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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Major Hills:

The right hon. Gentleman has called for a re-examination of the agricultural question. With a good deal of what he said I, and, I feel, many Members of the House, were in agreement. He wants to see, as I want to see, a regenerated agriculture, the soil made more fertile and the population increasing in numbers instead of diminishing. We all want the same thing, but perhaps we see different ways of getting it. We want a more fertile England and a larger population on the land. I know there are many Members who want to speak and I shall be as brief as I can, but there was so much in the right hon. Gentleman's speech with which I agreed, and some with which I disagreed, that I am glad of this opportunity of speaking. When I sat on the Land Drainage Commission in 1930 we examined a large part of England, and I came to the definite conclusion at that time that England was less fitted to enter a war than she was in 1914. The food position would have been more difficult to regulate in war-time in 1930 than it was in 1914. That is one fact which I do not think can be denied.

Again, last April I spent 12 hours, and happy hours they were, going through France from the Channel to the Pyrenees on a beautiful April day, and I was struck by the fact—the right hon. Gentlemen laid stress on it—that it was not only the first-class land that was cultivated but that all the country was one smiling whole of prosperous agriculture. I do not say this to make any dialectical point, but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman on what that prosperity in France rests. It rests on fantastic Protection, Protection far beyond anything dreamed of in this country. I think the duty on wheat is something like 200 per cent. That brings me to this point, which I wish to put before the right hon. Gentleman. Does he think that we can regenerate agriculture without spending money?