Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons on 7th June 1937.

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Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The utmost research that can be made is being continued now by the scientific bodies concerned. That is the question of actual research into the pathology of diseases which have inflicted these losses. Any further measures which may be taken would be of an administrative character when the new central veterinary service comes into being.

Let me review what the result of all these matters upon agricultural prices and prosperity has been. There is a great deal to be done yet, I have no hesitation in saying, before agriculture is in the prosperous condition in which we would like to see it. But let us look at the facts as they are at the moment and the general index of producers' prices. In May of this year the index figure was 136, 31 points higher than in May, 1933. The minimum wage rates are now 8 per cent. higher than they were in 1933.

It is frequently said that this advance, such as it is, in the remuneration of producers, has been gained at the expense of the consumer; but it is not so. Government policy affecting agriculture, in so far as it implies import duties and marketing schemes, has in fact had no effect of that character upon consumers' prices. The import duties on agricultural produce have been imposed as part of a national policy of protection, and it is very difficult to say, in the case of agricultural commodities, who actually pays a tariff of that character. It may be mentioned as an illuminating example that, in the case of the ¾d. a lb. duty recently imposed on Argentine chilled beef, the Argentine Government is now seeking to ease that burden by paying a sort of subsidy to beef exported from that country. When one is trying to make up one's mind in the matter it must in all fairness be borne in mind that the protectionist policy of the Government applies to the country as a whole and is applied largely to the stimulus of industry, and that it has led to a decline in the number of unemployed from 2,578,000 in May, 1931, to 1,436,000 in April, 1937. It is frequently said that even if tariffs have no effect at all on food prices the marketing schemes do have an effect.