I beg to move, din page 27, line 8, to leave out the word "fifteen," and to insert instead thereof the word "nineteen."
This is one of two Amendments which stand on the Paper in my name. It is intended to increase the number of the Wheat Commission, apart from the chairman and vice-chairman, from 15 to 19. My second Amendment, in line 13 to leave out the word "four" and to insert instead thereof the word "eight," is the substantial Amendment that I want to move. I have no desire to increase the number of the Wheat Commission from 19, because I think that a membership of 15 is better, but I feel very strongly that it is absolutely vital to the success of the Bill that the growers should have a greater representation on the Wheat Commission than is given them in the Bill. I would put my case before the Minister with all the force that I can command. In my opinion it would be a great misfortune to run the risk of jeopardising a Measure of which I have such intense approval. I believe that the Bill will encourage the wheat grower and will keep him in operation. Other branches of agriculture will benefit in two ways. The Bill will bring back a number of arable farmers who have gone into milk production. Further, by encouraging the growth of cereals I believe we shall see the farmyards stocked again with young cattle, and that there will be an increased market for young stock.
The reason why it is vital to the success of the Bill that the wheat growers should have greater representation on the Wheat Commission is this: The administration of the Bill depends, first, on the Minister for the time being, and, secondly, upon the Wheat Commission. The Flour Millers' Corporation, of which I shall have something to say later, is more or less independent. There are two reasons why it is essential that the growers should have greater representation. First, this is a Bill to benefit the growers and to benefit nobody else except, indirectly, the country at large. Secondly, it is out of the money provided by the growers that the expenses of running the Wheat Commission are to be found. The line taken by the Opposition during these discussions has been that of defending the public or the consumer but I submit that their arguments were entirely groundless once the Bill had received a Second Reading and approval had been given to its principle.
The principle of the Bill is to provide a fund—it is a subsidy and nothing else —for the encouragement of wheat-growing. That fund cannot exceed a certain limit. The quota is to be paid on 27,000,000 quarters. That is a maximum which the payers, whoever they may be, have to provide and nothing that the Wheat Commission can do can, in my view, except within very narrow limits, increase the charge to the consumer under this Bill. Under Clause 1 the sum to be received by the wheat grower is the deficiency payment, which is the difference, not between the selling price and the standard price, as has been made clear, but between the average price in the country and the standard price. That difference represents what the grower is to get; and that is the sum which is to be provided from outside by quota payments.
The standard price is fixed definitely by the Bill in Clause 2 (2) at 45s. a quarter or 10s. a cwt. Nothing can be done to alter that price. The average price is, under Clause 2 (1), to be fixed by the Minister "after consultation with the Wheat Commission." Consultation with the Wheat Commission can mean nothing except providing a means of easily seeing the results of market transactions and arriving at a figure, probably in the same way as a figure is arrived at in the fixing of tithes, although the period might not be the same. All that has to be done is to ascertain the average selling price of wheat at the various markets. That is purely an accountancy matter. Thus the amount of the deficiency payment will be arrived at, but it is subject—and this is a material point for the purpose of my argument—to deduction for administrative expenses. Now if I am right in my argument the only figure which is not constant in all this matter, the only variable figure, is the figure of administrative expenses. Those expenses I may point out include practically every expense involved in the working of the Bill. They are all set out in Clause 9 and at the end of Clause 9 we find this:
In calculating the amount of the deficiency payments to be made to registered growers, the Wheat Commission shall make from the price deficit by reference to which the payments are calculated such deduction as they may determine to be sufficient for securing that the administrative expenses of the Commission are borne by registered growers.
Clause 9 (3) sets out the expenses which are to be deemed to form part of the
administrative expenses of the Wheat Commission, and, as I say, these include practically every expense involved in the working of the Bill except one. I do not wish to exaggerate in any particular. They even include, though I think this comes under another Clause of the Bill, the expenses of the millers' association. All is to come out of the difference between these two sums, the average price and the standard price, representing the amount to be paid to the grower, and, as I have pointed out, the amount of these expenses is the only variable figure. There is only one item of expenses excluded as far as I can see and that is under the provision that if the millers default, and do not purchase during the year their full quality, under the Order made by the Minister, a separate account has to be made of the expenses and these will have to be paid by the millers themselves.
If it is desired to secure economical management and administration, is it not obvious that the persons most likely to ensure such administration are those to whom the saving will go? Yet under the arrangement now proposed in the Bill we are to have a committee of 17, including an independent chairman and vice-chairman, and the growers are only to have a representation of four out of the 15 other members. The millers, of all people in the world, are to have three; the importers of flour are to have one; the dealers in home-grown millable wheat are to have two, and the consumers are to have five. What interest have these others in careful and economical administration? That the millers and dealers have some interest one can see, but the Bill is designed for the benefit of the growers and the expenses of working the Bill are to come out of the growers' pockets and on that point alone they are entitled to have a larger number on this body.
The next point is the representation of the consumers on this committee. I do not know whether the Minister has come to any arrangement with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who has led the Opposition to this Bill, but the argument throughout these discussions has been that this fund is going to be found by the consumer and that we are going to cut down the fund to the very lowest point. But any money saved in administration does not go to the benefit of the consumer at all. Whatever happens, the difference between the selling price and the fixed price, which cannot be altered, has to be paid. There is one danger which I see in connection with the Bill and it explains why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol has been pressing the Minister so strongly to put in some definition of "millable wheat." I am sure that the Minister will not fall a victim to the plan of the Opposition, but it is evident that they are going to endeavour to get conditions put into the regulations framed by the Wheat Commission which they could not get put into the Measure itself.
They will try to get such conditions put in there, as will lessen the amount of millable wheat, and by so doing lessen the efficiency of the Bill for the purpose for which the House has designed the Bill, namely, to benefit the wheat grower. To that extent they might destroy what the Government and the House are seeking to pass to help the cereal grower. I ask the Minister to bear that point carefully in mind. To do what the Opposition are seeking to do would not benefit the consumer except indirectly. It would not put money into his pocket, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East. Bristol is much too clear-headed not to know why a definition cannot be given of "millable wheat." Everybody in the trade knows that wheat varies each year. In some seasons nearly all the wheat would be millable; in other seasons some of it might be spoiled by wet so that it would not be millable. If by reason of the numbers which they are getting in the formation of this Commission, they succeed in tying it up with conditions, they will try to kill, by a backstairs way, the efficiency and effectiveness of the Measure.
The other drawback to the effectiveness of this Measure which I see is this. It is handing the growers still more over to the millers. It is putting their necks under the yoke of the millers and yet the Minister is giving the millers a representation of three on this Commission. The House is probably not aware of the hold which the millers have got. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I agree with very much of what has been said by some hon. Members on this point, but I do not agree with them as to the remedy which they propose. As the Minister pointed out in his Second Reading speech, the millers are the people who supply the wheat offals which are one of the main feeding stuffs used by farmers from one end of the country to the other. They have a complete control of milling, which has been increased since the Import Duties Act came into force. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] But it has not been because of that Measure. Do not let hon. Members be under the delusion that it is due to that Measure, because it was happening before the Import Duties Act was thought of. They have, by the power of their organisation, kept up the price of wheat offals for years, by the export of wheat offals to our competitors in Denmark and other countries of Europe. If I sell a ton of wheat today and they get a ton of bran from that wheat, and I want to buy back that bran, I have to pay—7 a ton for it. I say, as a practical farmer, that this is a great blot on the Bill, in that you are giving the millers still further control by giving them representation on this Commission. I would like to have seen a prohibition against the export of wheat offals, except under licence, certainly as long as an import duty remains, and as long as this Measure continues, and I hope now that the Minister will bring up some Measure of that kind. He said on the Second Reading that he could not do it because it might transgress some of our treaties with foreign nations, but that he had got some honourable statement from the millers that they would not allow these exports. What is the good of that, when we have to-day the very fact to which I referred just now in the case of bran, and when I could give like instances of other wheat offals?
The case for giving more control of the Wheat Commission is unanswerable. The Wheat Commission, apart trom the Minister, who is always supreme, is the body that has to administer this Measure, which is passed for the benefit of the wheat growers and of all who are dependent on arable farming. It may be that some slight extra expense will have to be paid by the consumers of bread in this country, but I can assure the hon.
Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) that it will be infinitesimal. He and his people will not be hit, and if he will only consider the number of farm workers who will be set to work under this Measure and not sent into his poor, crowded district, I think he will see that it will be worth while. My purpose is to ask for some really serious answer to the indictment that I have made of this fault in the Bill, which, unless it is remedied, will go a very long way to making the Measure less effective than it ought to be.
I beg to second the Amendment.
There will be, under the Bill, a representation of four as against 17. In the Bill it says 15, but you have to add the chairman and the vice-chairman. It may be said that they are to be independent, but when I attempted to have that put into the Bill, I was not given that concession. Whether or not they are to be independent, they are certainly to have votes, and consequently it is a representation of four as against 17, not four as against 15. It is wrong to call these men representatives at all, if their number is so inadequate, because the only position which they can occupy will be that of observers, and their votes will not be worth anything in the disproportion under which the Bill leaves them. I do not know whether it is not a misnomer to refer to them at all as representatives.
The duties of the Wheat Commission, as those who have been here while the Bill has been under discussion will realise, are to be varied and very important. I know that it is anticipated that the expenses will not be very heavy, but that is anticipation, and we never know what realisation may be. There is no inducement whatever on the part of the others, that is to say, the 13 as against the four, to keep down these expenses or to have any control over them, because they are not the people who will pay. It is contended by hon. Members opposite that the consumer will pay, but without going so far back as that—because you might apply that generally to most things—I would say that primarily the expenses are coming out of what is supposed to be given to the agriculturists, namely, the 45s.; any expenses must come out of that which, in name only, has been given to the pro- ducers. Consequently, I think the producers are entitled to very much more representation on this Commission.
The Bill really pays a very high compliment to the wheat growers of this country, because it assumes that one wheat grower is equal to four or four and a half other members of the Commission. It may be a compliment, but it does not give much satisfaction to the wheat growers. They are said to be representatives, but even wheat growing and the methods of sale in this country vary very much in the different parts of the country, and if you have only four representatives, those men will hardly have the opportunity of representing adequately and with full knowledge the varied conditions all over the country. Consequently, on that ground also, which is a new point, I urge that four is an inadequate number to represent the agriculturists as they should be represented.
I do not want to delay the Bill, but let me compliment the Minister on the way in which he has carried the Bill through, from his point of view. I am afraid that I cannot compliment him on his generosity—I know that he will not misunderstand what I say—with regard to the Amendments which we have put forward. I can assure him that they have been put forward, in very good faith and with absolute sincerity, to improve the Bill and to assist, as far as possible, those whose interests are affected under the Bill. Might I suggest to him, now that we have come to what is practically the last Amendment, that this is a grand opportunity for him to make a very graceful ending to this Bill, by accepting the Amendment? If he looks at it in that way, plus, and very much plus, the points which have been put forward as to the justice of the case and the right of the wheat grower to a better representation, I trust he will give us this Amendment.
I desire to support the Amendment as strongly as I can. When we speak of representation and consider the numbers who ought to represent certain interests, it is essential to consider how many persons those representatives represent. If we were legislating, say, 300 years ago, when every manor had its own mill and when in every parish there was possibly, on an average, more than one mill grinding flour, driven by wind or by water, the growers of wheat would have been somewhat more evenly proportionate in numbers with the millers than they are now. The whole tendency of modern industry in the milling trade has been to concentrate the milling into fewer and fewer hands.
May I suggest that the tendency in recent years has been to concentrate milling operations into fewer companies and into a limited number of areas, but that the actual number of persons interested through their shareholdings has increased?
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for his interruption, but I was not speaking of the shareholders at all. I was speaking of the millers, who are the people with whom this Bill deals, and I say that the whole tendency is to have fewer and fewer millers. Indeed, it is quite possible that if you have three representatives of the millers, you may very soon have a state of affairs in which practically every miller will be entitled to be a representative, that is to say, when every group or combine will be entitled to its own representative. But what about the growers? They are not a diminishing number, and this Bill is likely rather to increase their number than otherwise. They are a very large body of people. I do not know what their number is. I have asked my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson), who generally knows all these statistics, and he did not know, but I should not be very far wrong, probably, in saying that it is certainly far over tens of thousands and may be bordering upon a hundred thousand persons, to whom you give four representatives.
When you are considering representation on a commission such as this, you are entitled to see what will be the cleavage on the average question that comes before it for settlement, and you will find inevitably that those in category A, the four representatives that the Bill gives to the growers of homegrown millable wheat, will on almost every conceivable question that comes before the Commission have interests that are opposed to those of the remainder, and that the remainder will naturally be voting more or less in a block. It is true that the two representatives of the dealers in home-grown wheat may be regarded as neutral, but the interests of all the other categories—the millers, the importers of flour, and the consumers of flour—are not to limit the expenses, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) pointed out. Their interests on almost every question are almost identical, and they will be opposed to the interests of the growers.
Therefore, we are right in saying, as the mover and seconder of the Amendment have both shown, that in having a representation of four persons only to represent the people primarily concerned, the enormous number of growers of wheat in England, Scotland, and Wales, you are really having a representation, as opposed to this huge majority against them, which is nugatory and almost derisive. If you are to have anything in the nature of justice and have these questions properly discussed, the different areas which grow wheat properly represented, and the voting power sufficient to ensure that the representatives' views, when they are put forward, shall have due weight with the Commission, you must have more than four representatives. We know in this House how much more importance the Government attach to views that are supported by a strong body of Members who are prepared to vote for them, then to views put forward by a weak body of Members, who perhaps would not think it worth while going to a division. It will be so even on the Wheat Commission.
On those grounds, I think that there is really no answer to this Amendment. Obviously if you mean, as you say you do, to benefit wheat growing in this country and the growers of wheat, you must give adequate representation to those growers. There is not adequate representation in the Bill as it is, and the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead did very modestly in wanting to increase the number from 15 to 19 and increasing the number of growers to eight. He did not ask for the growers to have a majority, and with the numbers which he proposed they would still be under half, and the consumers and millers and the other interests would have a majority. I sincerely hope that the Minister will adopt the kindly and friendly suggestion made by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) and make a graceful ending to the Report stage of the Bill by accepting the Amendment, which I regard as of the greatest importance.
The hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) seems to hint that I have made some commitments with the hon. and learned Gentleman representing the Opposition. I should not desire in any way to rule out the very friendly negotiations and interchange of views which occurred between myself and the hon. and learned Member and the Opposition generally, but that I have made a definite arrangement on this matter is certainly not the case. I am, of course, very anxious that in the actual machinery of this Bill we should arrive at a scheme which will adequately meet the circumstances for which it is framed, but I am bound to say that I regret what I take to be the view of the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead that in this case those who represent the growers will have views and interests violently opposed to those of other representatives on the Wheat Commission. I am loth to believe that the interests of the growers are divergent from those of the local corn merchant, whose very existence depends upon the maintenance of arable cultivation and the opportunity for the purchase and sale of its products; nor am I of opinion that the interests of title local country miller are antagonistic to the interests of the local growers. The opposite is the case, and those who try to define contrary interests are, I am sure, making a grave mistake.
It is true that there may be anxiety in certain quarters on the question of expense. Let me remind the House that in the first place the Wheat Commission will be bound to submit the estimates of their expenditure to the Minister. The chief expenditure which may fall upon the money raised for the wheat quota will not be in the main under the operation of the Wheat Commission, but any increased or excessive expenditure will arise if there is lack of co-operation and the necessity for setting up machinery in the local districts. Just in so far as the growers and the representatives of the growers in the various districts, whether it be in the Eastern counties or in Scotland or elsewhere, co-operate and make the working of this Measure settled and easy, and avoid the necessity of sending down inspectors and bring the local committees to act in close co-operation with the buyers and millers in the district—in so far as they co-operate in this way, the expense will be lessened. The matter is in their own hands, and I deprecate the theory that it is essential that there should be a fifty-fifty representation of any- one interest on the Wheat Commission. I do not think that that is how this thing is going to work. Parliament may pass Measures, but it remains for them to be worked when they come down into the countryside. The practical working of this Measure will depend less upon what this House has done and upon what the Minister of the day may do than upon the good will and co-operation of the various classes who are working the scheme.
Reference has been made to the export of offals. It has been found that by certain treaties which exist we are unable to include in the Bill terms which will definitely prohibit the exportation of offals. On the other hand, I have got what is generally termed a gentleman's agreement, given with great freedom, and I believe with entire honesty. I want to make this perfectly clear, and I deprecate any view expressed in the House that it was not given as many other agreements have been given by a great variety of interests from time to time to other Governments. On behalf of the association of the interests concerned, which is a very capable body, a definite undertaking has been given that, in so far as there is a duty on imported flour, they will undertake to see that this export of offals is only done under the most careful licence. There is some exaggeration in the amount of offals which is sent abroad; it is not so large as some people imagine. Let me point out to the farming community that here again it lies in their hands by good organisation and by pre-arranged bargains with this body to get 'the fullest advantage of the offals in this country. I am anxious to respond to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) very kindly said about myself, but, having looked again at this matter with the greatest care, I think that it would be unfitting to make any alteration, and I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 27, line 13, at the end, to insert the words:
one of whom shall represent growers of wheat in Scotland.
Like the previous Amendment, this deals with the question of the representation of growers of wheat on the Wheat Commission, but refers particularly to Scotland. At first sight the Amendment may seem a little paradoxical, for it has been alleged that there is little or no interest in this Bill in Scotland. That is a statement which will not bear strict investigation; in fact, it will not bear investigation at all. It is true that a large percentage of farmers in Scotland are entirely engrossed with the animal production side of agriculture, but they are keenly alive to the necessity of this Measure and welcome it as a first step to an all-round comprehensive programme. Only on Saturday at a grass-let, where, incidentally, we had a disastrous fall in prices, a typical southern Scottish farmer spoke to me in the most approving terms of this Measure. What is true of the individual is true of the agricultural community in Scotland as a whole.
Another reason why this Amendment may seem rather far-fetched is that the wheat output in Scotland has hitherto been very small—only 2 per cent. of the total agricultural output. When one reflects, however, that the wheat output in England is only 4 per cent. of the total agricultural output, perhaps our Amendment, having regard to a much smaller output, might not seem so very much out of place. Further, as the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) said, this Bill is designed to increase wheat production on the right lines. It guards against unsuitable land being taken into use for its production. Nevertheless, in Scotland I think that we are certain to get increased wheat production on an intensive system.
I am not enamoured of the proposals which were put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) about 20 years ago with regard to the development of agricultural land in Scotland. I have in mind, however, an experiment which was carried out a couple of years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) in the Division represented by the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone). He tried an experiment in wheat growing on the Cambridge system. At Cambridge a short time ago they invented a Yeoman wheat which raised the yield per acre from an average of 30 bushels to P2 bushels. The experiment resulted in a yield of over 2,000-fold, with the wheat seeds sown six inches apart, as they do at Cambridge; and the wheat grew over five feet in height. That experiment was carried out in Central Scotland on land which was not perhaps specially suitable for the purpose, but it is an indication of what may be done with a little application. I intend within the next few weeks to carry out a similar experiment in the old province of Galloway, where we have many different specimens of the cool moist atmosphere about which we have heard so much. I very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who is such a thorough and typical Scot, and knows the whole agricultural industry from beginning to end, will consider this proposal favourably, and if he cannot go all the way I hope he will do as much for us as he possibly can. Within the last few years there has been a remarkable revival of the national spirit in Scotland. For far too long that spirit has been obscured by the false value which has been put upon everything English. That spirit must be fostered and developed upon the right lines, and I want to see Scottish national sentiment, which is buttressing and strengthening the unity of the great co-partnership of Britain, taking its rightful place in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I beg to second the Amendment.
It only requires a sentence or two from me to support the spirited speech of my hon. Friend. We do not think for one moment that the Minister of Agriculture forgets Scotland, but this is a most generous House, and, being so generously disposed himself, there is a danger that,.as England is so much concerned with this Wheat Bill, he may want to be over-generous to England. I think it was in the Marlborough wars that a Scottish regiment met a French regiment, and the generosity of the French colonel made him say: "Gentlemen of the Fife Light Horse, fire first!" It may be that my right hon. Friend will think he ought to give the whole of the three commissionerships to England. All we suggest is that we want one for Scotland, and we think we can put in a word now at the right time to say that Scotland would like one, and that we hope he will give us one.
We have no desire to press this Amendment to a Division providing the right hon. Gentleman will give us the assurance that he will give the special problems affecting the grower of wheat in Scotland due consideration and sympathy. In view of the fact that on an average only some 60,000 acres of wheat are grown in Scotland we fully realise that we can hardly expect a commissioner all to ourselves. At the same time the problems affecting wheat growing in Scotland are in many respects so different from those in England that it is only fair that some special consideration should be given to them. It may surprise some English Members to learn that wheat in Scotland is more productive than in England. The average yield is some 25 per cent. higher than it is in England, and, moreover, the wheat is of excellent quality. As in England there has been a certain decline in the acreage under wheat in the past few years, but I believe that decline will be checked this year. In my own county there was a decrease of several hundred acres from 1930 to 1931, but I know that many farmers, in the expectation of getting the wheat quota payments, have sown more wheat this year, and I should not be surprised if we again attain to the figure of 7,000 acres which gave my county third place in the wheat-growing areas of Scotland in the last few years.
In 1930, the last year for which I have complete figures, Angus headed the list of counties with 12,000 acres, Fife came second and Perthshire third. Those three counties accounted for more than half the wheat grown in Scotland. There is a very large area of Scotland which is quite suitable for wheat growing, though, admittedly, a much larger area is not suitable, but if we get due consideration given to our special problems I have no doubt there will be an enormous increase in the area in Scotland under wheat, and that will undoubtedly be of the greatest benefit to Scottish agriculture generally. I can fully support my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) when he says that this Measure is welcomed by Scottish agriculturists, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will at least give us his sympathy in the proposal we bring forward.
Earl of DALKEITH:
I rise to support the Amendment. For most agricultural purposes both countries are treated as one, but though this Bill is largely put forward in the interests of England it is desirable that there should be a representative who understands the special features and circumstances of wheat farming in Scotland and the North-East of England. I give due weight to what the Minister says in reply to the last Amendment, but at present we have no indication that there will be a representative who has knowledge of our conditions. Although the total area in Scotland is small there are always likely to be a number of differences. I hope the Minister will make it clear before the Bill is passed that there will be such machinery as will make sure that every point in connection with this type of farming in the north will receive full consideration.
I can at once assure my hon. Friends from Scotland that I am fully alive to the point which they have put, and that I shall meet it not only with sympathy but, as I hope to show them in a moment, in a practical way. The Bill designedly refrains from attempting to give specific geographical representation for any of the interests concerned, but I can assure my hon. Friends that it is my intention to consult with the Secretary of State for Scotland, to consult with the Home Secretary with regard to Ireland and to consult with the President of the Board of Trade with regard to the consumers, in order that there may be an adequate and proper representation of all the districts concerned. Indeed, I am quite satisfied that I can give an assurance that there will be a representative of Scotland appointed to the board.
Passing as we do from the detailed discussion of the Bill, while its provisions are still fresh in the minds of all hon. Members, to the Third Reading, I feel that the observations I have to put before the House can be very short, but however brief they may be it would be most remiss of me not to acknowledge at once the very friendly and helpful spirit in which this Bill has been dealt with in all parts of the House during the Committee and the Report stages. I believe it may well be a matter of satisfaction to the whole House that a Measure of such importance has passed through the detailed stages of its career without either a Guillotine Resolution or the use of the Closure on any particular Amendment. I have always thought it very impertinent to congratulate those whose Parliamentary experience is greater than one's own, and patronising to do it to anyone whose Parliamentary experience is less than one's own, but of a contemporary one may perhaps be allowed to speak and I would very much like to be allowed to offer my cordial congratulations to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for the energy, point and temperance with which he has taken part in our discussions, and, if I may say so, most usefully taken part. He has shown himself to be a great reinforcement to the Opposition Front Bench.
Turning to the Bill, I would ask, what is the cause and what the need for this Measure. The decline in the area under wheat in this country since the War, to go no further back, has been absolutely appalling and catastrophic, and it is common knowledge that those acres which are still under wheat yield, too often, only a loss. I do not propose to weary the House with any figures except those which I am now going to give, but I think it is well that we should keep these figures, at all events, in our minds. In the year 1913 there were 1,750,000 acres in the United Kingdom under wheat. In 1921, for reasons connected with the War, that area had risen to just over 2,000,006 acres. Let the House mark what followed. In 1927 the area was still 1,700,000 acres, but three years later it had fallen to 1,400,000 acres, a loss of more than 300,000 acres in three years, and in one single year—from 1930 to 1931—it had fallen from 1,100,000 acres to 1,240,000 acres, a drop of 153,000 acres in one 12 months. How long is that decline to continue, and when will it be brought to an end? That is a question which interests not one side of the House, but every side of the House, because I do not believe there is any Member, urban or rural, who desires to face up to the possibility of the cultivation of wheat disappearing entirely in this country. The question when that decline ought to be brought to an end has been answered by the National Government saying that the time is now, and this Bill has been introduced.
Next comes the question of how the decline is to be arrested. In that connection one has to remember that checking the decline and giving some security to those who are still cultivating wheat does not mean encouraging an indefinite and indiscriminate extension of the acreage under wheat. I suggest that one of the most interesting and one of the most valuable aspects of this Bill is that, whereas it gives a reasonable security to those who are still cultivating wheat, and a real hope that the acreage will be increased, it yet makes it practically impossible that that acreage will be increased to an indefinite or undesirable extent or increased in an indiscriminate way. This Bill accomplishes that object by the simple method of deficiency payments upon the ascertained supply in relation to the limit of 6,000,000 quarters, and when the quantity of millable wheat exceeds 6,000,000 quarters, then the amount of the deficiency payments decreases. By that arrangement we have a check against over-production. The deficiency payment is a flat rate paid to the registered grower, and it is a higher rate than he can get in the open market. Therefore, the higher the price he can get in the open market the higher will be his remuneration. In that way the Bill produces a strong tendency and stimulus in favour of efficient and more careful cultivation, because no wheat grower can rely upon the deficiency payments unless he succeeds, and to do that he must do his best.
The main feature of this Bill is the accuracy and skill with which it deals with the British situation, and it is very important that wheat-growing in this country should not be developed on too enormous a scale. There is not in this country an agriculturist who desires that wheat-growing should be stimulated to such an extent that it would occupy an undue proportion of the agricultural activities of British agriculturists. I believe that the actual practical problem has been faced in the most skilful and resourceful way by the provisions of this Bill, although I admit that some of the actual language of the Bill itself puts forward those propositions in words which are necessarily complicated. It is well known that when you have to deal with arithmetical and proportional questions you cannot explain them clearly by a simple diagram.
I do not suppose that there is any subject in which instructed agricultural opinion is inure at one than upon the necessity of there being efficient combination and organisation among the producers of agricultural produce. I suggest to the House that one of the valuable features of this Bill is that it will tend to develop and organise combination among the wheat growers, because they will have to be registered. The farmers will come under the aegis of a central body, and for the first time we shall leave behind that extreme individual activity which has characterised a great many farmers. The farmers will come under the aegis of a simple organisation which will be definitely beneficial to him. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is Socialism!"] The adjective which I used was "beneficial." That is the way in which combination and organisation may be developed among agriculturists by this Bill.
There is another feature to which I will allude. It is admitted, and we are all glad to know it, that farming opinion is looking with more and more approval to the development, of combination and organisation. It is well known that there is hardly any great industry in which combination and organisation have been suggested where you have not found one or two producers refusing to come in, and who say, "That system will not suit me." That is not true in this case, because the moment the 6,000,000 quarters are exceeded the registered growers suffer by the diminution of the deficiency payments. My own personal view is that there will be a tendency for all registered growers to come to see that the production of wheat is conducted in an orderly and well organised way. I represented in three Parliaments an agricultural constituency in which potatoes are the most important crop and observed again and again that when there had been a year with a good price for potatoes the acreage under potatoes increased next year by leaps and bounds, with the inevitable result that a slump price followed. If that practice is attempted in regard to millable wheat, the growers will suffer, and that prospect will make them come together and agree to produce by an organised method that quantity of millable wheat which will receive deficiency payments. For those reasons, I think the provisions of this Bill will be beneficial to the agricultural community, and I am sure all instructed agricultural opinion is at one in regard to the desire for improved combination and organisation.
Another point on which agriculturists are agreed is that the greatest scope for agriculture is in the direction of the development of live stock, beef, mutton, milk as well as poultry, vegetables, fruit and flowers. The view has been expressed that the increased cultivation of wheat will act as a check upon other kinds of cultivation, but I do not think that is true. There is not one of those forms of agricultural produce which I have just mentioned in which you can say that there is a sound and a secure market. It is true that my right hon. Friend's agricultural policy has undertaken to deal with the development of those products, but if you look through the list you cannot say that there is one of those things which can be called a secure form of profit to the agriculturist. It is vital that we should give to the British farmer some solid, firm platform in the middle of what may be described as a quaking bog of loss and uncertainty.
The Bill has been described as a sort of lifebuoy, but a solid platform is, perhaps, a better description, because what you can do with a lifebuoy is to hold on to it till a boat comes, but if you stand on a solid platform you can remain there till it is safe to take a step forward. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Into the bog!"] Till it is safe. Even a bog dries up. The question has been asked, why should you give this security to the farmer only in the shape of a wheat subsidy? I think the answer to that is very clear. There is a widespread feeling among farmers that wheat is the proper and the real foundation of British agriculture. If you are going to select one patch of firm ground in the middle of the quaking bog, the proper patch to select is wheat, and I do not think that the selection of wheat is going to stop the progressive movement of British farming. There is one other reason why wheat should be selected for this firm platform. The cultivation of wheat gives far and away the largest amount of employment. As I stated at the outset of my remarks, hon. Members know that one of the most serious elements in the great decline of our wheat acreage is the enormous amount of rural unemployment which was produced by it. Therefore, I think it is only fair to say that if you believe that the general situation of agriculture is such that you must without delay give some firm platform somewhere, I think there will be general agreement that the cultivation of wheat is the thing to select.
It may be said that what we are doing is a mistake, because the real future of increased wheat production lies in the adoption of mechanisation. The word "mechanisation" has been used a great deal in these Debates. On this matter I win speaking for myself, although I do not know that any of my colleagues hold a different view. I should view the widespread growth of mechanisation in agriculture with very great alarm. It is well known that one of the great aims of European agriculture is to employ a substantial proportion of the people of the country. In that way you establish a real balance between town and country. In this way the urban districts provide a large home market for the interchange of agricultural products, and it is well known that you cannot carry on a large interchange of goods except through human beings. If you mechanise your agriculture too extensively, you will lose the most valuable element in the home market. I will not expand that argument further, but it is no answer to the proposals of the Government to say that they ought to have proceeding along the line of immediate mechanisation. That would have produced' further unemployment, and, instead of giving a substantial platform to the British farmer, would have asked him to indulge in yet another experiment; and there have been too many experts telling the farmer that he ought to be doing something else in another way. It seems to me that these are sound and practical reasons why the House should support the Third Reading of this Bill. I venture to give one more, which may seem to the House to be less practical and more far-fetched, but which, in my judgment, is not so. I am sure it is true of the people of this country that you cannot get them to look forward to the future unless you show that you appreciate the importance of the past, and I believe that the application of that platitude to the agricultural situation is that you will only get your British agriculturist in the most receptive frame of mind if you make him feel that you appreciate all that wheat means to him in affection, in tradition, and in history.
It is impossible to go through rural England without feeling how much the tradition and psychology of British agriculture, and all that it means for the man as a human being, depends upon wheat. I do not suppose that there is a village in England which has not an inn called "The Wheatsheaf," at any rate, in any of the districts where wheat has ever been cultivated. I believe that you will accelerate the interest of the farmer in your line of thought if you make him appreciate that you understand the importance which he attaches to wheat, because, in my judgment, you cannot get new ideas into the minds of men unless you have made their minds receptive; and, in particular, you can only lead the people of this country—you cannot drive them. It is on lines such as these, without going into the more complex details of the Bill, which have been thoroughly thrashed out and with which I believe all hon. Members are now familiar, that I commend this Bill to the House. I believe that the House, when the Measure is in operation, will have brought to the agricultural community security, encouragement, and that courage which alone enables people to take on new ideas and push into new paths.
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has made a very interesting speech. I was particularly interested in his remarks at the end, though I must say I thought he was getting on to extremely dangerous ground. He suggested that we should remember the past before we thought of the future. I am afraid that that is exactly what people do. We have been suggesting to the House that the agricultural labourer should be remembered in this Bill, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the memory of what conditions were like in the country when there was Protection for wheat-growing before, is very clear. He also raised the question of rents, and the facts with regard to rents in the days of the Corn Laws are also very well known. Therefore, he was perhaps getting on rather dangerous ground when he suggested that we should have an historical sense in these matters.
A great deal of what the hon. Gentleman said with regard to this Bill, and the conditions under which it was introduced, appeals to us on this side. We entirely agree that there is a case for assistance, and we entered upon the discussion of this Bill, not in an attitude of point-blank hostility, but with the idea of seeing how far the Bill could really be made a decent and workable instrument to take its place in the reconstruction of this country. I say "a decent and workable instrument," but that is pretty difficult in the case of this Bill, because everyone will agree that it is not exactly a lucid Measure. It has been explained to us many times. It has been explained by the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Colonel Ruggles-Brise), by the Minister of Agriculture, by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and by the First Commissioner of Works, and, on an Amendment just recently, it has
been explained all over again by the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley). Of course, none of them agree. Some were more lucid than others. I think that perhaps the First Commissioner of Works made the best effort. He said:
We do know that a sum of money will be collected on every sack of flour, whether it is milled in this country or whether imported. It may go into bread or biscuits or anything else, but that sum of money on that flour will be paid to the Wheat Commission and be called the quota payment, and the Wheat Commission, at the end of each cereal year, will pay to the farmer for each quarter of wheat a payment to be called the deficiency payment. That is the whole Bill. There is a lot of legal verbiage, but that is the effect of the whole Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 2nd March, 1932; col. 1234, Vol. 262.]
Looking at this Bill, and wondering what its real purpose was, I came to the conclusion in the course of these discussions that it was all an elaborate farce arranged for the special benefit of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He is a man with a past, and a loud-speaking past, as we found on a previous Protective Measure. The Government had to face the position; they were a National Government, and contained several sections. There was the Conservative section, which was almost entirely all right on this Bill. There was the ex-Labour section, and they are always right—they take whatever is given them and make no complaints. There was the Simonite section, who were all right except for one Member; and there was the Samuelite section, some of whom kept away, while others voted steadily against the Government; but it did not seem to matter much what they did.
The Secretary of State for Scotland had to be appeased, however, because he had said definitely that he would not tax wheat—that ho would not tax the people's food. A path had to be staged' for him, and the Minister of Agriculture, who felt a natural sympathy with a fellow Scot who had succeeded him in his previous office, realised that there was this chance of introducing something called the quota. I do not think he ever understood why it was called a quota. That term was popularised to a certain extent by the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon, and it was discussed to a large extent by Dr. Addison and others. It was brought forward as a sop to appease the conscience of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and it worked admirably. The Secretary of State for Scotland did not sit aloof, but made a speech which was one of the key speeches on this Bill. It comforted Liberals throughout the country, who believed that this was only a temporary Measure, and we are still left officially in doubt as to whether it is temporary or permanent. I have seen other Liberal Ministers flitting about the House to-day; I do not know whether they are coming down to give us their view. We have only had one chance of hearing it—a special temporary one—and I have been hoping that perhaps the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Education would give us their views on the Measure. I am afraid it has really been an elaborate farce. The First Commissioner of Works described it simply as a means of extracting certain sums of money from certain sections of the people of this country and for giving profits to certain other sections, all the rest being, as he said, legal verbiage.
I approached the consideration of this Bill with considerable experience of examining quota schemes. [Interruptions.] I have never professed to be a hide-bound Free Trader. I know that I am frequently found in the same Lobby with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), but I always have to assure him that my views are entirely different from his. I have no a priori objection to dealing with the economic activities of this country from the point of view of control, and, if I think that there are special advantages for a special section, I have no fear that I am sinning against the Holy Ghost or anything like that. The particular point of the quota was that it afforded a means of getting a certain control over agriculture at a particular stage, namely, the milling stage. The whole point of the quota, as against anything in the tariff line, was that this matter could be dealt with by the quota as a temporary means of assistance, and linked up with reorganisation. That has all gone by the board in the particular form of quota adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. He has kept the word, but has thrown away the substance.
From our point of view this is a bad Bill, but there are certain valuable points in it. There is the point of a fixed price, and there is the point of a regulated out- put. Neither of these two points fits in with the ordinary conception of economics which obtained in this country, in capitalist circles at any rate, prior to the War. Any idea of having a fixed price and a regulated output, and any attempt to organise this country on a definite plan, was strongly objected to by the old types of Liberals and Conservatives, some of whom are still on the Floor of this House. When this Bill was introduced by a sound Conservative like the Minister of Agriculture, it went through with very little complaint from the old-fashioned Conservatives like the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead, who do not think there should be any interference in industry. If Dr. Addison had introduced this Bill, the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead, who is typical of the past, would have been on his feet denouncing the Minister for his interference. He would have been outraged that such a Bill should have been produced. But now he comes and gives it his blessing, and says that it is an admirable Bill. It has been sweetened with a very considerable dole, and the gift of that dole has made the hon. and learned Member accept quite a lot of provisions which in other circumstances he would have de nounced as rank Socialism, as something that was sapping the morality and strength of this country.
I hoped that when this Bill was introduced we should see in it a recognition of important points such as a fixed price and regulated output—that the right hon. Gentleman would recognise that the value of a quota scheme lay in its forming part of a well regulated and well thought-out scheme of national reconstruction—and a deliberate recognition by the Government of their duty to control the flow of capital and labour so that we could produce the things that we wanted to produce according to a national scheme.
But that has very largely passed away. Now we have merely a dole to certain industries, divorced altogether from control or from any idea of reconstruction. We have the idea in the Bill of a fixed price and of providing a market for a certain commodity. There is nothing new about it. The right hon. Gentleman need not be afraid that he is introducing some new policy. It is a good old -mediaeval policy, this idea of getting a fixed market for the consumption of your staple goods. The right hon. Gentleman is in direct succession to those who devised a scheme by which all those who died were to be buried in woollen shrouds. That was to support the wool trade. I do not say that, from the point of view of national economics, it is a bad scheme at all. Some of my friends might be glad if the woolsack were today a sack of coals, as representing the care of the country to see that there was a market for coal and fair wages for the coal producer. I could quite understand that being worked out as part of an organised scheme. Again, I could understand this as an attempt to deal with a depressed area. I believe it has been a great fault of governments of recent years that they have failed to deal with the problem of depressed areas except in a generalised way which usually represents an entire waste of money and effort. An obvious example was the Derating Bill, which was sprinkled too widely to be of any effect. I agree that a depressed area like the Eastern Counties should be dealt with specially, just as a Welsh valley or any other depressed area, but have the Government any clear conception how they are going to deal with other industries, because my complaint is that this proposal is thrown to us, not as part of a well-thought-out policy, but as just a means of tiding over one particular industry? It is just a bone thrown to one of the many hungry dogs who have come and asked for it.
From the point of view of dealing with agriculture, the complaint is made, quite rightly, that you are not dealing with the whole question. An hon. Member below the Gangway who objected to an Amendment that we had down to make a sliding scale of prices, because we agreed with the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that there should be a changeover towards animal husbandry, said, "You cannot do it. You have not put down Amendments to stimulate animal husbandry." We had to point out that we should have been ruled out if we had attempted it. But we do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's plans are, or whether he really has any plans for dealing with the position in the Eastern counties other than by this vague dole, because it is not going to deal with the specific case of those counties that depend specially on wheat growing. Wherever wheat is grown, there is going to be the subsidy. It is all very well for the Under-Secretary to say that there is not going to be any unwise increase. Be had forgotten that the farmers of Scotland, who are never at a loss when there is something to be got, have already announced that they are out to put as much as they can under wheat, because they see there is a good thing in this, and even in England, where, of course, we are slower, there are people who are already preparing to increase their cultivation of wheat. There is plenty of evidence of it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member who cheers is at variance with the official view that there will not be an increase at all, or that there will not be a large increase, or that there is really any effective means of preventing a large increase. The right hon. Gentleman thinks he is going to do it by this provision of a fixed output and, beyond that, a descending scale of bonus. But it is not applied to the individual. It is the whole class that will suffer if there is over-production and, as they are all scrambling for advantage, I think you will get this increase. It has become abundantly plain, as the Debate has proceeded, that the Minister does not intend to take effective steps to follow up this gift by any conditions or by any action.
I notice that lip service has been paid to organised marketing by the First Commissioner of Works and the Under-Secretary for Scotland, but they have carefully kept any organised marketing out of the Bill except as a good intention. We get from the right hon. Gentleman good intentions now and again. There is a hope that there may be organised markets. The right hon. Gentleman, with his great trust in human nature, always believes these people are going to do the right thing. That is what we are led up to in every case. As we go through the Bill, if there is any omission or any failure to put in a provision, we have to fall back on the right hon. Gentleman's abundant faith in human nature. If it is the millers, they get a first-class character. They are all right. If it is a question of the landlords, the landlord is to have his whack. There is a gentleman's agreement. Of course, the landlord's first thought is for the farmer. When the agricultural labourer comes up, the farmer's first thought is always for him. The right hon. Gentleman lives in a kind of heaven in which everyone is always doing the right thing all through, and they are bound together by ties of gentlemen's agreements. Any attempt on our part to try to tie these beautiful dreams in the bonds of matrimony is at once met with rejection. You must not try to put in that as a condition of the receipt of this money fair wages are paid, for that would be an insult to the farmer, whose heart is always bleeding for the agricultural labourer. You must not suggest that there shall be any control over rents. That is an insult to the landlords, who have advanced so much to agriculture already, and are also entitled to have their whack. You must not suggest that there should be any control over the Millers' Corporation. The millers are honourable men. You must not have any check on the dealers. The only person they come down on hard is that dangerous fellow the importer, who is going to get it in the neck with a fine of£100.
Coming to details, we find that there is a very great lack of definition. The Minister of Agriculture has a hard task. He is the Old Moore of this piece. He has to do the guessing, because the whole of this system depends on the accuracy or inaccuracy with which he makes a number of guesses, combines them with certain figures, works out the mathematics and obtains a result. One of these was the question of millable wheat. The standard of millable wheat is so well known, and is in such constant use every day, that the right hon. Gentleman is undecided, without further talks with experts, as to what it is. A further point is the finance of the Bill. It appeared gradually in the course of the discussions that British-grown wheat is hardly used at all for bread, and it is difficult to make out a logical case for imposing this tax on the consumers of bread. I do not know whether the Secretary of State for Scotland has thought yet of what he is going to do for Scotland. The Government are showing great generosity, because they are producing a Bill which is entirely for the advantage of Englishmen and some Welshmen, and perhaps a few Northern Irishmen, but few Scotsmen. Whenever I have talked to Scotsmen on the subject of wheat, they have said that something must be done for oats. I do not know whether some scheme is coming forward to deal with oats, and whether, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to provide a subsidy for the growers of oats, he is going to make the consumers of oatmeal pay for it. I do not know whether that will be liked very much in Scotland.
There is no real reason why the people who consume imported wheat and bread should pay this subsidy any more than any other set of consumers. Are we going to have a quota sooner or later in favour of British ginger wine or raspberry wine by having payment made by people who drink champagne, or port or sherry? That would be a good way of stimulating another rural industry. Once we have got rid of the original idea of the quota, when it is reduced as it is to a certain subsidy, there is no logical reason why that should be paid by the consumers of bread in proportion as they consume bread. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to do the same with regard to meat? Are we to have a quota and pay on imported meat in order to support the meat industry at home? I want to know where it is going to stop unless the quota system is going to be applied all the way round. Perhaps we shall have it applied to British tobacco which is grown in Hampshire. Perhaps we shall have a subsidy for that commodity. This quota is to be paid for, in the main, by the poorer classes of the community. It is not really seriously denied at all. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman is far too honest ever to suggest anything to the contrary. Though he carefully avoided saying it in so many words—I was told the other day that I was wrong in suggesting that it was to be paid by the consumer, because the right hon. Gentleman had not said so—nevertheless he could not help making an appeal to the urban population that they should make this sacrifice on behalf of the rural workers. If they were not going to be called upon to pay, there was no need for any sacrifice, and it is abundantly clear that there is no provision at all in the Bill that the millers should pay any part of it. There is no control over the millers. It is perfectly clear that it is to be paid by the consumers in proportion as they eat bread.
I do not say that you cannot make out a case for special taxation on particular classes of the community. I do not say that you cannot make out a case for sumptuary legislation. That is another thing in regard to which we might go back to our ancestors who used to tax very heavily various luxury articles. You might do that. That is not what the right hon. Gentleman is doing in this Bill. It is simply a device to try to escape from having to answer a charge that you deliberately deceived the people at the last election. I do not suggest that all hon. Members opposite did so. Some hon. Members were perfectly safe, and able to say to their constituents that we should tax food. They said, "We do not mind a bit, because we know that we are going to be elected." Sometimes political honesty depends to a great extent upon the size of the majority. But a large number of Members of the National Government owe their seats to appeals to other sections, and they undoubtedly led those other sections up the garden. It is very satisfactory to them to be able to say, "Oh, no, we managed to settle wheat without any protection at all," and they will read in the Memorandum to the Bill that it is to operate without any charge to the taxpayer. It is a very ingenious plan, whereby for a year or so it is not to fall too heavily upon the mass of the people. It is an impost upon the poorest people. We shall await with interest to see whether this particular sacrifice is to be left to stand by itself, whether there is to be equality of sacrifice, or whether there is to be any advantage to those people who will have to bear this heavy burden. Even the Prime Minister said that the workers would not be forgotten. So that there is a possibility that something may be done for them. This elaborate Bill, full of verbiage and very little able to be understood by the general public, undoubtedly offers great advantages to a section of the agriculturists. I do not suppose that it is popular reading in the farming community. Some Sub-sections might be set to music, though they would not be understood, but it does not matter; there is a good hearty chorus. All this method of concealment is a political ramp. It is merely to conceal the fact that it is the taxation of food, the taxation of the cheapest food of the poorest people, and that it taxes the poorest in proportion to the number of mouths in the family.
We say that the Bill, which, if Amendments had been accepted, might have been made an instrument of some utility for laying the foundations of better conditions in the Eastern counties and in agriculture generally, is, in effect, after it has passed through the Committee and Report stages, merely being left as a Bill to take a sum of money from the poorest of the workers and put it into the pockets of certain persons in the community, some of whom are undoubtedly badly off, and some of whom are fairly well-to-do, and even in the process a good deal will stick in the hands of the monopolists. We regard this as a contemptible proposition from the point of view of making any real contribution to the condition of the nation, and it distinctly shows the bankruptcy of any general constructive ideas on the part of the National Government.
I have never heard the rejection of a Bill moved in such a half-hearted speech as that to which we have just listened. I felt the whole time he was speaking that my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) was really speaking against, not only his better judgment, but his better conscience as well. He was speaking to orders, when really in his heart of hearts he is glad to see the Bill pass, because he is one of those who in the late Government had to study this problem. I should like to ask him a question. He has just, told us that it fell to his lot in the late Government to study a great many quota schemes, and I should like to ask him why it was that the late Government never brought any schemes forward at all?
Just see the difference of their presence in the National Government and their presence in the late Labour Government! In the National Government they are taking part in bringing forward a constructive policy to deal with a problem with which the late Labour Government pledged itself to deal but did not do so. The only change in the position of those gentlemen to whom my hon. Friend refers is that they have changed their company, and it is clearly a very beneficial change indeed, because they are now able to take part in bringing forward a constructive policy which the hon. Member and his friends were never able to produce.
Every representative agricultural body in the country, I think, has asked for a wheat policy. The late Labour Government called an agricultural conference to advise them in regard to agricultural policy, and the first thing for which that conference asked was a policy to make cereal growing remunerative. The late Labour Government pledged themselves to introduce such a policy as soon as the Imperial Economic Conference was over, and Dr. Addison admitted the importance of a cereal policy to any agricultural policy. My hon. Friend knows that fact perfectly, and as one who wishes well of agriculture—as I know he does—I am sure that he is secretly glad that the present Government at any rate are losing no time in dealing with this problem.
We do not advocate the Bill in the slightest degree as a complete agricultural policy. It is only one part of what I venture to say is the biggest and most important agricultural policy which has been brought forward in the lifetime of this generation. The plans which my right hon. Friend the Minister has announced for reorganising the milk industry, the bacon industry and the potato crop, are immensely important plans. Personally, I am glad that the Government are making full use of the Agricultural Marketing Act which was passed by hon. Members opposite. We always said that that Act could not be operative until it was coupled with a tariff. Now we have a real agricultural policy based upon the twin pillars of control of imports through a tariff, and organisation of output at home. That is a great agricultural policy, but before you can proceed to develop upon those lines, you have to restore the balance of agriculture as you find it in this country to-day. It is the great function of the Bill to bring back under wheat the acreage upon which the normal healthy existence of agriculture in England depends.
The memory of my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse must, I think, have slipped him very badly during the course of his speech. He said that the Government did not intend that the acreage under wheat should increase under this Bill. The fact is that the wheat acreage at this moment—I am speaking from memory—is in the neighbourhood of 1,000,000 to 1,260,000 acres. The Minister of Agriculture has told us that he estimates that the Bill will give us 1,800,000 acres under wheat. That means an increase of about 500,000 acres, a very important increase indeed, and just about what is necessary to restore the balance of agricultural produce. That is what the Bill is going to do. Personally, I am a little sorry that my right hon. Friend was not able to go up to the 2,000,000 acre mark, but still 1,800,000 acres under wheat will make a revolutionary change in the well-being of farmers throughout the country, and not merely the farmers in the Eastern counties. The hon. Member for Limehouse—I was very glad to hear him say it—admitted the principle of dealing with distressed areas, but the whole of agriculture is a depressed area at the present moment.
The hon. Member spoke about taxing the townsmen for the benefit of the country. We do not live in watertight compartments. There has been no greater injury done to the townsmen than the drift from the villages into the towns. How many of our unemployed are the sons of agricultural labourers? Thousands upon thousands of them. If we can do anything to arrest that drift from the countryside to the towns we shall not merely be benefiting the countryside, but taking one of the most effective steps in our power to deal with the unemployment problem in the towns. Therefore, I welcome the Bill whole-heartedly, not as a policy in itself, but as an essential part of a great constructive policy brought forward by the present Government. We cannot hope that this Bill, or any other Bill that Parliament can pass, will immediately restore agriculture to prosperity. When you are legislating, you have to legislate for the future. It is generally true to say that the more important the Bill the slower are its effects in being seen, but if the Government are given the opportunity of not only stabilising the position in regard to wheat, but also going on with their great constructive programme for milk and bacon pro- duction, then in the course of a very few years the agricultural position in this country will be fundamentally different from what it is at the present time.
The hon. Member for Limehouse said that this Bill is not part of a. well-thought-out scheme of national reconstruction. That is exactly what it is. It is not the sort of national reconstruction which he wants. He wants officials at every street-corner telling people what they have to do. We believe in national reconstruction and planning ahead. He referred to the Bill as being somewhat of a Socialist Measure, in its reference to the Socialist principles of a fixed price and a regulated product. Those are not Socialist principles. They are mediaeval Tory principles. The Tory party is not responsible for the Manchester school of laissez faire. It has always been the Tory policy, whether by tariffs or national service or in many other directions, so to lead the country into the right paths of national organisation, and this Bill is fulfilling that policy and that philosophy. In fact we are carrying out a Tory policy. It is possible for a National Government to carry out a Tory policy. I am talking of these things in their true sense, and not in the polemical party sense. It is possible for a National Government to carry out a policy consistent with Socialist principles. It might even be possible for them to carry out a policy consistent with Liberal principles. The fact that they have carried out a policy consistent with Tory principles does not cease to make it national. To some of us that fact would make it national, but I must not pursue that line of argument.
We are delivering the goods that hon. Members promised but never produced. We have been accused this afternoon of having deceived the electors at the last election. We did not tell the people that farming must be made to pay, but the Lord President of the Council did announce his adherence to the policy of a guaranteed price for wheat. That policy is to-day being fulfilled, and I believe that it will have the support not only of the countryside and of agriculture, but of those thousands of men and women in our towns who wish well of agriculture and recognise that national prosperity cannot be increased unless the problem of the countryside is solved at the same time.
Major LLOYD GEORGE:
The Noble Lord will not expect me to follow him in his support of the Bill. His speech was notable for one thing. I was glad to hear that the National Government are carrying out Tory policy. The only two Measures of any importance that have been produced since this Government came into office have both carried out Tory policy. Some of us said before the election that that was what would happen, and I am not surprised that it is being fulfilled at the present time. The Noble Lord said that the whole of the agricultural industry was a distressed area. I do not think anyone will dispute either that agriculture is a very distressed industry. I do not think anyone will dispute that the distress in agriculture is not comparable to the distress in other of our industrial areas, and that it is not anything like as comparable in its duration.
The Noble Lord said that the policy embodied in the Bill is a policy which the whole of the agricultural industry wants. I accept that statement, but I fail to understand why in a country where the vast majority of agriculturists are consumers of grain they should want to support a policy which is to make that grain more expensive than it is at the present time. He seems to think that the whole of the industry wants it, and he is glad that the Government are delivering the goods. He forgot to mention who was paying for the goods before they were delivered. That is a section of the community that one hears very little about in these Debates, namely, the consumers. When the Bill was introduced I confessed that it was difficult to understand not only the Bill itself but the reason for bringing it forward. Subsequent discussions have not enlightened me as to the Bill. One of the things which it has been impossible to ascertain from the Minister is whether this Measure is intended to be permanent or not. There are strong differences of opinion about that. The Secretary of State for Scotland definitely stated that it was a temporary Measure. He said:
Only recently a correspondent of the 'Times' urged that there should be no limit imposed, but that in his view it would be unreasonable that it should extend beyond a period of 10 years, which is rather longer than I should give it. It is clear that my description of this Measure as a temporary lifebuoy, on the authority of one of the principal protagonists of the Bill, is by no
means inaccurate, and farmers will be ill-advised if they regard it in any other light."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1932; col. 1074, Vol. 262.]
Yet, when we tried to get an Amendment accepted by the Minister in order to put a, definite limit on the operation of the Bill, he refused to accept it because of the uncertainty it would create in the minds of the farmers. One of the Ministers who has been in charge of this Measure definitely thinks that it is of a temporary nature, but the right hon. Gentleman, if I understood him aright yesterday, was of opinion that the inquiry which will take place in three years' time will have relation only to the amount of the subsidy, and will have no relation at all to the question whether or not the subsidy is to be continued. We are entitled to know whether or not this Bill is going to remain as a permanent part of agricultural policy, because, by whatever fancy name the payment is called, deficiency payment or subsidy, the fact remains that the consumer pays. Therefore, he is entitled to know how long he is to be expected to pay it, and what the ultimate objective of the Government is in starting this procedure. The Minister of Agriculture says that he does not want to extend wheat growing beyond a certain limit. The Memorandum to the Bill stated that its object was to encourage the extension of wheat cultivation, but not on land unsuitable for the crop. The right hon. Gentleman's definition of unsuitable land is very interesting. He said:
In practice the matter is settled by the answer to the question, does it pay to grow wheat, the prices being what they are and the production costs what they are? If it does not pay, growers will find the use for the land in other directions. At any rate, we shall hope to show no loss."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, let March, 1932; col. 969, Vol. 262.]
He states that land which is unsuitable for growing wheat, and upon which he does not want to encourage the cultivation of wheat, is land where wheat cannot pay. If one is to believe all the speeches that we have heard, that statement would apply to practically the whole of the land that grows wheat in this country. Whether he likes it or not, I am afraid that he is going to encourage people to grow wheat. Why not? If it is going
to be an economical proposition, as he said he hoped it would be, it would be a good thing, surely, to grow more wheat, because there is a very big market for wheat in this country. The reason why he does not want to encourage the growing of wheat is because he knows that it is not an economical proposition, and is not likely to be, in view of the trend of development in regard to wheat growing all over the world. This Bill is encouraging people to grow wheat. During the very short Recess I saw land being turned over for wheat which has not been turned for wheat since I can remember. The subsidy will be reduced every time the figure exceeds 6,000,000 quarters. That is very unfair to the farmers who want to grow wheat. You are giving them encouragement to grow wheat, and then you are going to say, "You must not grow more than a certain amount." You will find that more people will grow wheat than you intended, and then they will be coming to this House for an increased subsidy, and you will be enlarging the sum which you are giving to an uneconomical branch of agriculture, and which we are to pay for an indefinite period.
The Minister practically says that the subsidy is permanent, while other Ministers say it is not. It is, however, obvious, the tendency in regard to price being what it is, according to experts, we are likely to pay this: subsidy for a very long time to come. I think the consumer ought to be told plainly that that is so, because he is the man who has to pay. That brings me to the question of whether we want to subsidise wheat growing in this country. The Minister says that we must have a balanced agriculture. I am not quite sure what he means. At the present time wheat represents 3 per cent. of the agricultural production of the country. The extra wheat which under this Measure can be grown will be probably another 1 per cent. Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously contend that the future of British agriculture is going to depend on whether or not we increase the area under wheat by 1 per cent.? Does he really think that the whole future of the agricultural industry depends on whether we increase from 3 to 4 per cent. our production of wheat?
There are three reasons, so far as I can gather from the Debates, which have been given in support of the Measure. We are told that it will provide work. I take it that it is safe to assume that the present growing of wheat employs 50,000 men. That is four men to 100 acres. The 400,000 extra acres which the Minister hopes will be cultivated will employ another 13,000 men. Under the best conditions employment will be found for an additional 13,000 men, at a cost this year of probably£6,000,000. That is not a very fair return for£6,000,000 sterling. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that he is going to find employment for 13,000 extra men? At the present time farmers who have been growing other crops are sowing wheat in place of them. Therefore, they will not be employing any extra men but simply transferring them from the work that they are doing, to wheat. The most optimistic estimate that you can make is 13,000, which I do not think will be anything like achieved when it comes down to experience. There is an awful lot of loose talk—
The hon. and gallant Member seems to think that the wheat crop is grown in successive years on the same soil without any rotation whatever. The whole point is that wheat has been proved to be the main crop of the arable system.
Major LLOYD GEORGE:
The hon. and gallant Member has totally misunderstood me. I was making a point that the extra acres cultivated under this Bill would provide employment at the most for 13,000 men. Does he contradict that?
Yes. If wheat is the main crop of an arable system, it will keep the arable area in being. It is land under the plough that gives the highest ratio of employment. If you strike wheat out of the arable system, the arable system fails to pay, as it has failed to pay in many cases, and that is the reason why you see so much unemployment in the eastern counties.
Major LLOYD GEORGE:
I must contradict the hon. Member. I should say that poultry farming, fruit farming and vegetable farming have a much higher ratio, and I am prepared to give specific figures to show that poultry, fruit and vegetables provide more employment than any grain crop in this country. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he wanted more modern methods. The Secretary of State for Scotland stated that the salvation of the wheat grower in this country was more production per man. Is that the way to increase employment? Every time you increase mechanisation you reduce your employment and, if you do not have mechanisation, you do not reduce your costs. Only to-day I met a large farmer who has decided, because of the quota, to go in for mechanisation, and who is delighted at the fact that he is able to reduce his labour from 12 men to three. That was an actual case given to me today of a farmer proposing to do that because the quota method is being introduced. [Interruption.] This man is going to do it whether he can or not. What about the labour displaced? Has any calculation been made as to that? I have just given one instance. Another reason in favour of the Bill was national defence, but that does not bear examination for one minute. Whatever you do, this country must always rely on outside sources. Then we are told that wheat is the key crop. I refuse to admit that wheat is the key crop. I am glad to find that the Secretary of State for Scotland supports me, and does not agree that it is the wheat crop. I should have thought that roots were more the key crop. The vast majority of the farmers of this country profit by cheap corn. Animal products of this country are 66.5 per cent. of the total production of British agriculture, and wheat is 3 per cent. The animal products, the 66.5 per cent., all benefit by cheap corn, and to say that wheat is the key crop of agriculture is a statement which I cannot admit for one moment.
Another reason was given by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. He waxed sentimental about wheat, and said that we must not allow it to disappear, but that we must not stimulate it either. He said that the only firm place in the bog in which agriculture finds itself at the present time was this quota. He was unfortunate in using the analogy of a bog, because the bog they have put their foot in for the second time is the bog of subsidy, and they will find it very difficult to get out. They will only get deeper as time goes on. He also told us how nice it was to look at the English village with its old inn called "The Wheatsheaf." He is not here now, or I would suggest to him that the beer would be just as good in the "Pig and Whistle." I would like to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman. Is the quota system to be extended? If not, why? I cannot see any logical reason for giving a quota to an industry that is not paying, and is never likely to pay in view of world competition when industries that can compete are not to get it. Is it to be extended to other commodities like bacon and meat? There is one other question which I have asked before, but to which I have had no reply, and on which we are entitled to a reply, as it is a question with a very important bearing on this Bill. We know the price of bread will go up as a result of this Bill. The Measure applies only to British wheat, which is about 15 per cent. of our consumption, while the other 85 per cent. comes from abroad, and of that 85 per cent. about 50 per cent. is from the Dominions. The principle of the quota has been accepted by this House. Is that principle to be extended not only to other commodities, but to Dominion wheat? That is of vital importance because, whatever increase the quota on British wheat will put on the price of bread in this country, there is no question that, if the quota is extended to the Dominions, the increase will be very considerable indeed.
The House and the country are entitled to know whether the Government intend to extend the principle of the quota to the Dominions. It is a matter of vital importance to us, who, after all, represent the consumer. All he gets out of this Measure is the bill. It is true that in this Bill four or five consumers are to be representatives. I cannot help feeling that they are very much like the members of the audience who are asked to come up on the stage to help the conjuror. They stand around a wooden box and watch the conjuror sawing a lady in half and then tell the audience there is no trickery whatsoever. I cannot help feeling that consumers who are asked to go on this Commission will find themselves in the same position. I said before that, if this Measure were going to put agriculture on a sound footing, nobody could complain if they had to pay, because a great many people recognise that, if agriculture is to be put on a proper basis, it is going to cost money, but it is because this Bill does nothing of the kind that I oppose it. As far as this Bill is concerned, 97 per cent. of agriculture is ignored, and, indeed, the 65 per cent., namely, the animal products of this country, are definitely penalised. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] Because everything the farmers buy, including grain, will cost them more. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I thought we had gone past that point. The Minister told us on the Second Reading that there will be an increase in the price of the loaf. Wheat goes into the loaf and wheat goes to the animals, and they are not going to give it to the stock farmer cheaper than to anyone else. If you extend this to the Dominions, it will be dearer still. A good many of the feeding-stuffs have already gone up.
Major LLOYD GEORGE:
Whether from anticipation or sympathy, I do not know, but they have gone up. Whatever the reason, they have gone up. The branch of industry in this country which is most likely to be successful in competition is penalised, or, rather, is not helped. I will go so far with the hon. Gentleman as to say it is not helped, though my private opinion goes further. This is a dole for wheat farming, and that really ought to be the title of the Bill. If you want to help agriculture, you must go in for those things which pay least of all, according to this policy. We have the beet sugar subsidy, and now we have this one, and they will probably Cost us £12,000,000 this year. The two together do not represent more than a small proportion of the agriculture of this country, yet you are spending £12,000,000 on the two together. Why do not the Government declare their intention of helping the branch of the industry which has some hope before it? Bad though it may be, it is in a better position to compete, and we have got one of the finest markets at our doors.
Could not very much more have been done if this money had been used to help the farmer with his marketing? Everyone knows there is an enormous difference between the amount the farmer receives and the amount the consumer pays for his products. Would it not have been possible with some of this £12,000,000 so to organise marketing that farmers would get a better price and the consumer pay a smaller price I Would not that be better for the whole country rather than to benefit one section at the expense of the consumer? The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said that the farmer has no secure market, but the market is there for him. All he wants is assistance in getting his produce to the market and getting his share of it. If the Government did that, they would be greatly helping this industry. Along those lines I see some hope for the agricultural industry, but along the lines laid down in this Bill I see no hope whatever. I have opposed the Bill all along, and shall vote against it to-night, and will continue in the hope that it will not be long before we get a Government with the courage to repeal the Measure.
In rising for the first time to address this House, I feel deeply honoured that I should have the opportunity to-night to support the Third Reading of the quota Bill. I would remind the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) that, however much he may dislike the quota Bill, the wheat growers of South-East Essex and of a, great part of England are looking to it to-day as their sure hope and sure stay. I would also remind the hon. and gallant Member, who made so much play about the 400,000 acres which might come under wheat again as a result of the Bill and the comparatively little employment that would be given, that for every field you put under wheat four fields might come under the plough. The hon. and gallant Member referred to roots. You can do without roots in rotation, but you cannot do without wheat. You must have the wheat crop as the very centre and pivot of your agricultural system.
I should like to pay my humble tribute, in which I have no doubt the whole House will join, to the tact and perseverance and courtesy which the Minister of Agriculture has shown during the whole of these difficult and complicated discussions. The results of this Bill in the near future will, I am sure, justify his efforts and make him feel that the Bill has been well worth while. I go further. I say that the right hon. Gentleman is the first Minister of Agriculture who has realised the fundamental problem of wheat as it is to-day, and his experiment in a standard price marks the greatest landmark in agricultural economics since the Corn Barley Act of 1688. It is a great step forward, and at the same time it is comparatively simple having regard to the complications and difficulties of the subject.
What do we stand for in this Bill? We endeavour under the Bill to do three things as clearly as we can. In the first place, it checks the ruination of arable land as a whole. The last few years have shown that, unless something is done in this matter, it will not be a question of putting an extra 10,000 or 20,000 more men on the land, but a case of more land going out of cultivation and unemployment increasing. The Minister of Agriculture has checked that. In the second place, it has been made pretty clear that the object of the Bill is to ensure, not that all land turns to wheat, but that only the most suitable and satisfactory land shall be used for that purpose. In the third place, we make it quite clear that the farmer gets a secured market for his produce, and this is done with the slightest possible risk of upsetting the price to the consumers in the towns.
The cry has been raised even in the course of the Debate to-day that the price of bread will be increased, but no hon. Member opposite has been able to show, nor will they be able to show, that as a result of this Bill there will be any appreciable increase in the price of bread to the consumer. We are prepared to meet them on that point at the next election and are confident that the figures will be on the side of the Bill, certainly not on the side of those who have criticised the Measure, and have tried to obstruct it by raising false cries. It was easy enough for the hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps) to stand up last night and refer with a sneer to this mad Bill, but I would suggest to the Opposition that, if there had been a little more constructive madness in the course of the last Parliament, a little more of the madness which aimed at building up an industry, rather than tearing it down, and giving employment to our own people, instead of collapsing like a pricked bubble in August last hon. Members opposite might still be in the seats of the scornful.
There is one side of this problem upon which I desire to say a word. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said that he viewed the question of mechanisation with some alarm. This has been referred to many times in the course of these Debates. I feel convinced that we have in regard to this Bill to face the fact that it will to some extent act as a stimulus towards the mechanisation of arable land. It is bound to do so. In the course of the last few years wheat has been doing very badly and even in those districts where it is possible to introduce mechanisation farmers have stood rather aloof from spending any capital, knowing that even if they reduce their costs by mechanisation they will still find themselves working at a loss. The result of this Bill will be a stimulus to the mechanisation of arable land. I gather, from calculations which have been produced, that on last year's wheat crop there was a loss of about £2 per acre to the farmer. His land produces about 6s. per cwt., and, taking 18 cwts. to the acre and allowing £1 per acre for straw, you have about £6 8s. as his profit. As against that there is about £3 3s. for ordinary labour costs and another £5 5s., more or less, for rent, fertilisers, overhead charges and management. Generally speaking, the average loss worked out at somewhere about £2 per acre. There is no doubt that labour costs can be cut down by mechanisation. It is calculated that by ploughing with a tractor you can do it for 11s. per acre, and, where combined harvesting is possible—I know there are difficulties in this matter in regard to straw—it can be done for another 22s. per acre. If you take insurance and the cost of petrol or coal, you can assume that there will probably be a reduction in labour costs of about £1 or £1 5s. per acre.
There are certain advantages in mechanisation. It means efficient farming, and enables the workers to be paid better wages, but, on the other hand, if we have mechanisation on anything like a large scale during the next few years it must mean a certain cheek on the natural expansion of employment which the Bill is bound to give to the wheat industry. The Ministry of Agriculture in one way has checked this danger, and checked it very wisely. If, instead of having a comparatively low price of 45s. and a comparatively restricted acreage under the quota Bill, he had had a higher price and a very much extended acreage, you might possibly have had land turning over to mechanisation in arable land which was already under mechanisation for stock-raising purposes, and which was giving increased employment. I was looking over land in the South of England during last week-end, and I saw some property which had gone over from wheat growing to stock raising. The stock raising is mechanised, and they have actually increased the number of people employed on the land. Obviously, you are faced by this position, that, if there was a higher price, say of 55s., that land probably would go back to mechanised wheat growing and there would probably be some decrease in the amount of employment. We have to face that fact. Although I regard wheat as being of great importance, there is the possibility that in the future we may find that stock raising and pig breeding plays a much larger part in our agricultural sphere than it does now and we must not be blinded by the question of wheat as if it was the only thing that mattered. The Under-Secretary of State spoke about finding a "Wheatsheaf" public-house in every village. I was in a village last week where there was no public-house at all, but curiously enough a beer-house was being provided by the local landowner, who happened to be a stock raiser, not an arable farmer. Whether that is a portent for the future I do not know.
As this is my maiden speech, I do not wish to detain the House too long, but I should like to say that, as a first step in dealing with the problem of agriculture, the Bill will undoubtedly bring benefit to one section of the industry. It if, a step in the right direction, and, regarding it as a first step, we welcome the Bill. But I ask the Minister of Agriculture not to forget the other side and to remember that in stock raising and pig products and poultry there is a tremendous potentiality for the employment of labour. These industries are within the one great industry of agriculture, and we hope that they will also receive assistance and help in the course of a short period. It may be said with a sneer that this is the Tory policy. If it is, it only shows that in these questions the Tory policy is in the national interest. I look to the scheme in this Bill as the first harbinger of prosperity to the country, and, as far as I am concerned, I am prepared to support and justify the scheme upon every platform in the land.
I am sure that I shall express the feelings of all Members of the House when I congratulate the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) upon an excellent maiden speech. The hon. Member spoke with a definite knowledge of the subject, and every hon. Member in the House will be glad to hear him on future occasions. I have taken no part in the Debates on this Bill because I am not an authority on the subject of agriculture in any shape or form, although I am a cordial supporter of the Bill as an attempt to help the industry. There is one point upon which I want to make an appeal to the Government, and I hope it will be possible for the Minister of Agriculture to consent to an innovation which might materially improve one part of the Bill. I refer to Clause 3, Sub-section (1), which is an attempt to define the meaning of the words "quota payment." I will read the Sub-section:
For the purpose of meeting the expenditure to be defrayed by the Wheat Commission under, this Act, every miller and every importer of flour shall be liable to make to the Wheat Commission in respect of each hundredweight of his output of flour, a payment (hereinafter referred to as a 'quota payment') of an amount calculated and prescribed in accordance with the provisions of this section so as to represent, as nearly as may be, a sum equal to what would have been the price deficit in respect of the quota of home-grown millable wheat which wound have been used in the production of that hundredweight, if the anti-
cipated supply al such wheat for the cereal year in which that hundredweight was delivered had been used at a uniform rate per hundredweight of flour in the production of the estimated supply of flour for that year.
I am perfectly certain that there is no Member of the House who considers these words really satisfactory or incapable of improvement. I suggest that by using a few simple symbols the exact meaning of the Sub-section can be made perfectly clear and definite. In these days, when every school boy and school girl is accustomed to formulae, surely this House might accept a suggestion that a formula might be introduced into this Sub-section with advantage. What I suggest to the Minister is that he should add, in another place, at the end of line 24 on page 6, this simple explanatory sentence:
If the anticipated supply of homegrown millable wheat is represented by A cwts.; if the estimated supply of flour is represented by E cwts.; if P shillings per cwt. is the ascertained average price of home-grown millable wheat, and S shillings per cwt. is the standard price as laid down in the Bill, then the quota payment is represented by the simple formula
and this sum shall be calculated to the nearest penny.
[Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but any intelligent person will find that a definition of the quota expressed in this form will be much more clearly understood than any definition by means of words in the English language. I presume that the words "so as to represent as nearly as may be" are intended to mean that the above fraction is to be calculated to the nearest penny. I have consulted several of my hon. Friends on this side, and I am assured that this simple formula expresses accurately the meaning of Sub-section (1). Its inclusion in the Bill would be an advantage, not only to the House, but to everyone interested in the Bill.
I have been very uneasy about this Bill ever since it was introduced. I have felt that uneasiness to-day, but I was not quite certain until to-night that I had such good grounds for my uneasiness. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) told us that the origin of the principle on which the Bill is founded is a real, true Tory policy. In that Case there can be no doubt at all as to what I think about it. I did not come here, nor did many others who hold the same political views as myself, to support a national policy which was to be a party policy. It is a valuable admission by the Noble Lord that that is the principle behind the Bill. The Bill as we now see it has changed very little in form from what it was when it first came before the House. There still remain in it certain words which are really survivals of what was intended before the millers and those outside got hold of the principle of the thing at all. I should very much like to know, and I am certain that there are many hundreds of thousands of others who would like to know, what was the reason why this word "quota," which still appears in the Bill, has now a totally different meaning from that which it bore when the policy was first mentioned in this House. At the commencement the quota was to be a proportion of British flour made from British wheat in every loaf. But that disappeared. [interruption.] That is what I and a large number of other people understood. At any rate, whatever the quota was in those days, that is something approaching what the country understood.
But when it came to the introduction of a Bill to deal with wheat we found that all these things were to be abandoned. We were told that conversations were to take place, and they did take place, and after they had commenced the millers made it perfectly clear, through advertisements in the Press, that they would have nothing whatever to do with the Government's proposals. But all of a sudden we find that the opposition is withdrawn. We find that the Bill goes forward and that everyone is perfectly friendly about it. The Minister tells us what excellent people the millers are, and so forth. I wonder why all the opposition suddenly vanished and why the quota came to mean something totally different? The millers, who are vitally interested in the working of this Bill, are men who know their job. They are the representatives of a very highly organised and most efficient industry, and it would take something more than mere persuasion by words to get them to withdraw such violent opposition as they offered.
I feel that right around this Bill there is an atmosphere that is not altogether what it should be. In the Bill we have a vicious principle introduced. You can call it what you like and spill words over the Bill until you are tired of doing so, but in the end you come down to this, that the object and the effect of the Bill is to make the millers collect a tax which is not going to be handed over to the State. That is a new principle. I know it is said that the word "tax" does not appear in the Bill, nor does the word "subsidy." But, however you may try to conceal it, the effect of the Bill is to make the millers collect a tax from bread eaters and to hand it over to one special section of the community. And the millers have agreed to do it. I wonder whether, in agreeing to do this, they had some idea that the one thing that had been worrying them for years, that is the importation of foreign flour—I wonder whether they had some idea that a tax would be put on in the import duties? I do not expect for one moment that the Minister or any representative of the Government will tell us that he gave that information to the millers, because the Bill had not been introduced at that time. But it is a strange coincidence that the millers are now willingly undertaking the working of this Bill. Have they at the same time secured the one thing they have been wanting for many years?
The other thing in the Bill that really gives me great cause for concern is the fact that it is only part of a policy. We can imagine, from the introduction of the principle of the quota and the way in which control over many of the things in the Bill has been handed over to bodies quite outside this House, what the remainder of the policy may be like. It gives many of us cause for great concern to think that an extension of the quota business may follow as a part of this same policy. If it did, I make bold to say that there is no limit to the price which bread might reach in this country. If an extension of the quota principle were to be applied to wheat from abroad, the basis on which the world price of wheat would be fixed would disappear, and there would be no limit to the price which wheat would reach.
I am very much concerned for the mass of the people of the country. I am very much concerned not only in connection with the Bill, but because of its impli- cations. I consider the Bill is a reactionary Measure. We have been told by one Minister after another of various little things that are to happen as a result of the Bill. In the first place its object was quite simple, but to-day we know a good deal more about it. We know who are going to have a share of the swag. We know that the landlord is coming into it. We know that the farmer is coming into it. We know that the miller is working it, and we know also that the flour importer has not made any serious objection to the Bill since the miller agreed to it. All these people are concerned in it, and we know definitely that some of them are going to benefit. But the one class of people who are not going to benefit from the subsidy are the agricultural labourers, and the one class that stands to suffer includes the agricultural labourer himself as a part of the bread-consuming public. I am very much concerned for that reason. I consider it to be a reactionary Measure. It is brought in in the interests of a certain section of the people, at the expense of the others, and I feel that it will be my duty to vote against the Third Reading as I have voted against the Bill during the Committee stage.
I rise to support with gratitude the Third Reading of what is probably the greatest agricultural Measure of the last quarter of a century. The Opposition have poured contempt on the Bill. The hon. Member for Limethouse (Mr. Attlee) has described it as a contemptible contribution. On Second Reading the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) described it as the worst piece of legislation introduced into the House in the last 10 years, and said that there was not one redeeming feature in it. That view is not held by the agriculturists of the country, and it requires few words from me to persuade the House how urgent was the need of this Measure, in what dire distress the agriculturists in East Anglia are to-day, and the impending collapse of the entire agricultural industry which would have taken place in East Anglia unless some such Measure had been introduced. Only last summer I and others tried to impress upon the then Socialist Minister of Agriculture that if something was not done at once, this winter would see unemployment spread to an alarming extent in the villages. We got fair words and a kind and disarming smile from Dr. Addison. But the farmers are bankrupt, and this winter the men have lost their jobs. That is all that happened. Of course we have had the usual sneers at the agricultural industry from the Socialist party. They have told us that the methods of the agriculturist are antidiluvian, that farmers ideas are antiquated. The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading told us that the wheat we grew was either not eatable, or, if eatable, was certainly not digestible.
We have been told that the farmers would try to exploit their workes. But we are used to these sneers from hon. Members opposite. That is nothing new, but the fact remains that during the passage of this Bill through its various stages hon. Members on the Labour Benches have utterly failed to produce any substantial criticism of the Measure. It is very remarkable that a Bill of this complexity, size and importance should have arrived at its Third Reading with hardly any alteration, and I think that fact gives tremendous kudos to the Minister of Agriculture and his Department and indicates the great trouble and energy which they have taken in working out this complicated scheme before submitting it to the House. We must also appreciate the valuable help given to the Minister, not only by the farmers but by the merchants and millers who have advised and assisted him in drawing up this Measure.
The Measure gives a, considerable amount of help to the farmers. It guarantees them a market; it gives them an enhanced price for what they grow; it is free from undue State interference, and, what is very important, it allows the merchants complete freedom in their business enterprises and does not prejudice the interests of the country millers. At one time fears were expressed that such might be the case, and the Minister has shown great skill in avoiding undue interference either with the business of the merchant or with that of the country miller. There is no doubt that had some step of this kind not been taken quickly—and, alas, it is none too early but is indeed almost too late—we should have witnessed a further spread of unemployment in our rural areas and villages. This Bill will, at any rate, check the growth of that unemployment and bring some of these men back to work. What is it that is haunting the mind of the agricultural worker to-day? It is not the rate of wages which he will be paid—naturally, that it a matter which is always of concern to him—but whether or not he is going to keep his job. That haunting fear of unemployment has been undermining the agricultural worker during the last winter. This Bill will give an assurance in East Anglia that those who have jobs will be able to keep them and that the men who have lost their jobs stand a good chance of being brought back to employment. If that were all that the Bill accomplished, it would be enough to make all who are interested in the welfare of the countryside welcome it and hope that it will speedily be put into operation.
This question of unemployment in the country districts is not one which concerns the countryside alone. It has a very real concern for our local towns as well, because, when men in the countryside become unemployed, sooner or later they drift into the towns and swell the figures of unemployment there and compete with the men in those towns for jobs. It is very noticeable that this Bill is being welcomed, for that reason, not only in the country but in our towns as well. Again I congratulate the Minister on carrying through a Measure which is a first step in the reconstruction of our countryside. It is not only a first step, but it is the right first step, and I know, as far as East Anglia is concerned, that it will bring hope to our farmers, that it will stop the growth of unemployment among our country folk, and I hope that very soon it will bring back a certain measure of prosperity to the country.
The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) who made such an effective maiden speech a short time ago, denied very emphatically that this Measure would raise the price of bread, and the Minister himself, if he has not specifically denied that the price of bread would rise in consequence of this Bill, has, by implication, led people to believe that that statement is not true.
I note that the right hon. Gentleman does not at this juncture dispute what I say. Throughout these discussions, neither the Minister nor anyone else has attempted to explain who is going to pay the levy on each sack of flour, if it is not the consumer. No one has attempted, up to the present, to suggest that anyone other than the bread consumer is going to pay the piper. If it is not the consumer the only person to pay is the miller or the baker. The millers are a very powerful and wealthy group and it is certain that they do not mean to pay for the Government's policy in this matter. This, of course, is really their Bill and not the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. To all intents and purposes they drafted it. At any rate they drafted all the operative provisions, as the Minister knows perfectly well.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. A. Roberts) wanted to know certain things, and made certain speculations as to what had happened during the interviews between the Minister and the millers. I can tell him a good deal about what happened and set at rest some of his speculations. The Minister produced a quota scheme for subsidising the farmers, and the millers told him flatly that it was impracticable and unworkable. They simply tore all his propositions to shreds and after a certain amount of huckstering the Minister climbed down and the millers produced their plan. Again after a certain amount of huckstering the right hon. Gentleman swallowed that plan. That is the plan which is in the Bill to-day. That is the whole story. This is the millers' Bill. They have got the Minister and the farming community in the hollow of their hand, and, apart from the farmers who receive the dole, the only people who are going to get anything out of the Bill are the millers and they are going to do very well indeed. As part of their bargain they have secured the protection for which they have been clamouring for years. They have secured a duty upon foreign imported flour.
Is it to be imagined that this £6,000,000 is going to be found by these millers? Are they going to provide the subsidy out of their profits, ample though those profits may be? No one dreams that for a minute and least of all the Minister. The millers have said in the most emphatic
fashion that they are not going to pay. There is no mystery or misunderstanding about it. They have said in black and white in official manifestos that they will pass on the whole of the levy to the baker. The next question is: Are the bakers going to pay the £26,000,000? Not on your life, Mr. Speaker. They, too, have said as plainly as possible that they are going to pass it on. In the "British Baker," the chief trade organ, of 26th February, on page 5 there is the following statement:
The effect on the trade will be higher prices for flour all round together with a possible fall in flour quality. Some types of English flour may be suitable for bread-making, but most of them are not, although they may be millable. In any case the consumer will have to pay in increased price for his bread or in reduced quality or more probably both.
They conclude by this intimation to the world at large:
This point cannot be made too clear to the general public.
That, the House may take as the official declaration of the baking industry on this question of price. The bread-eater, of course, has to pay the whole cost, and the calculations of those who know most about the matter go to show that of this £6,000,000, the working-class population will find from 85 to 90 per cent. This tax—it is a concealed tax, but none the less a tax—will follow the usual method of income taxation in the past. It will be graduated according to means, but in this case it is graduated in an inverted manner. The poorer the family, the higher the tax. The wealthier the family, the less the tax. I can only repeat what I have said before, and I am going to repeat it up and down the country, and our party are going to repeat it up and down the country—make no mistake about that—that in the case of the well-to-do family this bread tax will be as low as from ¾d. to 1¼d. a week; in the case of the typical middle-class professional family it will be from 1½d. to 2d. a week; in the case of a representative working-class family of five persons it will be from 6d. to 10d. a week and in the case of the very poorest, say an unemployed man with five or six children, perhaps on transitional benefit or in receipt of Poor Law assistance, it will be from 1s. to 1s. 3d. or 1s. 4d. a week.
I am not going to repeat the detailed figures which I gave on the Second Read- ing but a further scrutiny of the statements which I made on that occasion has convinced me that I under-stated the position then, rather than overstated it. I cannot understand how the Minister, how any hon. Gentleman opposite, can have the face to bring forward such a scheme as this. It is nothing but callous brutality. If the Minister had proposed to provide a subsidy out of general taxation, we should have objected to it, but we should not have the intense and violent feeling against it that we have against this Measure. I cannot understand how any women Members opposite are not ashamed to support a Measure that is so unjust and harsh as this, hitting, as it does, the very poorest workers. Money for the farmer, increased rent for the landlord, crocodile tears by the bucket for the agricultural labourer. Everybody has sympathised with him, but nothing is given to him in the Bill, and there is going to be an economic thumbscrew for the poverty-stricken masses in our towns.
The Minister has departed from all his original intentions in framing this Bill. In the first place, it was supposed to help agriculture, and cereal farmers in particular, by compelling people to eat bread made from British-grown flour. That was clearly the original intention, but all that has gone by the board. Throughout the whole range of the discussions on the Bill in this House, I think I am right in saying, not a single spokesman has claimed that one ounce more of flour made from home-grown wheat will be used in our bread supplies as a result of the Measure. It is not claimed, and indeed it cannot be claimed. It was a very interesting idea to enact such a Measure as would ensure that the general public ate bread made of a larger proportion of British flour, but it was hopelessly out of date, and the millers very soon disabused the Minister's mind as to its practicability.
At this juncture, may I make a correction in regard to a statement that I made in this House relating to some officials of the House, when I moved the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading? I said, on the 1st March, that there was no British-grown flour in.the bread supplied to the Refreshment Department of this House. Of course, I do not want to do any injustice to the contractors who supply bread and so on to the Kitchen Committee, and I understand that the correct position is as follows: About two years ago the Kitchen Committee decided that all bread delivered for use in the House of Commons should be made of national mark flour, wholly home-grown, and orders were duly despatched to the contractors to supply only bread which was made exclusively from British flour. The bread supplied was so horrible and the complaints were so numerous that the Kitchen Committee, I understand, had to countermand that order, and that is my answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Captain Briscoe), who spoke just now and complained that I had animadverted prejudicially against British flour and that I had said that bread made wholly from it gave people indigestion and was inedible and so forth. As a matter of fact, the Members of this House found that out by experience, and the order to supply such bread was promptly countermanded.
Then the contractor was told that he must deliver bread that contained a higher proportion of British flour than any other sort of flour, and that that proportion which was not of British origin must be of Colonial or Empire origin; and I am informed that the Kitchen Committee assumed that the bread would contain not less than 60 per cent. of British flour, the rest being Colonial, either Australian or Canadian. After I made my speech in this House on the 1st March, when I said that there was no British flour in the bread supplied here, I received a letter from the contractors, who also wrote to Mr. Bradley, the refreshment manager of the Kitchen Committee, and their letter was as follows:
It has always been recognised that it is part of our contract to use the highest percentage of English-grown wheat possible, and this we have honourably carried out, to meet the requirements of the Kitchen Committee, and to produce a satisfactory loaf.
I secured from the Department a loaf of bread. I had it subjected to analysis, and I obtained the opinion of one of the most competent experts in the country. I then wrote the contractors a letter, in which I said:
I am satisfied from the report received … upon a loaf and upon rolls supplied by you to the Refreshment Department of the House of Commons, that your bread undoubtedly contains a percentage of flour of home-grown origin. I am advised,
however, that in the loaf examined the percertage was not as high as that stipulated in the contract, viz., 60 per cent.
There was a very definite affirmation on my part. I received an acknowledgment from the contractors, in which they said that they appreciated my sincerity in the matter, but they did not deny or attempt to deny my allegation that the amount of English flour was less than that stipulated in the contract. Indeed, no blame attaches to the contractors on that ground, because, did they put in a higher percentage, the bread would be almost as uneatable as that which was supplied when national mark flour alone was used. As a matter of fact, a few days ago a loaf was handed to me here containing a higher percentage of British flour, and, as Mr. Bradley himself pointed out, he would not dare to offer it to any Members of this House. Quite a number of Members have spoken to me about this, and have said, "We understand why the bread here is always so bad; it is because it does not contain enough English flour." The reason it is not as satisfactory as it might be is that it contains too much English flour. That is the long and short of the whole matter. I apologise for having had to make this statement, but I felt that, in justice to the contractors, having made the original allegation, it was necessary to give the whole of the facts.
To come back to the criticism of the Bill, I assert that the results to agriculture, so far as this Bill is concerned, will be, first of all, that the production of wheat for making flour and for biscuit making, pastry, and confectionery will be subsidised by the general consumer; secondly, that the production of wheat for poultry farming, pig-rearing, cattle-breeding, dairy purposes, and feeding fancy, fur-bearing rabbits, and other animals of that type will also be subsidised, and, further, that these particular industries will be subsidised, by the general consumer; thirdly, that an impetus will be given to mechanised arable farming on an extended scale in certain districts, particularly in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, and so on, as has been admitted to-night by a number of agricultural experts, with a consequent reduction of employment, as has also been admitted, and in all probability a very marked reduction of employment, of rural labourers in those parts of the country.
If anyone disputes that statement, I will put this simple proposition, that mechanisation of all productive processes, both in agriculture and in every other industry, invariably means dispensing with human labour. That is the one prime object of introducing mechanisation; it is to dispense with human labour. During the week before last I was down in Kent, and I interviewed a fairly large farmer, not 40 miles from London, who has already ploughed up grass land, hop land, and land previously devoted to other such purposes, with a view to taking advantage of this Bill and growing wheat on that soil in future. He told me that with the machinery which he intended to introduce, and which he had indeed already purchased, he hoped he would be able to reduce his present staff by at least one-third and, in the course of a year or so, by one-half.
That is only one instance, and other instances have been quoted to-night. A Member of this House, a large landowner, has also admitted in the House that he was introducing mechanisation for the purpose of taking advantage of this Bill and that, as a consequence, he was reducing the total number of persons employed by him. I have no doubt at all that in the Eastern counties, where mechanisation on a big scale will be possible, the Bill will have, as one of its effects, almost a depopulation of the countryside, and if anyone doubts that, he has only to look to the prairie farms abroad, where, with mechanisation, only one person is employed to every 1,000 acres and in some cases to every 1,500 acres.
As a fourth result, there will be, through this subsidisation, a bolstering-up of quite uneconomic farming, enabling the small man with horse labour to continue on the old, out-of-date lines. There can be no doubt on that point, but if illustrations are wanted, I can introduce Members of this House to a number of farmers who are using entirely out-of-date methods, who declared themselves completely bankrupt and were thinking of turning over to soft fruit farming and to other departments of agriculture, but who now, with the inducement of this Bill before them, are intending to carry on once again with the old methods, antiquated methods which quite clearly ought to be ruled out of agriculture altogether at this stage.
There are people under the illusion that, in some recondite way, the real interests of agriculture will be assisted by this Bill. They do not seem to grasp the facts. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in moving the Third Reading of the Bill to-night, intimated that he disagreed with the view, which I regard as representing hard and indisputable facts, that the farming industry in Great Britain can never compete in wheat production with countries abroad. It certainly cannot compete with the great prairie farms of Canada and the United States, or the great pampas farms of the Argentine, or the great steppe farms of Russia. In Russia there are five farms each of over 500,000 acres, and six farms of over 300,000 acres, which are being run as single cultivation units under complete mechanisation and with one unit of human labour to 3,000 or 4,000 acres. With development of arable farming of that type going on all over the world, it is simply impossible ever to conceive that British cereal farming will be able to compete, not on equal terms, but at all with such farming. Even Hungary, Rumania, the Punjab, Australia and Mesopotamia, which are not as well situated by any means as Canada, the Middle West, Russia and the Argentine, can at present produce wheat at one-half, and in many cases one-third, the cost of production in this country. Mesopotamia was once the granary of the ancient world, and its rulers intend that it shall become so again and tremendous developments following emigration are going on there.
The fact that these countries can produce at a cost which is so much less than in this country is not necessarily a reflection on our farmers as such a statement appears to be regarded by many Members. It is partly the result of soil and climate, but it is chiefly due to the fact that in those countries there are enormous unobstructed areas of perfectly flat plain land which lends itself to modern mechanical and scientific methods of cereal cultivation. We cannot compete in wheat growing with those parts of the world, and it is simply pig-headed stupidity to try or to assert that we can. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland talked about the past and the affection for the traditions and history asso-
ciated with wheat growing, and he seemed to think that on those grounds we ought to go out of our way to maintain wheat farming in this country. His very candid friend, Mr. Garvin, had something to say about that the other day in the "Observer." He described the Bill as
A Tory-Socialist policy of irrational sentimentalism, which cannot be approved by enlightened Unionists or by realistic Progressives of any school. The whole elaborate contraption is inspired by a futile idea of dodging the food tax din.…. It guarantees a price for products without regard to quality, and it shelters inefficiency from competition in a way which no intelligent tariffs attempt.
In another column Mr. Garvin calls the Bill and the motive inspiring it:
obsolete, stage sentimentalism.
With great respect, I am bound to say that that is a most appropriate description of a good deal of what the Under-Secretary said this evening, more particularly when he harped, as he did, on the traditions of wheat growing in the past. Mr. Garvin concluded his leading article with these words:
Small men will be stereotyped in obsolete practice with no chance of getting anything out of it but a scraggy pittance, whereas a scientific national policy would encourage and organise their change-over to the sure paying branches of the future—livestock, dairy, poultry, vegetables and fruit.
If the hon. Member does me the honour of reading my observations in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, I am sure he will find that he has unwittingly entirely misrepresented my argument.
I have no desire to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, but I took down his words when he described the affection for the traditions and history associated with wheat growing and urged that these were reasons why we should encourage wheat farming.
My argument was not that at all. My argument was that you would make the farmers of this country far more receptive of progressive proposals if you take as a factor in their psychology those observations which the hon. Member has quoted.
I agree, for my experience is that the Government put cash beyond everything else, and the economic motive is the one that predominates in the legislation of this House. In the early years of the nineteenth century the stage coach industry was in a very desperate condition. It had had its flourishing times like British agriculture and had done useful service for the State. It had all sorts of traditions and history associated with it, but it was threatened with extinction by a rival with which it could not possibly compete on equal terms, namely, the railway. There was any amount of sentimental gush expended upon the stage coach industry by people in this House sitting on the Government bench. As a matter of fact, a petition was addressed to the House asking the Government of the day to vote a subsidy to the stage coach industry in order to maintain it and to assist it in holding its own against the rivalry of the railway. The House at that time was told some pitiable stories about the ruin of the coach proprietors and the unemployment of drivers, guards, and ostlers such as we have been told during the past three weeks while this Bill has been under examination. We had the same sentimental stories told about the decay of the post houses and of the wonderful old inns going out of existence if something were not done and if public funds did not come to the rescue of the industry.
I agree that there was a possible case for a temporary subsidy to enable the stage coach proprietors to make a turn over to some other means of livelihood, but what would be said to-day of a Government that had presented stage coach proprietors with a big subsidy to try and keep them going indefinitely against a competitor that was bound in the very nature of things to annihilate them in the long run. The position in regard to wheat farming in this country to-day is absolutely parallel to the position of the coach industry at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It cannot possibly compete with wheat grown on a huge scale under more suitable climatic and other conditions, and the attempt should be frankly abandoned, instead of which the Government, as I think vainly, are endeavouring to bolster it up. The coach and the carrier's cart were able to continue for many years after the advent of railways by working on cross routes not traversed by railways; and in exactly the same way the growing of soft wheat for poultry and cattle food and other uses could continue in this country, and ought to continue, and ought not to require any subsidy.
The whole policy of the Bill is retrograde, unscientific and frankly reactionary, and, like the subsidy granted under the Corn Production Act, and the coal subsidy of unhappy memory, it is bound to end disastrously. It will raise all sorts of false hopes in the minds of farmers, and I am as certain as that I am standing here that within a very few years the urban population will rise in their wrath and insist on the repeal of this legislation. I understand the enthusiasm and the jubilation of a number of hon. Members opposite. They realise that a nice, fat dole is going to be put into their pockets. Without any desire to be offensive to colleagues in this House, I say it is perfectly well known that a considerable number of hon. Members sitting on the Government side are going to benefit very materially by this Bill. Let us be perfectly frank, they are going to make some thousands of pounds a year out of this Bill. There is no question of that. [Interruption.] An hon. Members says "Nonsense," but I say it is a fact, and I say the Minister knows it, and a lot of other persons know it. Already we are encouraging people to plough up land which at this moment is being usefully and profitably employed for dairying, egg production and so on, because of the inducement held out by the Bill of a large dole at the end of the next cereal year.
The position of hon. Members on these benches is that, whether agriculture in this country is conducted in the future on capitalistic or on Socialistic lines, the objective ought to be a steady progressive turnover from cereal farming to the raising of livestock, fruit, poultry and vegetables. Had the Minister himself been here, I would have liked to remind him of an interview he had with a large body of caterers and people who deal in comestibles. I have the official report. The Minister of Agriculture and Lord De La Warr met the proprietors and representatives of hotels, restaurants and other large catering establishments, including railway and shipping companies. The interests present represented a purchasing power for foodstuffs of many millions per annum. What was the burden of their story to the Minister? It was a vigorous attack on our farmers and agriculturists. They declared that the market was already waiting, that, they themselves could not obtain in this, country certain ordinary foodstuffs but had to go abroad for them. They said the farmers failed altogether in the grading of their produce. They could not get the sort of cheese—
I will not trespass on your Ruling, but I will limit myself to the bare statement that an attack was made on the farming industry because they had failed to supply comestibles which can be produced in this country either in the quantity or of the quality demanded Our complaint against the Bill is that it does nothing to assist agriculture to meet, these demands of our population, but, on the other hand, goes out of the way to provide a subsidy to encourage the production of certain articles which can be grown better elsewhere. That, really, is the essence of our case. We suggest that this subsidy, and the promise—it practically amounts to that—made by the Minister that it shall be permanent, or semi-permanent, is going to retard the necessary process of turnover to the production of articles which are more necessary.
The declarations the Minister has been making and the promises he has been holding out are almost incredible. In the "Farmer and Stockbreeder" he blossoms out under large headlines announcing "The foundation for revival has been laid." The statement is there made by him that
Agriculture is now able, for the first time in the lifetime of any of us, to plan for the future with confidence.
A fraction of 3 per cent. of the total of our agricultural value—that is all that the most optimistic supporter of the Government can hope that this Bill will affect! Of course, the Minister, when he wrote that, was writing with his tongue in his cheek. There may be some simple folk who believe him. There appear to be some hon. Members on the benches opposite now who really believe that sort of stuff. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend is very simple-minded if he takes these statements as the literal gospel truth. That the cereal farmer will be so many more pounds per annum better off I do not deny, because it is obviously the case, and therefore he can throw up his hat; but as for the general effect on agriculture, the view put forward in this article by the right hon. Gentleman is, to descend to the vernacular, "a little bit -too thick." It does not deceive anybody. It really does not deceive the hon. Member opposite who is smiling and feels so happy about the results of this Bill.
Another matter is that the Bill does absolutely nothing for small holdings, an extremely important and vital defect. We are always talking about our overcrowded towns and our depopulated countryside, and everyone knows that there is great scope for small holdings for the purpose of poultry rearing, egg production, soft fruit growing and, more than in any other direction, vegetable farming. The Bill does not help the smallholder in the least, but puts obstacles in his way. We should like to see the money which is to be spent on cereal farming spent on a survey to ascertain where colonies of small holdings could be established and developed, and in assisting the erection of depots, warehouses and factories for all the processes involved in sorting, grading and preparing commodities for the markets. If it had been proposed to spend that money for those purposes we should have supported this Measure, and there would have been no opposition. We regret that in the circumstances it has been claimed that the object of the Government is to secure a revival of agriculture. On the contrary, it will raise the 'cost of living to the working people. The price of the necessaries of life has already begun to rise, and even the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer told us that there would be a general rise all round in prices very shortly. In one of his speedhes the right hon. Gentleman put the rise at 25 per cent., and even now the full effect of the duties has not been realised. If the rise in prices only amounts to 20 per cent. —
I have no intention of disobeying your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but my contention is that within the next 12 or 18 months the cost-of-living in the case of the ordinary working man's family will rise by as much as 12s. or 15s. a week on account of the policy adopted by the Government. The effect of this Measure will be to heighten and worsen the restrictions on the purchasing power of the people, and the cumulative effect on the working-class position of this and other Measures which have been passed by the Government will be the same as if wages were reduced by 10s. a week. In view of the prejudicial effect of this Measure upon the economic position of the poor people, I very heartily support the Amendment for its rejection.
In rising to support the Third Reading of this Bill, I ask for the indulgence of the House. I welcome the Bill as a good and useful Measure, and I wish to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the Minister of Agriculture for the tact and ability with which he has conducted the Measure through the House. During the early stages of the Debates on the Measure hon. Members opposite stated that they found great difficulty in understanding it, but they afterwards proceeded with great modesty to show how well they did understand it. Having made out to their own satisfaction, but not to mine, that they were the only guardians of the working-man's standard of living, hon. Members opposite got down to business and began to criticise the Measure, and by their Amendments they played a very important part in improving it. An hon. Member opposite described the Bill as a conjuring trick calculated to provide the farmer with a bonus at no one's expense. The Measure is not a conjuring trick, but it is a perfectly straightforward proposal providing a strictly limited bounty on a limited quantity of millable wheat. The Opposition claim that the Measure will increase the price of bread and will not reduce unemployment, but I entirely disagree with that contention. If I thought any hardship would be imposed on working-men by this Bill, I should not support it, and I should certainly vote against it.
I am just as anxious to protect the food of the people as hon. Members opposite. I have been able to examine a number of figures dealing with this question, including some figures prepared by the former Minister of Agriculture, and I cannot see that the Bill can possibly, by any means, increase the cost of the 4-lb. loaf by more than.32 of a penny. I believe that with the increased quantity of wheat imported in the grain and with mills working full time, the cost of flour must tend to fall. I know from my own personal experience that a certain proportion of this bounty is likely to be passed on to the farmer in his offals for which I have often paid more than the current price of wheat. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) gave us a very interesting discourse on baking, and he showed his great knowledge of the subject. The hon. Member told us of the enormous speciality trade of the bakers, and, when he finds that his buns, biscuits and pastry cost him more, I hope he will join with the rest of the medical profession in endeavouring to persuade the more well-to-do of his patients to eat only the whole-meal bread, which must of necessity cost more than the fine white bread. I hope he will get those people to eat brown bread, which always costs more than white bread, for the good of their health and for the benefit of the poor millers and bakers.
During the election I found that the townspeople were prepared to agree that the farmer had just as much right to a fair return for his labour as anyone else in the country, and, when he gets that fair return, he will be able to pay a decent wage to his workmen. Hon. Members opposite have already admitted the necessity for a Measure of this kind, and they are fully aware of the great amount of unemployment which exists today in our wheat-growing areas. Some of them are anxious to tack on to this Bill mechanisation and nationalisation of the land as a condition, though they themselves say that mechanisation will increase unemployment, and though they must know better than anyone else that. nationalisation of land is not acceptable to the majority of the people of this country, and is not in sight.
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey told us of his visit to Russia, and of the wonderful fields of wheat that he saw there, and the wonderful mechanisation. He did not directly suggest that we should apply that mechanisation to this country, but some other hon. Members opposite did, who have less knowledge of the subject than he has, although he and they should know that the combined harvester is not suited to this country, where wheat must ripen in the shock and in the stack. I welcome mass production in the Dominions, and in foreign countries when it is carried on on decent lines. Mass production in those countries has brought about a price of wheat so low that it is impossible that any real hardship can be caused to the working man by this Measure. Low world costs and lower prices are the factors which make this burden so very light.
Hon. Members opposite have painted a picture of an enriched farming class, who will not be willing to pass on any of their improved prosperity to their workers. It is not an honest picture; it is not a true picture. I was born in the Eastern counties, in a corn-growing district, and have spent most of my holidays amongst farmers, and I know the relations that exist between farmer and man—friendly relations, happy relations, which are not easily understood or readily realised by town dwellers. Farmers are not willingly bad employers. They pay what wages they can, and 'usually augment those wages by a row of potatoes, an allowance of milk or things of that sort, and I feel convinced that, given better times, they will share their better fortune with their workers. Hon. Members opposite under-rate the bargaining power of the agricultural labourer. When there is something to bargain for, I feel convinced that he will get his share.
This Bill will not enrich the farmer but will help him to survive. It will help him to pay off the load of debts which he carries to-day, and to regain some of those millions of lost capital most of which have been paid away to the consumer by selling his produce below the cost of production, and in paying wages that he could not possibly afford to pay. The security that this Measure will give to the farmer will open to him a new volume of credit, equal in value to the amount of the levy and perhaps more; and the deficiency certificate, when he gets it after he has sold his wheat for its market value, will provide him with a currency which will be acceptable by any bank at or near its face value. These new sources of credit will allow the farmer to pay his way and to pay his wages.
This Measure is the spearhead of the Government's agricultural policy. It will bring new hope to the industry; it will increase the confidence of the industry in the National Government; it will encourage and foster the spirit of co-operation among farmers, which up to the present has been rather conspicuous by its absence; it will show the farmer that it is possible and easy for the producer and the distributor to work together for their common advantage without any serious damage or hardship to the consumer. I venture to say that the Measure will hasten on that organisation of production and marketing in the pig, milk, and meat branches of the industry which must precede any action of the Minister to help the industry by the limitation of foreign imports.
I contend that this Measure will not do harm to the town dweller, but that, on the contrary, he will benefit from it through the increased purchasing power of the agricultural community, which will be able to buy, not only fertilisers, implements and stock, but, in an immense volume, those very necessities of life which have been denied them for so long owing to the serious times through which they have passed and are now passing. The National Government has great responsibilities and great opportunities, and the Minister of Agriculture carries his share of them. Let him continue to use his opportunities with courage, and he will earn the gratitude, not only of the industry, but of the nation. The National Government has great and serious problems to face. Unemployment is not the least of them. The National Government's agricultural policy, of which this Measure is such an important part, will soon prove to be a great factor in the solution of this great problem. Given a measure of security and a reasonable prospect of success, there will flow into agriculture and all its branches, not only the labour displaced in the years since the War, but those numbers of unemployed in the large towns and cities, and, above all, in the distressed mining areas, where, whatever steps any Government may take to find new uses for coal and increased sales of coal, thousands of men will never again follow the trade of their fathers. Given a reasonable prospect of success, there will arise, as a result of this Measure, a generation of small farmers and smallholders, the finest of our race, the backbone of our country; and in this fervent hope and belief I most heartily support the Bill.
I know I am echoing the feelings of every Member of the House in offering whole-hearted congratulations to the hon. Member on his maiden speech and in saying how, having admired the inner knowledge and clarity of exposition which he has shown, we shall all look forward to the opportunity of hearing him again. I want to point out, as a northerner from the northernmost corner of England, two reasons why we whole-heartedly welcome this Bill and why we feel very real gratitude to the Minister, first of all, because of indirect benefits that we can clearly visualise, and, secondly, because of the definite indication that the Bill gives that the present agricultural trouble is being understood and watched. Agriculture is a chain of links of soils and methods of farming and of markets, all linked together so closely that it is extraordinarily difficult to unravel which may be the most dependent upon the other. It is a chain whose strength can only be measured by its weakest link, and its weakest link at present is the wheat belt. Each portion of this great industry is as interdependent as the multitudinously different types of soil that townsmen find it so hard to believe in. On any railway journey in any direction, north, south, west or east, you will see rabbit holes of different colours in every field which remind you of the varied soils with which each farmer is dealing.
There was a book issued only a month or two ago about a farmer from the west country who finds it hard to believe in large areas where it would be impossible to grow grass. In that book the hero, after many experiments carried out with extreme courage, has now gone into mechanised dairy farming, and says that on no account would he be changed from that course to one of wheat growing. As I understand it, we have to be very thankful for those who can find courses of agriculture which will affect their land, because nothing is so great a danger in this island as overproduction in any one particular commodity where we have an opportunity of so much variety. There are hundreds of acres where science offers no alternative as yet to a range of crops which aerate the soil, first to a depth such as the roots of wheat would go, then a little less, such as the roots of oats, and then shallow, such as the roots of barley, followed by your cleaning crops. I mention the indirect benefits that those of us who do not live in wheat-growing countries may yet reap from this legislation. In the first place, the agriculturists of the wheat-growing areas will naturally grow wheat in its rotation, getting greater benefit from their soil and cutting out an extra quarter of oats which they are at present tempted to grow, thereby improving the market for that north-country oat which is famed all over the world for its flavour and which will again take its place in the world's market. Uneconomic competition will be removed and those of the wheat belt who are once more restored to the possibility of an agricultural horizon will travel north to buy store stock, will require stock to fill their yards, to use their straw, and to make farmyard manure in order to grow more crops and in order to establish the physical condition of the soil from which they have renewed hopes. Legislation which has already been achieved will definitely cheapen offals. These perhaps are not very marked benefits beyond the fact that we see so clearly that the industry is being watched and helped.
The stock-breeder may say that he has not got out of the depths of despair yet. Our markets and our prices are deplorable, our soil is going back, and our buildings are depreciating. That railway journey that I mentioned bears yet another witness to the ever-increasing trouble of drainage, filled up by silted mud, but the farmer belongs to a community noted for self-reliance, for indus- try and for thrift, and each of those attributes of the farming community can take a special courage from the support given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
I have been interested in at least two of the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon during the time that I have been in the House—the one, the devastating criticism of the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) and the other, the maiden speech of the hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes), which was an exceedingly interesting speech. I wish to deal for a short time with that speech because of its interest and because, to me as one who has no knowledge of the actual growing of wheat, it was very instructive. At the same time. I wish to offer some criticism of at least one statement made by the hon. Member for South East Essex. It was an exceedingly interesting speech, because it intimated to me and others who listened to it that he disagreed with the criticism of the Bill generally, and he made the rather astonishing statement that whatever criticism might be offered by other members of the community at least the wheat growers would welcome the Bill. I have no doubt about that. Wheat gowers and the millers, from what I have heard in this House, certainly appear to be about the only people who will welcome the Bill. I have listened to the Chorus of praise from those who are going to give them the privilege of exploiting the public by means of the Bill, and naturally the people who are to be given that privilege will welcome the Bill. Another hon. Member speaking from below the Gangway, intimated that it was something new in legislation in this country that a section of people who are apparently in the good books of the Government and who, no doubt, rendered good service to the Government during the last election are to be given a privilege which is not, conceded to other sections of the community. But they are to get Government protection while they exploit the public for their own benefit.
The bon. Member for South-East Essex also made a rather serious charge against the party to which I belong and on whose behalf I speak. He said that we were continually prepared to knock down any- thing, but that we were not doing what he claimed the Government were doing in this case, namely, building up an industry. I remember something like 40 years ago when I first became acquainted with the Socialist movement reading a book written by a gentleman who was well known during the period of the War at any rate—Robert Blatchford. I remember a number of very simple illustrations which he gave to illustrate points which he sought to make in that book. One was in regard to that very simple substance which we use at our luncheon—salt. He pointed out the great amount of salt that was wasted by an ordinary person having his luncheon or dinner, and he intimated that the people in the salt industry were very badly paid and worked under extremely bad conditions. He said that if the Government of the day would aid the people interested in the salt industry to double the price of salt, or to increase the price considerably, it would enable those people to pay to the workers in the industry a much better wage than they were paying at the time. I suggest that the Minister of Agriculture is applying that illustration in an inverted way. He is giving the people in the wheat-growing section of the agricultural industry the opportunity of exploiting the public by increasing the price of the commodity, but, instead of using the money in the way suggested by Robert Blatchford in the case of the salt industry, the wheat growers are to use the money, not for the benefit of the agricultural labourers—they are debarred from the benefits of the Bill—but for increasing their own profits.
Early in the Debates upon this Measure I became somewhat heated, and I pointed out to the Minister of Agriculture on that particular night that he was not concerned a bit about the case of the agricultural labourer, and that he did not care a bit whether they received any benefit at all. In fact, he has gone out of his way to make sure, as far as the Bill is concerned at any rate, that no benefit can possibly come to the agricultural worker. He appeared on that occasion to be very indignant that I should make such a suggestion, and I shall be glad if he can tell us of any possible benefit which the agricultural labourer is likely to obtain in consequence of the Bill. The Bill was carefully framed by his Department in the first instance and made public, but afterwards the original intention of the Bill was withdrawn, because it was made perfectly clear to the Minister of Agriculture that those people he was hoping to benefit were not satisfied that they would benefit. In consequence of their opposition in the earlier stages, the Bill was redrafted in the way they indicated that it ought to be drafted, and it is in that form that we have been considering it. There is no doubt that certain sections of the agricultural industry will obtain very considerable personal benefit from the Bill. The millers and the wheat growers will receive benefit.
When a Bill comes before this House and I am asked to consider how I am going to act in regard to it, whether I am going to vote in favour of it or against it, I have to consider, as every other Member has to consider, the attitude of my own party upon the matter. But there are other considerations of which every Member of the House, I hope, takes notice besides the mere party point of view. My general attitude is one which, I should imagine, will commend itself to every Member of the House. I ask myself at least two questions in regard to a Bill. First, what will be the effect of the Bill upon the general body of the people of the country, and, secondly, what will be the effect of the Bill upon the industry to which it is to be applied? If you take those questions and apply them to the Bill which we are now considering, at what result is it possible to arrive by the application of decent reasoning? With regard to the question of what is likely to be the effect upon the general public, there is only one possible answer, and that is that the general public will be worse off than they are to-day as a consequence of the Bill. The general public will be called upon to pay a higher price for a commodity which almost everyone in the country uses than they are paying to-day. Therefore, it is obvious that from the point of view of the general public the Bill cannot be commended or recommended by any man or woman who has at heart the general wellbeing of the public. Consequently, I suggest that the Minister, even at this late stage in the Bill, if he has a desire to benefit the general public, should withdraw the Bill and apologise to the public for ever having introduced it.
With regard to the question of what is going to be the effect upon the industry, I have listened very carefully indeed to a number of extremely ingenious arguments which certainly do not convince me. It was generally admitted, and particularly by those in the industry who may benefit personally by it, that the Bill is a very fine thing. As the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) said, there are many men in this House who will benefit to a very large extent as a consequence of the Bill, and they are enthusiastic in their approval of the Minister. One cannot blame them for that. I suppose it is a natural thing that all of us should have a desire that the industry in which we are interested and from which we draw some of our income should benefit, and, if any benefit can be got from the Government, that we should uphold the Government so far as we can get any benefit out of it. Governments are, however, not elected for the purpose of giving a bonus or assistance to their friends or to any group of their friends. When they go to their electors, as this Government did a few months ago, they do not say that they are going to "shovel out public money," as the right hon. Gentleman for Epping (Mr. Churchill) once said of a previous Government. They are shovelling out public money to their friends. There is not a shadow of doubt about that. This is only one of the intances of the shovelling-out process, and those friends to whom the shovelling-out is done are naturally enthusiastically supporting the Government from the back benches and from outside the House.
What will be the effect on the industry of those people getting a personal financial benefit? Does anybody in his senses pretend that any benefit will come to the agricultural labourer? Can it reasonably be stated as one of the consequences of the Bill that there will be an increase of employment of agricultural workers on farms? I have listened with intense interest to the hon. Members who have made statements as to the mechanisation of the industry. I have been connected with industries where mechanisation has come in, and I have watched it very carefully indeed. I have never seen any other effect of mechanisation than this, that for every machine that came in a certain number of workers went out. That is the inevitable effect of the intro- duction of machinery into any industry with which I have had any association. I think that those who spoke for the industry agreed that one of the consequences of this Bill will be an increased mechanisation in farms. If that is so, is there any reason why the Minister should tell the House that the effect of mechanisation of this industry would be dfferent from the effect that has been experienced in the past in the mechanisation of other industries, which is that, as the result of the introduction of machinery to a greater extent than has ever been used before, a number of men will go out? If the Minister agrees that that is the general result of mechanisation, how can the Minister argue that we are going to get an increase in the number of men working in the industry as a consequence of the Bill? I am afraid that the farm labourers, who are perhaps expecting, in consequence of speeches made in this House and elsewhere, that they are going to get a job and an opportunity of earning their living on their farms again, will be very gravely disappointed when they have a little experience of the actual working of the Bill.
This branch of the farming industry furnishes another proof of the utter failure of the methods of private ownership and control. During the period of this Government, one industry after another has begged the Government to come to its assistance and save it from disaster. Some have been successful in their plea, and others have not—at least not yet, but the sounding process is still going on. I have no doubt, if they can satisfy the Ministry later on that their power in the country is sufficiently strong, that the process that is going on will ultimately come their way and that they will get their dole also.
I am opposed to this Bill for the reasons that I have stated, which are, briefly, that so far as the general public are concerned there can only be one possible effect, and that is a reduction of the standard of life as a consequence of the increase in the price of the commodity which almost everyone uses, bread; that the only people in the industry that will benefit are the growers and the millers, and that, if the bulk of the people associated in the industry, and especially the farm labourers, come in at all, they will have to pay to some extent, in the increased price of bread, their contribu- tion to the farmers, who will not be able to employ them in the future to a greater extent than.at present. I hope—but I am almost without hope—that hon. Members who made promises during the election that they would do nothing to increase the price of food to the people will see the light even at this late time, will remember their promises to the electors, and will give this Bill the fate that it ought to receive, namely, to be defeated in the Division Lobbies.
This Debate has been distinguished in two respects. We have had two very interesting maiden speeches and two very lamentable speeches from the other side against the Bill. Can one wonder, as this House from day to day unfolds the opinions of men who fought at the General Election, and when we hear speeches such as those by the two Opposition hon. Members tonight, that the Labour party went down like ninepins, and that the party whose members made speeches in various localities like the two maiden speeches which have been delivered to-night swept the country? The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) spoke at great length. I shall speak as shortly as he spoke at length. I shall devote myself to one point that he seems, with all his knowledge of agriculture, to know very little about. I understood him to say that wheat-growing in this country ought to go the way of the stage coaches, that, economically, it was practically done, and could never be a success.
Does the hon. Member realise that this is the one land in the world where you get the biggest crops of wheat? He talks about Canada, Australia and the Argentine. Does he know that 15 or 16 bushels is as much as can be got per acre in Canada and Australia, while we can get 32 bushels here?
I am putting it at quite a low figure because I shall have something to say about it in a moment. What are all our agricultual colleges for? What are Oxford, Reading or Cambridge for? I was in Reading on Monday and saw the wonderful buildings. There is there that outstanding Professor of Agricultural Botany, Professor Percival, who is consulted by every country in the world about wheat-growing. What did he tell me? Does the hon. Gentleman think we are going to make no use of these agricultural colleges in future? Does he think they ought to be abolished as well, and that all Professor Percival's effort in the past for wheat-growing is to go for nothing? Is every country in the world to suck the brains of our great professors and we are not to increase our own wheat crops? No. What is going to happen is as plain as anything to see. We are rearing in this country a new generation of young agriculturists who are paying great attention to the question of research. They are going to the agricultural colleges, and they will not be satisfied even with 32 or 33 bushels per acre. A friend of mine who was in this House on Tuesday has got 60 bushels an acre from his land. It has to be done scientifically.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. F. Graham) talked very wisely about the roots of wheat. The roots of wheat go down into the ground anything from four to 14 feet. I do not think there are many farmers who plough their land deep enough and loosen it enough for the wheat to get a fair chance, but all this scientific agricultural research with regard to wheat-growing is going to permeate every farm in the country, and instead of the present yield, which is greater than in any country in the world, we shall get 60 and 70 bushels an acre from our wheat land. If that is the case, is it not amazing that a leading Member of the Socialist party should get up in this House and say we ought to send wheat-growing where the stage coaches have gone?
If the hon. Member will allow me, I quite agree with him that scientific farming on English soil can produce 30, 40, 50 and even more bushels per acre, but the wheat so produced is of a soft character, and totally unfit for producing flour for bread purposes. It is excellent for cattle-feeding, poultry-feeding and so on, but it is totally useless, and is rejected by the baker, for bread purposes.
The hon. Member is as erroneous in that statement as in many other statements he has made. If he will come with me to one of the biggest stores in Brompton Road tomorrow, I will show him where they are making the purest white bread with English flour. In the composition of that bread there is always 15 per cent. of English flour and 85 per cent. of Canadian flour, and for the hon. Member to tell us that our English wheat will not produce flour is absurd. On what have the English been fed for 15 centuries? I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's ancestors lived on, but my ancestors lived on flour from English wheat, and we have not been altogether a, puny race. Will not the hon. Gentleman give the farmers a fair chance? There is a new spirit abroad. The towns and the land are coming together. Half of my own constituents were brought up in the country and know what it is, and that we have to get together if we are to carry on with 45,000,000 people in these islands. When the towns flourish, the country flourishes, and when the countryside flourishes, the towns flourish. We have to show a bold front in this Parliament and not listen to any of the foolish cries about "Your food will cost you more." What we have to do—and the right hon. Gentleman is going to do it—is to treat every part of the agricultural industry in the right way. Where it wants quotas, he is going to have quotas; where it wants control of imports, then we are going to have that control, and where it wants tariffs, we are going to have tariffs. We are going quite plainly to say so to every intelligent audience in the country, and after we have been here five years, when we go again to the country we shall be able to say, in words such as Lord Snowden used which made the benches opposite writhe with anger, that when we come back after the General Election we shall come back in equally large numbers.
A good deal has been made in this House about the benefit which East Anglia will obtain from the Bill. As the representative of a large rural area in the West of England, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the National Government upon bringing in this Bill, because we in the West of England recognise that, although we are largely a dairy country, this Bill will help us also indirectly. Of course, there is still a good deal of arable country in the West of England, and we hope that the tendency to lay down more ground to grass will be reversed by this Bill. We recognise that the glut of milk on the market, which has been the result of so much land being put down to grass, will also be modified, and that milk prices will tend to improve. We believe that wheat-growing is one of the vital crops of agriculture. In many parts of the country you raise sheep on ground where you are afterwards going to grow wheat, and, therefore, it will be of benefit to the sheep flocks of this country. Too long has the United Kingdom been subject to industrialism, and at long last we welcome a Government that is giving a helping hand to the basic and largest industry of the country—agriculture.
The War raised wages to an artificial level and now the producer must be safeguarded and helped over a difficult time if he is going to continue in many parts of the country to be able to pay wages at all. The townsmen are, we hear, anxious to help the rural population, and' we are glad for that feeling. Surely it is not a large price to pay, one-farthing on a four-lb. loaf, for 11 weeks in the year, which it is calculated would have been the result if this Bill had been in force in 1931. During the other 41 weeks it is calculated that there would have been no change in the cost of living. Hon Members opposite know the force of trade unionism and united effort in raising wages, yet it is surprising that they are opposed to the machinery of this Bill which is going to guarantee a price of wheat which will enable the producer to pay the legal wage. In many parts of the country he will have to go out of business altogether if he does not get the help given under this Bill. The quota principle for wheat is a very valuable principle, and it can be extended to meat and bacon and other products of the land. Therefore, in no half-hearted way we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the National Government on their courage in. bringing in this Bill.
When I entered the Chamber the future agricultural policy of the Government was being proclaimed in, fiery words by the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Sir S. Chapman). He certainly was far more communicative than the Minister of Agriculture, and no doubt that is a source of gratification to the right hon. Gentleman. I rise to oppose this Bill not because I disagree with the principle of the State coming to the assistance of agriculture. Indeed, the time is long overdue when the State should come to the assistance of the agricultural industry. The trend of economic events is such as to make such action imperative. We have a number of industries, the mining industry for example, which are obviously over-manned. These industries became bloated during the War, under artificial conditions, and are obviously over-manned, and we are now faced with a shrinkage in the demand for labour. Statesmanship ought to take in hand the task of finding new avenues of employment for displaced labour. But quite apart from economic considerations I think that no country can be in a healthy social condition when so small a part of its population lives on and by the soil. Therefore, I do not oppose these proposals because they offer assistance to agriculture, nor do I oppose them because they limit the assistance to one particular part of the agricultural industry. Further, I think that this is an opportune time for rendering that assistance, because I very much doubt whether there has ever been a time when there was so much genuine goodwill towards agriculture. There has been a community of suffering and a widespread bewilderment as to the future of our economic life, and the Government therefore can risk a good deal on the goodwill of the urban population.
My objection to this Bill is that I am not able to see with the clarity of some hon. Members that it can be regarded as an integral part of a bold, imaginative and statesmanlike policy for dealing with the problem of rural reorganisation. I would stand a good deal in the way of experiments if I was convinced that they were a contribution to a great imaginative and constructive scheme for agrarian rehabilitation. Take the conflict in the expressions we have had from the Front Bench. The question has been asked more than once; are these proposals temporary? The Secretary of State for Scotland assured the House, and thereby salved his own conscience, by declaring that they were only temporary. I would have preferred a time limit to the present indefiniteness, so that farmers would know where they were. Talk about security! What security can there be? The National Government will not continue in office for ever. If they were a Government of Archangels, which they are not, the swing of the pendulum will bring other people into office who may not have the same understanding and sympathy and outlook.
We have had the Corn Production Act, of tragic memory, which gave farmers a false sense of security. If you are going to bring agriculture to a state of efficiency you must assure the farmer of some security. It is not enough to have a short term policy. You must have a long term policy, and I do not think that this Bill offers that certainty which will enable farmers to feel confident and allow them to lay out their capital and increase the efficiency of their culture. Secondly, I feel that the only statesmanlike way of dealing with agriculture is by reorganisation of marketing. The subsidising of production will solve neither an agricultural nor an industrial problem. There is in this Bill a rather dangerous precedent. We have been told by the Minister of Agriculture, and it has been commonly accepted, that the Government propose, I think very rightly, to deal with the bacon industry and the poultry industry. Along what lines? I shall be quite prepared, although it would give me no pleasure, to accept the principle of a limitation of imports if it is made subsidiary to a scheme of reconstruction. You have the application of a quota to wheat. Can you apply that principle with equal facility and soundness to poultry, to the dairy industry and to market gardening?
It is obvious that the way to help agriculture is by providing some means whereby you can bridge that wide chasm between what the farmer gets and what the consumer pays. It has been said that the consumer pays £10 for that for which the farmer receives £3. That is £3 for production and £7 for distribution. I submit that this condition of things may very well become more acute with mechanisation. It is fairly obvious from a study of the census of occu- pations that more and more people are going into the distributive trades. Mechanisation will mean that fewer and fewer people will man the industries concerned with production, and more and more people will man those that are connected with distribution. With mechanisation spreading you will find the position becoming worse. There fore it is an urgent problem for statesmanship to devise means whereby a bigger share of the price shall reach the farmer. I suggest that it would have been a far more statesmanlike method of tackling the problem if the Government had used its credit facilities in providing really efficient marketing schemes. There is another reason why I feel that the Bill ought to be objected to, and that is that it sets up the Millers' Corporation. I think it is common knowledge that there is a clear understanding between the great milling concerns already, and if we are going to follow the precedent of the War, when rival concerns were compelled to reach an understanding, to pool secrets and to co-operate in various ways, that will end in wholesale trustification of food distribution in this country. In this Bill the Minister has created the condition whereby we shall have the whole of the milling industry trustified.
The first step to nationalisation, and I am sure that that is a thing which the Minister and those who support him would deplore. Anyhow, the individual farmer has no protection here, as far as I can see. I must confess that there are parts of this Bill which are masterpieces of obfuscation. They challenge the most penetrating mind; they demand an intelligence that I have not at my command. But as far as I can understand, so long as the Millers' Corporation buys a certain aggregate of wheat there is no compulsion to buy from any individual grower. There are, perhaps, farmers who, under the incentive of this Bill, will lay down grass land to arable cultivation, believing that they will be assured of 45s. a quarter. But they have no guarantee. I do not think that any scheme for agricultural rehabilitation will be of any permanent value unless it engenders in farmers, and provides an inducement for, a greater co-operative spirit. That way and that way alone will salvation come to the agricultural industry.
There is another thing which ought to be remembered. You may exhaust, on schemes which are really not worth while, the reservoir of good will and sympathy which exists to-day in the urban areas for agriculture. You have within your reach methods whereby you can benefit agriculture and benefit the consumer, but you are going to disappoint a large number of people, you are going perhaps to exhaust that reservoir of good will by methods which will give temporary assistance to one section of agriculture but at the same time penalise the community. It is nonsense to say that the quota payment is not going to be passed on. It has been made clear that the millers are not in business for their own personal delectation. If they can stand a levy of £6,000,000 a year without passing it on, that demonstrates clearly one thing—that they have been making criminally high profits in the past. They are bound to pass it on. They have stated quite clearly that they mean to pass it on. It may be that the amount which the consumer will have to pay will be relatively small. But are you going to apply this system to the bacon industry Are you going to have your quota and a corporation of the character of the Millers' Corporation to handle bacon? Are they to be compelled to pay a levy? Are the consumers to have the price increased for bacon, for poultry, for horticultural produce?
Is it a part of the Government policy for raising prices to the consumers to allow these levies on the consumers to pass into the hands of powerful corporations like the Millers' Corporation, while very little of permanent value is achieved? I plead with the Minister to consider. Anxious to support the Government, and desperately anxious that something should be done for agriculture, I see the possibilities of great good. Take the case of milk. I was told of one road in the town in which I live. There are in it 62 houses, and any morning you will find there 18 milk carts. The farmers have been getting too little for their milk; there is a huge leakage somewhere. I suggest that the Government take in hand this question of agrarian reconstruction, but in a way that will not alienate the sympathies of the towns. The position is abundantly clear. The Government has good will, I am sure. They must ally clear vision with that good will. They must not merely place agriculture on its feet and render a tremendously important and permanent service to the life of Britain, but they must also render real service to the consumers. It is not necessary to penalise the consumers in order to help the farmers. The Government can help both. That is the way of statesmanship, and that is the way I hope the Government will take.
In listening to the very eloquent speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken, one thing concerned me. I thought that either he or I was sitting on the wrong side of the House, and I have come to the conclusion that I am not sitting on the wrong side of the House. After having listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), it was evident that he and I are sitting on different sides of the House. In criticising the Bill he assumed that because only 3 or 4 per cent. of agricultural production is affected by the Bill, the Bill would not help agriculture beyond that three or four per cent. The hon. Member is in error. If this three or four per cent., which wheat may be of the total of agricultural production, is increased by four or five per cent., that increase in wheat production will be accompanied by a decrease in other arable crops, and the prices of those crops, being governed by the law of supply and demand, will rise to an economic level with wheat. So in treating the wheat problem as the pivot of arable agriculture, we give assistance to the whole of the arable crops.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey made another statement, that British wheat could never again become essential for the production of flour, and that for bread we would still have to depend on wheat from other parts of the world. There is no country in the world that is so efficient as England in its production of wheat. There is no wheat of a better flavour than British wheat for bread making. Although, as he says, British wheat is a soft wheat a mixture of soft wheat with hard wheat is essential to a perfect flour for bread-making. This country is at present considering certain agreements with our Dominions as to Imperial trade and I would remind the hon. Member that if we produce soft wheat in this country that production will increase the demand for and the use of the hard wheats of Canada and elsewhere, and therefore will help Imperial trade.
The hon. Member said that British wheat was not useful for breadmaking, and that bakers did not like to use British wheat. The reason is that they can make more loaves out of each sack of flour of foreign wheat than out of each sack of flour made from British wheat. The bakers by using foreign wheat are able to sell more water to the public than they would be able to do by using British wheat; and, if the hon. Member desires to help the consumers in this country, he can do so by supporting the growing of British wheat, because the bakers by using British wheat will be giving more foodstuffs in proportion to water to the public, than they are doing by using foreign wheat. The Minister has introduced this Bill and has carried it through the House for one object, namely, the benefit of British agriculture, an industry which is recognised to-day to be in a very depressed condition. I wish to add my congratulations to those which the right hon. Gentleman has already received on the ability with which he has piloted this Bill through its various stages. It has now nearly arrived at port, and its successful passage has been largely due to the right hon. Gentleman's genial personality. His smile has removed all sting from the exchanges which have taken place curing these discussions, and his conduct of the Bill has caused us on this side to realise that the National Government made a good choice in appointing him Minister of Agriculture.
During the Committee and Report stages a great many Amendments were put down and these may be divided into three groups. There were the Amendments put down by hon. Members opposite whose purpose, if I may say so without offence, was to destroy the Bill. In putting down those Amendments however they Were acting in a perfectly proper Parliamentary manner as the Opposition in this House. The second group of Amendments consisted of those put down by hon. Members on this side sitting immediately in front of me. These were put down for the purpose, not of destroying but of weakening the Bill. The third group of Amendments consisted of those put, down by hon. Members on this side whose purpose was to strengthen the Bill. But the Bill now is much as it was when introduced. All those Amendments, or most of them have been rejected, and that fact has produced a certain amount of regret and a certain amount of pleasure. We regret that our Amendments have been rejected but we feel a certain amount of pleasure in the fact that the other fellows Amendments have been rejected also. Since there have been three groups of Amendments, each group of movers in regretting the rejection of their own Amendments, can derive some satisfaction from the fact that the other two groups have been rejected also. Possibly the Minister has taken the wise course in rejecting practically all the Amendments.
I am honoured at having the opportunity of taking part in the discussion on this the final stage of the Bill, because all my life I have been in terested in the question of wheat production. When I was at Cambridge I worked under one of the greatest experts on this question, Sir Rowland Biffen, when he introduced the two famous wheats, Yeoman and Little Joss. Therefore, it is a great pleasure for me to take part in the Debate on this occasion. Wheat-growing has been referred to as the pivot of arable agriculture. I believe that it is so, and I look forward to this Measure doing a great service to British agriculture because it will give a hope to the arable agriculturist which he has been without for some time. I have been a Member of this House for 10 years. This is my fifth Parliament. I have heard various agricultural policies put forward. They have all been general, covering the whole field of agriculture, but most of them have led to nothing. At last we have an agricultural policy which is definite.
The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) and myself have spent some time in consultation on this question of wheat. The proposal to deal with it was accepted by the Conservative party and by the National Government and to-night we are witnessing the realisation of the first concrete proposal to give practical assistance to agriculture. I wish on behalf of the agricultural industry to thank the Minister, and I hope that he will use the experience gained in connection with this Bill in order to produce a similar Measure dealing with bacon. I recognise that a Bill of this kind dealing with bacon will be more difficult to understand than the present Bill and therefore hon. Members opposite will have greater difficulty in putting down Amendments to it. When the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with bacon I would ask him further to consider dealing with milk and to make this Bill a stepping stone which will eventually lead to a prosperous British agriculture.
This is the last lap after some three or four weeks of continuous talk about wheat. In the old days we used to hear about "Beer, glorious beer," and I think 'we shall soon be humming to the same tune, a refrain which is dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson), "Wheat, glorious wheat." I wish to congratulate the Minister upon the very pleasant manner in which he has conducted one of the most complicated and difficult Measures ever placed before this House, but I hope that he will not remain at the Ministry of Agriculture long enough to carry out the suggestion just made by the hon. Member for Leominster. On the Second Reading of this Bill the hon. Member had to confess that, although he had tried his best, he failed to understand the purpose of this Bill. Any more complicated Measure than this would leave the hon. Member in such a perplexed position that the chances are that he would not know whether it was likely to be a good Bill or a bad one.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, apart altogether from the pleasant manner that he has displayed from beginning to end, that he has indicated qualities for which many of us never gave him credit previously. His capacity for acrobatics and for doing nothing to explain the points submitted to him has been equal to that of many of those who would have performed acrobatic feats in one of the Committee rooms yesterday. He has made a few slips. He informed us yesterday that the landlord in certain circumstances would be entitled to accept a small measure of the new prosperity which this Bill or any other produced, but I am sure that his colleagues will readily forgive him for those slips, for they were few and far between. If the National Government could have made any improvement at all upon the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, I do not think they could have done better than to have appointed the hon. Member for Leominster, who would have made an admirable Minister of Agriculture, and only one Measure would have been necessary to solve all the problems, both of agriculture and of the town dwellers. I should have preferred to have that one Measure produced here and now, so that we should have known just what to expect, instead of this piecemeal legislation which apparently is going to worry the poor Opposition for the months and years that lie ahead.
We entirely disagree with the principle of this Bill, a Bill which is calculated to extract from the pockets of the consumers £6,000,000 per annum. If the right hon. Gentleman is justified in giving anything to wheat producers at all, it would have been better to have provided the subsidy or deficiency payment from the national Exchequer in a direct fashion, instead of exacting it indirectly from the pockets of the poorest of the poor. If there is to be a subsidy, it should come direct and be paid according to the ability of the individuals to meet the payment, and not impose the biggest burden upon that section of the community which is least able to bear it. The Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and others have referred to agriculture as a distressed industry, but there are many other distressed industries in the country. I have tried to represent a constituency which is partly agricultural and partly mining, and if I were to attempt to determine which of the two sections is the more distressed, I should say that the mining section is perhaps the more distressed of the two. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] I am open to correction, but I happen to represent the Division, and I know both farmers and mine workers in it.
While the object of the Minister may be to subsidise a section of a distressed industry, it ought not to be done at the expense of another distressed industry, in which a number of the workers scarcely know where their next meal is coming from. I had two miners' wives in my house last week, both of whom were in some distress, and their husbands had brought home on the previous Saturday, after deductions for rent and other purposes, 8s. 6d. and 8s. respectively. That was the sum total with which they had to eke out their next week's existence, and yet the right hon. Gentleman is telling those people, by implication, that they must make a daily, weekly, monthly contribution towards the wheat producers of this country. It may be sound from the point of view of helping that section of agriculture, but it will impose a terrible burden upon an equally distressed industry, in which unemployment is equally severe. The right hon. Member for Aldershot made play with the fact that for a period of years since 1921 180,000 agricultural workers have been turned out of employment, but in the same period 300,000 mine workers have been turned out of employment. Consequently, if we are to have quota schemes in wheat, such as this was intended to be, but is not, we should have quota payment schemes to apply all round; and when the complete circle had been performed, we should be left pretty much where we were when we commenced.
Our first objection to the Bill and its purpose is that its principle is entirely wrong. If there must be a subsidy, it ought to come from the Exchequer, and those who make the contributions ought to make them on the basis of ability to pay and not on the basis of leaving the poorest of the poor to make the biggest contributions. Secondly, we quite agree that the world price for heat is too low and that something may be done for wheat producers. We are willing always to avoid excessive losses, where we are satisfied that a deficiency exists, but our policy, instead of the policy embodied in this Bill, would be, first of all, to nationalise the land. [Interruption.] Some hon. Member says that that is very far distant. That may be, but we regard the policy as being right. Having nationalised the land, we should not hesitate to set up an imports board, taking full advantage of cheap supplies of wheat from all parts of the world. We would have a wheat marketing board for internal use, and stabilise the price for the home-grown product, if you like; and if deficiency payments had to be made, we would let them be drawn from the Exchequer direct, instead of from the pockets of the poorest section of the community.
Thirdly, we are satisfied that this Bill, instead of discouraging the production of wheat on unsuitable land, will encourage the expansion of the area under wheat crops to such an extent that the more profitable side of farming will be neglected for what the farmer regards as a guaranteed price. I know the right hon. Gentleman's argument is that the law of diminishing returns, because of tine maximum amount embodied in the Bill—6,000,000 quarters—will so operate as to prevent an unnecessary expansion of the area under wheat. If We had that co-operative outlook that the night hon. Gentleman's predecessor tried to develop, but which was opposed on every occasion by the Conservative party, it may be that we could have kept the output of wheat down to the maximum mentioned in the Bill, but as each farmer stands for himself and has only to concern himself about himself, there is nothing to discourage the maximum amount of wheat being produced while a guaranteed price is made available. We suggest, therefore, that this method is not calculated to restrain the farmer from flooding his own market and destroying prices, but that it will create a lopsidedness in agriculture to which no Government ought to be parties.
Fourthly, we think that the machinery in the Bill not only lopsided to an extent, but more lopsided than any other Measure introduced into this House. We cater for the master miller, the master farmer, the master importer of flour and the master baker, but there is no reference to the agricultural labourer and no catering for the consumer; there are no safeguards for them at all. We have merely catered for the four big industrialists. We hand over to them a machine and say, "Use it just as you like, we shall not call for your accounts or your transactions. They need not be made available for public scrutiny. We will make the consumer pay whatever your charge happens to be." That is perhaps the best explanation that could be given of the machinery embodied in the Bill. We are setting up a great millers' corporation which has power to obtain loans, to buy and sell, and to do anything they please, and yet the right hon. Gentleman yesterday refused to accept an Amendment which would have compelled them to show their transactions so that they could be seen by this House. They are left with full power, without safeguards for the workers, the consumers or the State, and to that extent we think the whole thing is entirely out of place.
Fifthly, the wording of the Bill is such as not only to mislead the hon. Member for Leominster but to leave every Member of the House aghast. Sub-section (1) of Clause 3 has been referred to before, and I would not refer to it again except to indicate the futility of the verbiage in this Bill. The passage referred to deals with the calculation of the "quota payment," and says that it shall be
of an amount calculated and prescribed in accordance with the provisions of this Section so as to represent, as nearly as may be, a sum equal to what would have been the price deficit in respect of the quota of home-grown millable wheat which would have been used in the production of that hundredweight, if the anticipated supply of such wheat for the cereal year in which that hundredweight was delivered had been used at a uniform rate per hundredweight of flour in the production of the estimated supply of flour for that year.
That is crystal clear to the right hon. Gentleman's advisers, but certainly not to anybody else. The point I want to make is that the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to enable the Wheat Commission to secure such funds as were necessary for the purpose of meeting the deficiency payments, but in Clause 3, Sub-section (5), after his anticipations, prescriptions, designations, and so forth, evidently emulating the fate of Old Moore who found that he had made a mistake in his calculations, he has power to supersede the first order by a subsequent order. Not content with that, in a special Clause, Clause 7, having made rough calculations that are not in accordance with the output of the world or the imports or the quantity milled, he takes further power to increase the quota payment or to decrease the payment or to abolish it altogether. All that it is necessary to do to obtain the funds to meet the deficiency payments could have
been set forth in quite simple language. There would have been no necessity for "certifying," which occurs so often in the Bill; because I am convinced that certain people will require to be certified, not as having qualified for deficiency payments, but as having lost their senses in a vain attempt to understand the language of the Bill.
There is another thing I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, and this is the third time I have put the question. He is providing a guaranteed price for at least three years, with the possibility of its continuation for any number of years. The average price for all agricultural products is at this moment 22 per cent. in excess of pre-war prices—the average for the three years 1911 to 1913. The guaranteed price for wheat is an increase of 33⅓ per cent. over pre-war. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why that guaranteed price is 11 per cent. higher? The effect of such an offer will be to encourage farmers to exceed the area which ought to be devoted to wheat growing. No one can suggest that this special and excessive price—it is an excessive price: perhaps we should have been able to accept a sliding scale basis, but the right hon. Gentleman refused to agree to it—will provide more employment. In fact, ultimately, and, indeed, shortly, it will be found that there is less employment rather than more. On the Second Reading I quoted figures obtained from the West of England showing that on dairy farms there 35,000 people per 1,000 acres are employed while on mixed farms only 28 per 1,000 acres find employment; so that it is not always true, as the hon. Member for Leominster the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot and other Noble Lords so frequently asserted, that arable farming provides more employment than grass farming. If further evidence of that is required, I cannot do better than quote what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Basingstoke (Viscount Lymington) on the Second Reading:
All over the country at this moment pigs, breeding sheep and breeding cattle are being slaughtered simply because there is no guarantee for the future. There is one direction in which the balance of trade can be redressed and employment in agriculture can be given better than anything you can achieve on arable land, because whatever may be said, too easy a price for
wheat and nothing done on the other side will help the mechanisation of arable agriculture which does not require capital—I have done it myself without capital—and reduce the cost of production of labour by one half."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1932; col. 1219, Vol. 262.]
We think the Noble Lard is correct. He has worked the thing out in practice. There is less rather than more labour employed where mechanisation takes place, and the guarantee under this Bill will encourage people to develop wheat growing. There is just one other question I will deal with before I conclude. I want to refer to the figure given by the Minister of Agriculture in regard to the possible increase in the price of the loaf. When speaking on the Second Reading, the Minister said that on the basis of the figures given and utilised for 1931 the only increase would be a farthing per loaf for 11 weeks, and nothing for the remaining 41 weeks. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the Food Council's scale of bread prices which was given on 14th November, 1925. That scale showed that when the price of a sack of straight run flour was 20s. the price of a 4-lb. loaf was 6½d.; when the price of flour was 24s. the price of the loaf was 7d.; when flour was 28s. per sack the price of the loaf was 7½d. At the present moment the price of bread is 7d. per loaf. Therefore, if as a result of the operation of this Bill only 2s. per sack goes on to the cost of a sack of flour, it will mean an increase of a halfpenny on the price of a 4-lb. loaf.
The Member for the Forest of Dean (Dr. Worthington), who made a very interesting intervention in our Debate to-night, said that he was sure that the maximum increase in the price of bread could not possibly be more than.32 of a penny. Even that calculation will mean a, halfpenny on a 4-lb. loaf. I should like the Minister of Agriculture to tell us where his figures came from, in view of the figures given by the Food Council.
In all probability every hon. Member of this House has heard enough about wheat during the past four weeks to last a lifetime. I am certainly included in that category. I ought to say that we disagree with the principle of this Measure, because we fear that it will not have the effect which is anticipated by the Minister. We think that the machinery of the Measure is entirely wrong, and we are convinced that the burden is being placed upon a large body of people who can ill afford to carry any further burden, more particularly those who belong to the unemployed and are living on 15s. 3d. per week. For these reasons, we are obliged to oppose this Motion when otherwise we should have been delighted to do something that would be of lasting benefit to the agricultural community. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but I would remind them that during the years 1929–31 the late Minister of Agriculture introduced a Bill called the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill. That was comprehensive in its intention and purpose, and it dealt with allotments, smallholdings and the mechanisation of arable farms. Dr, Addison also introduced an Agricultural Marketing Bill calculated, to bring the farmers together just as the Minister desires that they will come together under this Bill. The Conservative party opposed the Measure from commencement to end. Now they realise that the one lasting benefit that farmers can obtain will be obtained when they learn the value of organisation. It is no use the dairy farmer greeting this Measure with glee because the arable farmer will now no longer be in competition with him. We have to tell agricultural representatives that, if they had learned the first lessons of organisation, they would produce £60,000,000 worth of milk, while approximately £6,000,000 worth is imported, but they only produce £6,000,000 worth of milk products, while £60,000,000 worth is imported into this country. There, with decent organisation, is a market at their very door. If they will take advantage of that market, there will be no reason in future why they should be so sorely distressed as they are at this moment. We feel that the tackling of this problem is from a wrong angle, and that ultimately it will not only disturb the basis of the very kindly Minister of Agriculture, but will disturb the foundations of the National Government, and, we hope, will bring them to a very heavy fall.
This is the closing word on an important Measure which the House has been considering for some time. I must at the outset thank the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for the very kindly references which he made to myself, and, indeed I not only recognise the very courteous methods which have been employed by the Opposition throughout these Debates, but I thank many hon. Members of the House for their personal kindness to myself in the negotiations which we have carried on. No Minister who is responsible for a Measure in this House can fail to appreciate the expert assistance which he receives from his advisers in his Ministry, but in this particular case I am very conscious, not only of that assistance, but of the further help which I have had from all the interests concerned, whether the farming community, or the millers, or the flour importers. Indeed, all sections of those with whom I have negotiated have materially assisted in bringing to this House a Measure which, although on the face of it, and in the wording of its details, may appear very complex and complicated, is yet a Measure based in the main upon the advice of practical people; and I will venture to say that, however difficult some hon. Members may find it to understand, that feeling is not materially entertained by those who will have to adminisster the Act.
Of course, this Measure, dealing with wheat, is not the full or final policy on agriculture of this Government. Much has been said in this Debate about the necessity fox dealing with other branches. But I wish to say, on behalf of the National Government, that we believe that this Measure will play an essential part in dealing with the problem of agricultural relief and in bringing some measure of hope to a very distressed industry. That the distress of the industry is not limited entirely to the arable areas is true. If the prices of cereals in this country have been unremunerative, that is also true of a good many other branches of agriculture, including livestock. I am one of those who believe that it is essential to have a balanced cereal production and, in framing this Measure, we have endeavoured to keep the balance between maintaining some wheat production and at the same time endeavuring to put a limit upon the burden that will fall in some 'measure upon the consumer, which I have never denied or burked in any way, yet a burden which in fact will be heaviest when flour is cheapest and will be lightest when it is more expensive. That of itself is no small matter. Criticism has been made that the policy in this Measure has departed from the original idea of a quota. It is true that considerable modifications have been made in the machinery and the methods of arriving at the objects, which have always been the same and which under any quota scheme were bound to be of a similar nature. It was quite clear that at one time many people thought that what may be described as the physical admixture was the proper method of dealing with the problem, but it became very early apparent that any scheme of that kind was going to be most difficult in working and, in fact, was going to inflict the greatest disturbance upon the industry and upon the production of bread. In these circumstances, I am sure the House will realise the wisdom of following the advice given by these experts in the industry and leaving an absolutely free market.
There is one other point that I wish to emphasise. This scheme does not place a burden upon all wheat. It clearly leaves the great mass of the wheat coming into this country untouched. It has this advantage, that it leaves not only a free market to the farmer here but it leaves also a, free market to those who have to purchase on behalf of this community the wheat coming in from overseas. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) asked me two specific questions. Is this quota system to be extended? I am certain the House is clearly of opinion that, when this quota scheme, dealing with wheat, is out of the way and brought into operation, there are essential problems, such as the reorganisation of the bacon industry and the milk industry, and it is my hope that within a very short time I shall be able to announce the personnel of commissions under the Marketing Act, making use of that machinery to deal with those problems. It may be that in some form or another, probably not in the form in which this quota principle is applied to wheat, the quota may be applied in other directions. The Government have clearly announced to the House already that they are prepared, subject to the reorganisation and orderly marketing of the bacon industry, to deal by quantitative regulation or quota, whichever word you choose to use, with that side of the industry.
Members in all parts of the House have been concerned with some of the details of the Measure. There are some who have thought that the price was either too generous or that it was insufficient. All I will say in reply to the questions put to me by the hon. Member for Don Valley and others on this matter is that we have discussed and tried to arrive at a price which, taking into account the necessary expenses and burdens which must fall—and, in my judgment, rightly fall—upon any sum which is calculated by quota payments—the price of 45s.—is reasonable and fair. It is, of course, impossible to forecast what exactly will be the position either of the farming industry or the general economic position of this country two or three years hence, and for that very reason I have resisted all those efforts which have been made to say that there is to be a complete finality to this Measure. The House in the future, and in the circumstances in which it finds these matters, must judge of these things at that time, and I think that it is essential that the farming community should have, whether you describe it as a lifebuoy or as a solid platform, an assurance of continuity of policy. All I would say is, that I hope that this Measure dealing with wheat will be more successful, more certain, have a greater continuity, and bring greater effect to the farming community than the Corn Production Acts, but it is clear that at the end of three years there will be a full opportunity for the whole of these circumstances to be reviewed.
I should like to say a word upon the question of mechanisation and employment. No one who recognises the general trend in this country, whether it is traction by road, or the operations on the land, or the development of electricity and the working of the grid, can shut his eyes to the possibility of mechanisation and of re-organisation. That is clear. On the other hand, I do not think that this country, except in certain special cases, and under special conditions and in certain parts of the country, is ever likely to be developed by mechanisation to the extent which is possible abroad. But there will be some measure of mechanisation. On the other hand, he is a rash man who will predict how far and how fast that kind of thing is likely to go.
This policy of wheat, whether it brings with it some form of mechanisation or not, is not the final agricultural policy. Alongside it there must be developed that other side of the industry, stock-raising, market gardening and fruit-raising, and all the other branches connected with it. Some of those employments are being dealt with now under the Horticultural Products Act, and under the general duties which are being placed upon certain products coming into this country. One thing perfectly clear is that whether it is arable farming or stock-raising, if the prices which the producer gets for his product do not pay for the cost of production, it is impossible indefinitely for him to carry on.
I want to say a word about the agricultural labourers in this regard. Of course, it is true what I have said of mechanisation, that to some degree mechanisation may displace some of the agricultural labourers, and it is clear that, in so far as mechanisation is employed, a different class of man will be working on the land. Whether that be so or not, nothing that this Government has done has interfered in any way with the ordinary machinery for negotiation for the improvement of wage conditions. I have resisted in Committee, and on Report stage, Motions and Amendments which were directed, no doubt quite honestly, towards helping to improve the position of the agricultural labourer. I am the last not to wish to help in that direction. I have been accused of reducing the staff of inspectors. I am satisfied that the regular staff which we still maintain at the Ministry is adequate to deal with these problems, and will be used in the same manner as in the past, not by one Minister but by more than one Minister, and without any regard to any party differences in the matter. Of this I am certain, that you can only bring to the agricultural labourers a greater prosperity if you put the general industry in a position to be able to pay these wages. That is the aim and object of this Bill.
There is one other matter to which, before I sit down, I should like to make a slight reference. We have been told more than once in this Debate that we have failed in this Measure to bring about that reorganisation of marketing which is so eminently desirable. I should indeed be sorry if I thought that this Bill did not go a long way towards improving marketing conditions. Every man who is going to take any advantage of the circumstances of this Bill must be registered, and must be brought into close contact, and into combined contact in each district, with the producers in the various markets. The Bill makes it perfectly clear that each individual farmer will get a better price for his grain if it is of good quality, and that it will be expected of him to bring about that good quality. I was glad, indeed, to hear the references made to the work being done at Cambridge in producing the best class of wheat. Undoubtedly, it is through scientific research in this matter that great improvement in crops can be made, and that we can by various experiments grow upon different soils that class of wheat most suited to a particular soil.
When I speak of better marketing and organisation on the part of the farmer, may I be permitted to pay one passing tribute to the name of a, man, Sir Horace Plunkett, with whom it was my good fortune to be brought into contact some 30 years ago. He was a man who spent the greater part of his life in preaching the policy of the better organisation of agriculture. Through his energy and leadership a great number of co-operative creameries and other co-operative bodies were started, not only in Ireland, but in this country and Scotland. There are many men to-day who are following in his footsteps and working quietly and in many cases unknown to the general public in the same kind of enterprise. This House will do well to support and encourage those efforts as far as it can in legislative Measures. The working of this particular scheme must in fact depend in the main upon the good will and co-operation of those for whom it has been devised. That good will and co-operation has up to now been obtained, I am happy to think, in all quarters. The test of this Measure will be when it is put into operation and we have experience of its practical working. It is for that reason that I say that I hope this Measure will continue to get that good will, and, if it does, I hope it will bring to agriculture fresh hope, fresh courage, and fresh prosperity.
|Division No. 148.]||AYES.||[10.53 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colville, John||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Conant, R. J. E.||Hammersley, Samuel S.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cook, Thomas A.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Alexander, Sir William||Cooke, Douglas||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Cooper, A. Duff||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Anstruther-Gray, w. J.||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hartland, George A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Cranborne, Viscount||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Craven-Ellis, William||Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastle)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Crooke, J. Smedley||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Crossley, A. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Bateman, A. L.||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hornby, Frank|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Dawson, Sir Philip||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th, C.)||Denville, Alfred||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bernays, Robert||Dickie, John P.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Drewe, Cedric||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Blindell, James||Duggan, Hubert John||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Eady, George H.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Eastwood, John Francis||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Eden, Robert Anthony||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jennings, Roland|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Ednam, Viscount||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Johnston, J. w. (Clackmannan)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Knight, Holford|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Fermoy, Lord||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Buchan, John||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fox, Sir Gifford||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Fraser, Captain Ian||Lees-Jones, John|
|Burghley, Lord||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Leigh, Sir John|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Burnett, John George||Gaibraith, James Francis Wallace||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Ganzoni, Sir John||Levy, Thomas|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gibson, Charles Granville||Lewis, Oswald|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Gillelt, Sir George Masterman||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunllffe-|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Glossop, C. W. H.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gluckstein, Louis Halie||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Goff, Sir Park||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Gower, Sir Robert||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W.)||Graves, Marjorie||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lymington, Viscount|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Greene, William P. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mabane, William|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hales, Harold K.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||McLean, Major Alan|
|McLean, Dr. W. K. (Tradeston)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Stones, James|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Storey, Samuel|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Maitland, Adam||Ramsden, E.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Mursden, Commander Arthur||Rea, Walter Russell||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Meller, Richard James||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||Templeton, William P.|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Millar, Sir James Duncan||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Robinson, John Roland||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Milne, Charles||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Thompson, Luke|
|Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rosbotham, S. T.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdaie||Ross, Ronald D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Rothschild, James A. de||Train, John|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Morrison, William Snephard||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Muirhead, Major A. J.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Munro, Patrick||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Salmon, Major Isidore||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Nevton, Sir Douglas George C.||Salt, Edward W.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Potersf'ld)||Samuel. Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Nunn, William||Savery, Samuel Servington||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Scone, Lord||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Selley, Harry R.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Pearson, William G.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Peat, Charles U.||Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Penny, Sir George||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Womersley, Waiter James|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Peters. Dr. Sidney John||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Petherick, M.||Soper, Richard||Wragg, Herbert|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sothoron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|bybus, Percy John||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Shakespeare.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Batey, Joseph||Grithffis, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Briant, Frank||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Maxton, James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Harris, Sir Percy||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, George Henry||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Holdsworth, Herbert||Price, Gabriel|
|Cove, William G.||Hopkinson, Austin||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Janner, Barnett||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Daggar, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||John, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Leonard, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Logan, David Gilbert||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Groves.|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Bill read the Third time, and passed.|