As a new Member coming from the countryside, from the rural constituency in which I was born, I would crave the indulgence of the House in venturing to utter my first word in the Mother of Parliaments and to add one or two remarks to the flow of valuable information which we have had. In my judgment the hon. Member for the Holland Division (Mr. Blindell) seemed unduly hard upon the Minister. He deprecated the lack of willingness of the Minister to state the policy of the Government on a private Member's Motion. As a new Member I feel surprised that the hon. Member for the Holland Division should be quite so censorious having regard to the fact that he himself was barren of any practical proposals. May I be permitted to congratulate the Mover of the Motion, if not upon any practical proposal which he made for remedying the evil at least upon his luck in the ballot, and in view of the admirable spirit which has marked all the speeches dealing with this great industry I hope that we may look for even bigger luck in relation to the problems associated with agriculture.
As an outsider reading Debates here, as a countryman looking to this House, I have wondered what you politicians were scrambling about whilst the industry of agriculture was going to the Devil. Now that I have come here I discover that there is a mutual, earnest and intense desire among all parties to find a solution for what everyone admits is a really terrible social and human problem as well as a cancer in the industrial life of the nation. Therefore I would beg the Minister to take his courage in both hands and set about this problem of prices, and thus enable us to move forward along the lines of the policy which the Government are pledged to support, I make no apology for the pledges I gave to my fellow countrymen in Norfolk in regard to this business. We on this side do not mind being twitted by hon. Members of the two parties opposite, because they have a reputation and a record at least as bad as ours in regard to the way in which they have bluffed the industry and disappointed us in the countryside. When I remember that there are nearly 60,000 fewer agricultural workers than there were six years ago, and that nearly 1,000,000 acres of what used to be arable land are going down and out, and that the peasants are treading their way to our cities to compete with the men living there, I should be false to my position as a representative if I did not say to the Minister and to this House: "Put aside your party prejudices and in God's name help this nation to a better understanding of the terrible problem in rural Britain."
I beg the House, I beg our Front Bench, to tackle this problem of agriculture, with its great human challenge. In making this appeal I ask hon. Members opposite to give us credit at least for good intentions. I have heard hon. Members opposite claim that they speak for the agricultural industry. I agree that they do, but they are not the only ones in the picture. Only two or three of we Labour men have been returned for agricultural Britain, but we are going to try to wake things up; we are going to make the people understand that for years neither of the parties opposite has made any real contribution to the solution of the great problem of agriculture. I beg the House to give us a chance. Whatever may be said about those who sit on the Government Benches, whatever criticism there may be in regard to the attitude of our party towards the agricultural problem, we have never let the industry down. We have never "sold the industry a pup," as both the other parties have. I say quite frankly that politicians of all parties are suffering in the countryside because of the sins of past Governments who have led the dwellers there to lose confidence in this old House, this Mother of Parliaments. In submitting these few hurried, rough and countryside remarks I hope the House will not only associate itself with the Motion but will help our Front Bench to understand that the greatest thing they can do for old Britain during this period is to take their courage in both hands and challenge the Opposition with our agricultural policy. I believe that on those lines we can open the way to a brighter, easier and smoother path where the peasant and the producer may walk as free from poverty as the prince.