I start by paying a very real tribute to the farmworkers of the country. They have done a magnificent job and, so far as I know, extraordinarily little hardship has been caused to them by the system of service cottages which we have used in agriculture for so many years.
Very cogent arguments have been deployed from this side of the Committee in support of the Amendment. I should like to deal with an entirely fresh aspect. I believe that farmworkers have gained very considerably financially through the system of licensed cottages. I understand that half the service cottages are let under the system of licence. Under that system the farmworker pays no rent for the house. I have great personal experience of this matter, having several of my own men in licensed cottages. Some of them have been with me for 15, 20 or even more years in their own houses. What a shock it would be to those men if they had to pay a full rent for the houses.
I believe that the party opposite is concerned with a financial crisis, a balance of payments crisis, at present. British agriculture is making a wonderful contribution to solving the balance of payments problem. I believe that this is the thin end of the wedge for raising costs throughout agriculture. If the Labour Party follows the policy it is pursuing at present with regard to tied cottages, all agricultural workers will be in cottages for which they will be paying a full rental.
I give the Government a very severe warning. If they pursue this policy, they will put up costs throughout the whole of British agriculture to the extent of £2 or £3 per week per farmworker. If this policy is pursued by the Government—I believe that it will be—that will be the result of their actions. I therefore hope that the Government will reconsider their attitude. This is a case of the Government having acted before they have thought. The Times leader brought that out very clearly today. I very much hope that when the Government have fully considered what the results will be and have followed this course through to its logical conclusion, they will recognise that the cost to British agriculture will be very great and will have second thoughts about carrying the Bill through in its present form.