I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is concerned with what is undeniably an outstanding weakness in our agricultural system. It relates to conditions which have handicapped and often impoverished producers, which are a burden on retailers and of no value whatever to consumers. If we consider the facts in relation to our home food market we find a very remarkable contradiction, which has been particularly noticeable during the past 25 years. There has been a great improvement in our industrial food market; in fact, it is not too much to say that the food market in the great centres of population in Britain is the best food market in the world, but the production of many foods has been practically stationary in our own country and the increased market is being met very largely with surplus goods from outside this country. We have a very exceptional soil, our countryside for the most part is quite near to the market, and we can produce as good beef and good mutton, as good butter and bacon and fruit and potatoes, as any country in the world.
How is it then that in this country agricultural production has not corresponded to the industrial demand? It is quite a common thing to attribute this to foreign supplies; they are commonly alleged to be cheaper. I notice that that contention is embodied in what, I suppose, will be the official Opposition Motion to-day. But when we come to examine foreign supplies which are particularly competitive with what we ourselves could produce almost in sufficient quantity—I exclude particularly cereals—we find that foreign countries do not send us their worst; they send us their best. If we examine their supplies we see that Denmark sends us her best bacon, New Zealand sends us her best butter, the Dominions send us their best fruit, and so on. As a matter of fact we find that the British market is studied and catered for to receive the best.
If we look a little closer at these competitive foreign imports we find that in nearly every case their collection and standardisation and distribution and supply to our markets are in the hands of extraordinarily capable and highly specialised organisations. It is not the thousand-and-one individual outside producers who have sent to the British market, but it is a highly organised system, with very specialised branches to study the need of our market, to save expense wherever possible, to improve the grade, and to advertise their goods. If anyone goes down to the railway tubes to-day he will see what is at least new to me—a very ingenious and attractive advertisement of foreign bacon. We are exhorted to have two rashers a day, English or Danish, I shall come to the meaning of that in a few minutes. It is a very clever advertisement. But that is not the product of an individual producer; it is the product of a great organisation catering for the British market.
Let us turn to the other side and see what has happened in our own home country. I have here a very interesting table, and I may say that the fact that the two figures I shall quote are almost identical, is an accident: it was not designed by me at all. But as giving an indication of the measure of the opportunity that is before the home producer I asked the Department to get out for me the values of home products and foreign imports in those things in which we could quite well compete, namely, beef, pig-meat, butter, milk, cheese, poultry, eggs, potatoes, and such fruits as we grow at home. It so happens that the home production of these commodities is about £203,000,000 per annum, and that the imported products are almost identical in value. In other words, in this group of commodities, which this countryside is eminently fitted to produce and can produce in the best quality, our home product in mass is about half our supplies and no more.
As a part of this investigation I asked the Department some time ago to look into the details of the marketing of different commodities, and I will give the House an indication of the system here in referring to what we have found with respect to commodities. Here is in brief the result of a study of the marketing of bacon and the systems adopted in this country and by our nearest outside competitor, Denmark. We found that in 1909–13 the value of the import of bacon, Denmark to Britain, was a little over £7,000,000. In 1929 it had gone up to £23,000,000—an increase from £7,000,000 to £23,000,000. What has happened to the British product in the same year? It is practically stationary; the difference is a few hundred thousand pounds one way or the other. But, as the Pig Industry Council have pointed out, farmers in Britain have as a matter of fact regarded pig production as a sort, of side-line, and the result is that a high proportion of the pigs received by the factories are not a suitable grade, not of standard size, and they do not therefore meet the requirements of the market, which calls for a more or less standardised article. Therefore, it happens that in the ordinary bacon you buy in a shop, which is advertised for rashers this morning, so-called Wiltshire side, nearly nine-tenths of the trade has been captured by our Danish competitors, and represents that increase to which I have referred.
When we examined the costs in the two countries, we found that the average cost of getting a pig to a factory in Britain is 6s. 9d. a head. In Denmark it varies from three farthings to eleven-pence. The average factory costs in Britain, of one of our most efficient factories are 13s. 7d. per pig. The average factory costs in Denmark for a similar factory are 9s. 7d. In addition to that, owing to the long and irregular journey which the animals are called upon to make, under our utterly disorganised system, we have an average loss of about 6s. 8d. per head. These, together with many other details, represent a loss per head of about 35s., or nearly that.
If we carry the same analysis to beef, we find almost a worse record. This country can produce the highest grade beef in the world. We find that, generally speaking, these are the avoidable wastes that take place in the sale of an ordinary fat animal in this country. I am not speaking now of essential costs. We find that for brokers, dealers and various channels through which the animals have to pass there is the heavy charge of 15s. per head. That is the estimate in this country. In that con-
nection, I would venture to read an extract from a letter I have received from a very reliable and experienced West-country cattle grower. He says:
Farmers in a very large part of the West of England are not allowed to sell a beast until the cattle belonging to cattle dealers have been disposed of. Consequently all the buyers have left the market before the farmers' cattle come into the ring. The dealers, as we know, bid in the ring for their own cattle. They do not bid against one another, but if an outsider makes a bid they promptly put up the price against him. They do not bid against each other, and if one is declared the buyer the others share in.
After giving full details of this performance at one of the largest markets in this country, he concludes, evidently very irritated at his losses:
If some of these parasites could be eliminated altogether, it would be of the greatest possible benefit to the country.
I am not responsible for that statement; I am quoting it. If you carry on this analysis of what happens to an ordinary fat beast, we find that it has very often to make unnecessarily long, and sometimes repeated, journeys, and that, at a minimum, the average loss per head through unnecessary journeys is £1 3s. 4d. When he has got to the end of his journey, he goes through another system, which is one of the worst. In many countries the abattoirs are making the fullest possible use of all that comes to them. My Noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is now in charge of an investigation, in this matter in very friendly concert with the trade and local authorities, but the least wasteful figure we can assess on our present abattoir system is 16s. per head. In other words, the avoidable loss per head of all cattle, in this country, taking a 10-cwt. fat cattle, we assess at £2 14s. 4d.
It will be observed that, according to the hostile Amendment, we are to leave that system alone. The system affords so many opportunities for improvement that it is, to me, quite unthinkable that we should stand aside and not endeavour to bring some order into this chaos, in the interests of the producer. It should be possible—it is possible in other countries—without being unfair to anybody who has any legitimate business, to make a reasonably straight road from the producer to the market through the responsible distributors, without leaving the producer exposed, as he is in many departments—not in all—of marketing in this country, to having his living jeopardised, and often his produce plundered by the denizens of the rat runs of an out-of-date marketing system. The demand for home supplies is here right enough, and the experience we have had in the National Mark campaign has abundantly shown that there is a great demand for well bred home supplies. It is abundantly proved that the distributing trades and the consumers welcome them, and they make a better price. Although we have bought £19,000,000 worth of eggs a year, or thereabouts, it is not that there is not a good demand for British goods, and they make, as a matter of fact, a better price than ever. Although we have had difficulties here and there, the price which attaches to well-graded British produce is higher in nearly every case than that of the corresponding foreign product.
In this connection I would like to express the thanks of, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman opposite and myself in common, to those in succession who have been in this national mark campaign. We have been helped by men of all parties without any distinction—mayors of towns, and many members of the Empire Marketing Board, Sir William Crawford and others, who have gone out of their way to render us immense service, and our thanks are due to them. The experience of this campaign shows perfectly well that there is a public waiting for good class, well-graded home supplies. Our difficulty is, in many respects, to meet the demand. The home market waits for an organised supply, for a standardised supply, for a supply, regulated according to the needs of the market, of home products. The distributors want it and the consumers want it. Therefore, I suggest in this Bill that we should turn to, and try to create a machine that will do what is required. The undertaking, of course, is immense. We have to deal with the sale of diverse commodities totalling £250,000,000 a year. If hon. Members were to look at the list to which I referred at the beginning, they would find that the sale of these commodities, home produced, might well equal £100,000,000 more, and it soon would, I believe, if organised, developed, rationalised marketing existed.
In the first place, a marketing system, as this Bill provides, must be based upon the goodwill of the producers. It must, if it is to succeed, have their organised co-operation and their loyal co-operation. Only by obtaining that degree of co-operation from the producers themselves can we provide what is required—an organised, regular and graded supply, and, still more, only in that way can we lead to what ought to be the next development of our marketing system, namely, the development of the factory system related with it. I am glad to find that, notwithstanding the Amendment on the Order Paper, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, speaking at Glemham Park, on 9th June last year, said in relation to this matter:
Our experience in this country of co-operation has not been pre-eminently successful so far, and yet the ugly fact stares us in the face that one of the difficulties with which your industry (that is, agriculture) suffers, is, that the industry buys retail and sells wholesale. Till you can cure that, you will allow to run into other hands money that ought to be yours.
I could not quote the purpose of this Bill better than that. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:
The problem is yours (that is, the producers), and it is a problem that every big industry—cotton, steel and coal—has to face. They are revolutionising their methods. Agriculture cannot lag far behind. It is vital to the industry, vital to the small man, but the movement must come from the industry.
That means, I take it, that I shall receive the support of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends in basing this scheme upon the producers. Like every other new proposal, it is ill-understood at first. I recognise that it is a complicated Bill. It deals with a vast and complicated subject. It is necessarily a complicated Bill, but I have hopes that the National Farmers' Union before long will be found most heartily to be working the proposals of this Bill, once it has been passed into law, because I find that several of their branches, before this Bill was printed almost epitomised its provisions. I will give only one resolution, that of the Rutland County and Stamford Branch of the Union in January, 1929. They say:
Each product requires the building up of a national organisation for the marketing of that particular product. The organisation would be controlled and directed by a central body set up by producers themselves, and it would bulk, grade and dispose of the article, for which it was created, through a system of area depots, packing stations," etc.
It goes on:
Marketing systems must be national and comprehensive, and they must handle the output of every farmer if the full object is to be attained; and, when the time comes, as it surely will, when the majority of farmers realise these truths, then compulsory measures must be considered for bringing the minority into line.
I could produce half-a-dozen other quotations, equally appropriate, from branches of the National Farmers' Union. I feel confident that there is a misunderstanding of this Measure, and that as it is better understood we shall more and more receive the hearty co-operation of producers, and certainly of responsible consumers.
The next necessity, I suggest, is that a marketing scheme must be based on commodities. You cannot deal with an area basis only. It must be something appropriate to the particular commodity you are marketing. The Bill provides that you may have commodity boards of various kinds. You may have them limited to small commodities produced in certain areas, say Cheshire cheese, or you may have them applicable to a commodity produced over the whole countryside, like milk. There is no one board which will require all the powers set out in the Bill. Some powers are appropriate to one class of commodities, and some to another.
Then there is a provision which was not in the Bill as it was first printed in August. We find as the result of examination that in the case of some commodities it is desirable to give help in the initial stages and on that account proposals for what are called re-organisation commissions, to give help to producers in the early stages, are included in the Bill. I want the House to remember, what some of our critics appear to have forgotten, that the proposals adopted in the end will be those approved by the producers. They are based on the good will and assent of the producers and cannot be imposed upon them by the Ministry of Agriculture, even although the Minister in charge may be regarded as a very officious person at the present moment.
Let us see what a commodity marketing board would do under the Bill. In the first place, it would help to organise the grading, packing and standardisation of quality of the commodity. I suggest that nothing save large-scale organisation can do that. It is this improvement in quality, this gradual lifting-up of standards, which has been the chief asset of many of our foreign competitors and if we are to compete, say, with Danish bacon, we must see that in grading, quality, reliability the British article is just as good as the foreign article. Another function of the commodity marketing board must be to deal with bulk supplies and to make forward contracts. We could not have a better illustration of the necessity for this kind of thing than what happened last year in connection with our fruit industry. Large numbers of small growers were unable to sell their soft fruit, or some of it. Finally, in despair, as it was not worth picking at the prices then prevailing, they let the fruit drop to the ground and it was wasted.
We approached a considerable number of responsible firms in regard to this matter, and the answer which we got from them, almost without exception, was, "If you will provide us with an organisation with which we can make reliable contracts in advance, we would rather buy British fruit than other fruit." Whatever we may do with respect to imported jam pulp, large-scale organisation to help to market the fruit of our growers is clearly the first essential in that industry. Moreover, it is necessary for another reason. We find growing up and I am glad to say making considerable progress, the canning of fruit and vegetables of a suitable kind, and this year the supply to the canning factories was really below their requirements. Why was that the case? Because there was no organisation to collect and bring to the canning factories the supplies that could be produced or to encourage the producers and help them with information as to the type of products which the factories require.
The next function of the marketing board must be to see that the market is regularly supplied. Here, may I suggest that we come to what is, perhaps, the most difficult part of the Bill because the needs of the market at any particular day are not the same as the needs of the producer. A producer may desire to market his goods in a particular week, but the market may have more than it can deal with in that week, so that an essential condition is that the market should be regularly supplied and its requirements met steadily. Every responsible distributor, I am sure, would welcome an organisation for the delivery of British produce in a steady regular way and for marketing it according to the requirements of the market. But, of course, if we are to have an organisation for the supply of, say, potatoes according to the needs of the market, it must have charge of the supplies, otherwise it has nothing on which to advance cash to the producer when he requires it. The producer puts his goods on the market at a particular time, for the most part because he wants the money. He wants to sell his produce in a particular week so that he may get the money to pay his bills. If the commodity marketing organisation knows that, for that week, the market is flooded and unable to take the supplies without causing an unreasonable fall in prices, it roust be able, whilst holding the goods to be marketed, to advance the producer some of the money which he requires on his goods. That is, therefore, a power which must properly be entrusted to the marketing board.
The marketing board, too, must have power in regard to storage and the capacity to deal with storage of goods either on the producers' fields or in a store—it would depend on the commodity itself. Let me apply these necessary powers, which we propose for the commodity marketing board, to two commodities in order to show how valuable they would have been in the last two years to producers. Take the case of potatoes. The average annual potato crop in this country is worth about £20,000,000 or a little less. In 1929 there was a surplus. There was a bumper crop of from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. above the average yield, and the effect of that relatively small surplus was that the price of potatoes came down nearly half. In other words a relatively small percentage of surplus crop depressed the price to the grower, out of all relation to the size of the surplus. That has happened, and it does happen constantly. In such a case how would a potato marketing board operate? Clearly the marketing board would know the requirements of the market and would notify the producers when the market could take supplies and would market the supplies steadily.
In that case, in the few weeks during which it was customary to market potatoes, supplies were rushed on to the market—more than it could absorb—and down went the price, so that thousands of tons of potatoes remained unsold and often, I believe, rotted in the fields, in some cases, to the ruin of the producers. But that was no advantage to the distributing trade, nor, as a matter of fact, was it any advantage to the consumer. It was no advantage to anybody. This chaotic system was disastrous to the producer, but that was its only effect. We propose that the commodity marketing board should have the power, therefore, to regulate the sales, and each member of the industry will be entitled to the same share of those sales. Now, as I have said, there was a surplus last year and there may be a surplus again. The effect of these proposals, no doubt, would have been that the surplus, instead of unfairly depressing the price, would have been usable for the manufacture of potato by-products, as in the case of other countries, but you do not keep an organisation to set up farina factories to use up potatoes in that way, unless that organisation has command over the supply.
What applies to surplus potatoes applies with much more force to another of our major products, namely, milk. People do not always realise that the annual value of the milk products of this country is about £50,000,000, and, in this connection, I draw the attention of the House to a remarkable figure. We produce in this country about £50,000,000 to £59,000,000 worth of milk and milk products every year, and we import about £5,500,000 worth, mostly condensed or dried milk. But we produce about £3,000,000 worth of cheese, and import £12,000,000 worth of cheese, side by side with this enormous volume of milk production. This year there was an organisation—there is an organisation as good as it can be made in existing circumstances—and it is true to say that the National Farmers' Union have done their level best, but, whilst there has been a paper agreement as to prices, that agreement has been worthless to large numbers of producers. They have not been able to sell their milk at all, or, instead of getting a price according to the agreement, they have been selling it for 5d., 6d., 7d. and various other figures per gallon with no machinery at all to utilise the surplus except here and there.
Surely if we look at this contrast and consider that we produce, as a rule, about 600,000,000 gallons of milk for ordinary home consumption and have a surplus of about 200,000,000 gallons, it will be agreed that there is no commodity, in this sphere, the supply of which offers a finer opportunity for large-scale organisation than milk. But until you have a large-scale organisation you cannot set up your factories to deal with the milk surplus because you cannot command the supply to the factories which is the first essential of factory management. Therefore in a case like this it is perfectly clear that we shall have to contemplate, possibly, English and Scottish milk boards with, I have no doubt, a joint national board operating and regulating and dealing with the supply of milk. There is another milk by-product which represents a remarkable contrast. We produce at home £6,000,000 worth of butter and we import £47,000,000—not cheap butter but good butter. Here is a very remarkable fact which I would ask the sponsors of the hostile Motion on the Paper to consider. The largest outside exporter of butter to this country makes the best price. It is not dumped butter. Danish butter, for example, makes a price which is a little better than New Zealand butter and it is larger in quantity. It is true that fashions vary as to what people buy in different parts of the country, but the possibility of this mass supply depends, and can only depend, upon an organisation which has the command, in bulk, of the raw material. We can never hope to compete whatever we do as to our tariff policy, until we have a similar organisation for standardising and producing the article. That is one of the governing purposes of this Bill.
There is another very valuable purpose which could be served by a large-scale commodity marketing board. They could help to overcome some of the discreditable charges which attach at present to our transport system. I am not blaming the railway companies at all, because the more one goes into this question, the better one sees their excuses. They have to clear and handle a vast number of small units of varying sizes and weights, and they are bound to charge for it. It is only when you can have a large-scale organisation, making terms for transport in bulk, that you can possibly get cheap transport charges, and if need be, according to the powers in this Bill, the commodity marketing board, if it found it was held up, could run its own motors. There is no reason why it should not.
But the main objection which has been raised by some to our proposals is that they interfere with what is called free sale, and I notice that some of my friends of the National Poultry Council have been sending us messages about this. With the greatest possible respect, I must say that some of them do not appear to have read the Bill. I have here one of a very large number of protestations which I have received, and all that this gentleman has done has been to put a stamp on and say where he lives. He has left it just as it was drafted by headquarters. That is what I call ready-made protests. My colleague, Lord De La Warr, on Friday night thought he would go and discuss this at a meeting, I think, in East Sussex. It was a meeting originally to condemn the Bill, but those who came to scoff remained to praise. [An HON. MEMBER: "To bless!"] I do not think they got quite as far as blessing, but they agreed that it ought to be given a trial, and that is as much as we ask.
We have in England 20 counties at least that produce more eggs than those counties consume, and nine out of the 13 Welsh counties do the same. I have not got the figures for Scotland, but my right hon. Friend, who is a great authority on this subject in Scotland, can perhaps supply them. The point is that we have got a vast potential market waiting to be served. To give one illustration, the London County Council does not buy national mark eggs. My hon. Friend had a talk with them. They buy 138,000 eggs a week, and the London market clears about three or four times as many, but there is a demand for national mark or good new-laid eggs of at least twice the present supply, or very nearly twice. Is there any reason why those 20 counties in England and nine in Wales should be deprived of improved facilities for selling in our big consuming centres simply because those who happen to live near enough have their own market? There is no reason, and the Bill provides that both will be safeguarded.
We provide in the Bill that there will be generous exceptions. The main design of the Bill is to deal with bulk marketing in the large consuming centres. No producers would ever introduce a scheme which would impoverish their own neighbours. We do not want to prevent a man selling his neighbour cabbages or eggs or anything else. That is not the scheme at all, but we do say that where you have the possibility of organising large-scale supplies, you must have a comprehensive organisation on separate lines—
Of course, the type of exception must necessarily depend upon the commodity itself. In the case of milk, the ordinary domestic producer no doubt would be exempted, though there might be a condition attaching to exemption, and the condition would be that he did not undersell his neighbours. A person who had a contract to sell eggs to a shop would be left undisturbed, I have no doubt, and the only condition which would apply to exempted producers would be that they did not spoil the market for their neighbours. We do not want to spoil, we want to increase their market.
On this question of exemption and what follows from it, I would like to tell the House the story of hops, because hops present an illuminating story. I belong—and I am not ashamed of it—to a profession that makes no bones about this kind of thing. We say, in the medical profession, that if a man does not behave himself, he must suffer for it, or obey the ordinary standards of the profession. In the case of sales, you could not have a better illustration than that of hops as to the desolating effect of the present disorder. In the case of milk, the producers say, "We must require our friends or our neighbours to sell according to the agreement." In the case of hops, the Hop Duty of £4 a cwt. came into force in 1925, and an association was formed, which was called English Hop Growers, Limited. This was an association of hop growers to market their hops in an orderly manner, but a small percentage of the growers stayed outside. The price which the association realised for their hops in 1928–9 was £10 15s. a cwt., and then the small percentage which stayed outside, as there was a surplus in the crop, found that the brewers, or whoever they were, came and bought all their hops, while English Hop Growers, Limited, had a certain quantity of hops left on their hands.
There was a surplus, but, of course, their members had made a great deal more out of their hops, selling them at £10 15s. a cwt., than they would have done if they had all put them on to the market in a disorderly manner. However, the wise men who stayed outside—about 5 per cent.—came along, on market days and at other times, to their fellow hop growers and said: "Lo, what wise men we are. We have sold all our hops." The result was that in 1929 English Hop Growers, Limited, went into liquidation. The disloyal 5 per cent. had smashed up English Hop Growers, Limited. This is a very simple and a true story. In 1929, after English Hop Growers, Limited, had gone into liquidation, instead of the price of hops being £10 15s. a cwt., it slumped to £3 15s. a cwt. At the same time—
Not at all. It is entirely correct. £10 15s. a cwt. was the average price in 1928–9. Then English Hop Growers, Limited, owing to the defection of the disloyal minority, went into liquidation, and the price of hops slumped to £3 15s. a cwt. I shall have something to say about that later.
I can well imagine, after that year, some poor fellow working in his hop garden and seeing a dray with the barrels on it going along the road, emanating the flavours perhaps of the Oregon hops, and with the barrels draped perhaps in a Union Jack, representing Empire Free Trade. I can imagine that the poor fellow would turn back, with his heart almost breaking, to grub up the products of his own labour. He would vote for that machine at the next election and never recognise that it was the instrument that had destroyed his own market. Could you have a better case than the story of what actually happened two years ago in hops to justify the power which we propose under this Bill to put into the hands of the industry? It is the power to require the minority to play the game. There is an element of compulsion in the Bill, and you cannot make it work without it. Do not let us hide it. You cannot have organisation in the supply of commodities to a market if every producer is going to be a law unto himself. It cannot be done, and unless we are willing to accept this element of compulsion, with the most liberal provisions, as we ought to have, for exemptions and for qualifications, we cannot make this thing work. The only result of this provision is that we shall equip the British farmer for the first time with a machine that will enable him to be the master of his own market.
I come to another function of the marketing boards which will, in the long run, be of even greater importance than those to which I have referred, and that is carrying their work to a greater extent through to the finished product. Take the alliance which exists between the bacon producing industry and the milk industry in Denmark. It means that the Dane feeds his pigs cheaper than we do and gets his bacon to the market three weeks earlier than we do. That is because of the working alliance between the milk factories and the bacon producers, and I want to see the same alliance set going and developed by the organised schemes which we propose to set up.
Another feature of the marketing boards which is equally essential is propaganda and instruction. I believe that my right hon. Friend, with the concurrence of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, got a scheme last year through the Empire Marketing Board for feeding a number of children in Scotland with milk for the purpose of showing that a small amount of milk per day is very beneficial to children. It costs £10,000, and we thought that it was a great thing. It was a great thing, and my right hon. Friend opposite helped us to do it and to get this money out of the Empire Marketing Board in order to get this advertisement for milk. Suppose that there were a levy on the producers of milk in a national milk board of one-half of one per cent. for the purposes of instruction and propaganda, it would yield a figure, not of £10,000 but of £250,000 a year. I only give that figure to show the immense possibilities which will be opened to the organisation which will be made possible by these proposals. It is what our competitors are doing. Those advertisements that we see on the Underground Railways have to be paid for. They are paid for, I have no doubt, by a levy on the organised producers—a trifling levy per head—and what can be done there can be done here. As a matter of fact, we are such a modest race, that we are afraid to bring before our fellow countrymen the merits of our own products, and I want these commodity marketing boards to make up some of the lost ground.
Another thing which they will do is to study the requirements of the distributor and the consumer. It is a mistake to think that these interests are different; they are really identical. It is an extraordinary thing that the supplier of products from the ends of the earth has his organisation and specialists studying the requirements of the British market, and that the British farmer who lives next door has never started doing it. We propose to enable him to do it by this Bill.
Let me address a few remarks to the main grounds of opposition as embodied in the Amendments on the Order Paper. I take it that the Opposition Amendment will be the one which stands in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and other Members, to the effect that the House
is unwilling to give a Second Reading to a Bill which authorises the imposition of compulsory restrictions on the sale of British
produce without imposing any conditions on the sale of foreign produce.
There are certain crops of great value—such as milk, £59,000,000 a year, and potatoes, £20,000,000 a year—which are not substantially open to foreign competition at all—[HON. MEMBERS: "Certainly they are!"] That is where the hon. Gentlemen have been so misled by the kind of claptrap which they hear. We produce £59,000,000 worth of milk a year, of which £50,000,000 is for ordinary liquid consumption. Imported milk, chiefly condensed milk and dried milk, amounts to only £5,500,000, or less than one-tenth.
Is it not the fact that the imports of foreign condensed and tinned milk have been steadily increasing of recent years, and that the British production has been going down?
I cannot say as to the former years, but the point I am making is the magnitude of the figure, £59,000,000, as against the figure of £5,500,000 for imported milk. That £59,000,000 worth of milk is partly made up of 200,000,000 gallons of milk that are now surplus. Why are they surplus? They are surplus because the producers have not an organisation which is sufficient to enable them to use it. Is there any reason why we should fail to deal with the surplus milk and get a more secure price for the farmer? Is there any reason why we should not have an organisation to deal with milk products? Why should we wait until we have dealt with imported products? I can see no reason. [Interruption.] What is the advantage of waiting? What do you gain by waiting?
Take the case of highly competing products like bacon, butter or beef. Is it desirable that we should do nothing but stand aside, and not help to increase output and to standardise the supplies to our bacon factories and to see that the supplies are better graded? Are we to do nothing because our competitors are doing it so well? Take the case of a bacon factory which I visited a short time ago. It is a farmer's factory, of which I hope there will be more. It was built to deal with 1,000 animals a week. Its average supply is from 400 to 450, and the animals are of all sorts and sizes. The result is that the factory is in a very bad way, and they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to do a little to help them over the stile. What is really wrong is that they have 1,500 contracting suppliers who do not supply; supplies go to the local jobber and are deflected from the factory. It suffers from the disloyalty of its members.
Are we to do nothing about that because our brothers across the sea in Denmark are sending good class bacon? I should have thought that the need of doing something in the face of competing foreign supplies was all the greater, not the less. If we find ourselves exposed to damaging outside competition in the case of butter or bacon or any other commodity, that is all the more reason why we should improve own own methods. We should not defer doing so just because we have not yet imposed any conditions on the sale of foreign products. I suggest that the logic of the case is all the other way. Where we are independent and supply ourselves, there may not be the same necessity, but where we are exposed to highly-qualified competition, it is all the more necessary that we should take steps to improve our own methods.
I was greatly comforted in this by a little article which was contributed to a paper by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot. I was rather surprised when I saw his name attached to it, and I can only infer that his party zeal has outrun his considered judgment. It was a very charming article, and was called, "On Starting to Grow Fruit." It was not brought to my attention; I was reading "Farm Notes" and came across it, and I said, "That will do for the Marketing Bill." This is what the Noble Lord said:
If you grow wells pack well and market well, you have nothing to fear from competition whencesoever it may come. We have allowed our incomparable market to fall into the hands of foreigners through our own sloth. But by combining science with practice, we can regain it, and many millions of golden sovereigns await English growers who are able to put on their own market fruit which is as good and better than what the foreigner can send.
I heartily endorse every word of that statement, because we know that last year the demand for high-graded English fruit was greater than the supply. There is a great market and a good price for well-graded English fruit, and the Noble Lord is saying no less than what is true. If that be true, why are we to wait until we have done something with reference to imported supplies? Are we to wait and not help our growers to improve the standardization and preservation of our own first-class apples until we have done something with those that come from California? Otherwise, I cannot follow the logic of the contention. If the House of Commons wants an illustration of how Protection may work, I will hark back to the case of hops, and I hope I shall have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Hops provided a very special opportunity for Protection to protect. In 1925 the duty on hops was £4 a cwt., and it is still £4 a cwt., but although there was that duty on foreign hops in 1929–30, English hops were actually selling at a lower price than the duty. Notwithstanding this almost prohibitive duty English hops were selling at £3 15s. a cwt., although the duty was £4. The protective duty did not suffice. [Interruption.] I am not going to be led away. The protective duty was designed, I assume, to protect the hop grower, but notwithstanding that, owing to the breakup among English hop growers, the home grower sold his hops at less than the duty. If hon. Members opposite want an illustration of the failure of Protection and how much might have been done by a commodity marketing organisation, I would recommend them to go into another room and think about hops.
What are the "conditions on the sale of foreign produce" that we are to wait for? If the Opposition have a mind to come and have a friendly discussion with us as to import boards I shall be very glad; but I understand that they are anathema to the Opposition, because they are extraordinarily Socialistic institutions. So I take it that what is in the minds of the sponsors of this Amendment is not import boards, but something else. What is it? What are the conditions for which we are to wait? Is it Protection? Is it fair trade, is it Tariff Reform—we have been squabbling about it for 40 years—or is it Safeguarding or Empire Free Trade, or is it the free hand, or what is it? There is a squabble going on this very night in East Islington over what these conditions are to be. I can see no reason why we should wait until this welter of squabbles has been settled before we do these obvious things. Why should we wait for these controversies to be resolved before we help to market our milk, or our butter, or our potatoes, or our bacon or our fruit better than we do now?
I agree that the method suggested in this Bill is a method that will greatly tax the industry. It will call upon those engaged in the industry to mobilise their resources, it will require them to bring to their aid the best marketing organisation intelligence and advice that they can command. It is a difficult road, but so is every road of recovery. The sponsors of this Amendment have an easier path. To paraphrase an old line their programme is to plant their footsteps in the sands of time, by sitting down and waiting until an unborn deliverer comes along. On this side we ask the House of Commons to turn aside from that attitude. Let us take our eyes off that shifting mirage of food taxes and devote ourselves to a constructive act, devote ourselves to an immediate, urgent and vital task, namely providing agriculture in Britain with the means whereby it may meet the needs and make use of the priceless opportunities of our splendid markets.
On a point of Order. I take it the Noble Lord has risen to move the Amendment which stands in his name, and, before he does so, I wish to submit a point of Order which arises out of an Instruction on the Paper in the name of myself and various hon. friends—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill is committed that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill to enable the import or sale in this country of imported agricultural products to be controlled in the interests of producers and consumers where desirable to facilitate or assist the operation of schemes under the Bill.
I submit that it would be of advantage to us if we could be given an indication
of whether you, Sir, or Mr. Speaker will permit us to discuss this Instruction at a later stage, because if the Instruction is in order, then, presumably, it would be in order to discuss some of the projects of hon. Members opposite and some hon. Members on these benches—not the same projects but projects connected with the control of imported foodstuffs—which, otherwise, possibly would not be in order. The Instruction dealing with imported foodstuffs is, I submit, well within the title of the Bill. The title refers to the marketing of agricultural products without saying whether they are home or imported products; if it had meant home grown agricultural products it would have said so. It has been put to me, however, that it may be outside the scope of the Bill, the scope being, I understand, a rather indefinable thing which would depend partly upon the title and partly upon the contents of the Clauses. I gather that if it were decided that it was outside the scope of the Bill it would be quite impossible to move certain Amendments in Committee. I have consulted a friendly leader on all these occasions, Erskine May, and I gather that that decision might not rule out the possibility of discussing such Clauses in Committee if the House gave an instruction to that effect at this stage. On page 398 of Erskine May it states, quite definitely, when dealing with Standing Order 34, which, by the way, was passed in order to enable discussions to take place which otherwise might be outside the title of the Bill:
Amendments to the Bills may, however, be offered which might be beyond the scope of the Amendments contemplated by Standing Order No. 34 and which, without a special instruction from the House, could not be considered by the Committee.
By that I understand that if this Instruction were passed it would be possible, if still within the title, to go a little outside the scope as closely defined by Standing Order No. 34. On the next page it says definitely:
The object of an instruction is, therefore, to endow a committee with power whereby the committee can perfect and complete the legislation defined by the contents of the Bill"—
and then it goes on—
or extend the provisions of a Bill to cognate objects,
though, of course, it goes on to say that one cannot deal with things that are irrele-
vant, foreign or contradictory to the decision of the House. I submit that this Bill deals with the marketing of agricultural products, and that imported agricultural foodstuffs are certainly cognate objects, and that Clauses extending the Bill to cover that point would certainly be within the terms of the authority and the decisions as laid down by Erskine May. Having tried to justify the arguments which seem to make it proper to put this Instruction on the Paper, I would be very grateful if you would give us a Ruling as to whether, at a later stage, we shall be able to move the instruction.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico):
I understand the hon. Member has raised this question with Mr. Speaker, who has given a great deal of care, attention, and thought to the matter. Mr. Speaker, after the most careful consideration, has come to the conclusion that the real object of this Bill is to deal with home products only, and that the intention of the promoters of the Bill is not to go outside home products. The bringing in of foreign imports would therefore be outside, not the title of the Bill, but outside the scope of the Bill. On those grounds, the Instruction to which the hon. Member refers would be out of order, it would not be called.
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:
this House, while recognising the need of further progress in the organisation of agricultural marketing, is unwilling to give a Second Reading to a Bill which authorises the imposition of compulsory restrictions on the sale of British produce without imposing any conditions on the sale of foreign produce.
I am extremely sorry to hear that Ruling, though I have no doubt it is technically correct, because I can assure the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) that if he had moved the Instruction we on this side should have been delighted to vote for it, and as the Government have so drafted their Bill that the Instruction is out of order I presume that if the hon. Member and his Friends are in earnest about their Instruction, as covering a vitally important point, they will join with us in voting for this Amendment. The Bill now before the House is very different from the other Bill which the Minister of
Agriculture is sponsoring. The Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill, so far as we can make out, does nothing at all to help existing farmers with their farming problems. We recognise at once, and we say so in our Amendment, though the right hon. Gentleman was very careful to read only half the Amendment, that this Bill does at any rate attempt to deal with what everybody with a knowledge of the facts must recognise to be a real agricultural problem. The problem, to put it in a nutshell, is that the bulk of our markets lies in the great cities, and that the townspeople and the middlemen demand that goods should be standardised, graded, and uniformly packed. On the other hand, we have 400,000 farmers, most of whom started by building up a local connection and find when they come to sell in great cities that they are handicapped by the expense of individual marketing and the lack of standardisation. The foreigner gains not only by standardisation, but by the economy he is able to make in bulk selling. Here we have a real problem, and I am delighted that the House has an opportunity of considering it. I would like to say that I believe farmers must increasingly give their attention to this question of standardisation and bulk selling. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we quite appreciate the importance of that matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Guinness) laid the foundation stone of standardisation in this country by instituting the national mark, and as time goes on it will be found what a very important step that was, and how much good it will do for British agriculture.
How does the Minister of Agriculture try to deal with this problem? As he would put it, by encouraging farmers to form marketing organisations. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman goes a great deal further than that, he wants to go into the highways and byways and compel the farmers to come in. I want to face this question of compulsion quite fairly. I think the right hon. Gentleman skated very lightly over the question of compulsion.
I agree that there are circumstances, or may be circumstances, in which compulsion is fair and just.
In the case of hops, which the Minister of Agriculture quoted, I do not think he was quite accurate in all his figures, but in substance I do not disagree with what he said. You had there a marketing board formed by hop growers, and 90 per cent. of them joined the organisation and 10 per cent. stood out. The marketing board was able to achieve a stabilised price, but there was over-production and a glut, and the members of English Hop Growers, Limited, were only able to sell about 80 per cent. of their produce, whereas the 10 per cent. who stood out were able to sell 100 per cent. of their produce at the stabilised price achieved by the marketing board. Consequently those farmers found it paid them to be outside the marketing board. Farmers' contracts naturally lapsed when they died, and their sons, taking on those farms, thought it was inadvisable to join the marketing board, with the result that the 10 per cent. grew to 15 and 17 per cent. It was because this percentage tended to grow so rapidly that it was found impossible to carry on the organisation, and it was wound up That is the only case I know, but in a case like that I think compulsion is fair and just; what is more compulsion in those circumstances would have been in the interests of the minority, because they would have been very much better oft if they had come in.
The point of the illustration given by the Minister was that hops are a protected crop. It may be quite true that without a marketing board you get your home glut and the price falls to a level which no longer pays the farmer to produce them; but it is also true that English Hop Growers, Limited, could not have functioned at all but for the protection which was given to them in regard to the price. This can only be achieved by an organisation on a national basis, and in the case of a crop enjoying a protected position. The Minister of Agriculture does not pay much compliment to the intelligence of this House or to agriculture when he argues that because 5 or 10 per cent. of the English hop growers stood out stabilisation was impossible, while he ignores the fact that but for the duty 100 per cent. of foreign hop growers would have joined the 10 or 15 per cent. of English hop growers who refused to come in. If what the right hon. Gentleman says about English hop growers is true, it applies with far greater force to those who grow hops abroad. Therefore, the whole justification for compulsion rests upon stabilisation of prices. If 10 per cent., or a small minority of farmers can glut or disorganise the market by standing out, then the 90 per cent. majority cannot go on. If no question of stabilisation arises, what justification is there for compelling anybody to join the marketing organisation? You can get standardisation by the National mark, and those who grow and pack well, and are able to get the better prices are welcome to them, but they have no right to prevent their neighbours from selling an inferior article if they wish to do so.
The Minister of Agriculture paid me the compliment of reading a portion of an article which I wrote recently, and I adhere to every word of it. I am a strong believer in grading and uniform packing, and I myself am a registered producer under the national mark in respect of fruit. The national mark gives fruit growers a fair opportunity. With regard to certain classes of fruit, we can produce a better article than any other country in the world. The national mark enables us to standardise those apples, and, consequently, we get an article which is recognised and known on the market. There is no need for us to compel other fruit growers to join us, because they can come up to our standard if they like. Exactly the same argument applies in regard to mass selling and bulk selling. A voluntary co-operative organisation will provide for mass marketing. Those who take the trouble and risk of joining and working an organisation like that are entitled by all means to the economies they can make, but they have no right to compel others, who wish to pursue more expensive methods, to join them. The only justification for compulsion—I admit it exists in certain cases—is where you require to stabilise the price and where the minority, by hanging out, can glut or disorganise the market.
The principle I am willing to accept is that compulsion
is unjustifiable, unless it is a question of stabilising the price. Where it is a question of the stabilisation of the price, then my view is that compulsion, with proper safeguards to the individual is justifiable. I think the right hon. Gentleman has recognised that in the first draft of his Bill, where he made it an essential condition to any scheme under this Bill that there should be a stabilisation of the price. It is a very important condition, and it was included in the first Schedule to the Bill as originally drafted. I will read it to the House:
The Minister may, if he is satisfied that the scheme will conduce to the more efficient production and marketing of the regulated product and to stabilisation of the price thereof, approve the scheme with or without modifications.
Those words have been removed in the second edition of the Bill. Why has this condition been removed? May I suggest that it is because it gives the show away? This Bill does nothing to stabilise the price. The Prime Minister told a gathering of agriculturists some months ago that the first duty of the Government is to maintain price conditions which would be fair to our farmers, but from that day to this the right hon. Gentleman has not lifted a little finger to carry out that obligation. This Bill does not carry it out. In order to achieve stabilisation by a marketing scheme, you require two things. The first condition is that the area of your marketing board should be national. It is absurd to say that Lancashire might have a marketing scheme under which every Lancashire farmer would be compelled to join the board when, at the same time, Yorkshire farmers might sell in Lancashire without any regard to the regulations and restrictions of the Lancashire board.
Therefore, in order to make the marketing scheme a success, it must be on a national basis, and the scheme must apply to Great Britain as a whole. The second necessary condition is that you must take steps to prevent foreign produce from competing unfairly with home produce, and destroying any attempt at stabilising the price which the national organisation may achieve. The Bill fails in this primary object, and, therefore, fails to meet the needs of the industry and therefore is unjust to individuals. What justification, I repeat, is there for attempting to coerce 5 or 10 per cent. of English farmers when you allow 100 per cent. of foreign farmers to come in and sell in the same market?
The right hon. Gentleman talked to us about Danish bacon, and pointed out the degree of excellence which the Danes had been able to achieve in their organisation; and he asked, why should we not imitate them? I would remind him, in the first place, that the whole of this Danish efficiency was built up on a voluntary basis; and, secondly, I would ask him, does he imagine that, if you had a marketing board for bacon in this country which attempted to copy Danish methods and put a tank-cured bacon on the market in competition with Danish bacon—as the right hon. Gentleman knows, English bacon for the most part is a different article altogether which does not compete with the Danish bacon—if we entered the bacon trade as a nation, on a national basis, and attempted to compete with the Danes, does the right hon. Gentleman think for one minute that the Danes would be content to let prices stand even where they are to-day?
I should like the House to realise—I am speaking from memory, but I think my figures are correct—that, of the 256,000 tons which is the Danish production of bacon every year, 252,000 tons come to this country. The Danes are absolutely dependent on England for their market, and it would be a matter of life and death to them to strangle the infant English bacon industry. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what he would do in those circumstances. Would he let an industry, which we would all like to see established in this country, he strangled before it gets into its stride by the dumping of foreign produce in this country at a price which must necessarily be below the cost even of their own production? Our foreign competitors would be bound to dump in this country at prices below the cost of production in order to kill a rival which would otherwise destroy their industry. I would ask the Under-Secretary for Scotland, when he comes to reply, to say what he will do when that happens.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about potatoes, and said, if I followed him correctly, that at any rate our objection did not apply to potatoes and milk; and he asked, why should not we let the Bill go through if only for the sake of potatoes and milk? I think that that was his line of argument. Let me follow him. He takes, of course, two articles in regard to which we have a natural protection. As regards potatoes, however, the right hon. Gentleman knows that German potatoes were coming into this country last September and October at £3 15s. a ton, and, if anyone thinks that we are going to be free for ever from the competition of foreign main-crop potatoes, I would respectfully disagree with him.
I believe that that is quite true, but I was calling the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that last year, 1930, I believe for the first time, we had an importation in the autumn of a number of consignments of German potatoes at appreciably lower prices than those at which potatoes were selling in this country. I quite agree that the importation of main-crop potatoes at the present moment is negligible, but I do not know of any reason for believing that that state of things is going to continue permanently, and, if you had a marketing board that was able to stabilise the price of potatoes at, say, £5 a ton—which would still let the consumer have them at ld. per lb. and leave a very good profit for the retailer—what justification does this Bill give for thinking that there would not at once be a great flood of foreign potatoes whenever there was a glut in foreign countries?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that, during the months of November, December and January, the Germans cannot move their potatoes, because of the very severe frosts that occur in their country at that time, and, therefore, the importation is confined to September and October and to March and April. As I have said, we all know that main-crop potatoes have not been an important import in the past, but there was this very ominous sign last year, and I see no reason for believing that it is not going to increase directly any attempt is made to stabilise the price in this country at a profitable figure. With regard to milk, exactly the same thing happens, but milk, of course, nowadays, has a great deal less natural protection than it used to have.
I mean that in the old days, if you carted milk across Europe, it was not so good to drink as when it started; it is a highly perishable commodity. But nowadays that condition of things is becoming very much modified. We have imports of tinned milk to the extent of £5,000,000 a year. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that that was a negligible figure, but, on the contrary, it is a very important figure; it represents practically all the increase in milk consumption during the last 10 years; and, if you try to stabilise the price of liquid milk at a more remunerative figure to the milk producer, under the present conditions one of two things might happen. You would either be likely to get a largely increased import of foreign tinned milk, or, as I am told by those who are in a position to know, there is nothing to prevent liquid milk from being sent over here, frozen in glass tanks, from Holland or even Switzerland. Any idea, therefore, that milk producers are going to have a sheltered market in this country is, I believe, very short-sighted. Therefore, the only instances which the right hon. Gentleman can give are those of hops, which already have protection, and of potatoes and milk, which have a natural protection but both of which are threatened in the near future.
The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me just now to ask how far I would go in regard to compulsion, and I said I thought that compulsion was justified where it was a case of stabilising the price. I would like, however, to say this, that, if you are going to the length of compelling anybody, a duty lies upon the State to exercise the utmost care as to how that is done. In the first place, I submit that it would not be justifiable to compel any producer of any crop unless an overwhelming majority of growers of that crop were in favour of forming a marketing board. Personally, I think there ought to be not less than 75 per cent. of the producers and 75 per cent. of the product in favour, so that there would be an overwhelming majority both of the small and of the big growers. Further, individuals should be given every safeguard in regard to inquiry, investigation and right of appeal, and very great care should also be taken, in building up the marketing board and making it compulsory, that individual enterprise is not checked, that the progressive man is not tied down to the speed of the unprogressive man; and, above all things, it must be recognised that marketing is a most intricate, delicate and complicated business. The idea that all the problems can be solved simply by forming a co-operative organisation is a complete delusion. Those—and I am one of them—who put money into co-operative societies of farmers in the past, know to their cost that the matter is not so simple.
I should like to see the right hon. Gentleman recognising another fact a little more clearly, and that is that, after all that has been said against it which may be said against it, the present organisation which is serving farmers and the country is a very complicated one, carried on by a number of very hardworking men, who, as a rule, make very small profits, and who do, to use a colloquial phrase, "deliver the goods." They represent the machinery which is working the industry at the present moment. As far as I can make out from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, he pays altogether insufficient attention to that fact. I would ask him, what is the position of local markets to be under this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have a very high opinion of those who work this machinery. He spoke about the "denizens of the rat-runs" of the marketing system. Whether he was referring to our auctioneers or cattle dealers, or to whom he was referring, I was not quite clear; but the idea of regarding all these men as sycophants and parasites is a complete mistake. They are all performing a useful function for the community, and, although we may be able to improve our methods of marketing, it must be done in such a way that no injustice is suffered by those who are at present engaged in the industry.
In my view, the safeguards contained in this Bill in regard to individuals are altogether insufficient. There is no guarantee in the Bill that an overwhelming majority of producers should demand a marketing scheme. The fact that the Minister may be satisfied that a body of producers is substantially representative of the farmers is not good enough. We want that to be made very much stronger in the first place, and, in the second place, to afford an independent inquiry to which those who object to the scheme can apply. Thirdly, he whittles Parliamentary control to a mere shadow. But my chief objection to the details of the Bill is the extraordinary powers with which he has armed himself. In Clause 7 (4, c), on the recommendation of his own investigation committee he may alter any scheme how he likes, or order the board to do what he likes, or replace the board by his own nominees, and that without any reference to Parliament whatever. So the position created under the Clause may be this. The growers may frame a scheme under conditions agreeable to them. After the scheme has been working a short time, after all the growers have been compelled to come in, a complaint may be made, or it is not even necessary to have a complaint. If the Minister thinks the investigation committee should look into it, he orders them to do so, and, if they report in that sense, he can completely upset the scheme which the growers have drawn up, and substitute his own scheme. Every guarantee that the growers have put in, every safeguard, every honourable understanding between individuals may be taken away.
The scheme may be administered by men foisted on the growers by the Minister himself in whom the growers have no personal confidence, and yet the financial liability under the scheme would still remain with the growers. If the gentlemen whom the right hon. Gentleman appointed to the Board led the scheme into bankruptcy, all the growers would have to put their hands into their pockets, while neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Government would have to pay an extra farthing. The Minister introduces a provision like this and he cannot understand why it is not received with acclamation by the farmers! Furthermore, I view the proposals that figure in the latest edition of the Bill for the reorganisation commission with the gravest suspicion. In the first place, I believe it is true you can only achieve success in co-operative action if the movement conies from within. The idea of trying to bring this to the industry from outside, I believe to be a mistaken idea, which will fail in its purpose. There is nothing in the Bill as it stands to prevent the recommendations of the reorganisation commission being forced upon the Marketing Board.
I think I can show the right hon. Gentleman that that is the case, because under Clause 13, which sets up the Reorganisation Commission, the Commission may investigate any matter affecting the operation of a scheme, and
the Minister shall take such steps as he thinks fit to further the consideration of the recommendations by the persons affected thereby wth a view to the adoption thereof.
If the producers turn down the scheme, and say it is for the amalgamation of two marketing boards, which is the sort of case which is specifically allowed for in Clause 13—if one marketing board turns it down, the right hon. Gentleman can refer the matter to the investigation committee and, under the powers of Clause 7, he can force the marketing board to accept the recommendations of his Reorganisation Commission.
I shall be glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman why it is impossible. If hon. Members read those two Clauses, they will see how it could be done. Therefore, the members of the marketing board would have no guarantee that a totally different scheme was not ultimately foisted upon them, and yet that they would have the financial liability remaining upon them. There are a great many other criticisms which we could make, most of which would best be discussed in Committee, but, in our view, this question of compelling men to come into a marketing board without giving them any guarantee at all that their efforts to stabilise prices in this country will not be frustrated by free foreign imports under fair or unfair conditions, is a fundamental blemish on the Bill. As long as it seeks to impose such a monstrous injustice on the farmers, we shall feel bound to oppose it.
I do not understand the reason for the Noble Lord's argument when he says we must not tackle this matter of agricultural marketing until we have first tackled the question of imports. He knows quite well how difficult that question is, and what a thorny subject it is, and I should imagine in his heart of hearts he knows what a tremendously long time it will be before that matter is satisfactorily dealt with so far as his point of view is concerned. I rather agree with the Minister when he says we ought not to wait, and even if there is something that can be done with regard to the importation of agricultural produce from overseas into our market, certainly there is something that can be done with regard to the marketing of our agricultural produce at home. I may have one or two words of criticism to offer, which, I hope, will be of a constructive character, but I wish to assure the Minister, that so far as his desire is to improve agricultural marketing facilities, he has my wholehearted support and that of hon. Members on this bench. We want to see better marketing facilities, and I quite agree that they can be improved. There is no doubt that, with regard to the marketing of many of our agricultural products, there is tremendous room for improvement.
The point I have in my mind is how best we can improve our marketing arrangements so that our producers can get an economic price for their produce. Everything depends upon our method of approach, and the angle from which we approach this very intricate and difficult problem. No set rules can be laid down, probably no system could be established, certainly no system could be immediately put into operation, for which it could he claimed that it would solve the problem with regard to the marketing of any agricultural product that one might name. What matters is the angle from which we approach the problem. Is the Bill approaching it from the point of view that we desire clearly to eliminate from our present marketing system all non-essential services, and to retain and improve the essential parts and the essential services of our present system? If we are intending to do that, I think we are approaching it from the right angle. If, on the other hand, the idea is to uproot our present system and attempt to establish another system altogether, I believe we are approaching it from a wrong angle, and disaster faces not only us but the people engaged in the industry themselves.
Although we have had a very excellent speech from the Minister, with very much of which I entirely agree, he did not deal with the Bill itself, and did not divulge the actual intentions of the working of its Clauses. He had a good deal to say as to our antiquated, out-of-date methods with regard to marketing, he had a good deal to say as to certain products being wasted and the producers not receiving the price that they could receive under well-regulated marketing, but he did not say whether it was the Government's intention simply to improve the present position, to utilise the present agencies for marketing, or whether he was aiming at the uprooting of the system altogether and the establishment of another system in its place. I should like to ask him, is the aim and object of the Bill merely to improve our present marketing facilities, to regulate our present markets and to prevent gluts, to improve and cheapen transport facilities, to stimulate the demand for home-grown agricultural produce, to centralise, standardise and grade agricultural supplies, to circulate, if need be, market intelligence to producers in order to prevent gluts, to establish adequate and cheap credit facilities for producers in order to help them in their marketing, and generally to assist producers profitably to market what they can grow so very well? If that is the idea, he will have the whole House with him, and certainly every Member on these benches will assist him to carry such a scheme through. Is it really the intention to improve and create new avenues of trade for agricultural products and to cut out all wasteful services with regard to the marketing of our produce? Is the Bill really intended to rationalise our marketing, to bring it right up-to-date and to educate our producers in up-to-date methods of putting their produce on to the market? If that is the idea of the Bill, I feel sure that everyone representing an agricultural constituency will be bound to give it all the support possible.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman something further. In the improvement of our marketing facilities, does he still intend to utilise the services of existing organisations and men with trained commercial ability and experience in marketing operations?
I am very pleased to receive that answer, because I was going on to say that I am afraid that the machinery of the Bill does not lead one to believe that that will be the ultimate object to be achieved. I am very pleased to know that the Minister appreciates the services rendered by these organisations and by the trained commercial ability which to-day is helping along, very largely, the marketing of our agricultural products. Will he still preserve under his marketing scheme, and is it his desire under this Bill to preserve, the right of the individual, that is, the individual producer, to determine his own course of action in the marketing of commodities? I know that this is a difficult question, and I know that the answer may be "Yes, through an organisation." But difficulties will be created if that organisation is not so constituted that the individuality of the man is preserved.
The fostering of a high standard of cultivation ought to be one of the chief objects of a Marketing Bill, because without a high cultivation we cannot possibly meet the competition which the Minister has described which comes from overseas. If the object of the Bill is merely to improve our present system, to cut out waste from our present system, to help our producers to market through channels which already exist, to realise the importance of intermediary services which exist to-day and not ruthlessly to cut them off, I think that the Minister is tackling the marketing problem on right lines. But what I want to convey is, that it is not sufficient simply to say that our marketing methods are out-of-date, unless we clearly indicate how and by what means we can bring them right up-to-date, and in bringing them up to-date we ought to know, on the Second Reading of such an important Bill as this, whether the Minister really intends to abolish our present system and establish in its place a system for which, I feel sure, he will not get the support of the producers.
I hope that it is not the intention of the Minister to break up the marketing system. I hope he does not think that the ruthless clearing away of the intermediary services is necessary, and, certainly, I hope he has not in mind the establishment of a grandiose scheme of marketing which eventually is going to be controlled by the State. If there is anything in the nature of compulsion by the State—it may be said that we make too much of it—I can assure him that the last thing that the producers of agricultural produce want and the last thing they will have will be any system, unless the Minister can definitely give an assurance that his ultimate end is not the State control of the marketing of agricultural produce.
The principle of the Bill must be judged by one or two things. It must be judged, first of all, by the actual contents of its Clauses. Secondly, we shall have to apply a test to the Bill as to whether, if it becomes law, it will be practicable and can be put into operation. Thirdly, we can form a judgment as to the ultimate end in view by the circumstances attending the introduction of this Bill. The House will remember that this is the second draft of this particular Bill. This Bill, or a Bill, was drafted six months ago. Upon its introduction into this House, we were told that it was drafted for the specific purpose of criticism and improvement by those who would be affected by it. Since then there has been a tremendous amount of propaganda going on in the country in order to explain the provisions of that Bill. I want to congratulate the Minister again on the fact of having brought forward a Bill containing very definite new principles of far-reaching importance which will have an effect upon the future marketing of our agricultural products for a long, long time, and which may have in it the real germs of success, although, at the same time it may have in it the germs of real disaster for those who participate in the scheme.
I want to congratulate the Minister on the fact that during the intervening months he and those associated with him have taken steps to popularise the particular Bill which was introduced last July. But this is the second draft. In the second draft we are entitled to form our judgment upon the Bill by the omissions from and the additions to the second draft as compared with the first draft. I want to ask the Minister one or two questions with regard to the matter. Certainly, when the original Bill was introduced the Minister had a definite scheme in his mind. He introduced the Bill in all good faith, believing that it would solve, or if it would not solve it would go a long way towards solving, the difficulties connected with the marketing of agricultural produce. He said that that Bill was a Bill to regulate the marketing of agricultural produce by producers. The second draft of the Bill simply says that it is a Bill to regulate the marketing of agricultural produce.
Happening to know that either the Minister or those associated with him have been in conference with the intermediary services already engaged in the distribution of agricultural produce. I want to ask the Minister; Is there any significance to be attached to the fact that the word "producers" has been omitted, and that the Bill is now open so that the intermediary services can be recognised; and is it his intention to recognise them and to use them to the fullest extent? Does the Minister really intend to convey to us, that, after they have been in conference with practical men, men of marketing ability who know how to market agricultural products and know the difficulties associated with the marketing of agricultural products by leaving out this distinctive word "producers" from this Bill, he has come to the conclusion that without the aid of these services he cannot put his scheme, or any scheme, into operation successfully? If it be so, all I would say is, that if he does recognise them, he has not recognised them as fully as he ought to do. I say that because in the second draft of the Bill these intermediary services have not received the recognition which, I think, the Minister must give to them if his marketing proposals are to be successful.
The only place which I see in the Bill where there is any mention of anyone except the producers and the Ministry of Agriculture, is in Clause 13, and I am sorry that the Minister did not tell us exactly what his particular definition of this Clause was. Clause 13 deals with the establishment of agricultural marketing reorganisation commissions. I understand—the Minister, I am sure, will correct me if I am wrong—that from the fact that this Clause has been inserted in the Bill, and certain Sub-sections inserted with regard to these intermediary services, the Minister realises that in certain circumstances these services are of paramount importance to the success of his scheme. Here where they are of importance, they can be utilised, if I read the Bill correctly, only after the reorganisation commission have considered their effect upon any particular scheme, and only upon the recommendation of the reorganisation Commission appointed under this Bill can the intermediate services, which I believe are absolutely essential to successful marketing, be accepted by the Minister and drafted into any scheme which is proposed. If that be so, I am rather afraid there is a difficulty with regard to the original idea which was behind the Bill when the first draft was proposed, namely, that producers only should do the marketing, and that it was possible—I am certain it is not possible—that an organisation composed entirely of producers devoid of this organising marketing ability, which has proved its service in days gone by, would be capable of marketing this agricultural produce. I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replies, he will bear this point in mind. I want to know, and many other Members in this House want to know, exactly what is the Minister's intention with regard to the merchanting side of the business and with regard to the retail side of the business, and how it is going to affect them? Is the idea to use these services, or is it, if possible, to eliminate them from the scheme altogether? There will be tremendous difficulties, and those will be points which we shall have to consider, and which will have to be made when we get to the Committee stage, and I am certain that by that time the Minister would like to be in a position to ensure that some of us could agree upon those particular Clauses.
There is another matter. This Bill is a permissive Bill. In the first draft of the Bill the initial action with regard to the presentation of the scheme was left entirely in the hands of producers, and although the Bill might become an Act of Parliament, unless the producers of a commodity actually took action, nothing would happen and no scheme would be put forward. I wonder whether the Minister in his travels has found that the producers are not so enamoured of the Bill and not so much in favour of the idea of pooling their resources, and whether the producers themselves are not quite as keen as the Minister thought they would be, and therefore has put into this Bill Clause 13 with its reorganisation commissions, in order to do what? As I understand, their chief function will be to provide model drafts of schemes, and then to attempt to induce the producers to accept them. I ask: Why these reorganisation commissions, and why should we have these model drafts provided if these schemes are desired, and if the producers of the country really want to market their products in this particular way? I would suggest to the Minister that these reorganisation commissions may spend a tremendous lot of money in drafting model schemes, and that he may spend a good deal of money in trying to popularise those schemes, but unless he has a Bill, the contents of which meet with the approval of the producers of this country, agricultural marketing will not be furthered one iota by the passing of this Bill.
The first draft included powers to the board to buy and sell regulated produce. I should like to have the Minister's attention for a moment because this is very important. It is something the Minister has not mentioned in the House to-day. Words have been used in the Bill which make all the difference in the type of scheme which the Minister, in his wisdom and discretion, later on is going to sanction. I refer to the provision in the first draft, that the scheme may provide for the board to be em- powered to buy and sell, and trade in the usual way with the regulated products. In the second draft—and it is a significant addition—the Bill contemplates not only that boards shall buy and sell the commodity, not only that boards shall insist that the whole of the production of any commodity shall pass through their hands, not only that the board shall insist that they shall dictate the time at which the commodity shall he sold and fix the price—it goes further—but it provides that they may trade in anything which is necessary for the production of the product with which the board is dealing.
That carries the scheme very much further. It carries it right away into the domain of trading in almost every conceivable thing. I know it may be said that it is not the intention of the Minister to do this sort of thing. If that be not so, why seek the powers? That certainly was not the Minister's intention when the original draft of the Bill was proposed or brought before the House, because this particular Clause was not in it. But as an afterthought, and because he says that it would be necessary—I am suggesting this, of course—for the furtherance of the scheme which he has in view, he is asking in this second draft not only for powers for the board to fix a price and sell the product, but for powers for them to trade in everything necessary for the production of the regulated product.
Is that the Minister's intention? If so, we may find ourselves within the next few years with a whole host of boards set up all over the country, not only to control the regulated product, but controlling the production of the regulated product, and controlling the activities of the man who produces the regulated product. Hence, the board may eventually be placed in such a position, assuming that to be the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture, that every action of the man producing the regulated product can be, and may be, controlled by the board to which he is responsible. That may seem to be a long way off; but I want to visualise what may happen under the Bill. I think it is a mistake. I am very sorry that the Minister devoted so much time talking about improving marketing and not sufficient time to telling us exactly how he hopes to improve it. If the Minister means to improve the existing agencies and to tighten up, screw up, cut out what is unnecessary and add what is necessary, but still retaining the present method of marketing, he will get wholehearted support, but if he means to establish a new system altogether, many hon. Members will have to take seriously into consideration every Clause and almost every word of every Clause of the Bill.
Let us visualise where we are. Let us take the question of potatoes. I am interested in potatoes. So far as the marketing of potatoes is concerned, I and certain gentlemen associated with me took tremendous risks in attempting to improve the facilities. Let us assume that a potato marketing board is to be set up. Such a board, with properly defined functions, would be an admirable thing for the potato industry. I say that quite clearly and frankly, but under that board, with the new Clauses that have been inserted in the Bill, and especially the Clause with regard to buying and selling anything that is required in the production of the product, it is possible for something undesirable to happen. The board will have power to regulate not only the price but the time of the sale of any commodity. A man has potatoes which he wishes to sell, and he asks the board for permission to put 50 or 100 tons of potatoes on the market. The board reply, "No, we have fixed the price. The price is so much. You cannot market your potatoes for a given period of time." The man replies, "I must. I require money." "Very well," says the board, "We will supply you with the money. We will make you a grant or a loan of the money until we determine the sale of your goods." The time comes when the board asks the man to put his potatoes on to the market. By that time the price may be better or the price may be worse. If the price has become worse, will the board recompense the man whom they have ordered to hoard his potatoes until a time when the price has fallen? If the price is better, well and good.
The man has been deprived of his judgment in the marketing of his products, by order of the board. Will the hoard compensate him for the loss of his judgment and the resultant financial loss? It is possible that the board—and I feel that they will have to do it, if they are going to regulate the marketing of supplies, if they are going to keep gluts off the market, if they are going to have a market that will just supply the needs of the people—will, in some ways, have to control not only the sale but the production of the potatoes. They may say to the man, "You must grow only a certain variety, grade and quantity of potatoes." When they have done that, is the board going to say, "You must buy your seed potatoes from us?" The seed potato is a product that will enter into the production of the regulated article. The board will have power to regulate not only the price of the ware potato, but of the seed potato. Is the board going to say, "Your business acumen must go. You will not have to buy your seed potatoes where you like, but through us, and at our fixed price, and when you have grown your ware potatoes, we will tell you the price at which you are to sell them and the time when you are to sell them?" If that is the Minister's idea, he is going to cut out everything that is best in the producer. He is going to take everything from the producer except the labour that he puts into the article. He is going to control him from beginning to end. If that is the idea, then the producers of this country will not agree to it. I notice that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is smiling. It is a good thing when a man can smile in difficulties.
I do not say that there is anything definitely in the Bill to compel a man to buy, but the point I am making is this, that new Clauses have been inserted in the Bill—and I want to know the reason for that insertion—not only giving power to the board to sell the regulated product but power to trade, that is, to buy and sell anything required by the producer in the production of the regulated product. I argue that under that provision you may get the producer in this position that, except for the labour that he puts into his production, all his business initiative and acumen will be taken away.
If a body of men desire to buy a quantity of a given article, that is an entirely different matter. If the board is to be appointed with all the powers that are to be conferred upon it, I have tried to visualise to the House the position in which the producer may be placed. First of all, he will be told when to sell; secondly, at what price, and, thirdly, he may lose in obeying the instructions. He accepts money from the board. He is in their hands. Then, the board tell him what he is to grow, the variety, the grade, the quantity, and it is only reasonable to assume that they may say to him, "You must not only satisfy our demands in these respects, but you must buy your seed potatoes from us, too." My point is, that the man is deprived of his business ability, his business opportunity of buying in the cheapest market and, therefore, he cannot produce at the cheapest figure. Hence, he becomes a mere mechanical machine in a State-controlled selling and buying agency. [Laughter.] Hon Members opposite laugh. I hope that the Minister will say that nothing of the sort is going to happen. If he does say so, I am going to tell him that he should make it impossible for such things to happen by taking these Clauses out of the Bill. If he does that, he will get wholehearted support from all quarters of the House.
I understand that we are going to control cattle, that there is to be a board for cattle. If I understand the scheme aright, there will be a distinctive board dealing with store cattle and there will have to be another board dealing with fat cattle. Is it the idea to give the board power to buy and sell store cattle, the raw material of the man who is going to produce the finished article, namely, the fat cattle, and is the man to be bound down, or is it possible that he will be bound down by the board, in buying that which he hopes to buy cheaply, to fatten, and to sell at a good price in order to make money? I could give other examples, but I will not detain the House. I put forward these difficulties because they have been put to me by practical men, and they are difficulties that require explanation. I believe that it is in the mind of the Minister—I hope that he will put me right if I am wrong—to create two particular kinds of boards. He has said that the functions and operations of the boards will vary with every particular commodity. I believe that he has in mind pool boards and another type of board which would be merely a regulating board. If he is putting the emphasis on the pool board, I tell him that he has a tremendous job on hand to convert the agriculturists of this country to his point of view, but if he is putting the emphasis on the regulating board, in order to improve marketing facilities, he is on the right course and he will do an untold amount of good for the agricultural community.
A pool board will be a board composed for marketing, actually for selling and buying. The regulating board will be for the purpose of regulating. It will be so constituted that the board will have no power to buy or sell but merely to regulate, to improve the avenues of trade, to increase the demand, to advertise the product, to talk up the British home-grown article as against the foreign article, and to create facilities under which every man can trade, and trade for the benefit of himself and the country. I believe I am right in saying that in the Minister's proposals both these types of board will be created, one type for one industry and the other type for another industry. If we are going to have these two kinds of boards, I hope that the Minister is going to pin his faith not on the pool system but on the regulating board. We have had pools before, and they have failed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not all!"] We have had milk pools, hop pools and potato pools. On the other side of the Border, they have been working for years in order to have a potato pool. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows some of the difficulties with which they have been confronted. It will not be enough for him to say that a small minority has defeated the establishment of that potato pool. He must prove that the establishment of such a pool would have been in the interests of the minority and the majority concerned in the operation. These pools have failed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have the milk pool particularly in mind. I do not want to discuss it, but I would ask hon. Members to think of Lancashire and of the milk pool, and they will realise what sort of a mess they have got into. Pools have failed.
I did not say they have all failed, but hon. Members surely will not continue the pool system until I can prove that every pool has been a failure. I want a system where 100 per cent. will be successful. If it can be proved that the elimination of intermediate services and the substitution of mass buying and mass selling will be a success in the agricultural industry, then a real case will have been made out.
A short time ago the hon. Member argued that intermediate agencies should be maintained, and now he suggests that the intermediate agencies should be swept away. Can he make the point clear?
I did not suggest that these intermediate services should be swept away. What I asked was, by way of inquiry, whether the suggestion that the sweeping away of the intermediate services and the setting up of mass buying and mass selling would be a success in the agricultural industry and in the marketing of the product. You cannot market potatoes without the services of a really scientific organisation which has marketing ability, knows how to put the potatoes on the market and to find a market where they can be sold.
The hon. Member has made a sweeping assertion with regard to pools. Is he simply referring to what has happened in this country? Has he in mind what has happened in the United States of America, in Canada, Australia, Denmark, Holland and other countries where pools for marketing produce have been, on the whole, extremely successful?
I am entitled to express my opinion with regard to pools, and if my knowledge is not quite so extensive as that of the hon. Member for Leicester East (Mr. Wise) I am bound to apply the knowledge I have on the subject. We are dealing here with our home produce, with pools in our own country, and I am attempting to tell the House exactly what has happened right on our doorstep. When these pools have been attempted they have failed; and I will give the reasons why they have failed. It has been asserted that a small minority have jeopardised the scheme, undersold their friends; that they have been the bugbear, and that that is the reason why they have not succeeded. I suggest that they have failed for other reasons. In the first place, there are many producers to-day who, without any assistance from any buying or selling agency, already have an assured market for the whole of their production. These men must be considered. There are thousands of producers who feel quite capable on their own initiative of marketing their own produce, and you will have a difficulty of getting their good will.
There is this further difficulty. Those men who stand outside the pool will do one of two things. Because they are better organised than their neighbours, they will sell their produce at a lower price. The Minister has said that exemption under the Bill will be accompanied by a direct undertaking that prices must be maintained; that he will allow no undercutting. Why a Consumers' Council if you are going to say that under no consideration will you allow a man to sell below a certain price? A man outside the pool may sell at a much lower price and may be giving the consumers cheaper food and better food than they may obtain through the pool; he may be giving extra services and a grade higher than the pool demands; and for that reason he will get a better price. Is the board going to say, "You cannot get a better price. You are not to increase the price. We have fixed the price. You can give the standard of service which we demand but beyond that you must not go"? Have we come to that? There are men in commerce and business who have built up their business by the extra services they have given in the marketing of their commodities. They must be paid.
These are some of the reasons why pools have not been successful in the past, and I think that the Bill should confine itself to regulating boards only. If you exempt a producer from the operation of the Bill, are you going to say to him that the board will not trespass upon his market, or are you going to exempt him and then enter into competition with him? The producer has a, right to know. He has his own assured market, his own personality and services have given to him an assured market and any scheme that will take this away will not be in the interests of the agricultural community, If you control supplies and fix prices for what the farmer has to sell and buy, you are taking away all initiative and all that enthusiasm for marketing which you are hoping to engender by this Bill.
This is a very intricate subject which the House should consider very carefully, and I hope that in Committee we shall debate this Bill line by line in order to know exactly what the Minister is going to do. We should know whether the Minister of Agriculture intends to uproot the present system and establish another. He should tell us definitely what he intends to do. He would have helped us more if he had told us exactly what the Bill was going to do instead of saying that increased marketing facilities are desirable. We all support such a proposal, and we would all support a Bill which would improve these facilities, but we have not yet arrived at the stage where we can compel producers of agricultural products to put them into any scheme in operation. They should know what the scheme is. What the producers want is not an organisation to sell their goods, but an organisation which will create facilities and make it easier for they themselves to sell their own products.
Let me say one word about potatoes which is the chief agricultural product of my division. Last year some of us realised that the marketing needed improvement, and the producers agreed that there was something to be obtained by a better scheme of marketing. They gave us all the help they could, but the scheme failed because the National Farmers' Union would not give us their official support, secondly, because the National Federation of Food and Potato Trades Association would not give us their support and, thirdly, because the Minister said that unless the National Farmers' Union and the National Federation of Food and Potato Trades Association backed the scheme it was doomed to failure and he could not support it. That is the reason the scheme failed. The position to-day is that the National Farmers' Union and the National Federation of Food and Potato Trade Association, and many other national associations, are all condemning this Bill. I do not think they are right in condemning it hip and thigh, but I suggest that what the Minister said he could not do for potatoes last year he cannot do for all these products with all the money and all the organisations behind him. He cannot compel the sympathy and goodwill of these national associations unless the Bill is moulded into a Measure which they can support.
The idea of improved marketing will have the support from every hon. Member on these benches, but I must be assured that it is a proposal which will really improve marketing, create trade channels, create a demand, and is a proposal which will help agriculturists to market their produce successfully at a price which will pay them and be just to the consuming public, before I can whole-heartedly say that the Bill will solve the problem. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will be amenable to argument, that he will think this matter over before the Committee stage and realise that, in order to get the good will of the producers, he must offer them what they want; and they want a Bill which will assist them to market their produce, not a Bill which will market their produce for them.
The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Blindell) has made a very interesting speech, and we all realise his special qualifications for dealing with this subject. At the same time, he was engaged most of the time in raising a number of bogeys. He has seen things in the Bill which I am convinced are not there. The object of the Bill is not to uproot the whole distributing system of the country, as he fears, but to eliminate waste in the existing system, and surely there is enough evidence of the waste that is going on. I have some acquaintance with the way in wihich fruit is marketed in the West of England. There is a chain of middle men—retail buyers, wholesale buyers, wholesale sellers and retail sellers, all standing between the farmer and the consumer, and all of whom have, of course, to take their particular profit. No one can gainsay that they are right in doing so, but I think the producer and the consumer should have a right to say whether it is possible that this chain of middlemen should be reduced, and this Bill makes an important contribution towards that object. Some farmers may sell their fruit crop to a retailer, and it may average out at about one-halfpenny per pound. Finally, it gets to the consumers at 5d. or 6d. per lb.
Things have improved during the last 10 years and the tendency is for farmers to grade their fruit and sell it in the auction market, but if groups of farmers could get together and utilise this Bill—they can operate the Bill with the consent and sanction of the Minister—they would contribute towards eliminating unnecessary distributing costs. The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston spoke of the failure of pools, and he referred to the milk pool in the North of England. I admit that that was a failure, but surely the main reason was because the National Farmers' Union had not the bulk of their own men behind them and, most important, because the Co-operative Wholesale Society was not in the scheme. It was not water-tight. Across the Border in Scotland a pool is operating which is dumping its surplus supplies into England, and if we do not hurry we shall find that they have a proper milk pool organised and are undercutting us in our markets. It must also be remembered that most of the pools have been successful in countries abroad. One of the reasons why we are suffering from competition from abroad is because they are so much better organised.
This Bill is one of the pillars of a sound agricultural policy. It is not the only Bill, and I hope the Government will not stop here. The Minister of Agriculture referred, to an article by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) on the need for better organisation. I noticed that the hon. Member made a speech in Maidstone, which is reported
in "The Farmer and Stockbreeder's Journal," in which he said:
He did not think a simple duty on foreign fruit and vegetables would solve the problem. A duty by itself would be no good unless they took steps to organise home produce.
I agree with a part, at any rate, of the Noble Lord's statement, but not with that part referring to a duty. At least the Noble Lord admits that, even with a duty, it is necessary to organise in order to get what is wanted. While I would be prepared to go a certain distance with him in saying that even organisation alone is not enough, I also say that we must go further. The Noble Lord and I may not agree as to the methods that we ought to adopt. I believe the Noble Lord said, on another occasion—I have not his exact words—that with good grading there is no cause to compel those who pursue individual ends to come into the scheme. In other words, I think he meant to convey the idea that the grading and marking of produce were more important than the organising of markets. I believe he said that his own experience has shown him that the grading and packing of fruit were most important things, but that with that done he did not consider the actual organisation of marketing as so important.
I said that organisation was important, that grading was important, and that safeguarding the home market against foreign dumping was equally important. I said that we had to consider all three aspects in order to deal with the matter satisfactorily.
Of course I accept that explanation. I agree that the marking and grading of produce are exceedingly important. I am quite prepared to admit that the late Government did its duty in so far as it initiated a very important scheme for the marking of eggs. That work has been carried on by the present Government. But we must go further than that. The difficulty is that even though we may mark and grade our poultry produce, eggs, fruit, and so forth, there may still be the difficulty of dealing with minorities who will not come in. The foreigners can beat us all the time, because where you have a market abroad, a long distance away, the producers are compelled to organise, and very often the producer is at a better advantage in getting a market because he must organise abroad for his market, than is the producer at home who has his market at his door. The fact is that, as was shown by the Linlithgow Commission some years ago, there is an enormous waste going on, a waste of millions a year, between the price obtained by the producer and the price that the consumer has to pay. It amounts to such a total that out of every shilling of home-grown agricultural produce in this country, on an average about 7d. goes in distribution and 5d. goes to the producer and the labourer who works for him. But there is no reason why that should be the case.
Agricultural depression is a very serious matter for certain agricultural products, particularly cereals, but there is an enormous potential market for pig products, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and there is no reason at all why, given decent organisation here, we should not be able to get the greater part of that market. I am not one of those who always want to throw the Danish system of marketing and distribution into the teeth of the British farmer. Although the conditions may not be the same here as in Denmark, much of Danish methods might be, if not copied, at least adapted to our needs. That is so not only in the case of Denmark. The Irish Free State has given us a good example of how to get to work in organising and in getting a big hold on our markets.
The same may be said of our Dominions, Canada and South Africa, and of the way they have dealt with their surplus fruit products by canning and bottling. They send their best class of fresh fruit over here and deal with the surplus by canning and bottling. They have shown us a way in which this problem can be handled. It is not so much the principle of co-operation that is wanted; it is co-operation with statutory powers and statutory guarantees. Those are what this Bill gives. The co-operative societies of Denmark and Ireland and the Dominions have all a certain statutory position; they have Government support behind them. In that way they are able to get very important holds upon the markets. Of course there is an element of compulsion, and there must be in all methods of organisation of this kind. But surely that is nothing new to agriculture. Farmers already have to submit to a number of restrictions. They cannot sell a diseased animal in the market, and they have to observe regulations in regard to the production of milk, and so forth, often very onerous regulations, though they are imposed in the interests of the community. Is there any reason therefore why, if a majority of farmers in a district so desire, they should not operate machinery which the Government places at their disposal in order to improve their position and help themselves?
I have heard it said that by this Bill we shall shackle ourselves and leave the foreigners free. My reply to that is that the shackles which British agriculture has upon it at the moment are the shackles of our disorganised marketing system, and that the freedom which the foreigner enjoys is the freedom to organise himself and to capture our markets in the way that he does. The foreigner gets his freedom in fact because he is organised. Nor do I see any reason to fear that this Bill may result, as has been suggested, in interference with the producer by forcing him to limit what he produces. It will not limit production, but it will limit sales. It will take surpluses off the market; it will enable farmers to organise and prevent temporary gluts from ruining the market. That is most important.
I think the best example of how that principle would operate would be in dealing with the milk surplus of this country. At present the state of affairs generally is this: In the milk-producing districts of England, which are a long way from the consuming centres, milk is generally sold at not much above manufacturing price, 9d. and 10d. a gallon on the average, and it is sold either to the combines which manufacture chocolate or is made into condensed milk and cheese. But farmers in the neighbourhood of the consuming centres are able to get up to 1s. 3d. and 1s. 4d. a gallon, liquid milk price. So you get an altogether unfair situation. Whenever there is a glut of milk the manufacturing price drops, but the farmers in the neighbourhood of the consuming centres are still able to get a fairly reasonable price. If a milk pool could be formed the best way to operate it would be to fix a price for the manufacturing milk, say 10d. a gallon, for liquid milk 1s. 3d. or 1s. 4d., and then it would be possible to have such a system of deductions and rebates and additions that there would be an average price throughout the whole country.
Does the hon. Member not think that it would mean a reduction of the price of 1s. 4d. so as to correspond with the lower price? Would not the tendency be to reduce the price?
I certainly think there would have to be a deduction from the liquid milk price, but there would be an addition to the manufacturing milk price. That would be fairness all round. It would be possible to take off the market the surplus which is now forcing a lot of milk producers out of the business. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Blindell) regarding Clause 13 and the necessity for getting the distributors into a milk pool. I do not believe that a pool can be operated without the co-operation of the distributors, and I am not sure whether Clause 13 makes it possible for the distributors to be brought in. It seems to me that the wording is rather uncertain. It says that the Commission may
investigate the extent to which the operation of the scheme can be facilitated by co-operation between the board administering the scheme and other persons.
I would like to see that Clause made a little more definite. The possibility should be opened up of bringing in the distributing organisation with the producers in order that we may get a milk pool in which both these indispensable elements would be introduced. I also see in the Bill the possibility of dealing with the meat situation. There is no doubt about the chaos that exists in certain of our cattle markets, particularly at certain times of the year. Animals have to go long distances to market; they have to stand about in the market for a long time; then they are shipped off to the slaughter-house; and it is anything up to 48 hours before they are slaughtered. In the meantime they have deteriorated very much. Moreover, particularly in the autumn, we get gluts of half fat or wholly fat beasts sent into the market at a time when the market is not very expensive, and between the spring and the autumn there is often a difference of as much as 10s. a cwt. in the price of fat cattle.
Under this Bill we may be able to establish groups or schemes in certain areas, co-operative abattoirs, co-operative means, by which the cattle can be marketed, or it might be that the abattoirs might be owned by the municipalities—better still—or, if not that, owned by semi-public bodies which might operate with these boards. They would take the surplus meat off the markets and it would be possible, by the process of refrigeration, to keep it off the markets for the particular time of the year when there is likely to be a glut. At the present time the meat industry is only organised—and in a very imperfect way—in Norfolk and in Scotland. Those two areas of the country largely dominate the home meat market, and they are the chief areas supplying the towns with English meat. There is no reason whatever why Norfolk and Scotland should be the only areas where this takes place. It is true they have certain specialities which enable them to do this, but, with better organisation elsewhere, we can do much towards improvement of the marketing.
I would only make a brief reference to eggs. I am personally acquainted with a very important co-operative society, which operates in the West of England and handles millions of eggs under the national mark, and I know that the price for eggs, which are sold under the national mark, is from 2s. to 3s. per 100 more for "specials" and for "standards" than for those sold on the markets outside. The difficulty that the co-operative society has to face is trying to meet the competition of those who run away from it whenever the price of eggs is high and sell to the dealers who are all the time on the watch to try and break this co-operative society. The operation of a Bill like this would make it possible, where a large majority of the egg producers in an area are desirous of giving support to a society, to enable it to become the sole purveyor for that area to the advantage of producer and consumer alike. As to wool, I have been a members for four years of a wool growers' organisation, operated on exactly the same lines, with the object of trying to get the best price for wool on the London markets. But the difficulty all the time is that there is a number of wool producers in the area who will listen to the dealers who go round and offer higher prices of from 3d. to 4d. a pound more in order to smash this association. There, again, there is a good opportunity under this Bill of strengthening societies of that kind.
On the other hand, I am quite prepared to admit that this Bill, by itself, will not deal with those problems produced by dumped foreign produce. There are certain products, the price of which is mainly governed by the imported article. Altogether I agree with the Noble Lord who referred to the fact that the milk industry is not going to be protected naturally in future; even at this time we have sugar of milk, as it is called, imported from Holland at a price which barely covers the cost of manufacture and transport, leaving nothing for raw material. The Dutch apparently wish to get rid of their surplus milk, and so they make it up and send it over here. If that develops at all extensively, it will undoubtedly have effects upon the price of surplus milk in this country. We shall undoubtedly have to deal with that, and other problems in due course, and I hope that the Government have it well in mind.
The Bill will enable farmers to make the best current price on the market, but, if those prices are governed by foreign surpluses dumped here under cost, it will be of little use. Producers' co-operation can steady prices, but, without control of imports of those articles which are governed by the price of imports, it cannot be entirely successful. Nevertheless, I regard this as one of the pillars of a sound agricultural policy. I congratulate the Government on bringing it forward, and I hope they will get it through at the earliest possible date. At the same time, I and other Members on this side of the House will, in due course, be coming to the Government, like Oliver Twist, spoon and bowl in hand, asking for more. We believe, nevertheless, that this will be an important contribution and that more will follow in due course.
Many of us on this side of the House looked forward to the introduction of a Bill for better marketing of agricultural produce and ex- pected that, when it was introduced, we should be able to give it our wholehearted and enthusiastic support. We feel, however, that, while we approve of most of the contents of this Bill and are as keen as the Minister himself on the objects of this Bill, we are unable to vote for its Second Reading for two very substantial reasons. The first reason is that which was given by the Noble Lord who moved the reasoned Amendment and which can be found on the Order Paper; the second reason is to my mind equally important, namely, that the Government have failed to get the good will of the producers. Without this good will this Bill is going to be completely unworkable, and, in my belief, not only should they have this good will, but it was able to be obtained. They have, perhaps, been a little lacking in the propaganda side of their work, because we have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Blindell) who was unable to understand the Bill himself, and who, in a speech of considerable length, put at least one question a minute on points he wished cleared up. The hon. Gentleman was not making up those difficulties in order to get an imaginary case; he felt that they were real. If he, with his great experience of agricultural marketing, is unable to understand the Bill, what is going to be the attitude and point of view of the ordinary farmer, who is suspicious of every Government Measure because he thinks it is only going to add to the difficulties which he has already to face? What we hoped to see in connection with a Bill of this kind was the Minister and agriculture at the same end of the rope, not on opposite sides in a tug of war.
All parties are agreed as to the principle of this Bill and as to its objects. We all want not only to extend the sale of our own agricultural produce in this country, but we want the producers to get a larger share of the money for which it is sold. On this side of the House, we have always supported any schemes for the standardisation of agricultural produce, and my right hon. Friend the late Minister for Agriculture was one of the main sponsors of the scheme which is now in operation. We all realise that a marketing Bill must be a natural corollary to any work of standardisation. One is no good without the other, and the advantages of this combination are perfectly obvious to anybody. Only by a combination of standardisation and marketing can you to any large extent encourage the consumption of our best home-grown produce. It is only by the bulk marketing of standardised products that you can give the publicity and advertisement which are so necessary if we are to extend our sales. We always believe the best example is that of Danish butter. The reason why Danish butter has such a ready sale is that it is well advertised, and it keeps its market because the quality is always the same and people buying it know exactly what they are going to get. I am glad that the place of Danish butter is being taken by New Zealand butter, which is increasing in popularity, and I only hope that the place of both will be taken before very long by British butter.
I heard a good instance only the other day of the immense value of publicity. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), after the speech which he made on the Trade Disputes Bill, received a large parcel which contained a fine boned ham, and on it was a card:
With the compliments of …. This is my boneless wonder. Many thanks for the idea.
I can only hope that the quick-witted dealer will receive the same return for his publicity as my right hon. Friend received for his. It is unnecessary to press this point of the value of publicity and advertisement any further, because we are all agreed upon it. Undoubtedly, this scheme is going to help in localities where the supply of any product exceeds the demand, and, with better organisation, farmers will be able to avail themselves of markets further afield, markets which at present they are unable to touch because their supply is spasmodic and they are not able to offer a regular all-round the year supply, and because the railway freights are much too high for the small quantities in which their goods are going to be supplied.
From a bureaucratic point of view it is perfectly evident that our agricultural marketing system seems chaotic and senseless, but, as other speakers have pointed out, on the whole, it works fairly well in many cases, and it would be a great pity to substitute some other schemes for our present scheme where it has worked well. The farmer might find that his next condition was worse than his present. It works particularly well in districts which are in close proximity to densely-populated areas, where the producer is very largely able to sell direct to the consumer. The constituency which I have the honour to represent, namely, the Fylde, is a very good example of this. It is situated between Preston and Blackpool, and we have enormous markets at our own doors. The farmers are able to supply the markets in the urea round and are able to get a better price by acting as their own distributors than by going through the co-operative societies or to the markets in the usual way. They have the added advantage that, when production is at its highest, they have Blackpool at hand, which gives them the necessary extension of the market. I imagine, in a case like that, there would be no demand for an extension of the scheme, unless the farmers themselves desired to turn their surplus milk into a new channel by setting up a cheese factory or a milk factory.
On the other hand, there are sparsely-populated areas where difficulties which are insuperable for individuals can be overcome by co-operative marketing on a large scale, particularly if strengthened by some of the provisions of the Bill. In theory all that works very smoothly and well, but in practice there are complications. As an illustration I take the case of two neighbouring counties such as Lancashire and Cheshire. Assuming that Lancashire does not wish to come into the scheme and Cheshire does wish to come into it, how are you to get out of this difficulty? Under Clause 1, Sub-section (2), the Cheshire scheme would not affect Lancashire, but under Clause 4, paragraph (a), no sale can be made in a particular area, except by a registered producer. Those two provisions seem to clash. Either the Lancashire farmer will have access to the regulated area, without the restrictions which are imposed on the Cheshire fanner, or else the Cheshire scheme must be extended to Lancashire, so as to force the Lancashire farmers to become registered. It seems impossible to keep the "ayes" and the "noes" in watertight compartments. It will be found difficult to define clearly the limits of an area in which a scheme is to operate, and I should like a clear reply from the Government upon this point which we regard as of extraordinary importance. Is it the idea of the Minister to enforce compulsion on whole counties? It so, those of us who are at present favourably inclined towards the Bill, but would like alterations made in it, would become radically opposed to it. If you are going to enforce compulsion on whole counties, so as to join schemes got up by the Ministry, it seems dangerously near the policy of nationalisation.
Probably, the greatest advantage to agriculture possible under this Measure would be the help which could be given in starting tinning and canning factories and I think it is in this direction that we might hope to get some of that £100,000,000 worth of trade of which the Minister spoke. I feel sure that there is a great future for agriculture in this direction. As I tried to point out last Session the tastes of the population have changed and where, previously, they would only take fresh food now they prefer tinned food if they can get it. The financial and administrative assistance which can be given by the Ministry under this Bill would undoubtedly give an authority and an impetus to such schemes which would otherwise be impossible. Here we have one case in which I myself would have no objection to compulsion. If the producers in a certain district wish to start an organisation for a factory or something of the kind, they should be hound to support it. We cannot have them asking that a factory should be started and getting Government assistance and bringing in their own colleagues to assist also, and then have a small number going out of the scheme and leaving both the Government and their own neighbours high and dry. In such cases I do not think that anybody on any side of the House would object to compulsion.
About 10 years ago I joined the board of a large co-operative society to look after certain interests and when I joined I saw that the society—though not because of my joining—was obviously going to fail. It was going to fail for one reason alone, and that was because it lacked the support of its members. I came to two conclusions then which I have never found any reason to alter since. The first is that in any schemes of this kind for co-operative marketing on a large scale, you must have the good will of the producers behind you. The motive power and the drive has to come from them and the scheme must not be imposed upon them by any outside authority however anxious that outside authority may be to help them. The second conclusion is that there must be power in some cases to bring in any small minority which, by staying outside a scheme, for no good reason, may wreck that scheme. That is the case which has been put forward by the Noble Lord, but I think it only refers to instances where the Minister decides to regulate prices. You must then bring in everybody in the district so that there may not be underselling making it impossible to carry on the scheme, as in the case suggested by the Minister. If the Government, under these conditions, are going to give assistance we have no objection to their having some compulsory powers, provided that the scope of those powers is strictly limited, and I trust that the Minister will show his good will in that respect by altering the words in the Schedule which at present read "substantially representative." That is nothing like good enough to meet our objections, or the reasonable fears of the farmers and their representatives in this House. We must have those words more clearly defined. We want a definite proportion of the farmers to be fixed, not merely a counting of heads but a proportion of the production in a particular branch of the industry.
Unfortunately for the success of this Measure, the Minister has alienated the sympathy of the organised agricultural bodies. They have the fear that Government assistance may turn into Government interference and Government control. We hope that that fear is unjustified but we shall be able to tell whether it is or not by the attitude of the Minister during the Committee stage. It would be perfectly easy for us to move Amendments which would allay the fears of the farmers, and if the Minister is ready to co-operate, we can do a great deal to remove their doubts. If, on the other hand, the Minister desires a great bureaucratic machine not only will he not get our assistance in trying to bring the farmers into agreement with him, but he will have our opposition throughout all the further stages of the Bill. The opposition of the farmers has been very largely fostered by Clause 7 and Clause 13. We heard the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Boston that this Bill was going to be too bureaucratic and too autocratic and the hon. Member's views are a fair representation of the fears of many farmers at present.
To us there is one insuperable objection to the Bill, as it is before us, and that is the omission of any reference to the regulation of agricultural produce coming from abroad. All other objections can be met during the Committee stage, but on this one point the Minister appears to be adamant and it is the main reason why we intend to vote for the Amendment. We believe that this omission is a fundamental defect and that it is going to wreck any chance which the Bill would otherwise have of being successful. I do not know whether the Minister knows of a certain house, built by a well-paid but incompetent architect, who left out the staircase altogether. This Bill goes one worse, because not only has the staircase been left out, but the whole foundations. Unless there is some regulation, some barrier, against the importation of foreign produce, we cannot make the scheme workable. I know that this discussion can range over a very wide field, but we only want to look at the matter from the practical point of view as it affects the industry and any scheme of this kind must be ruined by the importation of foreign produce dumped here at a price below the regulated price—if the Minister is going to allow regulation of prices—or sent here at prices below those at which it can be economically produced in this country.
That is the very essence of the Russian five-year plan. They want to get behind any organisation of the kind proposed here. They are organising their exports so that, at the very beginning, they can ruin any marketing organisation in any country where they want to compete, and, if that plan is a success, it will be followed in other countries. Obviously these countries will put up barriers themselves, and we shall then be the only victims. At the same time they will follow the Russian plan for sending goods into this country so that we shall become to a far worse degree than at present, the dumping ground of the world. Any organisation in this country is bound to be hurt if you are to get imports into this country subsidised by any foreign Government. One can understand the point of view of a foreign country which has always had this country as a ready market. If they see our organisation getting better and their produce being squeezed out, they will make every effort to increase their competition so that our organisation will be broken. The Minister must see that, if the five-year plan is anything like successful, we shall have to take steps to meet it, and raise barriers of some kind against imports unless our own scheme is to be ruined. The Minister has bolted the back door and has used every conceivable burglar-proof device to prevent our own people from transgressing these regulations, but he has left the front door open wide for all and sundry except our own people. These are the reasons why we are going to vote for the Amendment on the Paper. We have had no assurance as to the degree of compulsion or bureaucracy under which farmers may have to labour, and, until we have been assured on that point, and unless and until there is some regulation of the importation of foreign produce, we shall have to show our disapproval of this Measure.
I welcome and support this Bill for three main reasons. First, I strongly believe that the efficient marketing of agricultural produce is a vital necessity for the success of the industry. Secondly, I believe that the machinery which the Bill seeks to establish will enable producers to secure a juster share of the price paid by the consumers for home-grown food. Thirdly, I believe that the Bill will enable consumers to secure a regular supply of home-grown food of a guaranteed and standardised quality at a fair price. May I deal with the first of these reasons. Anybody who studies the conditions under which home-grown food of any description is marketed to-day in this country is bound to come to the conclusion that there is an absence of organisation in the main. There is no real attempt to regulate supply to demand, and that results in there being oftentimes a very big glut in some parts of the country while in other markets, at the same time, there is a shortage of supply.
Perhaps I may be allowed to confirm this by some illustrations drawn from my own experience. I attempted to organise the marketing of fruit in the county of Gloucester, and we were confronted with this situation, that in the main the growers of fruit in the Vale of Gloucestershire, which is one of the finest districts in the country, producing some of the finest fruit that is grown in the world, had no regular outlet for it. It was sold "on commission," as it was called. That is, a farmer would send to some commission agent, in one of our large centres. He would send a supply of hampers, the fruit would be sent away, and I have known of instances where actually the producer of the fruit, instead of receiving anything in return for his produce, has been asked to send the salesman something towards paying the expenses which have been incurred.
In attempting to establish a market in the fruit-growing districts of Gloucestershire, in the centre of the county, I made some inquiries in other markets. For instance, I went to Birmingham, which has a very large vegetable and fruit market, and asked one of the largest salesmen there whether it was not possible for them to take some of the fruit which we grew in Gloucestershire. He pointed out to me piles on piles of fruit, and said, "We do not want English fruit at any price at all." After the market was established, we managed to secure some buyers to attend, and we had one well known man from Bristol. He came and assisted in the purchase of the produce, but for several weeks afterwards he absented himself, and I made it my business to visit him.
I asked, "Why is it you are not able to come to our market and buy fruit from us regularly?" He said, "I will show you." He took me up to his warehouses, where I saw a large number of barrels of Canadian apples. He called his man and said, "Open the top of that barrel. Now," he said, "you see what is in that barrel on the top? I know that they are exactly the same from the top of the barrel to the bottom. I know that every barrel is packed exactly the same, and I know that without the expense or trouble of inspecting them, because they are all stamped outside. Now come to the other warehouse, and I will show what I received from your local market two or three weeks ago." He showed me about 40 hampers of fruit, of 12 or 14 different kinds, ungraded, and he said, "Do the English growers expect us to waste our time in handling stuff sent to us in this slipshod fashion?"
I suggest that this does not apply only to fruit. I used to be connected with people who had to handle the sale of cattle. In the county of Gloucester there are several local markets, and we have had this state of affairs occurring. The market would be held in one centre one week, and there would be a surplus supply of fat cattle. Consequently, the price which would be realised would be very low, and I have known many occasions when the dealers, people who did not want to buy fat cattle at all, have seen their occasion when the market was flooded and have stepped in and bought this cattle, kept it for a week or two, taken it to another market, about 10 miles off, and realised a profit of from £3 to £5 a head. That, I would suggest, is the result of the want of organised marketing, showing that there has been no really serious attempt to ascertain the demand and to supply it on something like business lines.
I will come to the second reason why I so warmly support this Bill. It is because I feel that it will help the producers, who, after all, are the persons who take the risks of production. Those of us who, like myself, have had to do some of that will perhaps realise what it means better than those who only theorise about it. An hon. and gallant Member opposite, speaking the other evening, suggested that none of us on this side knew anything about the practical side of farming. Well, some of us can speak from bitter experience and can illustrate the need of a Bill of this sort from our own actual experience. I suggest that this Bill will help the producers if they care to use the machinery which they set up under it. The Bill is permissive. It says that the producers may submit schemes. They will have the deciding voice in the kind of schemes to be sent up to the Minister, so that I do not think we need fear that there will be any bureaucratic imposition, on the part of the Minister, on individuals for which they have not first of all asked.
I suggest that the machinery will enable the producers to obtain what nobody to-day can suggest that they secure, and that is something like a fair proportion of the price paid by the consumers for home-grown food. May I again confirm this from my own experience? When I was engaged in dairy farming, I received the remarkably high price of 6⅛d. per gallon for milk which I sent twice a day to the nearest station, 3½ miles away from my farm. At the same time, in the city of Bristol, 14 miles from where my farm was situated, liquid milk was being retailed to the public at 1s. 4d. per gallon.
I inquired only on Saturday last at Gloucester, one of our chief market centres, what the dairymen in the County of Gloucester who were living nearest to the city of Bristol were now receiving for the milk, and the gentleman, who occupies an important position in connection with the Milk Pool Society, told me that he and his friends were receiving a little under 11d. per gallon throughout the year, whereas the people in the city of Bristol who were consuming this milk were paying exactly double. They paid 5d. per quart in the summer and 6d. in winter, which averages out throughout the year at 1s. 10d. per gallon, the producers receiving less than 11d. and the public paying just 100 per cent. more. He also informed me that this price of 11d. could only be obtained as the result of what some hon. Members opposite have been criticising, namely, the establishment of a milk pool. The arrangement is that the producers pay into the pool a farthing a gallon, and the retailers also pay a farthing a gallon, and with the fund created by this small payment they are able to deal with what otherwise would be surplus milk; and if that had flooded the market, even the present low price of 11d. would have been very seriously diminished.
Again, let us look at the question of meat and the prices of beef. I have friends of my own who sold prime beef in our local markets just before Christmas at no higher than 7d. and 8d. per 1b. When I asked the people whom I represent what they had to pay for meat of that description, I found that the margin was really terrifying. A farmer friend of mine, who grazes a lot of beasts, said he was talking to a butcher, and this butcher very coolly informed him, "Well, you know, we should not be satisfied if a beast did not turn over"; in other words, if they did not make just double the amount, when they sold a beast, than they had paid for it in the market. That is not anything drawn from my imagination. These are statements made by people engaged in the business of distributing food.
I would like to relate another instance to the House. About two years ago cabbages were being sold at a very low price wholesale in some of our large industrial centres; so much so, that I have known farmers who were growing these cabbages in their fields who actually mowed them up, put them in heaps, and burned them, because the money that they received for them when they sent them to the market did not even pay the expenses of marketing. But at that very time I had people in my constituency paying from 2d. to 3d. per cabbage. I believe it is computed—I am speaking now from memory—that the difference between the price which is paid by consumers in this country for home-grown food and the price which is received by the producers of that food amounts to £170,000,000 per annum. I suggest that no one, no matter what their political opinions may be, can defend a state of affairs such as I have just described and can say that it is fair or reasonable either to the consumer or to the producer.
In my opinion, the root weakness of the present system is due to the fact that the producers will not organise themselves. It has been suggested by hon. Members opposite that this element of compulsion is unnecessary. I remember attending a meeting of milk producers, and the chairman, who was also the chairman of the farmers' branch in that, district, exhorted us all to stand firm. "Gentlemen," he said, "we must all unite and stand together and say to these people that we are not going to be dictated to by them as to what we shall get for our milk. We will have a fair price for it." As a result of his eloquence, a resolution was unanimously passed that we would all agree to stand together and ask for a fair price. To our consternation, we learned the next day that the chairman had sold his milk the day previous to the calling of the meeting.
Here is another instance: I was travelling one day in another part of my county, and, coming away from the station, I saw a farmer's float full of empty fruit hampers. I also saw the proprietor of the local hotel and said to him, "I thought you had a co-operative fruit market here." He said, "So we have." Then I said, "What is the meaning, then, of this load of empty hampers being taken from the station?" "Oh," he replied, "that float is the property of the chairman of the co-operative committee. He sends his rubbish to the local market and sends away all his best fruit." Business cannot be carried on on those lines. I am confirmed in the opinion that this is the real weakness of the situation by men of far greater experience than I have had, like Sir Horace Plunkett, who has gained great repute for the service he has rendered to Irish agriculture. In a review of his hook, "Agricultural Co-operation in England," the "Farmer and Stockbreeder" says:
Reviewing various forms of co-operation, the author says that co-operative bacon factories have been on the whole singularly unsuccessful. 'In every case the main causes of failure, whether partial or absolute, appear to have been the unstandardised type of pig resulting from the many breeds farmed by the English farmer, and the lack of regular and continued support from him.'
In other words, it was the absence of loyal co-operation to their own organisation. The Minister made some reference to the poultry industry. Like many other hon. Members, I have received a kind of manifesto from the National Poultry Council asking me to oppose the Bill. I suggest that that opposition is not universal on the part of people who are experienced in the poultry industry. Hon. Members will recognise the name of Mr. A. H. Crane, who has handled over 12,000,000 eggs. What does he say about the situation?
The money dealers used to make on the Melton Mowbray egg had gone into the pockets of the farmers. This could not go on for ever with farmers standing outside the organisation of the packing depots. Some day they would find the depots could not go on, and there would be a big slump in prices.
I could quote the experience of those whom I consider to be the more enlightened and progressive members of
the National Farmers' Union, and I will read a report of a statement made by the ex-chairman of the Leicestershire branch of the National Farmers' Union, taken from the "Farmer and Stockbreeder." Referring to poultry and milk,
the past chairman, Mr. Howard Coltman, of Burleigh Hall, said one of the brighter spots had been poultry, and much of this undoubtedly due to the organisation of the packing stations; and he pleaded for loyal support for those who were trying to establish an organised market. … Farmers were a collection of individual units all producing small quantities in comparison with the local output, and this was one reason they had to concentrate on the selling side, but it was imperative they should organise this side. There had been vast changes and combines in the distributive side, and it was vital they, as producers, should bring their side of the industry into line with modern conditions.
I could give many other instances confirming my opinion that these organisations have broken down, and the pool which has been spoken about has not been a success because of want of organisation and loyalty. An hon. Member referred to some of the pools as having failed and others as having been a success. We ought to profit by those which have failed, and, if some have made the organisation a success, we want to adopt their method and make the success universal. I am glad that the Minister has introduced into the Bill a Clause to establish a consumer's committee. Much as I desire to see the agricultural industry organised on sound and economic lines, I could not support the Bill if that Clause were absent. I represent large numbers of people who have very carefully to scrutinise every penny which they spend in buying the necessities of life, and, unless I felt certain that their interests were to be adequately safeguarded, I could not see my way clear to support the Bill. This Clause will enable them to be represented and will prevent additional burdens being imposed on them by increased prices.
I have discussed this Bill with many agriculturists at meetings and in private, and I believe that their opposition is largely based on misconception, and that, where it is not it is based on political prejudice. We have heard in this House and the country that agriculture is so vital to the nation that it ought to transcend all political differences. I would like to make an appeal even to members of the National Farmers' Union that they should consider this Bill on its merits, and be prepared at least once to place tradition and political prejudice on one side. If they came to a consideration of the Bill with an open mind, prepared to seize upon any part of it that they could use to advantage and to operate the Bill in the spirit in which it has been framed and submitted to the House, it would confer great benefits upon them. Whether they take that attitude or not, I hope that the Government will press the Bill with resolution and determination.
I hope that the agricultural workers will soon make a claim for increased wages, for nobody can be satisfied with their present low standard of life, and even farmers say that they would like to pay more; and, when that claim is made, this Bill will provide a piece of machinery that will place the farmers, if they like to use it, in a position to pay their labourers a decent living wage. If for political prejudice or any other reason they refuse to use it, they will have no case against the demand of the labourers for a substantial increase in their wages. The money is in the industry, and this Bill will enable those who are taking the risks to get a fairer share of it, so that those who are employed will be able to enjoy a much higher standard of living.
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has rather spoiled an excellent speech by adversely criticising the agriculturists of this country. They are a most practical race of men, and they wish more than anything else to give a fairer wage to those whom they employ. They know, however, that, however much they may wish for this Bill, it is quite impossible for it to do them any good so long as we do not face the greatest problem of all, which is the competition which they have to meet all the year round from abroad and which spoils any efforts they may make, to make farming a success. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) fully expressed the feelings of the great body of agriculturists when he said that the Pill could not be a success so long as we ignored foreign imports. I have no right to speak on behalf of the agriculturists of Scotland, but during the last two or three years I have freely mixed with them, and I have not yet found one who thinks that this Bill can be a success until we tackle the question of foreign imports.
Some of my friends on this side of the House rightly use the words "unfair competition from abroad." If it were only that, however, we should probably be able to get over it, but the word which will rightly express the feelings of agriculturists in future for many years will not be the word "unfair" but "unequal." That is the word which we shall use in all our speeches in the next few years. Things have greatly changed in Europe in the last 10 years. We have in this country something like 48 agricultural colleges or centres where the science of agriculture is taught, but are we the only people who teach agricultural science? In Algiers they have an agricultural college under the French Government, and it is as much up-to-date as Cambridge or Aberdeen. In Algiers 54,000 acres of potatoes were planted last year, and the importation of that crop from Algiers to this country is only just beginning. In a few years there will be, not 54,000 acres, but 154,000 acres. They plant their potatoes in December. The French Government have issued a charming book in which they say that it is perpetual spring in Algiers. Twelve weeks afterwards these potatoes are put on our market, and the quick steamers, 47 per cent. of which are fitted with Diesel engines, bring the produce to this country in great quantities. We shall have not only dumping from Russia or potatoes from Germany, but agricultural produce brought from every part within a ring of 1,500 miles from Southampton, not at a time when our crops are ready, but three or four months before they are ready. That is what we have to face. Some of the farmers of Scotland will be only too delighted to make this Bill a success, but they have not the slightest faith that it can be a success so long as we allow foreign imports to come in from all parts of the world. The agricultural colleges of this country are doing everything to develop agricul- tural science. The yield of wheat in this country is something like 35 bushels to the acre, but in the School of Agriculture at Cambridge they have discovered, have created a new wheat—the yeoman wheat, well known in Lincolnshire—which has been known to yield 96 bushels to the acre. But what faith can our agriculturists have in going in far developments and trying to get greater yields from their land when wheat comes in from all parts of the world at £1 per quarter? They have no confidence, and until we have some system by which we can regulate the importation of foreign agricultural produce, I say with the greatest respect that however anxious the Government may be to make this a good Bill, it can never become a success. We must look facts in the face. Give our agriculturists a reasonable price for their produce, and they will be able to give a fair and a good wage to their workers and at the same time provide cheap food for our people.
According to the speeches to which I have listened there appears to be a certain unanimity that the marketing of our agricultural produce ought to be improved as soon as possible. I will not revert to the complaints of the last speaker, because I understand he represents a Scottish constituency, and I see the Secretary of State for Scotland is here, and imagine that it is a matter which they will settle between themselves. But all his criticisms centre upon one point only, the point which is raised in the main Conservative Amendment. The suggestion that better marketing is no good without the control of imports is a point about which I am very doubtful. My answer to Conservative Members would be that at present this House has no mandate for any protection of imports, and that it is not for us to discuss a possibility which is very unlikely to arise. It is even doubtful whether a mandate for Protection in respect of foodstuffs will be given at the next election, and it is doubtful whether it will be asked for, except, possibly, by a certain Noble Lord who has made it the chief article of his creed. I would like to recall what the Leader of the Opposition said in a speech which was
quoted by the Minister earlier in the day:
If I were a Mussolini"—
and I suppose there he sighed—
I would stop milk coming in. I am not. I cannot. It is one of the things you cannot stop by Protection because the towns will not let you.
I would like to know what are the foods of the people that the towns would allow us to stop by Protection? Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say with reference to milk:
Our surplus ought to be better handled. Here again organisation must be provided by the industry. Let me say that if the milk producers can only organise themselves as is done in some other countries so that they may have control of their own production and surplus, and put up a water-tight scheme for utilising that surplus, I will undertake to help to get the capital to realise that scheme if they can show me a business-like proposition supported by their own people.
I understand that this is the very object of this Bill, and if that object is carried out I feel certain the right hon. Gentleman will support this Bill. If the scheme is helped by State capital, and that is the proposal which was made by the Leader of the Opposition, surely it must be subject to Government conditions, and these Government conditions must embody the aims of every good scheme. To my mind these aims should be a greater control by the producer of the machinery of markets, facilities for grading and regulating, and facilities for the producers to avail themselves of the best methods of transport, and to improve these, if possible. I would stress the point that it is all important that the marketing organisation should be able to keep the control of the surplus in the producers' hands, because the control of the surplus means the control of the market. Referring to the extent and the uses of credit which should be carefully considered, and in view of what has been said before, I would also impress upon the Minister that it is essential that the boards should not become buying boards but should remain selling boards. I am not anxious to stress the point of stabilisation, because I know that stabilisation in products of first necessity is practically impossible. What I want to see is a better selling organisation for the producers of this country. In order to ensure this, I hope that mainly methods
of persuasive propaganda will be used, for it must be a growers' organisation with as little State interference as possible. Those are the aims. It remains to be seen whether in the Bill as it has been framed by the right hon. Gentleman and his assistants these aims are really fulfilled.
The first point which attracts attention in this Bill, and which has been alluded to by almost every speaker to-night, is the element of compulsion. Under the Bill a majority will have the power of coercing a minority. To me, nothing could be more distasteful than these shackles put on individual liberty. To my mind, compulsion is justifiable on one ground only, and that is the paramount interest of the State and of society, and not, as was stated by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), the necessity for stabilisation alone. If there need be any proofs of the necessity for compulsion under this Bill, all I can say is that the Scots, who, after all, are famous champions of freedom, are prepared to support this compulsory element in it. I need not recall the letter of Lord Ernle in the "Times." He was always a staunch Conservative, and has been Minister of Agriculture. But it seems to me that, although compulsion may be necessary in this Bill, there is far too much scope for it. It would give great pleasure to a Member of the Conservative party, who, I am sorry, is not here to-day, because he was a very ardent advocate of compulsion only 10 or 12 days ago when a Bill affecting the rubber industry was under consideration. I am alluding to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister), the late President of the Board of Trade. This is what he said in answer to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer):
The point is that he has come down to the House to-day to say that you must not have compulsion, and that if you have any form of compulsion you are a Socialist. With great respect I think that that is nonsense.
He went on to say:
As far as the question of principle is concerned, if you compel the minority to come in for something which is considered by the majority, and by this House for the general good of the industry, there can be no vestige of difference in principle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1931; col. 1383, Vol. 247.]
If that is so, why should there be any reason why compulsion should not be applied when it is a question of stimulating and organising the markets of this country? As regards safeguarding minorities, there are plenty of people in this country who are as little enthralled as I am by the idea of compulsion, because an unwilling minority within a scheme is more dangerous than a minority outside, and I would like to see greater provision made for the representation of the views of an unwilling minority. Clause 1 (4) provides for the representation of the minority view, saying:
The Minister, after considering any scheme duly submitted to him and any representations duly made with respect thereto.
may make such modifications in the scheme as he thinks proper. The Minister's answer to this objection with regard to the minority was given in an interview with the "Farmer and Stockbreeder" of 6th October where he stated that the objection of minorities will be considered in an impartial manner, because neither he nor his Department will be actively concerned in the submission of the schemes. That may be true, but can anyone as enthusiastic as the Minister hope to be impartial? I suggest in all humility that it is very important that an independent tribunal should be set up to consider the views of minorities, and I hope the Minister will take that into consideration. In my opinion, there is too much of the Minister in this Bill. I do not know who drafted it, but the Minister must have smiled to himself when he saw how often his name appeared in it. He stalks majestically and perhaps tyrannically through almost every paragraph and Sub-section, but one can see the cloven hoof sticking out of his Jemima's boots. These boots everyone knows have elastic sides as all good Ministerial boots should. Under this Measure, I see the possibility of the Minister imposing his will to an unlimited extent.
The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot has already pointed out that Clause 7 provides for the appointment of a committee of investigation. Under the Bill, this committee will be set up by the Minister, its members will be dominated by the Minister, and he can nominate whoever he pleases. Then Sub-section (4) of Clause 7 provides that on the report of this committee set up by himself the Minister may by order amend or revoke a scheme or replace a board, and the producers have no remedy. Further, if the Minister amends a scheme which is distasteful to them, they can do nothing, and they must carry out his orders. In fact, the Minister can disband the board and replace them by members nominated by himself. The growers have no remedy and cannot even have a scheme revoked under Part II, Schedule I, because only the board can ask to have the scheme revoked and practically the board is in the Minister's pocket. Even if the board do ask for a revocation or alteration, the Minister can still refuse because Part II, Schedule I, paragraph (3), says that the Minister "may" revoke a scheme, not "shall." Even the provision dealing with arbitration can be vitiated, because the arbitrators are appointed under the scheme, and it is the Minister's scheme.
The result is that the Minister may impose any scheme he likes to which every grower and every single registered member may object. There is no limit to the Minister's power until it is revoked by a board which is his own creature. It may not be serious that such a power should be given to a harmless Minister like the present Minister of Agriculture, but we might get a hard-boiled Socialist Minister, and I do not know what would happen then. I would compare the right hon. Gentleman to a dog fancier who tried to fake a wolfhound into a Pekingese.
I would like to say a word or two about the financial proposal contained in the Bill. There is a proposal to coerce the minority into a scheme and make them liable for the rest of the board's policy, including loans from the Government. I may have some opportunity in committee of moving an Amendment providing that the minority shall not be liable to an unlimited extent for debts which they have no wish to incur. This Measure coerces people into paying for debts which they do not wish to incur. This proposal needs a better defence than was given by the Minister in the "Farmer and Stockbreeder" on 6th October, which is reproduced in the document which is neither dated nor signed. It says:
It is generally accepted that citizenship carries with it certain financial and other obligations. For a producer to say 'I wish
to grow and sell potatoes without any communal liability' is as if he said 'I wish to live in England without any civil liability.' Whether it be in success or whether it be in failure, the unwilling member of a compulsory marketing scheme will have full privileges and responsibilities with his fellow members.
This is collectivism run mad, and the Minister must not be surprised if it is said, "This Bill is the first Measure in the Socialisation of agriculture." The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised at this, because that is what can be deduced from his own statements. I am willing to examine this Bill on its merits, but I think its financial provisions should be revised. As the Bill stands, a willing or unwilling producer is liable for the debts of the board. Nothing is more likely to increase unwilling minorities than a provision for unlimited financial liability, and I am convinced that this provision can be improved. The Minister, in a letter to the "Times" on 26th January, pointed out that a half per cent. on the annual value of the milk output would raise £250,000. If the national board is to deal with milk, why not fix the capital in the same way as issued capital of a company? I hope that some Amendment on these lines will be introduced, and I trust that the Government will consider favourably the objections which have been raised to Clause 7.
I am anxious to vote for this Bill, and I hope it will be considered in a businesslike manner. There is one question which I wish to put to the Minister. Are the financial transactions of this board to be assimilated to those of the co-operative societies, and are these boards to be exempt from taxation, like the financial transactions of co-operative societies? This is not stated in the Bill, and I think we should know exactly where we are on this point. I hope the Minister will give satisfactory answers to these questions. When this Bill goes before the Committee I trust that it will be considered as a, business Measure, and that we shall have the co-operation and the collaboration of hon. Members above the Gangway. I trust the Amendments to be moved will not be wrecking Amendments, but proposals which will be helpful. If the Bill is carried into effect according to more individualistic lines, and if it is modified along the lines which I have enunciated, I think it will do much to help to restore a much troubled industry.
I think the Minister may congratulate himself on the generally good reception that his Bill has received. Putting aside the Opposition points, which, coming from an Opposition, must be made, and looking at the general criticism on the whole, the Bill, in my judgment, remains in a very strong position, because it does in fact face up to the problem which lies at the very root of the agricultural difficulty. In my view, low and irregular prices for agricultural produce are the crux of the whole problem. While hon. Members opposite sincerely believe that some form of fiscal alteration in regard to foreign produce may assist prices in this country, I think that, from the practical business standpoint, they are very unwise in endeavouring to lead the industry to believe that during this present Parliament it is of any use whatever to the industry, either as an assurance or as a present benefit. Having regard to the composition of this House, and to the entire absence of any mandate for Protection in the present Parliament, and also having regard to the intense urgency of the need for real legislation dealing with prices in this country, it is only misleading a staggering industry—as the arable side of agriculture is staggering to-day, economically speaking—to attempt to suggest that any party in this House is pledged to Protection with regard to foodstuffs. If I am misinformed I shall be glad to be corrected.
Is the party of hon. Members opposite, who have been arguing as to Protection in connection with food prices this afternoon, pledged to that policy? If so, why do they not tell us, rather than deceive us with the suggestion of that which is not in reality in their policy? The position in our industry to-day is far too tragic to play ducks and drakes with the situation as it faces us in the countryside, and this Bill does justify, so far as a few steps are concerned, the support of all parties in this House who desire the welfare of our industry. It will enable producers to organise supplies; to a certain extent, notwithstanding the doubts of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), it will stabilise prices; and it will prevent profiteering at the expense of the pro- ducer. These three points represent adequate reasons why we in this Rouse, to whatever party we may belong, should feel it to be our duty to lend our aid to this Bill, not only to-day but throughout its further stages.
What are the facts in regard to prices, and how can a Bill like this affect them? I was speaking the other evening to a large cowkeeper from Scotland. He has, I think, about 250 cows, and a very large dairy, and I understood him to-day that he was getting 7d. a gallon for his milk, while in Edinburgh the consumers are paying 2s. 4d. a gallon. Somewhere between those figures of 7d. and 2s. 4d., methinks, the producer at least should have 50 per cent. more, and tile consumer should benefit by that co-operative organisation which will have to come in this country. In my judgment, the producer has for too long been misunderstood, both on this side of the House and on the other side. There have been suggestions that the producer is the enemy of the consumer, or vice versa, and that the middleman is the enemy of both. In approaching this Bill I refuse to admit that any one of the three is the enemy of the others. We desire a just economic price for our produce, which is a reasonable desire; the distributing agencies are likewise entitled to similar recognition for their services; and the great consuming public is, surely, sufficiently the charge of this House to urge us to bend our minds to the complete organisation of food production, marketing and distribution right through to the consumer.
Whatever fears may exist in regard to Socialism—and I would point out that very often words are differently understood according to the points of view of those who use them—it seems to me that society has reached a stage in this country at which, if in our varied classes and interests do not find ways and means of hanging together, there are plenty of things at work which will endeavour to hang us separately. Certainly the farmer—the food producer—and not less the farm worker, are in the position of having been hanged already. They have been hanging for too long at the very bottom of the poverty pit of this country. It is because I think that this Bill should give the producer an opportunity of securing a financial position which will ensure, not merely fair prices, but improved wages in food production, that I regard it as a Measure in the right direction.
I should like to say a word with regard to the necessity for organisation in relation to fruit. There has been a very real tragedy in East Anglia on the fruit production side, especially during the last season. It was not confined to East Anglia, because I remember being down at Deal talking to the crowd on the sea front during regatta week last summer—a crowd which being on holiday bent, gave the speaker a very good time as regards bombarding him with questions. One or two questions, however, remain in my memory this afternoon. A fruit grower said:
I want to know from the speaker what I am to do in regard to continuing to grow plums.
I said, "Why do you ask that question?" and he replied:
I am receiving less than a penny a pound for good plums. Do you think that is fair?
Then another man on the other side of the crowd shouted:
I can answer that. My old woman paid 8d. a pound yesterday for plums.
That is an illustration, crudely put and roughly spoken, from two parts of that crowd. The producer was receiving a penny a pound for plums, and the consumer was said to be charged ad. It does seem to me that a Marketing Bill such as this will create machinery which should enable both producers and consumers to receive a squarer deal, because of the organisation which shall hold the balance evenly between the two.
I have not one word of criticism to offer along the lines of blackmailing the middlemen. I think we make a very great mistake, sometimes, in placing the distributing agencies in the position of being looked upon as just blood-suckers or parasites. The distributing agencies of this country have done a very good work, and there is no one on either the producer's or the consumer's side who would not have done just about the same. If they have been able to make big profits, good luck to them; I know of some who have not; but when we ask for such a fair share of the value of our produce as we Eire entitled to receive, I beg the
associated middlemen not to allow their vetted interests to blind them to the advantages of a Bill of this description. This Bill is designed—and I hope it will succeed—effectually to safeguard both producer and consumer from dishonest profiteering between the two, but the honest distributor who, through his agency, does the fair thing on both sides, has nothing to fear and everything to gain, because, at a time when world competition assumes a character which is terribly dangerous even to the continuance of our industry from some aspects, it behoves us to use every form of machinery, State aid or any aid, which will legitimately build up solidity, and at least stabilise the price of our produce. I see that Sir Josiah Stamp—I suppose no one in the House would consider him to be a Labour propagandist—speaking at a farmers' club the other day, used some very plain words. He said:
My broad view is that in the last 100 years agriculture generally has had to be satisfied with a perceptibly lower rate of return than the general rate. In this sense I would say that over a long period the world has been fed at less than cost price.
I will leave it to the hon. Baronet to put what construction he likes on those words, but those of us who know something from personal experience and from the history of this industry know that for too long have the British farmer, the British labourer, and the British food producer been debarred from receiving a fair return from that which they have endeavoured to give to the rest of the community. Because I believe this Bill has within its four corners machinery which will enable the industry at least to receive a fairer recognition, may I say a better price, with due regard to the rights of the consumer, an economic price which shall yield a fair return to the man who grows the stuff and to the worker whose services should justify a living wage—if such principles can be brought into practical fruition by this Bill, all parties in the House will be doing themselves and the country a good turn by making it answer the purpose of rural Britain.
I desire to try to give expression to the agricultural view in Scotland of this Bill. In considering it, the main point to keep in mind is whether it will help the agricultural industry. In Scotland, the agricultural mind is opposed to the Bill. Those practical men, brought up in a hard school, consider that if any interference by Parliament is put upon them, if, for instance, their supply of fruit is cut down, or if any impediment of prevention is put in their way, a very serious situation will arise. The right hon. Gentleman gave what I thought was a very doleful and inaccurate description of the agricultural industry. No doubt, Denmark is a great example of organised effort, but he held Denmark up as country that is supplying far more in proportion than we do. I do not think that is a correct view. We have vast areas of mountain land, but, for all that, we have a diversified type of agriculture which gives us a large stock of produce of all kinds and which, instead of being in any way an evidence of failure, is the very opposite.
The right hon. Gentleman instanced potatoes and told the House of the immense advantage we should gain by a compulsory system of marketing being instituted. Scottish farmers do not think any advantage will come of this compulsory system being put upon them. They are practical men. They know, for instance, the great variety of soil that we have in Scotland. In every county there is a variety of soil, in every parish there is a variety of soil, and on every farm there is a variety of soil. All that results in a variety of samples being produced. Under our present system, it is possible for the owner of those potatoes to send what suits one market the variety that it wants. Those with practical experience of agriculture know that one market wants one type of potato and another market wants the very opposite, and, under this free system, it is possible to send to each market just what it wants.
I should like to have this clear. It is very important. Is he aware that in his own constituency, for example, no fewer than 195 potato farmers have signed the potato pool form?
The National Farmers Union of Scotland have petitioned against the Bill, the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture are against it, and I have the same views from smaller fanners. They recognise that there are variable samples of produce which they can send to whichever market will take them. If you bring about a controlled, unified system you will have absolute chaos. There will be potatoes sent to London which London does not want. Glasgow takes a different type of potato altogether. It is only by studying the requirements of the trade that practical success can be achieved. Practical farmers know that it is absolutely essential that they should have leave to sell their produce as it suits them. They have to sell their produce at all times of the year, anticipating work which is coming upon them later. Therefore, they cannot afford to be held up with their work of deliveries, which would make it impossible for them to deal with other necessary operations on the farm. These practical farmers know that they must have free choice in the conduct of their work. There is no more individualistic industry than agriculture, and to bring forward a scheme of this sort is to put a spoke in the wheel of its conduct and its betterment.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the success of Denmark in bacon production. Undoubtedly, Denmark has made a great advance and a great success. By adopting the standardised type of pig all her pigs are of the same weight, shape and type and in that way she has reached our market. The pig producers in this country have rather a different position to consider. They supply not only a bacon demand, but also a pork demand. Any practical man knows that the one is totally different from the other. Pork pigs are of much lighter weight than bacon pigs, and not only is that the case, for the pork market wants a different size of pork pig in different towns and cities. For instance, London wants a very small pork pig, while Birmingham takes a much heavier one. All this sort of thing stands in the way of British pig producers carrying on the standardised type of pig production which has been such a success in Denmark. Although I say that, a considerable advance might be made by farmers in this country in standardising their bacon pig production.
One obstacle which has stood in their way is the fact that we have such a numerous variety of pigs in this country. I think that we have something like 12 distinct pedigree types of pigs. If we had a standardised type, fewer varieties, we should be able to arrive at the same method at which the Danes have arrived, and which has been so successful with them, and we should be able to standardise the variety of pigs required for bacon. But that can be done without compulsion being put upon our producers in the selling of the article. This is a matter dealing with the breeding of pigs. This Bill does not provide for the breeding of a certain type of pig. It is outside the Bill. The Bill deals with marketing. It is possible for our producers to improve their bacon production by developing a standardised type of pig without the aid of this Bill at all.
The right hon. Gentleman draw a very exaggerated picture when he referred to beef production. He said that something like £2 14s. 4d. was deducted from the price of a bullock throughout the various stages of its sale. I am sure that that is an isolated and exaggerated case. Farmers generally are in favour of removing any unnecessary middlemen, and considerable progress has been made in that direction. They are ready to avail themselves of a co-operative system, but, again, they want it to spring from themselves, from inside the industry, and not have compulsion foisted upon them. The right hon. Gentleman can do the best service to this great industry of agriculture—and it never needed to be more seriously considered than at the present time—and thereby build up a monument to himself as Minister of Agriculture by taking the industry into his confidence and treating it kindly and sympathetically. It is not by driving either men or industries that success is obtained. Rather is it obtained by encouraging them to adopt improved methods of work. If he does that, I am sure he will do more for his reputation as a British Minister of Agriculture than by foisting upon agriculture compulsion and interference which are alien to, and undesired by, the people operating the industry.
The industry just now is threatened by vast importations of produce which may open up a new situation altogether for British agriculture. In the five years' plan which we hear about there is something like 2,500,000 acres under nationalised cultivation at the present time. At the end of five years there may be something like 60,000,000 or 70,000,000 acres brought under nationalised control. If that sort of thing is going to be brought about, what sort of situation is going to be created in British agriculture? To pass a Bill of this sort, fettering and tying the hands of our producers, at the very time when all the augmented importation may come from Russia, is folly, and it is because of that that I am opposed to this Bill.
I do not propose to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope). My intervention has very largely been caused by the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), who, I am sorry to say, is not at the moment in his place. He gave us an indication of Liberalism in the fainthearted acceptance of the principles of compulsion coupled with an almost heartfelt enthusiasm for the recognition of the claims of minorities. The hon. Gentleman went on to say, in criticising the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin), that no party in this House had a mandate with regard to the imposition of duties upon imports. It struck me that that was a very strange commentary coming from a member of a party who had so recently been busily engaged supporting a Measure about which there was certainly no mention, or no particular mention, that a mandate had been obtained. There is one mandate which can be said to have been obtained by Members on the Government benches, and that is, that in those agricultural constituencies for which they obtained seats in this House, their seats were obtained very largely by the suggestion of the party opposite that agriculture must be made to pay. They have a mandate, if it can be said that they have a mandate for anything at all, in order that agriculture may be made to pay.
Therefore, it is not unfair to suggest that if they are really attempting to make agriculture pay and to grapple with the problems and difficulties of agriculture, it would be well for them to be courageous and to rule out no special method of approach to the problem, and to act with no preconceived ideas or prejudices. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) said that he hoped the boards to be set up under the provisions of the Bill would be buying boards rather than selling boards. That is a sentiment with which certainly the people engaged in agriculture would cordially agree, but when we look at Clause 3, for the setting up of these particular boards, it seems to me that there is very great emphasis upon the power which is to be entrusted to the boards in paragraph (a) to buy the regulated product, and in paragraph (c)
empowering the board to buy, and to sell to registered producers, anything required for the production of the regulated product.
There is one fact which is very apt to be overlooked by hon. Members opposite. Legislation can do a great deal to remove hardships, but it may also create hardships. Legislation may create injustices besides helping to remove injustices. One thing, however, I can say with great confidence, and that is that legislation of itself cannot create industrial efficiency within an industry. It may help in the direction of matters over which the industry itself has no control, but with regard to matters within the industry and arising out of the industry the efficiency must come from those engaged in the industry. I suggest that something of that method of persuasive propaganda which has apparently drawn into the nets of the Government the hon. Members who sit below me, should be adopted in attempting to draw from those who are engaged in the industry a better appreciation of what it is desired to do by this Bill.
I would like to think that this Bill will help agriculture. There are many hon. Members on this side of the House who would be very glad to support any Measure which would effectively help the great industry of agriculture, and we have to ask ourselves, frankly and openly, this question, as representing agricultural constituencies: "Is this a Bill which will effectively help agricul- ture?" That is a very definite question, and it is for us to decide before we vote whether or not we can say "Aye" or "No" to that inquiry. In my view, unless the Government deal with the very fundamental question of the great competition of imported produce, they will not effectively help agriculture by this Bill. One hon. Member opposite talked about plums being sold at 8d., whereas fruit growers in our own country were selling plums at 1d. I have the honour of representing a Division parts of which are covered by what I would refer to as smiling orchards. The fruit of the delightful County of Kent is unequalled. The real position in regard to the price of fruit is, that we are subjected in this country not only to unfair but unequal conditions as to climate and other things. If hon. Members will refer to the very interesting document which appeared at the back of the report dealing with the Channel Tunnel, they will find some very effective and striking illustrations of the great competition with which our own farmers have to contend, because produce is dumped into our markets from abroad within a comparatively short time.
It is not a question of home-grown fruit being sold at a penny. The imported fruit is either the result of a subsidy of a foreign State, or the result of its being produced under conditions which are less favourable to the worker than the conditions which prevail in this country, but the problem largely arises from the fact that the foreign produce has been grown a few weeks before ours and has been dumped into this country. By the time our home produce is put upon the home market it is not a question of whether it is sold at 1d. or 2d. a pound, but the fact is that the demand in the market has been supplied. That is why it is so important that in dealing with this question we should pay attention, and I hope attention will be paid, to the reasoned Amendment upon which our opposition is based, and it is this, that we cannot support a Bill which introduces compulsory conditions on the sale of the finished home produce without imposing any conditions upon the sale of foreign produce.
In rising to support the Second Reading of the Bill, I shall not attempt to follow the arguments which have been used from the opposite side of the House in support of the Amendment. There is scarcely any Measure which can be proposed from these benches to assist agriculture that is likely to be received by right hon. and hon. Members opposite with approval unless it happens to be accompanied by some Measure introducing tariffs or protective legislation. So far as the Debate has proceeded, the interest of the producer has been the predominant theme. I agree thoroughly and absolutely that one of the dominant problems which this country has to solve is the putting of agriculture upon a successful basis and to bring within that industry the biggest proportion possible of the unemployed. At the same time, there is the interest of the consumer to be considered. The great majority of the working class of this country are not agricultural producers. While I hope that the Government will do all that they can to bring agriculture to a successful position and to put as many unemployed as possible upon the land, I hope that they will take very careful steps to see that nothing in the nature of a monopoly can be brought about under the provisions of this Bill.
I notice that the agricultural product is to be regulated. When it has been regulated and the producers that join in the scheme are registered, it will be possible to compel the minority who have not registered to come in. I notice also that there are people who can be exempted from the provisions of the Bill and I am not quite clear as to whether they can be compelled to observe the edicts of the produce board or not. On that point, I should like to have an explanation from the Minister. For the rest of the Bill, I am in thorough agreement with the method to be pursued. He would be a bold man who would say, even if all the provisions of the Bill are successful, even if it is accepted by the agricultural community in the best spirit and operated by them as efficiently as possible, that in the future there would not still be required some further Government assistance before agriculture can be permanently re-established in this country.
That being so, it seems to me that in the first instance there must be a guarantee that any taxation imposed upon the people for the benefit of agriculture shall be properly and economically used. We have a right to say to the farming community that if the State is to come to their assistance, by taxation imposed upon the general body, that they must organise themselves so that there shall be some guarantee, not only that the industry has done something to help itself on to a thoroughly efficient basis, but also that the organisation is such that whatever taxation is imposed upon the rest of the country for the benefit of the industry the money will be economically and wisely used. I have risen merely to put the consumer's point of view, and there is only one other matter on which I should like information. In Clause 3 these words occur:
the price at, below or above which, the terms on which, and the persons to, or through the agency of, whom, the product or any kind, variety, grade or quantity thereof may be sold;
That is very comprehensive wording, and I should like to know exactly what it means. I am interested in an organisation mainly on the retail side of industry which contains something like 6,000,000 consumers in this country. Does this Clause mean that these production control boards will have the right to set up retail selling agencies, retail selling establishments, as well as selling the regulated product in the first instance on a wholesale basis? I may inform the Minister of Agriculture that there is some disquiet among those with whom I am interested as to the exact meaning of these words and how the Clause will operate. It may be necessary when the Committee stage arrives to seek some assurance from the Minister, perhaps to put forward some Amendments, in order to safeguard the position of consumers, not because we do not desire to put our full weight behind the reorganisation of British agriculture and its re-establishment on a successful footing, but because we feel a certain measure of anxiety as to haw the provisions of the Bill are going to operate and would like to be clear that in doing our level best to help the agriculturists of the country we are not running some risk of doing injury to a far greater number of people than we wish to help.
I desire to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, because I think it will work more harm than good to the industry concerned. What farmers need more than anything else to-day and what they desire above all things is to be released from the shackles with which legislation has bound them. They want to be able to go on with their work unfettered by rules and regulations of State. Instead of the interference in the affairs of the farmer being lessened by this Bill, it seems to me that the screw of control is being turned more tightly than ever. Not only will the producer be placed in thraldom as to how and when and where and to whom he may sell his produce, but he will also be exposed to an indignity which has not yet been referred to in this Debate, and to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. I mean the humiliation of finding that officials of the Ministry of Agriculture will be authorised to spy into his premises and pry into his books. According to Clause 4, and also one of the Schedules, the Minister is to be entitled to authorise his officials to enter the premises and inspect the land of the occupier, to invade his premises and take a copy of any account books or papers relative to his production. The House will realise that, if that intention becomes law, those officials will be armed with powers which are denied even to the sovereign of this realm. They will have the right of free access into our dwellings.
The words are in the Schedule:
the officials of the board authorised by the Minister of Agriculture
which I think is very much the same thing. Our domestic privacy is a constitutional right which for generations has been regarded as inviolate. In no other country is a man's home so much his castle as it is in England. Lord Chatham, speaking of our splendid freedom in that respect once used words to this effect:
If he be law-abiding, the poorest man in his cottage may bid defiance to the forces of the Crown; his home may be poor and mean, the roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may penetrate and the rain may come in, but the King of England may not enter uninvited there; all his forces dare not cross that threshold.
Those words stimulate our pride of race, and they stir us to hold fast that glorious independence. Clause 4 and the provision in the Schedule make a direct assault upon that liberty. According to the Schedule, the officials may enter the premises, and they may take copies of the papers. We have no guarantee whatever as to the character or the qualifications or the occupations of these officials. They may have no interest in agricultural matters, and may be quite unsympathetic towards the farmer and his difficulty. Also there is to be no limitation placed upon their activities, save this: That the visit must be paid at some reasonable time. The question at once arises, what hour in the 24 and what day in the whole 365 can be deemed reasonable for such a gross indignity? I consider that as long as that provision exists in the Schedule the Bill must be regarded as an affront to our greatest industry, and will be looked upon as an insult to the farmers of the country.
I refer to the powers of
persons authorised by the board to enter and inspect at any reasonable time any land or premises occupied by a registered producer, and to inspect and take copies of any books or other documents kept by him relating to the regulated product.
The Debate so far has dealt largely with what might be regarded as Committee points. On Second Reading it is generally understood that one should examine principles rather than details. I want for a few minutes only to suggest that this Bill, as I understand it, is based upon two principles which have been affirmed over and over again by members of all parties in the House. The basic principle of the Bill is a really serious effort by the Government to embody in legislation a provision that all producers of necessary and useful commodities are entitled to an adequate remuneration for the produce which they contribute to the community. That is the first object of the Bill. It is, of course, a perfectly well known fact that in existing circumstances in agriculture that principle does not obtain at all, and that the farmer does not get an adequate remuneration for what he produces to meet the needs of the community. There was an instance given to-night by an hon. Friend who referred to the fact that in certain parts of Scotland farmers obtain only about 7d. per gallon for their milk, whereas the same milk is sold to the consumer in Edinburgh at 2s. 4d. a gallon. That is an enormous disparity. The problem in agriculture is to get over the disparity between the price which the producer gets and that which the consumer pays.
The Bill embodies the right of farmers to make arrangements, with the sanction of the nation and of Parliament, for securing adequate and remunerative prices for their products. There have been various criticisms of what has been described as the Socialistic character of the Bill. I am sure that if my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was asked whether the Bill was Socialism, he would say that it is far indeed from Socialism.
It is certainly co-operation, but it is certain not what could be called extreme Socialism. The second principle of the Bill ought to commend itself to both oppositions. What is it? It says to the farmer, "Here is a legislative instrument. You complain that you cannot get a reasonable price for your commodities, that you are having to sell at less than the cost of production. Here is a scheme which you can operate, with certain safeguards, in order to obtain for yourself an adequate and reasonably remunerative price." That is a principle which I commend to the House. It distinguishes the proposal of the Bill from methods advocated by those who are always asking the State to do something for the farmer, instead of asking the farmer to do something for himself. This Bill asks the farmer to help himself. The old proverb says that, "Providence helps those who help themselves." In this case the Government is providence coming to the assistance of the farmer.
The part of the Bill that I like best is the refusal of the Bill to say, "We are going to carry the farmers by this Bill; the community is going to give the farmer a subsidy or Protection." We are giving him the right to help himself to achieve the principle of a reasonable return for his produce. Those are the two principles to which I wish to confine myself and, on those grounds, the Second Reading of this Bill ought to be carried by all sections of this House.
I rise to support this Bill with a little more enthusiasm than some Members who have previously spoken from these benches. This question of marketing is one of extreme importance to the agricultural industry. Agriculture, possibly more than any other industry, has suffered from placing its products on the market in a form that did not command the support of the consuming public. I am convinced that, if this Bill be worked, as I believe it will be worked, by the progressive elements in the agricultural industry, it will be of very great assistance to British agriculture. The hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) said emphatically that agricultural opinion in Scotland was unanimously against this Measure. That is far from being the case. Agriculture in Scotland is represented by three leading bodies. The National Farmers' Union have expressed general approval of the Bill, though with a certain proviso regarding the regulation of the imports of agricultural produce. The Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, though against this Measure a year ago, reversed its decision last December, and has approved the Measure with certain reservations. The most important body in Scotland with regard to the marketing of agricultural produce is undoubtedly the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, which has on its executive committee representatives not only of the farmers and landowners, but of the National Farmers' Union and of the Farm-servants' Union in Scotland. This body is in favour of this Measure. Far from it being the case that Scottish agricultural opinion is in opposition to this Measure, it is generally in favour of it.
They reversed their decision in December last. Their previous decision was against the Bill, but in December last they decided generally to approve the Bill with certain reservations, to which I have referred. I wish to deal With the question of area. It may be true that, in a limited number of products, the area may be a comparatively small one, but, for the great majority of agricultural products in this country, the boards will have to operate over Great Britain as a whole. We want to attain a little more than mere orderly marketing. If we are to have a prosperous agriculture in this country, we must obtain a measure of stability of prices for agricultural products. If we have a number of small areas, all more or less competing with each other in similar products, we cannot arrive at the measure of stabilisation which is so desirable. There is also the question of grading. I am very doubtful if grading will be successful if the graders are the employés of the selling agencies or boards. The experience that was gained during the years of the War with regard to the grading of certain agricultural products clearly showed that it is desirable that the graders should be men who are absolutely beyond suspicion, that they should be highly skilled, and that they should be controlled by some central authority such as the Ministry. I would prefer to see the graders the servants of the Ministry or of the Scottish Department of Agriculture rather than of the selling agencies or boards.
As to imports, I admit that imports undoubtedly have an effect upon the price of agricultural produce in this country, but the Minister, in moving the Second Reading of this Measure, very clearly showed by his illustration about hops that a protective tariff is no effective means of securing a stabilised price for the home product. Therefore, although it is possible that, even after this Measure is passed, as I hope it will be, the desired end has not been attained to the full, other Measures may then have to be taken. It may then become necessary—though it is a heresy to say so from these benches—to have some regulation of imports of agricultural produce into this country. A criticism which has been largely made of this Bill is the compulsion of minorities. Many of us have had experience of trying to promote and assist agricultural co-operation. We found in many instances, after we had got a co-operative society formed, that its operations went on for a few months, or even a few years, more or less successfully, but that ultimately it broke down owing to non-members, and in some cases members, breaking the prices.
An illustration I might give is the Glasgow and West of Scotland milk pool, which is a very interesting case. It increased producers' prices almost immediately after its formation, and reduced the margin between the producer and the consumer without enhancing the prices. For the next 18 months or two years this organisation proved a great benefit to the milk producers in the south-west of Scotland, but gradually the outside producers, who were not affiliated to the pool, began to cut prices. The pool also, by giving higher prices, increased production from its own members. Although in this instance there was machinery for dealing with the surplus, as there is a chain of creameries in the south-west of Scotland, in spite of that the price of milk became broken, and the position of the pool is very serious, indeed. But, if that pool, which represents a substantial majority of the producers of the south-west of Scotland, had the power to bring the minority within its ambit, it would be in a very flourishing and successful position to-day.
In this Bill the Minister is undoubtedly taking very wide powers, but anyone, who has had experience of trying to deal with agricultural marketing or the organisation of the agricultural industry, knows that we cannot really use the word "industry" in its application to agriculture, because agriculture is a number of industries. You may have to find a different plan or a different system for the many industries within the agricultural world. This Bill points the way to making a new and progressive departure for the marketing of agricultural produce, and it is essential that the Minister should have the widest possible powers to apply the right plan to every particular product that comes under this Measure. I hope and believe that this Measure is not going to be treated purely as a party Measure, but that all parties will co-operate in trying to make it effective for the benefit of British agriculture.
I listened to every word of the Minister's speech, and I had a very great sense of disappointment, at its conclusion. Undoubtedly, the Minister went very fully into the question of marketing and gave us very interesting figures and stated the case very fairly. We do not object to better marketing. We object to the form of the Bill which the Minister is bringing in, with the object of improving markets. With regard to the Bill itself, very little was said. As I say, I was disappointed because I had hoped, almost against hope, that something would have been said in explanation of its terms which would have removed some of the doubts which are felt with regard to it. I feel that the Bill will prove inefficient to achieve the object suggested. Indeed, I feel that the Minister himself is doomed to ultimate disappointment. He has expressed the hope that this Measure will do something for better marketing, but he has neglected to remove the very obstacles which exist to-day and which prevent private enterprise, as it is, from securing that better marketing which is desired. Had the Minister taken steps to remove the obstacles which are now in the way of better marketing, I believe that this Bill would not be necessary at all.
The right hon. Gentleman has not told us how this Bill is to achieve the object in view. He has referred to the support which he is receiving from outside, but I believe that that support is qualified. Although he can find some support from agriculturists—you can find some support for anything—it is a very qualified support, and, in my opinion, knowing where some of it comes from, it is based on the hope that this Bill will do something which, in its present form, it certainly will not do. As I say, we do not quarrel with the idea of better marketing, either as a party or as individuals, and the industry is not opposed to a better system, and most of the speeches which have been made here to-day have dealt more with the general question of marketing than with the actual provisions of this Bill.
When the time comes, and I hope it will not be very long before it comes, we shall bring forward proposals for a system which I believe will be successful. I believe there is one great danger in this House in regard to these Measures. It is the danger that hon. Members, particularly those below the Gangway, may forget that this Government is a Socialistic Government. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may call themselves something else in this House, and in certain constituencies, but nevertheless they are Socialistic—perhaps not so extreme as certain hon. Members on their own side would like them to be, but that is only because they have not the opportunity. We do not know what they may do if we give them the opportunity, and this Bill is, I contend, a form of nationalisation. [Laughter.] Those hon. Members who laugh at a statement of that kind generally do so for the purpose of trying to throw ridicule upon something to which they cannot reply. I said of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill that it was designed for nationalising production, and this Bill is the counterpart of it and is designed for nationalising distribution.
There is no control of foreign imports in the Bill. The Minister cited the case of hops and gave an instance to show how a small percentage of producers in that industry could break the market. That is the best argument he could give to show that this Bill cannot perform what it is supposed to perform, because the Minister is leaving all these imports to come in and break down any machinery set up under this Measure. The right hon. Gentleman has also described this as a voluntary Measure and has said that everything will rest with the farmer under it. As regards the first draft of the Bill, it might have been claimed with greater assurance to be a voluntary Measure, but the Minister has removed certain words to the effect that a scheme should be promoted by a proportion of the producers and now the words used are "substantially representative" of the section of the industry concerned. The effect of that change is practically to leave it to the Ministry whether a scheme is to be brought into operation or not and it cannot be described as voluntary. I am confident no matter what assertions may be made from the Ministry that these schemes if brought into operation will be operated by officials.
I am very much afraid also of the practically unlimited powers which it is proposed to give to the commissions. They will have power to link up various schemes and make them into one large scheme. A scheme may be successfully co-operated in a limited area, but if a number of schemes are amalgamated into one large scheme, the thing may become an absolute failure because you remove the personal incentive and the personal control of the people who are most interested. The larger you make a scheme the more likely it is to get into the hands of officials who act as officials. The training of the farmer may be admirable as regards the production of a specialised article, in a small way, but, as a producer he has not the time to get the sort of training which would help him to control a very large and industrialised distribution scheme.
Another objection to the Bill is that it brings in the question of trading. These bodies can trade in almost anything which has any connection with agriculture. We know that trading societies in the past have not only run great risks, but have made great failures, and, if these bodies are to be allowed to carry on buying and selling, as regards manures and other matters of that kind, and are to be allowed to take all these risks and to impose the system upon unwilling minorities it is going to be a very serious matter. It will mean imposing upon small minorities a responsibility for something with which they do not agree.
The commissions are also given power under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act of 1921. Incidentally, the Minister did not know where the previous powers with regard to entry on farms and so forth were to be found until one of my hon. Friends informed him. But these powers under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act enable them to enforce the attendance of witnesses, to examine witnesses on oath, and to demand the production of documents. Although that power already exists in other Measures, it cannot be operated except by the will of this House, but in this Bill we are asked to take away from this House the power of deciding whether that Act is to operate or not, and to place that power in the hands of the Minister. I do not think that is a wise course.
The power is in the hands of the Ministry under the Bill, and previously it has been retained in the two Houses of Parliament. We are told that the board may fix the price, but they can do nothing of the sort. They can suggest the price, and that price is subject to a consumers' council. In that connection, I want to ask a question which has already been asked, in the Minister's absence, by an hon. Member on his own side. On the consumers' council, there is to be a representative of the Co-operative Union. Why is that? Why should the Co-operative Union and no other organisation of traders have a representative on this council?
Yes, but the co-operative societies do not represent the consumers. [Laughter.] I know it is claimed that they do, but the very question asked by the hon. Member opposite proves that what I am saying is true. The co-operative societies do not represent the consumer as a consumer; they represent the consumer as a trader. If they were to represent the consumer as a consumer, they would bring the prices down, instead of which they sell at the ordinary prices and return the balance in the form of dividends to their shareholders, so that they look at the matter as traders. That is why an hon. Member asked whether there was to be competition between the co-operative societies and these selling agencies. I cannot see that there is any right for the co-operative societies to be on the consumers' council. There might be some sense in it if you gave the co-operative societies some standing on the board of production, because they might at any rate tell the Board what to avoid doing in making losses. Up to now the co-operative societies, in their farming operations, where they have a market of their own, have made losses, and it might be very useful to tell these boards what to avoid, so that the same blunders will not be made by them as have been made, unfortunately, by the co-operative societies.
If I am put on the Committee I shall move a great many Amendments. There is compulsion in this Bill with regard to finance, and many farmers are to-day very short of finance; yet these boards may demand from them working capital for these schemes, and, when losses are made, they may come on to these men, who are probably in a minority, and make demands upon them to pay for losses for which they themselves are not responsible. The Bill deals a tremendous blow at individuality. I could have said a lot about how much agriculture has been dependent on individuality and personality for success in the past, and this Bill is breaking all that down, but time does not permit me to go into that question now.
What is to be the cost of all this? I know that £40,000 is put down by the Ministry as expenses, that that has doubled since the last Bill, when it was £20,000, but what will be the cost of the boards themselves and of this marketing? Everybody says that this marketing is desirable, but they forget to say what it will cost, and it will cost a great deal. I have very grave doubts as to whether the industry itself can bear the cost, and even if it could find the money for the cost, I am confident that the industry itself cannot pay the extra cost of this marketing of its articles, and hope to find a market against the unlimited competition from abroad.
In conclusion, I object to the Bill because there is in it no control of imports whatsoever, and that is bound to be its downfall. I object to the substitution of officialdom and of official control for personal liberty, either in production or in distribution. It deprives the individual of the benefits of all local markets, and results in taking away from him the advantage of special services that he may and could give under certain circumstances; and it also takes away from him all incentive to personal effort. Financially, it is unsound, extravagant, and unwieldy. I object to an experiment in marketing of this particular description being carried on, largely at the expense of a section of the community which is in a bad financial condition at the moment.
I understand that an arrangement has been reached that I should finish not later than 10 o'clock, and I will not transgress that arrangement. The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Blindell) appealed to the Minister that in dealing with the machinery to be set up for these marketing schemes, full recognition should be given to the intermediate marketing agencies that are existing. I hope the Minister will do all he possibly can to sweep away as many of these intermediate agencies as possible, because many of us believe that the margin between the prices obtained by the producer and the consumer is largely taken up by the intermediate agencies that exist between them.
If the co-operative agencies are serving no useful purpose, I would like to see them swept away as intermediate agencies. I was very disappointed with the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), who denounced this scheme because it imposed no conditions on imported foodstuffs. I listened very carefully to the whole of his speech, but I have yet to hear a single constructive suggestion or definite policy on behalf of his party for dealing with the problem which he mentioned. Whether it is to be by tariffs, by prohibition, or by import boards, we may know better after the East Islington by-election. He also made the point that compulsion might be justified under certain circumstances, provided that it secured the stabilisation of prices. If he accepts that principle, with which I thoroughly agree, I think he must give up the other principle, namely, that there should be no compulsion upon any industry or individual, and absolute freedom left for the individual to do as he chooses. The Noble Lord cannot have it both ways.
I am sure the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) will forgive me in feeling a little disappointed at his speech to-night. Some of us have learned that farmers have strongly objected to State interference, but have never hesitated to approach the State when they wanted financial help. If there is to be State financial assistance for the farming industry, the industry must not complain if the State desires some measure of supervision and control. I am personally indebted to the hon. Member for the lesson that he gave some of us with regard to the methods of co-operative societies. I confess I have not the intimate knowledge that the hon. Gentleman has on this matter.
I have been more fortunate; I was more careful in my selection. The hon. Gentleman claims that co-operative societies do not represent the consumers. I suggest that five minutes' talk after this Debate will convince him that he is wrong.
I claim that it is the only organisation of consumers in Great Britain which safeguards the interests of consumers, and for that reason I am proud to represent the co-operative movement in supporting the principle embodied in this Bill. While the Bill will take steps to improve the position of the producer, there are sufficient safeguards for the consumer. Is any hon. Member satisfied with the position when, between the prices obtained by the producer and the prices ultimately paid by the consumers, a gap of £160,000,000 a year is to be accounted for? Many of us believe that one of the greatest helps to the farming industry would be to sweep away the intermediate agencies and to bring the producer and consumer into closer contact. We have tried it. There are co-operative organisations in this country which are putting into practice to some extent the principles embodied in this Bill. We have tried to help the farmer by going direct to his farm, taking his produce, and paying the best possible price without any intermediate commission. The farmers have benefited as a result.
I commend to some of my hon. Friends the experiment which is being carried out on the north-east coast of England, where the co-operative organisation has one of the best organised fruit departments in the country. The manager of the department has an arrangement with all the farmers in the immediate vicinity to buy their fruit. No price is fixed at the time, but the fruit is delivered to the store and sold in the market at the market price which is obtaining. After the ordinary dividend has been paid, the surplus is returned to the farmer. The farmers in that district are more than satisfied with the arrangement, and it is an experiment that might be copied with advantage. I again refer my hon. Friends to what we are trying to do in Northamptonshire, where there are farmers who are producing goods that we sell in the co-operative stores. I am glad to have initiated a scheme, which is now being considered by two organisations, under which the buyers of the co-operative organisations in that county are to get into direct touch with the farmers and purchase their products. We are doing in a small way what might very well be copied by those who are attempting to deal with the problem in a much larger way.
The Prime Minister is reported in an interview which he gave on the 18th October last to have accused the farming community of inefficiency. He irritated the farmers by saying that they show no sign of a capacity or willingness to think things out. He also took the opportunity then reaffirming the Government's determination to stand by the Marketing Bill as a means of bringing about a return to prosperity in agriculture and of solving the problems which now confront the agriculturist. The Minister of Agriculture, however, on the 18th September, after representations had been made to him by a deputation from the National Farmers' Union, which pointed out the very serious plight and the disastrous economic position in which the cereal farmers found themselves, made a statement to a reporter. It is rather strange that some of the most important pronouncements from the Government have been made to reporters and representatives of the Socialist Press. The Minister of Agriculture said:
The Bill is not intended to solve the problems of the cereal farmer.
In view of these two conflicting and divergent pronouncements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, it is not easy to discover whether this Bill is or is not intended as a Measure to solve the financial difficulties of agriculture, and whether it is or is not intended to implement and
to carry out the Government's pledge that farming must be made to pay. Be that as it may, it is no part of my duty to-night to try and reconcile the different pronouncements that have been made from the Government Front Bench.
We on this side of the House are deeply and gravely concerned with the present position which threatens to overwhelm, and in some cases has already overwhelmed, the farmer and his man. We believe that the success of their industry is vital to the prosperity of each of them, and it is from that point of view that I want to consider this Bill and its value in dealing with the situation. The Minister of Agriculture made a courteous speech; we on this side think that his speeches are always very courteous, and so tempt us to pay more regard to his arguments than we ought to pay to them. He said that it is a complicated Bill and deals with a vast and complicated subject. Although he said that, he did not attempt to explain any of the Clauses to us. In view of that statement, we on this side must express great regret that the Government have seen fit to refuse our modest request for time to consider this intricate and far-reaching Measure. It is not right or in the national interest that a Measure, which touches at a thousand different points the whole foundation and the whole structure of production and marketing in this country, should be rushed through without adequate discussion, without consideration, without criticism, and without opportunities for effective exposure. Three hours were occupied with the first three speeches, and we feel that more time should have been given to the Bill.
The Debate, curtailed and cramped as it has been, has borne fruit, because it has shown an evident awakening on the part of the Government to the desperate situation of agriculture. The Minister eulogised the Bill in his opening speech. It seemed to me that one saw him sitting on the top of a mountain viewing the fertile agricultural plains which lay beneath him. It seemed to me that he felt like the Greek god Zeus on Olympus, and that from his lofty altitude he felt himself able clearly to see the frailties and the faults of our English farmers, and that he believed that he could devise a scheme of co-operation by compulsion, a, scheme without regulation of imports, a scheme of official direction that would solve all agriculture's problems. This, so it seems, is to be the magnum opus of the Minister of Agriculture. This is to be his great gesture to improve the status quo, which may be liberally interpreted as "the mess we are in," to implement the promises which were made to agriculture during the last election. [An HON. MEMBER: "This is only the beginning!"] If that is so, it is indeed strange that a Measure which is presumed to bring so much comfort and so much benefit to the agricultural community has so signally failed to gain their support, because agriculturists are its strongest opponents. We know that the Bill is framed as a permissive Measure, but is it not fair to observe that it would only take a one Clause Bill to turn the "mays" into "shalls"?
As the agriculturists have not asked for the Bill, whence, may we ask, does the demand for it come? On that point, though I have listened to most of the speeches made during this Debate, I have noticed that a strange silence has been maintained. We are told that this Bill is a purely enabling Measure, and that it is necessary to the salvation of agriculture. If that be so, why is it necessary under Clause 13 to appoint Commissioners whose sole function will be to prepare schemes and to ginger up those who ought to back up and support those schemes? What responsible body has asked for this Bill? During the time it has been my privilege to be a Member of this House—and it is now some years since I came here—I cannot remember a previous Bill which imposed restrictions on a section of the community, and was said to be in their interests, which that section of the community did not themselves ask for and support. The demand does not come from the largest organised body of agriculturists in this country, namely, the National Farmers' Union. After consideration of the first draft of this Bill, the Council of the National Farmers' Union, by a vote of 40 to 16, refused to approve the principles in the Bill and requested its withdrawal. Since then other resolutions have been passed, and it is quite fair to say there has not, been any general change in opinion. In fact, if anything, the opposition to the Bill has strengthened. The Bill is unacceptable unless it is to be accompanied by regulation and control of foreign imports. The Minister of Agriculture instanced hops, and said there was the case of a pool where, had there been compulsory powers obtaining under this Bill, all would have been well. We agree, because, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend who opened the Debate on this side, in that case the industry was assisted by a protective duty.
I would like to voice here the views of the agricultural committee of the County Councils Association. No doubt the Minister has been furnished with a copy of their resolution. They stated that while appreciating the desirability of co-operation among producers they considered the marketing board likely to result in an expensive establishment of administrative machinery without any corresponding advantage being gained by the agricultural community. The National Agricultural Council of England, a body which for the past three years has been giving close and special attention to the question of agricultural marketing, said in a recent memorandum which no doubt was brought to the attention of the Minster:
While fully recognising the regulating of marketing on up-to-date lines can be frustrated and can be brought to nought and discouraged by the action of a small number of individualist sellers, and while there may be a good case for central direction, organisation of marketing, publicity and some of the other points referred to in the Bill, no amount of combination for marketing or compulsion of minorities will avail when the market is undersold by imports of agricultural products from countries where costs of production are lower or where subsidies, or veiled subsidies, are paid. The council, therefore, earnestly represent that a measure of import control is a necessary complement to a Bill of this kind.
Surely that is so. In the great majority of cases home production is and must remain for many years yet in direct competition with free imports. The House will observe that practically all organised responsible agricultural opinion speaks with one voice about this Bill. Compulsory co-operation, the compulsion of minorities, is useless and harmful to agriculture unless steps are taken along the lines of our Amendment, but there seems to be very little prospect of assistance in that direction from Members on the oppo-
site side of the House, for on 18th October the Prime Minister said:
The Government will not yield one inch to the National Farmers' Union agitation for protection or subsidies, but will stand by its Marketing Bill.
If that is the attitude of hon. Members opposite it is, in my opinion, futile to pass a Bill of this kind in the face of the opposition of those whom it is intended to help. We think it is unfair and cruel to deprive the producer of the control of his individual capital which he has put into his business and compel him to assume, as this Bill does, serious financial liabilities without giving him any guarantee of his market or any guarantee of remunerative prices for his produce. What good will be achieved by restricting home production in this way while failing to place any similar restriction on imported produce?
Under the Bill, where a scheme is formulated all the producers of that regulated product, be they big men producing on a large scale or small producers, must become registered. Should they fail to become registered they will no longer be permitted to continue selling their produce and will become liable to very severe pains and penalties for contravention of the Bill. We have been told from the other side that exemptions may be given to meet the case of the small men. If exemptions are given on an extensive scale, the only effect will be to break down the Bill, or to force the producer who has been granted that exemption to sell as the pool directs, in which case he might just as well become a registered producer.
I ask the House to visualise the position of the small man who is able by industry and hard work to build up a local dairying business. Many such persons are engaged in agriculture at the present time. Such a man has to come into this scheme, or, if he does not, it will certainly seriously affect the working of the Bill. It he does come into the scheme, he will probably be told that his output must be limited, that he must reduce the amount of milk he produces, and the number of cows he keeps. It means that he will have to alter the whole of his system of cropping; he will be told to reduce his herds and his employment. If he does that, his wages bill will fall at once, and, as his wages bill falls, so will his profits. The rental value of his farm would be affected and his taxable value would be also affected. Therefore we ask, with some justification, why this Bill is introduced, and how the sort of case I have described is going to be dealt with, because it is not an isolated or a singular case?
May I picture the case of a farmer who fails to register? If he produces, as provided under the Bill, even one score of eggs and fails to register himself as a producer, and sells them, he will commit an offence and be liable to prosecution. That is how I read the Bill. Let me take the case where the producer becomes a registered producer, yields to the force of circumstances, and bows to the majesty and might of the law as exemplified by this Bill. He will only be able to sell in the manner prescribed by the board, which will lay down stipulations as to the time, variety and grade of the produce which he can sell. The board will lay down under this Bill the price—below or above—and the terms on which he can sell, and the persons to whom that produce may be sold. The board is actually empowered to determine the amount of the commodity which he may produce. Directly he is registered—and he is unable to trade unless he is registered—his land becomes open to inspection, and, in spite of the objection taken in the speech made by an hon. Member on this side of the House, he will become liable to visits and inspections. The Third Schedule of the Bill provides for the "Additional matters for which schemes must provide." Paragraph 6 of the Third Schedule provides as follows:
As to the powers of persons authorised by the hoard to enter and inspect, at any reasonable time, any land or premises occupied by a registered producer, and to inspect and take copies of any books, accounts or other documents kept by him relating to the regulated product.
Consequently, the producer will be subjected to this meticulous inspection and control. In spite of the fact that this registered producer may have been coerced into the scheme against his will—because a certain percentage are bound to be coerced into any scheme—and in spite of the fact that he may lose financially under the scheme, he will have no redress, and there will be no obliga-
tion upon the framers or supporters of the scheme to indemnify him in respect of any loss which he may incur. Surely, the House would only be justified in passing such a proposal if it is to give some great advantage and to bring some great benefit to those upon whom it is inflicted, but I cannot see, and it has not been explained, what great benefit is to accrue to producers. There is no guarantee, there is no undertaking, that the producer will gain anything under this system of compulsion. There is no guarantee that his turnover will be thereby increased, or that he will obtain better terms.
I waited, while the right hon. Gentleman was making his speech, to hear of cases in which similar legislation has been brought into operation in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned many countries, but I believe I am right in saying that every one of those countries has built up its system of marketing co-operation on a voluntary and not on a compulsory basis. I believe that a system somewhat similar to that suggested in this Bill was tried, and has failed, in British Columbia, and I would say this, that, even if compulsory marketing has succeeded in a new country where the existing marketing arrangements and distributing machinery were not very highly developed, there is no evidence whatever that a similar system would be equally efficacious here, where our marketing system has been so extensively developed. There is nothing to show that under this Bill such good returns will be obtained by producers as would justify them in placing themselves under the yoke of the Department in this way. It has been urged from the other side that these schemes are non-compulsory, but, surely, that is only a half-truth. With all the propaganda—I might say cajolery—for which this Bill provides, with all the appointments of commissioners and so on, what are we to expect?
We know that under the Smallholdings Act of 1908 commissioners were appointed to "ginger up" the smallholdings movement. We also know that they created a great deal of friction, and the result was that later on the commissioners were abolished. It is suggested that the man who fails to join this scheme will still be permitted to sell his crops, but, even if that be the case, it must alter his system
of cultivation and cropping and the manner in which he hopes to gain his livelihood. I venture to say that, if he fails to join, he will be put under most burdensome conditions of compulsion and tyranny. Under this Bill, schemes can be promoted to deal with almost all the ordinary agricultural crops; nearly every crop is now enumerated in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill; and the farmer will be debarred, if he elects to remain an unregistered producer, from producing practically anything unless perhaps it be goats, pigeons or rabbits. I would point out that, comprehensive and extensive as the Schedule is, the Minister has power to extend it still further. It seems to me it is a case of
Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly.
Our indictment is that the Bill is useless, harmful, and unnecessary. I do not wish to see the home industry regulated and curtailed at the same time that foreigners are allowed to continue to send over their goods without interference. In our judgment, this is not a time when further conditions and restrictions should be imposed to handicap agriculture. I want again to draw attention to Clause 13. If the Bill is passed, great pressure will be exercised by the commission which it will be extremely difficult for producers to resist, and, directly they accept the scheme, and become registered they will lose their individual liberty, and they will have no protection against this unrestricted and subsidised foreign competition.
The terms of our Amendment indicate the lines on which we should like to see this important subject approached. We opposed the introduction of large-scale farming under the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill, and we view with equal concern the autocratic control of the purchase and sale of agricultural produce. It appears to us that the Bill is a ruthless, far-reaching interference with the ordinary channels of trade. I could not understand the words of the Minister when he said he intended to deal with the denizens of the rat-runs of an antiquated marketing system. Was it a reference to the merchants and the agents who on the whole carry on their work so satisfactorily and so well? The Bill provides for a consumers' committee and a committee of investigation. It seems rather strange that they should set up these committees of investigation to watch the work of the other committees and to report on it.
As to the finance of the scheme, the Bill, like previous Bills introduced by the party opposite, is one that is going to spend more public money. The cost cannot be assessed. The only thing we are clear about is that it will lead to considerable expenditure. We shall continue to oppose it because it does not give relief but, on the other hand, places additional burdens on the agricultural community. Equally, it will not achieve the objects which it sets out to achieve. No scheme of this character can be of help to our distressed agricultural industry unless it is accompanied by a regulation and restriction of foreign imports at least as effective as that which it seeks to impose upon our own producers and our home land. It is that fact which brings many of us to vote against the Bill on the Second Reading.
All through the centuries the poor farmer has starved when there was a good harvest. Shakespeare tells us of a farmer who hanged himself in expectation of plenty. Farmers not only starve when there is a glut and prices fall but, unfortunately, they starve also in a dearth and a famine. The present Government, in pursuance of the Prime Minister's pledge to do their utmost to make farming pay, have produced the second of a series of Bills designed to achieve that end. There has been, indeed this afternoon a general welcome to the essential purpose of the Bill. There have been many Committee points which will require to be met in the Committee stage—points raised by hon. Members in all parts of the House—and I am authorised by the Minister to say that, so far from regarding his Bill as like the law of the Medes and Persians, unalterable, he will be very glad indeed to have the assistance of hon. Members in all parts of the House in the Committee stage in improving and strengthening the Measure. It was because he took that attitude, that he placed his Bill in the Vote Office many months ago, so that there should be as large and as instructed a public opinion as possible when the Measure came to be discussed in this House.
There are two essential difficulties which have been raised by hon. Members opposite, and I propose, briefly, to en- deavour to meet them. There is, first, the difficulty about compulsion—compulsion of a blackleg minority. When, after a substantial number of the producers of an agricultural product have provided a scheme for the more efficient marketing of that product, and there still remain outside a small number, who may be merchants' agents, who may be financially in the pockets of the merchants—if there still remains a small blackleg minority outside whose activities might wreck the scheme, and wreck not only the majority but themselves as well, the Minister takes power in the Bill to exercise compulsion on the minority. There has been a lot of talk to-day about compulsion of the minority. Why not let us have some talk about protection for the majority? Every scheme under this Bill must be supported by a substantial number of the producers of the commodity referred to in the scheme. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is substantial?"] It must be supported by a majority. If the Bill starts out with the support of a substantial majority surely it is not asking too much that the minority, after due inquiry, when the case has been heard, subject always to the right of this House to vote down a scheme, must not stand in the way of an economic price and a decent living to the producers of a primary product?
I think the last speaker professed to believe that the compulsory principle in this Bill is something new in agricultural legislation in the world. I will take our own Empire. I will not refer to what has happened in Denmark or any other foreign countries. In South Africa, by the Co-operative Act of 1928 it is provided that whenever the Minister of Agriculture is satisfied that in any district, area or province, 75 per cent. of the producers of any kind of agricultural produce, or the producers of 75 per cent. of such produce, are members of a co-operative society for the marketing of the produce, the Minister may, at the society's request, declare that each producer of that kind of produce shall only sell his produce through the society. Compulsory co-operation has been applied under that Act to several products in South Africa. Take Australia. In Queensland, a two-thirds majority suffices to secure legislative compulsion of the minority. Thirteen of the principal agricultural products in Queensland are now subject to such compulsion.
The purpose of the Bill is to enable them the producers to sell efficiently. If the hon. Member has not understood that point so far, I make him a present of it. In New South Wales, the Primary Products Act, 1927, provides for the setting up of marketing boards, with compulsory powers, at the request of two-thirds of the local producers. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is by a Conservative Government!"] I do not want to-make any partisan point. West Australia and British Columbia—
No, the hon. Member is wrong. It is being amended, net dropped. West Australia, British Columbia, Southern Rhodesia, almost every part of the British Empire, have already in certain circumstances adopted compulsory powers on the minority. Let, me come a little nearer home. In the part of the country that I come from, the farmers are not opposed to this Bill. The farmers have resolved, through their organisation, the National Farmers' Union, in favour of the essential principles of this Bill. The hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) said that agricultural opinion in Scotland was against the Bill.
Organised agricultural opinion. I have a letter from the secretary of the National Farmers' Union, dated the 14th November, 1930:
This union has approved of the principles of the above Bill, and the views of my committee on the various Clauses of the Bill"—
It is an essential of this Bill; and the attitude of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, so far as that attitude can be expressed by their executive, is in favour of the essential principles of this Bill, which include compulsion of the minority. I have their minutes in my hand, and by 27 votes to nine the executive of the National Farmers Union declared in favour of compulsion of minorities. It is idle for hon. Members opposite to pretend that all agricultural opinion is of their way of thinking. I admit that there are sections of agriculturists who are opposed to the principles, as they understand them, of this Bill, but they are a diminishing number and I hope that by the time this Bill gets through Committee and the various Clauses are more clearly understood there will be an overwhelming majority for giving the essential principles of this Bill a chance. We have had a trial. The farmers in my part of the country set up a big milk pool, and we got almost 80 per cent. of the farmers into it. A small, I do not use the word offensively, a small blackleg minority stayed outside. This small minority, without paying any of the expenses, without carrying any share of the surplus milk, without paying any of the losses, secured all the benefits of the higher stabilised prices under the milk pool.
Naturally, in the course of time, the members of the milk pool decided that it was not good enough. Large numbers of them asked why they should have to carry the surplus for the benefit of those who stayed outside the pool, and in November last some 500 resigned their membership in the pool; with this remarkable result, that when these 500 left the pool on the let November last the distributors immediately took one halfpenny per gallon from the farmers, which amounts per annum to £80,000. At one stroke this amount was taken from the receipts of the milk producers in the West of Scotland. If that £80,000 had been secured to the producers the milk pool would have been an efficient instrument to-day. As it is prices have collapsed, they have been hammered down; and as a result of this attack on the milk pool the blackleg minority who stayed out and the producers outside and inside the pool are in a very parlous condition indeed. Yes, and, as my right hon. Friend reminds me, the consumers have little or no benefit from it.
The Noble Lord who moved the Amendment stressed another objection to the Bill. Among other things, he said that the Bill was a monstrous injustice. But he never explained how it was a monstrous injustice. Is it a monstrous injustice to give £625,000 to the agricultural community to enable it to market its products efficiently, to organise itself better and to meet its competitors on better terms? The Noble Lord never explained how the handing over of that sum of public money to the agricultural community was or could be a monstrous injustice. If I were a betting man—I am not—I would say that he could not get one single Tory farmer in the West or South-west of Scotland who would say to-day that it was the wicked foreigner, or that it was the imports of milk, that had broken the milk pool. He could not get one. I see that another Noble Lord laughs. Can he get one?
Here is a problem to which I invite the Noble Lord's attention. We are importing at the present time 2,923,301 cwts. per annum of dried or condensed milk, most of it from Holland. The individual milk producer in this country is helpless. He cannot produce the dried milk; he cannot set up a factory; he cannot produce the dried milk or the condensed milk in large quantities to meet the demand. The chocolate manufacturers, large numbers of them, are making milk chocolate from imported dried milk because they cannot get the product in this country. They cannot get it in this country until our farmers co-operatively market their surplus, until they do as the foreigners have done, that is, spend money and organise in order to supply the home market with commodities that are now imported in such large quantities from abroad.
The Empire Marketing Board tell us that if we could only supply the home market with this dried milk and condensed milk—it cannot be done under individualism—there would be required immediately another 150,000 cows, and we would find employment for something like 4,000 men in the factories. Every cwt. of dried milk that is made means the consumption of 70 lbs. of coal, 52 lbs. of sugar, so much tinplate and so many boxes. My point is that here at our door is a great opportunity, which the individual farmer cannot touch, which small groups cannot touch, and which can only be dealt with nationally. This Bill does not compel the farmers to do anything they do not want to do. This Bill only assists voluntary co-operation by giving the overwhelming majority of the farmers the right to protect themselves against a blackleg minority. This Bill opens up opportunities for employment and prosperity in this country, which, in the agricultural industry, are unfortunately so obviously absent to-day.
Much the same may be said about potatoes. Some hon. Gentlemen profess to believe that the foreigner breaks the potato market, and that it is the importation of main crop potatoes that every other year breaks the price. That is not so. Taking the average of five years the imports of main crop potatoes are not half of 1 per cent. of the total. The price fluctuates between £1 per ton as it was three years ago and £5 per ton as it is to-day; it may again fall to £1 per ton. The fluctuations in the market and the breaking of the price in the British potato market are not due in the slightest degree to imports from abroad, so far as main crop potatoes are concerned. [HON. MEMBERS: "Earlies!"] I am not talking about earlies; I am talking about main crop potatoes. Successful attempts have been made to export potatoes in small quantities, and last year they were exported to Haifa, Colombo and Madras. These efforts were successful, but, simply because there was no organisation, no grading and no guarantee, it was impossible to continue and to develop that export trade.
I thought that was a Committee point. There are so many points that it is difficult to choose which to answer and which to leave unanswered.
I could answer that at some length, but I prefer, in the few minutes I have, to deal with other points. In one sentence I can say that, if the board makes no profit, it will not be taxed. We are getting away from the central argument put forward by the Opposition, which is that this Bill is useless unless at the same time imports are controlled. I believe that fear is groundless, and I say so for three reasons. First, there are many classes of products in regard to which the price is not at all affected by imports from abroad, such as milk, potatoes, hops. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hops are protected."] Yes, hops are protected to the extent of £4 per cwt., and as the Minister showed, despite that fact the price secured by the home grower is less than the tax. The second reason is that there are high class, high grade products—butter, bacon, and so on—to discriminate against which would be absolutely impossible apart from its unwisdom. Surely it would be the height of unwisdom to interfere with high-grade products coming into the market to compete with inefficient, ungraded products such as unfortunately we produce in so many of our agricultural districts to-day. Thirdly, I would point out that under Clause 3, paragraph (d), producers in this country have the advantage of regular dealing in bulk with the regular distributors in this country, and if those regular distributors were to set about breaking the home price at odd periods of the year, by imports, I should say that they would very soon find themselves in Queer-street with the marketing board.
Finally, may I say that if, after the home producer has organised his market and rid himself of unnecessary middlemen, if after he has graded the product he is producing for the British market efficiently, cheaply and well, and if he should still find, and if the board should still find, any case where they are being beaten and broken by producers selling at a lower price than the cost of production in the country of origin, then it would be open to Parliament fairly and reasonably to meet that situation. But to-day we are not asking that. The Opposition is asking that nothing should be done, meantime, to organise the British market, that nothing should be done to assist the British producer financially and in co-operation through boards to capture the British market and hold it against all comers. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Yes,
they say that nothing whatever should be done—those are the terms of the Amendment—unless at the same time steps are taken by tariffs or otherwise to raise fiscal issues upon which there can be no common agreement and as a result of which many of us believe the last state would be worse than the first.
|Division No. 135.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Foot, Isaac||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Freeman, Peter||Lees, J.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Gibbins, Joseph||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Arnott, John||Gibson, H. M (Lancs, Mossley)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Gill, T. H.||Longden, F.|
|Ayles, Walter||Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Glassey, A. E.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Gossling, A. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Barr, James||Gould, F.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Batey, Joseph||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Granville, E.||McElwee, A.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Gray, Milner||McEntee, V. L.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||McKinlay, A.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Benson, G.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||McShane, John James|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Mansfield, W.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Harris, Percy A.||Markham, S. F.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Marley, J.|
|Bromfield, William||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Marshall, Fred|
|Bromley, J.||Haycock, A. W.||Mathers, George|
|Brooke, W.||Hayday, Arthur||Matters, L. W.|
|Brothers, M.||Hayes, John Henry||Maxton, James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Melville, Sir James|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Messer, Fred|
|Buchanan, G.||Herriotts, J.||Millar, J. D.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Mills, J. E.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Hoffman, P. C.||Milner, Major J.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hopkin, Daniel||Montague, Frederick|
|Calne, Derwent Hall-||Horrabin, J. F.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Morley, Ralph|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Isaacs, George||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Chater, Daniel||Jenkins, Sir William||Mort, D. L.|
|Cluse, W. S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Muff, G.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Johnston, Thomas||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Murnin, Hugh|
|Compton, Joseph||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Daggar, George||Kelly, W. T.||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Dallas, George||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Palln, John Henry.|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Kinley, J.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, D.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Day, Harry||Knight, Holford||Perry, S. F.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lang. Gordon||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Duncan, Charles||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lathan, G.||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Lawrence, Susan||Potts, John S.|
|Egan, W. H.||Lawson, John James||Price, M. P.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Pybus, Percy John|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Leach, W.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Townend, A. E.|
|Raynes, W. R.||Simmons, C. J.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Richards, R.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Vaughan, David|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Viant, S. P.|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Walker, J.|
|Ritson, J.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Romeril, H. G.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Rothschild, J. de||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Rowson, Guy||Snell, Harry||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||West, F. R.|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Sorensen, R.||White, H. G.|
|Sanders, W. S.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Sandham, E.||Stephen, Campbell||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Scott, James||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wilton, J. (Oldham)|
|Scurr, John||Strauss, G. R.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Sexton, sir James||Sullivan, J.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Sutton, J. E.||Wise E. F.|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Shield, George William||Thorns, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. Parkinson and Mr. T.|
|Shinwell, E.||Toole, Joseph||Henderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colman, N. C. D.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Colville, Major D. J.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Albery, Irving James||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Gent'l)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cranborne, Viscount||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Ashley Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crookshank, Cpt.H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Atkinson, C.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Daikeith, Earl of||Lamb, Sir J. O.|
|Balfour, George (Hempstead)||Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Little, Sir Ernest Graham|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Dixey, A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handtw'th)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Long, Major Hon. Eric|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Lymington, Viscount|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Eden, Captain Anthony||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vensittart||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Margesson, Captain H. D.|
|Boyce, Leslie||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Marjorlbanks, Edward|
|Bracken, B.||Ferguson, Sir John||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Fermoy, Lord||Meller, R. J.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Flson, F. G. Clavering||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Ford, Sir P. J.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Mitchell-Thomas, Rt. Hon Sir W.|
|Brown, Brig-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)|
|Buchan, John||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. H. Hamilton||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Butler, R. A.||Gower, Sir Robert||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Grace, John||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||O'Connor, T. J.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Ormsby Gore. Rt. Hon. William|
|Cayzer, sir C. (Chester, City)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth,S.)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Penny, Sir George|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Barton||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hammersley, S. S.||Purbrick, R.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hanbury, C.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Remer, John R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Haslam, Henry C.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Stanley, Lord (Fyide)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ross, Major Ronald D.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Salmon, Major I.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Savery, S. S.||Thomson, Sir F.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Tinne, J. A.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Skelton, A. N.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)||Todd, Capt. A. J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Smithers, Waldron||Turton, Robert Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)||Commander Sir Bolton Eyres|
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert||Monsell and Major Sir George|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Warrender, Sir Victor||Hennessy.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.