§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I wish to raise a matter that is causing grave concern in my constituency and indignation in the county of Yorkshire and many other counties, a matter that cannot but appeal to any lover of justice in Parliament, namely, the refusal of the Bacon Development Board to grant any new licences for the establishment of factories in the country. I will deal chiefly with the position in Yorkshire, as that is the problem with which I am best acquainted, and it has the further advantage that the claims for a new factory in Yorkshire are the strongest of any of the 38 factories that were refused on 5th December. Yorkshire is the largest pig-producing county. There were on 4th June 422,000 pigs. To-day there are many more, because in the natural cycle of the pig the litters come. Next year there may be more than there are to-day or there may not. That depends upon the attitude of the Bacon Development Board.
§ Mr. TURTON
Yorkshire farmers if they are not allowed to contract for a Yorkshire family of pigs will stop, so I am informed, at nothing, even birth control of the pig, to prevent an impossible situation. Throughout the whole of the pig scheme we in Yorkshire have been its chief support. Every Yorkshire 2213 Member of Parliament has gone to his constituents and told them that the success of the Government's agricultural policy depends upon this pig scheme and has told them: "You must support it and you must be loyal to it." They have been loyal to it. The success of the scheme is due to Yorkshire support. If Yorkshire does not support the scheme I am afraid that the scheme will be ruined next year. That is the position.
Let me give the history of the pig industry in Yorkshire. When the pig scheme began we started with a new factory. Contracts were made and each year the contracts entered into have increased till last year the number of pigs going to that factory amounted to over 100,000. When the Yorkshire farmers realised that this increase was going to be stabilised the owners of the Farmers' Co-operative Factory applied for a new branch factory to be opened. That application was made in October, 1933. There was delay in the appointment of the licensing authority, for which neither Parliament nor the Minister is responsible. We did not get any hearing of our claim until the autumn of this year, and when we got our hearing before the Board I regret to say that there was delay and procrastination in getting their decision. We were told each week that we were going to get a decision. Perhaps the reason for the delay was that this was the time when the Yorkshire farmers were being asked to contract for next year, and if it had got out that no new factory was to be set up the Yorkshire farmers would not have supported the pigs contract scheme for the next year. We could have got far more contracts than we had, but the uncertainty as to whether we were going to have a new factory stopped many farmers from contracting, and it stopped all farmers from contracting for a full complement of pigs.
When the result came out we found that even in face of these difficulties our contracts had increased from over 100,000 pigs to 156,000. On 5th December the Bacon Development Board gave their decision. They said thathaving regard to the existing and prospective consumption and the prospective sources of supply of bacon they were convinced that the production of bacon in the premises appeared to them not to be required.2214 They had given consideration to the consumption of bacon and the existing sources of supply. In our large area of Yorkshire we had 156,000 pigs waiting to go into the factory and we had a factory which could take only 120,000. There was a surplus of over 30,000 pigs. Could the House have a stronger claim for adequate factory accommodation for pigs than this? We had the factory site chosen, we had the unemployed provisionally ready to start work upon the new factory, we had the plans passed by the authorities, but as a result of that decision of the Development Board those unemployed are still out of work, those factory plans are useless and the farmers are in the position that they have 30,000 pigs contracted for which cannot be taken into the existing factory.
What is to happen? I understand that these 30,000 pigs are unconfirmed contracts. The Minister will be able to correct me if I am wrong in that statement. If they are, they will go back to the producers with this option; "Will you send them to factories in the Midlands which have not got sufficient contracts under the scheme, or will you keep them on the farm?" I can tell the House from my postbag already that I have sufficient answers to that question. Not one of those 30,000 pigs will go by the free will of their owners to the Midlands. Hon. Members may say that that is perhaps Yorkshire cussedness. It may be said that we Yorkshire folks are pigheaded. We will leave the Scottish people to judge of that question. I know that we are cussed, but this is not an example of Yorkshire cussedness alone. We have great economic reasons for not sending those pigs 100 miles. The first reason is that if you send a pig 100 miles there is a shrinkage, a loss of weight of two stone. When we talk about two stone in regard to pigs we do not mean the full stone that, for instance, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) weighs but 7 lbs. That is a pig stone. There is this grave shrinkage of weight.
There is also loss of quality. Under these contracts what you get for your pig depends upon the grading. A pig travels 100 miles and an "A" pig after 100 miles of travel in a mixed truck from Yorkshire to Birmingham turns into a "D" pig at the other end. There is another point. We have a Farmers' Co-operative Society 2215 in Yorkshire which is concerned with the factory. I have been over that factory countless times and I have found not only myself supervising what is going on, but I have seen the farmers themselves there seeing their own pigs being graded. The farmers who send their pigs to the Yorkshire factory have most of them put what money they have into that company. They get a dividend out of the pigs sent there. They are members of a co-operative factory. Hon. Members opposite will realise what that means. We get a bonus of 2s. 6d. per pig sent to the factory, but we do not get that bonus and we are not helping our own company if the pigs are sent to the Midlands. Those are economic reasons. Those are reasons why not one single Yorkshire pig is going to the Midlands in the coming year. There is not only the question of the pig contracts, but there are additional contracts. The Pig Marketing Scheme wants more contracts. The Pigs Marketing Board applied for more contracts, but I have letters addressed to the Pigs Marketing Board saying that it is no use trying to get any additional contracts in Yorkshire because the people there are so indignant at what has happened. That is the position.
There is one other thing that I think the House should consider. Not only did the Bacon Board refuse 38 applications, but at the same time they passed a resolution that they had determined to grant no new licences for any fresh factories for two reasons—first, in view of the fact that the discussion with regard to trade agreements prevented the Government from declaring the details of their future policy; and secondly that the producers had not contracted for a sufficient number of pigs. Surely it is wrong for a Development Board, supposed to be an impartial licensing tribunal, to make the licensing depend on the view that it might have about the Government's policy. I have listened to the Minister of Agriculture explaining what is the Government's policy with regard to the levy-subsidy, and I can find no reason for the doubts expressed by the Bacon Development Board. I hope the Minister will do what he can to remove that doubt, and that the Bacon Development Board will be asked to reconsider its attitude.
2216 I think that I can guarantee to-day that if this licence for the Yorkshire factory is given, 60,000 to 80,000 contracts for pigs would be made in that new factory. If it is not given there will be between 60,000 and 80,000 pigs thrown on the open market, to be sold for pork or under the iniquitous scheme in which the curers are allowed to go into the open market. In either case what happens? 60,000 or 80,000 more pigs come from Denmark than would come if the Yorkshire factory licence were granted. I do not know how narrow is the margin of survival of the Pigs Marketing Scheme, but if these 60,000 or 80,000 pigs are lost to the Pigs Marketing Scheme or this country the Scheme will not survive. That is our case. That is if you like, the local point of view, but the ramifications carry far outside the area of Yorkshire.
I want the House to consider what is the licensing tribunal that has this granting or refusing of licences. We set up a Bacon Development Board consisting of four representatives of the producers, four of the curers, and three independent members. I want the House to take note of further details. Of the four representatives of the curers two are the Chairman and vice-Chairman of Messrs. Marsh and Baxter, the firm that controls 45 per cent. of the bacon-curing industry of this country. I believe that many of the factories owned by that firm have not got 15 per cent. of their requirements under the 1936 contract. They want pigs sent from the producing areas to those factories that, for some reason or other that we need not enter into, are unpopular. Is that an impartial tribunal?
I asked the Minister last Monday whether he would replace that tribunal and the vested interests upon it by a judicial tribunal that would grant these licences. The Minister took the attitude that as there were three impartial members holding the balance between four on either side it was fair, and, I quote his own words, "that is not unusual in a licensing tribunal." For nine years of my life until the beginning of this year I practised It the Bar, but in all my experience I have never found a licensing tribunal that permitted upon itself vested interests that were competing with those of the applicants. In every single branch of licensing in which members of the Bar have to appear, if there is one representative of a vested 2217 interest on the tribunal the whole decision is vitiated. That is the foundation of English law. It is implanted, I believe, in every licensing Statute that this House has hitherto passed.
I have not attended the Bacon Development Board meetings, but is this what happens? You have the tribunal, amongst them Mr. Marsh and Mr. Bodinnar and the three independents. The Yorkshire factory proposition is put forward. Mr. Marsh says to Mr. Bodinnar, "They have the pigs; we want them." The application is refused. The next business is an application for the extension of the licence of Mr. Marsh and Mr. Bodinnar for their own factories. Mr. Marsh goes down to the well of the court and makes an application for an extension of his licence on the same grounds that were refused in the case of Yorkshire, and Mr. Bodinnar says to the tribunal, "As we have refused the Yorkshire application we can grant this extension." Is that justice? Not only do we have this vested interest, but when we have been refused our licence Mr. Marsh goes to those people who have contracted to the Yorkshire factory which lost its licence, and says, "I will give you another 2s. per pig more than the Yorkshire factory is offering you." Is that honourable? Is that tolerable in this House? How can the Chairman of the Bacon Development Board, Lord Portal, tolerate the position of being Chairman of such a partial tribunal.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
I protest against this attack upon a statutory body set up by this House, and not voted against by the hon. Gentleman when it was voted upon; and I think that he is over-stretching the mark to reflect on the conduct of the Board, and that he should go to the people who can answer instead of bringing this up here when no suggestion has been made to me or anybody else that this was going to be raised. I have had no notice that the hon. Member was going to make a personal attack on the honour of representatives who have been appointed on a Board set up by Statute.
§ Mr. TURTON
On that point of order. This is a grievance I have to put before the House which affects my constituents. If the Minister for Agriculture says that he did not realise that 2218 I was going to raise this grievance let me remind him that I gave notice that I should raise this matter in consequence of a question which I addressed to him on Monday, 16th December.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The scheme is set up under a Statute passed by this House on 26th July, 1935, and I suggest that his description of the procedure is a description which, if it was made outside the House, might lay him open to very serious consequences. I say that because the hon. Member is imputing corruption to the members of this Board, and whether that is in order or not I think, before he makes any accusations of this kind, he should take the greatest pains to satisfy himself as to the accuracy of the charges which, by implication, he is bringing against members of the Board in question.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am not quite clear as to the point of Order. As to the question of notice, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) certainly gave notice some days ago that he would raise this matter. With regard to his attack on the Board, I did not hear what the hon. Member said.
§ Mr. TURTON
If I have said anything inaccurate I hope the Minister will correct me. I cannot withdraw a single remark. The right hon. Gentleman says that I am imputing corruption to members of the Board. I do not wish to. I say that the grievance under which my constituents are suffering is that a licensing tribunal has been set up in a manner in which such a tribunal has never been set up before. In the case of men who have vested interests it is of necessity difficult for them to divorce their judicial obligations from those which concern their own private interests. It is impossible. Suppose the Chairman of the Board, Lord Portal, were to apply for anew branch factory and found that he had to apply before a tribunal composed of his rivals in business. Would he not have a great grievance? Would he be shut out from raising the matter in the appropriate assembly, the Parliament of England? I cannot believe that this is right or tolerable. We have a strong case. For some reason, we do not know what, our case has not received proper consideration. Let me tell the House that not a single question was addressed to 2219 those who appeared for the Yorkshire farmers before the Bacon Development Board on the memorandum which they submitted, not a single statement was disputed, yet we are told that the factory is not to be put up.
I appeal to the Minister, for whom I have great admiration. I admire him for the way in which he has tried to assist this great industry, and for the way in which he is trying to see that farmers get justice by fair methods. I ask him to intervene, if he can, in our difficulty. If he cannot, because a licensing tribunal has been set up, I would ask him to consider very carefully whether a mistake has not been made, and whether it is not the case that this licensing tribunal by its very nature cannot give adequate or fair consideration to the applications before it. I ask that this licensing tribunal should be replaced by one of a more judicial nature. Why cannot these matters be considered by a county court judge in the county court? If that was done there would be no feeling of resentment, and the Yorkshire farmers would not feel that they are not getting a square deal. This is a grievance which does affect my constituents. The earliest and the most important duty of Parliament is to redress grievances. I ask that that grievance should be redressed.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
a: I want to support the hon. Member for Thirk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in his criticism of the Bacon Development Board. If the House had known when this Board was set up that it would pursue such a high-handed policy as it has, no member of the House would have voted for it. We complain that the Bacon Development Board is preventing the establishment of a bacon factory in Durham. We have no bacon factory in Durham at the moment. Durham is a distressed area, and it is one of the desires of the Government to try to get new industries started in the distressed areas. When the Commissioner was appointed one of his duties was to try to get new industries for these districts. Indeed, it was a boast of the Government at the last Election that they were trying to establish new factories in the distressed areas; and the Prime Minister had gone out of his way on two occasions at least to appeal to 2220 employers of labour, owing to the benefit of tariffs, to consider distressed areas and the establishment of new industries. There is a gentleman in Durham who was prepared to establish a bacon factory in Sunderland. Let me read one or two paragraphs from the circular which he has sent to all members for the North-East coast, so that the House will see what he intended to do. He says:I have been in communication with the Bacon Marketing Board since June, 1934, about erecting a bacon factory in Sunderland as a new industry for a distressed area, and have been waiting the appointment of the Bacon Development Board whose permission I would have to get ere I could proceed with my intention. I met the Board on November 22ac1 and am now informed that they propose to refuse the licence for the erection of the building on the grounds as per leaflet enclosed. My scheme included the creation of pig farms, for which I hold an option on land near Tow Law Durham to raise the pigs for the factory in Sunderland—That is in my division and I shall deal with the conditions in that part of the county before I finish——which in my opinion would assist the Government in establishing the bacon industry as a sound posh ion since the farming community cannot possibly provide sufficient pigs to keep the industry as an efficient body. I may say that I have a market for 2,000 sides of bacon a week and the farms and factory will be the means of finding work for 450 men who are walking the streets to-day and will, when in full working order, save the country £30,000 in dole and public relief.But just as if we were a prosperous county the Board say to that man: "No, you shall not be allowed to start your factory and develop these farms." The leaflet mentioned by this gentleman in his letter consists really of a resolution passed by the Bacon Development Board on 5th December. In that resolution they make two staggering statements. First they give the following reason for refusing the licence.In view of the fact that the present discussion with regard to trade agreements prevents the Government at the moment from declaring the details of their future policy.Thus one of the reasons given for refusing licences is that some negotiations are going on in regard to trade agreements. I hope the Minister will tell us with what countries negotiations are taking place which would affect this question. They go on to say that they will not grant any licences for fresh factories to 2221 come into operation in 1936 but that they intend at the earliest possible date after 31st March to reconsider, in the light of any announcement of policy which the Government may have made by that date—that is in regard to trade agreements—the desirability of granting licences for 1937 "in respect of applications in the following circumstances." I draw the Minister's attention to this condition which follows:(a) "Where applicants propose to transfer factory accommodation from foreign countries to the United Kingdom, especially where they are in a position to sell the bacon which they produce direct to the consumer.The only construction that can be put upon those words is that the Board are saying to applicants "We are not going to grant you licences for any factories for 1936, but after March we shall consider granting licences to foreigners for 1937."
§ Mr. ELLIOT
We can clear that point up in a very short time. If the hon. Member will ask his right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Co-operative Congress, about that point, his right hon. Friend will explain it to him in a moment. There are points upon which we disagree, but let us not proceed to disagree upon a point which can be cleared up in a sentence as this one can be.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Let me say in a word that this is intended to refer to cases where co-operators desire to transfer to this country factory accommodation which they at present own in foreign countries.
§ Mr. BATEY
In my opinion it is a wrong condition for the Board to lay down that factories can be transferred from foreign countries—I do not care to whom the factories belong—while they refuse to set up factories in this country. We 2222 want as many new industries in the distressed areas as we can get. Here was a chance for a new industry which would have meant a great deal to this area. In the part of the county of Durham where it was proposed to establish the pig farms there are at present no industries at all. Last summer the Commissioner for the distressed areas in his report said:In February the suggestion was made to me that the establishment of new summer military training camps in the special areas would assist those areas in several ways.The Report goes on to state:It was found possible to arrange for a camp for one infantry brigade, one field brigade R.A. and attached troops to be held in the vicinity of Tow Law, County Durham for a period of one month during August and September, 1935.The report then deals with the cost. Thus the Commissioner was so impressed by the conditions in that district that he arranged to have a military camp there. On the other hand, we have the Board refusing to allow the establishment of a factory as a result of which pig farms could be developed in that same district. I am sure the Minister of Agriculture will agree that pig farms would be more use to that district than having a military camp for a month while the Board is taking up the high-handed attitude of refusing the licence for this factory. I wish to ask the Minister whether since the recent debate, there has been indication of any hope of the Board rescinding its resolution and granting licences for 1936. If the Minister has not consulted the Board and there have been no negotiations with the Board, he must not expect to have an easy time in connection with this matter. We want new industries in the distressed areas and we object to any body set up by the Government preventing the establishment of such industries. Unless the Minister is prepared to discontinue supporting highhanded policies of this kind on the part of the Board he cannot expect us to be quiet in this House on these matters in the future.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Lord WILLOUGHBY de ERESBY
My reason for taking part in this Debate is that in that part of England which it is my privilege to represent there is a certain feeling of dissatisfaction with the working of the Bacon Development Board at the present time. You must forgive 2223 me, Sir, if I do not bring any cut and thrust into this Debate, but the views which I am about to express are similar to those expressed by the two previous speakers. Pig producers in Rutland and South Lincolnshire have been endeavouring for some time past to erect a farmers' bacon factory to be situated in Lincolnshire. A company has already been registered with this in view. The proposed factory will be run on a semi-co-operative basis, on the same lines and under the same management in fact as the Yorkshire farmers' factory is run today. The successful working of this factory has been most ably stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton). Here the problem is one, not of a shortage of pigs, but rather of a surfeit of pigs, a problem which I have no doubt many factories in this country would willingly have to face to-day.
A factory run on these lines would have one all-important advantage: it would enjoy the confidence of the pig producers in my constituency. I say this because it is within reasonable distance of the farmers, and they themselves could see their pigs weighed and graded. They would have a factory which they could enter at any time as a right, and the loss due to shrinkage from long travelling would also be brought to the very minimum. In fact, a factory run on these lines would be a very real boon to the pig producers in my constituency, but unfortunately the proposals for such a factory have been nipped in the bud by the Bacon Development Board, and, as one may well imagine, there is a very considerable feeling of heartburning and dissatisfaction towards the action of the board.
As I see it, that confidence which is so essential, as Members of the Government are so keen on expressing on platforms throughout this country, is likely to become sadly jeopardised in the future in regard to the pig scheme. The producers, certainly in my part of the world, have no confidence in a system by which the contracts are made with the board and the producers are denied the right of choosing to what factory they should send their pigs. On this side of the House we are all only too anxious to help my right hon. Friend the Minister 2224 of Agriculture in any way possible in thrashing out these very difficult problems. We are also most grateful to him for the determined efforts with which he has faced up to them and tackled them in the past, but I would ask him, in conclusion, seriously to consider whether he cannot see his way to meet what he may imagine is a grievance of very real substance on the part of the pig producers, not only in my constituency, but also in all parts of England. Unless the demands for new factories run on a semi-co-operative basis and similar to the one which I have tried to outline in my speech are met, the whole scheme, to which we all look for such great things, will be very seriously jeopardised by loss of confidence in the future.
§ 2.49 p.m.
§ Mr. BARNES
The Minister a few moments ago seemed to be rather irritated that we should be raising this subject to-day.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Ministers have no right to be irritated because subjects concerning their Department are raised, and I would not claim any such right. If I showed a certain amount of irritation, it was because of the way in which aspersions of a personal character were cast upon a body set up under a scheme which I had invited them to work.
§ Mr. BARNES
Previous Members have spoken from the point of view of pig producers. I should like to speak for a moment or two in the interests of pig consumers, and we look to the Minister in charge of development of this character to protect not only those who are given powers under legislation, but those whose interests are affected by such legislation. In our Debate the other evening the Minister failed to answer certain specific points that were put to him on matters of moment to large combinations of people outside this House. Again this afternoon we have had instances where in three areas requests have been made for licensing powers to enable pig producers to handle their products near to the point of origin or growth. I am connected with the Co-operative movement which represents over 7,000,000 organised consumers in this country. 2225 Until the institution of the Bacon Development Board, it was not possible in this country to get bacon of standard quality, and those who were responsible for supplying the home market had to go abroad for the purpose of getting their supplies. That led to the expenditure of British capital in other countries.
Later, Parliament in its wisdom decided to assist the production of this standard quality of bacon in this country under a certain type of organisation, and I think the Minister carries a very large responsibility to see that that machinery is working fairly and equitably to all the interests concerned. Certainly, I am convinced that Parliament cannot justify, and a Minister cannot justify, using the powers of this House in conferring statutory powers on limited group interests in this country to use Parliamentary protection for their own special and vested interests and for their own profit-making interests; and if evidence of such action accumulates, Members are only discharging their duty in bringing these abuses on to the Floor of this House. We look to the Minister to protect us and not to fob us off with a general statement that Parliament has conferred such and such powers on such and such a statutory body. Powers that Parliament has conferred Parliament can, I assume, take away or modify, and we look to the Minister to be the machinery of that modification.
We have in this country an organised body of consumers who should be taken into consideration, who, when the Parliamentary position changed, desired to establish their own factories here in order to produce their own requirements, and whether it be pig producers in Yorkshire, or some concern that wishes to open in Durham or in Lincoln, or whether it be the case of organised co-operative consumers who have their own market, I think the Minister should answer this question: If any business organisation, or if any organised group of producers or consumers can get the quantity of material to justify it in a capital expenditure on opening and equipping its own factory, what right has either the Pigs Marketing Board, or the Bacon Development Board, or anybody else to prevent its operating such a factory? We should like the Minister to tell us whether he and the Government support the giving of statutory 2226 powers to a body who can not only look after their own interests but can prevent justice and equity to other interests.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I should like to tell the House that Lincolnshire is just as vitally interested in this question as Yorkshire, and perhaps more interested, for the reason that in North Lincolnshire we have the barley problem. The House will be aware that the price of barley to-day is uneconomic. Barley fit for malting will often command a good price, but the lower grade barleys unfortunately have to be sold at a price which does not allow the payment of sufficient wages to agricultural workers. I approach this problem from the point of view of the payment of adequate wages to the agricultural workers. If barley has to be sold at 19s. to 24s., how can such wages be paid? If we get encouragement from the pig industry, then I believe we shall have a solution of the problem. Where barley is grown the pig population can be increased. The Wold districts of Lincolnshire can on most soils only produce barley, and the farmers cannot turn over to wheat or other cereals. Nothing can be found to take the place of barley. If more factories were put up the pig population could be doubled or trebled.
If you consider the geographical position of Lincolnshire you will realise, that, being cut off by the Humber to the north and on the east and south by the sea and the Wash, the county has only one outlet to the west. For that reason we want factories in Lincolnshire. I should like to tell the Minister, who has done so much for agriculture, that if he can give help in this way he will add to the debt of gratitude already owing to him by agriculturists. I should like to call attention to a resolution passed by the Holland and Boston Farmers' Union. After some preliminary observations they say:This Committee declines to take any part in urging the producers in the area to contract with the Board for pigs which will be sent to unknown curers, whose inefficiency is largely responsible for their failure to get contracts, particularly in view of the fact that the Committee has been informed by the Secretary of the Yorkshire Farmers' Bacon Factory (1932), Ltd., that application for a licence for a proposed subsidiary factory at Mahon has been refused, and by the Secretary of the Lincolnshire 2227 Farmers' Bacon Factory, Ltd., that an application for a proposed farmers' co-operative factory in Lincolnshire has also been refused by the Bacon Development Board with the result that a considerable number of contracts made with the Yorkshire Farmers' Bacon Factory (1932), Ltd., will have to be returned or the number of pigs reduced.We do not want the number of pigs reduced. The pig population of Lincolnshire is 218,454 and the producers in the county have shown the strongest wish to make contracts with farmers' factories. Refusal to permit them to do this by the withholding of licences will have consequences for the future of the pigs marketing scheme in this area for which the Development Board must take entire responsibility. The point I would like the Minister to consider is whether the Development Board by the use of its licensing functions is losing the confidence of the producers and of those by whom applications are made. If so, it is a very serious thing.
I want to make an appeal to the Minister also on other lines. Pig producers are getting very tired of having their grade sheets altered. After being marked by the grader they are altered when they get to the factory to show a lower grade of pig. That is due, I believe, to the long distances pigs from Lincolnshire have to travel to the factories. I have heard of pigs being sent from Lincolnshire to the borders of Scotland. That may appeal to the Minister of Agriculture for Scotland but it does not appeal to the Lincolnshire producer whose pigs decrease in weight. One man said to me, "I sent some Large Whites to the factory and two of them when they got there were marked as 'All Blacks '". That is an actual fact. Confidence in the scheme is getting less. I want confidence on the part of the pig producers in the marketing scheme to be maintained, and if we can get rid of the difficulty due to the faulty geographical situation of factories, get factories put where they are wanted in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, nearer the farming areas and nearer where the pig producers carry on business, the scheme will go ahead. I appeal to the Minister to do all that he can and to come to this House if necessary for fresh powers, because I want this scheme to be a success, for I believe it can be made a success.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I represent a constituency which, although predominantly mining in character, has a considerable farming population and has also a very big interest in the co-operative movement. In every part of my constituency, especially among the farmers and the co-operatives, and indeed throughout Scotland, there is very keen resentment about the operations of this Board. I do not think that the Minister for Agriculture is acting in the way he should act when he tries to intimidate a backbench Member. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman who represents Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) feeling very sensitive on the question of corruption, but he should not exhibit his feelings in such an awkward manner. I want the Minister of Agriculture to consider seriously the question of making alterations in the character of these boards. If we had a Pigs Marketing Board and a Development Board that represented all the interests concerned, both producers and consumers, I am quite certain that very much better results could be obtained, but it is utterly impossible to promote the general welfare of those who are interested in this industry if you have a Board which is controlled by particular interests who have not the general interests of the producers and of the consumers at heart.
We all know that there are terrible conditions existing among the mining population. We have discussed here on several occasions the position of the mining population, and it is a question that demands considerable attention. We want to make it clear that we are solidly with the miners and with whatever action they take. At the same time we have to take our stand with those who are engaged in agriculture, farmers and farm labourers alike. Hon. Members have said in connection with the miners that if the owners can get the prices for the coal the miners will be given an increase. That, of course, is the wrong attitude. The miners are expected to give their labour over the counter, but are not to be paid for it. That system is not operated in any other business. It means that they are only to be paid after every-thing else, such as way-leaves and royalties, have been paid for. The same applies to agricultural workers. You express sympathy with them and the conditions 2229 under which they live, but the marketing boards are making it impossible for farmers to get the money which will enable them if they desire—and we should see that they do desire—to make the conditions of the agricultural workers better. I want in the names, not only of the farmers and of the consumers, but of the agricultural workers, to say that we do not want mere expressions of sympathy. We have had expressions of sympathy for the miners. Sympathy and 2s. a day we will accept. Sympathy without the 2s. a day means nothing.
Sympathy for agricultural workers while the pigs boards operate as they do now means nothing. An attempt should be made to change these boards so that the farmers will have every encouragement to produce, so that money will go into the agricultural areas, so that we may get rid of the tied cottage system and the terrible poverty imposed on the agricultural workers. The Minister of Agriculture has a very big responsibility, but he can best meet it by taking up this question in real earnest and making a complete change in the character of these boards. If the boards are given such power as they have, the Government should see above anything else that the power cannot be used against any particular section of the interests involved. Evidence can be given, and it has been given here to-day, that the powers that have been granted to these boards are being used against the pig producers and the consumers. Please put an end to that and set about a remodelling of the whole scheme. I join in that demand in the hope that the Minister will learn a lesson from the last election and prepare himself for the next, because if he does not do something about these boards there will be no difficulty about the count at the next Election.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that the House has heard with interest and, indeed, with appreciation, the first intervention of the Communist party into our agricultural debates. I am sure that agricultural Members in all parts of the House will appreciate his robust demand that farmers should get more money. When I go to my constituency and say that I have the support of a member of 2230 the Praesidium of the International Communist party—
§ Mr. ELLIOT
After the very favourable criticisms of the hon. Member's candidature and his success in seeking Parliamentary honours, which I have read in the Communist Press, I am sure that that candidature will shortly be translated into membership of that august body. When I come before my constituents in Kelvingrove and am able to say, "You are mistaken in believing that I come before you as a capitalist Minister desirous of getting more money for the farmers or that this claim is put forward in support of the capitalist system. I am assured by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who is a candidate—a candidate mark you—for the Praesidium of the Third International, that he too reinforces that demand strongly," I shall have no difficulty in getting the whole of the very large element which was opposed to me at the last Election, in addition to my own supporters.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Will you also say that we have got to see to it that the money that goes to the farming interest is passed on to the agricultural labourers? That is the point.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I shall have no difficulty in saying that, and I shall say it with the more authority since I shall have no difficulty in showing that large sums which have been given to the agricultural interests have, in fact, been passed on to the agricultural labourers. The calculation is well known to hon. Members on all sides of the House. The payments are enforced by statutory wages boards, bodies which are scarcely known in any other industry in this country. If I can reinforce all the votes I get for myself in Kelvingrove with all the votes which would normally be cast for my opponents, then I shall have no fear about the result of the election. But I welcome the incursion of the hon. Member from another point of view, that it does show what has become an increasing feature of this House, that there is a general desire to take part in agricultural discussions, and a general desire to show interest in that subject. I am glad that hon. Members from all sides of the House and I do not say this in any attempt at 2231 cynicism—have shown themselves keenly interested in agricultural matters, because the internal development of this country is clearly becoming of more and more importance as time goes on, and it will become necessary for this House to address itself more and more to these problems. The hon. Member for West Fife, in his criticisms of the Marketing Boards, went a little beyond what I can agree to on several points, and attached an undue importance to the office of the Minister of Agriculture, and even to the personality of the Minister of Agriculture, when he suggested that I should, here and now, remodel extensively those boards. They are elected boards, elected by the producers, and were I to remodel them it is not always certain that I should get the necessary vote in favour of my remodelled boards. The producers might not have the same confidence in my skill and personality as is held by the hon. Member for West Fife. But I shall go forward boldly, helped by his criticism and inspired by his enthusiasm, to see what can be done in the matter.
The Debate has brought up several very important and novel features. The emergence of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) as a full-blooded Protectionist was also a novelty to the House, and his vehement attack upon the suggestion that co-operators should be allowed to transfer factory accommodation from Denmark to this country was unexpected to me and will be very interesting to the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) when he reads the remarks which have been made by one of his temporary allies. In common with other agricultural Members, we hail this unexpected recruit with enthusiasm. The desire which he shows to develop the agricultural industry in this country at the price, as he knows, of the exclusion of further pigs from abroad will be welcome to every agricultural Member. Whether it will be as welcome to the mining community on the North-East Coast I do not know. He will have to justify himself there. But as far as agriculture goes the fact that the North-East Coast has come out whole-heartedly for an increased production of pigs in this country and the stoppage of foreign competition is indeed grateful to us, and I am sure, the Debate will be notable if for that feature alone.
2232 The fundamental issue is that we were asked both by the Pigs Commission, and by many hon. and right hon. Members of this House, to see whether it was not possible to have a more rationalised development of the pig industry in this country than had taken place in other industries in the past. The Re-organisation Commission for Pigs and Pig Products recommended that there should be such a planning body. It was debated at length between the two organisations concerned, the Pigs Board and the Bacon Board, and finally they passed resolutions allowing such an organisation to be set up. They did not give it an unlimited growth. They each sad that their resolution, under which it is in force, should be revocable at a poll, and therefore the answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) is that if the producers lose confidence in the Development Board, they can revoke their resolution, and the Board comes to an end. It is clear that it is for the producers themselves to say whether they have or have not confidence in the Board—both their own Board and the Development Board. The question can best be left to the producers themselves.
I was under no illusion that as soon as a planning body was set up it would not lead to a great deal of discussion and debate, not least from those who had insisted that such a body should be brought into existence. From the party opposite we have had many complaints in the past against the fact that, in the development of industry, new factories were not put up in the most appropriate places, that everything was left to the uncontrolled greed of the capitalist system; that the factories plant themselves down in overcrowded areas in the best beauty spots of England wherever they can see a chance of private profit. That was inveighed against by hon. Members opposite. Now the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) says that the Minister must answer whether any organisation was justified in coming to this House for statutory powers to control a private profitable proposition, and by what right any one in this House or elsewhere could prevent organisations or individuals setting up a factory wherever and whenever they pleased.
§ Mr. BARNES
I did not question the right of this House in that respect. I 2233 questioned the right of the House to give statutory powers to a vested interest to be a determining factor, and I said that if this House were to establish those powers it should see that equity governed the transaction.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I will leave it to the OFFICIAL REPORT to show what the hon. Member said. The question was what right has anybody to prevent anyone setting up a factory. I shall not go further than to say that the House has either to take the whole of this business over, or to set up some appropriate body to whom these great questions can be referred. This is what was done. That is what was required by the Reorganisation Commission and what was done by the House in its Resolution of 26th July, 1935. It was on 26th July that the House set up a licensing body to carry out this experiment in planned development, and to see whether it were possible to make a success of it. A great deal of the discussion which has taken place here this afternoon should and must take place before such a licensing body. Any hon. Member has a right to raise questions here affecting the interests of his constituents, but we should see that the procedure laid down by Parliament for the operating of licensing machinery has been used to the full before demands are made that the machinery should be altered, or that the decisions of the licensing body should be reviewed.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is learned in the law, but he has come into court on this occasion apparently without fully studying the documents upon which he has built his case. He says that a decision has been come to by the Bacon Development Board. I do not know where he got his information. Has he read the scheme? Has he examined the provisions of the scheme? Has he seen the very careful arrangements made in the scheme to protect the interests of persons who are in exactly the position in which his constituents find themselves?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to finish my argument. I have here in my hand the Development Scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, where, if my hon. Friend will 2234 turn to the relevant passages, he will find, on page 11, this provision:Whenever the Development Board intend to refuse an application for the grant of a producer's licence, the Board shall serve upon the applicant a written notice stating:If my hon. Friend looks further on, he will find that, after that notice has been served, or even after a decision has been come to—and until the notice has been served no decision can be come to—he will see it laid down on page 18 that, where any person producing or desirous of producing bacon in Great Britain is aggrieved by any act or omission of the Development Board,
- (a) that the Development Board propose to refuse the application upon the grounds specified in the notice; and
- (b) that the matter of the application will be finally determined at a meeting of the Development Board to be held at an office of the Board at such an address and at such time and on such day (not being less than twenty-one days from the day on which the notice is served) as may be specified in the notice."the person aggrieved may refer the matter to such single arbitrator as may be agreed upon between him and the Development Board, or, in default of agreement, nominated by the appropriate Minister.
§ Mr. TURTON
I was drawing the attention of the House, not only to the provisional refusal of licences by the Board, but to the fact that the Bacon Development Board at the same time passed a resolution, as a matter of policy, declaring that they were not going to grant any new licences. They based that policy upon what they considered to be the Government's difficulties about trade agreements.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I must say that, when the procedure is laid down and when it is admitted that that procedure has not been followed, the Resolution passed by the Board does not bind the independent arbitrator. My hon. Friend suggests that the matter should be taken further, and that the Minister here and now in this House should say something. I am the person who, in default of agreement by the two parties, has to appoint the arbitrator to arbitrate between them. What could be worse, what could be more readily and rightly condemned by this House, than an expression of opinion by the Minister on a matter which is sub judice, and in the machinery of which he will have to take an important part?
2235 I beg my hon. Friend to consider again the case which he has made, and which, it seems to me, he has prejudiced, in spite of the able and vigorous way in which he put it, by the exaggeration into which he has allowed himself to fall, and by the fact that he has not laid before the House the machinery which has been devised and which has been approved by the House for dealing with these very difficulties. I refer also, particularly, to his objection that the producers feel that they have not had justice because the matter has been tried before a tribunal upon which interested parties are represented. To deal with that point alone, that tribunal, if I may say so, is not the final court of appeal. It is the very body whose decisions, if the producer or any person disagrees with them, can be reviewed, and, indeed, can be overturned. As to the interests represented upon that body, it is true that, by the specific recommendation of the Reorganisation Commission, by a Resolution of this House, and by the resolutions of the two bodies of pig and bacon producers, that particular composition has been chosen, and there are on the Development Board four representatives of each class of producers. But there are three impartial persons to hold the balance. Surely no one would suggest that Lord Portal, Sir Robert Greig, and Sir Francis Boys are men who would be actuated by any bias in either one direction or the other. My hon. Friend made no reply to the very pertinent query of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who, when my hon. Friend was describing the procedure as one which, if not corrupt, at any rate savoured very much of what we in Scotland should call jiggery-pokery, asked, "What were the three independent members supposed to be doing all this time?" The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton was completely nonplussed by that interjection, and made no attempt whatever to reply to it. In the circumstances that I have retailed, it would not be proper for me to give an expression of opinion of any kind, but I say that the procedure laid down in the development scheme provides for a continuation of the discussion and the referring of it, if necessary, to an independent arbitrator, and that I 2236 think should satisfy the point as to justice which has been raised.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
There is no foundation in fact for the suggestion that the Minister has brought pressure to bear upon the board?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Certainly the Minister has brought no pressure to bear upon the board. The Bacon Development Board, naturally, considers the situation in the light of the question whether there will be a sudden and large expansion in the bacon industry? The board is entitled to draw its own conclusions from the facts of the case. The Minister, of course, has not approached the board or made any suggestion that they should take that question into consideration in determining whether or not to license further factory extensions.
Hon. Members have raised other points, but I think these a re the main ones which have been brought out. I wonder if there are any more, apart from the general consideration that, naturally, every Member would like to see a factory in his own division. The hon. and gallant Member for Louth brings up the case of Lincolnshire and the Member for Rutland brings up the case for Rutland. Hon. Members in all parts of the House bring up the case of their divisions. If the House were to sit as an authority reviewing all these it would never come to an end.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I cannot sympathise with the individualist desire of the hon. Member for Spennymoor to sweep aside every vestige of organisation which conflicts with the interests of his own immediate constituency. He has committed himself a long way to-day—to an ultra-Protectionist policy, stopping all imports from Denmark. Now he goes further and wishes to sweep away any form of planning or rationalising or organisation. I suggest that he should stop in his reforming zeal before he has committed himself so far that it is no longer open for him to sit honestly on the benches opposite. I shall not attempt to go into the general question of licensing, because I think that would be going beyond the problems which hon. Members have put up to me. Apart from the hon. Member for Spennymoor, there has been no general desire 2237 expressed to do away forthwith with any attempt to rationalise the expansion of pig and bacon production. Parliament having set up an authority, and the industry having determined to try out the experiment, we should wait for more than three months before saying the authority should be swept away altogether or that some new system of procedure should be embarked upon. Let us try out the system of procedure that has been laid down, to the full, and then it will be time enough to go again into the matter. I do not expect, nor does anyone who desires to rationalise anything, expect an easy time in this House, and certainly not from hon. Members connected with the coal trade. We all know the bitter opposition of the coal trade, on either side, to any sort of suggestion that certain alterations should be made for the benefit of all concerned. We are trying to get away from that in the coalfields. Let us hope that we shall succeed in averting these difficulties instead of bringing them into existence, and then grappling with them, in the industry of agriculture.