Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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

Alert me about debates like this

Major Hills:

I am glad of that. His point against my right hon. Friend is that we are spending money in the wrong way, that the subsidies of £30,000,000 are not spent to the best purpose. I should like to say a word on that point. First of all, some sort of Protection there must be. I think the right hon. Gentleman and I would agree about that. We cannot throw our market open as it was thrown open in the old days. He said that we want men, and fertility of the soil. How do we get them? Up to now, the present Minister and his predecessor have gone on what, I think, are the correct lines of treating agriculture not as one industry but as several; as a unity the branches of which are separate. Milk is one branch, and meat, wheat and sugar are other branches. The Government have proceeded on the principle of putting each part of this complex industry into a more prosperous condition, and, on the whole, they have succeeded. Looking back over the last six years, I do not think I could have done better if I had been in the place of the last Minister of Agriculture. No doubt what I should have tried to do he did in a much more effective way than I should have done, that is, take each part of agriculture and try to make it more prosperous than it was. That has been done, to a large extent. It was a new scheme, and no doubt there are gaps and mistakes that can be put right.

Moving on from that point, I am not altogether sure that I followed the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). His points were, I think: increase the fertility of the soil and of our grass land particularly; spend money on that, and never mind whether the money produces a business return or not; spend the money, and make our land fertile, and when it comes to paying for it not bother, because that is a question which statesmanship has to decide; not to stop spending this money, which all parties feel ought to be spent, just because we differ as to who should pay the cost. That was the first thing. Then there were increased land drainage, increase in the fertility of the soil by fertilisers to make the land more prosperous for the farmer. I agree with a great deal of what was said by an hon. Gentleman opposite. But it is no good making the soil fertile and draining it and manuring it unless the product which you get from the soil will pay the cost of production.