§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [20th January], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House welcomes legislation for better marketing and central slaughtering of livestock, but regrets the absence of any provisions for ascertaining the cost of production of fat cattle, and cannot assent to measures calculated to swell private profits at the public expense."—[Mr. T. Williams.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
When the Debate was adjourned last night I was discussing the Socialist Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading, and the reasons adduced in support of the Amendment. Let me sum up the matter in this way: So far as the Amendment welcomed the slaughtering proposals of the Bill the welcome was faint, partial and contradictory. In the other part of their Amendment, attacking the subsidy to the livestock industry, the Socialists betrayed their ignorance of the conditions in the livestock industry, both by the terms of their Amendment and by their speeches, with the one exception of the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin). I wonder whether the position of the livestock industry is sufficiently well known at the present time. I notice that the night before last the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entertained by the farmers of the country and, no doubt mellowed by their hospitality, and taking the measure of their hospitality as the measure of their income, he said that farmers were substantially better off now than they had been. That may be true of the producer of hops; it may be true of the producer of tomatoes; it may be true, though not substantially, of the producer of milk. But it is quite untrue of the producer of livestock, and as livestock represent 70 per cent. of the produce from farms I am afraid that the Chancellor must revise his opinion as to the prosperity of this branch of the industry.
366 The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was at pains to discover where the subsidy under the emergency provisions had gone to. I think that that is a perfectly fair inquiry. Since September, 1934, we have been paying out of public funds money towards this branch of the industry, and we complain now that the industry is in no better condition than it was. Let me give some figures. The Ministry of Agriculture price for second quality beef in September, 1934, the beginning of the emergency period, was 34s. To-day, according to the last figures, the price for second quality beef is 31s. 3d. Let me take the two chief feeding stuffs. Bran has risen from £5 2s. a ton to £6 17s. a ton, and cotton cake has gone up from £4 5s. to £5 7s. The finished product, as we know, has decreased in price, while at the same time the cost of feeding stuffs has risen. Who has gained? One fact that the Socialists seem to forget is that the price of beef has gone down during that period. If they will consult the Labour Gazette they will find that when the emergency legislation was instituted the price of ribs was 1s. 2d. and the price of flank was 7¼d., and to-day the respective prices are 1s. 1½d. and 7d. Those who like to make calculations can work out what has been the saving to the consumers of this country. They will find that it comes to round about £4,000,000 a year, which is the exact amount of the subsidy that we have given. But, be that as it may, the fact remains that the livestock industry is in such a parlous condition that farmers are leaving the growing of fat stock or store stock for other branches, and that some part of the large exodus of agricultural workers from the land is due to the poor prices of fat stock in the markets of this country.
That being the condition, here is the Government's Bill. The Socialists complain that the Government have not written into the Bill what is the cost of production of beef. Their own speeches have supplied the statement that the price of beef is 40s. from grass and 50s. stall fed. I am not prepared to quarrel with those figures. I understand that the National Farmers' Union of England made certain inquiries and that the result was a figure of 48s. per cwt. Any of those prices shows that there is a gap, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) described it, of 367 some 14s., a gap which the 5s. subsidy is quite insufficient to fill. Is it going to be filled by this Bill? The Under-Secretary for Scotland in winding up the Debate last night for the Government said:I shall not attempt to convince him that the financial provisions of the Bill will be adequate to secure the object which he has in view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; col. 309, Vol. 319.]The Under-Secretary was replying to the hon. Member for Kincardine and Western (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey) and was referring to the closing of the gap. In that sense the Bill stands condemned by one of its chief spokesmen. I must say from my knowledge of the Bill that I do not think the Under-Secretary for Scotland was very wrong when he used those phrases. Let us consider the three methods of help for beef as contained in the Bill, and the Government's policy. There is first of all the duty of ¿d. a lb. I think it is generally admitted that the exporters of beef in the Argentine will pay that duty. [Laughter.] An hon. Member opposite laughs. I made that statement in deference to the Socialist party's own speakers.
§ Mr. Turton
The Socialist party's own speakers have made the point that I have made. Men who, so far as I know, are members of the Socialist party have got up in their places and admitted that the Argentine exporters will bear that duty. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), who is still a Socialist, I believe, went so far as to say that whether it came from the Argentine exporter or from the consumer he did not mind, but he would much rather it came from the taxpayer. I should have thought that this House, composed of taxpayers and supporters of the British Government, would far prefer that the Argentine exporter should pay for the privilege of coming into this market, and I cannot understand the unpatriotic attitude of the hon. Member for Dewsbury.
But let us pass from the duty to the regulation of imports. Before I go into the details I want Members of the House to have one picture in their minds. In the years before the War, 53 per cent. of the beef we consumed came from home sources and 47 per cent. was 368 imported. After the War the position was entirely changed; the home supply was 48 per cent. and the imports were 52 per cent. Any Measure that is designed to put the livestock producer on his feet must alter that position and alter it radically. The position from the years immediately before the War to the present time has deteriorated, for each year more meat has been sent in. Last year the imports of beef were nearly 1,000,000 cwt. more than the imports in 1932. In view of that position the Minister said yesterday that that part of the Bill which deals with the regulation of imports was in his view the stable foundation of his policy. The Minister will remember the parable in the Bible of the man who built his house upon sand, and the result to the house. I am afraid that this stable foundation to which the Minister referred is shifting sand. He takes power to regulate imports, but already, before he has taken that power, the President of the Board of Trade has concluded an Agreement with the Argentine under which the British Government agrees that for the next three years it will not regulate imports more than 2 per cent.
Therefore Part III of the Bill must be subject to that Argentine Agreement. Not only is it subject to that Argentine Agreement, but it is the policy of the Government that this part of the Bill shall not be brought into operation until the International Meat Conference,. which we attend only as one producer among many in fixing the quantity to be sent into this great country, has failed to come to a decision. In the Argentine Agreement it is made equally clear that the International Meat Conference cannot alter the guarantee of no limitation beyond 2 per cent., given by the President of the Board of Trade to the Argentine Government under that Agreement. If that be the stable foundation, what a structure for the Minister to build upon! To go back to 1932 would mean a reduction in imports of 6½ per cent. The Argentine will have, only 2 per cent. cut from it in the first year. What will the Empire say? Is it possible that the Empire, when that Agreement so favourable to the Argentine has been concluded, will decrease their imports to this country by more than 2 per cent.? No; what hope we have from this Bill must come, 369 I regret to say, from the subsidy, and the subsidy is limited to £5,000,000, which is 25 per cent. more than was previously enjoyed. That amount is not sufficient to close the gap. In other words the subsidy cannot make the fat stock industry profitable at the present time.
I am not going to waste time in reiterating disappointment, because I do not think that that serves a useful purpose in the House; but I do think that the House should consider how we can best use that very limited amount of £5,000,000 to improve this very distressed industry. What has been the reason for the distress in the industry? Primarily, the large increase in imports from overseas and the poor quality of the beef that is being put upon the markets of this country. I want the Minister to pay special attention to that. The emergency provisions have, unfortunately, assisted the deterioration of the quality of beef, because there has been a flat rate subsidy and, being a flat rate subsidy, it is quite easy to understand that five shillings to a man who is thinking of getting 30s. for inferior quality beef is a far greater inducement than 5s. to a man who is producing high quality beef at something like 48s. a cwt.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
If the hon. Member does not believe in the flat rate now, why did he vote for a flat rate in the means test?
§ Mr. Turton
I am afraid that I cannot go into the means test now, although I should be glad to discuss either that question or the question of margarine with the hon. Member at some other time. I am dealing with an intricate question, the question of a flat rate subsidy. Farmers have been putting their cattle on the market in an unfinished condition because the subsidy and the price do not enable them to go into the extra expenditure of finishing their cattle off. The Minister will no doubt say, "I have done that. I said in my speech that we are going to have a quality subsidy." I am afraid, however, that that is not sufficient consolation to me until I know what that quality subsidy is to be. You have to make the quality subsidy sufficiently high to encourage people to give this high quality in beef.
Figures have been mentioned by the newspapers which show only a difference 370 of 2s. 6d. per cwt. Let me tell the Minister that a difference of 2s. 6d. a cwt. will not be sufficient to improve the quality of stock on the markets. Here I differ with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Malden (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise). He said that he wanted the subsidy spread as wide as possible, but I am afraid if we do that we shall get no improvement in quality. It is most important that what beef we have should be of the highest quality. One cause of deterioration in quality has been the influx of the fat stock farmer into the milk industry. The system of the dairying industry requires that there should be a number of casualties every year. The old cows go to the market and are sold at 18s. to 19s. a cwt. When these old cows have been sold to the butcher and killed a great many of them are put on the counter as prime beef, and the consumer when he has to invest in a new set of teeth says: "Look at your English beef." Surely, we could do something to remedy that state of affairs. Cannot we by this Bill make some provision for canning that cow beef? I can find no provision for that in the Bill. If we cannot do that, cannot we make it obligatory on the seller of cow beef which has not received a subsidy to state that it is cow beef and not prime beef? I believe that that would do something to remedy the situation.
The cow beef situation has been made even worse by what is known as the flying stock system. That is, dairy farmers keep their cows for a very short period. They buy and sell and keep their cows for one, two or three lactations. These cows got rid of, which are still cow heifers, are receiving at the present time as great a subsidy as the highly produced, highly finished, good pedigree beef cattle. That is wrong. If we are going to retain the subsidy for cow heifers it must not only be at a lower rate than the quality subsidy, but also at a lower rate than the flat rate subsidy. We must have a specially low subsidy for cow heifers because the producer of the cow heifer is receiving the advantage of a higher price. Further, it is most important to note, that the fiat rate subsidy has done nothing to help the store raiser of this country. When I go round the store-raising farms of the North Riding I find outside each farm, that used to be store 371 raising, milk cans which are going to the milk factory to be made into that manufactured milk which brings in 5d. a gallon. That is wrong. That milk should be put into the young cattle and calves of this country, and it is not being so used.
I asked the Minister on Tuesday what had been happening to the calves in Great Britain, and I find that last year more than 100,000 more calves were slaughtered than in the previous year. That means that our store cattle have deteriorated in quantity as well as in quality. Those hon. Members who are practical farmers will find that the price of stores has kept up during the last few months, but the quality and quantity of stores has been very disappointing. As Minister of Agriculture my right hon. Friend must take urgent and drastic steps to remedy the store situation. One step that we ought to take in this Bill is to ensure that no quality subsidy is received by any animal that has not been bred in this country. I do not think that at the moment we can deny all the subsidy to Irish-bred cattle but we should deny them the quality subsidy. These are my suggestions on the question of subsidy and I regard them as being of tremendous importance.
I regret that those parts of the Bill which deal with the subsidy are not to be settled by the House in Committee but are to be left to the Livestock Commission and the advice that they give to the Minister. When the Minister has got in official form the subsidy regulations the House ought to have power to say aye or no to them, but there is no provision for the subsidy regulations being passed by the House. They are to be laid on the Table for information. They might as well be laid in the Library. It does not give us any advantage in procedure in the House to lay a particular regulation on the Table. I ask that at a later stage we shall insert provisions for passing the regulations and if necessary giving the House power to amend them.
Let me say a few words on marketing. I have every desire to see the markets of this country made more efficient than they are. I regret that in some cases they are not efficient, but I do ask the Minister to bear in mind the 372 difference there is between markets in level country, where the farmers are accustomed to long distances and to taking their cattle long distances, and those markets in the hilly districts where the market is usually situated at the end of the dale and the farmers of the dale are not accustomed to go further than the little market town with their produce. It would be a grave injustice to take away these little markets that are serving the dale country of Yorkshire and the hill country of England as a whole. I would ask the Minister to bear that in mind.
I have criticised the Bill and I have not been happy in doing so. We have a new Minister who, like his predecessor, has a considerable knowledge of agriculture and great goodwill towards the agricultural industry. I wish him every success and I hope that we shall be able to improve the Bill as time goes on. But I am afraid that in the conflict that has taken place, no doubt behind the scenes, over the levy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has won, over the regulations the Board of Trade has won, and I think also over the subsidy the Chancellor of the Exchequer has tightened the purse-strings to make it insufficient. As a result of that conflict of interest, damage is being done to the backbone of the agricultural industry, to the men who have bred in this country the best pedigree stock in the world, pedigree cattle that are still the envy of all foreign countries, and damage is being done to the stock farmers and the stock men, who work longer hours than anybody, who have no rest from their constant care of the animals in their charge. It is to give these men a squarer deal and to give them better wages that I ask the House to consider the Bill and to improve it. We can do something to improve the Bill in Committee. However much we criticise it, I think we shall all admit that it is an improvement on the emergency regulations of the last 2½ years. For these reasons, while I shall vote for the Second Reading, I shall make every endeavour to try to improve the Bill at a later stage.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Acland
Like most of the speakers in this Debate so far, I welcome this Bill with rather faint enthusiasm and in the hope that the Minister and the 373 House will realise that it is not a small thing for Members of our party to welcome a Bill which contains a subsidy. I do so myself because I have been convinced by my constituents that without this provision there would be a failure in the livestock industry, and I hope that as we are doing something which is somewhat unusual for our party in approving the Second Reading of a Bill with a subsidy in it, our criticisms and suggestions on other points will receive the more consideration. We welcome this Bill rather faintly for opposite reasons to those which have contributed to the lukewarmness on the opposite side of the House, where Members seem to fear that the subsidy is far too small, that it will not be sufficiently permanent, and that the interference with methods of distribution and slaughtering is far too onerous. We take the very contrary view. We fear that the subsidy may be far too permanent, and we doubt whether the measures of this Bill dealing with the improvement of marketing and of slaughtering are sufficiently forceful.
I would like to say something in general about the speeches which we have heard from the other side of the House, from which I would like to exclude the speech, to which we have just listened, of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Tinton), which seemed to be of a different nature. Many of the speeches which we have heard have made we wonder how it was that hon. Members opposite agreed to a Resolution on the livestock industry in which this House unanimously hoped the Government's policy would be based upon the improvement of the quality of the products of the industry, the reduction of costs of production and distribution, and the stimulation of demand. It seemed to me remarkable that, some hon. Members having agreed to that Resolution, should have condemned almost everything which the Government are attempting to do in order to carry out what was so recently the hope of the entire House, and that they should apparently, from their speeches, desire that the livestock industry in future should be based solidly upon financial assistance. I really wonder what plans many hon. Members opposite have of their own which they would like to see carried out in order to put the industry on to some other permanent basis if they are not thinking of financial assistance as the 374 be-all and end-all of the Government's agricultural policy.
I would like to refer to a point in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte), who yesterday complained so much of the Government and who said:If there is a rise in the price of meat it will not be due to the Government's policy, and the Government will not be able to claim that it is their policy that has put the farmer on his feet again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; col. 297, Vol. 319.]I quote that language to suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that that remark has been taken down and will at the proper time be used in evidence against him, and I hope that if, when the next election comes along, it should turn out that he is wrong and that the price of meat has risen, he and his fellow prospective candidates on the Government side will refrain from saying that it is their policy which has put the farmer on his feet again. But perhaps that is rather a pious hope.
I want to put a rather serious question, and I do not ask it rhetorically, but in order to obtain information. It is rather a big question. Does anybody really know why the livestock industry is doing so badly? The first answer that comes to one's mind, of course, is foreign importation, but a very little examination will prove that that answer will not work, because if we take the importation of beef in 1929 as 100, the importation in subsequent years has been 101 104, 96, 95, 100, 98, and last year 101. But when we turn to mutton, the figures are different. Taking the mutton importation of 1929 as 100, you get these figures for subsequent years: 112, 126, 124, 120, 116, 121, and last year 109, a very much more substantial increase in the importation of mutton than in that of beef, and yet mutton in this country is doing quite well. Therefore, importation alone is not the answer.
There is a rather curious phenomenon in the livestock industry to-day which I am not able to understand, although I did get some enlightenment from some remarks made by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, and that is this sudden increase in slaughtering which has taken place. From 1929 to 1933 the annual slaughterings were: 2,900,000, 2,900,000, 2,700,000, 2,600,000, and 375 2,600,000, which is just about steady, but from 1933 onward you get 2,600,000, 2,800,000, 3,100,000, and 3,200,000; in other words, in recent years there has been a very substantial increase in slaughterings. In the last three years we have slaughtered 1,300,000 more beasts than if we had continued at the rate of 1933. Where have these beasts come from? The industry is not expanding. It is not the increasing output of an increasing industry, and you would have thought that with this increase of slaughtering there would be a considerable decrease in the number of beasts living on the land. Yet, although we killed 1,300,000 extra, the decrease has only been 93,000. I do not know what the answer to that question is, and I would be very much interested in any answer that could be given.
One of the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture to whom I put the question suggested that the answer would be found in the importation of stores. Incidentally, I would like to mention the extraordinary courtesy which we private Members of the Opposition parties always receive from officials of the Ministry of Agriculture whenever we go and bother them with the object, as they must know, of picking holes in their schemes. I do not believe that the Minister of Agriculture himself gets more kindliness and service from his officials than we do. But the stores do not really account for the phenomenon which I have mentioned, because since 1932 the importation of stores has gone up by 62,000 a year and slaughtering has gone up by 664,000 a year. That is a problem that I do not know how to answer.
Another possible explanation of the collapse of the livestock industry is the change in the public taste. Some 18 months ago I would have thought that that was a very substantial part of the answer, because I had some figures from the Cattle and Beef Survey conducted by the Intelligence branch of the Imperial Economic Committee, in which they showed that comparing 1927 with 1933, consumption of beef per head had gone down from 71 to 63 lbs., or 11 per cent., but that mutton had increased from 26 to 33, an increase of 26 per cent., and that pigs had risen from 39 to 47 lbs. per head, or an increase of 20 per cent. The figures stop short at 1933. I recently 376 asked the Minister if he could bring the figures up to date for me. He gave me some which overlapped in one year the figures that I had, and in that year did not agree with mine, not only in amount, but in tendency. The figures that I received for the last two years showed that the consumption of beef is increasing again and the consumption of mutton and pigs is going down, so that I fear that the change in the taste of the people is again not the whole answer.
Now I want to call attention to some figures which are rather more ominous. Are we paying sufficient attention to the way in which foreign prices for beef are overtaking British prices for beef? All prices for beef are falling and have been for the last 10 years, but the prices for British beef are falling very much faster than the prices for Argentine, Australian and other Dominion beef. I will give one example, because it is the most startling. Comparing 1926 with 1936, in 1926 English longside seconds were 8¿d. per lb. and Argentine chilled hindquarters firsts were 6¿d. The British article fetched 30 per cent. higher price than the Argentine article. This year English longside seconds were 5¼d. and Argentine chilled hindquarters firsts 6¼d. In other words, to-day, instead of the British article fetching 30 per cent. more than the Argentine article, the Argentine article fetches 12 per cent. more than the British. What is the answer to that? Is there any other answer that can be given than one which is in some way dealing with quality; and if that is so, is not this question of quality a question of the very utmost urgency?
I appreciate that if the question of quality is a matter of the utmost urgency, a great deal of the solution of the difficulty must rest in the hands of the farmers. Are the farmers satisfied that they are doing enough now, that they are taking sufficiently drastic action to improve quality? I suggest that the Government might do two things to help. I think I am in agreement with what the last speaker said about distribution of the subsidy as between good quality and poor quality beef. I would acid that in the first year there should perhaps not be too much difference between the subsidy paid to the good quality and that paid to the poor quality beef, or else the producer of the poor quality will be driven out of production before he has a chance to improve his quality; but let it be known 377 from the first that, as time goes on, in two, three, four, or five years, the subsidy payments for the good quality beef wilt be substantially increased and the subsidy payments for the poor quality beef will be substantially decreased. I agree that in the interests of the future of the livestock industry we must now keep the producer of the poor quality beef out of the bankruptcy court, which he might go into next month if we did nothing for him, but I cannot agree, and I am sure my party could not agree, that we should keep the producer of poor quality beef out of the bankruptcy court for ever.
The only other question on policy that I want to touch upon is in connection with the slaughterhouses, because it seems to me that public slaughterhouses are closely bound up with quality. It is only by the improvement of slaughterhouses that we can process our meat so as to put it right ahead of the quality of the best Argentine. Therefore, I hope that these experiments in slaughterhouses will be made effectively and strenuously. I shall regard it as a tragedy if these experiments are allowed to become tangled up with private profit. I am aware that the commission, and through them the Ministry, will have close control over the inception of any slaughterhouse experiment, but will the Minister tell me whether there is any provision by which the commission and Ministry retain any sort of control over the experiment once it has been launched? What will happen if 12 months after the experiment has been launched circumstances arise in which the need for pressing forward with it conflicts with the need for earning private profit on the enterprise? Has the Minister any powers to insist that the needs of the experiment shall prevail?
§ The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Ramsbotham)
Perhaps the hon. Member will refer to Clause 23 where power is given for the commission to fix the charges.
§ Mr. Acland
Yes, but surely in conducting this experiment a great deal more will be in issue than the charges? Surely, it will be a question of experimenting with the best type of machinery, the best type of cooling chamber, and the best methods of organisation? Is it suggested that the commission will have no control over these matters? I do not think that the case is much better if it is a municipal 378 corporation. Members of municipal corporations are not experimenters. Their task is to get round the next corner, and they will only be able to justify work on slaughterhouses by its effect on local rates. It will not do for them to say to the ratepayers in a city like Birmingham that they have spent £100,000 out of the rates and have gained nothing, but "Look what discoveries we have made in the art of conducting slaughterhouses, which will be of immense value to the nation." That will not cut any ice with the electors of Birmingham.
§ Mr. Marshall
Is the hon. Member aware that local authorities have already made these experiments and have paid for them out of the rates?
§ Mr. Acland
That is very noble of them, but I think that if they should fail in these experiments the members of the corporation will have to pay for it at a subsequent election. But the proper people to make these experiments are the Meat Commission, who have the whole situation under review, and I would urge that point most strongly. They can make them in a much more thoroughgoing way. I fear that local authorities will tend to become orthodox and do the thing in the same way, whereas it is most important that these three experiments shall differ from each other so that we can judge which is the best. That is a point of the utmost importance, and I hope it will be considered.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert
I must congratulate my hon. Friend who represents a constituency adjoining mine on having been converted to the necessity that something must be done for the livestock industry. He and I represent a district in North Devon which is second to none in the whole of Great Britain for the quality of the beef produced, and he knows, as I do, that the excellent breeders in that country are passing through a heart-breaking experience. I have more than once endeavoured to bring before the House the really deplorable condition of the agricultural industry. I am convinced that we are living on past capital. No new buildings are going up, and the fertility of the soil is going down, but the real tragedy of the situation is the drain of agricultural workers from the land. In 16 years over a quarter of a million skilled men have left the land, and 379 to-day less than 7 per cent. of the population are engaged in agriculture. No country can be firmly founded on a decaying agriculture. While I welcome the efforts of the Government to ameliorate the conditions they really have not touched the fringe until they bring back to the land the many skilled workers who have gone. We are suffering from the competition of low-wage countries, and from the exigencies of policy in foreign countries. Not long ago eggs from South America were diverted here because Italy and Spain cannot take them. We are also suffering, especially in the livestock industry, from currency depreciation. The Argentine, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark all have depreciated currencies, and the British agriculturist has to meet them.
I candidly confess that I am disappointed with the Bill. I wish to see a stable and reasonable price for agricultural products—nothing more. The late Minister of Agriculture knows that no one will put money into the agricultural industry without some assurance as to future prices, and agriculture is not an industry that you can start in a few months. Production must be planned ahead, and there can be no planning of production unless there is confidence as to the future. I am anxious to find out why there has been a change in the policy of the Government. In 1934 it was a levy-subsidy policy. In the White Paper issued in that year the Government said:We are of opinion that a plan based on a levy which would be on all imported meat, including livestock, would afford the best long-term solution of this problem.Then in 1935 they said in another White Paper:His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are of opinion that a plan based on a levy, with a preference to the Dominions, will afford the best long-term solution of this problem.The late Minister of Agriculture went to Shrewsbury and as a valentine to the agricultural industry on 14th February explicitly confirmed that policy. Now we have something new. Where is the levy subsidy to give stable prices to the agricultural industry?
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Elliot)
The right hon. Gentleman asks 380 where is the levy subsidy and where is the standard price. The subsidy is in the Bill which the House will vote at 7.30 this evening, and the levy is in the Bill following which will be voted before the House rises to-night.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman will not find in any White Paper any suggestion that standard prices form part of the Government plan.
§ Mr. Lambert
In 1935 the Government said in their White Paper that a levy on all imported meat was to be imposed with a preference to the Dominions. Is that in this Bill or in any Bill which has been introduced to the House?
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman knows that a levy on all imported meat would involve a payment for all meat produced in this country. Does anybody suggest that the money collected from a levy on bacon should go to beef or that a levy on beef should go to bacon? The levy on bacon is to go to bacon, the levy on sheep to sheep, and on beef to beef. That is the Government's policy. Here is the beef man's money. The Bill carries out the Government policy.
§ Mr. Lambert
It is extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman did not find that out in 1935 when he issued the White Paper. I am somewhat confused —possibly it is my stupidity—but the White Paper certainly suggested a levy on all imported produce. There is no levy on all imported produce in this Bill, or in the Argentine Agreement Bill either. The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away from the fact that there has been a change in Government policy.
§ Mr. Elliot
I absolutely deny that there has been a change of policy, and the Minister of Pensions when he comes to wind up the Debate will have no difficulty in proving it. However, I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman any further.
§ Mr. Lambert
I do not mind being interrupted because I think I have the best of the case. If this does not mean a change of policy, I do not know what words mean. There was to be a levy on 381 all imported produce, including Dominion produce, and that has not been in any Bill before the House this Session. The right hon. Gentleman is a clever controversialist, but I do not think lie can get round that fact. When heard the Minister of Agriculture introducing the Bill I thought, here is a man beating a very little bird out of a very big bush. Now we have the tom-tit before us. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) went back to the year 1929. I go back to the year 1925 when the meat price was £2 12s. 7d. per live cwt. In 1926 it had dropped to £1 11s. 6d. Even before the War it was higher than it was last year. Before the War it was £1 16s. 4d.
What is this Bill, which so much excites the admiration of the Secretary of State for Scotland, going to do? The price of beef last year, according to the figures of the Minister, was £1 11s. 6d. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Barnstaple. I regard the statistical Department of the Ministry of Agriculture as being by far the most efficient part of the establishment. The old subsidy was 5s. a cwt., and the new subsidy is to be about 1s. 6d. more. If that be so, the price of beef, according to last year's prices, will be 38s. a cwt. Is that a paying proposition? I hope the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will give us his opinion on that point. Hon. Members opposite ask, as I think they legitimately may ask, why we do not get some information as to what is the cost of production? That information could be obtained through the agricultural colleges or the very able officials of the Ministry. I have been told that it costs something like 48s. a cwt. to produce first-class beef. Now these people are to receive, with the £5,000,000 subsidy of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is so proud, 38s. a cwt. And this is the Bill that the Ministry of Agriculture has been cogitating for so long. There is nothing in the Bill about other livestock products. What are the prospects for future prices? Can anybody say? If prices do not rise, it is obvious that this £5,000,000 subsidy is only a drop in the bucket, especially when one considers that the prices of feeding stuffs have recently jumped by 25 per cent.
I understand that something happened when the Australians came over last year 382 that induced the Government to alter the policy of a levy on Dominion meat. That is clear from the White Paper to which I have referred. It seems to me that the Australian statesmen came over and hypnotised our statesmen into agreeing that there should be no levy on Dominion meat. That is a point upon which I am going to argue, and in doing so I am only following my right hon. Friend's example, for in 1934 and 1935 he was in favour of it, but now he has changed. Why is it that the Australians tax our manufactured goods going into Australia, but that we are to admit their products free? A very admirable report came out recently by Mr. Dalton, the senior British Trade Commissioner, and he says frankly:In spite of the additional preferences secured by the Ottawa Agreement, the share of the United Kingdom in the total of Australia's 'competitive' trade declined appreciably in 1934–35, and the figures for 1935–36, when available, will show a still further decline.He goes on to say:The percentage share of the United Kingdom in the last quarter of the trade year 1935–36 was the lowest for many years.Why is that? Mr. Dalton says that the reason is that all the competitive products our manufacturers make are being taxed heavily in order to develop Australian industries. I will quote his words:One of the main reasons was that the development of Australian secondary industries had been mainly in goods of which the United Kingdom was formerly the biggest supplier, and consequently that development had affected United Kingdom trade more than the trade of her competitors.Why should Australian meat come into this country and practically cripple our farmers when the Australians are developing by taxation their own industries to the detriment of our manufacturers? Mr. Dalton points out that the loss in textiles, comparing 1931–32 with 1934–35, was £679,000; metals and manufactures, £1,662,000; and in paper, £215,000. We are suffering from this Dominion and Argentine competition. I want to give a preference to the Dominions, but I want to see home farmers secure first. Why is it that we have to meet the competition of these countries where currency depreciation is going on? In the case of Australia, there has been a currency depreciation of 25 per cent. What is to 383 happen in future? The quantity of Australian cattle coming into this country has increased very largely. Mr. Dalton gives the present Australian cattle figures: in 1929 they were 11,200,000, and in 1934—the latest figures—they had increased to 14,000,000. Are we to have this constant increase in the amount of Dominion products coming into this country, which will keep the price, without the subsidy, so low that our producers cannot make their production pay? I do not think it is fair: I am in favour of putting the home producer first.
§ Mr. Lambert
I did not quite catch the hon. Member's remark. I do say that agriculturists are some of the most loyal people in the Empire, but one cannot expect the farmer to wave the Union Jack at the front door when the bailiffs are at the back door. With regard to the regulation of imports, I know that is a matter which does not rest with the Ministry of Agriculture—I rather wish it did—but with the Board of Trade. In any case, I do not think it is the right policy. What happened when bacon imports were restricted? Bacon prices rose in this country, but they also rose in Denmark. I do not want to benefit the Danish farmers; if they wish to send cheap bacon here, get a levy from them, and our people will benefit in two ways. The regulation of imports is a dangerous two-edged weapon. If imports are regulated, there is uncertainty, the product is not produced, and when it is wanted, it is not possible to get it, for it is not like turning a tap to get water. Therefore, I have urged, and shall continue to urge, upon the Government that there shall be regular, reasonable and stable prices. Let me take, as an instance, the price of wheat. A year and a half ago the price was 2S. 6d. a bushel, whereas it is now 5s. 6d., and there is no need for a subsidy. If agricultural production in this country is increased, security is given to the home consumer, and he cannot be so exploited by the oversea producers, for whether it be the Dominions or foreigners, they will exploit us and get as much money as they can.
384 There has been a great deal of talk about marketing. The word "marketing" seems to some people to be a blessed word, like Mesopotamia, but it does not mean anything. One of the first things I would do if I were Minister of Agriculture would be to go to Smithfield. Three-fifths of the beef sold in Smithfield to-day is controlled by foreign firms. Is there any other country in the world that would allow that sort of thing to go on? If we were in a state of emergency, we should be at the mercy of foreign firms. When it is a question of discussing marketing, that is the first subject to be tackled. I have not the least doubt that the position is the same in other large cities. Three-fifths of the imports are controlled by foreign firms, not Empire firms; and I know, incidentally, that there is difficulty in collecting Income Tax from those firms because they arrange the matter very skilfully.
I agree that there are too many markets, and I would like to see fewer, but in this matter one has to be very careful. I have discussed the question with a very experienced auctioneer, and he said that if the local butcher were destroyed and the butcher could not buy his cattle locally, he would probably get chilled or frozen meat, buying from the big foreign companies in London. Here is a very interesting fact. I have been told on very credible authority that at Ilfracombe, a well-known health resort in North Devon, where the population is about 10,000 ordinarily and rises to 50,000 or 60,000 in the summer, there is little more North Devon mutton or beef sold. The butchers send for their supplies to Smithfield and get frozen or chilled beef. [Interruption.] I am sorry to say our butchers are just the same as others; they try to get as much as they can. If the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) will come down to Devonshire and insist on getting North Devon beef, he will never eat anything else all his life.
Another point with which I would like to deal is second-quality beef. I cannot understand why the second-class beef market is not aided by utilising that beef in the Forces. I am amazed that that is not done. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Major Rayner) made an interesting speech on this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment for the Christmas holidays, and the Financial 385 Secretary to the War Office replied to him. Apparently the War Office prefer for their men these frozen slabs of bullock. Probably in the next war they will use them as sandbags. Why do the Government not help the second-class beef market and feed the men of the forces on this second-class beef, if they will not have the first-class beef? Personally I would rather see them using the first-class beef. It would provide a much better market for my constituents if they used the first quality of meat, but since they will not do so, I cannot understand why they do not, at least, use the second-class beef. It is infinitely better than frozen beef, which has to come over here and lie for six weeks before being unfrozen—and poor stuff it is when it is unfrozen. I submit that in dealing with the agricultural industry of this country we must reverse the engines.
§ Mr. Lambert
What is happening to-day? What has happened in regard to agricultural land and the increase in capital value in the last 10 or 15 years? It is starving the bees which gather the honey and feeding the drones which consume it.
§ Mr. Lambert
I do not mind the hon. Member's interruptions. But I ask the Minister to take seriously into consideration the points which I have submitted. I do not think I have said anything unreasonable about the position of the agricultural industry. I am certain that it is going down and I can only express the hope that it will be the good fortune of my right hon. Friend as Minister of Agriculture to reverse the engines and set it going up the hill once again.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
The Bill which we are discussing deals with a most important item of Government policy. Those of us who represent agriculture in this House have constantly been told by the Government when temporary Measures for dealing with agriculture were put forward, that the Government had a long-term policy which would he introduced in due course. I suppose we are to understand that in this Bill we have at last come to the Government's long-term policy. If that be so, then I must say 386 that after all we heard about it in advance, it is a great disappointment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] I am glad to hear that hon. Members opposite agree. We have to decide on whether we are going to keep the livestock industry of this country alive or not. We know, of course, the attitude of the Socialist party on that question, but it is perfectly true, as we were told by the Minister yesterday, that the livestock branch of the agricultural industry accounts for three-quarters of the value of the output of our farms and if we kill that branch of the industry then we shall practically kill agriculture in this country. The Socialist party from time to time give a good deal of lip-service to agriculture, but I do not think they always show themselves willing to pay the price for the maintenance of our agricultural industry. I would ask them to remember that the farmer and the agricultural worker are the servants of the State, of the community, and of every one of us, and if you are going to maintain the agricultural industry, you have to pay a decent living wage to the farmer.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
I am submitting that if this country desires to maintain an efficient agricultural industry, it will have to pay for it, having regard to the competition which has to be faced with the products of other parts of the world, and there are very good reasons why the country should have to pay.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Does the hon. Member agree that if we have to finance industries in the way he suggests, they ought to be controlled by the State?
§ Sir R. W. Smith
I am not arguing that question now. I am dealing with a different point. My point is that if you require an agricultural industry you will have to pay for it and if you kill this branch of the industry you will kill the whole agricultural industry, because your land will not be fertile to grow another crop unless you have this branch of the industry. You would upset the whole condition of agriculture in this country if you swept away the livestock industry upon which a large number of people are dependent. You would do away with a healthy section of 387 the population of the country and, further, in the event of war you would find yourself in a serious difficulty. But I repeat that we must get it clearly into our minds that, if we are to keep the livestock industry and the agricultural industry as a whole going in this country, we must be prepared to pay for it.
What is the Government's policy with regard to the livestock industry? I suggest that the main point in the Government's statements on this matter, has been that we must give a remunerative price to the efficient producer. There was some little difference of opinion between the previous speaker and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland as to whether the policy outlined in the White Paper has been carried out by this Bill, but one thing which was clearly laid down, both in the White Paper in March and in the Government's statement of policy last July, was that there should be a remunerative price to farmers. Let us be clear on that point. Then we have to consider what is a remunerative price. Remuneration does not mean merely bringing the price up to the cost of production. It means a certain amount over and above that and the producer is fairly entitled to that amount over and above the cost of production, considering the number of years during which he has to carry on the industry at a loss. What the Government have to show us before we vote for this Bill is that it carries out the policy of a remunerative price. If they cannot show that these proposals will provide a remunerative price, then I submit that the Bill does not carry out the policy which was announced. I would like to refer to the speech made last night by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Western (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey) who asked about bridging the gap between the standard price and the cost of production he made this extraordinary statement:I shall not attempt to convince him that the financial provisions of the Bill will be adequate to secure the object which he has in view"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; col. 309, Vol. 319.]I suggest that that is a strange position for the Government to adopt—that it is not up to them to show that this Bill is going to do what they promised to do, 388 while they expect us as representatives of agriculture to support them. The White Paper issued in March, 1935, stated:The policy which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom desire to bring into operation as soon as they are in a position to do so is to assist the United Kingdom livestock industry according to the needs of the markets from the proceeds of a levy on imports (with a preference to the Dominions), overseas producers being left free to regulate their exports to this market themselves.I think we are entitled to say that the Government certainly have not carried out that policy and that the methods suggested in the Bill are not those suggested in the White Paper of March, 1935—and that was the policy on which we fought the last Election. The Prime Minister himself made a speech in one of the Eastern Counties in which he said that the wheat scheme had been a success and that it was proposed to deal with the beef situation on the same lines. I ask any hon. Member to consider what the wheat scheme was. It was a duty raised for a special purpose and paid into a special fund. In that connection the phrase "deficiency payments" was in everybody's mouth, and that meant a standard price, and a standard price is what we have not got in this case. I would remind hon. Members of what was written by the present Secretary of State for Scotland in an article in June, 1935:There is another possible line of action especially suitable where, as with wheat and meat, we produce the smaller part of our total supply. That is, to put a moderate tariff on imports and to earmark the proceeds for home producers instead of paying in the usual manner to the Exchequer.Is that what is proposed by the Government's present policy? I say that the former Minister of Agriculture was then, clearly, looking entirely to the lines of the wheat scheme when considering the beef situation, and therefore that this Bill represents a distinct change. But again I would remind hon. Members that the vital question to be considered in this connection is that we are entitled in this industry to a remunerative price. The Bill does not give us a remunerative price, and certainly I can speak for a very large number of my Scottish friends when I say that we feel that the Bill is not going to be of advantage to the industry. As regards the question of a standard price, it is, of course, necessary that you should have a standard price, and the Government in fixing the figure of 389 £5,000,000 must have had some standard price in mind. Take the statement which was made in July last by the then Minister of Agriculture. He said:The Government propose to proceed on the basis of a regulated market with the maximum supplies for the consumer consistent with a reasonable level of remuneration for the producer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1936; col. 843, Vol. 314.]Does the £5,000,000 represent that reasonable level of remuneration? Will that bring the price up to the cost of production? For 10 months of 1936 the price was 37s. 10d., and even if we add 1s. 6d. per cwt., this will not come anywhere near the cost of production. Further, I would like to point out that if, with the average price of meat at 37s. 10d., £5,000,000 is sufficient to give farmers a remunerative price, when the price rises above 375. 10d. in years to come the Treasury will turn round and say to the Minister of Agriculture, "You do not require £5,000,000 now. You required only that amount when the price was 37s. 10d., and as the price is higher now it must be cut down." What will happen after the Commission has been set up and there is a limit of £5,000,000 from the Treasury, and the producers produce so much more beef that it will cost more than £5,000,000 to pay the standard price? Will a proportionate amount be given?
The Government are not treating the farmers fairly. It seems almost unnecessary, as this Bill gives power to the Minister, to have a commission at all. We have a Minister of Agriculture who is supposed to work out a policy for agriculture, and all the information that the commission will give to him could well be supplied by voluntary effort. With regard to the question of marketing, it is clear that a certain amount may be done by legislation. The Minister says, however, that in the case of the new slaughterhouses it is necessary to have an experiment, and money is being provided for it. Why is there to be no experiment in regard to the closing down of markets? It would to some extent meet some of the difficulties which the auctioneers feel. The Minister, in pressing for the advantages that will accrue to the livestock producer by fewer markets, pointed out that there would be more competition and a larger number of farmers going to the markets that would remain open. For many farmers, however, a much greater cost will be involved in bringing the beasts 390 to market and that will reduce any advantage of the higher prices.
The Minister promised that before we came to the Committee stage we should have a White Paper showing the form of the subsidy arrangements. It is extraordinary that the Minister is able to give us already what those arrangements are to be when the commission has not even been set up. We suddenly find, when we come to the question of the subsidy arrangements, that the figures are drawn up already. I appeal for a great deal more information than we have had. The sheep industry of Scotland consider that it is being treated extremely unfairly. They say that the Government are making an alteration in the marketing arrangements because they are giving a subsidy to beef and that that will act unfairly to the sheep industry because it is not getting any subsidy at all. All the subsidy arrangements are to apply only to one form of livestock and the sheep farmers are to have no financial assistance whatever. The whole idea of the Government is to centralise as much as possible, and in centralising the markets and slaughterhouses they are supporting the principle that the large unit is more efficient than the small. If that be so, why are so many smallholdings measures brought forward for Scotland? If centralisation and larger units are the best, why do not the Government carry out the same principle in regard to the land in Scotland? Big estates are being smashed up to provide smallholdings, and yet the Government say that the best thing is centralisation. The Government have fairly let us down because they have not shown that the money they are giving is sufficient to make prices remunerative.
§ 5.38 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I am not a farmer but have a few friends who are farmers. Recently some professional people of my acquaintance have gone into farming. They are a banker, an engineer, and a professor in a college of a northern university. They have, I suppose, now joined the Jeremiahs and the Oliver Twists of industry, for yesterday and to-day we have certainly been treated to concentrated lamentations about a trade submerged almost equally with the Special Areas. It is a singular thing that these three friends of mine have decided, for financial reasons 391 to enter this depressed industry. I wonder what Messrs. Lloyds Bank Limited, in their monthly review for January of this year, mean by this statement under the heading of Agriculture:Scotland.—In the livestock markets cattle and sheep have been forward in average numbers. Quality has been satisfactory, and good prices have been obtained.What farmers hope to secure by this over-depressing of their trade I am at a loss to understand, and I must confess I was considerably perturbed to note, particularly yesterday, members of the Opposition giving their mild support to this Bill. Were they running into the arms of their hereditary opponents to escape the new cloud of witnesses of the new United Front? We have heard of persons running for safety even into a police station. The least that the Government and the agriculturists could have done was to demonstrate a case for the subsidy. They have not given us figures of production to justify it, and if the costs of machinery and foodstuffs have risen they must blame the Government. The farming interests would, of course, prefer to be ardent Free Traders in the matter of what they consume, but strong tariffists in the matter of sales.
The airy statements in regard to preserving agriculture have not convinced me that, taking agriculture on the whole, it is other than an exceedingly lucrative industry. Whether it be necessary to protect a particular aspect of it may be arguable, but when some £34,000,000 of taxpayers' money is passing into agriculture annually, it can have no other result than prove one of the most profitable industries in the United Kingdom. We were advised, as a substantial reason for the subsidy, that the value of livestock on farms was some £77,000,000 annually. I should like to ask, as a representative of a Special Area, what is the value of the disused labour in our Special Areas. If subsidies are to be given, they ought to be equitably given. We are handing out without any public control to a petted private privileged industry large sums of public money for an indefinite period, but in the matter of trading in the area from which I come the Commissioner was expressly forbidden to advance any money as subsidy to any concern that was being run for profit!
392 I object to the subsidy being split up between a tax upon the poorest people and a grant from the Treasury. It is folly to say that the Argentine farmers will pay the tax. If they are to pay the tax, why are sweetbreads, used for insulin, allowed to come in free from duty? It is obvious who pays the tax, and we have seen the effect of the various protective taxes on the cost of living in this country. That brings me to the question of the consumer. Where does he come in in this matter, and why is he not represented on this commission? The consumer's is a vital and general interest; it is the State's interest, and yet the consumer is not represented. The costs of foodstuff alone have risen since the standstill Order of 1934 by 4 per cent., largely through the operations of the Government. That is to say, the poorest people in our distressed areas, the unemployed and others, on the lowest standard of subsistence, have been called upon, since 1934, to pay almost 1s. in the pound more for the foodstuffs they consume than in that year. They certainly ought to be represented upon this commission.
We are told that municipal representatives will serve upon the Advisory Committee, but of what value will they be there? None. Consumers' councils were set up in order to protect consumers. I was sent by the Newcastle Corporation to interview the Consumers' Council here in London in regard to dear milk, which was costing the corporation £2,000 more per annum than before the Milk Marketing Board came into existence. I, and those with me, waited upon the Consumers' Council, who informed us that while they were ready to hear what we had to say they had no power whatsoever to deal with the disabilities under which we were suffering, and as we could not see the Minister of Agriculture, who was out of town at the time, we came empty away. Neither consumers' councils nor advisory committees, even if there are municipal representatives upon them, will be any protection to the consumers.
I turn now to Part III, dealing with the regulation of the quantities of livestock or meat imported. Powers are to be conferred upon the Board of Trade. If the Board of Trade is of the same mind as the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland we 393 are to have a sorry time in the years to come. The lot of the Special Areas will be made worse than it is. We send coal to the Argentine and to other cattle and meat exporting countries, and there will certainly be a diminution in the export of that coal from the coal-exporting areas, Durham, Northumberland and South Wales, by virtue of the new taxation which will be imposed on imported meat and the restricted amounts which are to come in. I suppose we shall have to find what consolation we can in the thought that we are aiding this poor, down-trodden agricultural industry, but it will be at the expense of Durham and Northumberland, which will be exporting less coal.
I warmly endorse the idea of central slaughtering, but the marketing and the slaughtering proposals ought in every case to go hand-in-hand. Having had some practical experience, as the ex-Chairman of a Health Committee of a large municipality, I want to say that these central abattoirs and markets can be run and ought to be run at a profit, and there is no need for Parliament to put £250,000 on one side to aid in this work. It is a scandal that we still have 13,000 private slaughterhouses. If the Ministry of Health had been as alert as it ought to have been during the last four or five years, when this Government has been in power, it would have seen that central abattoirs were created in all great centres of population. It is a melancholy thought that in the districts where private slaughterhouses are common, human tuberculosis is most rampant, and, bovine tuberculosis being the prime source of human tuberculosis, we know that a good deal of it arises owing to the lack of proper supervision on the part of municipal authorities in those places.
I took out some figures relating to the position in Newcastle, and I found that we have no fewer than 74 separate premises licensed for slaughter, and that the total number of animals slaughtered in that city in a year was 255,000. There were 86 tons of condemned meat, and 50 per cent. of it was tuberculous. It is also a notable fact that 7 per cent. of the milk still coming into our towns is also tuberculous. It is quite impossible, unless there are central 394 slaughtering arrangements, to deal with this, the greatest menace to the public health, and one of the most costly to municipal authorities, namely, tuberculosis, which is increasing and for which no cure so far has been found.
Finally, I would say a word to the Ministers on behalf of the claims of Newcastle to be selected for one of these central abattoirs. At the present moment the corporation have a scheme for central markets and abattoirs which will be equal to anything which the Government require. It is to cover 12 acres and will cost £320,000. Newcastle is one of the largest fat stock distributing centres in the country. It is the largest distributing centre in the four northern counties so far as home killed and imported meat are concerned. It is favourably situated for supplies of prime, fat, North-country-fed cattle, and it is in the greatest sheep breeding county of Great Britain, Northumberland. This proposition came before the city council before the idea of central abattoirs and markets was put before the country by the Government. I would urge upon the Government to take note of the fact that they will have there, ready to hand, in one of the great centres of this meat trade, municipal slaughterhouses which will fulfil all the requirements of the Government. I ask them to give that area, one of the most distressed areas, ultra-sympathetic consideration in this matter.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
After listening to some 11 hours of this Debate—and I have listened to almost every word of it—it is not possible to feel quite sure that the world's happiness would be very much diminished if one more speech were not added. After that preface I hope that I may, without fear of misunderstanding, quote a phrase from the speech yesterday of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). He said of beef which has to travel long distances from central slaughterhouses:The meat does not lose bloom, nor does it 'sweat' as it is called, on cooking, provided, of course, that it is not kept under cooling conditions too long."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; cols. 240–1, Vol. 319.]I must apologise if my speech may have been kept under cooling conditions rather 395 long and have lost some of its bloom, and certainly I am aware of some slight tendency to sweat. One advantage, at any rate, of speaking at this late stage of the Debate is that it is hardly necessary any longer to argue that this Bill should be given a Second Reading. As the right hon. Gentleman who wound up from the other side last night said, there has really been little substantial disagreement on that point, and, indeed, almost the only speaker from the Socialist benches who spoke with real enthusiasm against the Second Reading was the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), who has the unique opinion that the agricultural industry is one of the most prosperous of all industries in this country.
About the subsidy, my opinion, for what it is worth on this point, is that the guaranteed price was found to be a cock that would not fight at present, nor would the wheat analogy really fight, as things are at the moment, and so, no doubt subsidy was what it had to be. Almost everybody who has spoken has said that he dislikes subsidies, but most of them, with the notable exception of the hon. Member for Consett, have thought agriculture so peculiarly deserving an industry that for it they were prepared to swallow their objection to subsidies. Even the last speaker for the small party below the Gangway reminded us that it was no small thing that as a party they should be willing to give a small measure of approval to this small subsidy. Almost every speaker has expressed some dislike in general of any great increase of administrative power in dealing with a great industry, although most of them have thought the particular Minister concerned so particularly deserving that they were prepared to swallow most of their objections on that point also. But some of the objections to the increase of administrative power under this Bill may not unreasonably stick in the gorge of some of us, particularly in connection with Part II.
Before I come to Part II exclusively there is one other matter I wish to mention which touches all the parts of the Bill. I should think there never was a Bill which contained so numerous, so various and so complicated provisions about the consultations which the adminis- 396 trative authorities are to make with this House or the information which the administrative authorities are to give to the House. I have not counted them up very carefully, but I think I am right in saying that in various parts of the Bill there are a dozen references to that subject, almost all of them varying, some, in connection, for example, with imports and with tribunals of inquiry, obviously following in form the practice in earlier legislation—and obviously that is right and proper. But there are a dozen altogether, and on top of that there is an over-riding provision, which is becoming almost common form in Bills, taking this Bill out of the Rules Publication Act. All this may be perfectly right, but it has not been explained to us to any great extent, and it is all extremely baffling. It takes a highly technical lawyer to say under what parts of the Bill it is necessary to consult this House, what parts require an affirmative vote and what do not, and so on.
To return to the subsidy provisions of the Bill, I think the hon. Member for Western and Kincardine (Sir M. Barclay-Harvey) began by saying that we should have this amount of control over the provisions of the subsidy, that we could proceed by a Prayer. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Mallon (Mr. Turton) took the contrary view, and my view, which is worth almost nothing, is, for what it is worth, with him. It is very difficult to see what various controls we get over the various parts of the Bill. Whatever it is it is not very much. That seems to be a matter of absolutely first-rate importance, cutting at the whole policy of the Bill, particularly with regard to Part II. Dealing with Part II, the Minister was not up to his own usual standards of clarity. This is what he told us about it—I think I have all the quotations, or enough of them to be fair to him:We must give…not only cash but an encouragement towards better quality production and that principle the House will find contemplated in the Bill.I do not think the contemplation is quite so steady and quite so keen-eyed as might be expected. "Contemplate," according to the dictionary, means to look at with continued attention. So far as I can observe from Part H, it is possible under the Sub-section that there will be various grades of subsidy for various classes of beef, but it does not say that there shall be, and still less does it say 397 how they shall be arranged. To continue these quotations:It is proposed…that an annual subsidy not exceeding £5,000,000 shall be at the disposal of the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; cols. 188 and 190, Vol. 319.]I looked up "disposal" in the dictionary too. There are a great many meanings for "disposal," and I think I have chosen one which fairly expresses the Minister's intentions. It is:arranging, ordering, regulating, by right of power or possession, bestowing, giving, or making over.It is not the industry that is going to make over this subsidy at all, nor, so far as I can see, even with great indirectness, is it this House, except with the extreme indirectness that it may turn out a Government of which it disapproves. A further quotation:As the Bill entrusts the management of the subsidy to a permanent commission, it will be premature for me to say what precise figures are in view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; col. 190, Vol. 319.]I hoped that we might get even some unprecise figures but we have not had any figures, or any information about what proportions are to be given to different sorts of people. Not only that, but we have not been promised that we shall get that before the Committee stage:Before the Committee stage if possible." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1937; col. 191, Vol. 319.]At least half a dozen speakers yesterday referred to this branch of the question and to the desirability of knowing how the distribution of the subsidy is to be graded and proportioned, yet the Minister who wound up last night did not find it possible to do more than to repeat that the White Paper would be issued before very long.
Surely the question of the grading of the subsidy and of what proportions are to go to what parts of the industry is the essence of the contract. Surely it is a matter of general policy, and particularly a matter of the distribution of public money. It is therefore, it seems to me, almost uniquely the sort of matter upon which this House may reasonably presume, until it has evidence to the contrary, that it should be consulted, and consulted as the authority. We have had a great deal of talk about filling the gap between the price at which beef is produced and the price at which it is sold. 398 That gap is filled at present very largely by the fact that a great many people who have a little money—sometimes even university professors—the last speaker was apparently surprised to find that a university professor had a little money, and I confess that it surprised me—are foolish enough, or strongly enough influenced by aesthetic and sentimental considerations, to go into the industry and drop their money there. That is the way the gap gets filled up. But it cannot go on being filled up in that way for ever. Does anyone expect that £5,000,000 is going to fill that gap for everybody who produces anything that he calls beef?
The £5,000,000 certainly will not fill the gap if it is to be used in that way, and I suggest that it will be wasted unless two or three conditions are fulfilled, in the first place unless the money results in the production of good beef, Although the Minister began, very rightly and properly, by a eulogy of our pedigree stock in this country, I do not think that anybody doubts, and I can produce evidence from many previous speakers and many outside authorities, that our prestige is seriously jeopardised at the present by the unremunerative nature of the industry. I suggest that the £5,000,000 will be wasted, secondly, unless it reduces someone's losses to zero. It will not do the least good if it simply reduces the losses of a lot of people a little, because in that case those people will starve a little more slowly than they otherwise would. We might as well let them starve quickly. I therefore suggest that in the administration of Part II of the Bill there should be maximum attention to quality.
This House ought to have some guarantee that there will be some attention to quality and that it has some control over that attention; and quality means not necessarily exclusively what is considered good beef, but what sort of beef it is from other points of view, and what its origin is. It was explained by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. J. Russell) and by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton how the cow heifer is not a product of the beef industry but a by-product of the dairy industry. I consider that there is a very strong case for argument that the cow heifer ought not therefore to be capable of receiving subsidy. Similarly, it is clear that imported stores are not 399 wholly the product of the English or the United Kingdom beef industry. I think, therefore, there is a strong case for excluding them from any subsidy, at any rate after a very short period. I think I could argue that the dairy industry and the people who earn their livings, or try to, by fattening imported stores, would be no worse off, if those two exclusions were made. I think that can be shown, but I do not think I ought to take up the time necessary to endeavour to show that now. I conclude by inviting the House to consider whether the question of the maximum concentration of subsidy, or the contrary, of its dispersion over the widest possible population inside the industry, is not a question upon which this House or its Committee ought to give direction.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb
I realise that I must condense what I have to say, because of the time. I would like to express my deep sympathy with the friends of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), who have gone into this industry in the belief that it was worth while. In considering the industry, hon. Members will have in mind two main factors, the Government's policy and the effect of that policy as outlined in the Bill. I do not wish to spend many sentences on the question of policy, which is, and must remain, the responsibility of the Government of the day. I would like to join with hon. Members who regret very much that an impression has been created in the minds of people inside and outside the House that there has been a change of policy. I say "an impression" because the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that there is no change of policy. That does not alter the fact that there is a general feeling that there has been an alteration of policy from the White Paper, in regard to the matters contained in the Bill. I hope, if the Government issue another White Paper on the subject, that they will be careful to see that it is one which they can accept later on, and that there will be no further variation from it.
The worst I can think of is that a lack of confidence has been created. I have had the pleasure of sitting in this House for 15 years now, and at no time in my experience has a Bill been introduced which has received promises of support 400 and of a vote on Second Reading and has been so universally—I will not say "condemned," but in regard to which so many warnings have been issued at the same time, so many doubts expressed and so many predictions of failure made about its results. Why is it that hon. Members support the Bill? Simply because the present condition of the livestock industry demands that something must be done. Although we may not like the Bill in its entirety as it is put forward, we shall vote for it, because we realise that in the parlous condition of the industry something must be done, while leaving responsibility with the Government for the methods which are adopted. The cattle industry is, at the present time, the cause of the unbalanced state of the whole of the agricultural industry. When you realise that livestock and the products produced in this country are not less than three-quarters of the value of the whole agricultural output, you can see what effect this has upon the livestock position. Beef production itself is one-fifth of the agricultural industry, showing again the importance of this branch upon the industry as a whole.
There are many other questions to which I have not time to refer, such as the fertility of the soil, which is maintained only by the keeping of stock on the land. Whatever may be done by means of artificial manures, you must have the humus which can be obtained only by the breeding and maintenance of stock upon the land. This country has always enjoyed a reputation throughout the world as having the best breeders, par excellence, of pedigree stock, but if the industry remains in its present condition that position will be altered.
It is not only a question of beef. I think we ought to issue a warning with regard to the condition of the country and its agriculture in time of war. We know that there are two sayings; one is that we learn from experience, and the other, which is equally true, that memories are short. Many people forget what happened in this country during the last War, but I am not one of those. I have special reasons to know the conditions in which we were at one particular time, when this country had only about eight or 10 days' food. I shall never forget the impression created 401 upon my mind then. Many people have had no experience but have only secondhand knowledge and, like all secondhand things, it is not quite so good as new. Those people certainly do not fear, as I do the position in which we should be if a war unfortunately broke out at the present time.
With regard to that particular aspect of the industry, it is only possible to store livestock and fats and meat products by maintaining a livestock industry in this country. These are not like other commodities, which can be stored in factories or warehouses; there must be an efficient livestock industry, or otherwise this country will find itself short of the essential fats and meat products which it may require at a particular time. Not only must they be in existence, but they must be available, and the difficulty of transporting the meat necessary for this country in time of war is one which will have to be taken into consideration.
I want now to say a word with regard to the subsidy, and I want to make it quite clear that I have never yet known the industry to ask for a subsidy as such. In fact, it has objected to subsidies as subsidies. What it has always asked for, and what is had the right to ask for in the past and has the right to ask for to-day, is that it shall have an economic price return. Whether that is to be given in one way or in another is not the responsibility of the industry. The responsibility of the industry is to say what it definitely requires, and that is an economic price return. In asking for that, it is only asking for justice, and the same appeal is being made, not only by all other industries, but by the distributing trades, which all demand for themselves a standard of living, and that that standard of living must be maintained. Moreover, not only the industries and the distributive trades, but all those who render services, whether professional or manual, demand that there should be an adequate return for what they give to the public. The farmer is in exactly the same position; he is asking for justice in that respect.
For many years now—more than I like to contemplate—neither the capital nor the labour in the agricultural industry has received fair treatment. Why has that been the case? We know that one of the greatest troubles in this country and in the world as a whole is that primary 402 producers have always suffered, and are still suffering, as compared with those in secondary industries. The agriculturist is a primary producer. Yesterday it was said by hon. Members opposite that farmers have never been satisfied with this or any other Government, but that is not the farmers' fault; it is the fault of the Government. One could say the same thing of other primary producers, the colliers in particular. I am not saying that the demands which they have made are not just, but the collier himself has never been satisfied with this or any other Government, simply because there has always been that great difference between the position of the primary producer and that of the secondary producer. Everyone in this country will, or should, fight against injustice but we do not fight against hardship. A hardship is made an injustice when that hardship is not equally divided as between one section and another. As long as agriculturists or other primary producers feel that they are not receiving equal treatment with other industries, there will always be a sense of injustice and a sense of unrest.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) said yesterday that farmers had always been leaning on the State. I deny that; I say that just the opposite has been the case for very many years. The State and the other sections of the community have been leaning upon agriculture, and taking from agriculture something to which they were not entitled. The present Secretary of State for Scotland, when he was Minister of Agriculture, speaking at Newport, made what I thought was a trite and true remark. He said that the fall in food prices since 1929 had given to the public a yearly saving of £150,000,000. The consumers have had that at any rate, and to that extent they have been leaning on agriculture. Many doubts have been expressed, not only in this House but outside, by farmers and others, as to the adequacy of the £5,000,000. As to that I will only remark that this £5,000,000 is a maximum, and not £5,000,000 which is bound to be spent. Again I say that we must look for results, and hope at any rate that the results will be satisfactory. I believe a great deal in the control of imports, though I know that there are some Members in the House who do not. 403 Here again it is not the power to control imports that I object to or doubt; my doubt is as to whether the Board of Trade will put these powers into operation adequately when they are in existence.
Many questions have been asked, and I am not going to attempt to answer all of them, simply because this is very largely an enabling Bill, and many of the questions that I have heard asked in the House are questions which can only be answered satisfactorily after the Commission and the Committee which are to be set up under the Bill have had the opportunity of considering them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) asked a question as to the lack of information with regard to costs of production. I know that figures for costs of production in agriculture are sometimes given, but they are not universally applicable. The conditions in agriculture are so varied and contrary that it is impossible to give definite figures for the costs of production in that industry, as they can be in other industries where the conditions are more stable and more similar. Moreover, the figures are affected by variations in the weather, the cost of labour, the quality of grazing, and all the various matters that I could go into if I had the time.
I want to express my great appreciation of Parts IV and V of the Bill, because, speaking for myself, I have far more hope of good coming to the industry through the full and proper operation of these two parts of the Bill than I have in the case of some of the others. I know there is a great deal to be done, and I believe a great deal can be done, in regard to marketing, but I should like to utter the warning that there are many districts in which the farmers are helped a good deal, not merely by the markets, but by the credit and assistance that are given by those who own the markets, and it is necessary to be very careful to see how the arrangement will work, and to recognise fully the advantage that the individuals who own the markets have given to the district. I believe that the centralisation of slaughterhouses will be productive of a great deal of economy, and will also be of advantage from the point of view of health. It may be news to some 404 Members of the House that there is one whole which has five quarters, namely, the animal. Those in the trade know very well that their profit has not been made from the disposal of the four quarters, but that it is from the fifth quarter that they have generally made their profit. I believe that, if we take to ourselves, through centralised slaughterhouses, the manipulation of that fifth quarter, there is a great opportunity for the making of economies which may be handed on in the form of an increased price to the agriculturist. But to my mind we shall not get the full value from the centralisation of slaughtering unless there is included in it a processing department. If that is not included, while a certain amount of advantage will follow from the unification of slaughtering, a great opportunity will be lost.
I think that very few Members in this House, and very few people outside, like the Bill, but, although we have doubts, we have still great hopes. We leave the responsibility for the Bill and its policy with the Government, having done the best we can to warn them of what the dangers may be. The farmer in the past has proved, not only that he will increase his production, which he has done, but that he is adaptable. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) unfortunately made a personal attack upon me yesterday, saying that I have always discouraged the farmers from reorganising. I said at the time that that was not true, and again I say definitely that it is without foundation. Perhaps the hon. Member, being pressed for something to say in opposition to the Bill, was trying to draw a red herring into a meat Debate. I content myself with denying the accuracy of his statement. The farmers have proved that they will be willing to adapt themselves to any plan that may be likely to make the Bill a success, and I honestly believe they will do their best to make it a success when it is passed.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
As I have listened to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), who, if I may say so, is a very charming and well liked personality in the House, I have been reminded of my feeling right through the Debate yesterday, that there is a sense almost of unreality about this discussion. It seems to me that we have had a procession of 405 speeches from hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies almost repeating, like an Edison-Bell record, the programme for which the hon. Member for Stone and others who more or less represent the National Farmers' Union in this House stand. I am bound to say, speaking for our Amendment, that I have felt, as I listened to that procession of speeches, that it is extraordinarily unfair for hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, at every opportunity here and in the Press, to hurl charges against my hon. Friends on this side of sometimes being under, if not the dictation, at least the dominating influence of another place—Transport House—when the kind of importunity that we heard expressed here yesterday, and that was expressed yesterday under the chairmanship of the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) in the farmers' meeting, shows quite conclusively that the National Farmers' Union have a dominating influence over the policy of this Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) rightly pointed out yesterday the total of the assistance that has been given in the last few years to the agricultural industry. He pointed out very effectively, and from pretty sure figures, that that total amounts to £34,000,000 per annum. He did not add to that the total relief from rates on agricultural land, nor did he set out, as he could have done, the advantage to the agricultural industry of the artificial restriction of the supplies of bacon, on which there has been no actual levy or tariff. It is certain that, if the values from these two sources of assistance were assessed and added to the unchallengeable figure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall, the value of the assistance to agriculture to-day through Government action is not less than £40,000,000 per annum—I should say, if one allows for the varying ages of those employed in the agricultural industry, a sum which would equal more than half the total wage bill of the industry—all coming out of direct or indirect Government assistance, and handed out very largely under the dominating influence of a farmers' body which is largely political, and which 406 stands over the Government with a reserve political fighting fund of about £60,000.
Whilst my hon. Friends and I have never ceased to recognise that there are factors in the agricultural industry today that call not only for reorganisation but for sympathetic assistance where it is needed, I am bound to say that the manner of the constant representations from this dominating political influence over the National Government has resulted in the assistance being given in such volumes and in such a diversified way as not to have led to the desirable results to agriculture that even those who ask for this largesse really desired.
Having made those general remarks about the position which is brought to our notice by the Bill, I should like to say a few words about its details. The first part is yet another indication, which is welcome, that the Government realise that, Bedford Square or no Bedford Square, the organisation of agricultural marketing cannot be left in the hands of a producers' body. The facts that in the case of the sugar industry the Government have had to turn down the basis of the old agricultural marketing scheme as it was proposed to be exploited, and to set up an independent commission, and the long-drawn-out inquiry by the Milk Reorganisation Commission has resulted in a recommendation that there should be an independent impartial commission of five persons set up to deal with milk, and now in the case of the livestock industry the inclusion in the Bill of the provisions of Part I setting up an independent commission, are a welcome recognition by the Government, that, however much all sides of the House recognise the need for coordination and organised marketing of agricultural commodities, that organisation and co-ordination cannot be left in the hands and under the dictation of one side of the community alone.
We want to avoid any sort of conflict between town and country. Any assistance given to such an important industry ought to be given in such a balanced way that it will bring national prosperity as far as possible and not do injury to other sections of the community. If the community is to have confidence in the scheme, it is essential that the management of the scheme be completely impartial, as I hope the Livestock Commission will be, or else it must be 407 representative of both sides and not merely one. In regard to the criticisms that have been levelled at the Government from the other side of the House on this question of the Bill, I hope they will stick to their Bill. If we are not yet able to get the full structure that a Socialist Government would introduce of a general agricultural commission at the top with ancillary and subsidiary organisations afterwards, let us welcome the proposal for an impartial body set up in order to avoid any general feeling of lack of confidence in sections of the community other than those who are engaged directly in the production of the commodity that is to be assisted.
I come to Part II of the Bill, which deals with the cattle subsidy. I regret very much that the Government are not apparently in a position, after nearly two and a-half years' experience of the administration of the flat rate subsidy of 5s. a cwt. to give any adequate information at this stage as to what process has been used in arriving at the total figure of £5,000,000 for this subsidy. There has not been a word of information of an authentic or illuminating kind to tell us how they have arrived at the figure. All we know is that it is a bit more, that there is a gap somewhere to be bridged, a gap based mainly on price but in respect of which we have no information at all about the cost of production. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stone says it is really impossible to get costs which will be valuable in this connection because they are so many and so varied. Agricultural importunists are very much like others. Their arguments vary according to the objectives that they have in view. I spent 36 days before the Whitehead Committee on the contract prices for milk for 1936–37 and, when it was a question of maintaining before that tribunal a wholesale price for milk which the farmers regarded as being the least that they ought to have, whilst the rest of the community thought it was much too high, they produced volumes of figures on the cost of production. I have them still in my office. It is true that the costs vary as between different parts of the country, and different seasons, from 6d. a gallon to Is. 3d., but if we had been dealing not merely with contract prices but with the question of what aid should be given by the Government, we should 408 be able to get somewhere near a real average of the amount that was justified to bridge the gap. But when it comes to a question of having a direct subsidy from the Government, it is quite impossible to produce costs that are of any value whatever.
I have heard in this Debate speeches which vary a little, but which seem to go back to 1929 in an estimate of the cost of production which was published in that year of about 52s. 3d. a cwt. All the factors in the raising and fattening of stock are not exactly the same to-day as they were then, but certain it is from inquiries that I have been making—I admit that they were in Worcestershire, which is a very favourable county for producing stock—that the costs that were submitted will not bear examination. If the Government have really been engaged in the last two and a-half years in producing a long-term policy in place of the temporary and piecemeal policy, and if they come to the House to-night for final and permanent authority to grant a subsidy of £5,000,000 a year for an indefinite period, the House has the right, in the interests of the taxpayer and of economy, to know from the Government, before they give a Second Reading to the Bill, exactly how they have arrived at this figure, which shows a further increase on the sums that they have been spending for the last two years.
Moreover, if I look at the actual position of the industry I am not at all sure that the way representatives of agriculture have been talking about it really does it too much good. I am not sure that it does good to go on talking down the state of the industry all the time. It does not really help to put it in the position of working hard—and it ought to work hard —for its own efficiency and reorganisation. Yet the figures of the livestock industry do not justify the tale of woe that has been poured out in speech after speech. It is not justified in regard to the actual figures of livestock, comparing 1930 with 1936, which show a huge increase. It is not justified by the figures that the Minister gave the day before yesterday of the number of cattle which have earned the subsidy in the last two and a half years. There was the huge figure for 1936 of over 1,700,000 and, if the rate of experience in the applications for subsidy had been the same in 1936 as in 1934, it would have been only about 409 1,300,000, showing a continuous and enormous increase in the number of animals that were getting through the certification centres for subsidy, and not apparently showing that the people in the livestock industry had stopped breeding and fattening.
We have had very little evidence from the Government with regard to price, but I feel that there are two factors in connection with the administration of the subsidy which have had a great effect on the industry. In the first place, there is no doubt that, in order to try to get the subsidy, beasts have been rushed on to the market in an immature condition before they were ready and that the herds have been damaged thereby, and there is no doubt that, in order to get the subsidy, many farmers have disposed of some, at any rate, of their cow heifers where otherwise they would not have done, instead of cleaning up the industry and lengthening the life of the dairy cow. You cannot possibly have a great quantity of cow beef always being put upon the home market and expect thereby to get the best prices for your fat stock.
§ Mr. Alexander
If my hon. Friend will excuse me, I will keep to the point at the moment. But if he wants me to mention it, I would say that the milk subsidy and the scheme in general have had their influence in that connection. We have not only seen the huge growth in those parts of our livestock herds which are bred mainly for slaughter and food; the same sort of figures could, in fact, be found in the Minister's returns with regard to dairy stock. There is no indication in the statistical evidence produced by the Minister, that the tale of woe which has been put before the House in the last day and a half is justified to the extent that has been argued by certain Members of the House. Still, having put that point, and though we on this side of the House are not against assisting measures of reorganisation, and giving sympathetic treatment if it can be justified, we have no real, authentic justification from the Government for the kind of assistance which they are actually going to give.
The other thing I want to say about the cattle subsidy is this. We have been 410 working on the basis of 5s. per cwt. flat rate, and we are now to have an increased amount. We have been spending about £4,000,000, and we are now going to spend £5,000,000, and it is to be changed to a quality basis. The House has been asked to vote the money and to approve the change in principle, and we have not had the slightest indication as to what the basis is to be or how it is to be worked out. A Member for a Scottish division yesterday spoke about the unfairness of the administration of the subsidy in the past, and said that people have been getting their 5s. per cwt. upon cattle which were being sold at as low a price as, perhaps, 34s. and 35s. per cwt. whereas, he said, some of the Scottish farmers had been selling their beasts at as high as 51s. and 52s. per cwt., and yet they were getting only the same assistance. I wonder what the argument will be if, when the quality subsidy is introduced, the people who get the highest price for cattle receive not 5s. but 8s., 9s. and maybe 9s. 6d. a cwt. on the quality basis.
If that is not the position, we ought to be told what it is to-night. Why cannot we be told? It is not really good enough, as the Minister said in his opening speech, that there is to be a Livestock Commission, and that they are to have a say in what is to happen. He knows as well as I do, that many of us have been in touch with the Advisory Committee, meeting the Cattle Committee week after week and month after month, and discussing how the subsidy should be rearranged. The Government have all the information. Nobody doubts that the policy is already determined and that the Minister knows what it is. It would be a mere subterfuge to argue that the House should not have the information, when it is being asked to assent to the principle of raising the total of the subsidy and changing the basis upon which it is to be administered. That is not the way to treat the House of Commons. We are surely entitled to know.
Part III of the Bill deals with the regulation of the importation of livestock and meat, and I suppose it is almost useless to argue the principle of the thing with the Government. I saw in the "Times" this morning a comment upon the Minister, the Debate and so on, and it there said that nobody seems to worry much 411 nowadays about the regulation of imports or taxation upon food. Some of us do raise these points regularly and press them as strongly as we are able. Of course, there are those who argue that the whole effect of the tariff part of the regulation of imports may be met in part, if not wholly, by a subsidy from the Argentine. We do not know. We will see how it works out. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland last night said that, of course, the whole intention of the regulation of imports—I take it froth that phrase that it means whether from the point of view of tariff, or artificially to restrict supply—is to heighten prices. While it may be a very desirable object to raise prices in general, if you are to get thereby a corresponding rise in the purchasing power of the workers engaged, it will be far better for the representatives of the Government, in dealing with such a policy as this, to be quite honest about it and say what it is. The Under-Secretary of State was a little more honest—I do not make a suggestion of dishonesty, but he was a little more frank in his treatment of that point when he allowed it to slip out in his speech last night.
We know—and we must not shut it out of our calculations—that a meat conference is to be set up. I suppose—for we have not yet been told—it will be a joint conference between an Empire meat council and some other body set up by foreign exporters to this country, and that if they do not exercise such a voluntary restriction of exports to this country as will satisfy the Government, the Government in this Bill, make no mistake about it, have full power to do what they like. We shall have to wait to see its effect upon the consumers in this country before it can actually be understood. Let it be remembered also that there is a great deal being said at the present time about the actual effect upon the consumers of this country of the Government's policy of quota and tariff restrictions in the last few years. They know—I am sure that their economic advisers have pointed it out to them—that they have been exceedingly fortunate in being able to change and revolutionise the fiscal system of this country at the time of the lowest level of world prices. When he begins to see in the public mind the apprehension of the rise again, first to the normal level of, world commodity prices 412 on a wholesale basis, and then the retail prices, plus the effect of the restriction, and of the tariff to be levied, the right hon. Gentleman will find that perhaps there will be more chances of a quarrel between the consumers and the producers than any of us really wish to see.
With regard to Part IV which deals with livestock markets, I am all in favour not merely of wiping out, as the Minister is proposing to do, redundant livestock markets, but I have a very strong predilection for removing all unnecessary commissions and charges between the producer and the buyer. It has often been argued in the past that one could never get really satisfactory prices without large and effective auctioneering arrangements; that unless there were at the various main cattle centres in the country regular auctions at which beasts were knocked down to the highest bidder, you could not get an effective level of price negotiation. I do not think that that is true. At any rate, a very large number of sales are being negotiated off the farms. Where the producer on the farm has confidence, as he has in many cases, in his buyer, and when they can make absolutely honest appraisements between themselves of what the value ought to be, there is no difficulty. Rather than have, as you have in Scotland to-day, about 90 per cent. of the cattle sold on the hook under the hammer, and in England and Wales the great majority of the cattle sold on the hook under the hammer, I would prefer the development of two alternatives. Either there should be an extension of private treaty sales directly between the producer and the buyer or else—and I favour this very strongly—there should be a deliberate attempt by the Government—far more effective than yet attempted—to start sales on the deadweight basis.
I recognise that that brings me to another part of the Bill which deals with the slaughtering of livestock. You cannot have as live and as effective an arrangement for appraising the true values to be returned to producers on a deadweight basis unless your centres for slaughtering and grading are really effective, and efficient not merely in technique, but in volume, so that you can carry out your inspections on a satisfactory basis. That being so, I should 413 have thought that the Government would have been more courageous than they have been in dealing with Part V. They propose an experiment in three areas only. I hope that it will be successful. Although I do not claim on this point to speak for all my colleagues—and I have great respect for the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) yesterday—I do not hold the view that, in the experimental period, under such a Government as this, it is possible perhaps to have the whole thing as a State concern. It is true that we have been training them in small parts of Socialism bit by bit during the last five years, but I have not found anything very new in their agricultural policy.
I should be very glad if I could hear, apart from tariffs and quotas, from the Minister of Pensions, who is to reply, what new ideas in agricultural organisation and restoration have come from this Government since the Ministry of Agriculture was vacated by Dr. Addison. I should be very glad to hear the new ideas. It is not unreasonable for the Minister at this stage to provide for an experiment in which others than local authorities could engage if they wished. If that is so, I do not go so far as to say that we ought for one moment to support an experiment for the purpose of profit. Whether it is undertaken under Government auspices by a company or wholesale society, if it is undertaken as an experiment under this three-area scheme, it ought to be on a non-profit basis. I am persuaded that if the industry will face up to the real facts of centralised slaughter of that character, it can be done effectively on a non-profit-making basis. That does not mean that I would for a moment rule out an organised local authority or a group of local authorities who may, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) said yesterday, have spent some thousands of pounds of capital upon the local authority's abattoir, and that they should not be allowed to use that abattoir as the basis of a scheme for submission to the Government under which they could be capable of receiving help in order to extend its functions as a factory abattoir, which functions are not at present included in small local authorities' slaughterhouses. I hope that part of the submission of my hon. Friend the 414 Member for Brightside will not be ruled out, and I hope the matter will be explained and some reassurance given to local authorities on the question.
The points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) last night with regard to Clauses 17 and 22 of the Bill, in my judgment have not yet been satisfactorily answered, although I know that the Parliamentary Secretary tried to do so. Much to the disturbance of the Minister for Pensions I have gone even a little further in time than I intended to do, but I have left unsaid much that was in my heart as well as in my head about this industry. But I must in conclusion say that one or two Members have said that they have not heard any effective speeches from my hon. Friends on this side of the House about the real subject matter of the-Amendment which is that we are against the largesse, that in this policy of the Government you retain, first of all, a basis which is no basis, because you give us no costs of production, and, secondly, you administer it in such a way that it merely goes to swell the profits of private enterprise.
I have already said a word about the total value of help to the agricultural industry, which I assess at about £40,000,000 a year. Where does it go? I do not want to haggle or haver about it—I know that in the course of its circulation it gives employment here and there—but ultimately the surplus goes to the landowner. The Minister yesterday tried to be winsome about this. He said the land of this country really belongs to the people. I was unable to understand, exactly from the explanation he gave, the channel in which his thoughts were running, but we on this side certainly do not think that the land belongs to the people as a whole. Those of us who had experience of buying agricultural land in 1918 and 1919, after the agricultural industry had held the country to ransom in the hour of its extremity, cannot do so. What was charged to the consumers of this country by the agricultural industry during the War was preposterous. I remember the indignation meetings, the meetings of the Consumers' Council, I remember my own body being urged to go into the industry in order to stop the inordinate profits. I 415 remember how we were held up to ransom in buying the land. What happened then happens now in relation to every bit of assistance that is given. We object to money being granted in that way. We welcome the Minister's marketing reorganisation suggestions—we will improve them if we may in Committee—but we are unalterably opposed to giving to one section of the community unlimited grants without a means test while there are such restrictions placed on other sections of the community.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Before I endeavour to reply to the questions put yesterday and to-day, I want to refer briefly to a statement by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of his speech in yesterday's Debate. He was dealing with the arrangements for regulating the flow of beef supplies into this country, and he told the House that he proposed to entrust this duty to the International Beef Conference and the associated Empire Council. He said that arrangements for setting up that conference were well advanced, and that he hoped to be able to make an early announcement on the subject. In connection with that I should like to say that it has been agreed that the International Beef Conference and the Empire Beef Council shall have an independent chairman appointed by the United Kingdom Government. This appointment is under consideration. It has also been agreed that the producers' representatives shall be appointed by the Governments of the respective participating countries. It, therefore, falls to the United Kingdom Government to appoint the producers' representative for this country, and we have had in mind the desirability that the person appointed shall command the fullest confidence of producers generally.
The problem was how best to ascertain the views of the producers in the three constituent parts of the United Kingdom. We decided to take into consultation representatives of the Farmers' Unions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, through the medium of the Co-ordinating Committee of those bodies. They decided to recommend that Lord Bingley should be invited to act as the representative of the United Kingdom producers. They further recommended that the three organisations should pay 416 the expenses incidental to the representation, and provide the machinery necessary for consultation. These recommendations have been adopted by the Farmers' Unions of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Central Executive of the Scottish Farmers' Union is meeting at an early date to consider them.
I am sure the House was glad to hear from the right hon. Member opposite that the agricultural industry was worthy of sympathetic interest. We heard that also from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), whose absence to-night I regret, and the cause of it, and we heard also that the producers should get a square deal. After having watched for some time the political activities of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, I am disappointed that we do not get more tangible evidence of their sympathy and assistance. When we propose a method of assistance to agriculture by means of a subsidy, the right hon. Gentleman votes against it. When we propose indirect assistance by means of tariffs, the right hon. Gentleman votes against it. When we propose assistance by means of regulation of imports, the right hon. Gentleman votes against it. He will vote against it to-night.Whatever I do, and whatever I say,Aunt Tabitha tells me that isn't the way.But what way is it? I am driven to the conclusion, from listening to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, that he does not want anything in the nature of assistance until some grandiose agricultural commission has been set up and some scientific figure of costing has been reached. If that is so, he must literally wait till the cows come home—if any are left to come. It is true that under his regime and policy consumers might benefit for a short time by means of a general and comprehensive bankruptcy of the agricultural industry, and in the meantime the cattle producers would go to Hillsborough. But the right hon. Gentleman does his best to support four-fifths of this Bill, and we are proportionately grateful to him for his support.
Unhappily he has followed the sinister advice once given by Lord Randolph Churchill to the Opposition of that day, and tenders his support with a kick and not with a caress. That is not the case 417 with the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). Nothing could have exceeded the charm with which he bestowed his approbation on this Measure. I am only sorry that he announced his intention of opposing the Bill which follows this, dealing with duties on beef and veal. I can only conclude that he is in favour of the car, but not in favour of the petrol. It cannot be said that the support of followers of the Government has been overburdened with caresses. My impression has been that a certain number of them are of opinion that the subsidy of £5,000,000 is not adequate. I would repeat what my right hon. Friend said some time ago, that it is possible that farmers are looking at this from the trough of the wave. No man would be foolish enough to prophesy on the question of prices, but I am by no means as pessimistic as some of my hon. Friends regarding the future.
After all, £5,000,000 is admittedly a large sum. It is also £1,000,000 larger than the sum which the industry has enjoyed by way of assistance during the last two years. It is also coupled with the statutory regulation of imports under Part III of the Bill. It is reasonable to take up the position that these advances may prove extremely helpful to agriculture. I would also remind my hon. Friends that the taxpayer is concerned in this. There are, regrettably perhaps, a good many taxpayers who are not farmers. It is no use blinking the fact that the taxpayer has many heavy burdens to carry at present, and it may be that the end is not yet. Taking these considerations into account, my hon. Friends will realise that the sum is on the whole a substantial contribution to the assistance they need. When I think of their speeches I am apprehensive that taxpayers who are careful students of the Bible, on reading the speeches, for example, of the hon. and gallant Members for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) or Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) may recollect the passage in the Book of Proverbs which speaks of the two daughters of the horse-leech crying "Give, give."
The right hon. Gentleman and his party have laid considerable stress upon the need for ascertaining the cost of production. I think there has been rather a tendency on the part of the right hon. 418 Gentleman and his friends not only now but in the past to think of the agricultural industry in the terms of manufacturing or distributing, and that tendency has led them into the position of imagining that you can, or you may be able to, get something in the nature of scientific costings to ascertain what assistance is needed, in the same way as you can get such figures in a manufacturing industry. Let me put one or two points before the right hon. Gentleman on that matter. Attempts have been made by economists to get this data, but the data they have secured is extremely limited. It touches only a minute proportion of the farms of this country, and as it is only the more progressive farmers who keep accounts, the results are quite unrepresentative. The costing methods applied or recommended by economists have varied in accordance with the number of the economists. Hardly two of them can be found to agree upon the proper allocation of interest charges, manurial values and so on. As every practical agriculturist knows, it is extremely difficult to isolate beef production from other farming costs. For instance, the cost of the beef depends upon the cost of growing the crops. You must have estimates of the cost of home grown foods, estimates of the cost of manurial residues, and of your stores.
The difficulties of obtaining anything in the nature of scientific figures are acute, and if we have to wait for that, we shall have to wait almost an indefinite period. For instance, the advisory economist of the Eastern Counties has discontinued keeping costing accounts, because he says that it was impossible in practice or theory to distinguish clearly between the various enterprises of a mixed farm. If we are to get more data we may get something that purports to be the best scientific figure, but even so the result would really be meaningless, and would be perfectly useless, for the reason that there is a very wide diversity of conditions. The right hon. Gentleman imagines that you can apply to beef costings the same methods that you would apply to milk costings. Milk is produced on the same farm both in winter and summer. On the other hand, in the production of beef there is grass-fed beef and winter stall-fed beef, and there are different methods of production. There is the problem of feeding a store and the problem of feeding a grass-fed 419 beast, and the problem of winter feeding and summer feeding. Feeding is not a standardised problem. There is all the difference in the world between feeding a 9½ cwt. beast, to make it a super-quality beast, and feeding an Irish store, which you are just going to get up to the minimum standard sufficient to attract the subsidy. Yet the right hon. Gentleman thinks that you can have a figure which is applicable to the two. You cannot.
§ Mr. Alexander
I have such figures of costing, which quite clearly take in the four sections. We have the costings of animals imported for winter and summer feeding and the cost of animals homebred, both for winter and summer feeding. There is no difficulty about it.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
The right hon. Gentleman may have those costings, but he will have the greatest difficulty to persuade any economist that they are correct. A statement made by a man of eminence, Mr. James Wyllie of the South-Eastern Agricultural College, which appeared in the National Farmers' Union Record for August, 1935, was to this effect:It is perhaps fair to assume that supporters of the price-upon-cost idea generally have in mind what they would call 'average' costs, but it is clear that an average cost would make no appeal whatever to those producers whose costs were over the average, that is, to about one-half of the producers.The whole of this problem is so complicated that it would really be playing with the situation to follow the counsel advocated by the right hon. Gentleman and postpone assistance to the industry until correct figures can be ascertained. He asked on what basis the subsidy has been fixed. It is not difficult to answer that question. I think it was in 1933 that there was a collapse in cattle prices, and the object of the subsidy then was to stop the rot and to give temporary assistance. The cattle industry had suddenly slipped off the ledge and was falling into the abyss, and an endeavour had to be made to pull it back. On the basis at that time of the average realised price of the recent years before the collapse it was assumed that a figure of 5s. per cwt. would be just about enough to put the industry back on to the ledge. In regard to the present Bill it is desired, and I think the House is fully in accord with the 420 desire, to encourage the production of a better product, and for that purpose there is an increase in the amount of money made available of £1,000,000, making up the total of £5,000,000.
Not only the right hon. Gentleman but the Junior Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn felt rather hurt that the subsidy arrangements had not been published. The subsidy arrangements for bestowing this extra encouragement are of necessity complicated and difficult. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the conversations and negotiations that were going on with the interests with which he is concerned, but there are many others. The main machinery of certification is known to the House. It has been going on for two and a half years and it will continue to go on and negotiations are proceeding to get the necessary modifications required to provide the quality arrangements. These will be put before the House in the form of a White Paper, but I cannot give the definite date. I hope that it will be before we get into Committee on the Bill; at any rate, it will be long before the House passes the Bill.
Some of my hon. Friends returned again and again to the question of standard price. My right hon. Friend dealt with arguments against this method of bestowing assistance yesterday, but I would once more impress upon hon. Members the point which he made, that it would be most unwise of this House to impose upon the Treasury a liability which is unlimited, such as would be involved in a standard price—a liability which they cannot estimate. It would be a liability which might have exactly the same disastrous results for agriculture that the Corn Production Act had some years ago. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin), in a very interesting speech yesterday, which exhibited his deep acquaintance with agricultural topics, showed that he was not entirely with some of his colleagues of the Front Bench on the subject. He referred to Part III of the Bill and, I am sorry to say, described it as eye wash. He even went so far as to say it was a fraud. I do not think that he quite understood Part III, which deals with the regulation of imports as an essential portion of the Bill. It is not a super- 421 fluity by any means. The hon. Member mentioned the Argentine Agreement, but I would point out that that Agreement with the Argentine only lasts for three years, whereas it is not unduly ambitious to hope that this Bill will continue on the Statute Book for a longer period. There are at the moment no statutory powers to regulate imports from the Dominions, the present arrangements being voluntary. This Bill will confer statutory powers for that purpose.
§ Mr. Hopkin
As long as the Treaties are in force in those countries, are you able to control imports at all?
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Yes, certainly, not only under the terms of the Treaties, but through the International Beef Conference. The hon. Member yesterday did not appreciate that Part III gives statutory powers to regulate imports from the Dominions, which at present are based on temporary arrangements only, and also powers to regulate the flow of imports during certain periods, without which the imports in those periods might result in seasonal flux and casual gluts. I am not sure that the hon. Member for Don Valley or the hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield fully appreciate the effect of the slaughtering provisions. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) was not in entire agreement with the hon. Member for Don Valley as to who are to operate the central slaughterhouses which are to be set up as an experiment. I think he will agree with me that it would be highly unwise to have these slaughterhouses operated either directly by the Government or indirectly by the Commission. If that were so, it would cause consternation among local authorities, particularly those large local authorities which are running public abattoirs. The Bill will make provision for local authorities, or any body whose case is justified—it may be a cooperative society—to undertake the work of experimental slaughterhouses. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division misunderstood the purpose of the grant of £250,000 mentioned in the Bill. That grant of £250,000 is not proposed with the idea that it will be sufficient for the three slaughterhouse schemes, but that sum, split up among the three, will provide a substantial inducement to local 422 authorities or other bodies which are prepared to set on foot the work of central slaughterhouses in a selected area, and such inducement is justified because they will be pioneers in doing work the result of which will be of national importance.
I do not want to enter into the respective merits of private and public enterprise at this stage, but the hon. Member for Barnstaple referred to the fact that there was a Clause in the Bill which laid on the Commission the duty to fix charges, and if any hon. Member thinks that here is a case in which some speculator can attract public money and make unjustifiable profits, I think he can feel thoroughly reassured. I do not know whether the hon. Member for the Brightside Division or any of his friends might contemplate erecting public abattoirs, but I should not be surprised to hear that the ratepayers in many towns are getting tired of losing money upon their abattoirs, and I am bound to say that when I compare the financial results of Scottish abattoirs with those of English abattoirs, it redounds very much to the credit of Scotland, where they nearly cover the interest by their charges.
§ Mr. Marshall
I think the hon. Member should remember that the Scottish local authorities have always had greater powers than those conferred in this respect upon the English authorities.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I am aware of that, but in that matter we are here trying as far as we can to draw level with them. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) drew my attention to the case of Newcastle, and I can assure him that that area, along with other areas which are equally interested in this matter, will certainly have its case considered. I do not wish to detain the House at any greater length, but I would like, before concluding, to say a word or two on the question of cow beef. Although admittedly the existence of cow beef posing as beef of higher quality is detrimental to the beef trade, I think the amount of cow beef at present posing in that way is not as large as some people imagine, and the problem is not so difficult as might be thought. The hon. Member for Don Valley some time ago, I think, stated, and quite 423 rightly, that there had been an increase in the production of beef in the last two years of 100,000 tons, and he asked what proportion of that increase was due to an increased output of cow beef. The proportion of cow beef to the total output is estimated—and these estimates must in the nature of things be very rough—at about a third, and therefore, with an increased output of beef in recent years of 100,000 tons, the proportion would be something like 36,000 tons; but of that some would be young cows and some would be well finished carcases from older cows, making quite good beef; and I happen to know that in the North of England this class of beef is often preferred to chilled imported beef. Broadly speaking, it is estimated, very roughly, that about two-thirds of the cow beef is what you might term beef of respectable quality. I put it no higher than that. Therefore 12,000 tons remain which is of a quality which we should like to see very much improved, and that is only about 2 per cent. of the whole output. I do not think the problem is quite of the magnitude that some people imagine. At the same time, it is a problem, and we hope, by some of these schemes in the Bill and by means of a further extension of the National Mark, to eliminate even that amount of the problem which still exists.
The key note of this Bill is contained in words which constantly recur throughout its Clauses—"the promotion of efficiency and economy." Apart altogether from the assistance given—and this is considerable—I commend this Bill to the House on its merits, as an endeavour to remove obstacles in the way of progress
and to reform methods of marketing and slaughtering which are both uneconomic and archaic. As regards the assistance to be given, I submit that the majority of farmers in this country realise that if public money is to be spent, the public has a right to the assurance that it will be spent as economically and as efficiently as possible, and they will appreciate that the function of the Legislature is not so much to provide them with financial assistance as to create conditions which will give full scope to their skill, judgment, and enterprise, realising, as I have no doubt they do, that in the final resort success will depend upon the individual, and that
How small of all that human hearts endure,
That part which Laws or Kings can cause or cure.
§ But there may be some farmers who concentrate their attention on the money to be paid to them by the State and who do not appreciate the immense value to their industry of the reform of marketing and slaughtering, and the benefits of education and co-operation rendered possible through the Clauses of this Bill. I very seldom indulge in a Latin quotation. It is no longer fashionable, particularly perhaps in an agricultural debate, but I cannot resist reminding such farmers of the very well known line in the greatest of all agricultural poems, the Georgics of Virgil: "O! fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint!" which would translate as follows: "How exceedingly blest would those farmers be if they only knew what was good for them."
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 240; Noes, 106.427
|Division No. 49.]||AYES.||[7.38 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Blindell, Sir J.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Boothby, R. J. G.||Cary, R. A.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brass, Sir W.||Channon, H.|
|Assheton, R.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Balniel, Lord||Bull, B. B.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Burghley, Lord||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)|
|Beamish, Roar-Admiral T. P. H.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Butler, R. A.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Cains, G. R. Hall-||Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Craddock, Sir R. H.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hume, Sir G. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hunter, T.||Remer, J. R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Keeling, E. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Kimball, L.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Denville, Alfred||Leckie, J. A.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Doland, G. F.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lewis, O.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Liddall, W. S.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Savery, Servington|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lloyd, G. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lyons, A. M.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Elmley, Viscount||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Entwistle, C. F.||McKie, J. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Errington, E.||Magnay, T.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Everard, W. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Furness, S. N.||Markham, S. F.||Spens, W. P.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Moreing, A. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Morgan, R. H.||Train, Sir J.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Munro, P.||Turton, R. H.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Nall, Sir J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hamilton, Sir G. C.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Harbord, A.||Patrick, C. M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Peake, O.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Peat, C. U.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hoilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Petherick, M.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hepworth, J.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Radford, E. A.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wragg, H.|
|Holmes. J. S.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hopkin D.||Rankin, R.|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Major Sir George Davies and|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Captain Waterhouse.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cluse, W. S.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Dalton, H.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Hardie, G. D.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Day, H.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dobbie, W.||Hollins, A.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Jagger, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Ede, J. C.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bevan, A.||Frankel, D.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Broad, F. A.||Gallacher, W.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Bromfield, W.||Gardner, B. W.||Lathan, G.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Leach, W.|
|Cape, T.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lee, F.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Leonard, W.|
|Chater, D.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Logan, D. G.||Parker, J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Lunn, W.||Parkinson, J. A.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stewart, W. d. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Potts, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Price, M. P.||Thorne, W.|
|MacLaren, A.||Pritt, D. N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Maclean, N.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Ridley, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Marshall, F.||Riley, B.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Messer, F.||Ritson, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Montague, F.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Whiteley, W.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Rowson, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Salter, Dr. A.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Muff, G.||Sanders, W. S.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sexton. T. M.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Noel-Baker, P. J.||Shinwell, E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Short, A.|
|Paling, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. Mathers.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. Speaker
There are two Instructions on the Order Paper, one in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) and the other in the name of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). Neither of them is in Order.