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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Mr. Stewart:

I think Socialist reform would destroy the whole business, and I said radical reform advisedly.

With regard to the general question of agricultural organisation. I am going to join with some of those who have spoken in appealing to the Government and to my right hon. Friend the Minister for an end of this—I do not say it in any derogatory sense—this commodity basis, legislation, which is necessarily panicky, patchy and partial. We have come to a point when the whole scheme of agriculture ought to be taken in the grasp of a single hand and designed for a broad general purpose. If that be done, some of the reforms which will be undertaken will be improved marketing, to which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) referred, and the provision of credit where necessary; but I am bound to say that I find myself in closer and closer agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite in demanding that one of the stimulants to be applied must be a manufactured increase of demand for home produce.

I am coming more and more to the view that if we are to attain such a standard of living as I have outlined we must help the poorer sections of the community to buy more produce. What kind of produce? Poultry is one item, but not the only one. I am connected with an organisation which is, I suppose, one of the largest if not the largest single producer, of poultry and market garden produce in the country, an organisation which is doing exceedingly good work, of which many hon. Members are aware. Tomatoes, fruit, vegetables and so on are of vital importance to the whole of the people, but those are things which poor people cannot buy to-day because of their expense. In the whole range of agriculture there is no section in which the middlemen's charges are so vast as in that devoted to market garden produce. I beg the Government to consider means for enabling the poorer sections of the community to consume more market garden produce.

I have constantly stated in this House that I do not like subsidies, but as the representative of a farming constituency, and seeing the difficulties of agriculture, I have always thought it necessary to support such subsidies as have been proposed. I am bound to go on doing so, though I do not deny that my conscience is sometimes troubled. I should feel more happy if some part of the existing subsidy, or some additional subsidy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I do not mind what method is adopted, but some financial assistance ought to be given to help to improve the health and the physique and the whole standard of life of the more needy sections of the population. Some day we shall come to it. It is impossible for a great authority like Sir John Orr and others to issue reports such as they have produced, reports which are confirmed and backed by every scientific body which has examined the matter, without the House of Commons being forced one day to produce a great nutrition policy, and I am looking forward to that day with great interest.