§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The main purpose of this Bill is to seek statutory authority for items of expenditure arising out of measures included in the agricultural expansion programme which was launched in August, 1947, and which was designed to increase the output of our own farms by something like—100 million per annum by 1952. We are also taking advantage of this opportunity to make a number of desirable amendments to existing legislation which are designed either to help promote efficiency or to bring that legislation into line with modern requirements.
I feel confident that, just as the House supported the expansion programme 18 months ago, so will it be ready to give its approval to a Second Reading of this Bill. The expansion programme is an important contribution not only to European recovery but, at the same time, to our own recovery, and the passing of this Bill will, I believe, afford further encouragement to farmers, workers and landowners in the great task which they have undertaken. Two of the main themes in this programme are to secure a greater output of milk, meat and eggs and to secure a greater self-sufficiency in homegrown animal feedingstuffs, and of course there is also the desire to save dollars. To that end, in addition to higher prices, three special forms of financial assistance were offered for which we now seek Parliamentary authority. The first was the calf rearing subsidy, which is dealt with in Clauses 1 to 3; the second is the free artificial insemination service from colour-marking beef bulls, which is dealt with in Clause 4; and the third is financial assistance for approved schemes for the conservation of grass and forage crops, which is dealt with in Clause 5.
We are all conscious of our small meat ration and the uncertainty of some of our overseas supplies. Throughout the war years, and I believe quite rightly, milk was given a very high priority for whatever feedingstuffs we had available. This 383 inevitably meant a diminishing interest in beef production for which we had been famous all over the world. When the Government decided that more beef as well as more milk were required we felt that we could not rely solely on a higher price for fat cattle to reverse the wartime trend. To a large extent breeders of calves do not themselves carry on their animals to maturity. It is common practice over very wide areas to rear calves to the yearling stage and then to sell them to other farmers to fatten and finish them off. It seemed, therefore, essential to us to give a fillip to the breeder of calves, particularly steer calves, to rear them instead of sending them for premature slaughter; that would mean more meat and milk within the five-year programme.
This subsidy is already having good effects, perhaps not the over-all effect most of us would have desired, but none the less it is having some good effects; for the United Kingdom on the 4th September, 1948, showed an increase of over 20 per cent. in the number of calves under one year old compared with a year previously. This is the answer, of course, to those who thought that the subsidy was unduly expensive in terms of the number of extra calves reared.
§ Mr. Williams
The argument advanced previously was that to secure an increase of 369,000 calves in the United Kingdom it looked, on the face of it, bad business to pay a subsidy on calves which would have been reared anyhow. That, of course, ignores the fact that, had there been no calf subsidy, to secure an increase in the number of calves the price of fat cattle would have had to be increased. Even then there was no guarantee at all that it would not cost us much more in terms of money to achieve the same object. However, it is a reasonably fair argument, and I want to tell the House that although the subsidy will help to build up dairy herds and give us the milk we require, and will help to abolish milk rationing, I should personally prefer to see an increase in the quantity of milk by better breeding and better feeding and perhaps by more scientific 384 management. But this scheme lends itself to all kinds of criticism with regard to the various forms of administration which could be applied.
I want to say at once that if any hon. Member has a suggestion to make of a constructive nature as to how we can best increase the number of calves that are reared beyond one year of age, if any hon. Member can suggest a scheme superior to the one in existence and which will achieve the same results, I shall be very happy to look at it. I have heard it said here and there that there are certain people who are dodging the column, that, for instance, after one calf has been examined by a certifying officer and rejected that same calf pops up at some other farm where the same certifying officer has gone along to examine other calves; and that this, therefore, is costing the Government quite a deal of money. That may or may not be true. At any rate, I shall be willing to listen to any suggestions made during the Debate and perhaps shall benefit from them in any future schemes.
The first three Clauses give authority for the subsidy for all the calves born between 21st August, 1947, and the end of September, 1949. Power is to be sought with Parliamentary approval to extend the period for a further two years. We think, after careful examination, that this form of stimulus is necessary, and that it is superior to any other scheme which may be discovered. In any future scheme we shall reserve the right to vary the rates and conditions, if that should be thought fit. It has been suggested to me that instead of the£4 subsidy for a steer calf and£3 for a heifer calf, we might have given more for the steer and less for the heifer. That is one of those things one is willing to look at, and I shall be willing to look at any suggestion that may be made.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
Can my right hon. Friend give the actual figures of the increased numbers of calves?
§ Mr. Williams
Three hundred and sixty-nine thousand for the United Kingdon, according to the December returns.
Hon. Members will be familiar with the extension of the artificial breeding of cattle in the last few years. Initially, 385 this system was confined to dairy herds. The Milk Marketing Board stocked their insemination centres with good quality bulls of dairy breeds, catering especially for the small man. We hope the centres will make a considerable contribution towards increasing the yields. The fee charged for service is normally 25s. It is also important to breed good quality beef cattle as well as dairy cattle, and many small farmers in the areas served by the centres already in existence are just the people who formerly provided a valuable part of our supply of beef cattle.
Again, some special incentives seemed necessary to give a change in breeding practice a really good start. Therefore, Clause 4 provides for a free service from certain breeds of colour marking beef bulls. Farmers are being encouraged to use this service for low yielding dairy cows which are not fit for breeding for herd replacements. The scheme is so far confined to certain breeds of beef bulls, Hereford, Aberdeen Angus and Galloway, which colour mark their progeny distinctively. In this case Scotland is two to one up, and I think that Scottish Members will be pleased with that. The announcement of August, 1947, promised the service until 31st March, 1949. It will be noticed that in Clause 4 we intend to cover the period from October, 1947, down to March, 1951—two years longer than the period originally announced. It also provides for a free service or one at less than the normal charge.
As the result of recommendations of the Central Advisory Committee on Artificial Insemination, I have decided that the free beef service shall go on until the end of March, 1950, leaving the arrangements for the last year to be considered later by the same Advisory Committee, which will advise as to the wisdom or not of continuing with the same scheme. Experience shows that this scheme is also going reasonably well. The number of cows inseminated in the first year was 12,600, and because of an accelerated rate the estimates for the second and third years are something like 32,000 rising finally to 80,000. Here again I know there are dangers of abuse, but my livestock husbandry officers are watching developments very carefully, particularly with regard to dairy heifers which may be shied off to dairy herds unknown to the unfortunate purchasers. We have devised a scheme whereby those calves 386 are followed up very carefully and I hope we shall be able to avoid abuse.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication of what is the effect in terms of numbers of bulls bred of artificial insemination? Are the numbers continuing to increase?
§ Mr. Williams
If it is possible to give them at the end of the Debate we will give them.
The third part of our plan is to grow more of our own fodder. One of the best ways to become more self-supporting in feedingstuffs is by making the best possible use of our grass and to conserve it better for winter feed as hay, silage or dried grass. Therefore, Clause 5 seeks authority to encourage schemes for grass and forage crop conservation. At the moment the projects we propose to assist are communal grass drying centres on the lines of my statement made on 2nd February, 1948, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye). It will be found in Columns 222–223 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for that day, in the Written Answers. The experts feel that dried grass can make an important contribution to our protein supplies, whilst its carotene content makes in limited quantities a suitable addition in pig and poultry meals.
I should like to make it clear, however, that we do not regard dried grass as a competitor with silage, but as a complementary feedingstuff, and we need a large increase in both. The technique of silage making is now well known, and the development of pit silage obviates the necessity for large capital equipment, and no financial assistance is necessary there. Nor do we provide assistance for small grass driers operated by individual farmers, which account for the bulk of the present output. Many farmers have been for several years producing a high quality product, and I hope that the adjustment of feedingstuff prices which is about to take place will be a further encouragement for others to follow suit I would strongly advise those who are 387 contemplating installing a drying plant to get all the advice they can from the national agricultural advisory officers, or their opposite numbers in Scotland. All the experience so far gained can be made available to the newcomer free of charge. So I would hope that, before anyone spends the money, he gets all the best advice he possibly can to make sure that he will make a success of the undertaking, because we do not want to waste our precious steel.
Clause 5 is meant primarily to provide authority for grants of a third of the total approved capital cost of communal grass-drying plant established by farmers co-operative societies or by agricultural marketing boards any time between now and June, 1950. The centres in operation on 1st June, 1948, because they started very early, qualify for a grant of 40 per cent. of the total approved capital cost. In addition to the one-third grant there will be available short-term loans of another third of the total cost, leaving farmers only a third of the cost to divide between them. These centres must be run on a non-profit making basis.
Such schemes are intended to help farmers with a small area of grass where they cannot hope to have a grass-drying plant of their own. Nineteen such centres have been established in England and Wales, and the results so far are very promising indeed. They have been closely examined by experts, who will be able to obtain valuable data on the engineering, biological and other scientific aspects of grass conservation. Scotland, I understand, has not yet got off the mark, but two centres have been established by the farmers co-operative societies in Scotland, and it is hoped that they will be in operation this year.
The English Milk Marketing Board are playing a very big part in this work, just as they have been and are playing a very big part in the work of the artificial insemination centres. Of the 19 communal plants in existence, the Milk Marketing Board are responsible for no fewer than 12, but unfortunately, at the moment, their powers depend upon the Defence Regulations, which expire in December, 1950. We think, therefore, that it is desirable to make their powers permanent, and Clause 6 is designed to accomplish this. The remainder of the 388 Bill is not directly associated with the expansion programme—
§ Mr. Alpass
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that grants will be made to communal organisations. What is the explanation of Clause 5 (1, a), where it is stated that grants will be made to any farmer? Does that mean any individual farmer?
§ Mr. Williams
The provision is there in case we should feel it worth while to use it in the future. It is not our intention, however, at the moment to finance any other than communal grass-drying centres, although power is taken to do so in the paragraph referred to.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
It says in the Bill that assistance will be granted to farmers without qualification. Can the Minister give us any idea of the level of production, for instance, below which he would not consider it; in other words, that it is not, in his opinion, worth while; or whether if there is a big farmer doing this in a big way he is worthy of assistance.
§ Mr. Williams
The co-operative societies who undertake to establish the grass-drying plant, faced as they must be with the original expenditure perhaps of £2,000 for plant, plus £3,000 or £4,000 more for its fixation, ought to know that the area to be covered by the plant will be sufficiently large to maintain a continuance of grass sufficient to make it an economic proposition. In any case, the responsibility must obviously rest upon the constituent members of the farmers co-operative societies. I ought to say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that before grants are made we shall require to know all the facts and figures relevant to the particular undertaking.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The right hon. Gentleman does not rule out the big individual farmer who has a plant of his own?
§ Mr. Williams
At the moment, yes. If I may correct myself, may I say that we are not helping in any such case, but, as I have said in reply to the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass), we are taking power, and can, if we deem it wise, provide assistance to the individual later on.
389 I was saying that the remainder of the Clauses in this Bill are not directly associated with the expansion programme. They cover points thrown up over the last few years in the light of experience, and I need not waste the time of the House in dealing with them in any great detail. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be glad to explain any feature of the Bill which is not transparently clear to hon. Members.
Clause 7 amends the Food and Drugs (Milk and Dairies) Act, 1944, which provides for the transfer from the local authorities to the Minister of Agriculture the responsibility for the enforcement on dairy farms in England and Wales of the Milk and Dairies Regulations, and also the Raw Milk (Special Designation) Regulations, which govern the conditions of the granting of licences to farmers to sell their milk either as accredited or tuberculin tested. The 1944 Act comes into operation on a date to be determined by the Minister of Health. Unfortunately, however, owing to certain technical difficulties, the operation of the Act has been delayed. The chief object of this Clause is to remove these difficulties, to enable regulations to be made, and to bring the Act into operation as early as possible.
The new regulations propose to give the medical officers of health power to prohibit sales of milk suspected of being infected with bovine diseases, such as tuberculosis or undulant fever, in addition to the present powers to stop milk infected with notifiable diseases such as diphtheria or scarlet fever. Any single cow may be giving tubercular milk without showing any clinical signs of the disease, and the real test is to determine which one of any herd may be the offending animal, which may take weeks to decide. The farmer may be stopped from selling his milk for weeks before the offending animal is discovered. We feel that in those circumstances the farmer is obviously entitled to compensation, but medical officers of health may hesitate to carry out their powers and duties if there is risk of letting their local authorities in for a very large bill for compensation. To meet this difficulty, the Minister of Health will be empowered to refund to local authorities up to 75 per cent. of any sums paid by way of compensation.
Clause 8 is modelled on similar provisions in the Employment and Training 390 Act, 1948, under which the Minister of Labour is empowered to provide training schemes to assist the redeployment of labour while we are attempting to carry out a full employment policy. Under this Clause, and in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, similar powers are being sought to provide training in agriculture under the direction of the Agricultural Ministers. A properly trained regular labour force is essential if agriculture and horticulture are to play their full part in the national recovery. I believe that there are many men and women anxious to make a career on the land if they can only be given the right of entrée. Suitable adult persons will be given 12 months' practical training on approved farms, after which there should be little or no difficulty in their finding satisfactory employment in the industry.
Of the remaining Clauses in this small Bill, I need only refer to three. Clause 9 deals with tenant rights. When a county executive committee takes possession of a farm, they have to pay the outgoing tenant tenant right valuation, but there is a doubt whether the county executive committee or the Ministry of Agriculture is actually a tenant. There are something like 450,000 acres of land in question, and it seems to me, therefore, that it is right to ensure that if the Department have to pay tenant right valuation to an outgoing tenant, once the land is banded back to its original owner the Department is entitled to receive tenant valuation rights. That is the object of this Clause.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Does that policy apply to dilapidations? I can find nothing mentioned about dilapidations in Clause 9.
§ Mr. Williams
I think it can be safely said that wherever a county executive committee has taken over, it has made improvements and not allowed dilapidations.
§ Mr. Williams
What we are seeking to do in Clause 9 is to deal with tenant right valuation and nothing more. That is all that the Clause sets out to accomplish.
§ Mr. Williams
Whatever the outgoing tenant is entitled to under the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, the Ministry of Agriculture will be entitled to under this Clause.
Clause 10 attempts to remove certain difficulties arising from a rather restrictive legal interpretation of the word "co-operative," in connection with the provisions of Part IV of the 1937 Act in relation to smallholdings. With regard to Clause 11, a magistrate before whom a prosecution was taken for the importation of colorado beetles into this country called attention to the inadequacy of the penalties specified in the Destructive Insects and Pests Act of 1877. Colorado beetle can be a very serious menace to our potato crops. We propose therefore to take practical note in Clause 11 of what the magistrate said, by increasing the penalties.
In commending this small Bill to the House I have covered quite a few modest topics, but they are all extremely useful. I hope that I have said enough to show that there is a necessity for the Bill and I hope that the Bill will secure unanimous approval. Several of the provisions of the Bill such as the calf subsidy, the grass drying scheme, and the insemination schemes, are already in existence with the general good will of all sections of the industry. The other matters in the Bill, although relatively unimportant, are designed to help agriculture and the nation.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)
The Minister explained in the opening passages of his speech that the provisions of the Bill might be placed under two distinct heads. One is the promotion of the agricultural expansion programme, which comprises the main provisions of the Bill. For the most part it consists of Clauses which give statutory authority to administrative measures already introduced in connection with the programme which was announced by the Government in 1947. The other heading covers miscellaneous provisions, again mainly administrative in character.
392 We are in a rather difficult position in discussing the Bill because, since it was introduced and published, there have been two important statements on Government policy, and they have a very direct bearing on the Bill. I refer in the first instance to a statement which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech to the National Farmers' Union annual dinner about 10 days ago, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred specifically to the subsidies being given to the agricultural industry in the way envisaged in many Clauses of the Bill. I should like to quote one sentence of the Chancellor's speech on that occasion:We have hitherto, owing to the disturbed price structure of the world and the changing and developing conditions of our own agricultural production, been constrained to operate to some extent through a number of varied subsidies, attempting to balance one form of production against another so as to get the best total of production possible to suit our immediate needs.The Chancellor then went on to argue the merits of fair prices for the final products of the industry compared with those varied subsidies, and he expressed the hope that the Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland, would be able to get rid of all those special subsidies as soon as they were in a position to do so. In this very important statement the Chancellor did make one exception to this principle, and that was in regard to marginal farming. As far as marginal land was concerned he said:The problem of marginal land of all sorts is a great problem in national production, and in this exceptional case the Government has decided that special ad hoc assistance must be continued.The second of the statements to which I refer and which make it difficult for us to discuss this Measure, was made in this House by the Minister of Agriculture in answer to a Written Question on 24th January, when he announced that the Government's policy of subsidising the price of feedingstuffs was to be abandoned. At the end of a detailed statement the Minister used these words:Consequential adjustments of the prices to be paid to farmers for livestock, and livestock products such as milk, wool and eggs, will be discussed between the Agricultural Departments and the Farmers' Unions of the United Kingdom at the annual price review which is to 393 take place next month."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1949; Vol. 460, c. 80.]We on this side of the House are in general agreement with this policy, because until now, livestock prices have for the most part been based on the cost of imported foodstuffs. Those under control of the Government were sold to farmers at a much smaller price than the price at which farmers could market their own crops, which resulted in many instances in there not being an incentive for farmers to feed their stocks on food grown on their own farms.
In addition to that statement, the Minister went even further in his broadcast on 3rd February. He intimated among other things that for the 1949 harvest farmers would be allowed to retain as much of their barley as they wished for the feeding of their own stock, instead of having a limit put upon the use of their barley for this purpose of 20 per cent., as was the case during 1948. The House will agree that those statements are not in line with many of the provisions in the Bill. One must bear them in mind when we are discussing this Measure.
I now come to Clauses 1 to 3, which deal with the payment of a subsidy in respect of calves. As is the custom in this House I must declare my interest in this matter. I happen to have a small dairy shorthorn herd so, in course of time I shall, no doubt, be receiving a subsidy under these Clauses. Ever since the Bill was published, hon. Members in all parts of the House have been making inquiries in the areas they represent to find out how this scheme is operating. I have no doubt that the Minister will welcome the many views which he will hear expressed in this connection during the Debate, as he intimated in his speech he would. I hope very much that he and his colleagues will give most careful consideration to the points that will be made.
I propose to ask the Minister certain questions about the calf subsidy. First, is he satisfied that the £30 million which the scheme is likely to cost in the four-year period envisaged under the Bill has been put to the best possible use to achieve the objects desired. That brings me at once to the cost of administration. The figures the Minister has given for the first four months of the scheme are very alarming. Three thousand certifying 394 officers have to be employed to operate the scheme, and they received £110,000 in fees during the four months. In addition to that, the administration and clerical costs amounted to another £5,200 in the same period. Hon. Members will agree that this price is very high, and I am certain that some simplification of the procedure could be introduced.
The procedure could, in the first place, be simplified in regard to the instructions which are given to the certifying officers. At present they are paid a flat rate of 3s. 6d. per calf inspected, irrespective of the number of farms visited. It may well be that a certifying officer has to take a long journey in order to inspect one calf and for that work he is entitled to 3s. 6d. He will have wasted a considerable amount of time. and the House will agree that 3s. 6d. is an inadequate payment for such a job. Another certifying officer may have to go only a short distance to a farm where he will find 15 or 25 calves under one roof. He still receives 3s. 6d. per head. There is no equity in that kind of arrangement. I should have thought it would have been possible to devise a scale of payments on a "per visit" basis plus a "per capita" increment, and I should like the Government to look into that point.
I know that there are many points of view about the marking of the calves themselves, but it cannot be denied that, certainly in the initial stages of the scheme, calves which were rejected in the first instance were brought up time and time again for further inspection. That is a wholly unsatisfactory position. It may be reasonable for a calf to have two chances but after it has passed the second chance stage, the failed calf ought to be marked in order to prevent subsequent inspection. The position today is that calves which are passed are marked and calves which are discarded are not marked. The House will appreciate that a loophole exists enabling calves to be brought before another certifying officer. That is altogether a most unsatisfactory position. Are the Government satisfied that they have been able to prevent over-age calves being submitted for the test? There, again, exists a loophole. At any rate a saving of administration in the work of the certifying officers could be effected.
395 Is the Minister satisfied that the scheme is achieving its object and that the subsidy is going to the breeders of store cattle and not to the feeders of store cattle? The object of the Bill is to encourage the breeding of cattle for beef and this money is to be spent with the object of helping the farmers to retain calves which would otherwise have been slaughtered. I have a suspicion that in many cases the payment is going to the feeders and not the breeders. The feeders will get the benefit in the price of beef under the February price review and we want to ensure, as far as it is humanly possible to do so, that any benefits from this scheme go to the breeders of the calves.
§ Mr. Alpass
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman elaborate that last point? It is not quite clear to some of us how the rearer gets the money and not the breeder.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
If the breeder sells his calf before it is nine months old, he may sell it to a man who is buying a lot of young calves which he intends to feed on. In that case the subsidy will go not to the breeder but to the feeder, the man buying the young calves between one week and nine months old.
On 7th February, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), the Minister informed the House that in the last four months subsidy payments were made in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for 245,000 heifer calves and only 106,000 steer calves. In England and Wales 7,000 calves were rejected. Apparently Northern Ireland does not keep account of the rejects. The position in Scotland was not disclosed by that answer. The interesting thing about those figures is that the subsidy was paid to more than double the number of heifers compared with steers. Surely that is not the object of the scheme. The object is to retain calves which would have been destroyed before the scheme came into being and to carry them on until they make beef. Many of these heifer calves will have come from dairy districts, and in most of those areas heifer calves are reared anyway, so that this scheme appears to be a very expensive method of increasing the number of steers for beef. The Minister's statistics show that, after a big initial 396 jump when the scheme was introduced, there has not been an increase in the number of steers of one year or less in recent months but a decrease. In fact, between 4th September, 1948, and 4th December, 1948, there has been a reduction of 10,000 steers under one year of age. That should be examined very carefully to see what it implies in relation to the progress of this scheme.
I could give other examples, but I think that from what I have said and from the figures at our disposal, the House will agree that the results so far achieved under these schemes are not too promising. I feel that the mistake is that these subsidies are in no way linked to any definite plan. That is the crux of the matter. These subsidies are floating about in the air without any tether, or, to give a better analogy, they are like seaweed drifting about the sea at the whim of every current and tide that may play upon them. It is essential that they should be tied to some concrete and definite plan if they are to achieve the result which we hope to see them achieve.
I now come to what I believe would be the correct solution. I should like to see the subsidies linked directly to the problem of marginal land. It is from the marginal land of this country that a great proportion of our increased production must come if we are to achieve our target by 1952. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will consider this point. On the whole, the big arable districts have been yielding up to their maximum production during the last few years. What the Government wish them to produce in the national interest can, to a very large extent, be regulated every February under the February price review, but the question of increasing production on marginal land is very different. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given the Minister of Agriculture a lead in his speech to the National Farmers' Union in this respect, and I very much hope that he will examine the possibility of tying up this subsidy scheme to increasing the production from marginal land.
I think I have said enough about that scheme, and I will pass to Clause 4. Although I think we can accept it in principle, we are not happy about Subsection (3). In some curious way the Minister of Agriculture always manages to slip into his Bills a subsection giving 397 all sorts of powers. I hope he will look at Subsection (3) again, because I do not believe that the powers in this subsection are really necessary for the operation of the Clause as a whole. Under this subsection the Minister can give directions to any artificial insemination centre, irrespective of whether it is a grant aided centre or a private enterprise co-operative centre. For example, the Hampshire Cattle Breeders' Society, who do not keep beef bulls, may be directed to provide this service at an uneconomic cost. That would not be in the least a suitable or satisfactory way of proceeding. Again the Minister of Agriculture, through his animal husbandry officer, may prescribe whether a cow is to be served by a beef or dairy bull. The wisdom of this arbitrary Measure seems open to very grave doubt. I hope that when the Bill goes into Committee we shall be able to consider this point, but if the Parliamentary Secretary could clear our minds on it when he replies tonight it would be a great convenience to the House.
I pass to Clause 5. The Minister dealt at length with Clause 5 which concerns schemes for subsidising grass and forage crop conservation. It appeared to us on this side of the House that he was very much in doubt as to what he was driving at. Before dealing with this Clause in detail, I should like to make a general observation. Here again this Clause is at complete variance with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister in their policy of removing the subsidy from feedingstuffs. If the general policy is for feedingstuffs to be valued at their commercial cost, surely it is inconsistent to pick on a particular commodity such as dried grass and make it especially cheap. We on this side of the House are in favour of making loans available, secured on the equipment that is used, if it can be shown that the existing facilities of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation are inadequate, but the position needs examining in the light of the recent statements that have been made. However, assuming that schemes are to be introduced—and, indeed, schemes have been introduced—under this Clause, it should be made clear before we leave the House this evening exactly where the individual farmer stands. The Minister was questioned by one of my hon. Friends, and I do not think his answer contained a definite statement on the position.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I thought I had made it clear. Clause 5 (1) says:any farmer growing grass or forage crops; or any farmers' co-operative society or organisation carrying on business for the mutual benefit of the farmers.What I said was that at the moment we were only providing financial assistance to a communal grass drying centre, but we have taken the power to provide assistance for an individual farmer if we deem it wise.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I thank the Minister very much for that intervention, but how is the ordinary individual farmer to know when the Minister changes his mind? There ought to be some way whereby the farmer knows exactly where he is, instead of being left entirely in the air. As to the schemes proposed, I hope that the Minister will balance equally the merits of silage and dried grass. I do not wish to be drawn into this argument on the Floor of the House or indeed in any other place, but I think we all agree that the future alone can decide which is the best way to conserve our grass, whether it be by silage or by drying—probably a combination of the two. I think they should be complementary one to the other, but it is important that in this Bill there should not be a bias in favour of dried grass as opposed to silage. That is my only point in that regard.
There is a technical point concerning Clause 6, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be, able to enlighten us. Why was Clause 6 not included in the Agricultural Marketing Bill? That would appear to be a very appropriate place to put it. Here in this Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill we have a Clause dealing with the power of milk marketing boards to conserve grass, which would be better placed in the Agricultural Marketing Bill.
That brings us to the miscellaneous provisions in the Bill. At this stage I do not propose to deal at length with these provisions, but I should like to make just two points. Clause 8, which we welcome, empowers the Minister to provide training facilities, residential accommodation and allowances for agricultural trainees over the age of 15. We believe that this will introduce a measure of apprenticeship into the industry. However, the Minister must realise that, while these 399 provisions will, we hope, help to retain on and attract young people to the land, the real answer to this problem must be in increased accommodation which will provide more homes to enable young couples to stay in the countryside.
I have one question I should like to ask the Minister about Clause 9, which deals with tenant rights. The Minister, in referring to tenant rights, was questioned about dilapidations. Surely, it must be a two-way traffic. The Minister must put himself in exactly the same position as any ordinary tenant under this Clause. May we have an assurance that he will do this? As far as we understand the Clause, there is no reference to arbitration. Under Section 23 (5) the Agricultural (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, when the Minister gave up possession of requisitioned land the owner was liable to pay compensation for certain improvements carried out during the Minister's occupation. Section 23 (6) provided for arbitration in cases of dispute on this matter; the arbitrator, in default of agreement, had to be appointed by the president of the Chartered Surveyors Institution. It may be that this is governed by the 1948 Act; but can we have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary exactly what the position is?
My hon. Friends will discuss other considerations during the Debate, but I cannot conclude without referring to the British consumer. I Think we are all agreed that the whole purpose of our agricultural production policy is to help the farmers in the United Kingdom to provide more varied and better rations for the great consuming public. At the moment the British public have to be content with only a small meat ration—and a bad one at that. Many of the provisions of this Bill are designed to improve this ration, and although many of my hon. Friends do not think that the schemes go far towards achieving the result desired, we shall do our best by constructive suggestions to improve this Measure before it reaches the Statute Book.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
Being a humble denizen of a Committee room upstairs, wherein a certain Bill relating 400 to iron and steel is at the moment being discussed, it is a very great pleasure to me, if not somewhat of a shock also, to come to this House and to hear of a Measure which is generally welcomed by hon. Members on all sides, with very little controversy indeed. Like the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), I must confess—and indeed I thought I detected it in the tones of the Minister—that I am a little uneasy about the calf subsidy. We are all agreed that the object of the calf subsidy is a very laudable one: namely, that there should be an increase in the production of beef by our home agriculture. And we are also agreed, I think, that almost anything within reason should be done to achieve that object. Whether or not this calf subsidy is within reason is a question on which some of us are a little uneasy.
That point has already been gone into with great care on both sides of the House, even at this stage of the Debate, and I do not want to go into it in any detail. However, I should like my right hon. Friend to know that this particular supporter of his would be very much in his favour if he should decide to give notice that this subsidy will come to an end at some stage in the future which may be convenient to all interests concerned. I confess to being a little coy, as was the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond, about suggesting the precise measures which should replace the calf subsidy, should it go. But I do feel that the Minister should know that this House would be behind him if he decided to do away with this subsidy and to replace it with some other, and perhaps better, way of achieving the object we all have in mind.
This is a good Bill, despite the drabness of its title. And, indeed, it is a big Bill, despite its shortness. I think that it would be both these if it contained only one of the very important provisions of Clauses 5, 6 and 8. If there are two causes in agriculture which are particularly near to my heart they are: first, the production of the optimum amount of feedingstuffs for stock on each unit of agricultural production; and secondly, the provision of adequate training facilities for anybody, no matter what his origin, if he should show himself willing 401 and keen and capable of taking advantage of those facilities, to provide himself with training for any agricultural occupation, no matter in what branch of agriculture he may wish to serve.
In spite of all that has happened, and is continuing to happen, in the world and in this country, there are still to be found persons who gain their living from the land—I would myself hesitate to use the honourable term "farmer" in connection with them—who are calling out for imported feedingstuffs and expecting the Government to produce those feedingstuffs out of a hat. Perhaps the latter part of that expectation is the most sensible of all, for there does not appear to be any other obvious place from which they could produce these feedingstuffs; that is to say, obvious outside the country. But, if we wish and if we set about it in the right way, we can from our own farms produce all the feedingstuffs we require for the stock which we should have on those farms in order to maintain them in fertility.
I confess that I am, maybe, old-fashioned enough to view with considerable suspicion the practice which has grown so much of late of farming out of a bag. I suspect that most hon. Members would consider it almost a platitude to say that we must have enough feedingstuffs to tide our cattle over during the winter months. That is a perfectly obvious proposition, I should have thought. Another proposition which I think equally obvious is that we must have on our holdings a sufficient number of cattle to maintain those holdings in a state of fertility. There is, however, some degree of controversy about a slight development and combination of those two; namely, that there should be on each unit of production a sufficiency of stock to maintain that unit of production in a state of fertility; and also that that unit of production should produce all the feedingstuffs required for that stock.
That is the proposition which is encouraged by the Clauses in this Bill, and it is one which other measures taken by this Government have also tended to encourage, and for which I wish to add my voice in applauding the Government. In what better way could we produce those necessary foodstuffs for that necessary amount of stock to maintain fertility than by the growing of a sufficient 402 quantity of our best crop, grass, and by conserving it when it is in its most nutritious state? I should not like to exclude any other forage crops, but this is the nearest to hand. So, with the right hon. Gentleman, I hope we shall not fall into the error of thinking that because something is expensive it is necessarily better than something which is not so expensive, and at the present stage I do not think anyone would dispute that the process of drying grass is an extremely expensive system. It may be good or it may be found to be uneconomical in the long run, but I am glad that my right hon. Friend has stated his intention of subsidising this process of grass drying so that we may know whether or not it will prove to be the economic proposition which we all hope that it will. In the meantime, let us not ignore the healing waters of Jordan which lie to our hand, in grass ensilage, in order to chase after some distant, more romantic, more elaborate and perhaps more fashionable Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, which may not do the same for us later on.
The second of the causes in agriculture to which I am a devotee in a humble way is that of providing training for those wishing to enter into the industry. I know that it has been a long-established notion, with much to support it that it is not possible to become a successful farmer unless one has been born and bred in a farmer's household. I should be the last to run down the value of the experience which can be gained, especially if it be absorbed in one's early years, by living with the problems of agriculture which are to be solved, and living with them until they are solved. I should be the last to belittle in any way the efficacy of breeding either with beasts or with humans, and I have no doubt that the experience obtained by being brought up in a farming family, and the advantage of being of fanning stock, are perhaps the most valuable possible capital for successful farming. One is lucky enough indeed to have it.
However, I submit to the House that they are not by any means the only sources of that valuable capital, and by a deliberate policy of training suitable persons it is possible to make successful farmers. Also, we are passing through what I would describe as a welcome time when people, even in our cities, are be- 403 ginning to realise that the man who actually produces food is doing the most important work in the world. This is the time, therefore, when we should seize the chance of drawing in to the agricultural industry recruits from outside it, even though they do not have a farming background.
I am well aware of the pitfalls which lie in the way of anybody who should attempt to become a successful farmer without adequate preparation or background. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture took wise steps to avoid many of those pitfalls in his provisions in the smallholdings section of the Agriculture Act. I submit that, provided his schemes take adequate precautions to see that the candidates for his assistance are suitable, the widest possible net should be thrown. Here we are, on the threshold of a new era for agriculture and we should seize the opportunity. I am delighted with the steps which have been taken in that direction by what was previously considered to be an urban party's government. Perhaps they have done more than any other Government in my lifetime towards redressing the balance between town and country which has been lopsided for so long.
The necessities of our times have undoubtedly made our townspeople realise that no matter how much a townsman may strut in his city suit, no matter how clean his hands, or how shiny his shoes, it is still the honest, hardworking countryman and his wife who are doing the really important work of our civilisation. Far too much has flowed from this lop-sidedness already in the way of shallowness and emptiness and, indeed, forgetfulness of the really important values of life. This lack of balance in our society is one which we have tolerated for too long. To come down to the mundane, I feel that Clause 8 giving the Minister power to provide wider training facilities may be a starting point from which a humble attempt can be made to redress that balance, and on that ground, even if it were true that I would support it on no other, I commend this Bill to the House.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
I agree wholeheartedly, as I know most of my hon. 404 Friends do, with the objects which the Minister has in mind in bringing forward this Bill. It seems to me that he wants every farmer to adopt the farming practices that will give the country the extra food we so urgently need. That is the mainspring of this Bill, and it is an object with which we agree.
The Minister, being a member of the Cabinet, knows better perhaps than most of us on the back benches how vitally important it is for this country to produce more beef here. In this Bill he is taking steps that he hopes will result in more cattle from dairy herds being reared and fed for beef. We have to use the material that is to hand. The material we are wasting as veal at the moment consists of the bull calves from the dairy herds, and in some districts many of those bull calves are worth rearing and carrying on for beef while our supplies are as difficult as they are today. That would not be economical in pre-war days, and at the best they will give us beef which is no better than the beef we expect to get when we go to the Continent of Europe, where they also rely on dairy animals largely for their beef production. But that is the only material we can salvage to get extra beef here, and I am sure the Minister is right in giving a temporary inducement to farmers to rear these calves which would otherwise be slaughtered for veal.
I dislike all agricultural subsidies. On this point I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In our present circumstances it is commonsense to give inducements to farmers to rear some of the bull calves from dual-purpose herds which would otherwise be cast for veal and so be lost for beef production. These steer calves are to get a subsidy when, after 12 months, they are passed by the certifying officer as being likely to make reasonably good beef beasts. In some counties probably quite a big proportion of calves will pass this standard, and a good job can be made of rearing them.
But while I agree wholeheartedly with the Minister's objective, it worries me that he is also offering a subsidy of £3 a head for heifer calves. I do not like subsidies, but I shall pocket my reluctance with the £3 a head from the subsidies which the Minister is to pay me for rearing 60 heifer calves in an Ayrshire herd which I should rear anyway. I am 405 very doubtful whether the Minister has got the proportions right in offering£4 a head for steers and£3 for heifer calves. I am not clear what is his real intention in offering any substantial subsidy for the rearing of heifer calves. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain this more clearly than did the Minister. None of us wants to see this £30 million fooled away or wasted. We want to see it directed into the channels that will produce the best possible results in increased output of beef.
There are points of criticism about the marking of calves. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) also has referred to these questions. The Minister must ensure that certifying officers properly mark reject calves, at the second showing at any rate. Those people whom I have consulted in Berkshire who are so engaged have an uneasy feeling that they see some of these calves several times over, although not necessarily on the same farm. Indeed, one certifying officer tells me he has to take a torch with him to make quite sure that animals have not been marked. The mark of rejection should be made quite clearly so that when a calf has been seen and rejected there should be no doubt about it.
Frankly, I do not think much of the Minister's idea of providing free services at artificial insemination centres to farmers who agree to have their cows mated to beef bulls. I am afraid there are farmers who will say, "The Government are giving me free service for my cows if I use a beef bull, whereas I have to pay 25s. for using a proper dairy bull. I suppose the Government are very keen on our using beef bulls so I will take the free service." That will be a great inducement, for it will save the farmer 25s. straightaway, but it may cost him much more than that in the development of his herd. He may have, for instance, a useful line of dairy stock which he should develop, but the free service provided by artificial insemination centres may be a strong temptation to some farmers to use bulls which are unsuitable to the interests not only of themselves in building up herds for milk production but to the country.
I do not like the power which the Minister is taking in Clause 4 to give directions which may specify the extent 406 and nature of the service to be provided by these centres. Who is to decide on the nature of the service or what bull is to be used? Will it be the animal husbandry officer? While we all have great hopes of the wisdom of these officers and, indeed, of all the advisory officers employed by the Ministry, there are occasions when their advice is not so reliable or practical as that of the man who is actually earning his living by breeding cattle and milking cows. The owner of the herd certainly should be allowed to say to what bulls he will have his cows mated. I should not give him any special inducement to use a beef bull by offering him a free service.
The subsidies and loans for grass drying are justified as a temporary measure. We need more farmers to join together, as the farmers in the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) have done very successfully, to establish grass-drying plants set up under the Milk Marketing Board or under some other organisation. These proposals are justified in order to get such schemes started, for their equipment involves great expense. The reduction in the subsidy on animal feedingstuffs, recently announced, will probably do much more to encourage farmers to conserve their grass by drying or by silage than any amount of direct subsidies or loans for the specific purpose of grass drying. That is, in fact, a much sounder way.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will set a time limit to the subsidies and loans which are to be given to start these enterprises. We want not only dried grass, but all the other forms of highly valuable home-grown fodder, in order that we may stand on our own feet. When the Minister has once given the first impetus, the price that the farmer will get for his milk or meat should be right to give him the incentive to grow the right crops and to conserve in the right way, either by silage or grass drying.
Clause 9 deals with "tenant right" and Clause 12 with the sale of machinery. Both of these are steps in the right direction, and because they mark the fact that the Minister is shedding responsibilities for farming land. In our view, the farming of land should never be a State responsibility except in the extreme need of wartime. Therefore, I welcome these 407 two Clauses, for they show that the Minister is anxious to get out of land and, as he does so, to collect whatever may be due to him. I hope that he will act fairly and squarely in the powers that he is taking. Not only getting what is due to him in tenant right, but paying what is due from him as, indeed, any ordinary tenant farmer would do on leaving a farm. As a farmer he is like a cuckoo in the nest. He went in when nobody wanted him to do so and now he is getting out. I hope that he will go out in a way which is fair not only to the owners of the land but also to the incoming tenant.
The Bill is full of good intentions, although its methods appear likely to be costly. I am doubtful about the practical value of some of the proposals, particularly the subsidies on heifer calves and on grass drying. I have an uneasy feeling that the Minister is suffering from a lack of practical counsel from the counties and that his county committees are so smothered with paper that they have no time or inclination to use their initiative to tell the Minister how they, as practical men, would do the job. Especially is this true of the question of producing more beef from marginal lands, which was stressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond. Marginal lands do not exist only in the North and in the Highland counties. We have them in Berkshire and Wiltshire, thousands of acres, adjoining Salisbury-Plain. A great deal more food could be produced from this land.
If the Minister would consult frankly and fully with the counties and with the competent men on the county committees, he would get sound advice about how these areas could be made more productive. He knows that a great deal of the success of policies for which he as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) were responsible during the war was due to these constant and frank consultations with the counties. Today a county committee chairman has to be exceptionally tough and tiresome ever to penetrate to the Minister and too often he and committee members are fobbed off with the usual official excuse for inaction—
§ Mr. T. Williams
I am sure the hon. Member will not object to my intervening after the statement he has just made, because it simply has not any foundation in fact. Indeed, I know of no case where a county executive chairman has sought an interview with me and that interview did not accrue. So far from my refusing to accept advice and guidance from county executive chairmen, I have had all the chairmen in London twice within the past 18 months, with an open door. They could make their suggestions far and wide and for as long as they liked. There is no such thing as anyone having made a suggestion and being nobbled for it—certainly not.
§ Mr. Alpass
But the hon. Member has made a statement in public in this House and I think he should substantiate it with some facts.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am satisfied from my knowledge that there is a malaise today in 55, Whitehall and I am trying to help the Minister to discover the cause of it. I am suggesting that it is because he does not have constant enough or frank enough consultations with the counties. I hope he will take note of that suggestion.
I feel this Bill is the lazy way of tackling the problems we know have to be tackled. It just spreads around more subsidies with little discrimination. That may be good politics; there is a General Election coming along fairly soon. But, 409 I would say to the Minister that while subsidies may be justified in order to get farmers to change their ways quickly to meet the needs of the times the period of such subsidies should be strictly limited. Needs do change, our need's today are different from those during the war. I fully agree that there may be need for temporary subsidies to get farmers to change their ways quickly, but the price structure must be kept right, and this will call for a good deal of closer co-operation between the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food.
In considering this Bill, it is the business of this House to see that the £33 million we are asked to vote is used to the best advantage. We shall have to do some hard thinking to help the Minister to make this a really good and effective Bill. I am sure that, although we may approach these problems from different angles, we all have the same object in mind. We shall all put forward constructive suggestions which, in the light of our knowledge, we think will help to get these desirable jobs done quickly and economically.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I welcome the calf subsidy as far as it concerns rearing calves for beef. Many of us have seen parts of England, where cattle-raising used to be one of the major parts of the agriculture industry, gradually turned over to milk production, almost to the complete exclusion of stock rearing. For some time in my county a calf subsidy was discussed as a means of countering that tendency. Some farms have gone into milk production which ought not to be in milk production. That is true of my county and of many parts of England.
I believe there is some evidence now that, with the price of beef and store cattle at what it is, on marginal farms it is as profitable to rear cattle as to sell milk. Certainly the subsidy on bull calves will help to make the rearing of those calves more profitable, but I query whether the subsidy on heifer calves is desirable. I should disclose my interest in this. It will do me quite a lot of good as a farmer. It will bring a larger part of the money set aside for this purpose to the dairy farmers of this country and not to those who are rearing beef stock. In the districts I know those who 410 have dairy heifers which are worth rearing are already rearing them and we do not want dairy heifers reared if they are not worth rearing. That is a sure way of reducing the efficiency of the milk industry. We want to get rid of the second-class dairy heifer. Therefore we do not want to encourage more dairy heifers to be reared than are already being reared.
I would go a little further than any other hon. Member has gone today and say that the money which is being spent on heifers might much more profitably be spent in other ways. The last time I spoke on agriculture in this House was when we discussed the problem of marginal farms. I believe the opportunity for increasing our total output of agricultural produce in this country is greatest in the development of marginal land and in encouraging the marginal farmer to produce more. To quite a large extent the bull calf subsidy will go to such men. I believe that the larger half of the subsidy which is going now to the dairy man should be used either to increase the subsidy for the bull calf or to help the marginal farmer in other ways.
There is an enormous job to be done on marginal land in improving the fertility of grassland. It is an expensive job and the marginal farmer has not the capital with which to do it. The Minister recently told us, in answer to a question, that the marginal scheme is being reconsidered. I believe that we in the North of England are to get terms perhaps as good as have been obtaining in Scotland. I am delighted to hear that. But the problem is a large one, and if there is available perhaps £20 million, which the heifer subsidy may amount to, I believe that a bigger yield in production would be obtained by spending that sum in helping the small farmers, the stock-growing farmers, than by putting another £20 million into the pockets of the dairymen, who have not been doing too badly lately. I therefore, ask the Minister to reconsider that point.
Most of the provisions of this Bill are of course already accomplished facts; the administration has been set up. I do not wish to blame the Minister for proceeding speedily with the development scheme, but the fact remains that no suggestions or criticisms which we can make in connection with this Bill can easily 411 be accepted by the Minister, either at this stage or during the Committee stage, because the whole of the administration has been set up and all these schemes are in operation. Had the Minister brought this scheme to the House earlier he would have found a large consensus of opinion that this subsidy to the dairy heifer was not required.
The man who is rearing bull calves could be helped in one way which is not contained in the Bill but is a matter of administration. If the small farmer, or indeed the large farmer, who is rearing bull calves received a little more feedingstuffs for those calves he would certainly rear more. The way in which rations are supplied to the small farmer who is rearing bull calves penalises him if he is not a milk seller. If he sells milk he gets a ration of calf cake for every calf on the farm, but if he does not sell milk he only gets a ration of cake for every calf over and above the number of cows which he has on the farm. That means that he has to find home-grown concentrates of some sort for a large proportion of the calves on the farm. If the Ministry really want to encourage calf rearing on these small farms I would say from my experience that if the calf rearer was treated in the same way as the milk seller he would be able to rear more calves.
I agree that rearing calves is probably as profitable as milk selling. The great difference is that the milk seller gets a monthly cheque whereas the calf rearer has to wait for perhaps three years, or at all events for one year or 18 months, before he gets his money. It seems to me that if some system of interim payment could be considered a great many more people would rear calves. I do not wish to go into this matter in detail, but supposing that the Ministry were not paying a subsidy on heifer calves, I believe that the way to help the small calf-rearing farmer would be to pay another subsidy to him after two years, or some stage of that kind.
I wish to deal with a small point about the cost of this administration. The fact that the subsidy is paid at a period of between nine months and a year means a great number of visits by the certifying officer. I wonder if the Minister would consider paying the subsidy on calves between say the ages of three months 412 and a year? If a calf has been reared to the age of three months, which is the expensive period when it is consuming milk, the farmer will continue to rear it until it is reasonably full-grown. The number of visits by certifying officers could be greatly reduced by allowing them to mark and certify any calf between the age of three months and a year. It would mean that the number of visits to any farm over the year could be greatly reduced and thereby the cost of certification would be reduced.
I now turn to grass drying, and I should disclose my interest. We dry grass on quite a large scale in my county. We have eight or nine grass-drying plants in Cumberland at present. Some are privately owned by farmers and others, one is run by a farmers' co-operative society and one is run by the Milk Marketing Board. An announcement that the subsidies on animal feedingstuffs are to be reduced and that their price is to go up correspondingly, would encourage people generally to go in for grass drying more than anything else. I wonder if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary could give us a little more detail about what is to be done in regard to that matter? My information is that most animal feedingstuffs carry a subsidy averaging about £10 a ton, perhaps more. The total figure is about £77 million a year.
Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary give us an indication of how much these feedingstuffs are to be allowed to rise in price—will it be £5 per ton?—because that is important to those who are undertaking the setting up of grass-drying plants? Their product has to compare in price with other feedingstuffs and if the price of feedingstuffs rises, grass-drying will obviously become more profitable. I agree that it is not an unprofitable business now. It may be necessary to inject this encouragement of the loan and the grants into some co-operative organisations. I believe that what really makes people hesitate about going into this business is not the immediate but the long-term position. People are doubtful about whether the market will not be flooded later with dried grass and dried crops. If we could know clearly what the subsidy position in regard to feedingstuffs is to be, I believe that many people 413 who might take up grass-drying would be more encouraged to do so.
I do not quite understand what the policy is under which these subsidies and grants are made. I read that the Milk Marketing Board are receiving assistance. If that is so, it cannot be that the assistance is being given to those who have no capital. The Milk Marketing Board have enormous resources behind them. I should have thought that the assistance of which I am speaking might he more properly reserved for the group of farmers who are prepared to undertake this business, which has some risk attached to it. The Milk Marketing Board surely have all the capital behind them that they need.
§ Mr. T. Williams
The hon. Member must appreciate that the Milk Marketing Board as such, receives no money in this respect. The Board runs a grass-drying centre for a large number of small farmers on a non-profit making basis. In other words, they are doing the work but they receive no funds themselves.
§ Mr. Roberts
But if they think it is a good policy to dry grass for their members surely they will not fail for want of capital to carry out what they have agreed is a good policy? I should not have thought that the fact that the Government are not offering them capital would weigh with the Milk Marketing Board. If they want to do this thing, they will do it without a grant and I do not believe that this particular grant is necessary.
Finally, I would say a word about the Clause dealing with smallholdings. I understand that this Clause is required, because the Section in the Agriculture Act which was intended to deal with it has been found by lawyers not to be drafted in such a way as to cover the position. I would press upon the Minister this view about smallholdings. He has been asked a good many questions lately as to what is his policy in that regard, and I know that his answer is that he is waiting for the advice of his advisory committee. I hope that that advice will be that this is the time to go ahead in establishing smallholdings.
Perhaps I should address my remarks not so much to the Minister, as to some hon. Members of his party who are not very favourably disposed to smallholdings. This Clause deals with a type of 414 smallholding which has been enormously successful in the last ten years, the type of co-operative smallholding—using the word "co-operative" in the broad sense—such as has been run by the Land Settlement Association. Those smallholdings, which were established about ten years ago, have been very successful in producing a large quantity of agriculture produce and in providing the tenants with a very reasonable income.
During the war, critics of smallholding schemes said, "Yes, but conditions are abnormal and you cannot draw a conclusion from the fact that the Land Settlement Association has done well during the war as to what they will do in normal times." Times are not normal now, but they are more normal, and it is three years after the end of the war. The accounts of the tenants show that the year ending last September has been the best year that they have ever had in the history of the scheme. The average income was £49 higher than the year previously, and the average income of all the tenants of all the group schemes was £509. In addition to that, the tenants had the benefit of some produce consumed in their own homes.
Out of that £509 they must find their own income and the wages for work done by their wives and members of the family. But £509 as an average income from smallholdings, none of which I think I am right in saying are greater than ten acres, is a remarkable achievement. I submit that nearly £10 a week from smallholdings of that sort does show that smallholdings can provide a very good living for suitable tenants. I hope that the Minister will decide to go ahead and develop smallholdings along these and other lines. There are a large number of people who are wanting smallholdings. The figure he gave was 3,000 applicants, who are already approved. This scheme of the Land Settlement Association has proved itself over a period of 10 years. It provides great advantages to the tenants in joint marketing purchasing schemes and in advice, and I hope that as soon as he can, the Minister will agree to a further development of land settlement groups on the lines of the Land Settlement Association.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Major Wise (King's Lynn)
I am rather sorry that the hon. Member for Newbury 415 (Mr. Hurd) is not in his place at the moment, because of all the dismal speeches on agriculture in general that I have ever heard, his was about the worst. I would say right away to the Opposition that if they disagree with any Clauses in this Bill let them suggest that those Clauses should be withdrawn. This is a small Bill, but a very important one. It places in the hands of the agricultural community millions of pounds which they will undoubtedly be very glad to obtain. Various hon. Members have declared their interests in the calf subsidies. I have had calves, I believe certified, but whether I received any money or not I do not know.
One or two points raised by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) are interesting and I hope the Minister will consider them. Under the Bill, apparently, no change can take place in the present calf subsidies until towards the autumn, or the end of the year. But provision is made for the Minister to amend the schemes after that date. It may be that by that time he will be able to decide that the heifer calf subsidy should go and a larger subsidy should be given to steer calves. All farming Members will agree that in general practice we keep our heifer calves, but we are inclined to send bull calves immediately to the market for slaughter. It is essential that in the years which are ahead we should endeavour to save those bull calves, so that when we have to make a switch from our present methods of agriculture we shall have in this country a vast quantity of steers almost fit for consumption purposes. It might be possible to dispense with the heifer calf subsidy and increase the bull calf subsidy by £1 or so a head.
The point was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), with which I agree, about the subsidy going to the breeders rather than the rearers after the feeding process has been gone through. That might be arranged by the subsidy being placed upon the calves at, say, nine months, on a certificate that a particular calf was bred on the farm and had remained on the farm for, say, a period of nine months. I throw out those suggestions which the Minister may think worthy of consideration.
416 The Clause to which I wish to refer is Clause 9. I find no fault with the Bill, but I think that Clause 9 needs expanding, and it might very properly be re-written. Reference has been made to the question of dilapidations. Clause 9 deals entirely with certain compensation provisions of the Acts of 1947 and 1948. This Clause refers specifically to:… payments mentioned in the following provisions of this Section.Those are essentially compensation provisions. It may be argued that the question of dilapidations is met in the general idea of tenant-right valuations, but at the moment I think it is right to say that when land is taken over by the Minister, the question of dilapidations is governed by the Compensation (Defence) Act of 1939, Section 2 (1) and particularly Section 2 (1, b). That Section deals with the right of the owner to receive dilapidation money when land is given up. But reference is made later to a 1939 measure of valuation.
It is certain, therefore, if that Section is still operative under this Bill, that compensation for dilapidations would not reimburse either the landlord or the incoming tenant. I suggest to the Minister that he should have a further look at this Clause. I wish to make it absolutely certain that the incoming tenant will not come into the land on the same basis as he will go out. If he is subject to dilapidation claims when he goes out, then he should have the benefit of a claim when he comes in, whether he takes it from the landlord or from the Minister direct.
Another point is that if we accept a dilapidation Clause, we may allow the owner of the land dilapidation money when he takes the land back from the Minister, but there is nothing to safeguard the incoming tenant so that when he rents the farm he will receive the benefit of the money which the landlord has received from the State. Those points should be dealt with. Other matters arise under the Acts of 1947 and 1948 which deal with benefits received from carrying on special systems of farming. It might be that in certain cases—as dilapidation arises in others—the Minister's occupation may benefit the farms which have been occupied. In the same way, he should be entitled to introduce into this Clause the various Sections of the Acts 417 of 1947 and 1948 which will give him the benefit of additional compensation.
I commend the Bill to the House. I shall be glad if the Minister will take note of the various, perhaps professional, points which I have raised in regard to tenant-right valuation. I want to simplify the procedure and to make certain that there are few arbitrations. There again, there is no provision in the Bill for arbitration procedure. I agree that provision should be made. In a general way, we loathe arbitrations. I think that in Committee we may be able to improve the Bill.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are in general agreement with the intentions of this Bill, but various speakers have expressed doubt whether it is wise to give the same subsidy for a heifer calf as for a bull calf. I wonder whether it would not be possible to adjust the prices of beef so that they would take into account the subsidy. If one did that I think that one could differentiate between a heifer and a bull calf and again, by making the difference in price greater between the various grades of beef, a breeder of pure cattle, such as Devon cattle, who produces prime beef, could be given a further advantage. Subsidies bring about a large number of anomalies. For instance, the price of a three or four year old farm horse, whether for working on a farm or for human consumption, is pretty well the same. It seems crazy that people will give as much for a three year old horse in order to eat it as they will in order to work it on a farm. As I see the position, subsidies are no substitute for fixed prices.
I would like the Minister, if possible, to give inducement, encouragement and incentive by adjusting the prices. If he really wants to give a further fillip to the production of beef here, he ought to try to persuade the right hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food to let people in the rural areas eat a certain proportion of the increased beef, mutton or pork which they produce. In Devonshire there is considerable discontent with the quality of the meat which we get today. With reference to Clause 5, I would again rather see the inducement given by price rather than by subsidy. But if the Minister feels 418 that it is necessary to give a subsidy for dried grass, I ask him to include the farmer as well as the co-operative society, and also to consider including the contractor. In Devonshire, where there are a large number of small farms, the contractors do extremely valuable work.
I had omitted to declare my interest, because I really am interested in this Bill up to the hilt. I am a bit of a farmer and a farmer's merchant. One of the great difficulties of drying grass always is that the machine is static. Grass has to be transported sometimes up to 15 miles, to the machine. Obviously that is wasteful because a large quantity of water is transported only to be evaporated. I understand that there are now two efficient mobile grass drying machines in production. One is made in this country and the other in the United States of America. Unfortunately, the machine made in America appears to be more efficient. Both machines consume the same amount of fuel per hour, but the output of the American machine is double that of the British machine. The American dryer requires two men to operate it, whereas the British machine requires four men. Various attempts have been made to persuade the Minister to give permission to import these machines from America. I understand that he has refused because the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering cannot give a final report as yet. Apparently they took delivery of a machine last year, and it is possible that they may give a report this year, though it may well be delayed until next year.
The delay is quite understandable, because they have a large and varied amount of machinery to test. Therefore, I urge the Minister to take a risk and to allow some of these machines to be imported into this country at once, or, alternatively, to give permission for them to be made here under licence and let private persons test them. His agricultural expansion programme will depend very largely on our ability to get feedingstuffs. Dried grass is an extremely valuable form of feedingstuff. I do not wish to press it unduly, as it is obviously complementary both to hay and silage. It is essential for us to produce dried grass in sufficient quantities if we are to produce more food, and I feel 419 it is most unwise of the Minister to deny dollars to the British farmer and prevent him from getting the very best equipment.
The cost of these machines is not very great. I understand that the American one costs something like £2,500 whereas the English machine, which is not so efficient, costs £1,500. If the machine is proved efficient, there are firms in this country which would be willing to make it under licence, and I urge upon the Minister necessity to get this equipment, if it is good, immediately, instead of waiting another two years.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
The hon. Member says "if it is good." Is not that the whole point of the correspondence which he has had? When the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering is able to say that, it will be done.
§ Mr. Lambert
I do not wish to contradict the hon. Gentleman, because, obviously, he knows more about the N.I.A.E. than I do, but I understand that they are satisfied with it. We all know that the Institute has had a great number of other things to do, and that it has been moved, and so has not been able to give a final report. It is for that reason, and because it is so essential that we should have this equipment, that I am asking the Minister to take this course. It does seem rather hard that our farmers should be denied dollars for good equipment, when the groundnuts scheme, while it is still problematical whether it will produce groundnuts, is allowed as many dollars for new equipment as it needs. The British farmer has often been tested in the past and has never failed, and I think he deserves the best treatment today.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
I think I am the only Member to take advantage of this Debate so far, who has no interest to declare, apart from the interest which comes from being brought up in the country and coming from farming stock. I would not have ventured to intervene at all if it were not that I am feeling rather critical of one aspect of this Bill. As I want to criticise, perhaps I may be permitted first 420 to indulge in the courtesy of acknowledging the great work which the Minister undoubtedly has done for farming and for the countryside.
The part of the Bill about which I am critical is that dealing with the subsidy for calves. The Parliamentary Secretary knows very well that I have been rather critical of the Minister's subsidy policy in the past, and this particular provision, I am afraid, is in keeping with the general trend of the subsidy policy of the Ministry of Agriculture. Of course, nobody quarrels with the need to make some provision, nor with the amount of money being allocated for agricultural improvements. The only question is whether the money is being applied in the best possible way.
The purpose of the subsidy is to ensure that calves are reared to full growth. The Minister has suggested that his policy was already succeeding, because he said that there were some 369,000 more calves in September, 1948, than there were in September, 1947, and those figures I accept as perfectly correct, though I do suggest that they are misleading figures. It is quite true that there was an increase in the number of calves under one year old during that year, but we are concerned in this Bill with the number of calves reared beyond one year old. If we take the figures for the same months as the Minister took—September, 1947, and September, 1948—the number of calves over one year and under two years old becomes 1,699,000 for 1947 and 1,545,000 for 1948, which shows a drop. I fully appreciate that I may be accused of making an unfair point, because there has not been sufficient time for the subsidy to have had effect. But from these figures, taken in conjunction with other figures available, my contention is that the subsidy is not really having any substantial effect at all.
In September, 1946, the number of calves under one year was 1,807,000 and in September, 1947, 1,805,000, so that if we take the figures of calves under one year old in 1946 and 1947, and take them when a year older in each case, that is, September, 1947, for which the figure is 1,699,000 and September, 1948, for which the figure is 1,545,000, we find that, in fact, no more calves have been reared beyond one year old in 1947–48 than in 421 1946–47. There may be other considerations in the matter, and I do not want to emphasise it too much, but I think it is valuable as indicating that it is very questionable whether the Minister's subsidy policy so far has had any effect at all.
The object of the policy is to bring the calves up over one year. In rough figures, there are some two million calves under one year in the country now. Of these some 250,000 fail to reach the one year mark. So the additional number which, under favourable conditions, could be brought up to over one year is 250,000, or something in that neighbourhood, though it may even be 300,000. These are the numbers which could be brought up under favourable conditions, and I will assume in the Minister's favour that all the calves that could be brought up to over one year will be brought up under his subsidy scheme. That means that, with a population of two million calves, one in eight calves will be brought over the one year mark which would not have been brought over that mark if the subsidy scheme did not exist.
What is the cost of it, on that footing, assuming they all come over the one year mark? Our target is to get 250,000 over the one year mark, which would not come over that mark if it were not for the assistance of the scheme. Dividing the difference between the steer and heifer, we are paying £3 10s. a calf, and we are not paying that merely for the 250,000, but for the two million. That means that, in order to get the 250,000, we are, in fact, paying for the 250,000 at the rate of £28 a calf. As the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) pointed out, the calves we are acquiring by reason of this subsidy are, of course, what are called marginal calves which, generally speaking, are not as good, for one reason or another, as the calves that would otherwise have been brought up.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us how he arrives at the figure of 250,000 extra calves?
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
The 250,000 is arrived at by taking the figure of under one year and the figure a year later of over one year and under two years and seeing by how much less is the later figure than the earlier figure. I agree that 422 there may be criticism of detail about the figure of 250,000, and that is why I said that it was something of the order of 250,000. I see that "The Times" has been into this matter and has worked out the figure rather more favourably for the Minister than I have. It works it out by saying that the cost is "at least £20." I personally put it at £28.
What is the waste involved in this method of subsidy? For every eight calves reared, the first seven would be reared and brought over the one year in any case. We are paying for the first seven at the rate of £3 10s. each, that is to say, we are paying £24 10s. out of the £28 for calves that would be brought over the one year mark in any event. That means, in round figures, that for the period contemplated we shall be spending roughly £7 million a year, and of that £7 million we are paying £6 million a year for calves that would in any case be brought over the one year mark, quite apart from this Bill altogether. That is an exceedingly wasteful method of subsidy.
One is bound to approach a provision of this nature in a very critical frame of mind. I realise the Minister's difficulty of devising some other scheme for coping with the problem. To do what would be ideal, and what everybody would like to do—merely to pay for the eighth calf which came over the one year mark—would be very difficult, if not impossible, of administration. I fully recognise that it would be administratively impossible, and for that reason the case which I have made out against the Minister is, to some extent, unfair. However, it serves to emphasise the wasteful nature of the subsidy, and goes to show that we should examine very carefully whether or not there are other means available which would ensure the desired result without involving all the wastage which is inevitable in this method of subsidy.
Several hon. Members have mentioned the problem of marginal land. On principle, and certainly at first blush, it would appear very much better to encourage the bringing of marginal land into cultivation, and to encourage what is so crucial in dealing with this cattle problem, the provision of food which is at the base of the whole thing. It would be far better, in principle, to deal with it in that way than by way of subsidy. The 423 difficulty of the subsidy is that if extra marginal land is not brought into production, or if extra food is not produced in one form or another, there will be competition between different kinds of agricultural products for the food available, and there will be the danger that we shall be merely altering the order of priorities between agricultural products rather than increasing production.
I should like to have heard the Minister in his opening speech, not merely repeat in simpler language what was in the Bill, which everybody can read for himself, but connect up the provisions of the Bill with the whole of his agricultural policy and relate the effect of the Bill and the effect of this subsidy to the production of other agricultural products. For instance, I should have liked him to relate the effect of the subsidy to our food position, and to have said what, in his calculation, was likely to be its effect in terms of the meat ration, and to have put the whole of his subsidy policy into the agricultural and food framework. Until we know these things, we are dealing with the matter, as it were, in a vacuum, and without really being in a position to criticise the policy behind this particular subsidy.
In principle, I am very strongly in favour of the speeches which have been made suggesting the using of money available for marginal land; but, again, there are many qualifications in this, and one must be fair to the Minister. I realise that one cannot come to a conclusion about marginal land unless one has full particulars of the amount of such land available, how quickly it could be brought into production, what it would produce, and matters of that kind. It is a question of coming to a practical conclusion about it, and this House cannot do that, unless it has all the facts laid before it.
Therefore, I am afraid that the criticism that I must make of the Minister's opening statement is that it fails to relate this subsidy policy both to the general agricultural and food policy of the country, and also to the alternatives that are available for dealing with the problem with which this subsidy is calculated to deal. I hope that in the Parliamentary Secretary's reply we shall hear something more than we have heard hitherto of 424 those aspects of the problem which concern us. I believe that both sides of the House support the object which the Minister has in mind, but at the same time I think that hardly anyone is really satisfied at present that the subsidy policy put forward is justified.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Corbett (Ludlow)
Like most hon. Members I wish to declare my interest, because the principal activity on my farm is breeding beef cattle, drying grass and also selling store cattle and bulls whose market may be lost because of artificial insemination. I approach this Debate, therefore, cap in hand, with an eye to the main chance, to see what I can persuade the Minister to provide for me. Nevertheless, I find myself very much in agreement with what most hon. Members have already said and I do not want to prolong my remarks by needless repetition.
I have a strong feeling that perhaps half or two-thirds of the benefit of the calf subsidy scheme is going to milk producers or farmers who do not need benefit from the subsidy. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will make clear whether this subsidy is supposed to promote beef as opposed to increasing the number of livestock. In our part of the world, on the Welsh border and the Shropshire hills, we have much marginal land, about which I have already made speeches in the House. A great many farmers raise calves rather than produce milk. They like to put three or four calves on each cow and then sell abundant stores in due course. These farmers, living up on the hills, are amongst those who find it most difficult to make a living, and I have pressed their case on previous occasions. But these particular farmers do not benefit at all from this scheme, because they like to buy calves and suckle them on their cows, whereas other farmers who sell milk may keep a crossing bull and want to keep all their cows in full milk production, so that, with the exception of heifers, which they may want to keep, they try to dispose of their calves to those who will rear them.
I maintain that, despite this scheme, the farmers who breed the calves get the benefit, although the farmers who suckle the calves have them from nine to 12 months old. I think that is a fair statement of fact based on experience during 425 the last year, because we have found that owing to this subsidy, the price of calves has gone up. Therefore, the man who wants to buy young calves and rear them has to pay more than he did before the introduction of this subsidy. Although he draws the subsidy, he hands it over in the price he pays to the breeder. I cannot help feeling, with many other hon. Members, that the best way to stimulate the production of beef is by raising the price of beef. There is no doubt at all in my mind that such an increase in price would be reflected all along the line, right down to the man who breeds and the man who rears the calves at all stages. In all increases in beef prices we have found that that has been the case; there has been a corresponding increase in the value of store cattle and in the value of calves.
Turning to the administration of the scheme, I want to endorse the suggestion made by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) that it might very well be possible for these calves to be inspected only half-yearly, say between eight and 14 months, or on those lines, so that the inspecting officer need pay only half-yearly visits to each farm instead of going four times a year. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us something about the standard which is required in order to qualify for subsidy. I notice that the number of calves rejected is very small in comparison with the number passed, and I gather that most dairy cattle qualify for the subsidy, which is quite ridiculous if we want to increase the number of beef beasts that are bred.
Turning to drying, here again I want to ask the Minister to give me some money. I want to know how he arrives at the conclusion that it would be a good thing to subsidise communal plant. At first sight it appears to be a good course to take. The Milk Marketing Board and farmers' co-operatives can set up grass-drying stations for the benefit of a number of farmers on a non-profit basis and the Minister promises to subsidise their capital costs. May I take myself as an example. I have just put in an expensive grass-drying plant of the largest type which I propose to use for myself and for the benefit of other farmers around me. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would like to explain to me how I can get the benefit of his subsidy. If not, I 426 put it to him that the farmers for whom I dry grass will not benefit by the subsidy or by the non-profit standard which he expects to be observed by the Milk Marketing Board and other communal plants, and I shall be forced to charge them a higher price for their grass than would be the case if they were able to have it dried by one of the Milk Marketing Board plants, none of which in fact exists anywhere near us.
There is another point to which I would draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, and it is that farmers who get grass dried for them at what I call a false price by a subsidised plant on a non-profit making basis can take as much grass as they wish, and so far as I know, although they might sign something to say they will use it all themselves, there is very little to prevent them from selling it at current market prices and thereby making a handsome profit for no effort of their own. I actually dried some grass for a friend of mine on a non-profit basis and discovered afterwards that he had sold half of it and made a profit of no less than £10 a ton on what I had charged him, which I found extremely irksome. I think that is a general result of subsidising any type of produce. It is much better to pay the real price for the finished article.
That is all I have to say about this Measure except that I would press the Minister to remember that of all farmers those who are really in the greatest need of help are the small chaps in the hills and on the marginal land. Handing out enormous subsidies for which large dairy farmers and other types qualify, does not help them one little bit, yet they are the people in most need of assistance. I therefore commend to the right hon. Gentleman the statement, which has already been quoted, made to the N.F.U. dinner by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will hurry up and bring forward his marginal land scheme.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)
In the economic Debate which took place about nine to 12 months ago, I criticised rather severely the calf subsidy scheme and I am glad on this occasion to see so many hon. Members on both sides of the House supporting what I said then. I have had a great deal of information since I made 427 that speech both from hon. Members inside the House and from sources outside the House, but nothing I have heard has changed my opinion. I think the calf subsidy scheme is an expensive scheme for the purpose for which it is intended.
May I here support the Minister on one point? Hon. Members have been criticising the payments for heifer calfs compared with those for steer calfs. If the Minister is to go in for a beef policy, he should have beef heifer calves as well as dairy heifer calves. The farmer is a business man. When he rears a steer calf he has only one market, and that is the beef market. When he rears a heifer calf he has both the milk market and the beef market from which to choose. If he is rearing a calf to the stage of production, he can sell his dairy cow at between two and two and a half years, whereas he must keep his beef cow the full three years. If that costs him a winter's keep, he is still in pocket in rearing heifer calves rather than beef calves. That is one of the reasons so many farmers rear heifer calves instead of steer calves.
I shall not repeat what I said on the last occasion, but I am very disquieted. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) has raised some of the points that I intended to discuss. The examination of the figures of calves under one year old and of yearlings gives rise to much thought. When we consider the figures for the 1930's and compare them with those of today, we find that there has been a very big change. In 1938 the calves under one year old numbered 1,840,779. That group in 1939 numbered 1,866.882. They had increased by 26,000. That increase was due, no doubt, to importations from Ireland and, I believe from Canada. That was an increase in the second year. When we come to consider the figures today, we find that the position is completely reversed. In 1942 the number of calves under one year old was 1,844,000. A year later that same group fell to 1,726,000, a fall of 118,000. From that year the figures fell by varying numbers, until we come to 1947, the figure for which year, I think, was given by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry. In 1947 we had 428 1,798,000 calves under a year old. I am quoting in all these figures the 4th June figures, and not those quoted by my right hon. Friend. On 4th June, 1948—12 months later—that same class numbered 1,602,000, a fall of 196,000. That is a very disquieting figure.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
By "the same class" my hon. Friend means the same class of cattle one year later?
§ Mr. Kenyon
That is right—the same class 12 months older. I am fully aware that a certain number of those calves would be killed for veal. I am also aware that through disease a certain number would die. However, I cannot understand—and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will throw some light on this figure—where the big discrepancy arises. I suspect that a large number of these calves at the age of 12 months are going to the slaughterhouses because farmers are not able to keep them through the winter.
In the 1930's the rearing farms of this country were not meeting the requirements of the dairy farmers or the beef farmers. The result was that we had to import cattle. Today the rearers are not meeting the demands of the dairymen and the beef men. Yet still there is this loss. It is useless to give a subsidy to increase the number of calves unless in some way we stop the wastage after they have reached the age of 12 months. When I come to examine the figures of the veal calves going into the market, I find that over the last four or five years the figures have remained steady. Therefore, I am at a greater loss to understand why there should have been this increase in the loss in the last year. It is not due to anything connected with the subsidy, for the subsidy has not yet had any effect upon the calves of from 12 months to two years old. I say that this is a serious thing and requires some examination by the Ministry.
The Minister asked us to give him some idea of what we thought would bring about an increase in the cattle stocks. Let me say this quite frankly. I think this question is one of the most difficult the Ministry has to face, for the Ministry is trying to impose upon the tremendous dairy stock, an additional beef stock for meeting some of the requirements of our people by increasing 429 the meat ration. It is a tremendous task; it is a very difficult task, because beef calves, dairy calves, pigs and poultry all make demands upon the same things—feedingstuffs. I say to the Minister that if he can give an increase of feedingstuffs for calves he will increase the calf population without any subsidy at all. The farmers are saying, "Give us feedingstuffs and we will rear the calves without the subsidy." I have heard that at meeting after meeting.
I think the Government should make a declaration to the farmers on this feedingstuffs issue. There is nothing more frustrating, there is nothing which more prevents farmers from getting on with the job, than the recognition that they cannot have the feedingstuffs. If the Government are unable to buy feedingstuffs abroad because of the financial position, let them come out openly and say so. Let them tell the farmer quite frankly that it cannot be done, and throw him upon his own resources. I think that then he would have an answer to the position. The Government have made a move in removing the subsidies from feedingstuffs. That will bring the farmer more and more to face the real position. I deprecate entirely the artificial position that is created by subsidies.
When we start to rear calves, we must have either milk or calf meal of some description. Without those two things, or one of those things, it is impossible for us to rear them. At the present moment, all feedingstuffs are cut off at six months. When the calf becomes six months old, it has to live on what the farmer can produce for it. That period is not long enough, especially on the marginal and hill farms, about which so many Members have spoken. We cannot rear calves in the best way on the hill and marginal farms when feedingstuffs are cut off at six months. We simply cannot do it. So I say that if we can have a little more meal—and the farmer has to watch this point very closely—we can rear more calves, and if we can have it for a little longer then more calves would be reared.
I fear the subsidy has the following result in many cases. The farmer has been rearing, say, ten calves a year. He receives a certain amount of feedingstuffs for the ten. A subsidy is offered of 430 £3 10s. per calf. He wants to obtain the subsidy, so he pushes in two or three more calves, and rears them upon what the ten should have. The result is that the 12 or 13 calves, at the end of six months, are not what they ought to be; they have been punished. I recently visited farm sales in the marginal areas of Lancashire and I say quite frankly that some of the calves I saw which had been punished in this way were a disgrace. I do not know whether the inspector, when he goes round, passes them or not, but he certainly ought not to do so. That is the danger of this subsidy.
I put another point to the Minister. although it is perhaps more a point for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the marginal and hill farms, the farmers require easier credit facilities; they require more credit from the banks than they are getting. The banks will grant credit to the big farmer, but when they are asked to grant credit to the hill farmers and marginal farmers they become a little sticky. The difficulty we have to face is that the calf subsidy is given and the calf is examined at nine months old it is three or four months before the subsidy is paid. The farmer has reared his calves before he gets the subsidy, which proves that he did not need the subsidy to rear them.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I ask my hon. Friend whether he would apply the same argument to an increase in the price of beef at the other end. Would be say that as a person does not get it until the animal is grown to full maturity and is killed he does not need a subsidy?
§ Mr. Kenyon
I am not saying anything of the sort. As I have already pointed out, seven or eight calves were reared without any subsidy at all. To push another one in proves that, when the farmer does not receive the subsidy for the whole of the eight until 12 months have passed, he does not need the subsidy for the one. The present prices of beef and milk are all the incentive the farmer requires, provided he can get the feedingstuffs to start off his calves and provided he can get better credit facilities. When the farmer goes out to set up a stock of calves, it is not the immediate need that he has to watch. He has to watch his winter fodder position for one or two years, and he requires something that will enable him to develop his land 431 so that he can produce that winter fodder, because it is upon the winter fodder that he decides the number of calves his farm is going to carry.
Tremendous subsidies are given—in the last economic Debate a fortnight ago, we were told that agriculture had to have pumped into it something like £450 million for the next four years in machinery, buildings, and so forth; but what we really need is more fertile land. If we can fertilise the marginal land and the hill land better, so that it will produce the winter fodder to keep the cattle over the winter, we shall increase the beef stocks and dairy stocks of this country. The Minister asked how can we increase the beef stocks? Let the Ministry of Agriculture purchase beef stock and loan it to the marginal and hill farms, and let the farmers repay when they sell the offspring of the cattle and repay the subsidy. They would do that, but they want help in the beginning. If the Minister loaned out to the farmers proper beef stock—Galloway, Hereford and Aberdeen Angus heifers, so that they could start a breeding herd for themselves, then we should develop the beef-breeding herds on the hills.
I have no evidence whatever that the calf subsidy will bring about the result which the Minister expects. I feel that it is a costly way of developing our beef stocks. Fertile land is the mainspring upon which all stock grows. Develop the land and the farmer will provide the stock. If the money which is given in subsidy were directed towards the fertility of the land and towards the development of the hill and marginal farms, we should produce what the Minister is trying to produce, a good beef stock and dairy stock, and both would contribute to the welfare of the people in food.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. York (Ripon)
The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) made a most interesting speech, although I think he rather overstated his case. He made one point which struck me forcibly, which was that the Ministry of Agriculture do not seem to have considered the scheme in relation to the correct set of statistics which are available. That is a habit of theirs. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. 432 Dugdale) mentioned that the relevant figures to consider concerned the crop between 4th September, 1948, and 4th December, 1948. The hon. Member for Chorley also said that the relevant figures to take were the one-year and two-year figures. The Minister of Agriculture in his recent statement made the same mistake about the figures because he took, for purposes of comparison, one 4th December return against the next year's 4th December return. He failed to appreciate that the fall which was taking place was between 4th September of last year and 4th December of last year.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I think the hon. Member is mistaken, and that it was his right hon. Friend the Member for Warrington and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who used those figures.
§ Mr. York
I was quoting from a statement in the "Farmer and Stockbreeder," made by the Minister of Agriculture within the last fortnight. I have not a copy of it with me. It made also a headline in all the papers: "Increase in pig population." Perhaps I had better not pursue that subject too far, Mr. Speaker, or I may be getting a little too far from the Bill. I want to impress upon the Ministry of Agriculture that they have to be far more careful which set of figures they use when they are discussing the merits or otherwise of any particular scheme.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Looking at the figures here, I do not quite follow the point which the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) is making. Both between September and September and December and December there was an increase upon the year's figures. In each case the later figures were bigger than the previous ones. In the light of this, I do not see the point about which set of figures one should take. Of course, one must compare like with like.
§ Mr. York
Perhaps I have misled the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I did not mention what I was talking about. I am talking about steers under one year old. The actual figures are: 4th September, 1948, 379,000; 4th December, 1948, 369,000. There has been a fall of steers under one year within that period of three months.
§ Mr. Brown
I wish to pursue this point, because I think that if we get to the bottom of it we shall find there is really not much in it. Am I not right in thinking that during that quarter of the year—any Scotsman can follow this point—there will be less calving in beef herds and much less retention of steers than in the earlier part of the year, when the price of milk is different and there is a much more natural time for the calving of beef herds? One does not need to stimulate them.
§ Mr. York
There was no need for that explanation on the part of the Minister. I am trying to impress on him that his policy is open to criticism on the statistics that are available. I have taken far longer on this point than I meant to. I would impress upon the hon. Gentleman the necessity of making certain that the subsidy is producing the results that he wants. I leave the matter like that, because there are other things that I want to say.
One of the points I want to take up is whether, in fact, the whole policy of the calf subsidy is right or wrong. The hon. Member for Chorley says that it is wrong but, like everybody else and like myself, he was unable to put forward a really constructive suggestion of what to put in its place. I do not like this subsidy suggestion. The policy that we all wish to pursue is to get more steer calves reared from one year, and then as stores. So long as we cannot find an alternative, I am prepared to support this policy. The criticism I make of the policy, destructive criticism I am afraid because again I have not got an alternative, is that I do not believe that it does the two things it was really intended to do. Also, I am sure that the marginal farmer is the man whom we are missing out in this Bill. I am convinced that the marginal farmer could do more than farmers in any other part of the country to increase our beef supply.
434 The other point is the controversy about the price of bullocks and heifers. I want to remind the Ministry of Agriculture that the matter is not quite so simple as has been represented by some hon. Members, and in particular by the hon. and gallant Member for King's Lynn (Major Wise). I forgot to declare that I am also a breeder of calves—but I think everybody knows it. One gets rid of one's calves. Mine being a dual-purpose breed, I naturally try to find somebody to take them on, including the Ministry of Agriculture or anybody else. It is obviously in the interest of the country that they should be reared. There are parts of the country which, before the war, used to fatten heifers because the land was said to be too rich for fattening bullocks. It is therefore essential that we should consider all the varieties and the differences that take place up and down the farming land of this country, before coming to any conclusion about the policy to be pursued. It is my opinion, for what it is worth, that the Ministry have more or less take a middle course. I am prepared to say that their balance of prices is correct.
I am most distressed to find another instance of the Ministry taking subsidies off feedingstuffs and putting them on in another form. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond dealt with that point fairly fully. To me it seems complete nonsense. I do not understand why one set of taxpayers should be subsidised, while another set is not to be subsidised. The individual farmer may not receive a subsidy, but the farmer who bands together with two or three others is to be subsidised. That is obviously most unfair discrimination between taxpayers. If the Ministry consider their policy to be right and proper, I should like to see them prepared to subsidise both the private farmer and the farmers who join together in a co-operative society.
I want to reinforce a point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond. Whenever a Government is not quite sure of the policy it is pursuing, it produces a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, and this is one of those cases. We have here a conglomeration of measures which makes it impossible for those who have to study agricultural legislation to follow all the ramifications 435 of the policy of the Ministry. We shall shortly need some consolidating legislation to put the assorted miscellaneous provisions into a permanent Act so that we can follow the law on the subject without spending undue time on it.
§ 7.1 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
Like the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York), I must declare my interest in the first three Clauses of the Bill. Unlike the hon. Member, I do not propose to enter into the realm of statistics because those of us who have some small knowledge of agriculture would do very much better to tell the House that which comes from our knowledge than to go into figures which may or may not be correct.
I recognise that my right hon. Friend has given very great consideration to the calf subsidy. Nevertheless, I am not altogether happy about it. A great deal has already been said against it. I must say that I believe it to be costly and difficult to administer and that it will lead to a good deal of wangling. I believe that the subsidy goes in part, but in part only, to people who should not get it, and that in part it also goes to certain farmers who do not really need it. In short, I believe that the calf subsidy does not achieve what my right hon. Friend desires. Reference has already been made to the cost of the subsidy, and the number of inspectors, and I do not propose to add anything further. Reference has been made to the way in which wangling can take place. I wonder if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can tell me how one of his inspectors will distinguish a calf which he inspects nine months after it is born and say whether or not it was born before or after 21st August, 1947. It cannot be done. Clearly a number of calves born before that date will get through, and it is a serious matter in view of the fact that the subsidy may run for only three years.
I believe that the subsidy is not going to the right people. I want to correct something said by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd). He complained that in certain instances the subsidy was going almost wholly to feeders. I do not believe that to be correct. I know a little about the suckled calf market in my own part of the country and on the 436 Border I am convinced the subsidy is reflected in the prices which are being paid for suckled calves. I want to be fair to the Minister, and therefore I make that point in his favour. On the other hand, it is undesirable that the subsidy should go to dairy farmers for their heifer calves because they do not really need it. Everyone will agree that if anybody goes in for farming and the land is suitable he generally goes in for dairy farming because it is the most profitable. We must however look a little deeper. It seems to me that the dairy farmers will be encouraged to rear second-rate calves and that ultimately we shall find that we are concentrating on quantity rather than on quality. My right hon. Friend certainly would not desire that. Therefore, either the subsidy should not go to the heifer calves at all or the standards applied by the Ministry's inspectors should be very much more stringent than they are today.
I do not like criticising anything in this House unless I am able to give an alternative. My right hon. Friend might ask what I suggest as an alternative in this case. I agree with what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House as to the extreme difficulty of providing an alternative policy. Nevertheless, I want in a humble way, to suggest a few considerations to my right hon. Friend. I think we should concentrate on obtaining more milk from the existing number of dairy cattle. We should also encourage marginal farms. We should encourage hill farms, particularly hill farms in Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the feedingstuffs shortage is the limiting factor at the moment. It is also true that a cow giving say 550 gallons of milk a year, which is, I believe, the national average, eats about the same as one giving 700 gallons.
In other words, if we are to have more dairy cows, as it appears we are, they will eat more feedingstuffs. But we want to conserve our feedingstuffs. Why not therefore aim at increasing the output per cow? I speak about this with some diffidence. I am not a dairy farmer, but I am told on all hands that milk recording is the way to achieve better results. I believe that in England and Wales only one herd in eight is at present recording its milk production. The Parliamentary Secretary 437 should consider this, and later perhaps some part of the subsidy might be devoted to providing a premium on milk coming from recorded herds in so far as those recorded herds are giving a minimum quantity of milk per year.
My next point relates to marginal farms. Officials are wonderfully ingenious people and they can generally produce a policy if they are given the broad lines on which to work. I should like to see the Minister set up a working party of his officials to work out a policy for the marginal farms.
I speak as a hill farmer, and now turn to our hill farms which produce hardy beef cattle. I am very sorry that no reference has yet been made to Scotland. I was glad to see the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross, Western (Mr. Snadden) here earlier and I hope that he will speak in order to reinforce what I say from the opposite side of the House and thus strengthen the plea for the hill farms, particularly in Scotland. Admittedly, the hill farmers receive a certain amount of assistance under the Hill Farming Act, but they can make a far greater contribution to the output of beef cattle than they do now.
At the outset we must understand the facts of the case and the problem facing us. The hill farms produce hardy beef cattle which are subsequently fattened up on low ground farms. In some cases, as in the Border where we have small hill farms compared with those in the highlands, we have to sell off our bull calves if we are breeding, as I am breeding, Black Galloways, because the heifers are the important animals. But many farmers, even in the Border, can keep their bull calves, and still more is this true in the great expanses of the highlands. Where highland cattle and the cross highland cattle are concerned, most of the bull calves will remain on the hills not merely for one year but for two years.
I want here to make a small interjection which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland might note, apropos the plan which has recently been put forward for producing better quality beef. We have no objection whatever to weight being the criterion, but some of us who take an interest in keeping these bullocks on the hills for two years, on land on which it is right and proper they should graze, object to the idea that the yardstick in 438 defining heavy cattle should be by means of looking at the number of teeth—the six teeth proposal, which the Minister will understand very well. Only recently I received a letter from a friend of mine who for years has been advocating keeping these cattle on the hills, drawing attention to the great danger that would arise if the six teeth project was put into effect.
I want to turn back to the question of breeding and keeping more cattle on the hills. We already receive a subsidy in Scotland in respect of genuine hill cows, the breeding cows, and I commend that fact to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I think we are far ahead of the English system which does not give the whole of the money to the hardy hill cow. I am convinced that it is right, at any rate in Scotland, and I believe it is well worthy of consideration in England. But supposing that subsidy were increased even by 50 per cent., the total outgoing of money would be very small indeed compared with the huge figures of which we have been talking this afternoon. A further incentive should be given to the highland farmer to keep cattle on the hills where cattle have never been before. During the last two years from time to time during the summer I have been making tours on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and have seen some of the hill farming schemes which are being considered. Invariably those schemes provide for an increase in the cattle. In many cases where cattle have been kept before, the increase is double or treble as a result of the schemes under the Hill Farming Act. But many parts of the country have never seen hill cattle. I do not want to be taken up wrongly; I do not mean to say that every hill farm in Scotland should carry cattle. I know only too well that they could not do so, but there are many farms which have not carried hill cattle in the past which, if they had a sufficient inducement, would keep them in the future, subject to one qualification.
As hon. Members will know, these hill farms produce abundant grass during the summer. There is far too much grass, and it needs to be grazed down. The more it can be grazed down, the better it is for the lambs. During the winter, of course, there is no grass. Therefore, these cows can only remain on the hills 439 for six to eight months of the year. These hardy highland and cross highland cows can be out-wintered. They do not need to go into a court of any kind. They can be out-wintered, provided they get a modicum of shelter and a modicum of straw on which to feed. Would it not be possible to work out some scheme which would enable these highland farms to receive adequate supplies of straw at a reasonable price? Wheat straw should be used for bedding and oat straw should be made available for feeding livestock. This is a big subject, and is not one which can be fully covered in the course of a few minutes' speech, but I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give serious consideration to providing feedingstuffs for the hardy hill cattle, because if he does so he will be able to multiply them on the hills to the great benefit of the country.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
I should also like to declare my interest at once, not only as a producer of calves and, I hope, a beneficiary under the subsidy system, but also as the owner of a fold of Highland cattle. I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot)—who, no doubt, for good reasons, left his native heath and went to Accrington—for a very valuable contribution to a most important part of the solution of the farming problem in Scotland, namely, putting cattle back on the hills where they rightly belong. If we could do that, we should almost do away with the bracken menace. That is a point which is often forgotten. Highland cattle thrive on young shoots of bracken. If they are eaten, they not only feed the cattle but the bracken is killed as well. The reason why bracken is so widespread over the hills of Scotland today is because there have not been any cattle there for several generations.
I would like to be assured on another point. Cattle-breeding in Scotland in the past has always been on a quality basis. Quality beef has been produced in Scotland, and it has been the highest quality in the United Kingdom and, in fact, in the world. It is essential to give encouragement to the farmers of Scotland to breed for quality. We want quantity cattle, but we must have quality 440 cattle as well. I am convinced that if the Minister will consider encouraging the breeding of quality cattle, the subsidy will be done away with automatically, because if a good price is given for quality beef, there will be all the encouragement necessary for the farmer to produce it. He would rather have reasonable remuneration for his efforts by way of price than this fancy subsidy idea.
I want to touch on this question of the subsidy because the figures which we have been given are a little disturbing. The Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland within the last week or two have given us figures relating to the results of the calf subsidy. We observe that the certifying officers engaged on this important work in Scotland number 34. In England they number 3,013. The figures of calves certified in Scotland are 100,000. The figures of calves certified in England are 351,000. That relates to a four months' period in England and a five months' period in Scotland. The Scotch certifying official deals with roughly just over 3,000 calves, and his English equivalent does somewhere over 120 calves. What is the reason for this enormous difference?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
In that case I hope the Minister will correct them, because I am quoting the figures from HANSARD. There may be a difference between the English and Scottish systems, but I cannot imagine that it can justify 100 times more officials in England than there are in Scotland. The administrative cost in England is £115,200; in Scotland it is £13,000. Therefore, if my figures are correct, the cost of certifying calves in Scotland works out roughly at 2s. 6d. a calf, and in England at something over 7s. a calf. I apologise; I am informed that it is 6s. 6d. It is a difference which ought not to exist. I say that, speaking with no prejudice either way. It is, after all, the taxpayers' money. While allowing for the greater efficiency of the officer in Scotland, I do not think there should be all that difference, and I hope that we shall have some comment on these figures when the Parliamentary Secretary replies.
441 Subsidies form a vast amount of the national bill today, and we must make sure that every penny spent is spent wisely and well. It looks as if the number of officers and the administrative costs in England are much too high. I hope that I am wrong, but on the face of it I do not think I am. I believe this to be a useful Bill, but I do not like the subsidy principle, and I hope that the practice of paying better prices for good quality produce will be reintroduced in its place. I am sure that then, as far as Scotland is concerned, we shall get results. The result we all want is more beef in this country: that is what we are after.
I wish to put in a plea for that greatest of all Scottish breeds, the Highlander. The three breeds which are at the moment at the top of the tree were mentioned by the Minister: the Aberdeen Angus, the Galloway and the Hereford—excellent beasts, all of them. But for hardiness—which, after all, is very important—the Highland cattle cannot be beaten.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I was just coming to that. There is not a better beef-producing beast than the cross-Highlander, whose hardiness is as great as that of its original Highland forbears. It is of the greatest importance to go in for hardiness, so that there will be no need to provide covered courts and buildings. Even in the terrible winter of two or three years ago my own Highland cattle never came in at all; they had no shelter of any sort or kind, yet four or five calves were bred in the middle of that winter, in the open, without any assistance at all. There were 40 degrees of frost when a neighbour of mine had a calf born on the hillside, where it lay for 48 hours before being rescued; its mother, who was badly damaged at the birth and was not expected to live, was as right as rain within a week. The Highlander is an invaluable breed which has been allowed to decline; that should never have been allowed to happen. The only reason I can think of is because it matures a year later than the other breeds. But the cross-breed matures more quickly and retains its hardiness. What more can anyone want. I trust that in the conversation now taking place on the Government Front Bench the 442 Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland is saying: "He is right. That is what we have got to do."
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South-Western)
The last time we discussed agriculture the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) followed me in the Debate, and I remember that he gave me a little advice. Today we are unanimous in our purpose: to produce a greater quantity of beef in this country. I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member that we can produce the best beef in the world. Too often consumers in our towns are under the impression that the best beef comes from Argentina. Their beef may be good, but the best beef is produced in this country—and not all in Scotland: a great deal comes from Norfolk and other parts of our island home. I doubt whether national boundaries count very much. Our forefathers, in all parts of these islands, did their very best to develop the breeds most suitable to their part of the land, and they did their job really well. It is for us to try to improve on what they did with the stock they left us.
We are unanimous in our desire for more home-produced beef, but very few hon. Members seem to approve of the system proposed in this Bill: namely, of subsidising calves. Now, I think that system is open to question. If our purpose is to increase the quantity as well as, in the long run, to improve the quality of our beef, I doubt whether the subsidy system will achieve that purpose. Most hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate seem to have been led up the wrong path: they have looked at the figures in the explanatory notes of the Bill and noticed a subsidy of £30 million for a period. I think that that is misleading. As I understand the position, when the Ministers responsible go into a huddle with the farmers' leaders every February to discuss prices for farm produce, they take into account the overall income of the farmers; that is, the prices received for milk and beef and the subsidy.
This—30 million is nothing extra. If it it were not paid out in this way, it would be paid out in higher prices for milk and beef. To say that £30 million is a large amount to pay in subsidy is, therefore, misleading; it has already been deducted 443 from what would otherwise be paid in the final price for beef. The question is whether this is the best method of getting a greater quantity of beef? I think not. If the object is more beef, we must pay for beef: and if the object is milk, we must pay for milk. If, therefore, we pay the present price plus a proportion of the £30 million for the finished article the amount of the finished article supplied will be increased. It is getting less at the moment. If an increased amount is paid for fat cattle or for milk, the values of the stock from calves to finished fat cattle or dairy cows will be affected, provided seasonal fluctuations of feedingstuffs are taken into consideration.
The bullock is an animal that moves about the country; very few farmers breed their own stock and fatten it right through for the butcher. Bullocks are reared in certain parts of the country, and then travel to be finished in others. The price of store cattle is determined by the number of farmers who go to buy and the amount of feedingstuffs they have on their farms. If there are plenty of feedingstuffs, the price of store cattle will be comparatively high because more farmers will be competing for them. If the Minister wants to assure satisfactory prices to cattle breeders and rearers, he must have satisfactory prices for the finished animal for slaughter and an adequate amount of feedingstuffs available to those who finish the rearing of the cattle.
We must consider whether the costs of administering this subsidy are of any advantage. The cost of the men going round to the farms four times a year examining calves, at great expense, is all added to the costs of production, and is borne by the Ministry. Cutting that out would mean a saving to the nation. By administering a subsidy like this there is an additional expense which has to be considered.
Another point to be borne in mind in considering this matter is that it cannot be treated as an isolated part of the Government's policy. It can only be weighed up wisely if it is related to the rest of the Government's policy with regard to cattle. A recent announcement has been made that prices in future will be altered so as to give a higher price 444 for smaller fat cattle. If then by the subsidy arrangement we increase the number of calves that are reared but, by the price system for the finished article, we encourage them to be slaughtered at an earlier age, we shall not have more beef. That is the Government's policy: to encourage the slaughtering of the cattle at an earlier age, a smaller weight, and a policy of rearing more calves.
The country could do that and have younger and more tender beef if it had the right kind of feedingstuffs with which to do it. We could say to the people, "You will have less beef but it will be better beef. You will not have more than 1s. a week ration, but it will be better and more tender beef and will not want so much cooking." We could say that if there were the right kind of feedingstuffs to rear the cattle to that stage, but to rear them fast and to finish them early, we want a greater quantity of proteins: whereas, for finishing off the bigger cattle, a rougher feed and more starch will do the trick. A slower rearing period will mean that they require less proteins.
So looking at the results and the aim of the Government, and at the amount and type of feedingstuffs available, I do not think that this system of subsidy plus the encouragement of killing off at an earlier age will bring to the people of this country more beef in 1949, 1950 or 1951. Therefore, I think the Government's policy is wrong. We ought to aim at having a greater quantity of home-produced beef.
There is another aspect of the policy which has caused concern in Norfolk and has found expression in our local Press. Not only are the Government encouraging the killing of younger fat cattle, they are discouraging the keeping of older cattle. In the past we have imported from Ireland quantities of store cattle reared on the grasslands of Ireland, which have come over to this country, put on two cwts., three cwts. or four cwts. in weight, and have then been slaughtered. There has been a big fall in the number of store cattle from Ireland and the Government's policy, as I see it, is to discourage that still further, for the best Irish store cattle are those of the larger weights. Therefore, not merely will there be the discrimination of 5s. a cwt. against the Irish cattle when they are ready for slaughter but, under 445 the new arrangement, if they are over 13¾ cwts., there will be a further 5s. new discrimination against them. If they reach 16 cwt., then the total discrimination against the Irish-bred cattle is 15s. per live cwt. At the same time we are giving this advantage to the home rearer of £4 for each calf that he rears.
So I do not approve of this scheme. It is wrongly conceived and will not have the results which this country desires, namely, more beef. We are not looking for a short-term policy. The Argentine is one of the chief sources from which we have imported beef in the past. In the future that source will dry up for, as their population increases and the standard of living of that country rises, they will consume more at home. Therefore, we shall lose Argentine beef, whether we like it or not. So we should ignore national boundaries and local differences and try to mould our policy so as to encourage each part of these islands to do their best—Ireland, the hill farms and the fattening areas of England and Scotland. In that respect, it is of the utmost importance that the Minister should reconsider his policy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) said that in order that Scotland should be able to keep more beef cattle on her hills, she would require fodder for the winter—oat straw or barley straw. In another part of this Bill there is a subsidy for grass-drying plants. As hon. Members know, grass-drying takes place during the spring and summer and can go on well into the autumn. In recent years, however, there has been a great surplus of straw over a large part of England. That can be put through the same dryers so as to extract all its moisture, then through the hammer mills and made into meal and then, if necessary, pounded together into pellets and transported to different parts of the country comparatively easily to become a feedingstuff then. I will not say that it cannot be improved by admixtures, but I do say that the straw through the dryer can be transported cheaply to other parts of the country for consumption there, and that would be a help.
The hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) mentioned new and better grass dryers and named one imported 446 from America, of which I have some knowledge—the Heil dryer—which is far superior to any other used in this country or in Europe. Drawing on their greater experience in drying crops over the past 20 years, together with their ability to manufacture implements for agriculture, the Americans have produced the very thing we want. My right hon. Friend gave permission for a constituent of mine to import one of these models from America last year. It has been in operation for the last four months and the meal which it has produced is of far higher quality than that obtained from the ordinary dryer. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will endeavour to import from America more of these valuable machines, and thus increase the output of the high protein content food to enable the farmers to feed more stock.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The Minister of Agriculture has had a very bad day. The most scathing criticism came, rather unfairly, I thought, from the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye), who is, I understand, the chairman of the Socialist Party Agricultural Committee. Quite clearly some of the calf subsidy is not going where we would wish it to go, but I have not yet heard any solution put forward from either side of the House that would make for a better method of getting the money to the store raisers of the country. The solution of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) was to have a working party of officials. I have a great admiration for the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, who are working very hard, and I do not think the formation of a working party of officials would be likely to help in any way.
I suggested setting up a working party of officials to work out a complete policy for increasing the production of marginal land.
§ Mr. Turton
I should have thought that that matter would have been drawn to their attention earlier. When the Minister introduced the Hill Farming Bill—the chief object of which, to judge from his speech today, was to help the hon. Member for Accrington—he told us he wanted more help for hill farming in Scotland. We on this side said that the problem of marginal production must be tackled and we spent all our time during 447 the Committee stage in trying to get the Hill Farming Act extended to cover marginal land. That is the way the problem should be tackled. Just as the hill cattle subsidy covers cattle on the hills, so ought we to limit our subsidy here to cattle on marginal lands.
The reason why I disagree with the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk when he says that the right way is to regard the subsidy as part of the global sum and to add it on to the price of beef, is that if we want to change over the men on the hills from producing milk under unsatisfactory conditions to producing store cattle, the putting up of the price of beef, which would go to the finishers of the cattle, would not have any early effect in bringing about that change. The Minister went too far by using the words "any effect." It will have a certain, but a retarding, effect. I ask the Minister to see whether he can tie up this subsidy more with the question of the marginal farms.
I have one request to make to the right hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor told us a few nights ago that the Government were going to extend the provisions with regard to marginal production. It is very important that marginal farmers should know what the Government are doing, and intend to do, to help them. I do not believe that a single Member in this House, with the exception of the Minister, could tell me, if I were to ask, under what Measure the present marginal production grants are paid. That provision, I believe, is to be found in Section 25 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). The time has come when all farmers should know about that marginal production grant, in which Scotland has a tremendous advantage.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware that whatever benefits or advantages are available to Scotland under the marginal land scheme are available also to England and Wales. I made an announcement to that effect several days ago.
§ Mr. Turton
That is my point. Although those benefits are available, England has not taken advantage of 448 them because no publicity has been given to the marginal land schemes. I beg the Minister to include these marginal land provisions in the form of a Clause to the Bill. There can be harm in including them in a Measure which deals chiefly with marginal land, so that all farmers may know how they can obtain benefit and improve their land.
I want to underline the question of administrative cost, which was referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will explain not only the disparity between England and Scotland in the cost of administration—the far greater expense of administration in England than in Scotland is truly alarming—but will explain also why in England the cost of administration works out at 6s. 6d. per head of animals examined when the certifying officer should receive only 3s. 6d. per head.
That comparison is very curious. Presumably it can only mean either that there are some tremendous expenses apart from those of the certifying officers, or that each calf is examined on an average nearly twice before it is passed for subsidy. But that, of course, is very unlikely. Normally, good calves can be easily distinguished and very few farmers of my knowledge have had calves rejected for subsidy. If the animals are in good stock they usually receive a subsidy.
I ask the Minister to look into the whole question of administration on the lines very clearly put forward by my hon and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale). The present methods seem to be a very wasteful way of administering the subsidy. The subsidy is, I believe, the best means we can at present devise to help the marginal farmer. It is a matter of great urgency that we should get more meat produced in this country, especially when the carcase ration is down to 10d. and may well be down, in a fortnight, to 8d. For that reason I hope that members of the Socialist Party will not destroy their Minister when he is trying to help them to get more meat than we are likely to get from the Minister of Food.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
No one can doubt that there is a great and urgent 449 need for a very large increase in the livestock of the country, especially beef animals, but many of us doubt whether the proposals contained in the Bill are the right methods for producing the desired result. Many farmers have throughout their farming career reared calves as a normal part of their farming practice. Therefore, to give these people a subsidy will be to make them what is really a gift.
In introducing the Bill the Minister said he would welcome any constructive suggestions to help achieve the results which, I think, the whole House desires. I have two suggestions which I offer to him. I sometimes wonder whether good results might be produced by the promulgation of an order prohibiting the slaughter of calves which were certified as fit to be reared. My other suggestion is whether, if no other method than the present very doubtful one can be devised, plans could be based upon the increased number of calves which had been raised over the last three years, taking the average of each.
One or two speakers opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), spoke about the need for altering the price structure. I do not think there is any need for altering the price structure. I feel that present prices for milk and beef are in themselves, and ought to be, sufficient incentive for the production of milk and beef. That is confirmed by the opinion given to me by one of the largest farmers in the West of England. When the prices were announced after the consultation of last February, I asked him his opinion and he told me quite frankly that in his opinion they were over-generous. He is a practical farmer of very great experience and if I gave his name to the hon. Member for Newbury the hon. Member would recognise him as a great authority and not doubt his opinion. If that is the case, what is the need for this continual talk about increasing prices? I have yet to learn of any farmers who know anything about the business who are not making a good living out of it.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Would the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) put a little greater emphasis upon quality?
§ Mr. Boothby
A higher price for quality is the only alteration which I want to see in the price structure. I do not want even a global increase in the total, but I want greater emphasis put on quality.
§ Mr. Alpass
I think there is sufficient already to induce farmers to produce the best quality in all stages of food production. In Clause 4 there is the proposal to increase and develop artificial insemination centres. Fairly recently a centre was established in the South-West of England and many of my farming friends tell me that already it has produced very large and beneficial results. The quality of the stock has been improved and we are gradually—in some cases rapidly—getting rid of what was regarded as a very serious evil, the old scrub bull. I hope that as a result of this proposal in the Bill to increase the centres that obnoxious animal will be entirely eliminated from the herds of the country. May I utter a word of criticism in connection with the proposal. I am opposed on principle to giving public money to individuals, whether it is for industry, farming, or anything else. I think it is a wrong principle and we would much rather that the Minister stipulated that instead of any money being given by way of grant, it should all be by way of loan. Perhaps this could be effected in Committee. The State would then have some assets in the money invested in these schemes.
I think one of the earliest of the grass-drying schemes was started in my constituency. I had the pleasure of visiting it a few months ago and went very carefully into the question of whether it was appreciated. Those in charge told me that there is a growing appreciation on the part of the farmers in my Division and within a fair radius of the centre. This could be one of the means of materially contributing to supplying what is lacking in the matter of imported feedingstuffs.
When I was connected with the war agricultural committee of my county at the beginning of the war, farmers were urged to plough up land. Dairy farmers were told that they had to plough up their land and grow cereals. Some of them had never done that; they were what we call in the West of England "cow grazers" and they bought feedingstuffs and milked cows, 451 but did nothing else. I do not call that farming. They said, "If we have to plough up land we shall have to reduce our herds." But I know some farmers who ploughed up a large proportion of their farms but did not reduce their herds. They increased them and increased their milk production. They did not buy a single ounce of feedingstuffs since the order to plough was given them. I do not say that that can be done generally, but it shows what can be done by determination, energy and the application of science to the work of food production. I hope these schemes will be increased, and whether it is by means of the system employed in my Division, or that which we have seen in Essex, where they were grinding the grass into meal, I think they will supply a great want.
The part of the Bill I welcome most heartily is Clause 7. It is suggested, and I think it true, that in the past local authorities have been very loath to put into operation their powers to prohibit the sale of infected milk or milk suspected of infection, because they feared they would have to pay a very large sum in compensation if the milk, on examination and analysis, was found not to be infected. When the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, that fear will be removed and I hope that the Minister of Health will see to it that authorities put this provision into operation, so that there may be no fear of infected milk being sold and so that herds can be cleaned up and people who drink this very necessary food can be sure that they are drinking an article of real quality and purity. I hope I shall have the pleasure of serving on the Committee upstairs which considers the Bill. I am sure the Minister will be pleased carefully to consider any constructive suggestions for producing the result we all desire.
§ 7.57 p.m.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
At least the right hon. Gentleman will not be disappointed at the response to his invitation to hon. Members to offer suggestions about how the Bill might be improved. There have been many suggestions from both sides of the House and there has been unanimity that the first part of the Bill is worthy of considerable improvement.
452 I wish to reinforce the plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for King's Lynn (Major Wise) that Clause 9 should be re-drafted and all doubt about it cleared up. The hon. and gallant Member has had wide experience of agricultural valuations, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind and give due weight to the hon. and gallant Member's criticisms. Half-way down the first Subsection of that Clause there is a retroactive sentence. I would not like the right hon. Gentleman to think that in my view he should not be entitled to the same tenant right claim as any other tenant, but I have never heard anyone disputing the Minister's right when any of these claims have been settled, and I wonder whether he is not opening the door to a great deal of administrative difficulty and not in the end recovering very much due to him. It is a small point, and I should think the sentence would be better left out.
In regard to the more important part of the Bill, I think the Minister should be congratulated on his modesty. When we have discussed earlier agricultural Bills he has always made very wide claims and spoken of agricultural charters, and so on. But to this Measure he gives only the modest title of "Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill." Then in the first three Clauses we find that we are being asked to consider the expenditure of something like £30 million. Even in these days of extravagant expenditure, I should hardly have thought that £30 million could fairly be described as a "miscellaneous provision." At least we agree on the main problem we are trying to solve, and there is, I think, a fair measure of agreement that the right hon. Gentleman's way of solving it is not the best way.
I do not want to harp on the conditions in my own part of England but it happens that I live where there is a great deal of what has been described as marginal land. I reinforce the plea that such aid as we are considering should be linked with the problem of marginal land, but what is and what is not marginal land is extremely difficult to define. In order to make it clear how recent changes in farming practice have affected one district, perhaps I may be allowed to give the following figures for one part of my home county of Cumberland. I have worked out that about 20 years ago 453 at least four-fifths of the farmers laid the emphasis on cattle rearing, when the dual-purpose shorthorn with both beef and milk characteristics was the typical beast of that area.
At present only one-fifth of the farmers remain in that branch of farming, and instead of there being one-fifth engaged in milk production and four-fifths in cattle rearing the position is exactly the reverse—four-fifths are engaged in milk production and one-fifth mainly in rearing. That has meant a large outlay of capital in improved buildings. There is still pressure from part of this remaining fifth to carry out the same conversion. I am doubtful whether the necessary expenditure on buildings to enable them to achieve that conversion satisfactorily is really wise at present, bearing in mind how remote some of these farms are.
When I read the first Clause of the Bill I asked myself, "Will this Bill stop a single one of that one-fifth of farmers who are thinking of turning from cattle rearing to milk production to change their minds and remain engaged in cattle rearing?" I doubt it. This subsidy is extraordinarily generous but I do not think that it will have that effect. Nor is it on these same farms where assistance is justified that we shall find the bulk of the extra calves which we hope may now be saved from early slaughter. One hon. Member put that number at a quarter of a million. That is putting it very low; I hope it will be more than that, but it cannot possibly be more than one in five of the calves born.
There is always a considerable danger in a policy by subsidy. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had given us a little more indication of what is to happen when the subsidy runs out. As I see it, there are three possibilities. The Minister can come to the House and ask us to authorise a further subsidy. He can hope by then to have so arranged beef prices that the subsidy can be allowed to fade away without a jolt. And the third possibility is that he can do nothing and just let the situation rip, in which case the last state may be worse than the first. We must be told a little more about what is in the Minister's mind. The end is only two and a half years ahead.
It is interesting—and I yielded to the temptation—to read the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman during the 454 Second Reading of the Wheat Act 16 years ago. There are 10 columns in HANSARD of righteous indignation about what he considered to be a policy of continuous and unplanned subsidies. He mentioned the £10 million relief from rates which had been given to agricultural land; he attacked the duties on certain dairy products. Then there was this mystic figure of £30 million for sugar beet, the total estimated cost of the subsidies under this Bill.
§ Mr. T. Williams
The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that when I made a speech of that kind it was not to prevent the agricultural industry from being helped. It was because the then Government had no policy for agriculture and all their alleged policies of bits and pieces led nowhere. I think that my general conclusion in those 10 columns of HANSARD would be along those lines.
I differ from the right hon. Gentleman's conclusion, as I expect hon. Members do. In my last sentence, I was asking the right hon. Gentleman where this subsidy is leading. He suggests that we should authorise the expenditure of about £30 million, yet he has not given us any indication of what is to happen after Michaelmas, 1951. In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I was referring, he argued, too, that the expenditure of money on the wheat subsidy would not add materially to the acreage under wheat. A similar objection has been put forward by many Members in this Debate that the substantial outlay proposed in the Bill by way of subsidy will not add materially to the number of calves reared in this country. Admittedly it is a long time since the right hon. Gentleman made that speech. Now the boot is on the other foot, and the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman seems to have changed a great deal.
When we enter into the world of subsidies the whole position always becomes illogical. Many Members on both sides of the House have criticised the amount of this subsidy. It seems large, but when looked at in another way it is only three times the cost of one subsidised aeroplane which we are building somewhere in this country. Comparing one industry with another, it is extremely difficult to say whether any sum is too large or too small to achieve its object. That is the difficulty.
455 The right hon. Gentleman described the 1932 Wheat Act as a most unscientific Measure. He said things much worse than that, and went into the Lobby against it. I do not think that hon. Members will go into the Lobby against the Second Reading of this Bill tonight, but I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will feel that we have a big task in Committee in improving the first part of the Bill before we get it into the really workable shape in which it should be offered to the farming industry and to the country as a whole.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
A considerable conflict has been running through this Debate on the matter of subsidies. Also, what has been lacking has been any connection, or any direct connection, with the policy for the expansion of agriculture up to 1952. However effective these subsidies may be in encouraging farmers to rear more calves, I do not believe that that policy will make any sense unless the cropping programmes of wheat and mixed corn, of oats and of barley are also settled at the same time.
The right hon. Gentleman said in his opening speech that he would welcome any suggestions as to how we could encourage the livestock programme by means other than those he was suggesting. When I listened to the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) earlier in the Debate, I could not help feeling that this Bill, so far at least as subsidies are concerned, is in the nature, if not of panic legislation, of piecemeal legislation, and is not part of a co-ordinated plan. I believe that the Minister is expecting farmers to grow more wheat by 1952–53 than they will in fact grow. I believe that all the farmers will want to grow far more feedingstuffs.
I have a suggestion to make to the Minister. The people he really ought to help by this Bill are the smaller farmers, particularly the dairy farmers. Even where small dairy farms are being run as they should be, I feel that there is nevertheless some restriction in operation owing to the calls which agricultural executive committees make on farmers to play their part in meeting the wheat, sugar beet and potato targets for the area. I believe that the Minister will 456 be well advised to tell agricultural executive committees that they must not expect any support for those wheat growing, sugar beet and potato programmes from small dairy farmers—those with, say, up to a hundred acres. I believe that if he did that, he would free an enormous number of dairy farmers who are producing good stock to grow their own feedingstuffs as they thought best. In doing so he would be reducing the demand those farmers would make on imported feedingstuffs, which would then be available for those ready to produce beef.
I ask him to consider that question, because I believe that, although there are no actual directions, at the same time small dairy farmers feel that they ought to try to support their local district which has been asked to produce a certain acreage of wheat, or whatever it is. They feel a certain sense of duty about it. They feel it is wrong that their next-door neighbour should be doing it and that they should not. It is a burden which is being put upon them through their own public spiritedness and the reluctance of the Minister to give them a lead.
I cannot help feeling that we are planning to put agriculture into a kind of Ministerial corset. Contrary to other kinds of corsets, this is not a two-way stretch corset, but a three-way stretch. The three-way stretch is first the Chancellor of the Exchequer, second, the Minister of Food, and third, the Minister of Agriculture himself. We should realise that until there is a co-ordinated policy between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture we shall never get our agricultural programme on a sound footing. At the present time we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying things about subsidies which, by producing this Bill, the Minister of Agriculture is contradicting. At the same time, we know that the Minister of Food has blundered abominably badly on the matter of imported feedingstuffs for livestock and that he was working on a completely false calculation which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) exposed in July of last year.
All of us on this side of the House sympathise with the Minister of Agriculture. We realise how difficult is his task 457 and how very often his hand is forced. The whole farming community realise that. But there ought to be a representative of the Ministry of Food sitting on the Front Bench throughout this Debate, because the Ministry of Food is closely wrapped up in this matter and they have done a great deal of harm to the fulfilment of our agricultural programme.
The Minister made some remarks earlier about dried grass and advised farmers to get in touch with the National Advisory Service. I am all in favour of the Minister and the National Advisory Service working along the same lines, but I know from personal experience that the Minister and the Service do not see eye to eye in every way on the matter of dried grass. When it is good, dried grass has an excellent protein content, but if it is not cut at the right moment the protein content may not be as good as hay cut from the same field. If the Minister will take the trouble to inquire from all the branches of the National Advisory Service he will find that there are some people in the Service who are definitely opposed to grass drying. Therefore, I hope that before farmers do appeal to the National Advisory Service for guidance on the implementation of this Bill, the Minister will make sure that the Service and the Government speak with one voice in the matter. I consider that the Minister is making a great mistake in encouraging grass drying more than silage.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think that he is. By giving financial aid in this way in the form of a subsidy he is obviously giving more encouragement to grass drying. I consider that he would be well advised to put the two on a par financially. I am more in agreement with what the hon. Member for Chorley said about subsidies than I believe is the Minister himself. I believe that subsidies should not go on in this way. Certainly we ought to work as fast as we can to try to obviate the need for them. Being myself a dairy farmer in a very small way, I believe that the dairy farmer could quite well forgo the subsidy on his heifer calves. I agree with what the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) said earlier this afternoon. It is in the milk price and 458 in the feedingstuffs and the beef price that we shall rectify the situation which the Minister is attempting to rectify by this Bill.
I wish to say a word about smallholdings. I did raise the matter with the right hon. Gentleman in the Christmas Adjournment Debate in 1945, and he was able to give a small resettlement grant to former smallholders. I am a little worried by this Bill and what is stated in Clause 10. If we are not careful we shall find great restrictions placed on individual smallholders who may not agree with the idea of collective marketing. The Fenman is an extremely independent-minded person, and if we try to bully him into doing this that and the other, he will not do it, even though his judgment tells him he would not suffer by doing it. I hope that the Minister will not make it impossible for an individual who does not approve of the idea of co-operative marketing, to farm in the area where he has farmed happily in a smallholding, but I rather suspect that that will happen under Clause 10. There is a danger that the county councils will be forced to apply centralised services schemes, perhaps against their better judgment. I hope that the Minister will keep the matter as local as possible and not override good local knowledge.
There is one other point to which I wish to refer. It is not included in this Bill but it is a matter which the Minister could very well have dealt with in this Bill. He has not attempted to deal with it, perhaps, because he felt that the Central Advisory Water Committee will deal with it soon enough. In the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1943, the Minister's predecessor did make it possible for the Minister, on the advice of the then war agricultural executive committees, to certify:that the annual value of the hereditament has, since the last determination of the … gross annual value, increased …for various reasons, mainly drainage reasons—if there had been drainage works carried out or roads and ways or works of reclaimation executed by the committee—then the Minister could, on the recommendation of the committee, or their advice, authorise the drainage authorities to levy—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I quite appreciate that, but this Bill in its long title has nothing which forbids drainage being put into it. The long title states:To amend the law relating to agriculture, including certain enactments relating to milk and dairies.There is no reason why the Minister should not include land drainage. It was included in the Act of 1943, why not in this one? Perhaps the point would be better dealt with in Committee. I want the Minister to have plenty of warning. I suggest that he should take Section 8 of the 1943 Act one stage further and make it possible for the drainage authorities to assess the gross annual value not on a Schedule A assessment but on a Schedule D assessment in exactly the same way as was laid down in that Section, except that he should not include the provisions (a), (b) and (c) of that Act. I hope he will look into that matter. There are many anomalies owing to the gross annual value being assessed under Schedule A. If he would give drainage authorities this power and still retain the proviso which gave the people affected the right of appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction, then I believe that he would cut out many inequalities and injustices which exist today in drainage rating.
The Bill has had a rather lukewarm reception. It is absolutely imperative that we should increase our meat production at home. I do not believe that this Measure is quite the best way of doing that. The Minister would be very much better advised to allow far more farmers to grow their own feedingstuffs just as they see fit for their own herds. By so doing he would largely obviate the need for importing feedingstuffs. On that point perhaps he would meet with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is so anxious to save dollars. I hope that there will be rather more co-ordination between the Treasury, the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture than has been seen up to now. Until there is, none of the present programme makes any sense at all.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
At this time of night I do not propose to speak for very long. We have heard this small Bill discussed most thoroughly from various points of view. I will merely touch on two or three aspects. I suppose that I ought to declare my interest in farming. As a matter of fact, entirely due to oversight, I have never done that before in this House. I happen to be interested in dairy farming in Cheshire, to such an extent that I had the highest milk records both last year and the year before. Dried grass can be a tremendous help to farmers. Its use and production can and should, be developed as the Minister suggests in this Measure. The amount of grass which has been wasted in the past is simply appalling. But good as dried grass is, there are other methods of preserving grass in the form of hay in some districts, and silage in particular. I have tried silage for some three or four years and I have made it in increasing quantities each year. I believe that especially in a rainy district such as the North-West of England hay is not a good proposition. There one can only make good hay perhaps once in three years and even then only part of the crop may be utilised. That is not quite good enough. In making silage one is largely independent of the weather, and one can make it at a fairly low cost, provided one has the necessary machinery. Then one is absolutely certain of having pretty good winter feed for the dairy cattle or young stock.
However, it is difficult for a number of farmers to make silage. They may not have sufficient experience to do it themselves, although the custom has increased fairly rapidly during the last few years. I am thinking especially of the smaller hill farmers and marginal land farmers. In most cases they have neither the experience nor the equipment. At least one needs a tractor, and a buck rake, or a loader and a mowing machine to do the job in any way economically. I assure the House that silage can be made most economically if one has the proper tackle, but I think that there is nothing so expensive to make if one has not the right equipment. In that case the cost is appalling. For that reason, I should like to see silage-making mentioned in the Bill. There appears to be nothing which prevents silage being made and subsidised under this Measure, but it is 461 not specifically mentioned. I hope that at a later stage the Minister will show his good intentions in regard to silage by definitely mentioning it in the Bill, so that its production can be encouraged, by subsidising the making of silos or encouraging the provision of machinery for working groups of farms where it is uneconomic to have machinery for each farm.
There are various ways with which the Minister is familiar in which silage-making can be helped. This would be a great help to the marginal hill farmer. Another way of encouraging the rearing of calves has not been mentioned so far. It is by providing the farmer with a rather more liberal supply of feeding coupons for the calves and for the milk which they consume. I have no doubt that everyone knows that some calves are reared entirely on milk until they are, say, three or four months old. Others have milk for the first month or three weeks and then they are put on a milk substitute. The farmer who feeds milk to his calves gets no allowance in the equivalent coupons in order to get milk for them. Probably it is well known that the only way in which a dairy farmer can get coupons for feeding his dairy cows is by submitting his milk invoice showing the quantity of milk sold during the previous month. He gets full coupons based on that quantity and he uses them for the next month. But a farmer gets no allowance whatever for milk used on rearing calves. The farmer with a flying herd who probably never has a dry cow on his farm—the man who always gets rid of them as they go dry—can produce far more milk than the farmer who has a self-contained farm and does his own rearing.
Since the coupon system for feed began the man who has reared his own heifer calves has been severely penalised. I hope that it is not too late for the Minister to look into this problem and to consider whether he can help in some way. At the beginning of his speech today the Minister seemed very happy about the increased production of food in this country. I do not share his optimism. I feel that very much more could be done to increase production. That is a very large subject and I do not propose to go further into it now except to say that probably the greatest possibility for 462 increasing production is in the improvement of marginal land.
I refer to land of from 800 to 1,100 feet above sea level not only in Scotland, but in a great many parts of England and Wales. There are various reasons why production on those farms has diminished during the last 20 years. But, if the Minister is really anxious to increase production, I feel sure that the increase can come more easily from those areas than from any other. It is astonishing how, in some cases, increased quantities of good quality grass can be produced by direct re-seeding. I would urge the Minister to look in that direction because I am absolutely certain that the larger number of cattle which he wants, and which we all admit the country wants, can come from those higher areas which are not entirely suitable for milk production. I wish the Minister luck with this Bill, and hope that by the time it reaches the Committee stage, he will see fit to improve it a little more.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
This has been a most useful Debate and one of the best to which I have listened for some years because hon. Members on both sides of the House have not only been critical but have put forward constructive suggestions. I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you wish that more Debates were on the same level.
I am going to add my expressions of worry about the £30 million which it is proposed to use in connection with the calf-rearing subsidy. I do not propose to weary the House with the arguments which have been threshed out this afternoon about the amount of the administrative expenses, that heifer calves will be reared anyhow and that shorthorn bulls probably will be reared anyhow. I would like to add one more argument, and that is that Channel Island calves are just not worth rearing. The fact remains that for every calf which people are encouraged to rear, we have to pay the subsidy for four or even five other calves which would in any case have been reared.
It is up to us to put some better scheme before the Minister. I suggest that free meal might be given for the rearing of calves. I do not know whether the Minister thinks he could adopt 463 this suggestion. Others suggest that the price of beef might be increased, but I know the difficulties there. Another possible scheme would be to pay £10, or even £12, for every calf reared in excess of the number reared the year before. But then the previous year's figures will not be readily available. I see difficulty in that.
But there is one thing that the Minister could do; he could cut out the subsidy on heifer calves. That suggestion has been made from both sides of the House, and I was glad to see that the Minister came here today with an open mind ready to listen to any suggestion. I hope he will consider either very materially reducing the heifer calf subsidy or cutting it out altogether. I was going to suggest that as this is a very large subsidy, the Minister should, unless he can find something better, give it a trial, but if he finds that it is not having the desired effect he should have the courage to stop it as soon as ever he can. I am amazed to find the reaction against this subsidy. I believe that, before we come to the Committee stage, the Minister will have to give serious consideration to this matter.
I should like the Minister to tell me why he proposes to encourage the rearing of more calves without giving farmers more feedingstuffs. It has been said time and again this afternoon that the crux of the whole agricultural situation is a shortage of feedingstuffs. I have said on the Floor of this House that I know it would be an economic proposition to spend dollars on buying feedingstuffs. We spend dollars on buying raw material for every other industry, but we do not spend them on buying feedingstuffs. It is like saying that we cannot afford to buy our seed oats which are going to bring in a harvest later on because we cannot afford to pay for them in dollars. I am quite certain that if we spent a small amount on feedingstuffs, especially protein feedingstuffs of which we are short, we should be amply repaid. I cannot see why the Minister does not realise that it is a business and economic proposition, and why he does not approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer about it I do not know.
There is one other thing I wish to add which has not been mentioned so far 464 in this Debate, and that is that if money is spent on these feedingstuffs we should get a great manurial value from them. It is very important that we should get the humus and fertility which is so important for the soil. Every other country is buying feedingstuffs. I believe that France spent £24 million in one year, and little Denmark as much as £18 million. I think that is the most important single stimulant for the agricultural industry at the present time.
Clause 8, which deals with training schemes, is an admirable Clause, but I should like to add to what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) said about the uselessness of training farmers, smallholders or workers on the land, unless there are cottages for them. We have been promised a Bill to recondition, renovate, and add to the present cottages, but it has not come along; we are still asking and waiting for it. I believe that the money spent on training will be so much money wasted unless we have the houses.
As regards Clause 10, which deals with smallholdings, I hoped that as the Minister proposes to spend so much money in other directions, he would have righted a wrong which occurred in the 1947 Agriculture Bill under which he was able to give loans to councils in order to help smallholders, but in which he did not give the same facilities to landlords. We always thought that was unfair. This Bill would have been a good opportunity for putting that matter right. I hope that when we come to the Committee stage the Minister will not only do that, but will also consider using a little more money by way of compensation for farmers who have been disturbed through opencast coalmining. Coalmining is very important but some farmers are being turned out without compensation for the loss of pedigree herds, machinery, goodwill or even for the houses which they have had to leave because they are no longer of use to them.
I, personally, give this Bill my blessing because I cannot at the moment think of anything that is better. But I think we are all, on both sides of the House, going to think again, because we are very worried about the vast sum of money which it is proposed to spend. especially on the calf subsidy, and I hope that with- 465 in the next few weeks some of us will be successful.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Lavers (Barnard Castle)
I wish to say a word or two in support of the Bill. Although its title may appear to be very minute, I think we are all agreed about its importance. The Bill has received a good reception from hon. Members in all parts of the House, but what is more important, it must receive the warm approval of all members of the farming community. As the Minister stated in his opening speech, the different items of expenditure are, of course, inspired by proposals which seek, in the main, to implement the important policy announced by the Government in 1947. Any Measure which seeks effectively and speedily to achieve increased production should have our generous support. That is even more the case when we realise that the agricultural industry has an important part to play in the task which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has of solving our balance of payments problem and in his constant desire to save valuable dollar currency.
It is recognised that increased agricultural production is essential to the national recovery and revival, and I would suggest that increased agricultural production means increased agricultural efficiency. I claim that the two are inseparable. Thus any action on the part of the House to grant finance to assist the industry will be welcomed. As we all know, that is the primary purpose of this Bill. The miscellaneous provisions in the Bill cover a very wide range of agricultural activity, including calf subsidy schemes, artificial insemination services, grass conservation, agricultural training and smallholdings, and we even notice our old friend the Colorado beetle, which is brought to our notice in Clause 11.
I should like briefly to stress two of the items to which I have referred. First, there is the calf subsidy scheme in which the Government are assuming that the subsidies will be approximately £30 million. This is quite a considerable amount of money and in my part of the country, the North-East, I have heard people, who evidently are unacquainted with the needs of farming and who are dealing with other kinds of industry in the national recovery, argue, rightly or wrongly, that the present Government are far too 466 generous to the farming community, especially where subsidies are concerned. But if we are to save these costly dollar imports and to achieve our economic independence, we must stimulate home meat production. At the same time, of course, we should go a long way towards building up our herds. This objective is also assisted by Clauses 4 and 5 which seek to extend artificial insemination services and which also deal with grass conservation schemes. I suggest that this is certainly an indication to the farming community that the Government have a definite faith in this industry. For instance, Clause 5 authorises financial assistance by way of grants and loans amounting to £1,500,000. Again, that is a very important item in view of the difficulties of obtaining feedingstuff supplies from the world markets. We should build up our home resources in this respect, and I suggest that Clause 5 of this very modest Bill seeks to do that.
I want to ask one or two important questions which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will answer. First, how is this assistance to be given? Will it be given direct to individual farmers? Will farmers who are anxious to buy suitable grass-dryers be given financial assistance? How will it be decided; will it be decided on the basis of a loan or as a direct grant? Will there be a financial limit or will it depend on the price of equipment bought on a given percentage? Two other points: who will give the financial assistance; will the county committees be the agents of the Government in this respect? I want to ask the Minister himself to go in for communal grass-dryers. If he does, will they be run by the county committees, by farmers themselves, through farmer co-operative producer schemes?
I should be grateful to the Minister if he would enlighten me on these matters, because I know farmers themselves realise that this Bill was to be discussed today and are anxious for information. They are desirous of assisting the Government in an all-out effort to improve the present unhappy rationing position so far as meat and other commodities are concerned. I say this without the slightest hesitation—the Government will get the co-operation of the farmers in the county of Durham. We can pay them a very high tribute indeed. 467 I can assure the Minister that this information which I am seeking will be greatly appreciated.
My last point concerns Clause 7, which deals with training for agricultural occupations. My experience of the industry in general is that there are many people who would wish to enter the industry and that recruits would be forthcoming if they knew about the training facilities and about the industry and its future prospects. I suggest to the Minister that this is a matter which has not been given full publicity in the past. It has not been given the publicity which its importance warrants. I believe an increased number of recruits will enter the industry if we publicise the training facilities.
I recognise the importance of providing an increased and more efficient labour force in this industry and that it depends, as hon. Members have said today, on a series of points. I believe the principal point is that intending workers for the industry want to know whether the industry will be a stable one. They want to know whether the efforts of the Government, through the Agriculture Act, 1947, to increase production will give them an improved standard of life within the industry. Thirdly, we need to remove the fear that the industry may once again be subordinated to a cheap food policy such as that which ruined British agriculture at the end of the 19th century and later, nearer our own time, in the inter-war period.
These are vital points which potential recruits to the industry will reasonably want to know. They ask these questions before they enter outside industries and obviously, as intelligent people, they are entitled to ascertain the same facts about agriculture. Furthermore, they will want to know what are the opportunities of advancement within the industry. There is also the question of remuneration, wages and otherwise. I quite agree with hon. Members who have stressed the question of rural amenities, housing, electricity, water and education. It has often been stressed in the last few months, especially when the agricultural industry has been discussed. In other words, are the rural workers at long last to have the right to conditions which are comparable with those of the city dweller?
468 I do not think any of us on either side of the House disagree with that. I should like to know whether the Minister can tell us tonight the number of recruits who have come into the industry since the war, especially the number of ex-Service men and women who have availed themselves of the training schemes for the industry. I assume, of course, that the recruits were adults. Has any consideration been given to a scheme which, I understand, has been submitted by both sides of the industry, the farmers themselves and the men's union, for a system of apprenticeship for the industry? I understand that it has been carefully thought out, and I should like to know whether or not the Minister has considered it.
I do not propose to delay the House any longer. I feel very sure that the contents of the Bill will be welcomed by the farming community throughout the country, and that the Bill will be welcomed by the farmers and farm-workers in the rural constituency of Barnard Castle which I have the honour to represent.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I think the farming community are naturally thankful for anything the Chancellor of the Exchequer gives them. I am glad that during this Debate it has been made quite clear that the consumers of food in this country are receiving a far higher subsidy than the farmers who actually produce the goods. In many cases the prices that are paid to the farmers for the foodstuffs they produce are lower than the prices the Government have paid over the past few years to a number of foreign countries. The particular subsidy that is the main feature of the Bill—the calf-rearing subsidy—has today come in for a considerable amount of criticism. I have heard farmers in my own constituency criticise it, too. Some, of course, welcome it; others do not. What I think many people feel is that this should have been introduced at least a year or two years ago, at the time when we were discussing the Hill Farming Act.
At that time Members on both sides of the House stressed the importance of developing our marginal land. If, then, we had started to assist those operating marginal land, we could by now have made up much of that deficiency in food supplies with which we find ourselves 469 faced at the present. The question of the fertilisation of marginal land has been mentioned. I should like particularly to mention the question of drainage, because that is now a very heavy item in any farmer's expenditure. I am glad to see in my own constituency that the county agricultural committees are taking up this matter seriously and doing a great deal of the work themselves. I feel that here is something to which those organisations can devote their energies in the coming years.
It has been said by several hon. Members that this subsidy or any other, means very little unless it is supported by an increased supply of feedingstuffs to assist the farmers during the difficult times of the year. We are glad to see that the Minister in the coming season is to permit arable farmers to retain a greater proportion of their wheat and barley and oat crops. This will be of considerable assistance to them; but the people who really need additional feedingstuffs are not the large arable farmers in the eastern counties or elsewhere, but the small farmers on the hills and dales of Yorkshire who cannot grow corn crops themselves. I would ask the Minister to consider a free market for that amount of grain which he is permitting arable farmers to retain for their own uses. He knows that if he does not do that, he will only help to create a much larger black market in feedingstuffs. I am told that in the eastern counties of England the farmers are saying, "What is all this talk about additional feedingstuffs, about buying grain from overseas? We have it here. Why cannot we send it round to the farmers in other districts of England?"
§ Mr. Drayson
Feed it to their cattle, of course. What does the hon. Member think they will do with it? The farmers who grow the bulk of this grain do not keep stock. They sell the grain to the Government—
§ Mr. Drayson
Farmers are mystified by what the Government do with it, because they certainly do not sec it themselves. We have heard stories of where it is being stored—in disused aircraft hangars, with the fire brigades standing by in case the whole lot goes up in flames, 470 because it has been stored too long. I have been one of many who have consistently urged the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food to provide more feedingstuffs for the farmers.
I have gone even further than that. I have attempted, when I have been travelling in other countries, to secure quantities of feedingstuffs which I could offer to the Minister of Agriculture. I am glad he has just come into the Chamber, because I would remind him of the conversation I had with him just before Christmas. On 13th December I put a Question to him about the beet crop in this country and the amount of beet pulp that would be available to farmers to feed to cattle in the ensuing year. I understood that—apart from supplies to those who made deliveries to the meat factories—no pulp whatsoever would be available for the general feedingstuffs pool. Farmers in my own constituency, who go to some lengths to obtain some of this beet pulp, tell me it is an ideal feedingstuff for cattle, especially during the winter. They tell me that, in their opinion, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, farmers would be prepared to pay from £20 to £25 per ton for beet pulp in the months of February, March and April. They compare its feeding value with that of hay.
So I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture, and I offered him 5,000 tons of beet pulp at £14 per ton. My farmers tell me they would pay from £20 to £25 a ton, so I was offering the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Food a free profit of £30,000 or £40,000. I did not want that myself. All I wanted to do was to sell to the Minister 5,000 tons of beet pulp so that I could export about £50,000 worth of textiles. I am allowed to export my textiles to Pakistan. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will not go into the details of this transaction, but I think that, as the House has devoted a great deal of time to the importance of feedingstuffs this afternoon, I should at least say how the Minister of Agriculture dealt with my particular offer, when I was trying to help him to supply farmers in any part of England which he liked to indicate with beet pulp, which they told me they so much desired.
§ Mr. Drayson
Whether we call it beet pulp or feedingstuffs, I do not mind. I will deal with feedingstuffs exclusively. What happens? These feedingstuffs are handled by the Ministry of Food, and the Minister of Agriculture seems to have very little control over the actions of the Minister of Food. Although I made the offer to him of 5,000 tons of feedingstuffs, he had to refer the matter to the Minister of Food. I have a letter here, from the right hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in which she says that the particular feedingstuffs of which I am talking have a very limited range of use as feedingstuffs, and cannot be used as a staple food. When my farmers read this letter, and saw that the Minister of Food did not regard this as a staple food, they were amazed. There are other matters dealt with in the letter of the Parliamentary Secretary which I will not go into tonight, but the fact remains that when the Minister of Agriculture wants to buy feedingstuffs, he has to refer to the Minister of Food.
I can recall, when we received a dollar loan some time ago, asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would give dollars to the Minister of Agriculture to buy feedingstuffs, and he said "Yes." Apparently the Minister of Agriculture has let those dollars slip through to the Minister of Food and he has been unable to buy feedingstuffs. My small offer of 5,000 tons of feedingstuffs is nothing compared with the hundreds of offers coming in every day of small parcels of feedingstuffs. Anyone on the Baltic Exchange could show a list of a hundred or more offers of feedingstuffs from all over the world. They need not be paid for in dollars but in sterling, but the Minister of Food allows these 5,000 tons to go elsewhere, and another country has bought them. If another country can buy them why cannot we? We make arrangement with Poland, Eire, and everywhere else to take our food when we cannot feed our cattle—
§ Mr. Drayson
I will leave the question of feedingstuffs, but I think that I have made it clear that if the Minister wants the subsidies which he is proposing in this Bill, to succeed, he must let the farmers have more feedingstuffs to feed to the increased livestock which he hopes 472 these subsidies will encourage. I am glad to see that in Clause 12 the Minister is given powers for the disposal of surplus agricultural machinery. In my constituency, and in many others, the agricultural committees have a vast quantity of machinery which is left in the yards to rust. Why cannot the Minister sell it to farmers, and let them look after it themselves and use it for their own purposes instead of allowing it to lie idle in various depots. I hope that this Bill will achieve the results which the Government expect of it, but unless we have more feedingstuffs for our cattle, I am afraid that its chances of success are very slender.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
As I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to reply at 9.25 p.m., I shall do my best to say what I have to say as quickly as possible. I think it is true to say that this Bill, small as it is, has provided an extremely interesting and critical Debate. Unlike the hon. Member who said that it has been received in rather a lukewarm manner, I feel that it has come under the microscope of the House of Commons and under the critical eyes of both parties in this Chamber. We have to try, when looking at a complicated, tricky little Measure like this, to help the Minister with suggestions, if we can make suggestions on what is a very difficult problem indeed.
Most of the speeches that have been Made from both sides of the House tended to concentrate upon the unfortunate provision called the calf subsidy. I say "unfortunate" because it is not, in fact, a calf subsidy at all; it is a subsidy on yearling cattle. Any calf subsidy that succeeds in by-passing the breeder is a very strange calf subsidy indeed. Its very title has caused, at any rate in Scotland, a great deal of confusion in the minds of thousands of upland farmers, who were expecting something which they are not going to get. In consequence, there is a considerable amount of discontent prevailing over wide areas of the country. Perhaps I should say that, looking at this particular part of the Bill, I may be seeing it through Scottish spectacles. I cannot profess to know what the conditions are in Devon or Somerset, and I hope that 473 my hon. Friends will appreciate that I am looking at the problem from my own practical point of view.
There is a great deal of discontent about its administration. From that point of view, no scheme with which the right hon. Gentleman has had to deal, either in London or Edinburgh, has given his Ministry a greater headache. I think that it is true of Scotland, and I imagine it is also true of England and Wales. A great deal of that could have been avoided if, at the outset, the scheme had been properly named as a yearling subsidy and properly explained to the farming community, either at Press conferences or in this House. That would have saved Members of Parliament a great deal of worry and correspondence.
Looking at the actual problem, I think that we have to realise that we are now paying the penalty for our war-time policy. I tried, when I was on the other side of the House in 1941, to draw the attention of the then Minister of Agriculture to the dangers that lay ahead if this country became unbalanced in its livestock economy. I said that we should face a time, after the war was over, when there would be no such thing as the roast beef of old England, or Scotland, or any sort of meat ration at all. Today we are paying the penalty for the policy then followed.
I must confess that from the start was never very enthusiastic about the success of a scheme, at any rate so far as Scotland is concerned, which failed to base itself upon an incentive to the actual business end—the breeding, the key stage or business end—but based itself upon the idea of literally bribing the breeder to carry on to the beef stage cattle of doubtful beefing potentialities. I think that is, in fact, what we have found. I understand that in England and in Wales a great number of calves are out of what are called dual-purpose cows. The English economy in terms of beef production has gone out of the picture more than ours has in Scotland. The result is that south of the Border the Government must now bring in a subsidy scheme in order to entice the buyer or the feeder to carry on something of which he is not sure. He does not know whether it is worth going to the beef stage or not, and therefore the Government must bring in a subsidy to help him.
474 In Scotland, conditions are different, by and large. Rightly or wrongly we have separated beef from milk. I believe that is the right policy. Hence there is no doubt in Scotland in the breeders' minds about breeding the right type of cattle. The ordinary buyer is desperate to get store cattle for his farm. Our economy has not gone out of balance to the same extent and for that reason our people can in the main get the right kind of cattle. We need to take advantage of our natural resources. I would risk saying that in Scotland the whole question boils itself down to developing the natural resources of our hill lands, in terms of beef cattle. The right policy in Scotland is to encourage the breeder to turn out more cattle by making any subsidy payable to the actual breeder of the animal.
I am aware of the success of the hill cattle subsidy scheme, which has worked very well in Scotland. It has pretty well saved the Highland breeds. In the enterprise with which I am connected the scheme has been a great success. Indeed we want far more store cattle. I cannot see why, if a subsidy scheme is to be applied it could not be on a calf basis. We cannot get either beef or veal unless we breed the cattle first. Here we have a scheme which is by-passing the breeder of the animal. I have heard it said that it would be impossible to administer it on a calf basis. I do not know why that should be so. We have the example of the hill sheep subsidy, which is paid without even an inspection: inspection is not always carried out. I do not see why we could not have had a special scheme on the same principle. The calves would be marked and registered. The subsidy would be payable in about 12 months. It is suggested that the calves might be slaughtered and not taken to the beef stage. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) emphasised that point. That could he prevented if the Ministry officials rejected any calf with a stamp on its ear after it had been passed by the inspector.
So far as Scotland is affected, our economy is right and there is no fear about animals not being carried to the beef stage. I understand that under the Bill, Scotland can frame its own scheme. It may be impossible to work the scheme. 475 which I have in mind, but if we can frame our own scheme I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have a look at the possibilities of administering it, on a calf basis. I ask him to make certain that the assistance is given at the right end, the business end, the effective end.
The solution I offer to the hon. Gentleman, who has asked us to make suggestions in order to solve this extremely tricky problem, is to say that we must face this business of a great meat famine because of the breakdown of supplies from the Argentine and Ireland. Something will have to be done about it. The solution in Scotland—and I am applying it myself in a fairly big way in an enterprise that I run with a friend in the Scottish hills, where we have miles of grazing and we cross Highland cattle out on the mountains all the year round—is exploitation of the vast hill areas. That attempt should be made to provide more inducements to the calf rearer. That point has been made today from the Liberal benches and it is one that should be looked into. We must also have the right price for beef in the price structure, if we are to get a proper balance. If we are to make a real job of this scheme we must have one all-embracing policy for the marginal lands.
When I look at the problem of England and Wales I know it is a little different. This economy in terms of livestock has gone milk crazy. I do not believe that an alteration in the price structure in terms of higher prices per cwt. is the answer. I do not think that it is the Scottish answer either. The reason is that you can get more in terms of milk. For the breeder for milk it is probably £100 per cow, whereas by raising beef cattle you get only £20-£30 per cow. There is a vast difference. I do not think that you can bridge that gap in the price structure. For that reason I come down to the solid conclusion that some form of subsidy must be offered today. Maybe it can be combined with an increase in the price of beef per live cwt. I have changed my mind since I have sat on these benches and I have come to the conclusion that that would be the best solution. We cannot split Scotland away from England on the price structure. Therefore I feel the reasons which I have mentioned are sound, and that is the 476 solution that I would put to the right hon. Gentleman in an attempt to help him in this very difficult task.
I recognise that the agricultural Departments will be up against a very stiff problem in getting over the teething problems which always accompany a Measure of this kind. I have full sympathy with the officials, but now that the scheme has got going there are one or two things they must really do. They must see that the calves are marked in good time and that when they are marked the subsidy is paid in good time. It is very hard on a breeder who has taken a calf on to, say, 11 months and not had it marked, to have to send it away to a store sale and lose the subsidy because the Ministry have not marked it. Similarly, delay in payment is so great that discontent arises, and then there is not the co-operation which we all want to see.
If we come to the conclusion—I think the right hon. Gentleman has come to this conclusion—that some assistance of this nature has to be given, I ask him to look at the short-term nature of his contract and the long-term nature of the problem. The Bill envisages assistance only until 1951. A General Election will probably intervene and some other Government may be sitting on the other side of the House. Nevertheless, the farmer who is going to set up a breeding herd must look ahead. He cannot lay out the necessary capital if he thinks that only two crops of calves will be affected, as they will under the Bill. There is, therefore, some apprehension on that point.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond dealt most effectively in an excellent speech with the main points which arise. I want to raise a point in connection with artificial insemination, a thing on which I am not very keen, being a Scotsman. The reason is obvious for we specialise in breeding the best pedigree stock in the world, and it therefore does not help us that this may be done by artificial means. If the Parliamentary Secretary can give me some figures, a large number of breeders who are worried about the future of our pedigree livestock industry will be satisfied. I want to know if the introduction of artificial insemination on the scale in which it is worked in this country has had any adverse effect, in numbers, on the breeding of the pedigree bulls of all breeds in Great Britain. It would be no 477 good giving the England and Wales figures. I should be very much obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary could give me the separate figures.
The Clause relating to grass conservation is very important. Strangely enough, in the north for some reason, in spite of our climate, we have always treated grass as a crop. I can remember when a good deal younger taping out a field with string and testing various grass seed mixtures, complete with fertilisers and so on. We have been brought up to treat grass as a crop. We realise its very high protein content and its importance, and for that reason I look upon the Clause, calculated to give assistance in the conservation of grass, as being very important indeed. The cost of equipment causes concern in my part of the country. I speak subject to correction, but my opinion would be that the small portable grass drier for the small farm is not a workable proposition. It would probably deal with 10 acres of grass at each small farm, but it has then to be dismantled and taken on to the next farm, and the result is a cost which is out of all proportion to its value. We are a nation of small farmers, and the small farmers must necessarily cart their grass to a central grass plant.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not try to get away from his own Bill in relation to aid to farmers. If conditions are the same in the South, what I have to say applies there. I hope that when the Minister says that he will give financial assistance to the farmer and contractor, he will do it, because in certain parts of the country grass conservation is only in its infancy and the larger farmer must be encouraged to do what he can. I have one in my own county who is setting up a grass drier which gives enormous assistance to the smaller farmers. If he is not going to be given a grant or assistance in connection with the provision of plant, he will be at a great disadvantage because of the terrific cost of grass drying equipment. The right hon. Gentleman would be doing a service to agriculture if he encouraged the large farmer who is capable of putting up plant which will serve smaller farmers who cannot afford to do so.
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered encouraging the manufacture of 478 grass drying equipment in this country? I am told that abroad, particularly in Sweden and Denmark, technique and plant are superior to ours. I cannot believe that we cannot produce equipment equal to any foreign product if proper encouragement is given. The Ministry might consider the desirability, on the lines of a Royal Agricultural Society of England, example of providing an incentive to manufacturers to produce the right kind of machines for our grass drying industry.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond said that he would not oppose the Bill. We wish it success. We have tried to put forward suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman on the tricky question of Clauses 1 to 3, and I hope that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to answer many of the questions put by my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
As I go through my speech I shall pick up most of the points which have been put by the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden). I am grateful to him for making it possible for me to rise at this stage.
Before I deal with the main issue which has emerged, I want to deal with one point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) which is in a sense distinct from most of the rest of the Debate. He asked whether the Bill and its policy, in so far as it refers to grass conservation, is in line with either the Chancellor's statement at the N.F.U. dinner about subsidies or, even more, with my right hon. Friend's statement the other day about the change in the prices of imported feedingstuffs in order to get rid of the subsidy element there. I should have thought that the answer to that is that this is in a very real sense complementary and not at all in contradiction to that. These subsidies—this enables me to say something which was forgotten in all parts of the House—are not new ones. This is not something which we are introducing as a new policy since the Chancellor made his statement. On this occasion we are giving legislative authority to promises made about policies introduced in 1947. There is nothing new 479 about this, and there is no conflict. When the Chancellor spoke about the subsidies, he was speaking with full knowledge that these subsidies were in effect already in operation.
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry. However, other hon. Gentlemen were not so clear. As for taking off the subsidy element in imported feedingstuffs, that is in a sense an incentive subsidy. It is an incentive to the British farmer to produce his own forage crops because it is not so attractive to rely on those of others. I should have thought that in a sense this was purely complementary to the other, and that it has produced a positive incentive. This says, in effect, that it is no longer so attractive to import feedingstuffs and we will now go out of our way to give what encouragement we can to our people to go ahead with grass conservation and thereby help the production of home feedingstuffs. I hope that I carry the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond with me in saying that to that extent there is no conflict at all.
Most of the discussion today, from the opening speech of the hon. and gallant Baronet to the hon. Gentleman's winding-up speech, has tended to turn on the question of the calf subsidy. I want to deal with one or two of the special points of criticism made on it. Before I do so, however, may I once again state what is the genesis of this policy? It is surprising that I should have to remind some of my own hon. Friends of this, because I am not the only one who has made speeches in the country, claiming credit for the 1947 agricultural expansion programme. One is tempted to wonder whether we have forgotten what was in it.
In August, 1947, the Government set out to give to the industry, in the light of the economic situation of the country, a £100 million agricultural expansion programme, and a special price review took place in the course of which we discussed with the industry new prices to take into account the increasing costs in the industry and the need for new capital, which it did to the tune of £40 million. We had to consider at the same time, and as part of that policy, whether we would get the increase in livestock and in this, that, or 480 the other product, by relying entirely upon the ultimate price incentive. We decided, as I think we had to decide, that there are some things which have fallen behind because of the effect of the war and the decision on national policy to go ahead, for example with milk in a big way. There were some things that had to be stimulated rather more than the end price would do, and we decided, for reasons which the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) and the hon. Member for West Perth mentioned, that to rely entirely upon a price incentive which worked only at the end of a fairly long cycle in producing a beef animal for slaughter as beef, would not be enough to get us off to a quick start in what was, in a sense, a reorientation of national policy in this matter.
If we cannot stomach the word "subsidy," let us try to describe it by another word. We desired to inject the price incentive at the beginning as well as at the end of this cycle. As the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye) said, we decided to transfer from the end of the cycle to the beginning some part of the total price incentive. That is the answer to a large part of what my hon. Friend the Member for South-Western Norfolk said. We decided to give a special incentive at the point at which we thought it would achieve most effect.
The hon. Member for West Perth introduced the opposite argument. Where some of my hon. Friends have said that the business end is the bullock being slaughtered at maturity, he said that the business end is the calf, and that the nearer we can get to the day of its birth the better, because then the more sure one is that the subsidy will get into the hands of the breeder and not of somebody else. The hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow said that was all hypothetical and academic because in buying a calf one pays a slightly higher price for it and the subsidy is passed on to the breeder because he charges a higher price, knowing full well that the animal will make the subsidy. That is the answer. We do not believe that it would be any good at all paying a subsidy on a calf soon after it is born, with no assurance that it will live for any length of time, that it will not still make veal and ham pie.
§ Mr. Snadden
Is not that merely saying that the English livestock economy, 481 the breeding system, is wrong? I pointed out that in Scotland we had no doubt because we bred the right type and would carry it on whether there was a subsidy or not, provided the fat price is right.
§ Mr. Brown
I am coming to the point of type because it has a great bearing on much of the argument. Whatever it shows, however, for the moment it is the answer to the point of the hon. Gentleman's argument to which I am addressing myself. In fact, it would have served no useful purpose to do it at that stage, for it would still have been liable to make veal and ham pie. The obvious thing was to let it grow as long as seemed reasonable and still to put the price incentive as near to the breeder as possible. I think that after nine or 12 months it would have had the right effect. There may well be something in the argument of hon. Gentlemen who feel we can rely on the full weight of the price incentive, but we should be so far away from the beginning of the cycle that it is very doubtful whether the price would, in fact, be worked back.
While keeping an eye on the Debate, I have done some quick calculations during the afternoon. Suppose we tried to achieve the same result by an increase in the price of beef and let us assume that we put 1d. a pound on to the price, although I doubt whether that would have any significant effect; it is a very small proportion of the price of beef at that stage. We could have done that for all beef being offered, which would include, of course, sizeable Irish steers which, for our purposes, do not start as calves at all. If we were to put 1d. a pound on to the price, the result would be that in four years, the total period we envisage, we should, in fact, pay more than the £30 million which the scheme can cost us. We should have no guarantee and, I believe, very little likelihood that we should achieve any effect by doing so. That is my answer to the rather easy argument that we should tackle the question in that way.
We have had a number of discussions as to what are the real figures of livestock. I say to the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) that it is nonsense to suggest that a proper comparison is to take a September figure with a December figure. It cannot be argued that the conditions prevailing in December of one 482 year prevail at any other time in the following year than December. If, therefore, we compare like with like at every stage since we introduced the price incentive at the beginning of the cycle, we find there has been a substantial increase in the number of calves. The hon. and learned Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) engaged himself in considerable mathematics about this and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) became involved in the same sphere. I was puzzled why, as they pointed out, we had an increase in calves one year but that in the second year the number appeared to reduce because the "Animals 1–2 years of age" did not rise by the same numbers. The answer, I discover, is quite simple. It is not usually very fruitful to criticise a whole agricultural policy merely because of an inability to make figures in the green book add up. Although I have not had time to break down the figures completely, I think that a large part of the answer is that a heifer which is put to the bull before it is two years old does not appear in the figures as "Other cattle 1–2 years of age" but appears as a "Heifer in calf," and, in fact—
§ Mr. Brown
I should like to finish this. At each of these stages the June figures rose from 800,000 to subsequently 900,000 heifers in calf. If only something like one-tenth of that figure represents heifers in calf with their first calf, that would account for the whole of the gap mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
I think we can say that a good deal of the criticism has been honestly misplaced. If I may address myself to one or two of my hon. Friends, I say that this line of criticism about the Minister being subsidy-minded and only having a subsidy policy, is in line with the criticism we hear at other times about kow-towing to the N.F.U. It adds nothing to the Debate, but is an unnecessary denigration of one's own Minister, who has done a big job of work in this Government.
Turning to one or two other small criticisms, the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond asked whether we felt that the money invested was having its effect. This particular point of policy, I make no bones about it, can never be an absolute, 100 per cent., bull's eye hit, and it is not a policy we would adopt if we 483 had plenty of time to play with and were not trying to bring about a very sudden change. We believe there will be limits of tolerance within which it will succeed, but in those limits it achieves that speed. The increase in the calves is the answer to that, and in the main the money goes to the breeder. In Warwickshire the other day I saw a very heartening example of this. A county executive committee had been buying rejects at 50s. or less in the market, more than 10 a week, and they were kept in the W.A.A.F.'s quarters at an R.A.F. aerodrome, with pictures on the wall. [An HON. MEMBER: "There were no W.A.A.F. there?"] No, the W.A.A.F. have gone. The place had been adapted and there were 600 or 700 excellent beasts all having met the subsidy grade. As yearlings they looked first-rate animals, and it was a clear example of what can be done with the most scruffy rejects and throw-outs. They were a great credit to the lady who had looked after them and they are an example of what can be done by this policy.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. and gallant Member will understand. I have been asked by hon. Members on both sides of the House whether we are worried about getting a larger number of heifers than steers and in fact paying for heifers which would be reared in any case. I think the answer is twofold. If we look at the figures we find that, whereas the increase in the steers is one-third of the figure of the previous year, the percentage increase in the number of heifers is only about 10 per cent. Therefore, we are obviously stimulating the largest increase in steers. It is not true to say that all heifers are going to be reared anyway. Some talked about the beef trade in this respect and said that they rear all their heifers. There is also the heifer in the English cross-bred herd and the heifer in the English commercial herd which we want to breed on and which will make beef, and if it is out of a low yielder it ought to be served by a colour-marked bull and make beef. It is important to retain that heifer. We are retaining a useful number of breeding calves as well as a number of steers.
484 The hon. and gallant Member for Perth and Kinross (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) asked about the number of certifiers in Scotland and England and referred to the difference in cost. The answer is simple. In Scotland full-time officials are employed to do this work. In England we rely on part-time officials, mostly farmers, retired farmers and the like, bigger numbers of whom are required to do as much work as full-time officials who have cars and are paid expenses.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
But this is a matter of the cost being almost a hundred times more—£13,000 as against £115,000.
§ Mr. Brown
If the hon. and gallant Member will permit me, I will deal with the points in good time. The reason for the difference in cost, which shook me very much when the hon. and gallant Member stated it—I think it was something like 2s. 6d. as against 6s. 6d.—is that the figures as shown are not like figures. In Scotland the scheme is administered centrally, which means that the figures there are the figures of payments. In this country we do not administer the scheme centrally and the only figures are those of certification. Therefore, there is a time-lag in getting the figures into line. The fact is that if we had the final figure, instead of merely figures of payments as they are made, the English figure would be considerably higher than it is, and the cost would be much lower.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
But salaries are the main item—£10,000 in Scotland and £110,000 in England. I cannot see how any kind of final figures would alter that.
§ Mr. Brown
In Scotland the figures are those of all the certifications because there is a central machine there, and the cost can be spread over the whole number. It amounts to about 3s. 6d. In England we have only the figure of the payments as they are made. Therefore, we show a smaller number. If the total is averaged a rather higher cost per head is shown, but the figures for the two countries will not be much different.
I was also asked why we did not do something to encourage quality beef in Scotland. On the whole my sympathy was with the hon. and gallant 485 Member, but I thought he was answered by my hon. Friend the Member for South-Western Norfolk, who complained about the change in the price structure, which was having the effect of encouraging smaller, better quality beef at the time of slaughter instead of a big rawboned animal, producing quantity instead of quality. My hon. Friend was speaking of the big Irish steer having that advantage. It is by the recent change in the price structure to which my hon. Friend objected that we have tried to give a decided encouragement to the production of quality beef. I hope that that will serve as encouragement to the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow asked whether we were confident that this would have the effect we desired it to have on beef. This, together with the free service scheme for colour-marking bulls for use with the low-grade cows and heifers, gives it a decided attraction in relation to a beef policy.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Corbett
Would the hon. Gentleman say what portion of this subsidy goes to stimulate the dairy industry, which is not in need of a subsidy? I should think it takes at least 50 per cent.
§ Mr. Brown
I very much doubt that, but I will send the hon. and gallant Member the exact figures so far as we are able to state them or estimate them.
I turn now to the speech of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who is rapidly qualifying for the description that as a farmer he would make a good politician. He spent some time today sneering at what he called the act of giving subsidies just before the Election. That is unworthy of him. He is as aware as I or anyone else that this policy was conceived and put into operation in 1947, when the General Election was three years away. It really is poor stuff to talk as though this is something which is being born on the eve of a General Election for no other reason than that fact. He asked why we were paying for heifer calves. I have tried to answer that one. He was also worried about the effect of the free beef service. I think it is very unlikely that farmers will take a dairy cow to a beef bull merely to avoid the 25s. service fee. What is much more important is that we want them to take to the beef bull the dairy cow or heifer 486 which is never going to make a reasonable standard milker. It is better to colour-mark the progeny and rear them for other purposes.
The argument that county chairmen have no opportunity to make suggestions to my right hon. Friend is nonsense. They meet my right hon. Friend, and we ourselves pay frequent visits to them. I was in Warwick last week, and I shall be in Surrey tomorrow, for no other purpose than to talk to county chairmen and give them an opportunity to give us advice, which in fact they do.
I have been asked to repeat what my right hon. Friend said in regard to dried grass and about the place of the individual farmer in the provision of assistance for grass dryers. The Clause, as drawn, is wide enough for us to give assistance to dryers sited on individual farms for the use of individual farmers. Let me be frank—we believe that while there is a considerable place for grants to co-operatives, because of the very high initial cost and the cost of getting the grass transported and that sort of thing, we do not believe that there is the same ground for grants for individual grass dryers on the farm. On the other hand, there may well be room for some assistance by loan, or some other way, for the farmer who dries for his neighbouring farmers, and the Clause is wide enough for us to consider assistance by way of loan for that particular kind of business.
As to why Clause 6 is not in the Marketing Bill, I thought of that myself when I first saw it. The answer, I think, is that it would be really more out of place in that Bill than in this. The only similarity is in the title and then it is only one word. The Marketing Bill amends the Marketing Acts and is a general enabling Bill. This particular Clause makes two very specific amendments in two or three very specific marketing schemes and we should be engaging in a discussion which would be quite alien to the discussion there.
I have been asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond about dilapidations in connection with tenant right. The answer to that is that for dilapidations the Minister is as responsible as any other requisitioning authority under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. If there were dilapidations to be 487 charged against us, that is the Act under which we would have to meet them. So far as the tenant right is concerned, all we are trying to do here is to put ourselves into the position that other people are in when we come in. We pay that tenant right when we take over from them, and we wish to put ourselves legally into the position to be paid that tenant right when we come out. There have been a number of payments made under this arrangement as though it existed, and there has never been a single dispute.
On the question of arbitration, the hon. and gallant Member asked me whether there was provision for arbitration. Clause 9, Subsection (1), in its wording imports the provisions of Section 70 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, and therefore I understand that that provides for arbitration.
§ Mr. Brown
When I say "I understand" that is entirely due to my native modesty. Yes, it is in fact so.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) put a number of points with which I should like to deal. He asked what we were going to do about the price of imported animal feedingstuffs. The answer is that we hope to put them approximately at the price of the home-grown product so that there is no disincentive or balance one way or the other. He touched a chord in the hearts of most of us when he spoke about smallholdings. It would be improper for me to commit my right hon. Friend on the general policy ahead of his consideration of the report of the Advisory Council of which I have the honour to be chairman and of which one or two hon. Members were members. The report is nearly ready and there will be an opportunity for questions to be put to him on that matter later.
I think that I have dealt with most of the points raised. We have heard many times today about marginal land and about the importance of help for farmers farming on marginal land. We should be careful about how we speak of this. One hon. Gentleman talked 488 about marginal farmers. Very often I have had the impression that we had in our minds marginal farmers when we were talking about marginal land. My right hon. Friend recently announced in this House—I think it was reported in HANSARD on 24th January—the widening of the marginal production scheme in this country to put it on a par with the marginal production scheme as it has been operating on a wider basis in Scotland. We are hoping now that the new scheme, carried on on a much wider basis, will enable us to give considerable help to producers who have to operate under the handicap of working on marginal land.
§ Mr. Brown
I could not without notice, but I will see that the hon. Gentleman is provided with the information. The hon. Member for West Perth raised a point about the hills of Scotland. I think the answer there is what he himself said about the improvement there has been under the hill farming scheme in Scotland. I conclude by saying that we invite hon. Members in all parts of the House who have contributed to the 1947 expansion policy for agriculture which has given us such good results in its first year, not to go back on the undertakings given to the industry and the promises we have made in no mean and grudging spirit on the Second Reading of this Bill. We should recognise that we owe it to the industry to put on the Statute Book the promises we have given.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not like to misrepresent the position in any answer he gives. What I was trying to say was that in September, 1948, there were fewer cattle than in September, 1947—
§ Mr. Speaker
This appears to be another speech. Perhaps that point might be raised on the Money Resolution—I do not know. There may be no time for that.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.