Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
There is nothing with which I am better pleased to be interrupted in the middle of a speech than to hear that the Irish Free State Constitution Act has been placed upon the Statute Book. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I was dealing with the problem of whether unemployment was likely to be permanent, or whether it was simply a temporary feature which will vanish as soon as credits are restored in the world and the exchanges are repaired. It is rather a remarkable feature of unemployment or, at any rate, of the present aspect of unemployment, that you have as many engaged in the various industries as you had before the War, and in spite of that fact you have, roughly speaking, 1,500,000 people out of work, and that in spite of the fact that the curtailment of the hours of labour has provided more work.
There has also been an arrest of emigration, and there is the fact that we are not taking sufficiently into account that every year you have 500,000 fresh hands that come into the labour market as against 250,000 that pass out of it. I was just calling attention to the prospects of the future in view of the results of the War. There are two or three aspects of it which have given me the deepest concern, and I think they fill the future with great uncertainty, great doubt, and great anxiety. There are three or four questions which I have put to myself many times when I have tried to study this question, and I have put them to almost every expert I have had the privilege of meeting, and one is, has the War simply dislocated the machinery of commerce, or has it seriously diminished and impaired the purchasing power of the world?
It may seem a very easy problem, but you will not get the same answer from any two men. There is a certain measure of agreement that the foreign securities we have spent are a loss of purchasing power to us. The external debt we pay, and that is a loss to us. The fact that Russia with a population of 200,000,000 is no longer a producer and therefore no longer a purchaser, that is a loss, to the world. But taking the world as a whole, is its purchasing power reduced? A good deal depends' on the answer to that question. What is the effect of the huge debts which have accumulated during the War? Is it merely a paper re-arrangement of our wealth or is it a real burden upon the community? Here is a problem which I think is a very serious one, and I should like to know the answer to it. We have four competitors for our manufactures, the United States of America, Germany, Belgium, and France. By a process of inflation France has wiped out three-fifths of her debt, and the process is going on, and I do not know when it is going to stop. Belgium has a debt which is not more than one-fifth or one-sixth per head of her population. The United States of America has a debt per head of her population one-fourth or one-fifth of ours. Germany has wiped out her internal debt, and I heard only last week that her external debt was to be wiped out as well.
When the prosperity of the world is restored, when its exchanges are repaired, when business begins again, are we going to be handicapped by the fact that our debt alone stands, in fact, has even appreciated since the War? Are we going to be handicapped in the markets of the world by the fact that we alone have got a debt which is unimpaired and which, if anything, has increased, in competing in the same markets with those who have a reduced debt per head of population, whether they are engaged in industry by brain or hand? Germany will pay for pensions and debts between £5 and £10 per head of her workers. France will pay about the same, and Belgium less. The United States will pay about the same, but our own workers will be paying between £30 and £40 per head. I cannot tell what the effect of that will be. It might well be that it is simply the money which circulates here and does not diminish the general wealth of the community, but I cannot believe that it is not going to have some effect in handicapping us when the struggle comes.
May I put another consideration which rather perplexes me? The standard of living in some industries has gone up. The hours of labour have gone down, and the population has increased, although trade is restricted. Our burdens, local and Imperial, have trebled and quadrupled. How long will the ice hold? Upon the answer to those three or four considerations depends the answer to the question whether unemployment is going to be a serious and menacing problem with which we are to be confronted for years to come. I am full of doubt and concern when I look at all those questions, and I have been, and I say that it is essential that the Government of the day should seriously consider them. I do not mind hon. Members condemning me because I have not done it. Have your indictment and your verdict; have your sentence, but you do not remove the problem. I will accept anything people say about that. I say here now that these things have filled me with concern. I am putting them before the House without attacking anybody or criticising anybody or blaming anybody. I am appealing to everybody to help to get us out Of this difficulty.
What do you propose? There is a proposal from the Government. I have my proposals. I do not put them forward. I ask the Government to go into the matter and appoint a competent tribunal of investigation. It is not enough for Ministers to say that they will do it themselves. The reason I say that is not because I have no confidence in my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, but I know that Ministers are so overwhelmed with the details of their daily task—no one knows it better than I do—with things that pursue them from morning till night and distract them, that they cannot give the continuous examination which is necessary in order to enable them to consider a problem of this magnitude, and, therefore, I urge them to appoint some competent tribunal of investigation to deal with it. I am not suggesting a Royal Commission. A Royal Commission is very often an excuse. It is not necessary; there have been plenty of Commissions and the material is there as the result of individual inquiries and of collective inquiries. It is all there, but you do want somebody with knowledge and experience to co-ordinate and present recommendations to the Government, so that they can deal with it in the coming Session of Parliament. I beg them to deal with it boldly and broadly. We have all been attempting to deal with
it, and I say at once that the proposals which were made by the late Government were inadequate to deal with the problem. We made further progress in the proposals which we put forward during the War than any proposals ever made. But they were not relevant to the conditions of peace altogether. You have had Agricultural Holdings Acts, Agriculture Acts, Small Holdings Acts, and proposals with regard to rating. But they have not yet arrested the decay of agriculture. I know that hon. Members are good enough to tell me that the reason why Germany was able to cope with her problem was because she had a swingeing tariff. I wonder whether the hon. Member who said that has read the very remarkable paper which was presented to the British Association by one of the ablest agriculturists in this country—Lord Bledisloe. I recommend my hon. Friend to read this document. Lord Bledisloe is a man who has been associated with agriculture all his life. No man can say that by his associations or he is sympathies he is antagonistic to landlords. No man can say that by his associations he is antagonistic even to tariffs. He is a member of the party opposite, and this is what he says about the German tariff in reference to this matter:
German agriculture flourished in pre-War days not in consequence of but in spite of its Protectionist policy.
That is his view of the matter. I would like to say this, further. I know there are suggestions made that you should reduce the rates. There are other suggestions put forward to deal with the middle man. There are other suggestions put forward of a different character. I d not believe you will deal with these problems by any one specific. It is by a combination of a variety of suggestions each helpful, some cutting down the loss, and perhaps the smallest of them making the profit. Agriculture, everybody agrees, is a badly organised industry, and, as everyone in business knows, organisation is what makes the difference between profit and loss in business. All these things have to be considered, and I urge the Government to consider them now. There is no passion now. The land question for the moment is not in the sphere of controversy. At any rate, there are no great passions aroused at the present moment, and you can consider the question in an atmosphere of calm and tran-
quillity. There is an advantage in that. If it is neglected, passions will be aroused, the struggle will begin again. I do not see that that is an atmosphere in which you can find remedies. I therefore urge the Government to consider now, to inquire now, to be prepared now, with recommendations, because I believe that in directing our attention and our energies to the revival of the rural life of this country, in that and in that alone you will find security for the State, prosperity for the land, and safety for the Realm.
I had not intended to take part in this Debate and the House will not expect me to deal in detail with the subject which we are discussing. That will be done by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, but I venture to think, whether rightly or wrongly, we have had a speech so important from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) that the House will see it is right I should say a word or two. My right hon. Friend knows that when we were working together it was a joke among all my colleagues that I was always a pessimist. In some respects the tables are turned, to-day I am the optimist, and my right hon. Friend has become the pessimist. After a war, one does not know when you will, return to normal conditions, but there is at least some hope that that will happen. Let the House remember—I do not say it is a complete analogy, but it is to the point —that after the Napoleonic Wars we had a debt which, in comparison with the annual income of the country, was precisely the same as the debt we are bearing now. And I put this point, which I know my right hon. Friend and the House have constantly in their minds, that internal debt is a very serious thing, but it is not nearly so fatal as external debt. For example, when we have paid the £300,000,000 interest to our people at home, it means that with this exception, and it is a very big exception, of what the State takes in taxation, that money returns to fructify in the pockets of the people and is available for the development of industry in any direction.
I said I was a pessimist. I am afraid my right hon. Friend does put an exaggerated idea on what can be done in the way of the development of agriculture
in a country like ours. I do not disagree with what he said about the importance of agriculture. Indeed, I may add one other item which I do not think he mentioned, namely, the terrible evil of the relative diminution of the rural population. It does not affect the rural population alone, when they do not get work and have to seek employment elsewhere. It means that wages all over tend to fall. As I listened to the eloquence of my right hon. Friend with great interest and great pleasure—I know I can never rival him— I recalled words which will even compete with those of the right hon. Gentleman. They were written very long ago by Disraeli, and had reference to a controversy which my right hon. Friend only very incidentally raised. This is what Disraeli said:
But, believe me, I speak not as your enemy when I say that it will be an exception to the principles which seem hitherto to have ruled society, if you can succeed in maintaining the success at which you aim without the possession of that permanence and stability which the territorial principles alone can afford. Although you may for a moment flourish after their destruction, although your ports may be filled with shipping, your factories smoking on every plain, and your forges flame in every city, I see no reason why you should form an exception to that which the page of history has mournfully recorded, that you, too, should not fade like the Tyrian dye and moulder like the Venetian palaces.
That is a repetition 70 years ago of something of the views of my right hon. Friend. I do put this to the House, as I think it has a direct bearing on the speech of my right hon. Friend. No one can pretend that a population so great as that which is now to be found in this country can continue unless there is a development of trade which will give employment. It is quite evident that this population cannot be maintained in this country by agriculture alone. This is where, I am afraid, my right hon. Friend is too optimistic. The moment you go outside of land that is specially suitable for agriculture, and take land which is a little less suitable, the costs rise in every way. It is what economists call the law of diminishing returns. Then you come to a position where there is no rent at all, and where it will be impossible for food to be produced in competition with world prices. What follows from that? You can have as much agriculture as you like if you are
willing to pay the price. We found that during the War. I was a Member of the Government then, and, therefore, to praise it is to take praise"—which I do not deserve—for myself; but I do not think that anything that was done during the War was more effective for the purpose we then had in view. It was a splendid performance. I do, however, feel this. My right hon. Friend has got to face not only the fact that the quantity of land available for agriculture is now far less; he has got to face the conditions. What are those conditions? Once you get outside the kind of land that is suitable for growing wheat and other kinds of produce, you are faced with the fact that you have great difficulty in maintaining it except in one of two ways, both of which are barred, namely, Protection or subsidy. My right hon. Friend tried that during the War. I also was responsible for it, and I am not blaming him. We tried, after the War, to continue the same system which had succeeded during the War, and my right hon. Friend knows what happened. Within six months we had to reverse the whole thing. I do not blame him. I think, as he said himself, that it is better sometimes to make mistakes than to make nothing at all. That, however, is the fact—it was a complete failure; and we are up against this position, that, however much we may improve our agriculture, the conditions are such that there is a very definite limit to the increase which can take place without a change in our system, either in the direction of Protection or of subsidies, both of which are barred, My right hon. Friend will excuse my arguing with him. I have no desire to do so, because he was very uncontroversial. He dwelt a great deal upon other countries, but, in my opinion, the only analogy which at all applies is Belgium, because there they are more or less Free Traders as regards agricultural products.
My right hon. Friend did not mention that country, but I will refer to it. My right hon. Friend is not speaking about something in which he takes an interest for the first time. There is nothing in which he has been more interested during all his political life and many a lecture he gave me on the subject in private. Belgium was one of his favourite examples. At that time I pointed out—but it never had any effect on him—that in Belgium the agricultural labourer, and his family as well, worked far longer hours and had really a far lower standard of life than obtains here.
Then my right hon. Friend turned to Germany. I do not want to raise the fiscal controversy, but after my right hon. Friend's speech I have had hopes that, if I lived for four years, I would be following him in advocating a different policy altogether. He pointed out the remarkable fact that about 1880 Germany, which had been sending every year a far larger number of emigrants than we had, ceased to send them. It was precisely at that time that the Germans set up a tariff, and all German economists of every school maintained that it was the development of industry coupled with the protection of agriculture which did give employment in Germany and enabled the population to stay at home. There is another fact in regard to this matter which I should like to point out. My right hon. Friend gave figures, which sounded very alarming, about the reduction in acreage and in the number of men employed. I have a liking in a small way for arithmetic, and this is the conclusion that I came to from my right hon. Friend's figures. He told us that the number of men employed per acre in Germany was more than twice the number per acre here, considered in relation to the amount of produce; but, as I worked out the proposition, the net result is that if yon look, not at the acre, but at the man, the German engaged in agriculture produces only half the amount of foodstuffs produced by the English agricultural labourer. That is a very remarkable fact, and the explanation is, I think, that our higher standard of wages has made it a necessity to use machinery to the utmost and to get the work done in some other way so as to employ as little labour as possible.
I do not want to give the idea that nothing can be done to help agriculture under the present system. I do not think that for a moment. Denmark is a far more remarkable case than Belgium. I think it was after their trouble with Germany, in 1864 or thereabouts, that they had to set their house in order, and I am told that there is no place in the world where farming is carried on in anything like the scientific manner that it is in Denmark. There is, however, one weak spot even in the comparison with Denmark. They sell their produce, not in their own market, but here; and if we set up a protective tariff, what would become of Denmark then? For all that, we can get a tremendous lesson from what has been done in Denmark. I think myself that, as was pointed out by the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, and is well realised by my right hon. Friend, the greatest fault of our agriculturists is not that they do not know how to farm, but that they do not know how to do the business of farming as well as other people. They seem to dislike, more than any other people, allowing anyone else to know what they are doing, and in consequence it is very difficult to get co-operation among them. There is this further difficulty. Taking it all round I think our farming is well done. At least it will compare with that of other countries; but I do not agree with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that research and scientific work are not so important as other measures. On the contrary, I think my right hon. Friend did a good thing, when he found it necessary to repeal the Agriculture Act, in giving the large sum which is now devoted to agricultural research. I am sure that that is a good thing.
I think, however, that perhaps the greatest evil from which our farmers suffer is in the way they sell their produce. My right hon. Friend has already appointed a Committee, which I hope will act quickly, to deal with that particular aspect. Then there is another evil, almost as important, which requires a remedy. As the result of our Agriculture Bill, apart from the general evils from which our farmers are suffering, they were encouraged to buy their farms at what are now absurdly high prices. They are suffering from it terribly, and, therefore, credit facilities are needed, not only for them, but all round. I know, for example, that in a large part of the country there are farms so small as fifty acres or less, where they have no banking account at all, and it is obvious, taking the industry all round, that nothing can be more important than to see what credit facilities can be given. My right hon. Friend appointed a Committee to deal with that very subject, and I am told that it is going to report very soon. I do hope, and from the nature of the Committee I almost believe, that they will make recommendations which will be of real service in regard to this matter. Then we know that agriculture suffers from many other evils. There is, for instance, the question of rating. That question will certainly be examined before next Session, and it is our hope that we may be able to make definite proposals to deal with it.
There is another evil, which is, perhaps, exaggerated, but which I think is a real one, namely, the cost of transport. I cannot promise any cure for that, but both the Government and those who are interested in the matter have to bear in mind that we must try to get that improved. As the House knows, the power over railways, unless you pass some special Act of Parliament for the purpose, is well defined, but I hope that, in the reductions which are sure to come in railway, rates, the railway managers will realise that whatever trade they can cultivate on their own lines is permanent, and that, therefore, it is above all their interest to give such facilities as will encourage production on their own systems, because in that way they get the whole of it, and do not depend, as in the case of imports of agricultural produce from abroad, on haphazard business. The railway companies are threatened with the competition of motor traffic, and I hope they will recognise that it is in their interest to cut down rates as much as they can. The Government will do what they can to induce them to do so. Perhaps I am going more into details than I might have done. I really rose to deal with my right hon. Friend's request for an inquiry. My right hon. Friend knows that to put this request in the form of an Amendment to the Address makes it impossible for the Government to accept it. I believe it has never been accepted in any ease. I am sure, however that my right hon. Friend has no such idea. He really wants to help us, and I will say to the House that the mere fact that my right hon. Friend, with all his experience and interest in this subject, presses upon us a more general inquiry, makes me inclined to try. I am sure my right hon. Friend does not expect me to say here and now that we will undertake to have an inquiry on account of this Amendment. He could not ask that of us, because, after all, we have only been in office for some five weeks, with an election intervening. I do not think it is a question of my saying here and now that I accept the terms of the Amendment, but I will say that I am willing to the fullest extent to consult with my right hon. Friend or anyone else who is interested in the subject, not only as to the advisability of an inquiry, but as to the nature of the inquiry. I will go further, and say that, provided it does not interfere with our immediate plans, I see no reason whatever why such an inquiry should not be held.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
Will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to make an announcement as to the character of the inquiry before the House rises, so that if it be not satisfactory there will be an. opportunity for the House to consider it again before we rise, because it is an urgent problem.
I am sure the House has listened with very great interest and satisfaction to the two speeches we have just heard. I know very well that the late Prime Minister has a real interest in agriculture and that agriculture has always had a friend in him. I entirely agree with the attitude which he has adopted, that this is a national and not a controversial party question. I am certain there is no party in the House or the country, or any single Member in the House, who does not wish well to agriculture and would not be prepared to give the very best assistance to any effort or any labours which he believed would benefit the industry. The trouble we all have is not want of goodwill, but that no one cansee how the end we all desire can be obtained, which is to restore agriculture to some reasonable measure of prosperity. I think there never has been a moment since I have been connected with agriculture or with politics when the nation was more awake to this necessity than it is at present, and if we wanted another proof of that it would be found in the two speeches we have just heard delivered. But if we look at the real fundamental cause why we constantly find such insuperable difficulties in restoring any measure of prosperity to agriculture, it is for the very simple reason that we are an industrial system and the whole system is an industrial system and is not fitted for agriculture. If agriculture is to be prosperous, it has, in the face of world competition, to bring the cost of production below the price at which the produce can be sold. That is really the fundamental problem, and the real difference between agriculture and other industries is that agriculture is open on every side, with no shelter whatever, to the working of economic law in competition with the whole world, whereas every other industry has some considerable shelter in one form or another; and if we want proof of that, there is no easier way to show how this works than to take the four stages which have to be passed through by a loaf of bread before it is sold for consumption. The first stage is growing the wheat, the second is transporting it to the mill, the third is the milling, and the fourth is the baking. We have been discussing the first, and it is clear that in that stage the agricultural industry has to meet the fiercest foreign competition, in consequence of which the profits of the farmer are reduced to a vanishing quantity and the wages of the labourer are reduced to a point below the subsistence level for a large family.
The landlord has nothing left at all. I was not going to deal with the landlord's side of the case, because from the numerical point of view that may be less important, but if the hon. Member interrupts me on it, I can only tell him that, as far as my knowledge goes, on any agricultural estate in the country the position is very simple. The owner of an estate, with the income that he receives from rents, is just about able to pay the necessary costs of management, maintenance and repair and to pay the Income Tax. He cannot pay the Super-tax, there is not money enough to do it, and if he is going to pay Super-tax, he has either to sell the estate or to find the Super-tax from other sources outside the estate itself. When my right hon. Friend spoke of the facility with which rents were reduced in the hard times of the 'eighties, there would be quite equal facilities in reducing the rents now, because it does not much matter to the landlord what rent he gets. It is all taken by the State—the whole of the surplus and more. I do not think it is right that taxation and rates should be levied upon any form of property to such an amount that it is impossible to carry it on at a reasonable profit. I did not rise to put the landowner's ease, but when it is suggested that the landowner is getting something out of the land, it is my duty to state the actual facts. If the hon. Member who, I know, wishes well to all classes of agriculture will look into the figures for himself, and would like to be supplied with any figures, I shall be happy to supply him, so that he can satisfy himself that what I have said is true. All these three classes concerned are at the very last gasp. The landlord is getting less than nothing, the farmer is on the average getting no profits, and the labourer is getting less than a living wage. That is the first stage of the production of bread in this country. That is economic law—fierce competition and no shelter.
Then we come to the second stage. That is where the wheat is transported to the mill. There we have the railway companies, who have to pay interest to their shareholders, and who have an agreement with their men to pay them a fair living wage for an eight hours' day. They say, "In order to carry out those obligations it is necessary for us to charge a 75 per cent, increase on our pre-War railway charges," and they do it. They have the power to do it. Why should they have the power to do it when the farmer has no power to do it? The effect on the price of bread is exactly the same whether the 75 per cent, is put on by the railway company for transport or by the farmer on to the price of the produce that he sells. Then you come to the miller. Figures have already been given by the Mover of the Amendment showing that the miller does exactly the same as the railway company. He puts on an additional cost to cover the higher wages that he pays to his men, to cover the interest on his capital and those other charges to which my hon. Friend referred. He can and does fix those prices to cover his outgoings. He and the railway companies make their prices cover their outgoings, and by that means they are able to carry on. Then you come to the baker, who is in exactly the same position. He also fixes prices himself which cover the cost to the industry. That being so, it hardly seems necessary for the Minister of Agriculture to hold an inquiry as to why bread is dearer than it was. It is plain that in three stages out of the four, in all except the preliminary stage of growing the wheat, the charges are up by anything from 75 per cent, upwards.
This is not a question only of profiteering by the employer. The agricultural labourer does a longer day's work and as highly skilled a day's work as any other class of the community. I do not believe it is possible to find a higher class of skill than that of a man, such as a shepherd or herdsman, who is in charge of a valuable herd of breeding animals. That man is always on duty. He has to know something of the particular character and requirements of every single animal under his charge. The success of the herd or flock depends upon his knowledge, upon his constant vigilance, upon his having technical qualifications which would combine those of several scientific professions put together in dealing with the human race, and yet that man, simply because of the pressure of economic law upon the industry, with no shelter of any kind, has to take a bare subsistence wage, whereas a railway porter can receive a fair and reasonable wage for an eight hours' day for far less skilled work, simply because he has the shelter which is denied to the other individual.
That may be, but they are still over £1 a week more than those of the agricultural labourer. That is the present position, and I do not agree with my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment when he said that the condition of affairs' in agriculture to-day was less serious than it was in the 'eighties.
My interjection might be misunderstood. I said that the wages of the men engaged in the three stages of wheat growing until it gets to the bread had gone down, and I quite admit that although they have gone down the farmer is not getting the benefit of it but the railway companies and the millers and the transport companies.
I was not raising the question whether the farmer was getting any benefit or otherwise, or whether em- ployers and employed in those three stages are actually getting adequate profits and wages although they are falling. The question is not only whether a wage is falling. A real wage cannot be measured in cash. It is measured in purchasing power. For instance, supposing a man's wages in francs in France to-day were paid at 50 per cent, more than before the War, they would be 100 per cent, below the purchasing power they had before the War. Therefore you have to take purchasing power into account. I think I am not very far from the truth when I say that the fall in wages in the three stages to which I have referred outside agriculture is about on a parity with the actual increase of purchasing power, and therefore the real wage remains more or less the same. But in the case of the agricultural industry the exact reverse has happened. Wages have slumped down, not on a parity with the increase of purchasing power of the money, but with no regard to it whatever, by the simple unshielded operation of the economic law of competition. Therefore it points to this. It is the duty of this House and the Government to do something to put the agricultural industry and the agricultural labourer in a position to pay his way under present conditions. These measures may have to be temporary. I am not in favour of Protection or of going outside the ordinary economic law. Far from it. I am all for it. But you must deal with temporary emergencies of this kind in order to prevent an industry from collapsing. The industry cannot protect itself, and surely it is futile for the House or the country to say, "We do no mind 75 per cent. increase in railway rates. We do not mind 75 per cent, increase in milling and baking charges added to the price of bread, but we will not have one pennyworth of percentage going on to the price of bread in order to save the agricultural industry from extinction."
Is that a reasonable attitude for the House to take? That is the point of view from which I look at it; from the practical side. Those of us engaged in farming poor land today are doing our utmost and straining every nerve to keep that land in cultivation in face of enormous difficulties, and with burdens and charges upon us which are intoler- able. As I have said in the House before, I found difficulty enough to farm that land when the rates and taxes together were 1s. in the £. Now the rates are up to 15s. and the Income Tax and Super-tax are up to and above 10s. in the £. How can those burdens be borne? That is what I meant when, perhaps rather awkwardly, at the beginning of my speech I said that agriculture was suffering because it was merely a part of the industrial State. Income Tax, Super-tax, rates largely for health purposes, education, and the maintenance of roads —every one of these charges are those of an industrial State. Surely that largely answers the comparison which has been made between England and Denmark. If England were an agricultural country, as in Denmark, we should not have these expenses and taxes—they are of art industrial character, and they are all imposed by the industrial population upon the agricultural community—then, unless you are prepared to modify to some extent these burdens and charges and this industrial system, they will destroy the agricultural industry. There is no other way in which you can restore it except by modifying the system. These systems are held up as if they were a sort of law of the Medes and Persians and a kind of religion, which, because they are good for the industrial community, are good for agriculture. That is the case, because from a practical knowledge of 30 years I have seen the system working.
I am not now using the language of a prepared speech in this Debate; I am speaking, from my heart, the result of years and years of observation, borne in on me day in and day out. What is happening now is that that process, which has always been grinding us to powder, has now reached a more acute stage than before.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I would remind him that I began my speech by saying that I knew the agricultural industry had the absolute sympathy of every hon. Member in this House. I am quite sure it has his sympathy, but we want sympathy carried a little further. I thank the hon. Gentleman even more than for his sympathy, for his expression of the definite opinion that those for whom he speaks do not consider it necessary to tie agriculture down to the industrial system. I will not labour that point any more, but I believe it to be absolutely vital and to be at the root of the whole question, and it must be faced and understood. If this inquiry is to be held, one of the points which must be most strongly laid before it is that agriculture must not be tied and bound by the industrial system which governs taxation and legislation at the present time.
I wish to make another point, because there is great misapprehension about it. I notice that a very large proportion of people, inside and outside of the House, when they are told that agriculture is in difficulties and that farmers cannot make their living, perpetually put forward the remedy of some form of intensive cultivation. That is to say, "Farm better, get more out of your land, and you will make more profits." The Prime Minister spoke of the law of diminishing returns, but I venture humbly to suggest that he rather misapplied it. The law of diminishing returns is a very different one. It is that with which I am dealing. It is that the more intensive the cultivation the greater the cost of the product. It is an unalterable law, that the more intensively you cultivate the greater the cost per unit that you produce.
Is there intensive cultivation in Russia, in the Argentine or on the prairies of the Western States? Where do cheap stock and meat come from? From the open prairie, where there is no cultivation at all. Is it not more expensive to grow meat on an English farm than on an uncultivated prairie? The interest of the actual cultivator is to make a living and a profit. If he is driven, as he is being now, and has to produce cheaply, he can only do so, not by increasing and intensifying his methods of cultivation, but by reducing his labour and the costs of production per acre. That is the only way in which he can make two ends meet, and it is directly contrary to the national interests, which are that he should grow more. That is absolutely the same point as the other, and is that if the nation wants more food grown on its land it must be prepared to make some sacrifice and to put agriculture outside its industrial scheme in order to enable it to be done. The farmer must be able to obtain a price which would justify more intensive cultivation, instead of being driven down to a price which pushes agriculture to much thinner lines than it is upon to-day. It is thoroughly understood that land is put down to grass instead of being ploughed because prices are low. That is merely another way of stating what I said just now.
There is another thing on which there is some misapprehension in the minds of a good many people, though it is not so serious as the other. It is that there are two different methods of farming, one being to raise stock and the other to grow corn. Any hon. Member with a knowledge of farming will understand and realise that you cannot grow corn without stock and that you cannot raise stock without growing corn. The two are interdependent. The more stock you have the more manure you will get for your corn, and the more corn you grow the more straw you will have for the stock to tread down into manure. The four-course shift is the one foundation of all satisfactory farming in this country. In that, you have two years of fodder crops and two years of cereal crops. It is a constant circle, in which every crop affects to some extent the crop which comes after it, and is also providing for the requirements of the stock. One thing is absolutely impossible, and that is to make out a really correct and final balance sheet for any particular process on the farm, because it always owes something to what goes before it and leaves something to what comes after it. To endeavour to obtain a correct figure is really to try to square the circle.
We have had an illustration this year in the effort to grow particular crops. My Noble Friend (Lord Bledisloe), who is a great authority on agriculture, and from whom the late Prime Minister quoted, suggested to the agricultural industry in another place somewhat more than a year ago that the one thing necessary to bring it into a more profitable position was to grow pigs and potatoes. By adopting his advice, something like 20,000 additional acres of potatoes were sown this year. We have heard the result from the hon. Member who moved the Amendment to-day, and who said that the price of potatoes was down to a totally un-remunerative figure.
Pigs are still rather dear, but they will have their turn. Of course, the moral of that is that the potatoes are a crop for which there is a limited demand. Although you may grow a particularly special crop, on particular special soil, on an individual farm, and make a profit out of it, the only way of dealing with agriculture as a whole is to make it possible to grow at a profit staple products. Unless you can do that, it is no use suggesting that agriculture can be restored by such actions. The staple products are really only three—cereals, meat and milk—and unless it is profitable to produce them in this country, agriculture cannot be restored to prosperity.
I wanted to make these points quite clear, and I will now refer to what is to toe done. I listened with great pleasure to the speech of the Prime Minister, and I have here a list of matters which should be immediately dealt with. I heard what my right hon. Friend said about an inquiry. I certainly agree entirely with the attitude he took up, that an inquiry can do nothing but good, provided it is not so carried on as to delay the things which were obviously necessary and which can be done immediately. My right, hon. Friend held out hopes of rating reforms next Session. We have had that hope before us, as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Sir R. Winfrey) has said, for 17 years, but I hope we shall get something a little more real this time. The question bristles with difficulties. The hardship of rates and the injustice of rates levied on agricultural land cannot be exaggerated. I am afraid, however, that the amount of benefit which agriculture is likely to get out of any adjustment will not go a very long way toward removing the present causes of depression. I should be very sorry if this House were to think that any relief to rates which is likely to be given by any such Measure as that foreshadowed by the Prime Minister, is going to be a cure for agricultural depression at the present time. Then there is the question of credit facilities for farmers, and I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend that he proposes to deal with that question. I entirely agree with what has been said on that subject. In regard to railway rates, that is a very pressing subject from the point of view of agriculture. The mere figures that were given by my hon. Friend who moved the Motion, when he spoke of people who send their produce to the market in considerable quantities and only get back half-a-crown, shows the urgency of this question. The money largely goes in railway rates. [HON. MEMBERS: "And to middlemen."] I am not speaking at the moment of middlemen, but of railway rates. There may be various hands through which the produce passes, but I think that that difficulty to some extent can be overcome by better organisation. The farming industry is far better organised than it has been in the past, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Another agricultural matter to which the late Prime Minister referred is timber. At the present time, if you grow timber other than in the immediate neighbourhood of a coalfield, the railway carriage is absolutely prohibitive. The district in which I live is eminently suitable for growing pit timber. The peculiarity of the soil, it is poor soil, makes it suitable for growing soft woods for 30 years, and at the end of that time the trees do not do very much. You can get excellent trees of from 25 to 30 years' growth, a comparatively short space of time, in good quality. During the War it was found possible to use these woods to great advantage, but now it is impossible to carry on with that trade because the railway rates absorb the whole value of the timber. The trade in timber is, therefore, rendered hopeless. Nobody will go on planting when they cannot sell what they produce. That produces unemployment. In this connection I should like to mention a small matter which will interest hon. Members. Forestry schemes were started last year, and employers were told that if they took the unemployed into forestry schemes—I daresay the same encouragement was given in connection with other schemes— a grant would be made, proportionate to the acreage planted. A good many people, partly from patriotic motives, carried out that arrangement, but if any hon. Member of this House happened to carry on such a scheme, they were told that nothing could be paid to them because they were Members of Parliament. That, I think, is rather an unfortunate experience.
There is another matter which is very important to agriculture, and I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will mention it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that is the revision of the Beer Duty. If he would consider whether some part of the duty on beer might not be transferred to a duty on barley, it would be doing still greater benefit to the industry. Hon. Members may think that a duty on barley would increase the price of beer. I do not know whether they will still be of that opinion if they notice that the price of beer is exactly the same to-day when barley is bought at 40s. as it was when barley was fetching 89s. We cannot be told in the same breath that a fall of 49s. in the price of barley does not justify any fall in the price of beer, and that a duty on barley might increase the price of beer.
There is another direction in which work might be found for the unemployed. The want of fertility in our soil is due to the lack of lime and chalk. I should say that 90 per cent, of the poor land in this country is poor, not because it is really lacking in the nourishment for the plants, but because the nourishment is not available through want of lime and chalk in the soil. We have untold millions of tons of chalk lying idle in this country, to be had for nothing, and if local schemes by agricultural committees could be undertaken and that chalk could be raised by the unemployed and sold at a reasonable price and put on the land, the fertility of the land of this country would be enormously increased. It would be a far better way of spending money than in giving doles. It is not skilled work and would not in any way interfere with an existing industry.
I will not deal now with the question of the death duties on agricultural land. I have referred to the position of owners, and I hope hon. Members will realise the position of the owner of an agricultural estate who is unable out of his income even to pay his Super-tax and can only just pay his Income Tax. What happens when death duties also come along? It means the absolute destruction of the estate. The estate has to be broken up and sold, and I do not think that the consequences to the country are of very great advantage. The country then has to finance the people who bought the land at a very much greater cost than would be the case if a certain proportion of death duties were remitted. I do not think the State does very well out of this. I am certain that the conditions of agriculture to-day are so critical that the whole agricultural industry is waiting and watching to see whether or not their burdens are to be relieved, and whether they are going to carry on.
I think it was the Prime Minister in a recent Debate who said that the one thing that the country wanted to-day was confidence. There are many farmers to-day who will go on straining every nerve, and who will go to their very last resources to keep their men employed on the land during the coming winter, if they have confidence that this House will do something for them when the House meets again; but if they have no confidence and feel that it is all mere talk, that nothing, is going to be done, and we keep them in the old groove, and say to them, "You must make the best of it," then the outlook is black indeed, and the fault will be ours.
The House has listened to three very interesting speeches this afternoon. The speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down is in complete agreement with everything I have heard him say in this House during the last 15 or 16 years. Whoever else may have altered, he, at least, has been consistent. He has put exactly the same points of view on almost the same topics as he did in the year 1906, when we first knew each other. One speech, coming from the quarter that it did, is the most amazing deliverance that I have ever heard. I refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who spoke on the Amendment calling for a Committee of Inquiry and calling for a broadening of that inquiry. The Amendment says:
Having regard to the insecure and gravely unsatisfactory position of the great industry of agriculture, to the constantly decreasing population in rural districts, to the high cost of living, the low returns from the labour and investment in land, to the existence of an economic wage frequently lower than a living wage, to the inequitable incidence of rates and the unfair burden of transport, and the urgent need for credit facilities and co-operation, it is of immediate importance that Your Majesty's Government should institute an inquiry for the purpose of formulating a policy which would establish security, stability and confidence in the industry, and so secure the greater productiveness of the soil and ensure the contentment of those concerned in the industry.
The late Prime Minister comes to this House this afternoon, 2½ years after a Measure was brought forward in this House, at the time he was Prime Minister, purporting to deal with the very facts referred to in this Amendment. He was the Prime Minister of the most powerful Government this country has ever known, secure in an enormous majority, and dealing with a problem which had been referred to specifically in the King's Speech of 1919. In the King's Speech of
1919, specific reference was made to the grave condition of agriculture and to the necessity of the Government dealing drastically with it. This was followed in June, 1920, by a Bill which was to put right, so far as Government Measures can, the grave condition of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman speaks here this afternoon as though he were the first person directing attention to the vicissitudes and dangers that will befall this country unless his panaceas were adopted. The condition of agriculture has been an annual topic for the last 100 years. Every year, without exception, as anyone can see by consulting the columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT and of Hansard, the condition of agriculture has been referred to. I will not say for the last 100 years, but, certainly, from 1842.
I am not saying anything as to what Governments have done. I am speaking of the references that have been made to the grave condition of agriculture, either by Motions of private Members or in the King's Speech. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, in June, 1920, brought in a Bill which he said was to be the permanent policy of the nation. He grounded the reason for the introduction of that Bill upon certain admitted facts. He said:
From the year 1854 to 1879 agriculture was signally prosperous in this country.… it is quite true that up to the War there was no definite agricultural policy. Farmers were left to shift for themselves, and the State stood severely aside. The Government do not intend to let agriculture be neglected. They do not intend to let it slip back to the condition in which it WHS before the War. They have, therefore, boldly taken the main headings of the recommendations of the Reconstruction Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) and have embodied them in a Bill of a comprehensive character, which aims at putting agriculture in a position of security and endeavours to make the best use of our greatest national asset, namely, the land of these islands. That is the object of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920; cols. 78–82, Vol. 130.]
Remember that there had been a Reconstruction Committee in existence for a great many months. It contained, I suppose, some of the ablest brains in
the nation, and the Cabinet at least contained some of the ablest brains in the nation. Indeed, I do not know any more brainy people in the country, so far as their own testimony goes, than the Cabinet that was recently dissolved. That certainly was a Cabinet of all the talents. They had the recommendations of the Reconstruction Committee submitted to them. They bring them forward in pursuance of the pledge given in the King's Speech in 1919. They have the Second Reading of the Bill in June, 1920. Six months were occupied by this House in passing the Bill into law. It left the House on 23rd December in the same year with the complete agreement of all parties. It gave, first of all, a guaranteed wage, not an economic wage, not a wage based upon industrial competition, to the farm labourer. It gave guaranteed prices for wheat and oats, for a number of years at least, to the farmer. It gave the State the guarantee of efficient cultivation, and altogether we were told that we were never again to be so dependent upon foreign nations for our food supplies as we had been in the past. The land was to be made as it ought to be made, our greatest national asset. The Bill left this House amid the unanimous acclamation of its Members, and in the following Session, 1921, the whole Act was scrapped, and now in 1922 the present Prime Minister agrees with the late Prime Minister that an inquiry should be set up to put again our greatest national asset upon a paying basis. If ever (here was a case that showed with how little wisdom the world is governed, and the complete and scandalous waste of time on the part of those who describe themselves as statesmen, this is a case paramountly above all others of which I have had any knowledge.
We assented to it because we believed that the farmer should have a decent profit, that the farm labourer should have a decent wage, and that agriculture ought not to be conducted upon the basis of competition, but that the land of the nation ought to be used to feed and clothe the people, for use and not for private profit. This was an approach to it. It did take the farm labourer and his family out of the condition of panic and constant apprehension in which they had found themselves up to that year. What has happened since? The guaranteed minimum wage has vanished, like mist before the sun, until the wages of farm labourers are now down below pre-War level.
In many of the counties in 1916 farm labourers' wages were only 19s. a week. But, taking the value of money to-day, those people on the same basis ought to have at least 30s., and the vast majority of them have less than 25s. We believe that a great national industry ought not to be conducted on these "come day go day, God send Sunday" lines. That is why we supported the Measure of 1920. But I cannot conceive statesmanship outside Bedlam that would act on the lines of the Government of 1921. of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Borough was Prime Minister. And when he comes here and speaks as he spoke this evening he is carrying out the instructions which he gave to the Trade Union Congress in 1915, when, parodying the words of Dan-ton, he said that trade unions in the future, when the War was over, should be audacious, ever audacious, and pitch their demands in a high key. He has pitched his audacity in the highest key which I have ever heard. He comes to us this afternoon and talks to us in this way upon matters which were known 60 or 80 years ago.
I was a member of a deputation that met the right hon. Gentleman a few months ago, and we pointed out the profoundly unsatisfactory condition of a great industry. We pointed out that the wages which were being paid to people engaged in that great industry were from 40 to 50 per cent, below the admitted cost of living. We pointed out that people wore being reduced to a state little better than that of semi-slavery, and we asked for an inquiry. The terms of this Amendment might have been drafted in reference to the position which the miners occupied, but that inquiry was refused. Providence alone, he said, was responsible for the conditions in the mining industry, and to Providence alone, I suppose, our appeal must be made, because He alone could help us. Only this afternoon we have heard the present Prime Minister speak in terms of great sympathy as to the necessity for an inquiry in respect of agriculture on the ground of the terms contained in this Amendment—the gravely unsatisfactory conditions, the low returns from labour, the existence of an economic wage, frequently lower than a living wage, the whole series of facts which the Prime Minister himself admitted.
In the case of the miners we only asked for an inquiry, but no inquiry could be instituted; but on exactly the same set of facts an Amendment is framed for agriculture which expresses truly the position of the mining industry. In the one case we have the two Prime Ministers falling over each other in their mutual sympathy and desire to broaden the terms of the inquiry and to say that it shall really be made effective in every sense. In the other case, where the facts are exactly the same, where a basic industry is carried on, in conditions in which four-sevenths of the working population receive wages less than what would keep a slave in decency, the inquiry is refused by both right hon. Gentlemen. That does not lessen in any sense the necessity for, or our agreement with, an inquiry in the case of agriculture, except that we do hope, when we were talking about inquiries and Commissions and Committees, that it will not have the fate that attended the Sankey Commission which was set up in 1919.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made a certain reference to unemployment, and he took up the position that one ought to believe that once normal trade was restored unemployment would vanish. I have known very few Members of this House who had any such idea. I think that he evolved that opinion entirely out of his own inner consciousness, because we know well that under the capitalistic system you are bound to have, and always have had since the system was established, thousands and tens of thousands who were unemployed. Why, the very Government that came in in the year 1905, in which the right hon. Gentleman himself once held office, was presided over by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who in that very year stated that there were 13,000,000 on the verge of starvation and hundreds of thousands of unemployed. And anybody who cares to search the returns can easily find out, if he does not already know—and I can hardly imagine any Member of Parliament who does not know—that even when prosperity was at its very highest stage, in the '70's, as a consequence of the Franco-Prussian War, in the middle '60's and in the '80's, in all those periods, which may be numbered by decades, there were tens of thousands who were constantly unemployed.
Therefore it is not a mere return of normal prosperity that will do away with the spectre of unemployment. I warn hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House never to assume what I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs simply assumes for himself. We say, "No, there is no remedy to be found in the mere return of normal prosperity." But I do ask the House to consider how wasteful has been its procedure during the last few years. Whether we are looked upon as Conservatives or Labour representatives or Liberals, we do desire, when we are Sere, that the time of tic House shall be effectively utilised. There is not a single Member who does not know that six months of the time of this House were given to the Agriculture Act, 1920, and yet, after a few weeks of the next Session, the whole thing was scrapped, and again we are debating the necessity of an inquiry to place agriculture on its feet once more. I would ask the House to consider that and to see whether there is not a great deal that can be done to utilise the time of the House more effectively and to bring to members of the Government a deeper sense of responsibility than they have hitherto exhibited.
The Members of the present Government were very largely Members of the late Government. There are some who were not, and upon them no responsibility can be placed. But quite seven-eighths of the Members of the present Government were Members of the last Government, and they remind me of the French saying which may be translated: "The more it changes, the more it remains the same." And these men are directly responsible for the position of agriculture at present. They are directly responsible for the disgraceful level of the wages of the agricultural labourer. They are directly responsible for the position of many of the farmers, and for the fact that hundreds of thousands of acres have gone out of cultivation, as was admitted by the late Minister of Agriculture. They are responsible, first of all, for bringing in a Measure which was to be the permanent policy of the nation, and then for turning it completely inside out. It is a pitiful, if not a shameful waste of time. I ask the House to consider that there is another great industry, the wages of which have been pressed down to a level far below that which represents a living wage, and that the inquiry which we are all agreed to grant in relation to agriculture—there is no more deserving class than the farmer and the farm labourer—should be implemented by an investigation into the conditions of the miners.
The fact that at the recent General Election so many charges and statements were made that a woman could not possibly know anything about agriculture, impels me to crave the indulgence of the House while I make what really is my maiden speech on the subject. I was often told that I would be very much better occupied at home darning my stockings than in attempting to explain the difficulties of agriculture. But I was sent, here as the representative of an agricultural constituency, and I take this opportunity of making a few remarks on the subject. I make a plea for agriculture to be considered without delay. Most of us have come from constituencies which have pressed us to bring this subject in its various aspects before the House. The Amendment is so comprehensive that it touches all branches of the subject, and I should regret its withdrawal. We have to consider agriculture not only from the farmers' point of view, but from the labourers' point of view. Unlike most industries, agriculture is not able to pass its burdens on to the consumer, and it cannot be closed down under the stress of bad times.
There are three remedies which suggest themselves to me for the improvement of agriculture. They are the introduction of credit facilities, a revision of the rating system, and an inquiry as to the difference between the price paid for a commodity to the producer and the price ultimately paid for that commodity by the consumer. Let me deal first with credit facilities. During the War many farmers bought their farms at very high prices, and they now have to pay a very high rate of interest for money owing. Credit facilities would greatly help such farmers. If we are to grant credit facilities for industries in the towns, it is only right that we should take similar steps in order to help the country. We have been told that the revision of rating as it affects agriculture has been discussed for 17 years in this House. I shall not go into details. Revision would take time, unfortunately, and what we want is that agriculture should be dealt with at the moment. The burden of local rates is too heavy for the farmer to bear. Rates have greatly increased since 1896. There are increased burdens for education, for road maintenance, and for police. These things ought to be considered far more from a national than from a local point of view. Then there is the question of the difference between the price paid for a commodity to the producer in the country and the price ultimately paid for that commodity by the consumer in the town. I welcome the inquiry that has been promised on the subject, but as a housekeeper, and in a small way as a farmer, I want to know why the difference between the price I get as a farmer in the country and the price I pay as a housekeeper in the town for the same commodity is so great. The difference applies not only to bread, but to bacon and milk and potatoes and meat.
We ought to have an assurance that as the result of the promised inquiry the worker is to benefit as well as the farmer. The worker must get an adequate share of what we hope will come from prosperity. The agricultural worker wants the guarantee of an impartial tribunal to fix hours and conditions of work and wages. The present Conciliation Committees are not satisfactory in the majority of districts. An impartial tribunal would legislate, perhaps, for the bad farmer rather than for the good farmer. The agricultural labourer is placed differently from those engaged in industry in the towns. The agricultural labourer is not insured against unemployment, and when he is out of work he receives no benefit. To seek work he has to go to an Employment Exchange, which in the country districts is not an easy thing to do, for it often means a journey of many miles. In the meantime he spends the few savings he has possibly been able to get together, and when these are gone his only alternative is to seek help from the guardians. We do not want to lose these men from the country districts. They are skilled workers who cannot be replaced in one generation or in two generations. In my constituency last week I attended a ploughing match dinner. It was extraordinary what good samples of ploughing, hedging, ditching and drainage the agricultural workers could show. Men of that kind cannot be replaced. During the War, I believe, it was said that a Cabinet Minister could be replaced more easily than a skilled carter. We want the skilled worker to remain in the country districts. We want to give him leisure and recreation and to make the countryside as attractive as possible, so that he will remain there.
The person in whom I am even more interested, perhaps, is the agricultural worker's wife. We have heard a great deal about heroes and heroines. The agricultural worker's wife is, indeed, a heroine, and one can learn many lessons from her. Women in my district who manage to keep a house and maintain a family on the average wage of 26s. a week are, I consider, all heroines. In the case of a man and wife and four children the least they can live on is one loaf a day, which costs ninepence. That means that out of the 26s. no less than 5s. 3d. is spent on bread alone. In this matter I hope that the promised inquiry will benefit the worker's wife. In 1913 a sack of wheat cost round about £1, and then bread was old. 5½a loaf. Now a sack of wheat costs about the same amount, but the loaf costs 9d. Some explanation of the difference is needed. The woman is in charge of the budget of the home and she is indeed a very clever person to make the money spread out as she does. I was talking recently to a man in receipt of a wage of 26s. a week. He paid 2s. a week for his rent. That left 24s. He had eight children. Two of them were in service and the remaining six had to be maintained out of the 24s. He pointed out to me that when divided up his wage worked out at 2d. per head per
meal, allowing for three meals a day. I asked him how he did it. He said, "I don't do it; it is the missus who does it.' "The missus" is the clever person in the agricultural world. I fear that the only thing she can do is to act on the principle of the woman who in the Hungry Forties said she found out what her family did not like and gave them plenty of it. I recall Joseph Arch's Grace:
Oh, heavenly Father, bless us,
And keep us all alive;
There are ten of us for dinner,
And food for only five.
We shall be returning to those times if we cannot do something to prevent further depression in agriculture. Whatever is done: we must have an assurance that it will help the worker. We have read and heard much of big demonstrations of the unemployed. I have no objection to the publicity given to them, but the House should know that unemployment among agricultural workers, if not so largely advertised, is extremely acute. They are not insured and so have no claim to any doles. We want goodwill in the countryside and to attain it we must assure the worker that he is to have a fair deal. Agriculture is the basic industry of this country. A stable agriculture will be a national asset, but a crippled agriculture will be a national liability.
If there is one thing which I have learned as a new Member it is the value of brevity, especially in the early hours of the morning. As one who is actively engaged in the agricultural industry I feel that I must contribute my quota to the statements as to the disastrous condition in which agriculture finds itself to-day. When I read the Amendment I made up my mind to oppose it on the ground that we did not require any more inquiries. After I heard the statement of the Prime Minister I felt that I could not quite adopt that attitude. But T must emphatically declaim against any delay in the inquiry and in the giving of relief to the industry. An hon. Member has referred to the delays which have occurred over a great number of years. They have been nothing less than a scandal. I sincerely hope that the Government and this House will see that something is done that is efficacious and immediate. The greatest depression in agriculture is in the arable areas. It will be noticed that those are the districts where there has been the greatest reduction in wages.
We agriculturists are looked upon as being slow. We may possibly be slow, but that is because we are dealing with Nature, and you cannot hurry nature. Consequently, to a certain extent, it may be just to say that we have got somewhat into the ways of Nature, but even then we are not as slow as Parliament. The reason why there is great danger in delay is because in agriculture you are dealing with something which must be done in its particular season. The main thing in agriculture is arable cultivation and the preparations for the year's crop take place very largely in the Spring. I quite admit that our Autumn wheat crop is already in the ground, but it is not as great as it should be That might be remedied in certain districts by a considerable amount of sowing of Spring wheat. In regard, not only to wheat, but other arable crops, however, preparations have to be made in the Spring, and if we are going to have unnecessary delay, this disastrous condition of agriculture will be continued, at any rate one twelvemonth longer than it should be. I have been very pleased with the tone of the speeches made from the opposite side of the House because it has always been my own contention that agriculture is a national and not a party question. It should be above and outside all party-politics. I am proud to stand in this House as one pledged to support the Conservative Government, but on the question of agriculture I am absolutely free and I have received that freedom from those who sent me here. We should all adopt the attitude towards agriculture that it is a national industry and a national necessity. If we looked upon the question of agriculture more as a question of food production, and not so much in the light of that despised term "farming" as is done in our urban areas, we should get a very much better conspectus.
I have said it is not a party question and it is certainly not a sectional question. On that point I am again pleased that the attitude of those who have preceded me in the Debate. Let us take those actually engaged in the industry, putting the worker first. There is the worker, there is the occupier, and there is the owner. There is also another person who is very much interested in agriculture, that is the consumer. Unless the interests of all these sections receive fair consideration, we cannot possibly hope for a solution of this most difficult question. Taking the case of the worker, I do not propose to say much on the subject of wages which has been so ably dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Prety-man), but I wish to drive home this point—that the industry must be put on such a footing that it can give a decent living wage to the workers whom it employs. I also emphasise the fact that it is not so much a question of the actual wage received as of the purchasing power of that wage. Wages have fallen, but even now a proportion of the wages being paid in many districts is not being paid from the proceeds of the industry. Farmers as a whole have great practical sympathy with the men who work for them. I do not say there are not individuals among farmers, as in all classes of society, who are prepared to take advantage of those who work for them, but I say emphatically that farmers as a whole are actively sympathetic with those who work for them.
I do not wish to labour the question of the price of bread, but I would point out that it takes 3 lbs. of flour to make a 4-lb. loaf, but it takes 4 lbs. of wheat to make 3 lbs. of flour. If the bread be made from British wheat only, the amount which the producer gets for the 4 lbs. of wheat is 4½d. out of 9d., the cost of the loaf. Therefore 4½d. goes in distribution, which I consider is far too high a proportion, and I believe I have the support of the House in saying so. As a matter of fact, the average loaf of bread is not made exclusively from English wheat, because of the demand of the public for a particularly white bread, and perhaps for certain other reasons as w-ell. Foreign wheat is considered to be of a stronger nature, and is consequently used in baking. The bulk of the bread which is made contains two-thirds of foreign wheat and one-third of English. The prices then work out as follows: 4¾d. for the producer and 4¼d. for the distribution. Again it is far too high a proportion for distribution. One of our great regrets and great complaints is that when prices are bad for us as agriculturists the people who get the benefit are not the consumers, and my argument has always been, that if the consumer gets the benefit of a temporary lowering of the price, it makes a better customer of him, or rather of her, because, as the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) has reminded us, it is the lady who spends the money. The demand in such a case would become greater and the industry would have the advantage indirectly. In regard to milk, the present charge for distribution is 1s. per gallon. That is far too high. It may be that at the present time a farmer is getting about 1s. 8d., but what happens in the summer time when the farmer is only getting 1s., and in some cases only 10d. or 11d.? The cost of distribution remains practically the same, and in that case Is. is being charged for distributing what the producer has to produce for 10d. or 11d. The difficulty comes in here, that the man who is working with the cows is only getting half the wage of the man who is walking round delivering it in the village or the town.
There is a much greater danger with regard to labour. If the labour is not kept on the land it is going to become a competitor with labour in the towns, and it is a class of labour which is the most formidable competitor with labour in the towns. Industries are only too pleased to receive the virile and powerful men— the healthy individuals who have come straight from the land. It is a great problem for those in the towns, to consider how far they can do something to assist, in maintaining a healthy population on the land which is not going to be a constant competitor with them in their industries. Again, with regard to the health of the nation, where do you get the new blood to resuscitate the virility of the town population? It is from the country districts. If you are going to beat down the conditions of life in the country districts or to deplete the population in the country districts, then the towns are going to suffer very seriously in the question of health. The rural population of the country was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The rural population has decreased very largely. From 1891 to 1921 it has fallen from 28 per cent, down to 20 per cent. That is the population in the rural areas, and not those engaged in agriculture. Those engaged in agriculture have gone down to about 9 per cent. Since 1918 the area of wheat land has decreased by no less a number of acres than 202,000. The acreage of the total cereal crops has decreased by 1,597,000 acres.
Remember that it is the arable land and not the grass land which employs labour, and it is the arable land which is the main factor in the detention of the population upon the land. With regard to the occupiers of the land, the fall in their receipts is very severe. Wheat in June, 1921, was 89s. 3d., now it is down in some cases to 42s., and there is wheat being sold at even less than that. Oats have dropped in the same period from 43s. 8d. down to 24s. or 25s. We were told by the Mover of the Amendment that oats have been sold at very much lees than that, and it was said that the condition of agriculture has been as bad at other times as it is to-day. Let me point out that the conditions under which agriculture was carried on formerly were very different with regard to the power of agriculturists to get back again to prosperity. Although an hon. Member referred to oats being Gold at 12s., I remember a time when Indian corn could be bought at 10s., and one can see from that, the advantage which the farmer in those days enjoyed of feeding his stock en the cheap food that was then brought into the country. The question of potatoes has been dealt with by other speakers, and I will not refer to it further than to say that it is one crop which we can produce in this country in a degree adequate to the demands of the consumer in this country, and we ought to remember that. Reference was also made to the sale of horses. In this country we are the best breeders of horses in the world. It is all very well giving figures as to what horses are making to-day. Those of us who are practically occupied in the industry know that you cannot find customers for them very often, and that we have more horses on the farm than we know what to do with.
I come now to the question of rates. An Agricultural Rating Act was passed in 1896 giving relief to agriculture to the extent of one half on agricultural land. That was 24 years ago, and the basis arrived at then on which grants were
made to local authorities has never been altered since. Let me read what has been said by the late Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister on this subject as long ago as 1914. On 16th February, 1914, the late Prime Minister said:
There was no doubt that farmers had a great grievance under the present system.
Then our present Prime Minister, about the same time, speaking to a deputation said:
You have pointed out that the system of rating is at present unfair to agriculture, and I agree.
That was as long ago as 1914, and yet we have had no redress. The great danger is in this criminal delay which is taking place in doing something for this great national industry. That is why we are asking that the rating system should be reconsidered and that we should get immediate relief on that particular point. Another point in regard to the occupier is this, that in a very large proportion he has been saddled with the expenses and the responsibilities of becoming a landowner. In 1913 there were 48,760 holdings above one acre, and in 1921 the number of holdings had risen to more than 70,000, showing the extent to which ownership has become changed from the landlord to the occupier. I could give the acreage affected, but I do not know that hon. Members require too many figures. The proportion in percentages is from 10½ per cent, in 1913, as the total acreage occupied by owners, to 12 per cent, in 1919, and now, since the scrapping of the Agriculture Act, it is 20 per cent., showing to what extent the difficulties which I am putting before the House are affecting agriculture.
I say definitely that the sale of estates was the greatest blow that this country's food production ever had. The owners of estates did not sell those estates because they wished to sell them, but because they were absolutely compelled to do so, owing to the conditions which had grown up. I am not dealing now with their position, but with that of the occupier, the man who bought the farm. He did not buy because he wished to buy, but because he was forced to do so, in order to maintain a home and an opportunity to carry on his industry, and in many cases he was compelled to buy at prices much higher than they should have been, although, on the other hand, I will say that there were certain of the landowners who gave first preference to their tenants and did very handsomely by their tenants. The result was disastrous, all the same, because they bad not the money to pay for those farms, and they had to obtain the one-third, possibly, by taking it out of some money they had or by depriving what ought to have been their working capital of some of that capital, and the other two-thirds they took up on mortgage, with the result that there are thousands of farmers to-day who find themselves saddled with interest on money, borrowed at a far higher rate and amounting to a very much greater sum than the rent they paid before, while they have lost the one-third, which has now gone in the depreciation of the value of the farm itself. In addition to being saddled with a rent in the shape of interest on money borrowed, higher than pre-War, they have also this. They have the expenses of the upkeep of the farm, and they have to pay taxation both as owner and as occupier. All of these charges are not only charges upon the farmer, but they are charges upon the agricultural industry, which is the food production of the people. That is one of the reasons, and the greatest, why we ask for credit for the industry, and I sincerely hope that the words that have fallen from the Prime Minister to-night are indicative that we are going to receive these credits, for which we make a very reasonable demand.
The reforms which I have enumerated, however, in reference to taxation, credits, transport facilities, education, grants for research, and all that sort of thing, are palliatives, and nothing more. They are not remedies, and do not let this House for one moment believe that they are the remedies which will be necessary to put agriculture in a reasonably flourishing condition again. They are not, and what we look for and demand, with respect, from the Government is this, that they shall at the very earliest moment bring forward a policy which we and this House can debate and a policy which we hope in future will give stability to the industry. Is the land in this country to be cultivated? That is another question that we ask. It ought to be cultivated. Why spend millions of money in sending men out to other countries to cultivate land while we have the land here waiting to be cultivated? That is a question we want to ask the Government, and I think we ought to have a reply. They have already, with the Empire Settlement Act, put on one side £3,000,000, which, spread over 15 years, will go very largely to deplete this country of agricultural labour, because what is it that they require abroad? It is not the skilled artisan in other trades. They do not want him; they have told him so. They want the virile, skilled, agricultural labourer, and that is what they are going to rob this country of, when we ought to keep him here to produce corn and food on the land of this country and thus enable us to sell it without the extra expense of the transport in bringing it here from other countries.
I do not think I had better detain the House longer, and I may have an opportunity of speaking on some future occasion, but I would finish by making this statement. Ever since the world has been there has been an obligation lying upon land, and that is lo find food and to produce food for the people who live upon it, and no man has any right, either to own land, occupy land, or work upon land, if he is going to deprive the land of the opportunity of performing its obligations to the people. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Come across to the Labour Benches."] I should be glad to see some of those hon. Members on this side. On this question of agriculture, I hope we shall have the support of all parties, and I believe we shall, though I am a little doubtful as to the methods which some hon. Members opposite may propose later on. My final re mark is this. Having made a statement with regard to the obligation which lies upon land, I say definitely that we farmers are prepared, as I believe are the landowners and, I know, the workers, too—the whole of us—to accept that obligation, and we are prepared to do all we possibly can to produce food, but in doing so we ask the general consumer, the general public, to perform their obligation to us, which is, to give us a decent living while we are performing our obligation to them.
It is really very refreshing to us on these Labour Benches to hear an hon. Member speaking from the Conservative side who is prepared seriously to advocate that all other considerations should give way to the best possible use of the land for agriculture. I can only hope that his example will be followed by everybody on that side of the House. I desire, from the point of view of the Labour party, to support the Amendment in favour of an inquiry. I do no also from the point of view of one who worked for many years as a member of the Agricultural Organisation Society, usually having as colleagues, I am sorry to say, not Radicals on this side of the House, but Conservatives, many of whom sat on those benches, and among them I wish we had still with, us the late Member for Chester (Mr. Yerburgh), who was such a valuable promoter of agricultural reform. I do not, however, find that in placing myself on the Labour Benches there is anything at all inconsistent with my old outlook as a member of the Agricultural Organisation Society's Committee. On the contrary, I feel that a Labour programme would be of much more use to the Agricultural Organisation Society than the programme of any other party.
Nobody denies that the condition of agriculture is very serious to-day. We may, for the moment, on these benches represent in the main urban interests, but we are not the least behind other parties in urging that there should not only be inquiry, but that there should be early action in regard to agriculture. If Labour had been in office, let us think what would be said about the responsibility of the Labour Government for the present plight of agriculture. I am sure we should have been told it was entirely the fault of having in power a lot of idealists who did not understand land. Of course, it is true that the Conservative party ought to understand the question very much better than we. In the first place, they own the land, generally speaking, and, although so much land has changed hands, they are still the chief factor in the control of the use of land, and in this House they represent almost all the rural divisions. The odd thing is that their policy is criticised most severely of all, not by us, but by Members of their own party. They produced a great agriculturist in the late Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Prothero, now Lard Ernie, who said the other day that the Labour party is the only section of the community which has put forward a definite programme of agriculture, and that the Conservative party have lost credit with the agriculturists.
It is a most extraordinary thing that the benches opposite produce great experts in agriculture and then entirely ignore them. The hon. Member who has just sat down, I am sure, regrets this fact, but it seems to me one of the oddest things in our public life that the Conservative party produces prophets, and then it kills the prophets and stones those who are sent unto it. They killed Prothero with a peerage, and he is not the only one of the great experts whom they have ignored. It is a curious thing, perhaps, that I have supporting me a great many farmers. I suppose it is because of this neglect of a serious agricultural attitude by the Conservative party. Just think what it means that farmers should be members of the Labour party. Does it not expose the balderdash which has been talked about this party being a Bolshevist party? These farmers are Labour because they think that the Conservative party, dominating the late Government, is to blame for a great deal of the present trouble. In the first place, they know that the late Government, which was a Conservative Government, spoilt our foreign trade, spoilt world prices by destroying markets throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and, on that account, spoilt the consumptive power of markets in England, whore men have been thrust out of employment; and, thirdly, by destroying the currencies of those Eastern countries, put an artificial premium on imported things. For instance, potatoes, with a depreciated currency, have been a serious evil to a great many farmers in this country. Again, as we have all heard this evening, they hold the Government to account for the volte-face in repealing the Agriculture Act, which brought so many farmers to ruin. The owners in many cases got out very well. If I had been a landowner myself, and especially if I had suffered from heavy mortgages on my property, I could not have asked for a better turn than was done for many landlords, in the opportunity afforded by the Agriculture Act and the Corn Production Act of getting a good price for land. Unfortunately, only owning about 20 acres myself, I was unable to take advantage of the situation. If I had been a farmer, and had become the slave of my mortgagees, as we have heard described this evening, I think I should feel no Government ever swindled a large class of traders so badly as the farmers who have been induced to buy, and have been tricked into a bad purchase.
There is another general reason which, I think, induces even farmers, with all the natural conservatism of the country, to despair about Conservative policy and to turn even to Labour. They really do not feel that the Conservative party has ever been quite serious about agriculture, and that is really what I complain of. There is plenty of evidence from their own side. We have had some allusion this evening to a man who was regarded as, perhaps, the greatest authority when I was last in the House—Mr. Charles Bathurst, better known as Lord Bledisloe. Let me tell the House what he said the other day about the Conservative and the landlord section of the community. He also was a colleague of mine on the Agricultural Organisation Society, and had all the prejudices of a landlord, but he said that, unless the landowners justified themselves by working at agriculture, public opinion would demand their extinction. Those are quite strong words. It is amusing to think how very much a fish out of water Lord Bledisloe would be in the smoking rooms of most country houses, which represent great estates, if at a late hour of night he were to begin to talk about agriculture. I think the smoking room would empty rather earlier than usual, as, indeed, sometimes these benches emptied when he gave us his views upon gooseberry-mildew or other kindred subjects. Seriously, if any Members of the Labour party were invited to such a country house, they would not be bored by Lord Bledisloe, even on gooseberry mildew, because they are deeply concerned about the business aspect of agriculture. I think indeed they would be very surprised to find that, even in territorial houses, representing large agricultural estates, it would be quite difficult to find among the newspapers anything you can regard as seriously agricultural. I do not allude to "Country Life," which puts you off with one article on an agricultural subject, but even the "Field" is more sporting than agricultural. You would hardly find anything serious in that direction on the newspaper table, except, I think, the publications of the Central Landowners' Association.
That is really our complaint against Conservative policy, that it has allowed landowning to become a recreation in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] TO a great extent it is a recreation compared with other countries. In other countries it is a trade—a profession. What have we to compare with the outlook of large landlords such as there are in France, or especially in Germany? I happen to know a man who owns 20,000 acres in Pomerania. He farms the whole of it himself. It may be a very feudal system, but it is a going concern. The whole system of landowning there is a serious affair. That man is busy from dawn to dark, and a good deal longer, with every kind of agricultural business. What have we to compare with that in this country? You would be rather fortunate, I think, on a foreign estate, to come across anything of the kind. You would not hear so much talk of the latest kind of motor-car; you would hear more talk of agricultural implements, could myself give instances of the loss of production and obvious injury to agriculture under the present system of owning the land of this country. You have only got to go down the Portsmouth line, and, on the right hand, as you approach Haslemere, you can see, in one case, quite a considerable area of farming land turned into a sort of sporting enclosure. That is an extreme case, perhaps, but that is the attitude we take in this country towards the land.
The Prime Minister spoke about the impossibility of protection and of artificial aid unless we were willing to pay the price. It seems to me it is another price that the land-owning community has got to pay. They have got to be willing to put agriculture first and to put other less business interests aside. If they were willing to do as the great landowners of Japan did, to hand over the control of their land for public purposes in return for an annuity, everyone knows that a very different face might be put upon agriculture in this country. I only wish that the Conservative party had half the genuine interest in agriculture that is felt on these benches. We say that it is our greatest industry, and it cannot be played with from either of two points of view; either from that of the national food supply or from that of the happiness of the workers. We offer a policy of economy and of science, but all policies fail if yon neglect the human factor. You must take the human view of industry. Therefore we are sympathetic to the under dog— because the agricultural labourer is an under dog at the present time. In our view the supply of food is of vital importance. What is it that the Government proposes? We do not yet know. I hops we soon shall know. And the sooner the better. But if there is not to be artificial aid in regard to prices, which I understood from the Prime Minister there is not to be, then it is a question of reducing expenses, or of increasing efficiency by other means. The fact is, of course, that party government is hampered by vested interests, and I suppose that, is why another expert produced in that political quarter, Mr. Christopher Turner, a very great expert, has been so greatly ignored—shamefully ignored by those who might put his theories into practice.
Take the farmers' interests first. We are told that to urge a better wage for the labourer is out of place until we can show that there is a margin in the profits of the farmer. We have to face that. We all depend greatly on the ability and energy of the farming class. We know the very serious outlook of the farmer, especially upon arable land. A Conservative paper in Norfolk put it the other day that wages are 24s., land is 30s. an acre, and barley is 24s. a quarter. Rather an extreme way to put it, but not entirely untrue. What I wish to show is that there is a margin which might be increased, and therefore that it is not idle to talk about a better wage for the labourer.
Farming has been hampered in unnecessary ways, and the proposals of the Labour party would relieve it. We have heard about many of them to-night. We have heard a great deal of talk about the rates. I only allude to one aspect, and that is the effect of rating improvements. It has a deadly influence on farming, and stands quite apart from the general incidence of rural and urban rating. Rating of improvements would be swept away by a Labour Government. The co-operation which you get in every foreign system which is successful cannot be established without being virtually imposed by the Board of Agriculture in that country. We hear again about the excessive profits of the dealers. We are getting to the time when combines are making excessive profit because they are approaching a monopoly. The Labour party would not shrink from taking control of a monopoly if it became a bloodsucker in the community. The milk supply might quite well be placed upon a truly economic basis by public control in any particular area such as London or any of the great towns.
Insurance has not, I think, been alluded to. We on these benches say that there is a great deal of unnecessary expense in insurance and that public control might come in there. We have heard about loans. The old local banks are gone. The landlord is no longer the capital, supplying agency that he used to be. There is a particular case in which we should advocate credit facilities, and that is the case of the man who has been victimised by giving too much for his farm for various well-known reasons. In these eases we say, further, that there might be a just claim for purchase by the State, where the man has given such a price that his own capital has been entirely eliminated.
There is, of course, a great economy which can be effected in regard to game. Control did, during the War, eliminate waste by controlling game. Anybody who knows the country knows how much land in arable counties is diminished in rental value by game. I could take hon. Members to a wood in Norfolk around which I have heard the agent say that several scores of acres were reduced in value by 10s. per acre merely by hares alone. There is no other country where waste of that kind would be tolerated. There is no other country where you would allow the owner to prohibit his tenants keeping movable chicken houses about the fields in order to prevent them interfering with partridges nesting, which is a very common practice on light land. We all know —and this is another point to which allusion has not been made—how many farmers are injured by bad farming and the prevalence of weeds on other farms. In other countries, European or Dominion, you have elaborate systems for preventing destruction by weeds, and, of course, we are neglecting economy in this fact. We have heard about science and the value of demonstration farms. We know there is in this most conservative of countries heartfelt contempt for scientific learning.
I once assisted a young farmer to go to the county agricultural school in his district, and he wrote after a few days:
They tell us a lot out of books. If we wanted that sort of thing we could buy the books ourselves.
All that sort of contempt has to be controlled and modified if you are to say that we are making the best use of the land.
As a basis for these reforms Labour proposes three things. You cannot get away from the need of control, much as it is disliked by many farmers. You cannot, secondly, get away from the need of much more secure tenure. I know a property in Yorkshire, a very large one, where no repairs are done at all and the tenants are told: "You can take it or leave it, you shall have no more than an annual tenancy," and the natural result is that the buildings are constantly falling into disuse, some perishing altogether. That is no economy, and ought, again, to be controlled. You cannot get away, thirdly, from the necessity of a revision of rents. Rents ought to be fair and they ought to be economic. On a falling market, as you have now, farmers are driven to uneconomic courses and they lose openings for profitable business because at the moment they are short of cash. It is the legal obligation to pay the rent which makes them adopt uneconomic courses, very often get rid of men, and cause unemployment in the villages which would not be caused if there was machinery for the adjustment of rents. On these grounds, surely, if the Government were in earnest on this matter, it would be rushing on this Session a Rent Courts Emergency Act, for this reason. You may have the sort of thing you had in the seventies. There were then vast numbers of good farmers in the eastern counties ruined by the fact that they were held to their obligations in rent, and they went under. Many owners regretted afterwards that they had not been more lenient in their own interests, because they never succeeded in replacing those men by equally competent men. You lose the knowledge which is the result of long experience, and which cannot be got together again. It is a national injury which leads to stinted farming and loss of men with knowledge. We say there is a margin to be made if you treat agriculture seriously, a margin through economies of this kind, and a margin through rent. After all, there is a vast amount of land in this country rented at all events over £l, a great deal over £2, and the increase of wage which would be involved in the re-establishment of the Wages Board would not probably amount to expenses equal to more than 10s. an acre in the arable counties. Rents have risen very often and fallen very often. There must be an adjustment, and is it not economic that there should be rapid adjustment by Rent Courts?
There is a potential margin, and therefore no unavoidable obstacle to a decent wage.
For these reasons I have left the worker to the last, because it requires to be shown that there is a fund out of which he can be paid. The proposal of the Government is, apparently, that there should be an inquiry, but I trust that inquiry is to cover the case of the labourer. That we do not yet know. So far the Minister of Agriculture, in reply to questions of mine and other Members, has declined an inquiry, and we must assume that there is no intention of re-establishing the Board. Virtually, the proposal on the other side is, reduce the wages first. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!:"] I do not wish to be at all unfair. I mean, that there is no other easy means of relieving the situation which presents itself to the Government or to the farmer. We say, reduce wages last, exhaust the possibilities of economy before you I reduce wages, and that not merely because it is a humane question, but because it is a national question. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) replied to a question of mine, I remember, in 1913 on this subject of a minimum wage, and he then urged with very great force the necessity of regulating wages quite apart from any other compensating provision in the way of prices. Later on he said that you could not make an A1 Empire out of a C3 population. We say it is a national question, as he then argued, because, in the first place, this is the largest industry in the land, and the happiness of the workers is a very important public consideration. At the same time, you must also safeguard the health of the whole country, as the populations of the towns are almost solely fed in the course of generations from the villages. Therefore, you must regulate, and there is no
way of regulating except by a Board. I would like to quote another authority on this point from the other side of the House. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. A. Chamberlain) said the other day:
If we are going to sit idly by and see the agricultural labourers' wages screwed down to pre-War level, then I do not believe that this House of Commons, no matter what party is in the majority, would permit it.
I trust everyone on the other side of the House is in agreement with him. The position of the labourers has been developed to-night. It is very pitiful indeed. It has got back to something like the position of a century ago when relief by the guardians became almost inevitable. There are other grievances besides wages. There is the shocking housing, too many tied houses, want of means of recreation, indifferent schooling, little opportunity for small holdings, and, lately, there has been a great tendency to prevent the labourer even keeping a pig. The main thing is wages, and we say that the wage should be a first charge on any industry. That is expressly the case in the agricultural industry, because there is no resort for the agricultural labourer to turn to in the event of his losing his job on the land. In Norfolk lately we had the Chairman of a Board of Guardians who was applied to by an agricultural labourer with five children, saying it was a most pitiable case, because if only 2d. was spent on each meal for the family it would exhaust 24s. a week; in fact, the food even at that low rate would monopolise the whole of that man's wages. The Minister of Agriculture has lately stated in the House that the lowest wage was 25s., but it is a melancholy fact that in Norfolk the common wage is 24s. and not "5s. Men are working at 6d. per hour in winter. There is also a great deal of unemployment. There are very sad cases indeed of widows with sons who came back from the War to look after their mothers and who have no chance of getting work. They are compelled to emigrate, and are getting nothing from the Government but a ticket for one of the Dominions.
It would be very interesting, if time permitted me, to give the House details of family budgets which illustrate the
terrible position of the labourer's family. It could not possibly be argued that 25s., and much less 24s., buys nearly as much as was bought in 1913 with the 15s. wage of that day. I find that the labourers living in similar houses buy much less of the little luxuries of the poor. They buy less jam, less currants, and less syrup, while in regard to clothes and boots, those things are regarded as a sort of buffer item which must be adjusted according to the state of their finances. The children must go worse clad and shod if the money does not go far enough, or else the parents get the goods on trust in the hope of being able to pay for them out of the harvest money in the following year. There is one further point I would like to urge, and it is with regard to the Wages Board. There is a very hostile attitude to the idea of that Board, and the Minister of Agriculture has refused it. But I have here an interesting opinion from a well-known county councillor in Norfolk which might allay some of the fears that have been felt and might make more possible the re-establishment of the Board. This man says that if you fix the Wages Board, although it may not materially affect wages one way or the other, it would mean stabilising wages and eventually by compelling the employers and workers to get together to discuss the matter the industry would benefit, as also would both the farmers and the labourers. I would like to ask the hon. Member who represents the Ministry to bear in mind that the proposal for a Board is not solely devoted to the idea of forcing up the wage, but there is also attached to it the advantage of stabilisation which I know many farmers would admit to be worth having. The Board, when it was established, succeeded very well, and we say it is wanted in all circumstances, just as much as a Board is wanted in sweated trades, such, for instance, as the chain makers. Agriculture, in fact, is an industry which cannot do without it. We appeal strongly for the regulation of wages as a general principle. In this case we deem it to be a necessary basis of prosperity. It is so in every low paid trade. I should like again to refer, in conclusion, to the valuable incursion made into the agricultural field by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and I should like to repeat one or two
of the expressions which the right hon. Gentleman used in regard to the question of wages in 1913. He said that the agricultural wages in many counties were a perfect scandal in this country. He also said there was no economic reason, and there were social and political reasons, because high wages were paid in counties very far from the market and on bad land. I think I cannot do better than close my remarks by reminding the House of what the right hon. Gentleman said in generally summing up the question of agricultural wages. His words were:
You cannot get a great country built up on conditions which make rural life unpopular.
I am reminded that a great many Members are anxious to speak on this question, and therefore I promise that I will only occupy a very few minutes. I stand as the first Scottish Member to address the House on this question to-night, and as Chairman of the Highland party representing one of the great agricultural districts in Scotland, I would like to be reassured by my hon. Friend who represents the Minister of Agriculture that the inquiry will apply to Scotland. I realise that my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works cannot possibly be here to-night as he is away on official duties. He courteously informed me of that fact, and therefore I quite understand why he is not on the Front Bench. We in Scotland have our problem just as much as you have in England, and in many cases it is much more deep. We have in Scotland the problem of rural depopulation which is mentioned in the forefront of the Amendment to the Address. In one district in my own country where there were 1,084 voters in 1886 there are only 321 to-day, and as the House will understand, after the prowess of the 51st Division in the Great War, they come of the finest stock in the country. We have been most anxious in Scotland to settle ex-service men on the land. We realise very well, however, that it is almost a crime to settle a man on the land when the land is dear, when stock is dear, and when machinery is dear. We are hopeful that under new conditions the problem of settling these men on the land will be solved satisfactorily to all concerned.
There is another problem which is closely connected with rural depopulation. The Highland smallholder, or crofter as he was called in the old days, was very proud of his home. He very rarely made a fortune in it. We who represent the Highlands of Scotland are anxious to see afforestation developed to the fullest possible extent. We believe that no land is too good in Scotland for the ex-service man. There are thousands of acres in the North on the hillside which cannot be cultivated, and inasmuch as in the old days trees did flourish on that land, we say that if you establish afforestation over these moorland tracts you can provide for the crofter and smallholder additional occupation for his spare months when he has nothing to do on his croft or small holding. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last was quite fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in his reference to wages. We in Scotland are deeply concerned with the wages of the ploughmen and farm servants, and I do not know anyone in the House who is more responsible for bringing forward the lowness of the wages of the agricultural labourer in Scotland than my right hon. Friend. I do not think it is very gracious of any Member who has an accurate knowledge of the agricultural history of this country to accuse my right hon. Friend of now showing sincerity with regard to that point. He was a pioneer in trying to improve the wages of the agricultural labourers of this country, and he had to endure the obloquy of a great many people because of the attitude that he took upon that point. As a Scottish Member, I feel proud that I was associated with him, and I also feel proud that the ploughmen of Scotland still believe in him. [Interruption.] Whatever hon. Members of this House may say, they ought to remember that every Member from the Highlands of Scotland is here by the support of the ploughmen of the North of Scotland, and there was not one who was not returned under the influence and with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I think it is the highest form of ingratitude on the part of the party who sit above the Gangway to-day to turn round upon my right hon. Friend, who, as I have said, was the pioneer in this movement.
I am very anxious, not only that the wages of the ploughmen and agricultural servants should be the last to be reduced, but also that their hours should be fair. The hours in agriculture are bound in many ways to differ from those in a factory, because agriculture depends entirely upon climate and climatic conditions. The worker in the factory can go in under a roof and do his eight hours whatever the weather may be, but it is different with the man who is accustomed to work where Nature has to be considered. I should like to see an impartial tribunal instituted to consider the question of hours for farm servants and agricultural labourers. I am certain that, if the good old friendly spirit between fanner and farm servant prevails, that difficulty will be easily overcome. I am also anxious that there should be full security of tenure as regards the crofting part of Scotland. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) had a question down with reference to that to-day. We are determined, as a Highland party, to see to it that that great acquisition, procured for the crofters of Scotland by a Liberal Government, shall be conserved to them, and I hope my hon. Friends above the Gangway will assist us in that.
I am referring now to security of tenure. That particular case had not to do with any administration of mine, and there was no question of security of tenure involved. I am trying to defend a principle which has been fought for in the Highlands, and I hope that my friends and myself, in fighting for that principle, will have the support of those hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway who represent Scotland. I agree with a great deal that has been said as to the difficulty that the owner or occupier of land has in making both ends meet at the present time. The incidence of rates, particularly for education and roads, is very heavy indeed. Every Scotsman likes to see the road of education open to the youngest and poorest in the land, right up to the very top, and he has never in reality grudged any rate that would be charged upon him for education, provided he realised that the administration was run upon efficient and economical lines. He has, however, a great grievance against the road rate, because the roads, in the North of Scot land particularly—I am not referring so much to the main roads as to the others —are in a very bad condition. They were built for the farmer and his gig, so that he might get to market and back, but nowadays he finds, owing to the beautiful scenery of the Highlands, that the whole countryside is practically devastated by motor care of very high power, which destroy the roads, and he is strongly of opinion, and many of us agree, that the larger burden of these rates ought not to be local but Imperial. We are anxious, if an inquiry is to take place, that transport facilities in the Highlands, and in Scotland as a whole, should be reconsidered and improved. In my constituency we have a railway—the Dingwall and Cromarty Railway—such as ought to be instituted in other districts. I believe that it is only by such means as cheapening rates, facilitating transport and the cooperation of all parties—farmers, farm-servants, and crofters—
And even landlords—it is only by those means that we shall be able to increase the productiveness of the land and give security and stability to the industry. Above all, we are anxious, if possible, to improve the life of the countryside; in other words, to disregard the cinema and look after the sunset. We desire to maintain as many people happy and contented upon the land as may be possible, and if any such inquiry as has been promised by the Prime Minister to-day will produce a policy conducive to the better interests of all concerned in this industry, it will have our whole-hearted support.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), earlier in the Debate, covered the ground very fully as an expert and also as Chairman of the Agricultural Committee—a position which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, once filled with such distinction—and I desire unreservedly to congratulate him on reaching that position. I can only speak as a student, and I speak also, I am afraid, rather among the pessimists than among the optimists with whom the Prime Minister classed himself. I spoke on the Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill in 1920 as a pessimist, and I said then that I believed the Ministry of Agriculture to be all wrong in their forecasts that prices would not fall. I said they would fall considerably. I still speak as a pessimist in regard to agriculture. I think anyone who has read the "Times" articles and who takes the position of the agricultural labourer, living in the same village alongside unskilled workmen on the railways and getting only half their wages, can only speak as a pessimist. The Amendment before the House proposes ah inquiry. We have had any number of inquiries and they have had no result. We had an inquiry in 1916. Nothing could have been better than its report from the point of view of agriculture. We had another inquiry in 1919, the Selborne Royal Commission. Again nothing could have been better than its Report from the point of view of agriculture, but no satisfactory result followed. Agriculture has always been put off with words, and therefore it is that I welcome the intervention of the leader of the National Liberal Party, who has lifted the whole controversy beyond the mere region of words.
The Prime Minister, in response to his speech, said, "We will get along with the reforms we want to carry out dealing with the rates and with railways, and so forth, but we will have the inquiry as well," and as far as I can make out the inquiry is likely to be along the lines which I advocate in the Amendment to the Address that I have put down—a conference, to a large extent, of the leaders of all political parties. That would take the thing out of party controversy in this House, and when one remembers the measure of success which was nearly come to in 1913 in connection with the Irish Conference at Buckingham Palace, where there were vital differences of opinion, I think if the leaders of political parties would come to an agreement as to the form of inquiry and agree to use their influence with their parties, we could remove agriculture from the mere party scores and party cries which have such dominance on the Floor of this House. That would take agriculture from the position of the Cinderella among our industries, and when one knows of the services that agriculture has rendered to this country I think we ought to take it out of the region of party controversy and see what we can do for it. The leader of the National Liberal party referred to what took place during the War. He said there was one month in which 700,000 tons of shipping were sunk —I think it was something like 800,000 tons—and I believe the Sea Lords at that time represented to the Prime Minister, that is, the leader of the National Liberal party, that we had to make peace, that we could not possibly hold out more than a few months. It was then that he made his great appeal to agriculture to conic to the rescue, and later on, in 1918, that appeal was supplemented by a fresh appeal, in which it was pointed out that for every million quarters of wheat that were produced in this country we could release shipping to carry 100,000 American soldiers and victual them in France. It was then that agriculture made its noble response and saved the situation. Had Germany adopted our policy prior to the War, she would have been beaten in three months. Germany before the War had the greatest potato crop in Europe, and the greatest rye crop in the world. It was by the judicious mixing of potatoes and rye with wheat that they made their bread and were able to hold out for several years of war.
What I want to know is, what of the future? According to the Census returns, we are adding to the population of England and Wales, in each ten years' period, a population equal to the population of Ireland. That can only make the position become worse and worse, and when people say, "Why not alter that position," I carry my mind back to the time when the Leader of the Labour party and I were both entering upon our Parliamentary careers and we heard a Cabinet Minister on this bench say that "minorities must suffer; it is the badge of their tribe." Our agriculture is doomed as a minority. I do not agree with the figure given by the Leader of the National Liberal party of 9.2 per cent, of the population. Of the population of England and Wales I think it is only 7½ per cent. That is a very small minority indeed. I do not see how in this House of Commons you can turn the position of the representatives of the great towns, who care little for agriculture, except by some such agreement as I have proposed, getting all the political parties to list this question of agriculture above all party controversy, for remember we are weaker than ever. We used to have the support of 80 Irish votes. We have no longer the support of those 80 votes which represented agriculture in Ireland, and it is far more the case that the foundations of this century in which we live are dug deep down in the coal mines. Coal is the industry which dominates politics far more than agriculture. Coal, forming 70 per cent, of our export cargoes before the War, gave freights one way and gave cheap return freights on food to be sent to this country. We have all been paying attention to the food of the machine and not to the food of the individual. I take the special case of our exports to the Argentine before the War. Four and a half million tons of coal were sent to the Argentine every year. One railway took as much as 700,000 tons. That coal was used to carry wheat and meat, to replenish the fuel of our ships, and to bring the wheat and meat to this country, and, in fact, throughout the present and last centuries it is British coal which has been fighting British agriculture more than any other commodity.
I ask myself, what has been gained by this policy which we have pursued all these recent years? The towns have lost a great market in the country. Workers have been driven from the country into the towns, depressing the wages in the towns. We nearly lost the War through the fact that we ignored the Report of the Royal Commission before the War, which reported that at times there were only six weeks' supply of wheat in this country. Agriculture came to the rescue. We grubbed our hops in Kent and laid down wheat instead. From 1870 up to 1914 we lost nearly 4,500,000 acres of cultivated land. We got back 1,750,000 acres during the War, but we have lost that again. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I think we have pretty well lost it. What are the root causes of this charge? The Mover of the Amendment dealt with the cost of production, and that is the root cause of the whole thing. In 1913, according to wheat costings by Herbert Grange, it cost as much as 32s. to produce a quarter of wheat. The profit was only 3s. In 1922 the cost was 64s. 5d. per quarter and the net loss was 23s. I do not think we need look further than that for the reason why the land has bean drifting out of cultivation.
In 1921, 77 per cent, of our wheat supply was imported into this country. Apart from the alleviations which have been proposed by the National Farmers' Union, I can only see three remedies. The first is Protection, which we have tried and repudiated. It is the method adopted by every other country in the world. The second is a bonus on the acres cultivated. That, I think, we have never tried. The third is what was tried and failed, the method of guaranteed prices. Why did that fail? It failed because the forecasts which were made by the Board of Agriculture and their experts, that prices would not fall, were all wrong. The result of their erroneous forecast was that the country would have had to pay from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 a year in subsidies. If those subsidies had been given, we know that the Labour party would have demanded subsidies for the mines as well, and the Government had to abandon that position.
The reason why I am pessimistic is this: We have now got wheat to half the price at which it stood when the Agriculture Bill was before us. We have not even brought Russia into the field. She used to supply one-fifth of the wheat production of the world. She has not yet come into the field, but I think it is a certainty that she will be in the field, exporting as formerly, within three years' time. There has been an enormous increase in the cultivation in Canada, America and Australia. There are 33,000,000 more acres of wheat being cultivated in the United States, Canada and Australia than was in the case in 1914. The United States, Canada and India between them this year increased their supply of wheat by 43,000,000 tons, or more than six times our whole production. I doubt whether our production this year amounts to as much as 7,000,000 tons. The result is that agriculture is liable to be overwhelmed at any moment by the imports from foreign countries.
So far as the assistance to farmers has gone it has been all the other way up to now. Empire development and Empire emigration is intended to develop markets in the Colonies. I think it is quite a right policy, but it will have the effect of increasing the food supplies from our Empire. The Trade Facilities Bills will start by setting up the basic industry of agriculture in foreign countries. The Safeguarding of Industries Act protects manufacturers. It does not protect agriculture in any way. It can only increase the prices to agriculturists. The agricultural workers do not get an unemployed dole. As regards them, it can only tend to increase the price of their beer, their "baccy," their tea and their sugar. Therefore, so far as legislation in this country has been concerned, it is all against agriculture. I hope in what the Government are going to do now in regard to rates, railway rates and credit facilities, and in regard to this inquiry, which I suppose will be a rapid one, they will do a great deal for agriculture. You owe agriculture some reparation for the past; you can at least give it some security for the future.
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down is almost as cheerful as a farmer would be contemplating snow at harvest time. He sees no hope for the future, except through the agency of the inquiry which, in essence, he condemns from previous experience. I am not sure that I am very sanguine myself with regard to the inquiry. I heard the late Prime Minister this afternoon, and I was intensely interested in his speech. I was expecting every moment that he would indicate what his idea was, but he was careful, just when he was coming near the point and exciting my curiosity, to sheer off, and say: "You need not bring out the thing you have got upon your shelf at the present time. You can do as you like, and I will help you." I wish to ask the Minister of Agriculture whether, when this inquiry takes place, all parties in the House will be represented upon it? I believe the industrial element in the Labour party will help you very considerably to come to a conclusion favourable to agriculture.
I am referring to the inquiry suggested by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and not to the Departmental Inquiry. I have no doubt the Minister of Agriculture has sufficient perception to know quite a number of hon. Members on these benches who could give him a great deal of information and assistance in departmental matters.
The Labour party will help you for one reason, and for one reason only. That reason is their interest in the workers on the land. As long as you will give the workers on the land an opportunity to live, the Labour party will assist you. The Government must not think that the Labour party will assist you if the agricultural element persist in their idea that they will submit to no control. They cannot have assistance without control. There must be control; there must be something in the nature of a wages board. That is what we want, and we will go a long way to help you if you will set it up, with a really serious intention of benefiting the interests of the workers on the land. We are most anxious for that, and we will help the Government as much as we can in that direction.
This inquiry will take some time. I know quite well the urgency of paying attention to agriculture, especially to arable agriculture. There are some matters, however, which cannot wait. I refer especially to the case of the smallholders, whose condition is really pitiable. They have expended all the money they could possibly rake together in order to get on to the land. They have drawn from every possible source, from relatives and others, as much as they could obtain, and to-day they are practically at the end of their tether. I know quite well that land was bought at a high rate, and the cost of building and equipment also was high. The Government, however, should have cut their losses, and put them in on the land at a rent which they could reasonably expect to pay. What is the use, from time to time, of these men going to the agents whom you have set up in charge of the various localities, and begging for some reduction in rents? Five pounds an acre for rent, and, in addition to that, a high rent for farm buildings and housing on these small farms! What happens? I am not talking now about rapacious landlords, but of land that belongs to the State. You have tenants on some of your land paying from 30s. to £2 an acre. On the other side of the fence there are some of these poor soldier settlers, whom you are charging £5 per acre. In addition to that, there is the high cost of the houses and farm buildings. They suffer in many ways. Not only do they pay you a rent that is impossible, even in prosperous times, and utterly futile to expect at a period like the present, but their rating and all their expenses are correspondingly high in consequence of their higher annual value. Therefore, their condition is terrible. I bog the right hon. Gentleman at once to come to a conclusion, and to settle their rent. The Government should cut their losses, and do it at once, and thus ease the minds of these men, so that they can settle down and work with some prospect of obtaining a decent livelihood. I have nothing to say with regard to the policy that brought the men there. Whether it was good, bad or indifferent I will not say, but the fact remains that the late Government brought them there, and made certain promises to them, and in honour the Government ought to fulfil the promises, and not put the men on the land under conditions which make it impossible for them to prosper. I am speaking with a distinct object, knowing that the Minister of Agriculture will soon be approached by some of these people, and I hope that he will take this matter into consideration and take steps to assist the smallholders. The rents of these smallholders were raised by the action of his Department, and I ask that the rents should be brought down to something like their economic value at the present time, or at any rate to their pre-War value. If he will do that, he will be doing something to assist the smallholders, who are suffering perhaps more than any other section of the agricultural community.
The hon. Member who has just sat down began by complaining, and perhaps his complaint was justified, that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had made an interesting speech, but had not furnished any suggestion as to what was to be the conclusion of the arrangement. That was true. It was a tantalising speech. It seemed as if he was going to tell us something, but it never materialised. The same criticism applies to the Labour party on this occasion. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member who preceded me, and I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), and there was not any suggestion as to what was the Labour party's policy in regard to this matter. [HON. MEMBEES: "Nationalisation!"] I do not know that that is so. The outstanding feature of the Debate is the very general agreement as to the facts of the case. Everybody is agreed that agriculture is in a very serious, indeed a very dangerous position. I do not think there is any dispute about that. I do not want to say too much about the landowners, although they are suffering. The two classes that are suffering particularly are the farmers and the labourers.
The Mover of the Amendment has far more experience than I have, but, speaking for my own part of the country, I think he underrated the evils through which the farmers are going at the present time. I doubt whether there is a single farmer in my district who has not made a very serious loss in the last two years, and I am afraid that many of them are approaching the condition when their financial stability will be in danger. There is no doubt that the labourers' position is very serious. The hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham), who made a very interesting speech, described, with a great deal of pathos, the position of the labourer's wife at the present time. There is no doubt that in many parts of the country labourers are now being paid a wage, a real wage, less than they were before the War. That is a serious state of things. The cause is the sudden fall of prices. Prices have fallen very rapidly, whereas the cost of production has not fallen, and, therefore, the farmer is unable to make a profit.
In spite of these facts, I do not take so gloomy a view as the late Prime Minister. I was reading the other day, Cobbett's "Rural Rides," a book familiar to hon. Members of this House, and a very interesting and attractive book it is. No one ever was so confident about so many things on which he was wrong. The striking thing about it is, that in 1822 the position of affairs was almost identical with the position of affairs to-day. The language Cobbett used might have been used in this Debate. He prophesied the immediate ruin of the farmers, and he drew a picture, which certainly was not overcharged, of the terrible hardships of the labourers even down to the price of beer. The same complaints are made, and many of the same remedies are suggested. They did not endure in that case, and I hope they will not do so to-day. Prices went up, and the cost of production gradually came down, and by 1830 Cobbett is addressing an audience of farmers at Norwich and describes them as an audience of opulent farmers. Therefore, in eight years a very considerable change had taken place, and if you will look at the price of wheat you will see that the price of wheat had steadily gone up.
I am inclined to think, although it is very dangerous to prophesy, particularly in the presence of so many people who know much more about the subject than I do, that things will improve. I do not take so gloomy a view as many hon. Members who have spoken. It seems likely that prices will go up. I do not believe that the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) that Russia will become in three years a producing country which will be able to supply the needs of a large part of the world, will materialise. I wish I did believe it, because the miseries of the population of Russia are so great; but I am afraid that they are likely to be out of the market for a long time. That being so, and the production from many countries being much less than it was, it balances, I think, very nearly the increase of production from the countries which my hon. Friend mentioned, and, of course, there is the increase of population which normally would have, produced an increased demand.
The fundamental fact is that the cause of the distress in agriculture is the same thing that has caused the distress in other industries, namely, the general economic dislocation caused by the War. I differ from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in believing that as that dislocation passes away there will be, and there must be, a very considerable return of prosperity. Whether that will be permanent or not no one can say, but that there will be a very considerable return of prosperity I have no doubt, and I hope and believe that agriculture will share in the return of the prosperity when it takes place. The present condition of agriculture is, however, very grave. I am not going to examine elaborately all the remedies that have been proposed. I warmly support the policy of the Government as announced. I much prefer it to the more flamboyant policy that they might have pursued. I do not believe that it is honest to suggest that you can cure the evils from which agriculture is suffering by some great Measure of reform. I believe that the remedies must be sought in a number of relatively small matters, the cumulative effect of which will be to relieve the pressure on agriculture at the present time.
For that reason I am glad that the Government are appointing this small Committee to inquire into some of the more immediate matters, and I hope that they will not allow that Committee to be delayed by any larger inquiry which they may be pursuing into the general subject. I hope we shall see some alleviation in the matter of transport and of rates, though hope deferred maketh the heart sick in the matter of rates, as we have so often been promised reforms in the rating system and these promises have not been carried out. I hope for a great deal from increased co-operation amongst farmers, and some measure of credit which will enable them to get over the immediate difficulties which are upon them. I attach even more importance into an inquiry into the cost of living, because that is going, if it does produce any lowering in the price of food, to be of direct assistance to those who are most in need, even more in need of assistance in this matter than the farmers themselves.
I would like to say a word or two upon the larger measures which have been advocated by Members of the Labour party in the country, though they have not been advocated in this House. My Labour, opponent was very keen on the nationalisation of the land. How is that by any conceivable possibility going to help agriculture at the present time? I do not suppose it is suggested by anybody that the land is to be taken for nothing. You are going to buy it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tax it."] Tax or confiscation, call it one thing or another, it makes very little difference to the owner of the land, if in fact nationalisation means acquisition of the land by the State. I do not think it is worth while arguing with hon. Members opposite, because they have either got to pay for it or otherwise they are going to do the most frightful injury to the credit of the country. Even if you take it for nothing, what are you going to do? Suppose you run the risk of the great injury to the credit of the country, which you would certainly effect, what are you going to do? Are you going to hand it over to the farmers?
There is no good in talking that way in the House of Commons. You have got to define what you propose. I have listened to many speeches from the Labour Benches, and I have heard nothing but mere meaningless objurgations. Supposing you take the land for nothing, you are not going to give it to the farmers. You are going to make them pay rent.
What right has the Noble Lord to make allegations about the dishonesty of the Labour party? Can he say how did the Cecils get their land?
You have either got to take the land for nothing or you have got to pay for it, and, whichever you do, the farmers will have to pay rent. How is that going to help agriculture? It cannot be of any service to agriculture at the present moment. Hon. Members know that they would have to pay for it. This would add enormously to the burdens on the country and to the taxes of the people, in order to pay for purchasing the land, and, so far from improving things, it would make them a great deal worse. Therefore I am not surprised that it is not advocated even in that strange programme of the Labour party. Another suggestion made was that the landowners' rents might be applied to the assistance of the farmer and the labourer. Hon. Members always seem to imagine that the land of this country is held mainly by those who have inherited it.
Nobody who knows anything about history in this country will pay the slightest attention to the hon. Member. The vast mass of the land has either been bought by the present owners or their immediate predecessors in title. The amount of land now held by those who have inherited under old titles—though why they should be imagined to be bad titles I have never been able to understand—is very small. On what ground are you going to take the rents of people who may have spent large sums of money in buying the land? The thing is not defensible. Nor would it meet the real difficulties of the case because, as has been said over and over again, most of those who would suffer most severely are the farmers who have bought their land, and they would not be provided for at all. Everyone knows that landowners have constantly forgiven either the whole or the greater part of the rent in times of agricultural depression, and I have no doubt they are doing so at the present time, although I am not a landowner and cannot speak of it for myself. Therefore that is no remedy and they dare not put it before the House of Commons. I do not myself see that there is anything which the Labour party has suggested in this Debate which would help in the present position.
Other remedies have been suggested. There has been a suggestion of Protection, and a suggestion of bounty on the growth of corn. None of those proposals are practicable or desirable. Protection is out of the question. It would be unjust to the very people who, I think, require most assistance—the labourers—and it would be utterly rejected by the great mass of the electorate of this country. Bounties are impossible. If you give a bounty to one trade you must give it to all. There is a good deal to be said for it in parti- cular cases, but the experience of this particular industry shows how impossible it is to maintain the system the moment the pressure becomes great, that is to say, at the moment when the bounty would be most useful. There is a proposal which has been advocated by the Labour party and which seems to be on a different footing from other suggestions. That is the maintenance of a Wages Board in order to maintain the wages of the labourer. I have great sympathy in this matter with the labourer. His case is a very strong one. By the admission of everybody he was paid much too low wages before the War. I have never met anyone who maintained that the wages in the southern counties before the War were right or oven economically defensible. The labourer was told at the time—I am putting his case—that the industry could not bear any higher wages. Owing to the methods by which the industry is carried on no accounts are available usually for examination and test of the justice of that statement. When the War came wages went up very much, and for a time the agricultural labourer was in a relatively comfortable position. Now wages have come down again, and the labourer is again asked to accept them on the allegation that the industry cannot stand higher wages. He is unable to obtain evidence—I am not making any accusation or criticism of anyone—by which he can satisfy himself as to the truth or error of that allegation, and it is not surprising in the circumstances that in many cases he has the gravest suspicion as to whether the condition of the industry justifies the lowness of the wages being paid.
That is a very strong case. I admire the good temper, the tolerance and the patience of the labourer and his wife more than I can say. Therefore, in principle I should not be unalterably opposed to a Wages Board. I have always felt that it was a mistake, quite apart from the merits of the thing, to have created a Wages Board and then to have abolished it at the very top of the market. It was a pity that while the Wages Board existed wages were always going up, and that wages began to come down the moment the Wages Board was abolished. I also feel the strength of the labourers' case when he asks, "Why should I be paid so much less than other working men who are not more skilled than I am, who are working in my immediate neighbourhood and are working even in the same Kind of industry"? Men working with bakers or millers get far higher wages than the agricultural labourer. The agricultural labourer feels also the fact that even labourers' wages differ in different parts of the country. In answer to a question in this House a return was given which showed that the wages vary from 25s. in many counties in the south to 35s. in Durham and 40s. in Lancashire. I have heard of wages even as low as 24s. It is very difficult to find an explanation of these differences. It is certainly hard for a man struggling under great hardship to make two ends meet to be told that he is worth only 25s. or 27s. a week, when others are getting much higher wages in other parts of the country. I would press on the House and on my hon. Friends the great strength of the labourer's case. But I am not in favour of the immediate re-establishment of Wages Boards. I do not think they would make any difference in the vast majority of cases, at any rate in the South. They would make no difference in the amount of wages paid, and they would be only an additional disappointment to the labourer. I dislike all forms of compulsion in this matter, if they can be avoided, because they aggravate what is the chief evil—hostility and enmity between the classes engaged in the industry. That is the great evil to be avoided. Class war class consciousness—all those phrases which certain hon. Gentlemen opposite admire, I believe to be a great evil, and that if they once get hold of a country the end and dissolution of that country is near at hand. I, therefore, urge earnestly that we shall avoid them in agriculture if possible.
I would like to see exactly the contrary. I would like to see the labourers taken much more into the confidence of their employers. I believe that that is the only way out in agriculture, as in every other industry. You have to give the wage earner a sense of his share in the responsibility and the management of the industry. You have to give him also a share of profits. At the present moment a share in the profits of agriculture would not be worth very much. I earnestly hope that reforms of this kind, which must come from within if they are to be effective, will be considered by the agricultural community. I have comparatively little influence with the farmers of the country. I hope, however, that some of my hon. Friends will consider seriously where they are going. If they maintain the present system without change, I am satisfied that you cannot endure, that you will be obliged to have some form of compulsion, some interference by the State, and, personally, unlike hon. Members opposite, I am against that interference. I do not believe it answers. I believe it will do more harm than good. [HON. MEMBERS: "TO you!"] Hon. Members are very ready to think that everybody except themselves are either dishonest or unfair. But it really is not so. We are quite as honest as they are, and I think we are not moved by such vehement class feeling. [HON. MEMBERS: "You have no reason!"] I am not so sure of that. I ask the House, therefore, to disregard the political Labour man in this respect, because he does not want a settlement. He would lose the greater part of his opportunity for stirring up strife. I am not referring to such gentlemen as the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) or many others on those benches. I am referring to those who really do desire class war, and who say they desire class war. They are against any proposal for making the present system workable. It is for that reason that I appeal to my hon. Friends around me and say to them: "Here you have your chance. This industry can be saved, can be made peaceful and prosperous, and can be made an example to the other industries of the country. Before it is too late, take the necessary steps." I believe in a union of classes. I believe as much in a league of classes as in a League of Nations—one for national life and the other for international life. I earnestly beg all who have at heart, not any political motive, but the interests of the industry itself, to co-operate and to do their best to make all classes in the industry work together for the common advantage.
This is the first time I have had the honour of addressing this House, and I hope I shall enjoy a tolerance which I am afraid some hon. Gentlemen find it rather difficult to extend towards this part of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I am merely saying that by way of raillery. I am glad in a sense, though I am somewhat apprehensive as to the results, that I follow the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). He has been rather definite and rather frank in asking us what exactly is the Labour policy regarding the land. In common with many other hon. Members I had a queer experience to-day, listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I followed the right hon. Gentleman's speech very closely, but when he came to the point where he was about to advance to the House a solution of the problem, he said it was on the Paper. I do not know to what Paper ho referred. I could not help noticing that hon. Members opposite were, all the time, apprehensive as to exactly how the right hon. Gentleman was going to jump. Each one had at the back of his mind the Limehouse speech. They were looking across at the right hon. Gentleman wondering if, having lost the grip of the common folk of this country, he was going to retrieve his great position with the people on the land by challenging landlordism. That was written clearly on the faces opposite, but the dexterity with which the right hon. Gentleman manipulated the position without committing himself to a definite policy, and without saying anything which would in any way clash with the feelings of his late friends, was delightful to the last degree. But friends are one thing and principles are another. I am afraid that, looking at society as we see it, with its class interests, with the warring of privilege on the one hand and the bitter struggles of distressed classes on the other, we are faced by one conclusion. If this House will not become big enough, strong enough in vision, to do something great and grand—which means that we must cut right through privileged interests if we are going to do anything at all—if the House will not at this juncture do something for the oppressed masses outside, then I am afraid, much as is said regarding lack of allegiance to constitutional government, the warring of those interests outside will lead to utter disregard for the deliberations of the House. We on these benches would very much regret that.
The Labour party has a definite policy, and I am going to enunciate it.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I welcome that cheer, and I wonder if that approval will persist until I am finished. I give one warning, that there is no short cut to a solution of this problem save that which cuts through the privileged interests of someone. There is no good tinkering with the subject. The difference between hon. Members on this side and hon. Members opposite is very great indeed, and it would be well to make it clear at once. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs rather played upon the Amendment as an excuse for emphasising the necessity for opening up some means of employment within the country. He spoke of what was being done in other countries, and suggested that much more could be done in this country. The right hon. Gentleman himself emerged, one might say, from being an unknown quantity into becoming a very great man in the politics of this country, by enunciating certain great principles with regard to the solution of this land problem. I wonder where they went to-day, or what has come over him lately with regard to these matters. We are charged with being enemies of private enterprise and enemies of development. The Noble Lord who spoke last said we are merely politicians who exploited excitement in society in order to give prominence to our own views. I assure the Noble Lord, for my own part, that I think we are a little tired of warring in society. A little more harmony, a clearer understanding of the aspirations of men's hearts, would bring us closer together. Politics must be something more than a mere cockpit fight on the Floor of the House of Commons. We have come here, not to work off our own particular fads, but to lend a hand in the constructive policy of the country, and to raise the country out of the awful mess in which we find it.
Asked what to do with regard to agriculture, the Labour party would say that every encouragement must be given to the man who is prepared to use the land to the fullest possible extent. I heard cheer after cheer from hon. Members with regard to the virtues of private enterprise. I ask, How is private enterprise encouraged with regard to agriculture? Agriculture is an operation performed on the face of the earth. I have got to say that, because I want the basis of my argument to be clear. One man has a piece of land and he uses it not— and there are many such. Another has a piece of land and uses it—he puts manure into it and puts buildings upon it. [Laughter.] I would ask hon. Members to have consideration for the timidity of a new Member, and I am doing my best. One man uses his land, and another man does not. Your rating system, as it now exists in England, your 1836 Rating Act, instructs your assessor to come down and review the situation. One man is not using the land—no rates; the other man, who is using his land, is burdened immediately by a heavy burden of rates every year as long as his improvement stands. That is the private enterprise that hon. Members opposite are so anxious to encourage. The Labour party say that that must be stopped, the rates must come off the farmers' buildings, the rates must be taken off the agricultural holders' improvements, and the site value, whatever that may be—it might be a very low value —the site or marketable value of the land should be made the basis for rating. I notice that there are no cheers now from the opposite side. I should have thought hon. Members opposite, being the champions of private enterprise, would have at last agreed—no, I will put it this way. Hon. Members opposite will surely agree with me that the farmers and agricultural smallholders would be able to carry on their operations with much more ease if the heavy burden of rates were not levied on their improvements. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Exactly, then I carry conviction. Some hon. Members opposite have suggested something in the nature of bonuses per acreage of cultivation. If you take the rates from off the improvements of these men, I submit that that is tantamount to a very good bonus.
But if you attempt to develop your land by encouraging improvements and rating your site value, you are still held up in the matter of transport, and I think it is necessary to correlate something we have said already with the Debate that is on hand to-night. We have discussed unemployment, and I know that it is in the mind of the Government to carry out certain developments with regard to arterial roads in order to aid and develop transport. I submit that here again we come to the whole question that I have already hinted at, the question of land, the opening up of its development, and the question of rating again. What is going to happen? You open up arterial roads tomorrow. The first person you meet is the landowner, who says he wants so much for every acre of land you are going to open up for a national development. No sooner have you made your arterial road, than you have the increase in value asserting itself on each side of the road you have made, and I submit that the hon. Members opposite should give us on this side the credit at least of having some analytical power behind us, and we therefore drive home the policy that the Noble Lord has asked for, namely, our land policy, which would be to take back for the community any value which the land may have by virtue of a communal expenditure upon it. If these arterial roads, which must be made in order to develop agriculture, as well at commerce generally, are going to be carried out, we would recoup ourselves by way of rates and taxes on the value of the land, as against the rates and taxes which you now levy on industry generally. So much for opening up land and encouraging men to use it. So much is Labour's policy— the discouragement of the withholding of land from use, and the driving of it into use by means of the infliction of rates and taxes on the value of the land.
If I may give an impression, as a new Member of the House who finds it interesting to watch the by-play, there is no man who has impressed me more, if I may say so, than the Prime Minister. I cannot get away from his personality. He seems to be very honest, and very anxious to do something for the country, and, therefore, I preface what I have got to say by asking the House to accept as friendly my criticism of what he has said to-day. When the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs finished his speech, the Prime Minister, in reply, came back to a statement which he made the other day in reply to the Labour party's Amendment to the Address. He said that it was a danger to go too far along the lines of land development, or wheat growing, because there would come a point at which it would be ruinous to extend development on the land, and, indeed, I think he tried to give us a little lecture on the law of diminishing returns, although it was obvious, I think, not only to this side of the House, but to hon. Members opposite, that the Prime Minister did not quite grasp the real import of what was meant by the law of diminishing returns.
When I listened to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs speaking of the land as he did to-day, although agriculture was the excuse for the speech he made, I felt that he was not merely confining his remarks to agriculture alone, and we on this side of the House, when we speak of the land question, do not mean merely agriculture. We mean everything in our own country which necessitates the use of land. But I think the Prime Minister was, perhaps, a little too soon in suggesting that we have arrived at, or are within miles of, the point of diminishing returns in this country. It will be quite time enough for the Prime Minister to tell us of the dangers of going beyond the point of development, or intensive culture, when he thinks we have arrived in close proximity to the point of diminishing returns. Nobody, I know, with any knowledge of the land or its possibilities will assert that we are anywhere near the point of diminishing returns in this country. Supposing it were true that we were coining near the point of diminishing returns in wheat-growing, I challenge anyone to say we have come near to the point of diminishing returns in housing, or to the point of diminishing returns in numberless forms of development of the land of this country.
I thought I would say what I have said by way of friendly criticism. I noticed that the Prime Minister went a little further. He referred to Denmark as a serious competitor with any other country as an agricultural producing country. I would commend to the attention of hon. and right hon. Members of the Government the latest proposals of Denmark with regard to those who withhold land from use. It is on "all fours" with the policy pursued by the Labour party in this country. It is a singular thing that a country that is pre-eminently an agricultural country, a country which is making more of its land perhaps than any other country in the world, should come along and be, as it were, the first country in Europe to inflict or impose a tax upon the value of its land. I want to say a few words—as my time is up—in reference to what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin. He made a comparison between the wages paid to the railwaymen and the wages received by the agricultural labourer. I may be wrong, and I stand to be corrected if I am, but I felt during the time the Noble Lord was speaking that he was more anxious to reduce the wages of the railwaymen to the level of the agricultural worker—
What I was endeavouring to present to the House—no doubt very imperfectly—was that the agricultural labourer's wages—no doubt the case is an extreme case—were lower than those of the railwaymen or other workmen. My object would be to raise the wages of the agricultural labourer to something approaching, at any rate, the wages of other workmen.
I stand corrected, and I agree with what the Noble Lord says. No hon. Members of this House are more conscious of the fact than we on these benches, more especially those who represent the railwaymen of this country, that the wages of the railwaymen have been kept in a deadly rut through the low wages of the agricultural labourer, who have been easily recruited into the railway service owing to that circumstance. Instead of the land of' England being used by the men of England as it was on one occasion before the land was foreclosed, when you had what was relatively the golden age, as Professor Thorold Rogers points out. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Yes, he may be wrong, but he speaks of the relatively golden age which was known to the agricultural labourers of the country. Historically we know that inasmuch as the land was foreclosed, then closed again to the common use of the people of this country, that there was created these unattached masses of people. They were thus forcibly driven into the towns there to become competitors with the labour of the towns, so to keep the wages in a deadly rut. We know that we cannot get back to any respectable social condition in the indus- trial areas until we do something in the agricultural areas to make the land more attractive, to make the life of the worker upon the land something worth while, to encourage him to use the land. We ought to do everything possible to discourage the withholding of land from use and to discourage speculation in land. I say this much because the Noble Lord was rather asking what was the Labour policy.
Perhaps hon. Members were not in at the earlier part of my speech, for there is a point at which repetition becomes mere boredom. We assume, in the first instance, that as man has not made the land, man has no right to establish private property in that land which he has not made. That is the basis of our belief. It may be right or it may be wrong. I have my own private opinions about it. But on that basis we go on and say that whatever value is in the land by virtue of the presence and demands of the human community upon it we will appropriate that for communal purposes. That is the Labour policy on the land problem.
I wish to refer to another question which has been raised in the earlier part of this discussion with regard to the game laws. I am instructed that my time is up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am very sorry. [HON. MEMBERS: "GO on!"] I can assure hon. Members opposite that I have practised some awful forms of restraint, because I could adumbrate principles which would be very unpopular with them. I have endeavoured to do my best. I only ask for the positive policy of the Labour party. I have thought it my duty to say what I have in order to make it clear that in speaking about nationalisation of land that is a mere vague term. We assume that the land is the property of the people, and we will proceed through rating and taxation to appropriate the values recorded therein. Having said that, I have summed up in a few words what is Labour's policy. I do not know whether you will agree with me or not, but that is it
I am sure we all wish to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down on the successful way in which he has come through that awful ordeal of a maiden speech. He pleaded guilty to the timidity which we all feel on that occasion, but I can assure him that that timidity was not apparent to any of us. I am sorry that I now have to intervene, because I know that a great many other Members wished to speak in this Debate. We have had many interesting speeches, and I wish we could have heard even more of those who have recently come back to represent the farmers' interests. We have now three or four Members in the House directly representing the Farmers' Union. I am sure that their advice on agricultural matters will be a benefit to the House, as I am also quite sure it will be a benefit to the Minister of Agriculture. Although, of course, for party purposes I was not unhappy to see them beaten, I hope I may be allowed to say that I think it is a real loss, to the House that we no longer have here those two Members who were in the last Parliament and who represented the Labourers' Union. I think we all recognised both of them as moderate and sensible men, and although I hope they will not use this advertisement in their next election address, I think that is the general feeling of the House. Putting all party feeling aside, all those who are interested in agriculture are sorry we no longer have the benefit of their advice. We console ourselves with the fact that we still have my hon. Friend the Member for Boston (Mr. Royce), who was returned by an agricultural constituency, because they realised what a good old Tory he really is. I think, on the whole, we have had a very interesting and good-tempered Debate. I do not know if it was the influence of last night's Sitting or whether it was the bucolic nature of the subject, but certainly there has been a welcome absence of the heat which has occasionally occurred in our recent Debates. All the speakers have, I think, agreed on one point, and that is that agriculture is at present in rather a bad way. First of all, of course, there is no doubt there have been two bad seasons with regard to the weather. Last year was too dry and this year we have had the unfortunate peculiarity of being very dry when we wanted rain and very wet when we wanted sunshine. I will not say anything so foolish as to repeat that the Government cannot help that. You must average things up. If it is a bad season for corn in one year, you are very likely to get a good season the next.
What is more important is that the great reason of the admitted depression is the very severe drop in prices which has occurred within the last two years. I will not give the figures, because they are well known to all agriculturists here. Although it has been serious in all sorts of farming, perhaps it has been particularly bad as regards corn. Cereal producers have had one of the worst times within memory. It is not only the farmer who is affected. As soon as the farmer begins to lose money he looks to see where he can save expenses. The biggest source of expense are the wages of the agricultural labourer, and, in looking for a way in which he can cut down expenses, there is no doubt the farmer has cut down the wages of the agricultural labourer to an extent which we all deplore. A good deal has been said in the recent Debate on the subject of the Wages Boards. I should regret to see the Wages Boards re-established now. They were established two years ago, and last year they were taken off again. You cannot keep on chopping and changing your policy on such an important subject in that way. A good many of us on this side—we may be right or we may be wrong, but we are quite as anxious as any hon. Members opposite to try to put this matter right—sincerely feel that the interposition of the State in an affair like this may in the long run do more harm to the labourer than if things were left alone. There is no doubt that the influence of the Wages Boards would increase the amount of unemployment in the rural districts.
Reference has been made to the fact that the agricultural labourer is left out of unemployment insurance. I have looked into that, and I find that a Committee was set up at the time that the Act was passed, and that Committee, which included Mr. W. B. Smith and Mr. George Dallas, representing the two largest agricultural workers' unions, reported unanimously against the agricultural labourer coming within the terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act. What I look to with hope in this matter is that the farmer does know the value of public opinion and does realise quite clearly that, if he treats his labourers badly, he will not have public opinion with him when he is agitating on agricultural questions. One other thing that I want to say about the position of the labourer is that, undoubtedly, it is largely affected by a matter on which I am proposing to set up a Departmental Committee, that is to say, the disparity between the price received by the producer and the price paid by the consumer. I am not going to prejudge that question, but, undoubtedly, there are many people who think that there is a leakage somewhere. We want to get that leakage inquired into, and see if there is not some way in which it is possible to stop it. I was asked the other day whether Scotland would be included in that inquiry, and the answer I gave at the time was that I should not dare to do so. Since then I have been asked by the Secretary for Scotland himself that Scotland may be included, and, of course, if Scotland wishes it, I am only too glad to get the advantage of Scottish assistance and Scottish brains, so that we may do all that we can to help to solve the similar problem in Scotland.
I have not the Terms of Reference by me, but the hon. Member can see them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I think, however, that the inquiry will certainly include all those questions. I have said that on all sides the depression is acute. Agriculture is not the only industry that is depressed, but it has this drawback as compared with other industries, that, while you can close a factory or a mine and can start it again, you cannot throw up a farm without doing it almost irreparable injury. The old remedy for agriculture in times of distress was always to rely on the landlord; but in such a great number of cases now it is the fact that the landlord no longer exists, that that remedy is no longer open, and agriculturists, like other people, want to fall back on the State. It is a bad habit that has rather spread during and since the War that when anyone is in any sort of trouble he appeals to the State, and the State, I regret to say, in this instance means the Minister of Agriculture, with the rather dour presence of the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer in the background.
There is one advantage the Minister of Agriculture has. He gets suggestions. During the short time I have held that office, I have had every imaginable sort of suggestion made to me for the benefit of agriculture. It seems to me that there are only two really big things that can be done to put agriculture on its legs, and both of them one has to turn down. The first is subsidies. Subsidies were tried under the Agriculture Act of two years ago. The last thing anyone would accuse the late Prime Minister of is lack of courage, but even he had not the courage to ask the House of Commons to provide subsidies of anything from £20,000,000 to £30,000.000 during every year for the benefit of the agriculturist, though it must not be forgotten that at the beginning of this year the farmers of the country were actually receiving a subsidy under the Agriculture Act. The other great remedy is Protection. I am not going to enter on that question. I need only say that when Disraeli and Joseph Chamberlain failed to convince the country that it was a good thing, we may fairly assume that the country is not likely to be convinced. At all events, the Government has announced that it is not prepared to bring any Measures for subsidies or for protection of foodstuffs, and when I say that we are not prepared to bring in Measures of food protection I mean what I say. I have had many innocent suggestions made to me. I do not want to discuss them on their merits, but as one who has thought on this question, I can say that if you go in for Protection at all, it is much better to go the whole hog. If you go in for a small measure of Protection, you are not going to conciliate a single Free Trader. I know a good many strong Free Traders. They are very amiable people as a rule, but if you suggest such a thing as putting a 5s. tax on the importation of white elephants, they absolutely see red. That being so, I do not think it is worth while to raise a very big question for the sake of getting a very small advantage. Those are the two big things that can be done for agriculture, and the two things which I am afraid we have to turn down. The fact is that, on main things, we must leave agriculture to work out its own salvation. The State cannot finance it, and, on the other hand, the State will not presume to dictate to it the way in which the land should be farmed.
That is the negative side. As to the positive side, there are ways in which the Government can help, and in which I believe they will help. The first is in regards to rating. Every agriculturist has felt for years that one of the unfair burdens he has to bear is the incidence of rating. This is a subject that has been considered again and again. I suppose that every Minister of Agriculture has advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that subject, and he has either found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is hard-hearted, or else he has found him soft-hearted but impecunious. At any rate, for many years, nothing to ease the matter has been done. The matter, as the Prime Minister announced, is once more seriously under the consideration of the Government, and I hope it will be possible by the time the House meets again at the beginning of next Session to lay some definite proposals on this subject before the House.
There are other capacities in which the Ministry may be of use to the agricultural community. One suggestion is that they may be useful as bankers. The matter of credit facilities has been referred to several times in this Debate. The Government fully realise the importance of the subject. The Committee appointed by the last Government is now sitting and is expected to report this week. I hope the result of its Report may be a really useful contribution towards doing something on that subject. Then, the Ministry can do something as schoolmasters. Some things have been said about research and education. I believe a good deal can be done for the benefit of agriculture in that way. At the present time, the State expenditure on education and research is close upon £600,000 a year. Before the War the grants only amounted to £34,000. This large increase is due, to a great extent, to the fact that the farmers themselves, when the Agriculture Act was repealed, asked that a large sum might be devoted to that purpose. The sum of £850,000 was devoted to the furtherance of research and education. There has been some question as to how that sum was to be expended. I can now say that the Government have agreed that this sum should be expended during a period of five years, ending 31st March, 1927, as an addition to the sum which was previously being spent on education and. research. It is also agreed that the new scheme started out of the £850,000 will involve a continuing charge for maintenance until 1927.
We are not only spending money on research, but we have schools and institutes in different parts of the country, where not only can the young farmer-learn all the latest things about his trade, but the sons of agricultural labourers are also able to go there with scholarships and get a thorough grounding in agriculture. The State acts as doctor with> regard to cattle diseases. In regard to the extension of the telephone service to rural areas, the Postmaster-General announced only two days ago that he had already taken that subject up, and had done something substantial to remedy the grievances complained of. Smallholdings and allotments are the particular care of the Ministry. In answer to the hon. Member for Boston, I quite realise the difficulty to which he referred, and when-he comes to me with the smallholders in question I shall certainly do my best to see how far their requests can be met. These are ways in which we may do something to help this great industry.
Like the Mover of the Amendment, I do not despair. The farmers do not despair, and that is evidenced because at the present time, in spite of all that is said about depression, it is hard to find a farm to rent. I believe it is true that there may be better times coming for the industry in the future. We cannot make any great promises. We do not say that we are going to work any miracles, but in the small ways I have indicated it is the object of the Government to do everything that is possible to help.
As the Prime-Minister, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), has promised to widen the scope of the Inquiry, and has also promised to confer with my right hon. Friend, and to state before the House adjourns what are the terms of that Inquiry, and what are his proposals, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I wish to state why I have taken the course of objecting to the withdrawal of this Amendment. It is because of the contrast between the attitude of the Government to-day and the attitude of the Government yesterday. Yesterday the Government defended themselves for taking measures to promote certain industries on the ground of the Paris Resolutions. Those Resolutions were based on war experience. The position of agriculture stands exactly in the
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[11 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkins John W. W.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid w.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hume, G. H.|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Balrd, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Ednam, Viscount||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Peebles, N.)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Banks, Mitchell||Elveden, viscount||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jarrett, G. W. S.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Erskine-Boist, Captain C.||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Becker, Harry||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bell, Lieut. Col. w. C. H. (Devizes)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Johnson, Sir L. (Waithamstow, E.)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Jones, G. W, H. (stoke Newington)|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Joynson-Hicks. Sir William|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Forestier-Walker, L.||King, Capt. Henry Douglas|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bird, Sir W. B. M. (Chichester)||Fraser, Major sir Keith||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Furness, G. J.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lloyd, Cyril E (Dudley)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Briggs, Harold||Gardiner, James||Lorden, John William|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Garland, C. S.||Lougher, L.|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Gates, Percy||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen, Clifton (Newbury)||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lumley, L. R.|
|Bruford, R.||Gould, James C.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Haddocks, Henry|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Button, H. S.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Gretton, Colonel John||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Mercer, Colonel H.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Halstead, Major D.||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Molson, Major John Eisdale|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Harrison, F. C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Harvey, Major S. E.||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hawke, John Anthony||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nesbitt, J. C.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Newman. Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hewett, Sir J. P.||Nicholson, Brig-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfleld)|
|Cory, Sir I. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Paget, T. G.|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Penny, Frederick George||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Tout, W. J.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Perring, William George||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Peto, Basil E.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Plelou, D. P.||Sandon, Lord||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Waring, Major Walter|
|Privett, F. J.||Shepperson, E. W.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Raeburn, Sir William H.||Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Raine, W.||Skelton, A. N.||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Sparkes, H. W.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Remer, J. R.||Stanley, Lord||Windsor, Viscount|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Reynolds, W. G. W.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Winterton, Earl|
|Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)||Wise, Frederick|
|Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Wood, Maj. Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Sutcliffe, T.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Rothschild, Lionel de||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Thomson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Russell, William (Bolton)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Colonel Gibbs and Major Barnston.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Newbold, J. T. W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Nichol, Robert|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hancock, John George||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Attlee, C. R.||Harbord, Arthur||Oliver, George Harold|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hardie, George D.||Paling, W.|
|Barnes, A.||Harris, Percy A.||Pattinson, R. (Grantham)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hastings, Patrick||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Hayday, Arthur||Potts, John S.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Hemmerde, E. G.||Richardson, R. (Houghton le-Spring)|
|Bonwick, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Riley, Ben|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Herriotts, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hill, A.||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Briant, Frank||Hillary, A. E.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hinds, John||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Brotherton, J.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hogge, James Myles||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Buckle, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Burgess, S.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Sexton, James|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cairns, John||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Cape, Thomas||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kenyon, Barnet||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Snell, Harry|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lansbury, George||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Lawson, John James||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Collison, Levi||Leach, W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lee, F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Linfield, F. C.||Sullivan, J.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Thornton, M.|
|Duncan, C.||M'Entee, V. L.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Dunnico, H.||McLaren, Andrew||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Edmonds, G.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Turner, Ben|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Warne, G. H.|
|Falconer, J.||Mathew, C. J.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Foot, Isaac||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Middleton, G.||Webb, Sidney|
|Greenall, T.||Millar, J. D.||Weir, L. M.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Morel, E. D.||Westwood, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wheatley, J.|
|Groves, T.||Muir, John W.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Murnin, H.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Whiteley, W.|
|Wignall, James||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||Wintringham, Margaret||Mr. Pringle and Lieut.-Commander|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)||Kenworty.|
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Bonwick, A.||Hancock, John George||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bowdler, w. A,||Harbord, Arthur||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Briant, Frank||Harney, E. A.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Harris, Percy A.||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Chapple, W. A,||Hillary, A. E.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Hinds, John||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hodge, Lieut. Col. J, P. (Preston)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Hogge, James Myles||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Collison, Levi||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Kenyon, Barnet||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Linfield, F. C.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Edmonds, G.||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Millar, J. D.||Mr. Pringle and Lieut.-Commander|
|Falconer, J,||Pattinson, R. (Grantham)||Kenworthy.|
|Foot, Isaac||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Clarry, Reginald George||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Clayton, G. C.||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W (Liv'p'l, W. D'by}|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Halstead, Major D.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Harrison, F. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Harvey, Major S. E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)|
|Banks, Mitchell||Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Becker, Harry||Davidson, J. C. C.(Hemel Hempstead)||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S)||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Doyle, N. Grattan||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Bird, Sir W. B. M. (Chichester)||Ednam, Viscount||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Elveden, Viscount||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Brass, Captain W.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Briqgs, Harold||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hume, G. H.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Fildes, Henry||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Peebles, N.)|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Bruford, R.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Jarrett, G. W. S.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Frece, Sir Walter de||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Button, H. S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Furness, G. J.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Garland, C. S.||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gates, Percy||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||King, Capt. Henry Douglas|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Gould, James C.||Lamb, J. O.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hackn'y, N.)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Perring, William George||Stanley, Lord|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Peto, Basil E.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Lorden, John William||Pielou, D. P.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Lougher, L.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Privett, F. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Lumley, L. R.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Macnaghton, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Ralne, W.||Sutcliffe, T.|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Maddocks, Henry||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Making, Brigadier-General E.||Remer, J. R.||Thomson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Rentoul, G. S.||Thomson, F C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Margesson, H. D. R.||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Tout, W. J.|
|Mercer, Colonel H.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Molson, Major John Eisdale||Rothschild, Lionel de||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Morden, Col. W, Grant||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Russell, William (Bolton)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honlton)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Nail, Major Joseph||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Nesbitt, J. C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Winterton, Earl|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||Wise, Frederick|
|Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Sandon, Lord||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Shepperson, E. W.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Paget, T. G.||Skelton, A. N.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Penny, Frederick George||Sparkes, H. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Colonel Gibbs and Major Barnston.|
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.