops and that the consumer had not benefited. He said that the only person who had benefited was the trader. How have prices risen in recent years? Between 1959 and 1963 the all-items index rose by 2·6 per cent. per annum on average. The food index rose by 1·8 per cent. per annum on average—considerably less than the all-items index. This is because we have the advantage of this particular and unique system of agricultural support; but the fact remains that it has worked, and the food index has risen notably less than the all-items index.
Of course it is difficult to compare like with like in different years, but as the right hon. Gentleman is saying that everything was marvellous in the garden when he and his party left office and that now it is so much worse, it is worth pointing out that between 1948 and 1952 the reverse was the case. The all-items index rose on average about 6 per cent. a year, and the food index rose by 10 per cent. a year. I do not want to make too much of that point, but I think that it ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman to assert that everything was going splendidly then and that it has gone a lot worse from the point of the consumer since he left office.
Why not bring the figures up-to-date by giving the 1964 figures?
The right hon. Gentleman talked about world agreements. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] All that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is going to ask is what happened in 1964. I have not got the figures, but I am certain that the same thing happened in these few years.
The right hon. Gentleman made much of the fact that we have been in power for all these years and that there are no world agreements. It takes more than one country to make a world agreement. The right hon. Gentleman also asked what part the Government had played in working towards a responsible world food policy. We are the biggest commercial market for food in the world, and in the past year we have obtained an agreement on cereals with a number of major agricultural producing countries. We have also made a market sharing agreement on bacon. We have also gone a long way, and in fact we have won agreement in principle, over meat supplies in general. There is no other country which has taken it as far as this. We have discussed this agreement in the Kennedy Round in G.A.T.T.; we hope that out of this will grow further agreements. As all hon. Members know, the Kennedy Round and G.A.T.T. are labouring under many difficulties, but we have made our position abundantly clear.
Then there was the United Nations Trade and Development Conference, at which my right hon. Friend put forward a number of propositions. That conference was also going forward fairly stickily, and it is quite understandable that that should be so, because so many interests are pulling in different directions. But, if any country could be said to have taken a lead in this conference, it was this country with the policies of Her Majesty's Government, as put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development.
We are the third largest contributor to the World Food Programme. Our contribution is small at the moment, but that is because the United Nations, which is running the programme, realises that this is a matter where one cannot simply jump in and say, "Let everybody grow as much food as he likes; we shall channel it to the poorer coun- tries". The programme must be organised and properly arranged, and this is being done by Dr. Boerma. I do not believe that anyone who has met Dr. Boerma and discussed the programme with him thinks that he is running it in any other than the right way. Dr. Boerma and the F.A.O. know the support that they have had and will continue to have from Her Majesty's Government in the development of this world food programme.
We share the feeling expressed by hon. Members opposite of some disappointment that more progress has not been made towards further world food agreements, but I do not believe that anyone can say that this Government have not played their part, and more than played their part, in working towards that end.
The next most common theme running through the debate concerned marketing.
In 1958 agreements were made with New Zealand and Australia, to operate until 1967, for the import of commodities. Those agreements came to an end during the Common Market negotiations, with the result that Commonwealth commodity arrangements were in a state of upheaval. We have not heard anything from the Minister about the way in which the Government upset the agricultural world by their action.
Of course, this is not true. The agreements were not upset. They are still in existence. They were not upset by the Common Market negotiations in any way whatsoever.
On the question of marketing, horticultural products, cereals and meat are the three major commodities which require help. It has been generally agreed that as a result of the Act we passed this year we have gone a long way, with the modernising of horticultural markets, grants for growers and co-operatives and the preparations for the introduction of grading. We had all this in great detail in Committee, but there was precious little to show that the party opposite could think of any additions to our proposals. [Interruption.] As the Bill has come before the House on Third Reading—[Interruption.] I agree that many changes were suggested by hon. Members on both sides in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I meant that I do not believe that in the Third Reading debate hon. Members opposite made many more suggestions.
The question of marketing in cereals and meat is a big subject, which merits a debate of its own. Improvements in the marketing of both cereals and meat must be made. First, we need better market intelligence—more of it and its better dissemination—and, secondly, we need a more even flow of goods from our farms to the markets. These are the two major features which are called for, and it is towards these that we are working.
We have not had a report on cereals similar to the Report of the Verdon Smith Committee on meat, but I believe that here there is considerable scope. There must be agreement between the farmers and the trade, those who have to operate the machinery, and I believe that with such agreement it is possible to obtain improvement in marketing information and to have a better plan. Equally is this so in respect of meat, and here we have the benefit of advice from the Verdon Smith Committee on meat marketing, which is much more complex.
The hon. Member for Workington made great play of the fact that as yet there has been no announcement of the Government's decision on the Report of the Verdon Smith Committee. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this matter with some sense of responsibility. The Committee took two years to produce its ideas. So far we have had three months not only to consider and analyse the ideas of the Committee on this complex industry and the recommendations it has made, but also to seek the views of the many interests concerned.
Some discussions have taken place between us and more will be needed—
The right hon. Gentleman challenged me.
—and all interests are equally anxious that there should be a right solution. For this more time is needed. In answer to the hon. Member for Workington—I think I know the point he was going to put to me, and I think I can answer without having the benefit of his question—for this more time is needed, and I cannot and will not pin down the Government to any fixed date.
The public is entitled to know.
It will be you next time.
May I say a quick word upon the question of a commodity commission. The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) told us that he was answering a question by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about what the Labour Party meant by a commodity commission. In fact, I think that the hon. Gentleman was telling us what he meant by a commodity commission. This has been put out in the Liberal plan for farming. Target prices would be decided each year. A commodity commission for cereals and meat would come on to the market and prevent prices falling below the target price. This would be a commodity commission such as has existed in Europe, with target prices that are high in our estimation. The commodity commission takes a lot of meat off the market to ensure that the price remains the same and would mean the end of the 1947 and 1957 Acts.
When the right hon. Member for Belper—
—was talking about a commodity commission he genuinely tried to explain to the House what he had in mind. He spoke about sugar and said that we should have something rather like the Sugar Board—
I said we may have.
All right, we may have something like the Sugar Board, presumably for meat and for cereals. Of course, the Sugar Board is in operation in order to enable the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to continue. For nine years out of 10 it has been buying sugar, because of the obligations we feel towards sugar-producing countries, at roughly double the world price of sugar. If this is the concept for a meat commission and a cereals commission there will be a very happy time for the consumer in this country.
For sugar and for the small sugar-producing countries of the Commonwealth it has paid enormous dividends. It is right and proper that the Government should have introduced and kept to the Agreement, but the extent to which Mauritius and the West Indies depend on sugar for a livelihood and our responsibilities towards them are totally different from having a meat commission on the same basis dealing with the Argentine.
But we are buying from the Commonwealth.
We are now hearing that the commissions are to buy from the Commonwealth, but only from the Commonwealth. How then is the Argentine to send her meat here? I do not think we are a lot "forrarder" on this.
What is the situation in the agricultural industry which has led the Opposition to put down this Motion? The change in the world commercial food markets from a situation of basic under-supply in the post-war years to that of today of potential and not infrequent over-supply has meant that if we were to maintain the advantages of our food and agriculture policy while keeping the costs within the bounds in regard to the taxpayer and the Exchequer, we had first to persuade overseas suppliers to give up rights to unrestricted entry of foodstuffs to cur markets. Secondly, our farmers needed to adapt their thoughts and plans to lay greater emphasis on business management rather than on production almost regardless of cost, which has rightly been the doctrine to which they have been accustomed for a long period of years.
It was not easy to reconcile the different interests which our home producers and overseas suppliers have in our markets and fit that into the national interests. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) said, I believe we can claim to have moved a long way this year towards doing that. The alterations we made in our home arrangements were incorporated in the outcome of this year's Review and were done in agreement with the farmers unions. We have made agreements on bacon and cereals with overseas suppliers which imposed limitations, in the first place, quantitatively and in the second place, fiscally on their levels of exports to us. What is more, in the difficult and complex negotiations in the Kennedy Round in the G.A.T.T. the international arrangements which we have made are being widely talked about and considered as a suitable pattern for wider international agreements.
In the general national interest, we can now look forward to continuing with our system of agricultural support adapted as it has been without imposing an undue or unexpected charge on the Exchequer and the taxpayer and can expect it to provide the advantages of comparatively cheap food in a way which no other agricultural support system is capable of doing. What are the fortunes of the agricultural industry itself?
Few, indeed, are the countries which are satisfied with the relationship between the incomes of their agricultural population and those of workers in the rest of the economy, especially in times when agricultural production is tending to rise faster than consumer demand. But in this respect we can at least say that, thanks to the efforts and skills of our farmers and farm workers working within the broad lines of policy dictated by the Government, we are high in the international league table. I believe that only Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands have a better record than ourselves in this respect.
The general tendency throughout the whole of the economy in recent years has been towards larger and, therefore, fewer units of production, and agriculture has been no exception. The industry's productivity and incomes have been rising, and the larger income has been shared among fewer farmers.
At this point, I say a word about the different sections of the industry. Dairy farmers, who in recent years have been through difficult times, with a price squeeze essentially because their production was rising so much faster than demand. The industry have now got these two factors into proper balance again and they are reaping the benefit from it. The pool price last month was 4d. higher than it was two years ago.
Our pig herd, which had traditionally fluctuated wildly both in terms of numbers and in terms of profitability, is now under the steadying influence of the flexible guarantee arrangements and all pig producers are benefiting from this. Thanks to our bacon agreement, the quantities to be imported from abroad are now limited and controlled.
Our beef herd, together with the offspring from the dairy herd, today satisfies about 70 per cent. of our requirements for beef, a higher percentage than ever before, and with the two increases we have made in the guaranteed price in the last four years, amounting together to 13s. a cwt., the beef producer is looking forward to the future with a sense of confidence. If any hon. Member doubts this, I ask him to go into Hereford or any other great beef producing county.
The cereal grower is benefiting from the tremendous improvements in techniques of growing and in the yield of his crops, and he can now be satisfied that his market will not be undermined by unrestricted imports.
What about early potatoes?
Thanks to the Act which we passed this year, the horticulturist is now looking forward to a period of modernisation, with Government grant, not only of his marketing methods and the markets which he serves but also in his production methods and techniques which, taken together, should notably improve his competitive position.
Looking back over the past, there have been certain years which have been landmarks in the fortunes of agriculture. The year 1947 was, obviously, one such when the Act was passed which laid the firm foundations for our post-war agricultural policies. The year 1957 was another, when the new Act consolidated this and gave firm assurances for the future. I believe that this year will be another, the year in which our support system was geared, through import controls and standard quantities, to fulfil its purpose in the changing world supply and demand pattern which we are likely to be living with for a long time.
What is more, these changes have been brought about in full agreement with our Commonwealth and other suppliers and also with the closest co-operation and agreement of our own industry. This fact should, surely, give us confidence that they are durable arrangements. Let us not forget that they are now enshrined in an Act which, we understand, has the approval of the Opposition.
Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, anyone in close contact with agriculture will aver that its confidence has never been stronger than it is today, and it feels well poised to make a strong and growing contribution to the national economy. Investment is high. Farm land is much sought after. The products of our agricultural industries are highly thought of in Russia, as the recent exhibition made clear. Yet this is the time which the right hon. Gentleman chooses to put down a Motion condemning the Government's agricultural policy. It seems that everyone is out of step except George. The right hon. Gentleman does not believe his own Motion, for he said as much when he spoke at the Mansion House but three weeks ago.
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes—
|Division No. 120.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Ainsley, William||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Oram, A. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gunter, Ray||Owen, Will|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Padley, W. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hannan, William||Paget, R. T.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Harper, Joseph||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Parker, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hayman, F. H.||Paton, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Healey, Denis||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Benson, Sir George||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Blackburn, F.||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Peart, Frederick|
|Blyton, William||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pentland, Norman|
|Boardman, H.||Hill, J. (Midiothian)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boston, T. G.||Hilton, A. V.||Probert, Arthur|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Holman, Percy||Rankin, John|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Houghton, Douglas||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Bowles, Frank||Hoy, James H.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M,||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hunter, A. E.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Ross, William|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Silkin, John|
|Callaghan, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Collick, Percy||Kelley, Richard||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kenyon, Clifford||Small, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||King, Dr. Horace||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, John||Ledger, Ron||Snow, Julian|
|Crosland, Anthony||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Steele, Thomas|
|Darling, George||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lubbock, Eric||Stones, William|
|Delargy, Hugh||MacColl, James||Swain, Thomas|
|Diamond, John||MacDermot, Niall||Symonds, J. B.|
|Dodds, Norman||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taverne, D.|
|Doig, Peter||Mackenzie, Gregor||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Driberg, Tom||McLeavy, Frank||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne valley)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Thornton, Ernest|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mahon, Simon||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Wade, Donald|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Manuel, Archie||Warbey, William|
|Evans, Albert||Mapp, Charles||Watkins, Tudor|
|Fernyhough, E.||Marsh, Richard||Weitzman, David|
|Finch, Harold||Mason, Roy||Whitlock, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mellish, R. J.||Wigg, George|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||Millan, Bruce||Willey, Frederick|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Milne, Edward||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Mitchison, G. R.||Willie, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Ginsburg, David||Monslow, Walter||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moody, A. S.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Woof, Robert|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Grey, Charles||Moyle, Arthur|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Mr. Lawson and|
|Mr. Charles A. Howell.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Ashton, Sir Hubert||Barter, John|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Atkins, Humphrey||Batsford, Brian|
|Allason, James||Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Bainiel, Lord||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Gurden, Harold||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Biffen, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Partridge, E.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Peel, John|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Percival, Ian|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Hastings, Stephen||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pitman, Sir James|
|Box, Donald||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hendry, Forbes||Pounder, Rafton|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Hiley, Joseph||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Braine, Bernard||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hirst, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hocking, Philip N.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bryan, Paul||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Buck, Antony||Hollingworth, John||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bullard, Denys||Hopkins, Alan||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Burden, F. A.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hughes-Young, Michael||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Chataway, Christopher||Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye)||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||James, David||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Jennings, J. C.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Roots, William|
|Cole, Norman||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Costain, A. P.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Coulson, Michael||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Sharples, Richard|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Shaw, M.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kershaw, Anthony||Shepherd, William|
|Crawley, Aidan||Kitson, Timothy||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Critchley, Julian||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Curran, Charles||Leather, Sir Edwin||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Dance, James||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stainton, Keith|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. P.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Doughty, Charles||Litchfield, Capt. John||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Talbot, John E.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Tapsell, Peter|
|du Cann, Edward||Longbottom, Charles||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Emery, Peter||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Teeling, Sir William|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||MacArthur, Ian||Temple, John M.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLaren, Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Farr, John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Fell, Anthony||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maddan, Martin||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maginnis, John E.||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Foster, Sir John||Maitland, Sir John||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Marshall, Sir Douglas||Turner, Colin|
|Freeth, Denzil||Marten, Neil||Turton Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Gammans, Lady||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gardner, Edward||Mawby, Ray||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walder, David|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker, Peter|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wall, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Webster, David|
|Cough, Frederick||Neave, Airey||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gower, Raymond||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Whitelaw, William|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Green, Alan||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)||Wise, A. R.|
|Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Woollam, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard||Worsley, Marcus||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher||Yates, William (The Wrekin)||Mr. J. E. B, Hill.|
|Division No. 121.]||AYES||[10.11 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Longbottom, Charles|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Foster, Sir John||Longden, Gilbert|
|Allason, James||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Freeth, Denzil||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||MacArthur, Ian|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Gammans, Lady||McLaren, Martin|
|Balniel, Lord||Gardner, Edward||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs)|
|Barter, John||Gibson-Watt, David||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Maddan, Martin|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Goodhart, Philip||Maitland, Sir John|
|Biffen, John||Goodhew, Victor||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gough, Frederick||Marshall, Sir Douglas|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gower, Raymond||Marten, Neil|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Grant-Ferris, R.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Green, Alan||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mawby, Ray|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Box, Donald||Gurden, Harold||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Braine, Bernard||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Neave, Airey|
|Bryan, Paul||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Buck, Antony||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Bullard, Denys||Hastings, Stephen||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Burden, F. A.||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hendry, Forbes||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hiley, Joseph||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hocking, Philip N.||Partridge, E.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Holland, Philip||Peel, John|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hollingworth, John||Percival, Ian|
|Cole, Norman||Hopkins, Alan||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pitman, Sir James|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Costain, A. P.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pounder, Rafton|
|Coulson, Michael||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Iremonger, T. L.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Crawley, Aidan||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Critchley, Julian||James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Jennings, J. C.||Pym, Francis|
|Curran, Charles||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Dance, James||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
|Doughty, Charles||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Renton, Rt. Hon.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, Anthony||David Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|du Cann, Edward||Kitson, Timothy||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Leather, Sir Edwin||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Emery, Peter||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Roots, William|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lilley, F. J. P.||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Farr, John||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fell, Anthony||Litchfield, Capt. John||Seymour, Leslie|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'd field)||Sharples, Richard|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Shaw, M.|
|Shepherd, William||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)||Whitelaw, William|
|Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Stainton, Keith||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Wise, A. R.|
|Stanley, Hon. Richard||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Storey, Sir Samuel||Turner, Colin||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Talbot, John E.||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Woollam, John|
|Tapsell, Peter||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Worsley, Marcus|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Victors, Miss Joan||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Walder, David|
|Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Walker, Peter|
|Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Teeling, Sir William||Wall, Patrick||Mr. Chichester-CIark and|
|Temple, John M.||Ward, Dame Irene||Mr. J. E. B. Hill.|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Webster, David|
|Abse, Leo||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Ainsley, William||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oram, A. E.|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Owen, will|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gunter, Ray||Padley, W. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Paget, R. T.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hannan, William||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Harper, Joseph||Parker, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bence, Cyril||Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Benson, Sir George||Healey, Denis||Peart, Frederick|
|Blackburn, F.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Pentland, Norman|
|Blyton, William||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boardman, H.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Probert, Arthur|
|Boston, T. G.||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Rankin, John|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hilton, A. V.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.)||Holman, Percy||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Houghton, Douglas||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Boyden, James||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hoy, James H.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E.||Ross, William|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Silkin, John|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Callaghan, James||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Chapman, Donald||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Collick, Percy||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Small, William|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kelley, Richard||Snow, Julian|
|Cronin, John||Kenyon, Clifford||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Crosland, Anthony||King, Dr. Horace||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Ledger, Ron||Steele, Thomas|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Darling, George||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stones, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lubbock, Eric||Symonds, J. B.|
|Diamond, John||MacColl, James||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dodds, Norman||MacDermot, Niall||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Doig, Peter||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Mackenzie, Gregor||Thornton, Ernest|
|Driberg, Tom||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Wade, Donald|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mahon, Simon||Warbey, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Weitzman, David|
|Evans, Albert||Manuel, Archie||Whitlock, William|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mapp, Charles||Wigg, George|
|Finch, Harold||Marsh, Richard||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mason, Roy||Willey, Frederick|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mellish, R. J.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mendelson, J. J.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Millan, Bruce||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Milne, Edward||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Ginsburg, David||Mitchison, G. R.||Woof. Robert|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Monslow, Walter||Yates, Victor (Ladywell)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Morris, John (Aberavon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grey, Charles||Moyle, Arthur||Mr. Lawson and|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Mr. Charles A. Howell.|