§ 8.3 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
I beg to move,That the Scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, for the regulation of the marketing of raspberries in Scotland, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 6th day of March, 1933, be approved.If I detain the House on the first marketing scheme for Scotland, hon. Members will, I hope, excuse me. Although it is the first such scheme in Scotland, I am certain that it will not be the last, for there is great Activity in Scotland in this matter of improved marketing. Scottish farmers are really in earnest, for they are convinced, so far as I can gather, of the value of marketing schemes as a means of counteracting adverse economic conditions. In Scotland the raspberry industry is an important and developing industry. In 1932 the total area under raspberries was 4,715 acres, of which 4,000 acres were in Perth and Angus. There are about 940 growers, and the yield of raspberries is about 7,000 tons of a, value at remunerative prices of approximately £200,000. The industry has been subject to wide fluctuations of prices ever since its inception. Before the War prices ranged from about £7 to £30 278 a ton. During the War artifically high prices prevailed up to as much as £140 a ton. After the War for a number of years prices were in general satisfactory until 1930, when the price per ton fell 'as low as £9, which is approximately equal to the cost of picking the fruit, although the average was from £13 to £15.
I understand that the imports of foreign pulp affected prices, but it was not so much the actual imports as the anticipation of increased foreign supplies that was liable to upset the market. For example, I understand that the mere rumour that Russian pulp would be imported in quantity at £10 a ton had a seriously depressing effect on the prices received by home producers. In 1931 the average price was about the same as in 1930, in spite of a short crop. Here we have an example of how seriously prices may fluctuate within a year. At one time in 1930 the price was 'as low as £11 per ton. Later in the year consignments of the same crop were fetching upwards of £40 per tort. Some large growers who had financial facilities pulped their fruit and held it until the spring of 1932, securing very high prices in comparison with the smaller growers who had sold their fruit fresh picked from £11 to £18 per ton. In 1932 prices were good, owing, partly, to the import duty, but also to a large extent to the extra demand for the canning industry. The production of raspberries is mainly an industry of small growers not fully informed of market conditions and depending on merchants for the marketing of their crops, but the position of the small growers reacts on that of the large growers, who find their plans thrown out of gear by the weak selling of the small producers. Various associations 279 have been started in the past for the sale of the crop, but they have always come to grief through the difficulty that the growers who remained out of the associations got all the benefits without bearing any of the cost.
Let me turn to the circumstances which brought the present scheme into being. It is a straightforward pooling scheme, that is, a scheme by which a centralised marketing board takes and sells the produce and distributes the receipts to the producers, but important concessions are made in the interests of the various parties. I know that some hon. Members are objecting to this Order; I am anxious, therefore, to point out to them the safeguards which exist in the scheme in the interests of certain producers. All growers of less than one acre, of whom there are about 504 out of a total of 940, are exempted from registration, and jam manufacturers who grow fruit are also exempted from registration so long as they do not sell their fruit. Exemption is also granted in the case of fruit sold in small packages to a merchant or commission agent for retail sale or to domestic consumers. As to the prices which the producers will receive, the scheme provides that the Board shall make an allowance as they think suitable to producers whose raspberries have been sold for canning or other purposes which necessitates greater expense in picking or packing. Apart from the canning fruit, all growers will receive the same price irrespective of the prices at which their individual consignments have been sold. The scheme provides also for a system of payment by instalments and power is taken to make advances to registered producers.
The scheme has been the subject of a public inquiry which was held in Edinburgh in the autumn of last year and lasted four days. The Commissioner heard the case for the promoters and the various objectors, including growers, manufacturers and merchants. He made a comprehensive report, and, after considering it, I was satisfied that the scheme would conduce to the more effective production and marketing of the product and would have the effect of introducing into the industry a stability which has been lacking in recent years. The scheme has many advantages. It will be a benefit to growers in preventing 280 wasteful competition among hundreds of small growers in the selling of their pro duct. Centralised selling is the keynote of the scheme. By making prudent advances to growers it will obviate forced selling when growers are in need of capital. It will ensure that the fruit will find its way to the ultimate user, be he a jam manufacturer or canner, with the minimum of expense and with the intervention of as few intermediaries as possible. It will also provide an intelligence service to growers so that they may plan and improve their production. In short, it will band them together and make raspberry growing, which is a large industry in Scotland, a real industry in the strict sense of the term.
There are numerous safeguards against the unfair operation of the scheme. Each producer has a right to arbitration if he considers himself aggrieved by any act or omission of the Board. It must be remembered that the board itself is elected by the producers. So far as the manufacturing industry is concerned, the board cannot compel a manufacturer to take any particular lot of fruit, but if a manufacturer buys fruit from the grower, there will be a contract for sale, and, if there be a breach of contract, the manufacturer can bring an action for damages against the board just as if it were an ordinary case of buyer and seller. It is contemplated that the board will arrange prices with merchants and manufacturers, and the scheme empowers the board to appoint representatives to a joint committee on which merchants and manufacturers will also be represented. The functions of that committee will be to assist in the determination of price and other matters. I may also remind the House that by the Act provision is made for a committee of investigation, whose duty it will be to consider any complaints regarding the operation of the scheme.
Finally, before the scheme becomes operative, it must be approved—and I commend this with interest to hon. Members—by a majority of two-thirds of those voting on the board, and this majority must represent two-thirds of the producing capacity of those voting. I think that hon. Members will agree that the interests of the minority are thus well safeguarded. Since the scheme was submitted there has been considerable activity against it, and my Noble Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross 281 (Duchess of Atholl) is prepared to prove, or at any rate to argue, that it is no use going on with the scheme as it is certain to be defeated at the poll. As I conceive it, however, the function of the Government in presenting these schemes to Parliament, and the function of Parliament in considering them is not to take a final judgment on the merits or demerits of the scheme from the point of view of those mainly affected, namely, the producers. We have the duty undoubtedly to see that the interests of all concerned have been fairly and fully considered, and, if any hon. Member is of opinion that the scheme is ill-considered and against the public interest, he will without doubt represent that view. But if, as I am satisfied, and as I hope the House will be satisfied, there is a prima facie case for a marketing scheme, in order to obviate, so far as may be, a recurrence of the grave difficulties which have confronted the industry during the last two years, and, further, as the promoters are prepared to carry their fate to the poll, I hope the House will not prejudge the issue.
In conclusion, let me remind producers of the observations made by the Import Duties Advisory Committee in the Report of the 26th July, 1932, in which they made recommendations for import duties on certain horticultural products, including raspberries, for it has a direct bearing on the matter we are discussing. They said:That section of industry covered by the present report cannot be prosperous unless it can sell its products to advantage, and this it cannot do unless they are of the right quality and price and in this connection we cannot ignore the tendency of recent agricultural policy to stress the need for improved marketing. In addition to increased production great importance must, therefore, be attached to improvement in marketing methods, including the organised assembly, grading, and packing of the product, and the progress made in this direction must be kept under observation in connection with any future review of the duties.These words come from the Report of the Advisory Committee, which I commend to producers in Scotland. I submit this Resolution with confidence to the House, in order that the scheme, if it is approved by the producers themselves, can be brought into operation in time to regulate the marketing of the 1933 crop.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
In rising to explain to the House the reasons why I consider this Order should not be approved, I should like it to be understood that I am expressing not only my own view but the views, certainly, of the majority of the acreage of Scotland, and I believe of the majority of producers. The Secretary of State issued a report which is appended to the Order, and this report contains certain inaccuracies which go far to destroy the arguments he has very skilfully presented to us. In the second paragraph it states that the Secretary of State was aware that the situation of raspberry growers in Scotland had been causing anxiety during the past few years. I think that is a slight exaggeration, because no anxiety whatever was felt—and I think so much can be gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's own remarks—until the year 1930, and only when vast quantities of Dutch and Russian raspberry pulp were dumped into this country. That dumping, together with the fear of even more dumping, caused prices to go into that catastrophic slide which the right hon. Gentleman has accurately described. But even to judge from his own remarks, it is evident that that fall in prices was due entirely to unchecked and uncontrolled foreign imports, and not to inefficient marketing. If inefficient marketing were to blame, why was it that in the years since the War, which I think it will be admitted were riot easy ones for the agricultural community, even if they were not anything like as bad as the last two or three years have been, we had no complaints? Simply because dumping of foreign pulp had not taken place. We must remember that any dumping of raspberries is in the shape of pulp, as the fresh fruit will not travel. At the present time there is a duty of, I believe, 25 per cent. on imported raspberry pulp, and that has caused the industry to become stabilised again, as the right hon. Gentleman admits.
All the industry asks is that it should be left alone, not merely to recover its position, but to go from strength to strength. I knew that the figure of raspberries grown in Scotland in the year 1931 was about 4,500 acres. The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that for 1932 the figure was 4,700 acres. In the space of that one year we have seen a 283 very satisfactory increase of more than 200 acres. One has to consider the interests of producers, of manufacturers and of consumers. I am not going to concern myself very much with the point of view of the consumer, because no one has ever suggested that there has been any profiteering at his expense. The prices of jam may fluctuate a little from year to year, like the prices of any other commodity, but I do not think there is any evidence to show that in the past either producers or manufacturers have been guilty of profiteering in raspberry jam. At the present time the vast majority of those in the raspberry industry, not merely producers, but also manufacturers, are entirely opposed to this Order, because the industry is already very well organised from the point of view of marketing. There may be slight deficiencies here and there. Those deficiences would remain even under a marketing scheme, but there is no doubt at all that of all the subsidiary branches of agriculture, the raspberry industry has probably been the best organised in the last few years as far as marketing is concerned. I think it would be advantageous to follow for a few moments the history of the inception of this scheme. In paragraph 3 of the report of the Secretary of State for Scotland it is stated:On the completion of the harvesting season in 1931 a meeting convened by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, by advertisement in the newspaper Press, was held in Perth. The society's organisers had made inquiries amongst growers and were satisfied that there was a demand for a scheme under the Act.It will be seen that the original pressure for the inception of a scheme came not from the industry itself but from the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, a very worthy body, but one whose enthusiasm is at times liable to outrun its discretion. The paragraph goes on to say:Only 20 growers attended the meeting, but the meeting unanimously passed the following resolution.That was a Resolution approving the principle of a marketing board. There are more than 400 producers who grow more than one acre of raspberries, and the vast majority of them are within the counties of Perth and Angus, and when only 20 of them took the trouble to turn up at this meeting I think it was proof positive that the industry as a whole was 284 not interested, and viewed such a scheme with complete indifference. At the present time they would view it not with indifference but with abhorrence.
A few weeks ago I made an endeavour to discover what was the view of the industry as a whole, and with that in view I inserted a letter in the columns of some leading newspapers in Scotland which cover all the areas concerned. In my letter I made no statement whatever of personal opinion, but I merely asked that all producers of raspberries should communicate with me stating whether or not they were in favour of the proposed scheme. I received replies well over 100 in number, and of those replies one was favourable to the scheme, and that was from a grower owning five acres. The other replies were all, and for the most part violently, opposed, and they accounted for some 2,700 acres of the total of 4,700. It must be remembered that of the 4,700, probably some 300 or 400 acres belonged to small producers who would not come under the scheme at all. So far as the counties of Perth, Angus and Lanark were concerned, it was obvious that the vast majority were opposed to the scheme, and owners of something like 2,400 acres of those counties announced their unalterable hostility. I do not think that there is any reason to suppose that there are more people in the industry in favour of the scheme than the 20 who attended that meeting.
On the second page of the Secretary of State's Report, it is stated thatthe Kirriemuir Fruit Growers' Association … wrote to the Department expressing hearty support for the scheme. This association has a membership of 17, with a total raspberry-growing acreage of 80 acres.This is largely discounted by the statement that one of the promoters is secretary to the association. I think that we all know what an active and energetic secretary can do towards influencing the members of an association. It may be that 80 acres in Angus are in favour. I do not know about that, hut I do know that I have the signature of another half-dozen persons, representing well over 200 acres, who are against it, to say nothing of the very large number in Perth, owning over 500 acres, who are also opposed. I have a letter from the Jam Manufacturers' Association stating that they also see no good whatever in the scheme.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House unduly. I have made out a 285 case for not approving of this scheme as it stands, because there can be little doubt that it was foisted upon the industry as a whole by the organisation of a meeting run by a clique. This clique does not represent the industry, and the statement in the first paragraph of the report of the Secretary of State for Scotland as to theevidence by which my predecessor was satisfied that the persons submitting the scheme were duly representativeis far from being the case. It may be true that all those gentlemen have some financial interest in raspberries, but I submit that as most of them do not live chiefly by raspberries it is better to accept the view that I have put forward, because it represents the opinion of men whose whole capital is sunk in the industry. Of the nine persons whose names stand on the first page of the scheme, very few, if any, can be said to depend entirely upon raspberries. Three of them are lawyers, one is a bank manager, one is a veterinary surgeon, and one is a large farmer. Those whose views I am expressing consist of over 100 persons, most of whom are entirely dependent upon the raspberry industry. Their acreage is very varied, from one and one quarter acres to several hundreds. There is the small grower with a few acres, the medium grower with from 10 to 30 acres and the big grower witch from 50 up to 200 or 300 acres, there is unanimity among all three sections in deploring the scheme. I submit therefore that it is a waste of time to approve it, because it is certain to be rejected. It will put a large number of small men, who are not well off, to considerable inconvenience and expense, and if it is put in operation its effect upon the industry would be deleterious rather than beneficial.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
The raspberry growers have left behind them one season of comfortable cultivation and are justified, as my Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) said, in looking forward to another, and perhaps others, of the same kind. He is quite right in saying that their recovery is due, if not wholly, at least in part, to the imposition of the import duties, and the change in prosperity is so real that it leaves my Noble Friend to take his stand against 286 this or any other scheme, on the ground that we should leave well alone. I accept his facts, and indeed the House can do so, but I cannot so easily agree with his conclusions. Surely an outstanding feature in every branch of agricultural production at the present time is that each producer, in a world of abnormally low prices and of restricted demand, is trying, by increasing the quantity of its sales, to recover profits that the quality can no longer command. Is the cultivation of raspberries likely to be any exception to that mile? It may easily be the case that the raspberry growers have what is known as "a good thing" and they may be tempted to over produce, as has been the case in every branch of agriculture.
§ Lord SCONE
If my Noble Friend will allow me to interrupt for a moment, I would like to say that there is no danger of over production for a good many years to come, one reason being that it takes years to produce the necessary amount of raspberry canes. There is yet a very big scope for the development of the industry, there is certainly a very great deal of foreign imports and much has to be done to encourage the consumption of raspberries. Even if the industry desired, it could not extend very rapidly, as there is a shortage of the necessary canes. The chief canes are known as "The Lloyd George." I do not know why it is so called, but I suppose that the name was given in the heyday of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Judging by some of the right hon. Gentleman's recent speeches in this House, I think that a more suitable godchild than a raspberry would have been a lemon.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
I agree with my Noble Friend that there is a large and expanding market, but there is also a large and undeveloped acreage. He tells me that Scotland can absorb many more producers of raspberries, and I agree, but, again, it must be remembered that, with the distress in arable agriculture, there are many who are only too anxious and ready to switch off into any side-line which offers a temporary profit, and I must remind my Noble Friend that, once you have switched over to the cultivation of a crop like raspberries, it is not so easy to go back again. Let me tell my Noble 287 Friend something which, perhaps, he does not know, or which, at least, does not cause him alarm, about the raspberry known as the "Lloyd George" raspberry. My concern is the very opposite of that of my Noble Friend. That raspberry is so prolific that it sometimes yields twice or three times as much per acre as other varieties, and I may perhaps be allowed to lament with my Noble Friend the fact that all the seeds which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has broadcast on the winds have not been so consistent in bearing fruit.
My Noble Friend cannot see overproduction in raspberries, but I confess that I can, and I assure him that there is an opposite point of view. Then he argued that there is a tariff, and that that is enough; but, again, with abnormally low world prices, with the policy adopted by so many European Governments of subsidising or giving bounties on exports, and with the daily uncertainty of foreign rates of exchange, he would be a bold man who would tell me that a 25 per cent. tariff will be sufficient for the raspberry industry until some date a great way ahead. When the day comes when this industry has to go before the Import Duties Advisory Committee and ask for an increased tariff, I would ask my Noble Friend whose case would be the stronger—the trade which has control of the supplies, or the trade which has not, the trade which has organised its sales or that which has not? I would recommend growers in Scotland to pay particular attention to the development which came out of the Debate on the Agricultural Marketing Bill only yesterday, when it was said in so many words that protection by tariff, by quota or by Order is not only essentially related to, but is conditional on, organisation of the home supplies.
§ Lord SCONE
I did not say that a tariff was sufficient, but that the organisation is efficient now.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
I cannot agree with my Noble Friend in that, but, at any rate, I would ask the growers to realise that Protection is conditional on good organisation, with a marketing scheme at home. The question which seems to remain is: Is this the best kind of scheme My Noble Friend conducted a kind of large-scale canvass on this question, and he has given us some figures which at first sight seem convincing; but, if I remember aright, the canvass conducted by my Noble Friend was issued as a letter in the daily papers about the 6th March, the same day, I think, on which the amended scheme was laid on the Table of the House of Commons. When my Noble Friend says that 100 growers were against and one in favour, I would ask, how many of those growers had had the opportunity, before sending in their replies, of looking at the amended scheme? The number must indeed have been very small. Although my Noble Friend's figures may seem impressive to the House, he has, after all, only obtained replies from 101 out of a total of 900 growers—
§ Lord DUNGLASS
I beg pardon; but that is out of a total of 900; and I should have thought, also, that my Noble Friend's political experience would have told him that the quickest way to rid yourself of a canvasser is to tell him what you think he would like you to say. One or two major alterations have been made since the consideration of the scheme was renewed, but, at any rate, speaking for my district of Lanarkshire, which is largely composed of small growers, their previous objections to the scheme have largely been because they considered that there was going to be an unwarrantable interference with the preserve and fresh fruit side of their industry.
My right hon. Friend has told us that two classes of growers are exempted. In the first place, there is the man who grows less than one acre of raspberries, and, secondly, there is the man who sells his raspberries retail in packages of less than 24 lbs. I also should be against this scheme if I did not think that those fresh fruit growers were safeguarded. Much of their trade is of a purely local nature, and the rest of it depends on quick railway facilities from their farms to the industrial centres and, in the case of 289 Lanarkshire, to the industrial towns in the North of England. It is clear that the retention of such a market depends on the ability of the producer to produce his fruit in the best possible condition, and to get it at the right time to those centres; and, clearly, that can be better done by individual enterprise than by any board. But, being satisfied that these retail traders are being properly dealt with, I would have the growers know that their trade can be carried on with a minimum of dislocation, and that really, for all practical purposes they are exempt from the scheme.
My right hon. Friend has dealt also with the increased price which the Board is allowed to pay for canning purposes, and with the further fact that, if a particular market is held by a particular producer, a still higher price may be paid. I will not dwell on that aspect of the matter, but there is one point to which I want to draw my right hon. Friend's attention. It is in paragraph 18, on page 6, of the provisional scheme, which allows manufacturers who grow their raspberries for their own consumption to be exempt from the scheme as long as they do not offer those raspberries for sale. I think that, if the House passes this scheme, it should be made clear to the promoters that, if the Board are extravagant in their demands, if they attempt to hold up supplies, or if they ask too high a price which the manufacturers are not willing to give, it will have the effect of driving manufacturers more and more to extend their own acreage and produce more and more fruit for use as their own raw material. I would remind my right hon. Friend, though really he needs no reminder, that we are all pressing for some extension of the smallholdings movement. Raspberries are a crop particularly suited to the smallholder and the small grower. The crop is one which they can produce with very little trouble and at very little cost, and any large extension in the direction of manufacturers producing their own fruit would be a development in the direction in which we least want to go.
I would conclude by staking out a claim on behalf of the Lanarkshire fruit growing area which is represented by my Noble Friend and myself. The Lanarkshire crop matures early. It comes to maturity after the English crop is done, and before the Blairgowrie crop is 290 ready. The growers there carry on a good trade with the industrial towns of the North of England, and they have a kind of factory in their midst to which small growers can take their fruit, picked in the best condition on the spot. The district has been endowed by nature, so to speak, with a monopoly. My right hon. Friend may at some time find himself the happy possessor of a strawberry bed, with one possible competitor put out of action by a previous success and the key of the garden in his pocket. If he was in that privileged position, he would think he ought to have some voice in the future procedure and a share in the bed. It may well be that the Board, when they come to operate the scheme, would seek to do something which would fundamentally affect their trade. He has the power to appoint two nominees to the Board, and it would be most gratefully received in Lanarkshire if one of those nominees could be a person representing that area. We cannot tell how the scheme will work in detail, but I would recommend it to the Scottish growers as well worth a trial.
§ 8.46 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I have no desire to say anything derogatory to the possible value of marketing schemes, or to suggest that this industry of raspberry growing is not a suitable experiment for a well-thought-out marketing scheme, but on examination, which I have endeavoured to make as impartial as possible, the scheme itself makes me feel that, even in its modified form, it might well tend to throw excessive powers into the hands of a very few people who are not necessarily in close touch with the views of the great mass of the producers in, the industry. I will specify the directions in which the scheme seems to me to want very careful examination from that point of view. The first thing I find is that in paragraph 3 (2) the Board which is to manage the industry is only to be elected indirectly by the producers. Of course, that is completely contrary to the custom by which the directors of an ordinary shareholding company are elected. The common practice is for the shareholders to have a direct voice in the election of their directors. I recognise that in the ease of producers, many of them people of small means, it may not be easy to get continuity of repre- 291 sentation, but to put the power of election of the Board into the hands of a selection committee of not more than 20 seems to me to give inadequate means of expressing their views in the matter to the great mass of the producers. A selection committee of 20 seems distinctly too small a body to express the view of 400 producers of over one acre, to say nothing of the 500 who produce one acre or less.
In paragraph 3 (11) large powers of delegation are to be given to committees of the Board. The committees are required to report to the Board, but it does not state that their actions need confirmation or approval by the Board. That may be merely an omission, but I think it is an omission which should be made clear. Then it seems to me that the minimum period fixed for the summoning of a general meeting is too short. Paragraph 38 says that it must be at least seven days, including, I believe, the day of posting the notice. I do not read this as giving every producer seven clear days' notice of the meeting. In that case, it may well be that some producers will not receive it until five days before the meeting. That seems distinctly a shorter time than is customary in summoning general meetings. Seven days certainly seems shorter than the usual period in societies with which I have been connected, and I think it all the more short, because, if a registered producer cannot attend a general meeting, he is to have the power of nominating a proxy, but the nomination has to arrive at the office of the Board three clear days before the date of the meeting, and that seems to me to be rather out of focus with the time allowed for the notice of the meeting itself. Then paragraph 39 empowers the chairman to determine whether a vote at the meeting is to be taken by ballot or by show of hands. I thought the usual practice was to leave such a decision in the hands of the meeting itself. It seems an excessive power in the hands of the chairman of a meeting which may be attended by a good many people who are unaccustomed to attending meetings of that kind. Then we are told that the Act requires existing contracts to be recognised. I find nothing about that in the scheme, though perhaps it might be said that, as 292 it is in the Act itself, it is taken for granted.
When I come to the scheme itself, I find that sales are only to be conducted by or through the agency of the board. That is giving a rather larger power to the board than is the case with many schemes which, I am told, are working very well in the United States and elsewhere. I find that under paragraph 17 the exemptions of which my right hon. Friend has told us to producers who sell not more than 24 lbs. of raspberries extends to sales through agents receiving commission. I do not say that that is objectionable, but it is not elimination of the parties that I understand these schemes generally seek to eliminate. I understand paragraph 26 as meaning that the Board itself can sell through a merchant on commission. I find no limit fixed to the commission that can be given. Whatever commission is given, of course, must come off the receipts allowed to the producer and be added to the expenses of the Board, and, as I read the scheme, it seems possible that the board may have members who are not only producers but are also selling on commission. I would ask the House to consider whether it would not be desirable that membership of the board should be limited to producers only.
We know, of course, that the scheme provides a uniform price for all raspberries that come up to the standard fixed by the board for quality, for picking and packing. I am very glad to understand from the scheme that, not only will there be a special allowance for fruit suitable for canning, but also that, within the range of quality suitable for canning, a higher price may be allowed for a better than is allowed for something of less quality. I am very glad to understand that that is the case, because I think there has been some misconception on that point, and it seems to me essential that, in regard to raspberries grown for canning, the best quality should get the best price and that it should not be supposed that, because the fruit that is intended for canning has reached the standard fixed by the board, there will be no variation of price above that standard. Canning requires fruit of specially high quality, and very clean and careful picking and packing, and it is essential that canners should be able 293 under this scheme to rely upon securing the best and most suitable fruit. It is all the more necessary to satisfy the canners, because, as my right hon. Friend has said, they are exempt from the operations of the scheme.
England and Wales are also exempt from the operations of the scheme, and it therefore seems to be very essential that the board, in their operations, should make it perfectly certain that canners get the best quality of fruit, if necessary, direct from the producer with the sanction of the board, in order that they may be satisfied, and that there may be no temptation to them either to grow their own fruit or to try to purchase it elsewhere. I am told that Scottish raspberries have a special flavour, but it would be a calamity for small producers in Scotland if, by any failure to ensure that the canners get the quality they need, there should be any temptation to them to secure the fruit they require by other means than by purchasing through the board.
Paragraph 18 allows manufacturers who produce raspberries for manufacture in their own factories to be exempt from registration and from the operation of the scheme so long as they do not sell or offer for sale any such raspberries. I believe that there is some doubt as to exactly what that means. Does the prohibition extend merely to raspberries sold in a fresh state? I put the question because it is very important that there shall be no misunderstanding. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland if he replies will make the point clear. I understand that it is not clear to all producers exactly what the prohibition means.
Finally, I come to a point which causes me great anxiety. I heard with great concern my right hon. Friend refer to a report made last summer on this industry which sounded to me as if it were possible that, if the industry did not adopt this scheme for marketing, the Import Duties Advisory Committee might reconsider the maintenance of the duty of 25 per cent. on foreign raspberries and raspberry pulp, which, it has been admitted this evening, has placed the raspberry industry in a very much more secure, advantageous and prosperous position than it has occupied for the last few years. I am afraid that I am correct in understanding 294 my right hon. Friend in this respect, from remarks which have fallen from my Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass). He referred in his speech more than once to the fact that tariffs had been granted only on the understanding that marketing schemes were adopted in each case. That is not how I have understood the policy of the National Government, nor how agriculturists generally in this country have understood it. If I wished to give any proof of what I say, I would point to the fact that the same provision, unfortunately, appears in the Agricultural Marketing Bill which was read a Second time yesterday. If my Noble Friend agrees that that is the meaning of Clause 1 (2) of the Agricultural Marketing Bill, it cannot have been the policy of the Government at the date on which the duty of 25 per cent. was put upon foreign raspberries.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
The distinction I made was that certain conditions like subsidies on exports from abroad might make it necessary for producers of raspberries to go to the Imports Advisory Committee for an increase of the tariff of 25 per cent. which they have at present. I agree that the position my Noble Friend speaks about does not apply to the 25 per cent. tariff as we have it now.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am very glad if I misunderstood what my Noble Friend said, but I return to the still more authoritative source of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland. I shall be only too glad if he can disabuse me in this respect, as I understood that, he said that this report indicated that the Import Duties Advisory Committee might reconsider the maintenance of the existing duty of 25 per cent. if the industry did not reorganise its marketing. I shall be only too glad if the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that I am wrong.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
The Noble Lady has misunderstood my reference to the Import Duties Advisory Committee. I read out to the House the exact words. I think that the Noble Lady has misunderstood, and has, therefore, misinterpreted me.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am relieved to know that, but I think there is some excuse for my anxiety when one remembers the policy to which I have already 295 referred which is embodied in Clause 1 (2) of the Agricultural Marketing Bill. It may not have been the policy of the Government when the duty was imposed, and therefore I hope that the duty will not be regarded by the Government as having been given subject to a marketing scheme being brought into operation for the raspberry industry. I am relieved to know that that is not the case, and that producers are not to be put into the position of having to agree to a scheme which many of them think contains great disadvantages, and which, I think, needs modification in the respects to which I have alluded under the penalty of possibly losing the protection which has proved so valuable.
My Noble Friend the Member for Lanark tried to discount the amount of opposition shown among producers to this scheme. He made a point that my Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) had invited communications from producers before the modified scheme had been published. If my Noble Friend has given time to comparing the original and the modified schemes, he will see that there is little difference between the two. I admit that in one or two respects it is improved. There is a limit of 2s. per acre to the contribution which the producer must make, if required, to the fund, and there are one or two other matters in which there are changes, but, broadly speaking, the scheme is the same. I think that almost every feature which I have criticised to-night was in the original scheme. Therefore, I think we may say that the objections which my Noble Friend received from 150 producers out of a total of 433 registered producers—what I may call effective producers under the scheme—is rather a large proportion, and the Noble Lord may be interested to know that those 150 include, I am told, practically all the producers in his own constituency, so that he may learn a little more about the reasons for objections to schemes than he seems hitherto to have done.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
I disagree with my constituents in that I consider the scheme is good for them, and they do not.
Duchess of ATHOLL
That makes no difference to the fact. He may receive communications from producers who differ from him, and no doubt he will reply 296 very effectively to them. While I raise no objection in principle to a marketing scheme for the raspberry industry, I think that in certain respects it needs careful consideration, and I hope it will receive careful consideration by the producers who are dependent entirely for their livelihood on this industry.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I take part in this Debate with a certain amount of fear. I have been guilty of many cheeky things in this House, and probably I am now committing an unpardonable offence in speaking as the representative of the Gorbals constituency on an agricultural subject and interfering in a dispute between Noble Lords and Noble Ladies. But I want to raise one or two points which have not so far been mentioned. The scheme which we are now considering shows how far we have travelled in a few short months. I do not want to appear as if I am looking into the past of some hon. Members, but when I look at the persons who are responsible for introducing this scheme I cannot help remembering that not many years ago the Secretary of State was an unrepentent Free Trader, and one of the few unrepentent individualists, who looked with scorn upon and opposed any form of collectivism.
To-day we are considering a scheme which eliminates the individual in the selling of a particular commodity. You are setting up machinery which takes away the rights of an individual in the sale of his own product. The Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) was a little risky in saying that he supported this scheme and then to say calmly that he did so because the growers in his constituency are outside the scheme. The Noble Lord the Member for Perth and Kinross (Lord Scone) also supported it because his people are outside this scheme.
§ Lord SCONE
There is no question of the constituents in Lanarkshire being outside the scheme, they are in it, and they resent being in it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Noble Lord the Member for Lanark told us that they dealt with dessert fruit, and, as such, are exempt.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
There are quite a number who are exempt, but there are certain others who are in the scheme.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
But a good many of the Noble Lord's constituents are exempt. The point is this; you have a scheme for the purpose of regulating the price and under the scheme a board is to sell the commodity for these growers. The man who owns the land, who owns the product from his land, has hitherto sold his produce in a free market. He is not to be allowed to sell it now, he must hand it over to this board, who will sell it for him, pay all accounts and meet all bad debts. And hon. Members who are now proposing this policy have denounced trade unions for daring to come even within measurable distance of this proposal. This is syndicalism in its worst form. Before the duty was put on foreign goods regulated price. Now, apart from what may come from England and Wales, there is nothing to regulate price. These people, in combination, can regulate the price. There is another, and a very important factor. Hitherto it has been the producers of raspberries who have sold their produce to the big factories for making jam. That is not true to-day. The big factories themselves are now producers, and, in addition, are actually sellers as well. In some cases they not only produce for themselves but for others. The producers now can stabilise at a particular price, and that price must be accepted by every person engaged in the industry. I have no doubt that there is a good deal to be said for it but I confess that I cannot see the difference between this and the last Measure. The object of both is to get a higher price for the commodity, because ruination faced the industry if prices fell to an abnormally low level. This proposal is an attempt to stabilise price at a higher level. Someone must pay the higher price. It is admitted that the growers are not going to meet it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
If the Noble Lord is right it means that the growers of raspberries who are also manufacturers of jam are going to get increased profits, because they are going to have a higher price fixed for the product. If you take the firm of Scotts, one of the biggest firms in the trade, an efficient and capable firm, they are also sellers as well as manufacturers, and they are now going to have a price guaranteed. The 298 Noble Lord says that the retail price of jam has not fallen, in that case they are now going to get higher profits because this Bill guarantees them a definite price, which they had not got before. The worst feature of all is that while we guarantee a price to producers, and also to those who are not only producers but manufacturers as well, the workmen engaged in the industry are not guaranteed a price; they are to get no definite guaranteed wage. There is not one word about the wages and conditions of the men and women employed in the industry. The producer is to have a guaranteed price; his labour is rewarded. He puts into the land his knowledge and, if you like, his capital, and in return you guarantee him a price. But the poor man in South Lanarkshire, who puts into it his life, is not to be guaranteed a price, he is left to the free market of the 3,000,000 unemployed, who are to determine whether he is to get a wage or not. If there are plenty of people unemployed and ready to flock into the industry, then the worker's wage will be low.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
If I were a worker for a farmer in my Division I would prefer to work for one who made a profit on his raspberries than for one who did not make a profit.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
But if you guaranteed the farmer a price you would expect your own price to be guaranteed also. The guarantee that is here proposed is a guarantee to the producer of a price for his brains, but the man who goes to work for him is to get no guarantee at all. There is no agricultural wages hoard for him. Why has this been done for the producer I Because of over-production.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Noble Lord says "No." Another Noble Lord, the Member for Lanarkshire, says "Yes." I will let the Noble Lords have it both ways. One says it is because of dumping; the other says there is a combination of both dumping and over-production. Whatever the explanation, there was too much of the fruit on the market. The Government come along and first of all give a guarantee to the producer by putting on a tariff. Then they come along and say, "That is not good enough. 299 Give him a marketing scheme." That is to eliminate wasteful competition. But there is the ordinary man who has to work for the producer. He is faced with two million or three million unemployed. The more men there are available the lower the price at which labour can be obtained. If labour is scarce labour is dear, but plentiful labour is cheap labour. So we say that if you are going to propound a scheme to give the growers a guaranteed price when raspberries are plentiful and to prevent them undercutting one another, you ought to guarantee the wages of the labour as well. The one person who does not get any guarantee is the most defenceless person of all.
I know something about those who work in the raspberry area. They go from my own division up to Blairgowrie and Auchterarder. Their wages are the best they can get. Some employers treat them not badly, others not as well. It may be true that under this scheme the grower who will get a better profit may share some of it with the workers, but what guarantee is there of that? I had a sister who went to work on a raspberry farm. She was at Glasgow University as a teacher. She earned this money because she needed it to live. When she was there they had a strike because the conditions were indefensible. To-day the conditions are drifting back to what they were. So much so that the Employment Exchanges in the City of Glasgow are not insisting on anyone undertaking that job as a condition of drawing benefit. The conditions are not what they should be. This Measure was first drafted by a Labour Government and the consideration that ought to be first and foremost is a guaranteed income for the labourer.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I have looked at the Act, and I find there is no power in the Act to deal with the question which the hon. Member is raising.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
But under the Act the Secretary of State has power, before he consents to a scheme, to be sure that the scheme provides proper wages and conditions of work. He can say to the growers: "I shall not sanction your scheme until you guarantee a wage and definite hours of labour." That is not 300 being done in this case. The Government leave poor and defenceless men and women still defenceless, still liable to work under the most shocking conditions and for wages that are not good. The proposal should be taken back and the Secretary of State should inform those concerned that he will give them the marketing scheme and the guaranteed price only when they come along and say that they will give the labourers, male and female, a guaranteed price for their labour. On these grounds we take exception to the proposal. I am not in a position to argue whether the industry is properly organised or not. I know only one firm, Scott's, which I think is efficient and capably carried on. The least that can be done to-night is to introduce a guarantee of wages and conditions for the workers concerned. Their interests are just as important as those of the growers.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
We have had an interesting Debate, which is probably a forerunner of many similar Debates in the years to come. As one who has been in public life in Scotland for many years, nothing has given me greater pleasure than to hear the two most excellent speeches from the two Noble Lords, the hon. Member for Perth (Lord Scone) and the hon. Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass), who, I hope, will take a prominent part in our Debates in future. I have been supporting, as all my colleagues of the Unionist party in Scotland have been supporting, the efforts of the Secretary of State for Scotland, of the Minister of Agriculture for Scotland and of the Minister of Agriculture for England, in regard to the Marketing Bill which has been discussed in this House. I should be very 10th, in the first marketing scheme presented to this House, with all the authority of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to vote against it being submitted to those who are interested in it in Scotland. It is a trial scheme and we shall learn much from it, whether it is accepted by the raspberry growers or not. If it is accepted by them, it will show how other schemes may be made more successful in agriculture than, perhaps, this one may be. I, for one, wish that it should go to the people who are interested in it in Scotland for their opinion. If they 301 throw it out, it is their affair. If they pass it, then it will be an excellent example of what may happen in future in many other parts of the great horticultural and agricultural industries, for whose success we wish so much at the present time.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
With very much of the argument addressed to us by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) I agree. At the same time, we do not want to oppose the passage of this scheme. In our view, the fault is largely due to bad organisation and we believe the scheme which the Government propose will have the effect of enabling the industry to be much better organised than it has been in the past. As I understand it, the object is to stabilise prices. I do not object to employers seeking to stabilise prices. I wish employers in the industry to which I belong would ask the Government to give them power to stabilise prices. If they did stabilise them at a reasonable point, it would surely make the job of the trade unions very much easier in getting fair wages. I believe the right course to take is to follow the desire of the organisation that speaks for the raspberry growers. Like the hon. Member for Gorbals, I cannot speak in any way as an authority. As a matter of fact, being a Member of the Labour party and, worse than that, a miners' representative, I suppose I shall not be regarded as an authority on anything, unless it is strikes. I am in complete sympathy with the demand from the organisation representing raspberry growers for the stabilisation of prices. If and when prices are stabilised, I think we shall have an infinitely stronger case to demand very much improved conditions for the industry in general. In any case, we are not prepared on this side to vote against the proposal of the Government, and if it goes to a Division we shall be prepared to vote in favour of the scheme.
§ 9.31 p.m.
It is only because of the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that I venture to intervene for a few moments. The hon. Member waxed very eloquent about the condition of the workers engaged in harvesting the raspberries in Scotland. I 302 cannot claim to know very much about the conditions of labour in this field. The hon. Member credited us on this side, and hon. Members in all parts of the House, with being animated by a common desire to do the right thing. I am sure I am speaking for everybody concerned with raspberries in Scotland, when I say that such is certainly our desire. I think the hon. Member will agree that we of the Conservative party can point with pride to our record with regard to protecting the workers. No doubt the plea he has made to-night in regard to raspberries will be raised in connection with all the marketing schemes we are going to consider in this House, especially in regard to agriculture. He says that no direct provision is made for the raspberry workers in this Order. This is a case of casual labour, but agricultural wages in Scotland as a whole are certainly better than in England. That is a source of great satisfaction to all of us who come from Scotland, and I may point out in this connection that in Scotland there is no agricultural wages board. Nevertheless, the increasing unemployment in agriculture all round, including raspberries, gives most of us serious cause for concern and it is just because unemployment is beginning to become, not only a spectre, but is likely to become a menace that we are supporting wholeheartedly all the schemes which the National Government are bringing forward for the resuscitation of agriculture in all its branches. I support the plea that the right hon. Gentleman should see, so far as it can reasonably be done, that the powers which the Order gives him to protect workers shall be carried into effect.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) took exception to this scheme on the ground that it did not safeguard the interests of the workers engaged in the industry. I would remind him that in this matter I am administering an Act passed by the Labour Government in 1931, and that that Act made no provision for safeguarding the interests of those on whose behalf the hon. Member spoke. As I am merely administering that Act he cannot charge me with any failure in my duty, if I am unable on this occasion to meet him in regard to the points which he has sub- 303 mitted. I hope, therefore, he will not criticise me for not having implemented something which the late Labour Government did not see fit to insert in the Act of 1931.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Is the right hon. Gentleman not administering the Act on behalf of the Government? Why make these rather invidious comparisons between the 1931 Act 'and the power which this Government have to improve that Act?
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am administering a certain section of that Act dealing with the marketing of a product grown in Scotland, and I am confining myself strictly to the terms of the Act now on the Statute Book. I wish to deal with one or two points which were put to me by the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). I quite unintentionally misled the Noble Lady in my reply to her question about what the Import Duties Advisory Committee stated. I quoted certain paragraphs in their report, but I did not quote the full report, and I now find that those words, which she thought were in the report, are in fact in the report. I led her, I fear, to think that the words which she suggested were not in the report. The report stated:We propose to watch the decision from this standpoint and we shall not hesitate to recommend the immediate removal of any of the additional duties here proposed should it appear to us, that owing to the lack of efficient organisation or otherwise the prospect of a particular commodity being produced in this country of the right quality and in substantial quantities, and at a reasonable price, falls short of what might properly be expected.Let me remind the Noble Lady that these are the recommendations of the Import Duties Advisory Committee—that they should make representations to the Government and that the Government would consider it. But the question has not yet arisen and I feel sure that the fears which she has expressed will not arise in the immediate future. The Noble Lady took exception to some points in the draft scheme. I would point out that this matter was carefully considered by the producers and by all those interested for four days in Edinburgh and although exception may have been taken to certain paragraphs in this scheme I think 304 she will agree that a proper course was taken in holding this inquiry, in listening to objections and in having statements from the different parties heard with the consideration to which they were entitled. That is how these recommendations came into being.
Duchess of ATHOLL
May I say that I am sure the right hon. Gentleman was entirely right in having the inquiry, but I understand that fewer producers were able to attend and state objections, than would have been the case if the inquiry had been held in a centre much nearer to the main part of the raspberry-growing district.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
Where these inquiries are held is always a rather delicate point, but if the producers feel that their case has not been fully considered by those who inquired into the matter, they will have the opportunity of showing at the poll their dissatisfaction with the marketing scheme. The Noble Lady asked me some specific questions, including a question about raspberry pulp. I understand that the definition in paragraph 2 includes raspberry pulp.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I think the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my question. It does not refer to pulp but to the terms of paragraph 18 of the draft scheme.Manufacturers who produce raspberries for manufacture in their own factories shall be exempt from the operation of the scheme so long as they do not sell or offer for sale such raspberries.What type of raspberry is meant there? Is it the fresh fruit or the canned fruit?
§ Sir G. COLLINS
If the Noble Lady will refer to paragraph 2 which contains the definitions she will see that "raspberries" includes both fresh raspberries and preserved raspberries. She also showed concern about the position of the selection committee. The selection committee is to consist of not more than 20 registered producers and it is this committee which will set up the board in due course. I do not think that the House will expect me to go through all the different points which have been raised but I assure the Noble Lady that all these matters have been carefully considered. There is natural and justifiable ground for difference of opinion in these 305 matters. One point was in connection with the seven days which the Noble Lady thought insufficient. That matter I understand came up before the horticultural inquiry and they thought that at least seven days was sufficient.
The feature of our Debate this evening however has been two speeches from opposite points of view by the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dun-glass) and the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone). The Noble Lord the Member for Lanark strongly supported the scheme, although he had some fears that the manufacturers might get the produce too cheaply. I suggest to him that if this scheme is to continue year by year the producers and sellers of products will have to take a large view and will have to consider the interests, not only of the manufacturers but the public, as well as the interests of the producers. No scheme such as we are now considering can be permanently established unless by the general consent of all concerned. The Noble Lord the Member for Perth has taken time by the forelock and has had a poll all to himself. Hon. Members of this House have had the experience of canvassing before an election. We have all, I am sure, looked at the results of our canvass and at times have thought to ourselves how certain we were to be returned. Sometimes those returns are accurate; sometimes, alas ! they raise hopes which are afterwards dashed to the ground. The Noble Lord told us that there were 150 against the scheme but that 300 or 400 had not yet voted.
I suggest that if his poll is correct, if his fears are grounded on fact and if this scheme is not in the interests of the producers, his countrymen in Scotland will show their resentment, first, at being asked to vote at all and, secondly, by a very definite vote against the scheme. If he is so confident that this scheme is disliked and resented by growers in his constituency, I suggest that he can now adopt the role of a prophet in his own country, for he has told the House this evening that the scheme is not wanted. Therefore, I suggest to him that we let the scheme go forward for settlement and allow the producers themselves to vote on it. I hope that the scheme will be supported at the poll by the producers, for although he thinks that prices have 306 been good, yet in 1930, 1931, and partly in 1932 the producers have undoubtedly received a very low price. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) twitted me for supporting this Motion, but I would remind him that I supported the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1931 when it went through this House. This Measure is the first stage in organised marketing in Scotland. I hope that the producers in this scheme will see the economic advantages which will result when this scheme is in operation. It is because I am anxious, not only in the raspberry industry, but throughout the agricultural industry in Scotland, that the farmers in Scotland may be protected from weak sellers and against middlemen who sometimes put fears into the minds of the sellers, that I hope the House of Commons this evening will unanimously agree to this Resolution.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
My hon. Friends and I are in complete hostility to the Measure as formulated, for the reasons stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). Since our friends above the Gangway propose to support the Government if a Division is called, it would be invidious for the hon. Member and myself to force a Division, but I hope that it will be noted that we are recording our opposition. We think the Secretary of State, if he had so wished, in giving approval to this scheme, could have made a proviso with the growers that in return for the protection which they were getting, they must present to him within a reasonable period some indication of the conditions which they were proposing to give to the people whom they employed. I do not think he needed special statutory powers to do that. This morning, in the Committee upstairs, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague told us how they were negotiating on the matter of houses with the building corporations which are getting certain rights conferred upon them by the House of Commons, and if it is possible for them to get into consultation with prospective builders of houses and to make bargains with them without special legislative or statutory support, it is possible for them to get in contact with the growers of fruit and to make terms about the conditions of their 307 employés. Because that has not been done, and because there is no indication that there has been even an attempt to have it done, we record our opposition to this scheme.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary of State to do something that is well within their competence and that comes within their statutory duty. On the occasion referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals, I was up in a certain district in Perthshire to assist the people who had gone to pick raspberries there in the harvest season. They were very poor people, gathered from the slums of Edinburgh, Dundee, and Glasgow, and they were being exploited in the most atrocious way, not only in reference to wages, but there was no excuse in the fact that the industry was not profitable at that time. This particular farm on which I had these people out on strike—and I am talking of many years ago—was owned by a limited liability company. T took the trouble to go to the registered office of the company and to look at their record, and I found that they had paid a dividend of 33⅓ per cent. for the three preceding years, yet their workers harvesting their crops were being paid a wage that made it slavery to earn half-a-crown in a day, and in addition they were housed in the pigsties and the disused byres and stables round about the farm. They were fed—
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Will the hon. Member state if that was not some years ago, and if he has gone into the district in the last two or three years and looked into the conditions now?
§ Mr. MAXTON
It was some considerable time ago, and I know that the conditions changed very rapidly after that strike, but I will tell the hon. Lady how it came about. The War came along, and to get the crops harvested at all, the growers had to bring in lady teachers on 308 holidays and students from universities who were wanting to do a patriotic duty, and it was impossible to house the lady teachers or the students from the universities in the pigsties. But the hon. Lady must be aware that the housing conditions are far from decent yet in a whole lot of these places.
I am asking that the right hon. Gentleman, before the harvesting season commences, will take special care that his inspectors go into those areas to see that, on every farm where the growers are having the protection provided by this scheme and the prices provided for them by this scheme, the accommodation that is arranged for the workers who will come in from the different towns will be decent, healthy, and sanitary. That, at least, I think we have a right to ask. Indeed, when the season of the year comes round, my hon. Friends and I will take care that we ourselves have the necessary information, and if the right hon. Gentleman and his Under-Secretary have not taken reasonable precautions, we will have recourse to our normal way of calling attention to these things. We state our definite opposition to this scheme as framed just now, and we record that opposition.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That the Scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, for the regulation of the marketing of raspberries in Scotland, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 6th day of March, 1933, be approved.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.