§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Because of the increasing problems facing the industry, we decided that we would devote this Supply day to a debate on agriculture. My hon. Friends and I will cover a fairly wide field in our criticisms and questions, and what we do at the end of the day will depend on the course which the debate takes. It would, however, be unrealistic to discuss the problems of the industry in England and Wales without discussing the European Common Market.
This would be so even if the Government had given some indication of policy, but it is even more so in view of the apparent disagreements between Ministers. This our duty, as the Opposition, to ask for some indication of Government policy. As the Farmer and Stock-breeder put it—I quote the Farmer and Stock-breeder because it is certainly the most serious and respected journal in the agricultural world—Confusion reigns at Westminster over the Government's attitude to the Common Market37 Accordingly, I hope that we shall have some indication of Government policy on this the greatest political issue of our time. It must surely be—
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus) rose—
§ Sir J. Duncan
The Common Market affects Scotland as well as England and Wales. Why is the Motion confined to the Votes for England and Wales?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen to me. The reason for this debate is to discuss agricultural problems in England and Wales. I was conceding the fact, not that we should discuss Scotland or the Common Market, but that it was quite likely that the Common Market would enter into our debate. Very little of my speech will be devoted to that subject, but, if the hon. Gentleman will let me make it, he will be in a position to criticise it.
Surely it must be without precedent for the officers of the Conservative Party Agriculture Committee to be taking different views in public on this important matter. We have discussed the Minister's views previously and I will not repeat them, but here we have a difference of view and I look forward to hearing it reconciled today. I sympathise with them. These officers are usually loyal supporters of the Government, but one of them is in danger of being disloyal. Which one? We do not know, the Government do not know, nobody knows, because we have not yet had a coherent statement of Government policy on this subject.
While I sympathise with the Government in their difficulties, I ask them to sympathise with the leaders of the agricultural industry, both the farmers and the farm workers. How can they, or anyone else, make up their mind when the Government provide no data on which the issues can be decided? On what other matter of great complexity have the Government so resolutely failed to provide even a White Paper?
Instead, it has been a matter of abdication and of leaving the running to Lord Beaverbrook and the other Press lords. Surely, it is not asking too much that there should be some indication of Government policy and some decision. 38 If one wants a seat at a wedding, one has to say whether one is a friend of the bridegroom or of the bride. The time comes when it has to be decided. Sitting in the church porch in this climate can be a very cold business.
We are giving up this day to agriculture because we are seriously worried that both the producer and the consumer have been prejudiced by the direction of Government policy. Concerning the producer generally, we are worried at the results of Government policy. It is general knowledge that the proportion of the gross national product which has been going to the agricultural community has declined steadily year after year in the last ten years. In real terms, the decline is even more striking.
I ask a Question from time to time about relating the internal purchasing power of the £ to what it was in October, 1951. The last figure which I was given, on Friday, showed that it was down to 14s. 10d. The Dairy Farmer, commenting on the ten years of Conservative Government, states thatin real values, the income of the agricultural community has fallen by 12.6 per cent.Both the farmer and the farm worker have suffered from this policy of putting the food producer further and further down the line. Like the Dairy Farmer, I bracket the farmer and the farm worker in the-phrase "the agricultural community". My friends in the agricultural unions acknowledge that there is considerable community of interest between them.
Most of the attack on the standards of the agricultural community is the direct result of Government financial policy, but it is the Minister's job to protect the food producer. It is the failure to do this which is so much resented. Consider milk, for example. The Ministry has abdicated and has "passed the buck" to the Milk Marketing Board. Surely, it should have proposed a scheme for discussion. The Minister has plenty of good ideas when he wants to tackle a problem. He was most imaginative when he tackled the pig price problem with his scheme.
Are not the facts about milk well known? Is it not a fact that more low-quality milk is being produced than the market needs? if that is so, should not the Government put forward a scheme 39 for discussion, perhaps with penalties for low-quality milk and rewards for higher-quality milk, thus showing that they were interested in doing something for the producer? Should they not also have met this need by expanding the welfare milk schemes, both at home and abroad?
I will consider, first, the scheme abroad. We in this country have lived by importing food. That has resulted in our forgetting that, because of our skill in cattle breeding and our climate, we are in the position of being able to help less fortunate countries by giving them our surplus milk in the form of skimmed milk. Everybody knows that in Africa there is particular need of animal proteins. Anyone who has ever been in West or East Africa has seen children suffering from lack of animal protein. I am told that in the Congo area the situation is even worse.
The Governments of Canada, the United States, Switzerland and, perhaps, others are supplying dried, skimmed milk free of charge to the United Nations Children's Fund. Surely, we should consider doing the same. We do not need to pay the transport—that is done under United Nations auspices—but it is the supply of the dried skimmed milk which can do so much good.
The Milk Marketing Board applied last week to the Government for action against the dumping of milk products, but what prospects have the producers if precedent is anything to go by? The last time that the Milk Marketing Board applied to the Government for protection against dumping, which was 1958, it took nearly five months for the Government to reply. That is absurd when we realise that dumping is usually the sudden unloading of surpluses at uneconomic prices.
What is being done about the dumping of barley? In a leading article today, The Times points out that the prices appear to be well below the cost of production and that in some cases they are below what the producer has received. It points out that it may be difficult to establish the home price of Russian grain, but that there seems to be a prima facie case of the dumping of French barley. Barley could give the hardest knock to public acceptance of the price support scheme.
40 I want an assurance from the Minister that his file on this matter is in action. I ask for this assurance particularly because in February this year, when I asked him Questions about an international conference on barley exports, I did not feel that his Department was as alarmed as it should be about the prospect. Now, we have this dumping.
§ Sir J. Duncan
Again, Scotland is very much involved with the dumping of barley and wheat. Why are we prohibited from discussing Scottish barley and wheat?
§ Mr. de Freitas
With great respect to the hon. Member, the Opposition are fully entitled to have a day to discuss the problem of agriculture in England and Wales.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Perhaps the hon. Member will take it up with his Scottish colleagues. He might as well object that we are not discussing fisheries, although we discuss that subject a great deal. There is every reason for having this debate. We welcome the hon. Member's presence and I am sure that his English and Welsh hon. Friends will be delighted if he takes up their case for them.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Now that my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) has left the Chamber, let us get on with some English business.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I have mentioned two aspects of dumping: milk products and barley. The Egg Marketing Board has also complained recently to the Government against the dumping of Eastern European eggs. Only a few fanatics are against Communist eggs as such; they seem to think that they have red yolks, or something like that. The essential point is that if Eastern European eggs are to come here, they must be sold at realistic prices.
The Government, I understand, thought that the eggs were dumped at ridiculous prices- I believe that that was their finding—but what was done about it? Nothing. I ask the Government to recognise that the producer of food is as much entitled to the protection of the anti-dumping laws as is the producer of 41 manufactured goods. I want this to be recognised and acknowledged. It is not something that the agricultural producer wants only for himself. He merely wants the same protection as his colleague the industrial producer.
Another aspect of the producer's interests in which the Government have shown one of their least imaginative steps is concerned with marketing. I had hoped, after the grilling which the Ministry of Agriculture received from all quarters at the time of the Second Reading of the Covent Garden Market Bill, that the Minister would have shaken up his Department on marketing, but there is no sign of it. Alas, there seems to be in the Department the same approach as there was before.
In the Horticulture Act, which we passed a year or so ago, there was provision for grants for marketing. I pressed the Minister on this in Questions a week or so ago. I should like to know what the Government's policy is, for I believe that there was a fundamental mistake in that Act. It encouraged the individual grower to "go it alone" in marketing—, which is really fantastic in modern conditions—instead of emphasising co-operation. I believe that it was a mistake, and today this marketing is much more inefficient than it need be, simply because we encouraged the producer to market by himself.
At Whitsun, I had a look at the Dutch co-operative horticultural marketing system. The advantages of the clock auction are being gradually accepted in this country. I understand that the National Farmers' Union committee which went over there—I spoke to the chairman of the committee—was very much impressed with it. What is the Ministry doing to encourage this? It is right to be impressed by it, because it is an impressive system.
To begin with, it is much cheaper. The difference is that between the average cost of 10 per cent. under our primitive system—which is the only way of describing it—and 2 per cent. under the clock auction system. Probably, it is not as big as that, but the difference is considerable, and certainly it is obvious that it must be cheaper. First, it is so quick. The first bid, and the auction is over: one bid only. Secondly, instead of a 42 host of salesmen it requires one operator and one assistant. The grower benefits.
This is important The grower benefits not only because it is cheaper, but because, since it is run by a growers' co-operative, he does not have to pay the cartage and freightage charges before the produce is sold. Under our system the grower pays cartage and freightage charges before the goods are sold, and, especially in times of surplus, this may mean paying all these charges although the produce is taken across the country and not sold at all.
So the grower benefits. The only explanation I can find for this not being adopted is lack of understanding of the true nature of co-operation and a real willingness to adopt the modern system. The Dutch system—it is not as modern as all that—goes back to the 'eighties of the last century; but it is being adopted now in other countries in Europe and being brought up to date. The grower benefits from this system not only from the lower cost of marketing, but because the wholesaler has a greater opportunity of knowing what the consumer wants. In this way the wholesaler knows exactly what the customers require and is more able to meet the requirements of the customers.
Every one of the growers and buyers I talked to agreed that because the grower is present at the auction he can see what kind of produce and what kind of packing gets the highest price. The buyer knows what the customer wants; the grower sees what the buyer wants; the result is a constant improvement in growing, grading and presentation.
§ Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
Ought not the hon. Gentleman, who is speaking of the advantages of the Dutch auction system, to make it clear to the Committee that it is really no good unless everybody is in it, and that that would mean compulsion, and that, so far, our own growers do not wish to agree to it?
§ Mr. de Freitas
The point of my speech was that leadership from the Government was lacking and that the Government should bring the industry round to realising that in its own interests—that is, of the growers and of the consumers—it should support this system. It is perfectly true that it does 43 benefit from a measure of compulsion, but if the growers were to realise that it would be in their own interests they would accept it. They do so in other countries. I do not see why they should not do so here.
As I said, the Government's record as protector of the producers is poor, but it has an even worse record as a protector of the consumer. It is bad enough, as I say, for the Government to allow the producers to suffer, and to allow the sale of mock milk, so that caterers can palm off synthetic liquid as milk or ice cream; but think of the unfortunate consumer who is doomed by the Government to having in his cup of tea a white substance fortified with vegetable oil when he believes that he is drinking milk.
I am told that this adulterous conception—as it is called in a letter I have about it—is being carried from milk to milk bread.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Would the hon. Gentleman put a novice right? Would he explain, first, what mock milk is, and what an adulterous conception is in that context?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I, too, find it difficult to get the second quite clear and that shows the problem that there is in keeping up with one's correspondence and the full implications of it, but mock milk we have discussed at length here, and on the Government benches, particularly, there was great enthusiasm, I remember, at the time of the debate we had last February.
§ Mr. de Freitas
No. Mock milk.
The Government now, I understand, are working on a draft regulation under which not only mock milk can be sold, but milk bread will be able to be sold when it does not contain milk at all.
It is disgraceful, but we should not be shocked after we have seen the synthetic ice cream come on to the market. We have seen mock milk come on to the market and sold in conditions of which the consumers do not know. Their standards are being eroded. There is no question about it.
I wonder whether the Minister read the papers last week. On one day in particular, I think it was Friday, he 44 would have seen this about bacon, a report of yet another surrender by the Government of the interests of consumers and producers. The present regulations for the sale of bacon go back to before the war—to 1934, when most of it was sold not sliced and done up in cellophane, as today, but cut in the presence of the purchaser. The present regulations are satisfactory—because the origin of the bacon must be disclosed, and the regulations cover That—when the bacon is cut in the presence of the purchaser.
The National Farmers' Union and others have been trying to get the Government to bring the regulations up to date so that when bacon is sold already sliced its country of origin should be disclosed, so that the purchaser is to that extent protected, so that the housewife, if she wants British bacon, may have it, and if she wants Danish, she can have it, and if she wants Polish, she can have it—whatever it is. But that is not what we have at present. The Press reported last week that once again the Government have refused to amend the regulations to cover this.
On the same day the Chief Port Health Inspector for Grimsby was quoted as saying that 15 per cent. of fish on sale in the shops would be condemned as unfit in a wholesale market and the Daily Mail added thatNo one from the trade could be found to deny this charge.The inspector went on to criticise, as he said, the filthy, oozy, slimy, wooden boxes in which fish is transported. Those who have seen the Grimsby market will have their own opinions about the efficiency of the market, but there can be no two opinions about the quality of the metal boxes used there. It is in matters like these, in raising and maintaining standards, that the Ministry has done so little.
Last week the price of bread went up for the third time in just over a year. Why? Has the price of wheat gone up? Are the millers doing so badly? I read reports of enormously increased profits. Are the bakers doing so badly? All the financial reports that I have seen show that they are doing very well indeed. These are three points on which the consumer needs the Government's protection and is not receiving it.
45 There is another point on storage tanks which is relevant to the farmer not only as a producer of milk, but as one who goes into the market to buy storage tanks. I believe that the Ministry is encouraging the bulk storage of milk, hoping, no doubt, in the long run, to bring down the price. I have seen no Government supporter coming to my aid when I have raised in the House what I can only describe as the racket of rigged prices for bulk storage tanks. The Prime Minister brushed me off. So I sought to table a Question to the President of the Board of Trade to ask whether he was aware that farmers who wish to install bulk milk storage tanks have found that tanks manufactured by different firms in different parts of the country from different materials are offered for sale for exactly the same price, and whether a price maintenance agreement had been registered. The right hon. Gentleman would not answer this Question, and I have had to refer it to the Registrar.
The price in each case was £929 18s. It seems a fantastic coincidence. If we are to have anything like competition in the supply of goods and materials to farmers the Government must take an interest in the matter. This failure to protect either the producer or the consumer raises questions on the Government's agricultural policy, in particular in relation to the small farmer.
One or two of my hon. Friends will be developing this most important aspect later. It should be remembered that public money is spent in encouraging the small farmer and the Zuckermann Committee has pointed out that they, more than anyone else, need to invest in mechanisation. The Committee has pointed out that a 50-acre farm may need five or ten times as much investment in relation to turnover as a large farm. It has been recognised by agricultural economists that small farmers need to use specialist machinery designed to make greater use of the labour of one or two men.
We know that more and more the small farmers are having to depend upon specialist mechanisation. The economists and the small farmers know it and so do the Government. Yet, instead of taking steps to encourage mechanisation, the Government, since the Zuckermann Report, have increased the duty on fuel oils. Where is the con- 46 sistency of such a policy? It is time that the Government were frank about their intentions. We know certain facts, but we can only deduce others.
We know, for instance, that less than 1 per cent. of the subsidies are spent on small farmers' schemes and we know that farms of under 100 acres receive less public money per £100 net income than farms of over 100 acres. We know that many small farmers do not come under the scheme at all. Since 1955, only £300 of the £1,500 million invested in agriculture have gone towards making small farms into larger units. We can only deduce that the Government are preparing to see the end of the small farmer, but they have not the courage to say so.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. de Freitas
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I should be glad to hear him on that point.
In Denmark, there is a thriving economy based on small farmers. Denmark has no advantages over us in physical conditions, but many people believe that a great deal is due to her advisory services, which work cooperatively from the producer up and they can thus help themselves.
I have complained of the way the Government have gone from side to side in agricultural policy and of the lack of decision at the highest level, but it could be argued that I should not complain when the Government do make a decision. I think that the Minister was right in introducing Charollais bulls from France. The breed societies were much too smug and needed a jolt, but what is the good of bringing in bulls and carefully testing their progeny in this way if the same is not done for our own leading beef bulls so that we can obtain some comparison between them?
The right hon. Gentleman should go back over the last five or ten years and select five of the most popular breeds and have their progeny tested in the same way as is done with the French bulls. It may be argued that this is a ruthless selection, but the French Government go even further. They are about to compel the beef industry to use only two breeds of bulls, the Charollais and Limousin.
47 I shall be interested to hear the answers to all these questions of detail because they affect the producer, the consumer and, above all, the small farmer. We are entitled to have answers on these points, because it must be clear that both the producers and the consumers have been hurt and unsettled not only by the drift in Government agricultural policy, but also by complete lack of guidance on the Common Market.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Is not this where the Labour Party has a chance to come in and give some guidance?
§ Mr. de Freitas
That is one of the most ridiculous interventions ever made. The whole point is that not only the Labour Party but everybody in the country, in the farming papers and in the agricultural communities is asking for the data on which we can make up our minds about the impact on the agricultural industry of our entering the Common Market. It is only—[An HON. MEMBER: "Storage tanks."] Why should we not introduce storage tanks? The whole reason for this debate is to make criticisms of the Government's agricultural policy, or their lack of policy, and to refer to the various trends in agriculture in England and Wales. I have made my points, and I want an answer to them.
I do not intend to be sidetracked. There is a point of criticism which everyone is fully entitled to make of the Government. It is that on this supreme political issue of the day we have not had a White Paper and not even a coherent statement of Government policy on the Common Market. That is what we need if the industry, whether it is the farm workers or the farmers, are to make up their minds.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, will he answer this question to which the inquiring minds of my hon. Friends and myself have been applied? Surely the Labour Party is united in this matter as in all other matters. Is there no Labour Party policy about the Common Market? If there is, could we be told what it is?
§ Mr. de Freitas
A most extraordinary question has been asked and a most novel constitutional argument has been 48 advanced. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) always pointed out, that on many matters concerning negotiations with foreign countries it was impossible for the Opposition to know all the facts and, therefore, impossible for them to lay down a policy, but that it was the Government's duty to have a policy and the Opposition's duty to ask formally for an indication of the Government's policy. I believe that in that matter, as in many others, the right hon. Member for Woodford had a good idea of constitutional practice, and I have great pleasure in adopting his argument.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames) rose—
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. I believe that Scotland has been excluded from the terms of today's debate. Like the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), I am greatly concerned about it and I should like your guidance on this point.
§ The Chairman
The Vote does not include Scotland, and, therefore, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) is out of order in debating the point.
§ Mr. Baxter
As Scottish Members are excluded from participating in the debate, I should like to know whether Scottish Members will be excluded from participating in a Division, if there is one, on this issue tonight.
§ Mr. Soames
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) made it clear in his speech that the object of the Opposition is to have a general debate on agriculture in England and Wales. He told us the Opposition would decide, during the course of the debate, whether or not they would seek to divide the Committee.
The hon. Member made a number of points in his speech, some of which I will endeavour to cover in my reply, and others will be answered later by my hon. 49 Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. However, I must say that if one adds together the points that were made in criticism of Government policy, they certainly do not amount to a very grave attack on the broad policies in respect of agriculture which are being followed by the Government.
This has become the traditional way in which we debate each year the main problems facing agriculture, and I thought that it would be best if I were to say something, first, about the main problems which were facing the industry at this time and then say something about the general condition of agriculture. I take the point that the hon. Gentleman made, that it would be unrealistic at present to have a debate upon agriculture without saying something about the Common Market, and I shall refer to that at the end of my speech.
First, in my view, of all commodity problems from the point of view of our home agriculture is milk. It is easy enough to set out the problem. Output is increasing, the price per gallon to the producer is falling and the profit margin is being eroded. On the first point, I can quote the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board for England and Wales. The trend for greater milk output will, he says, continue in this country. This is a great achievement of production. But the production record is not the end of the business. The milk must be sold, and sold profitably enough to give the producers a decent return.
For some years now increasing production has served only to reduce profitability. The more producers have increased output the worse the problem has become. This trouble has come about under the present system of the boards pooling their returns for their sales of liquid milk with their very much less profitable sales of milk for manufacture. As a result, the individual producer does not have brought home to him the consequence of producing milk above the standard quantity level, which only the manufacturing industry can absorb.
How should we tackle this? One way would be to let the trend of rising production and falling prices to the producer continue until, by sheer economic 50 pressure, the trend was reversed. But that is not a very pleasant outlook. I was anxious to see whether an alternative and less harsh method could be devised. There are some who say that the Government's object in trying to tamper in any way with the existing system is merely an endeavour to limit the Government's obligations in respect of the amount of milk which is produced. But that is far from the case. For some years now we have had a standard quantity for milk. It is about 28 per cent. above the level of liquid milk consumption in the country, and that is the quantity for which the Government assure a guaranteed price.
It makes no difference either to the Government's financial commitment of to the price that the consumer pays for his milk if milk is produced in excess of the standard quantity. It is the dairy farmer who is affected, because the value of the guarantee within the standard quantity is diluted by the much lower receipts from excess milk, which can only spill over into the manufacturing market.
The alternative that springs to mind is some form of two-tier tariff under which the farmer would be paid two prices, one related to the value of the milk sold in the liquid market, and the other, the lower price, to what goes for manufacture. Of course, this is no simple matter. There are many difficulties inherent in this, and maybe this is not the only alternative. But the whole thing is being examined thoroughly by the unions and the Milk Marketing Boards. It is the Milk Marketing Boards which have decided on this system of payment. If we could get broad agreement within the industry on what is the right approach to this matter, it would be most helpful.
I very much hope that something helpful will come out of this examination. Otherwise, I must be frank and say that the only course open to us would be to take the hard way. By the hard way, I mean the way we have been going for years, with rises in production resulting in a fall in the price per gallon and the erosion of the profitability of the industry.
There is a close link between milk and beef. One reason why we increased the guaranteed price for fat cattle at 51 the last Annual Price Review was to encourage the switch from milk to beef. But that was not the only reason. There is scope for more beef on its own merits. We are eating less than we did before the war, and, incidentally, it is one of the few commodities in which there is not yet a world surplus in sight.
Fewer calves were kept than last year, so that it looked as if production would fall unless something was done to counteract it. I am sure that we were right—and the hon. Gentleman has agreed that we were right—in being ready to give the substantial increase of 10s. per cwt. The N.F.U. also suggested at the Review that we should give a grant to cover the cost of artificial insemination by beef bulls. I said at the time that we would consider that. There are difficulties inherent in it, but we shall have a look at it again at the next Review.
Hon. Members may agree that it was the right policy to encourage production of beef, but that the present level of market prices suggest that our assumptions about the future have been too rosy. The market is weak at the moment, but I am advised that this is not likely to be anything but temporary. That this view is shared by the farming community is shown by the fact that the store market remains firm. In any event, this increase in the guaranteed price must be looked at in the light of the fact that beef production is a long-term job. No one can judge from one month to another.
For once, one can mention pigs with a sense of sober satisfaction. Because of the ups and downs which have so long been the curse of this section of the industry, to make any firm prediction would be to go out on a very shaky limb. It was to try to break this recurring pig cycle that we introduced a flexible guarantee arrangement, and this was coupled with an increase of 3d. per score in the basic guaranteed price, and an assurance that there will be no reduction at the next Review.
This combination was designed to encourage a moderate increase in the pig population which was clearly called for, without, we hope, setting off a fresh pig cycle. [An HON. MEMBIER: "What is a pig cycle?"] "Pig cycle" is a term of 52 art, meaning that pigs are very profitable at some periods and very unprofitable in others. So far as we can see at the moment, and I say this with all reservations in this highly unpredictable field, our plans look as though they are working out. We hope, at the end of the year, to reach a figure somewhere near the middle of the band around which the flexible guarantee is constructed, and I hope that we shall be able to keep somewhere around that level, at least for the time being. The problem will remain to keep the pig herd reasonably stable, without frustrating expansion when that can be profitable.
To turn to barley, few people, I believe, were surprised that the guaranteed price was cut at the last Review. The facts had to be faced. Barley production had nearly doubled in six years, and the rate of subsidy had got quite out of line with that for other cereals. A feature of the barley market was that too much was loaded on to it from our own farms immediately after harvest and we thought it right to try new arrangements to spread the marketing more evenly throughout tie year. But, since the Review the barley market has taken a hard knock which, if it continues, would nullify our efforts to bring about a more orderly marketing of the crop. Nobody can be complacent about the present state and prospects of the barley market.
I certainly view with great concern a price for barley of around £15 or £16 per ton. These very low prices put a serious strain on our whole system of support, and present us with a major problem which we are considering urgently with the farmers' leaders. The hon. Gentleman asked me for an assurance that the file is active, and I can assure him that it is very active. This is something which we have kept under urgent consideration.
§ Mr. de Freitas
If the right hon. Gentleman is now leaving the subject of barley, would he answer my other point? There was a leading article in The Times today, concerning what we are to do about the dumping of French barley, about which, in the view of The Times, there was a prima facie case for saying that it comes in at below the cost of production.
§ Mr. Soames
This is part of the problem. I cannot announce today what action the Government are to take about dumping, be it from France or from any other country, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are giving urgent consideration to it.
The hon. Gentleman said a good deal about marketing. Where I depart fundamentally from him is that he thinks much more than we do that it is the duty of the Government to impose upon the industry certain aspects of marketing, whereas we believe that in agriculture, as in any other industry, marketing is a jab for the industry itself. Marketing is a whole subject in itself, and I can only touch on it today. It involves market research on a large scale, and then applying the results to the type and quality of production and the way in which the products should be presented. I know that the National Farmers' Unions are giving a great deal of thought to this, and we are having talks between the Farmers' Unions and my Department to see how the offer of financial help can be put to best use.
The agricultural co-operative movement, to which the hon. Gentleman also referred, is doing splendid work in this respect. It is already big business, with a turnover of about £300 million a year, compared with only £60 million ten years ago, an increase which is a most satisfactory and encouraging one. There are now five or six horticultural co-operatives coming into being. There are nearly 150 machinery syndicates, and there will undoubtedly be more. We introduced at this Price Review, as the Committee will know, a new form of grant for them, along the lines broadly of the Farm Improvement Scheme.
Under the main Farm Improvement Scheme, approval has already been given to projects which will mean the investment of £70 million of capital in agriculture in England and Wales, one-third of it being provided by the Exchequer. This is a very considerable figure, and I think that there is no doubt on either side of the Committee that this scheme has shown itself to be of the greatest value to the industry as a whole.
Expenditure already approved on plans under the Small Farmer Scheme totals nearly £16 million. The hon. Member for Lincoln asked what was the Government's 54 attitude towards the small farmers. This scheme represents the first attempt by any Government to tackle this issue and try to do something for the small farmer. It is working well and having considerable effect in areas of the country traditionally comprising small farms.
As the first batch of plans near completion and it becomes possible for the National Agriculture Advisory Service to take on further work, we shall have to think what adaptations of the scheme may usefully he made. But that is a matter for the future. I do not think that it would be making a proper use of our resources to adapt the scheme to cover every individual engaged in agriculture no matter how small his holding. The lower limits of the scheme are designed to bring in those farms which, although small, are capable of providing a reasonable return to a full-time occupier. Below this level there are many thousands of holdings which are worked part-time and others which are referred to by Economists as being "non-viable".
When the scheme was introduced the problem of these holdings was left for further study. This further study has shown that in the vast majority of cases, where the farm business is too small to provide an occupier with remunerative full-time employment, he has other sources of income and is not dependent entirely upon the holding for his livelihood. The number of cases where occupiers appear to have no other source of income are shown to be few and far between. They are scattered round the country and there is no particular pattern to them. They do not warrant any special action.
By the end of the first year we had approved proposals for work under the Horticulture Improvement Scheme costting nearly £2 million and we have in applications for as much again. It is early days yet to judge whether this scheme is just right, but it has got off to a good start. It is in the nature of things that a substantial proportion of applications made under the scheme should come from the larger growers whose holdings warrant extra large-scale investment of capital. But I know that there is a feeling that it does not sufficiently meet the needs of the small grower. In fact, we have had quite a lot of applications from small growers, 55 some for quite considerable amounts, and also from co-operatives in which the small growers participate and for which, again, considerable capital investment is easier.
The past year has not been a good one for horticulture generally, although, as always, some lines of production have done better than others. It is a fact that in each of the main sections—orchard fruit, soft fruit, glasshouse salad vegetables, and flowers and nursery stock—returns to producers during the last five years have been significantly higher than in the previous five-year period. The average return from vegetables grown in the open air has been about maintained. As a whole, the output of the industry is worth about £135 million per annum, which is about £20 million mare than in the earlier post-war years.
Particularly at this time of the year, when the shops are full of young fresh vegetables, it is brought home to the public how much it owes to our market gardeners. Enormous strides have been made in increasing efficiency through improved techniques of husbandry and disease control, better management and marketing and the development of improved varieties. We look to the Horticultural Marketing Council to contribute significantly to the general competitiveness of the industry.
§ Sir P. Agnew
My right hon. Friend told the Committee, I think, that the value of horticultural produce has been increasing above what it was in the past three years. Is it not the case, taking the last three years, that there has been a successive decrease of about £10 million a year in the value of the horticultural produce sold off holdings?
§ Mr. Soames
My hon. Friend refers to a period of three years. The figures which I have been quotng are for an average over the last five years compared with that for the previous five years. I have not the figures over the three-year period, but in the period of five years the figures are as I have given them.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
Do the figures given by my right hon. Friend refer to volume or to money?
§ Mr. Soames
In terms of money, yes.
I now turn to agriculture generally and the state of prosperity of the industry today. The net income for 1960–61 was forecast, before we started on this year's review, at £359 million—a slight rise over the previous year, and, on the basis of normal weather conditions, a considerable rise. This year's review provided a plus of £14 million. In the level of production we have the remarkable increase from 145 per cent. of pre-war in 1950–51, to 162 per cent. in 1957–58, and up to 172 per cent. in 1960–61.
After the terrible weather of late autumn and winter we might have expected a serious setback in the area sown to corn this year. But it looks as if it will be only marginally lower than last year's extremely high level. This remarkable achievement was made possible by the constant determination of our farm workers, often in the most appalling conditions.
The beef breeding herd is increasing only slowly, but we have yet to see the effect of the increase in the guaranteed price. The breeding stocks of sheep and pigs continue to expand. Egg production is temporarily lower, but it seems likely that over the next twelve months output will be higher than in the farming year just ended. We already have a good crop of hay and silage in this year, and what we need now to fill the corn is some rain in June.
Now for the prospects in the future. There is not, and neither can there be, any argument as to what our objectives must be in any agricultural policy which we follow. Not until the war began to threaten did we give any great encouragement to our farmers to make full use of their acres and of their agricultural skills. Since then, it has been the policy of successive Governments to enable farmers to get the best out of their land. They have risen to the occasion and taken splendid advantage of it.
It is common ground between all parties that this is a benefit not only to the countryside, but to the whole nation. Even in the last decade there have been changes of emphasis in our support system to match changing times, and 57 though, of course, there have been arguments about whether what has been done was right or wrong, there is no argument that successive Governments over the last twenty years have designed their policies to enable the agricultural industry to make a full contribution to the national economy.
This is and must remain a permanent feature of Government policy and it is the background against which we must be guided in all our thoughts for the future. The system which we have devised over the years was acknowledged in last year's White Paper as that which suits best our national circumstances. We must not forget that the system varies widely for different commodities. For some, like grain and meat, the bill for support is carried wholly by the Exchequer. For others, like sugar, it is carried wholly by the consumer, and for others, like milk, by a mixture of the two. Then there is the horticultural tariff.
There is nothing rigid in the method which we adopt for our agricultural support. What is sacrosanct is that it should be at an appropriate level to achieve our objective. Moreover, the farming community has the Government's pledge that the 1957 Act will continue to operate during the lifetime of this Parliament. That, also, is sacrosanct. What is more, the stability which this is designed to give to our farming industry must be a lasting feature of our national life. That is the principle which must alway guide us if future circumstances demand adaptations or changes of method.
By virtue of the fact that we are the only large free market for foodstuffs in the world, in the past we have often gone through periods when the level and the price of imports of a certain commodity have hit our market hard, but usually that has been the result of one country offloading one commodity, and the situation has been manageable. I do not say that it has always been managed to everyone's satisfaction, but it has been manageable.
In recent months we have seen a significant stepping up of this offloading, both in terms of the number of commodities and the number of countries involved. Of course, if this is only a passing phase, we should be able to con- 58 trol it. But is it? Are there not signs that in the years ahead world food surpluses are likely to increase yet more? If so, are not the pressures and strains on our free market likely to grow rather than diminish?
It is true that behind our support system we have the 1957 anti-dumping legislation, but that legislation was designed to deal with specific incidents and it was not designed to give blanket protection against falling world prices. And it is not man enough for that. This trend is creating major difficulties for us and we must deal with them in the short term as best we can with the measures which are open to us. If it looks like becoming a permanent feature, so that wide ranges of foodstuffs come on to our free market at uneconomic prices, we will have seriously to consider adapting our system in order to prevent our objective from being thwarted. Otherwise, we will find our farmers constantly at the mercy of imports at uneconomic prices, with Exchequer payments rising to unpredictable heights. It is against this background—that we must maintain our objective of a thriving and stable agriculture, but with our methods flexible—that I should like to say some words about the Common Market.
As the Prime Minister has said, no decision has yet been taken one way or the other on this great issue. Any decision to join or adhere to the Common Market must depend on satisfactory arrangements being made for British agriculture. Before we even look at the methods of support that that would involve, we must first see whether the objectives of the Community is right, from the point of view of agriculture.
Those objectives, as stated by the Community, are as follows:to increase agricultural productivity by developing technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, particularly labour;to ensure thereby a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, particularly by the increasing of the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture;to stabilise markets; to guarantee regular supplies; and to ensure reasonable prices in supplies to consumers.So far as they go as principle, there is nothing in them to which we would object. Indeed, they express, in somewhat different words, what lies behind 59 our own agricultural policies embodied in the Agriculture Acts of 1947 and 1957.
The main difficulty which one sees in them is how one can construe what is, I quote:a fair standard of living for the agricultural population".That is a fair generalisation for one country, for it can be matched against the standard of the population as a whole, but standards of living in the countryside vary very much in different European countries. Ours is high and we could only agree with or participate in any system which was to keep it that way.
Any country which associates itself with the Common Market would be not only subscribing to principles, but agreeing to participate in the working of a common agricultural policy to give effect to those objectives. Here, the picture is much less clear. It is divided into two parts. There is, first, to be a transitional period, during which different countries would be gradually adapting their systems of agricultural support and food import prices to a common system.
Commodity prices for their farm products would vary as between countries and they would be protected in ways which suited them best, not only from outside but also between themselves. The manner and pace at which they move towards a common policy remains to be negotiated between them, and there is ample evidence of the difficulties which they are finding in reaching agreement about this. It was originally envisaged that the transitional period for most commodities would last until 1967, but time has been slipping by and proposals even for the transitional period, let alone the Common Market period, have yet to be adopted by the Community.
While the broad pattern of policy can be seen from the proposals which the Commission is putting forward, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what will finally emerge. What is clear from our point of view is that it would be necessary, were a decision to be taken in principle, to negotiate arrangements commodity by commodity to suit our special circumstances and the interests of the Commonwealth.
Where the Common Market period is concerned, the broad intention of the 60 Community is to fix and hold prices for different commodities at a level high enough to provide a satisfactory return to producers without encouraging production to a point of embarrassing surplus. It plans to bring about equality of prices of different commodites among its member countries so that there will be no need of protection as between each other. From countries outside the Community it will control imports, both as to quantity and price, to protect and to preserve its internal market.
So, for those commodities which here carry no Exchequer payment, the difference between their system and ours is one of emphasis rather than principle. For those commodities which are here supported by Exchequer payments the difference would be more fundamental. Where we have, broadly speaking, a free market with minimal tariffs on imports and a price which is made up above the free market price by Exchequer deficiency payments, the Community intends, by various devices—such as tariffs and levies against outside competition, and by domestic support buying within to deal with internal surpluses, to achieve the desired market price, which will be fixed by mutual agreement.
Instead of, as in our case, the Exchequer meeting the bill for the difference between what are virtually world food prices and prices determined by the Government, the market prices in the Community will be set and preserved by the member countries collectively to suit their collective needs and the consumer will pay the full price.
From this broad picture one can draw certain conclusions from our point of view. If we were to be in the Community there would be an increase in the cost of some foods, the degree of which it is hard to assess since it would depend on the prices which had been agreed, and the rate at which it had been agreed that our system of support should be changed. For the same reason the cost of feeding-stuffs would also rise. It would mean a large measure of control over food imports.
Then there is the question of sovereignty. Implicit in the whole concept of a Common Market is that arrangements designed to benefit the Community will be worked out in common, and be agreed in common, and 61 this, of course, affects a wide spectrum, both political and economic, but one in which agriculture is included. The sort of things one sees being decided collectively for agriculture—during the transitional basis, on a basis of unanimity and thereafter by weighted majority vote—are price levels, the size of import levies, and which classes of direct Government assistance to farmers through production grants and the like are admissible, and which are not.
Against all this must be set the fact that if we were to be part of the Common Market we would be moving into a home market of over 200 million people. This would, of course, present British agriculture, which has been designed over the years to meet the needs of a proportion of our own national market, with an entirely new situation. For some commodities this would present difficulties but if we continue to increase our efficiency as we have done, there would also he many opportunities. In any event, our own market would cease to be the one which acts as a magnet for world surpluses, and many of the strains which flow from that aspect of our national affairs would disappear.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Is it not possible for us to act independently, and, if necessary, when these surpluses are coming into our market, to put on a levy and renegotiate our existing arrangements?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Would it not be possible to renegotiate our existing arrangements and act independently, and, if necessary, put on a levy to prevent the import of agricultural products because of the extremely low prices at which they are coming into the country?
§ Mr. Soames
We have to face the fact that if we go into the European Community it will be on the basis of moving over more closely to their pattern of support than we are at the moment.
Predetermined positions have not been taken up on this issue. If it came to be decided for broad political and economic reasons to enter into negotiations, the Government's task would be to see whether it were possible to agree with the members of the Community on arrangements both for the transitional 62 and the Common Market periods which would continue to provide for the stability and prosperity of our agriculture and also continue to provide for our Commonwealth interests. To both, we are committed and dedicated. We should be firm about the objective of a satisfactory future for agriculture, while being prepared to examine dispassionately the possible methods of achieving it.
Let us bear this in mind. One can generalise by saying that what is good for the country as a whole must be good for agriculture; that agriculture can only thrive and look to its future with confidence in the context of a strong, vigorous national economy. But that is not the whole story. The agricultural industry is not a sort of assembly line which can be adapted at short notice to meet changing needs. Alterations in policy should not be approached lightly or brought about rapidly. The impact of policy changes makes itself felt in years and generations ahead. Our land is a heritage which every generation holds in trust. Over the years we have built up a prosperous and efficient agricultural industry. We intend to keep it that way.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Before my right hon. and learned Friend sits down, will he clear up one point? The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), during his speech, skilfully sat on the fence as regards the Common Market. My right hon. Friend said a lot about the Common Market, and made a brilliant peroration—
§ Mr. Soames
This is a matter of big and broad political and economic issues. Whether it would be right for this country to join the Common Market will not be decided merely because of agriculture. All I say is that we cannot join the Common Market unless satisfactory arrangements are made for British agriculture.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
Perhaps I can satisfy the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), because it was made clear from the Minister's statement that the Government's policy was rain in June, and we are seeing how successful that is this afternoon. This is the crowning achievement of the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not wish to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the whole are of his speech, except to deal with the end of it. The central challenge to agriculture today is the Common Market. I should like to examine, first, whether agriculture constitutes an overriding reason for not joining. Secondly, to consider some of the implications to agriculture if we do join.
Personally, I am in favour of joining the Common Market, but for reasons divorced from agriculture, for political, industrial and economic reasons on which I feel we cannot stand aside. That is another matter; and I want only to discuss agriculture.
The position in the agricultural industry today stems from a series of different stages in the industry's background. There were the years of depression from 1870 until the First World War, and then there were the years of depression between the two wars. There was also the period of the siege economy during both wars and the period of siege economy following the second war. In the first siege the problem was U-boats. In the second siege the problem was the drain on currency. It was in that later period that the 1947 Act was conceived and finally put on the Statute Book. That is the main basis of our agricultural support system today.
Yet nothing stands still, as the Home Secretary would undoubtedly agree. 64 The period of shortages with production at almost any price, so long as the volume was sustained, has come to an end, as the Minister of Agriculture has said. This is evidenced by the fact that surpluses are appearing in almost every type of product. And those surpluses are growing. There are also the problems of the deficiency payments scheme, connected with growing surpluses and the growing bill that is inevitably ahead for the Exchequer, should this situation go on, unless some action is taken to meet it in one of the alternative ways which the right hon. Gentleman put forward.
It is understandable that no one should lightly cast aside this system which has served the industry so well and has done so much to recapitalise it and to enable the British farmer to stand up. He is a new person as compared with the individual we knew on our land twenty or twenty-five years ago. No one is proposing lightly to cast aside any systems of protection that we have. But two questions undoubtedly arise. The first is the question whether it will be politically possible, in the present situation, indefinitely to sustain the growing bill for subsidies. This is not a party issue; it is a practical problem which will face any occupant of the right hon. Member's office in the years ahead. We cannot evade it if we look seriously at the problems facing the industry.
The second is the question whether it will be economically possible to meet the growing bill, especially if, for one reason or another, the industrial sector of our economy is handicapped or depressed. If any hon. Member were asked those questions, he would undoubtedly answer that there could be no definite guarantee, looking ahead, because it is not within our compass to be able to give such a guarantee.
This brings me to the question, created in a fluid situation, whether we join the Common Market or not. If we join we should clearly do so for reasons far removed from agriculture, but we must consider the competitive position of the British farming industry in the eventuality of joining. I should like to say a word about each of the main points that have been made, as I see them. First, there is the size of the holdings and their 65 economic viability. It is not widely realised in this country that three-quarters of the agricultural holdings on the Continent of Europe are less than 25 acres, and that a small farmer in Britain is often a large farmer by Continental standards. That has a very important effect on our competitive capacity.
Secondly, there is the advancement of British techniques and mechanisation. We are among the most technically advanced of all the agricultural countries in the world. Our mechanisation is running at a higher rate than that of almost any other country, and our use of capital is also very often more efficiently deployed than in any other country. As a result of the supports that we have given it in the last few years our agricultural industry is certainly better capitalised than that of almost any other agricultural country in the Common Market. Those factors have a very important effect on the potential competitive nature of the industry.
I realise that, as the Minister said, there is the contrary problem—that although our techniques may be superior the wages and living standards of the farming community of the Six are often substantially lower than ours. In my view, however, this is not a valid argument. Right through the history of any form of production, the cottage industry—and I use that term in its loosest sense—has never been able to compete successfully against the modern, mechanised and capitalised producer. This is as true of farming as it is of engineering. Although temporarily, in the short run, one or two branches or small units of industry may be able to compete, in the long run an efficient, mechanised, capitalised, modern farming industry will always triumph over the peasant type of farming community.
§ Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)
The hon. Member is trying to compare agriculture and horticulture with the manufacturing industry. Agriculture and horticulture must include a much greater proportion of stock supervision and the growing of crops. A cottager in the farming industry is very different from a cottager in a mechanised industry. I would have thought that the hon. Member's argument is not as good as he makes out.
§ Mr. Donnelly
The hon. Member should have another look at the matter. 66 There are three aspects to any farming enterprise. There is the capital, the labour and the technique. If we have the capital and the technique we can quickly see how to out-do the peasant labourer. If the hon. Member considers our own agricultural industry and sees how we are getting cheaper and more efficient production with fewer people involved, simply because of our increased mechanisation, he will see the importance of the trend which I am seeking to point out.
The third question of competitiveness is the geographical position of this island as compared with the Common Market countries. There are disadvantages of climate in respect of certain products. To some extent new techniques of storage might go a small way to mitigate this difficulty—although not all the way. There are also advantages. We can grow grass much better here than can be done in almost any other country, and we should be able to produce meat cheaper than any other country of the Six, provided that we go about it the right way. Given improvements in packaging and grading, which are now proceeding in our own industry, European farmers may have much more to fear from our farmers than our farmers have to fear from them.
The Minister also pointed out another advantage. He said that we shall have opened up to us what is tantamount to a home market of 200 million people. That is an important factor to be considered by an industry which is modern, thriving, and in the state which our agricultural industry is at present. As the European economy grows, and living standards rise, there may be new opportunties to which the British farmer would not wish to be denied access.
Of course, there are some objections. There will have to be some upheavals in agriculture if we join the Common Market. Continuing the industrial analogy, which the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) did not like very much, I would point out that there has to be an upheaval in any factory when retooling takes place. In farming, it is more of a problem, because it cannot be done overnight; the farming cycle takes much longer than any industrial retooling project. Therefore, any changes which have to take place must he staged 67 and arranged in a fashion which will not be detrimental to our producers.
But this fact has not escaped the notice of the signatories of the Treaty of Rome. Anybody who reads that Treaty will see that agriculture is likely to be the last to be settled of all the various economic problems which will have to be dealt with. So far, nothing has been decided. At present, the various conditions can be amended. But that situation will not remain indefinitely. It is much more difficult to reverse a decision which has been taken than to amend a proposal which is in process of being considered. The crux of this debate is the question: what should be our attitude, in the interests of agriculture, to the timing and announcing of any decision to join the Common Market, assuming that we decided to do so in principle? As the Minister said, in the Treaty and in the Commission's plan a number of provisions have been inserted to safeguard against many of the problems that we have been discussing today, such as the dumping of barley.
Various other proposals are contained in the plan to ensure the rationalisation of some of the difficulties relating to surpluses. The dumping factor is very important for our farming industry. I say that if we decide to join the Common Market the sooner we do so the better for our agriculture, in order to mould the plans. The longer the decision is put off, the more difficult it will be to secure the necessary safeguards.
This, of course, is conditional on the assumption that we shall join, but if we were to decide to join in a year or two from now our farming community would be at a considerable disadvantage as compared to its position if we took the decision now.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
The hon. Member says that if we join now we should be able to mould Common Market agricultural policies, but is it not also possible that if we did join the European countries would mould our agricultural policies?
§ Mr. Donnelly
That may be so. I am not denying that. But the object of moulding is to secure some arrangement whereby we come closer to each other. Whether or not we join the 68 Common Market, our agricultural industry cannot afford to take no notice whatever of what is going on on the Continent. Other problems stemming from the fact that we do not join will have an effect on our agricultural industry as well, and must be considered.
I am dealing only with the problems of joining, and I regard the Minister's statement as a very important one. My profound regret is that it was not made by a spokesman from the Treasury Bench long ago. This is the culpability of the Government. For four years the Treaty of Rome has been under discussion. It was signed four years ago, and in that time we have had a whole series of misjudgments and miscalculations and political misstatements from the Government. The Treaty of Rome was signed two years before the Prime Minister was talking about having it so good, and four years before he was talking about keeping it good. If one considers that fact one realises the full magnitude of the complacency shown by the Government in the past, in the face of this serious economic challenge.
This is the kind of complacency which served this country ill in the 1930s and which has served every country ill in the past, when it thought that it was achieving economic security. I am sure that there must have been a Macmillan Government in office when Rome fell. It is a remarkable indictment of the Government that we have had to wait four years for the kind of assessment we have had from the right hon. Gentleman today. We should have had it long ago, and I hope that it will be followed by an even closer scrutiny of the implications at the next stage of our discussions. What we want from the Government is a prompt answer to some of the problems which were posed by the Minister but which he left unanswered at the end.
I am a Socialist, and I believe that in the Common Market there are great opportunities for economic planning on a much wider scale than is possible in this island alone. That is one of my reasons for saying that there are advantages to be gained from rationalisation, and the removing of waste and some of the inconsistencies which exist in our present society. I also see in the Common Market a great challenge and 69 opportunity to the British agricultural industry.
I do not agree that the British farmer is necessarily against joining the Common Market, and that he is afraid of European competition. In the long run, provided that we show more activity and there is a greater demonstration of grasp by the Government, this debate may herald a new era for our farming community. It may be the opening up of a range of opportunities that we never dreamed about until now.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
I am very glad to have caught your eye, Sir Gordon, in order to make a short contribution to this debate. This is the first time that I have spoken on agricultural policy since I left the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1957. I feel that this moment is a kind of exceptional interest in the development of agricultural policy.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). As so often happens on these great issues, I found myself to a very large extent in agreement with what he said. I did not agree, however, with his accusation of complacency among my right hon. Friends. I think that the arguments we have heard deployed, and shall hear deployed, about entry into the Common Market will illustrate how complex this problem is and how difficult it is to determine just where Great Britain's advantage lies. I am sure that it would not be right to accuse my right hon. Friend of complacency. I wish that the general grasp of the situation which the hon. Member for Pembroke had had spread to his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, who seem to be remarkably unclear about their views on agricultural problems.
Turning to my right hon. Friend, I wish to thank him for an admirable review of our agricultural policy and for a masterly exposition of the picture of the possibilities and implications of entry into the European Community. Change of any kind is an extremely frightening affair to farmers because of the great rigidities of the farming industry. If a manufacturer has to contemplate change it is true that he has capital commitments to consider, but he can change his factory. He can retool his 70 factory and produce completely different lines.
On a farm, a farmer is limited to certain crops. If the land is poor he is probably limited to one or two crops and one form of livestock, and that is all that he can do. Therefore, any change is bound to be an alarming matter for the farmer. Because change is in the air, as it is now, and because anxious voices are raised in some places in the farming community, there is no reason for us to be perturbed. It is our job to try to make an objective assessment of the change and not to be perturbed by voices either on one side or the other which shout that there is danger here or danger there. We must look at the facts.
I agree with the hon. Member in not believing that our progressive farmers are particularly frightened by this prospect. I believe our progressive farmers are well aware that in many respects of husbandry, both of crop growing and livestock, they are fully competitive with agriculture in Western Europe. The National Farmers' Union has produced an admirable review of the implications of entry into the European Community. It has given comparative prices of the various livestock and husbandry crops which gives some idea of what the price levels in those countries are. It is evident from that that, at any rate in some crops and some forms of livestock, we are completely competitive.
The small farmer, I agree, is bound to be anxious. His resources are small and his scope for change is already small. Personally, I would not forget his feelings in this matter because, just over thirty years ago, I was starting in the farming world. I had no more resources at that time than I carried in my hands and in my head. I can well remember the anxieties I felt when farming in a small way, both when employed and later starting on one's own.
These anxieties should not deter us from taking the steps which we believe to be steps in the right direction. I think that there may well be greater dangers for our farming community in staying out of the European Community than in going in.
I can remember vividly the time, eight year ago, when we were introducing the 71 present agricultural policies. It is an implied compliment which touches my heart that today it is welcomed as the sheet-anchor of the farming community, but at that time it was not welcomed. We heard blood-chilling attacks from right hon. and hon. Members opposite who told us that we were dismantling the agricultural economy, that there would be shortages and that prices for the consumer would rocket; and that, on the other hand, there would be consumer surplus and plumetting prices for the farmer. Indeed, we heard great anxiety expressed as we proceeded to do what we thought right to restore free markets, which was the only way of giving the housewife a choice and, by designing the system of deficiency payments to ensure that the farmers had a fair return.
Step by step over the years from 1953 to 1955 we introduced that system commodity by commodity. I think it fair to say that the General Election of 1955 and 1959 confirmed that we had done the right thing. At the time the voices of gloom and doom assailed us from many sides and many of my hon. Friends were extremely anxious as farmers throughout the country complained of what was happening. I say advisedly, with that memory in my mind, that we should not be too much disturbed if we hear anxious voices raised now.
My right hon. Friend dealt with the current situation of farm prices in this country. I believe that, irrespective of the prospect of entry into European Community, the time has come when the Government will be obliged to review our existing forms of agricultural price support anyway. I say this having a very full understanding of the philosophy and the immense complexity of the provisions of the deficiency payments system which has served us well.
The fact is that conditions have changed so much since we introduced the system eight years ago. Production here has increased from an index figure of 140 to 170 over pre-war. At any rate, some commodities which were then scarce are now almost in surplus, if not completely in surplus. This has been combined with the effect of world supplies where a condition of world shortages eight or nine years ago has 72 progressively changed into one of world surpluses.
My right hon. Friend rightly said that the United Kingdom market is actually the only large free market in which to sell food today. Here again, there has been a complete change in the situation from eight years ago, when most Western European countries were crying out for purchases of all the main commodities. One by one those countries have increased their production and gradually closed their markets to surpluses coming from the rest of the world. At the same time, they have been producing surpluses and all those surpluses are now beating on the open doors of our market here. This situation is making a completely different position from the one which we reviewed eight or nine years ago, when introducing the present scheme.
My right hon. Friend referred to the barley market. When we introduced the present system we were producing about 1½ million or 2 million tons of barley a year. Today, we produce 4 million tons, which is almost all we want, yet barley is pouring in from all over the world and prices are going lower and lower as deficiency payments go higher and higher. It is the same with eggs. Eggs were scarce eight or nine years ago and we had to import them, but now we can produce all we want, and more. There are few commodities now which are technically suitable to be dealt with by the deficiency payments system.
The deficiency payments system works properly when there is a large factor of import in the total supply of the commodity. That condition still exists in wheat and in carcase meat only. Eight years ago it existed in animal feeding stuffs, in eggs, to a large extent in pigs, and so on. The situation has changed very much. Quite irrespective of going into the European Common Market, it would be inevitable that the Government should look again at this system of price support. If Her Majesty's Government ignore this situation I have no doubt at all about that prediction of the hon. Member for Pembroke would be fulfilled of a rocketing total amount for the subsidy bill which would reach such a high level that it would cause the Government and public opinion generally to lose confidence in the whole 73 of the present support system. That situation is with us now. Therefore, quite irrespective of our present consideration of the European Common Market, we are bound to look again at this system of support.
My right hon. Friend rightly said that we are not considering a change of agricultural policy. The policy remains the same. There are various ways in which we can implement it and if we are considering entry into the European Community we have to remember that the agricultural policy of the Six has even greater needs than ours economically. There, farms are less than half the size of ours and the agricultural community is six, seven, even nine times as great. In Italy, 45 per cent. of the community are engaged in farming compared with our 5 per cent. and in other countries the proportion is in between. We can have no doubt that there agriculture will not be forgotten. There will not be one Jim Turner, but rows of them. The Agricultural Price Review in future will be a European price review. What a spectacle that would be. My right hon. Friend has a very robust character and I hope for the best for him when he goes there, but it will be a very formidable affair.
The countries of the Six do not have a different agricultural policy from curs. It is precisely the same—to get full production from their farms and to raise the earnings of the agricultural community to a level comparable to those in industry. That is their dilemma, the fact is that we are all doing that and it is resulting in surpluses which we cannot eat. That is one of the reasons for the suggestion that we should try to integrate these agricultural economies and try to get some order in the situation which for us has the greatest danger of all because we are the last free market left to receive those very surpluses.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
The hon. Member keeps stressing the point about surpluses. He may be talking about the rich countries of Western Europe, but I am sure he will know that in southern Italy—where I was concerned in a survey—there are many people who are not obtaining enough food. That occurs all over the world. There are no surpluses there. It is a question of distribution.
§ Sir R. Nugent
I do not disagree that the supplies of food in various parts of Europe, and, of course, more still in other parts of the world, are short. The great difficulty is that of disposing of surpluses and the lack of finance to get supplies of food. That limits the extent to which especially livestock products can be moved to other parts of the world. But I do not wish to take too much time in the Committee. I do not wish to leave my main theme and must limit my remarks to these particular points.
I advisedly make the point that the present system of agricultural price support, good though it is, is not a fixed shelter against all winds from all quarters. It is only a temporary shelter, as it were, an umbrella against passing storms to give time to our farming community to protect it so that it has a chance to adjust its economy. If the storm is continuous, as it threatens to be, we may well be flooded by the floods of milk and eggs coming up round our knees.
The objection is made that, if we go into the Six, there will be a loss of sovereignty to our agricultural community and a loss of sovereignty to our Government because our policy cannot be entirely in my right hon. Friend's hands. The answer is that we cannot avoid the impact of the agricultural economies of the European countries beating against us by the export of their surpluses here. It is bound to happen, anyhow. To my mind, we may well be better off if our Minister is in at the conference to start with, discussing the various price levels and the volumes of production to come forward, rather than at the end, when the surpluses arrive here, when we cannot protect ourselves against them, the bottom is knocked out of our market, and our farmers are in serious trouble.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I have been enjoying my hon. Friend's speech enormously and I do not want him to go off the rails. Surely, he realises that, if that sort of situation arose, we should have to do what I have been saying for ages that we ought to do, that is, protect ourselves from imports.
§ Sir R. Nugent
I thank my hon. Friend for putting me back on the rails again. We do not always see eye to eye completely on these matters. I go this far 75 with him, that, if we do not go into the European Common Market, we shall still, in my view, be obliged to review our system of price support—
§ Sir R. Nugent
—and that review is bound to include some forms of import control. I agree with my hon. Friend to that extent.
§ Sir R. Nugent
Various objections have been raised about what effect entry into the Six would have on consumer prices. Of course, it would cause some increase, because the whole machinery in the six countries—
§ Sir R. Nugent
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman—in the seven countries is to maintain a certain level of price for each commodity in order to get a sufficient return for the farmers. Inevitably, there would be some increase of price here. What that would be is anybody's guess.
P.E.P., in a pamphlet, published a few weeks ago, said that the increase would be small and argued the case very cogently. During the five to ten years it would take us to become fully integrated into the system, the increase in the consumer price, I think, would not be likely to be very serious. I do not regard that as a serious objection to our taking this step.
I come now to horticulture. Inevitably, our glasshouse growers are in difficulty as modern forms of transport bring to this country supplies of food of the kind grown here in glasshouses—tomatoes, and so forth—which can be grown in southern climates out in the open. Inevitably, the prices of those commodities are bound to be weakening all the time. From vegetables and fruit crops generally grown in the open, I see no reason at all why the horticulturist here should not continue to earn a good living. I do not think that the horticulturist would be worse off if we were in and, indeed, he might well be better off than he is now, exposed as he is to unregulated quantities flowing into this country, often at the most awkward times.
76 I do not know, because I am no expert in these matters, just what is the balance of political and economic interests in the question whether or not Great Britain should go into the Six—the Seven—the European Economic Community. I have a disposition to feel that it might well be to our advantage that we should be in. I am certain that, whether we go in or whether we do not, the Government will be obliged to review the existing forms of price support for the agricultural industry and move very much nearer to the kind of price support system which already exists in the Six. I do not see considerations of agricultural policy as an objection to entering the European Common Market, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue, with his customary courage, to take the right decisions as they arise.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)
The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said that we should look at the facts before coming to any decision about joining the Common Market. That is what I wish to do. The difficulty is that we do not seem to have any facts. The hon. Gentleman did not provide any. The Minister did not provide any. He gave us some strong feelings, but no facts. The little booklet published by the N.F.U. and the little booklet published by P.E.P. are both incomplete collections of the facts.
Before I made up my mind, I should want to know not merely what are the advantages of joining the Common Market, but what are advantages or disadvantages of not joining the Common Market in terms of the facts. I want that information not only in relation to Britain, not only—least of all—in relation to British agriculture, but in relation to what the effect would be on the Commonwealth, on the Dominions, notably New Zealand, and, beyond that, in relation to what the effect would be upon the emergent nations of Africa. Without those facts, I, in my humble capacity as a back bencher, would not dream of making up my mind now.
I hesitate to intervene in this debate at all when I face so many hon. Members whom I recognise as experts in agriculture. I am an amateur. My practical experience of farming has been limited 77 to seven years, and no farmer I know of would say that my experience was either farming or practical, because I have been dealing with the very smallest of smallholdings. Yet, in that minor sphere, one begins to find out certain things about the industry and to reach certain conclusions.
One conclusion I have reached from experience is that the farmer's continual complaint about the uncertainty of his industry is wholly unjustified. From my experience, I know as a certainty that, if ever I want machines—a grass dryer, a baler, a combine harvester—everyone else will want those machines at the same time and I shall be last in the queue. I know with absolute certainty that, whether rain is forecast at the moment or not, the moment I turn my hay we shall have rain. I know with final and absolute certainty that if I have something to sell prices will be down, and that if I want to buy prices will be up.
A word about prices. When we smallholders go into the market to sell, we face Ali Baba and his forty butchers, and the butchers do not bid. It is only Ali Baba who bids, and there is some sort of cut-up between them later. I notice that if, by a fluke, Ali Baba has to pay a fairly high price, the prices of meat in the shops go up at once. But if, as is more usual, he gets away with paying a very low price, prices in the shops remain remarkably stable.
Because of this situation, smallholders—and, for all I know, small farmers—have to spend a great deal of their time working out market diplomacy, going into the market and bidding themselves, and very often finding that they have to buy in their own stuff and transport it home. All the time spent on market manipulation is time wasted. It is not farming. It is gold brick gambling. The Farmer and Stock-breeder ought to be renamed the "Farmer and Stockbroker", because so many people are more concerned now about the state of the market than they are about the state of their own stocks.
I very much doubt whether the small farmer—and, still more, the smallholder—has much of a future left in this country, except in one sphere. He has not the capital to buy the machines. Often his land is spread all over an area. It is not adjoining. I know small farmers 78 who have half their land up at one end of the village and the other half at the other end of the village. They have to bring their cattle to and fro, wasting time and to the intense annoyance of gardeners on the route. We shall have to consider trying to regroup tenancies and ownerships so that a man's fields adjoin. We must also consider trying to develop and acquire larger units which are more viable than the small units which there are in many places at present.
I said that there was one sphere in which I thought that the smallholder had a chance. That is in the precarious business of breeding pigs. It is not necessary to own a lot of land for that. On the whole, it is cheaper to buy balanced meal than it is to grow the food. Even this is a haphazard business. If a man wants to breed pigs in the country, he cannot be sure of getting the type of boar he wants. He has to make do with whatever boar is available. I remember the first time that we started pig breeding. We fetched the only boar within miles to our sow. He turned out to be not only very old, but also extremely heavy. As soon as he mounted, both boar and sow sank into the mud. This was no use to me, and I doubt whether it was much use to the sow and the boar.
Next time, we managed to get hold of a boar which was both lighter and younger, but the difficulty about this was that the poor little thing did not know what we brought him to the sow for. Eventually we found in the neighbourhood a boar which was suitable. I remember driving our sow to him. It took me the best part of a morning. By the time I had finished all the profit on the resultant litter was spent in compensation to gardeners along the way. I have to admit that the second time I took the sow there was no trouble at all. She knew where she was going and I almost had heart failure trying to keep up with her.
These are some of the hazards of pig breeding in a small way. I suggest to the Minister that it would he worth while for either the Government or for local authorities to set up breeding stations to which sows could be taken or from which boars could be sent so that smallholders engaged in pig breeding would have a chance of getting a decent strain.
79 I want now to say a few words about more serious farming than anything in which I have been engaged. It is obvious that mare and more farming will be done by machines. Yet, even with machines, men will be needed—and what men they are! They must be skilled in hedging and ditching. They must be able to use a hook. They must be able to use a scythe. They must be able to milk cows. In some areas this operation is still done by hand. They must be able to drive tractors. They may have to do running repairs on tractors.
Above all, they must know how to tend animals. In the old days, if a cow had milk fever one bunged a bit of dung on one of her teats and hoped for the best. Today, a farm worker must know how to handle M. and B. and penicillin. He is a highly skilled man not just in one job, but in twenty. But we still call him a farm labourer and pay him labourer's wages. We shall not have a decent agricultural system without men, and we very soon shall not have the men unless we begin to pay them better wages than they have been paid in the past. Men are leaving farming in my area to go to motor factories in Oxford. As floor sweepers on night shift in Pressed Steel or Morris's they can earn £14. What farm worker, except by putting in terrific overtime, can earn anything like that?
§ Sir P. Agnew
May I amplify what the hon. Gentleman is now saying? I have had brought to my notice cases in my constituency, in south Worcestershire, in the Midlands area, in which skilled horticulturists were being paid as much as £17 a week—I emphasise that they were skilled—and yet they were handing in their notice in order to go into industry and accept lighter jobs where money was more easily earned.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
This state of affairs is not peculiar to Oxford. It happens wherever there are large concentrations of industry near farming land.
It is not only a question of wages. Years ago we used to think of people who worked in the country as men who went about sucking straws and saying "argh", and women who went hobbling round the kitchen making cider and sewing and knitting clothes for their 80 children out of potato sacks. That sort of thing has long passed. The men and women in the countryside today have as many demands for their own lives as have people living in towns. One of the things that they demand is decent housing. Yet how many houses in the country, even today, are without lavatories? I know of some council houses in the area where I live which have lavatories, but they are lean-to lavatories built up against the living room, so that whenever the lavatory is used the living room cannot be used.
How many houses are there without water? I do not know the figures, but there are still far too many. How many houses are there without bathrooms? This country will not get a prosperous agricultural industry, and efficient men staying in agriculture, unless decent houses are provided. In villages in Buckinghamshire there is no street lighting at all, except a small amount supplied by the postmaster-General—I refer to the illuminated telephone kiosk.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Ronald Russell)
Order. The hon. Member is getting rather a long way from the Vote.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I am making the point that unless we make conditions of life in the villages sufficiently attractive we shall not get men into agriculture, and if we do not get men into agriculture—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I appreciate that, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is going into too much detail.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Surely the Minister of Agriculture is responsible for the welfare of agriculture. Even though it may not be his job to provide the services directly, he must be concerned, with other Departments, to see that they are provided. I would urge on the Parliamentary Secretary that his job does not finish with making it possible to have an efficient agricultural industry. He must 81 be concerned, also, with things like street lighting and proper bus services. The farmer's wife wants to go into town—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Street lighting is the concern of the local authority, not that of the Minister.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I shall not press this, but I should have thought that it was up to the Ministry of Agriculture to make certain that other Departments, and local authorities, were doing their part of the job, without which he cannot do his part of the job.
However, I will leave that. I will leave, too, the whole question of schools, though that is enormously important at present. In one village in Buckinghamshire there is a parents' strike. Four parents, all engaged in farming, say quite definitely that they will rather go to gaol than send their children to the only school available at present.
Although there are wonderful things, wonderfully attractive things about life in the countryside which will help to keep people there, there are some enormous disadvantages that must be rectified soon. We talk a great deal about the virtues of the agricultural life, not only for its immediate physical pleasures but also for the philosophy, the calmness and the stability that it brings; the awareness of what mankind is up against, and the almost instinctive knowledge of what life is about. But it is not the slightest use just talking in sentimental terms about life in the countryside. If we really believe that it is good, if we really believe that we want a prosperous agricultural industry, we must not just be sentimental about it, but must do something practical to preserve what we admire.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)
In telling us of the difficulties of living in the country, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) was expressing the views of many in this Committee. They have been expressed many times before, and I have an awful fear that they will be expressed many times again. He also picked on one or two things that he thought wrong in our present system, as did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas).
82 I am a little surprised that it is on those lines that the Opposition have chosen to develop their attack on the Government today, because it is no good blinding ourselves to the fact that our agriculture is now facing a very great crisis, indeed. We are very often inclined only to consider the Common Market, but the Common Market is really only one of three great problems facing the industry today. There is the problem of surpluses. There is the problem of agricultural incomes not keeping pace with incomes in other comparable industries. Now, those two problems are joined by the problem of the Common Market.
First, I want to refer to world surpluses. As the Committee knows, the F.A.O. has recently drawn attention to the fact that in the quite near future there will be world surpluses. Even today there are in Europe surpluses of soft wheat, sugar and milk products, and there will soon be surpluses in everything except beef. This country is the largest single market in the world for food. Of course, the E.E.C. countries together form a larger market for food than do we alone but, speaking of single countries, we are the largest, the most free and the most open market in the world for food. As many hon. Members pointed out, the dangers that must exist to our economy when surpluses are building up are perfectly clear, whether or not we go into the Common Market.
Many people say that this problem might well be solved by using these surpluses to help the under-nourished and under-development countries—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I agree with the sentiment, but I am not certain that it quite works out like that in practice. The trouble is that the shortage from which countries suffer is largely a protein shortage, and that is the one commodity that is in short supply today and will be for many years to come.
That does not mean that I believe that we should not make greater efforts to collaborate with those who are doing much to help those parts of the world that are suffering from shortages. We might, for example, be a little more energetic about the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. I was not altogether satisfied about the part we played at the 83 F.A.O. conference. I know that we have the determination to fulfil all our duties there, but in some curious way, which seems part of our heritage, we made it look in the Report as though we were dragging our feet. As far as possible, we should take a leading part in collaborating in the Freedom from Hunger Campaign.
Much has been done by America: and Canada has recently agreed to send wheat to China but, in particular, Holland and Germany have taken the lead in using their surplus milk products to supply protein to the undernourished countries, and I join with other hon. Gentlemen who have said that the Government should consider that as a method of disposing of any surplus milk we may have from time to time.
The fact remains that, almost by definition, an under-developed country is an agricultural country, and what it really needs is help in building up an efficient agriculture and a balanced economy so that it is able to enter the world as a general trader, and buy the things it needs. Nevertheless, though we should take the opportunity to help the under-nourished nations with our surpluses, and work towards that end with other countries that have greater surpluses than we, that cannot be regarded as a long-term answer. This growing pressure of surpluses will remain one of the biggest problems which British agriculture, in particular, will have to continue to face.
The second problem is that agricultural incomes are not rising as fast as those of other industries. All statistics and research indicate that the gap between agricultural and industrial wages is not closing, but is steadily widening. This point was noted, and attention was drawn to it, in this country in the First Report of the "Three Wise Men" who commented on the effects it is having on British agriculture. It is fair to mention, of course, that in other European countries the un-balance is far worse.
When one considers the high proportion of the populations of European countries engaged in agriculture, it is not difficult to see the political dangers that could easily arise. For example, in 84 France, which has a population comparable with our own, about 25 per cent. of the population is engaged in agriculture—a larger number of people than the total number of trade unionists who are affiliated to the British T.U.C. That makes one realise the problems that are facing France and, while hon. Members may not agree with that country, we must sympathise with her problems when she wants us to obey certain rules if we enter the Common Market.
It is against the background of these two problems that we should consider our possible entry into the Common Market. At the moment, as many hon. Members have indicated, the matter is really rather vague, because we are having so much said and written about the Common Market that ignorance is rapidly changing to bewilderment.
In almost every piece of literature one picks up one reads—whether it be in the heavy intellectual weeklies or even in cartoons—something about the Common Market, and, always in the background, one seems to see the figure of Lord Gladwyn beckoning one on like a rather elderly Rhine maiden to what one hopes will not be destruction.
It is rather curious, so far as agriculture is concerned, that the Dutch and French, which are the great exporting nations in the E.E.C., place such emphasis on adherence to the exact letter of a solution which is, at present, untried and the details of which are unsettled. Mr. Biesheuvel, whom many people know and who is one of the leading figures in the E.E.C.'s Agricultural Committee, recently said:People who think in terms of special agricultural bilateral arrangements between the Six countries of the Common Market and the Seven countries of the Free Trade Association are indulging in idle dreams.But that, of course, goes right against what the Minister has just said he regards as one of the prerequisites of our own entry into the Common Market. Other leading figures have said the same sort of thing, but there seems to be some doubt in the arguments they use to support their views. Recently, when Dr. Mansholt addressed a very large gathering in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall, he made it quite plain that the main reason why we should adhere to the rules and why we should 85 alter our system of price support, was that it gave us an advantage in food prices which would affect our power to compete industrially.
On the other hand, the late Minister for Agriculture for Holland, Mr. Vondeling, when speaking in London recently, at Church House at the Western European Union Assembly, quoted from the recently produced P.E.P. pamphlet—an excellent document—to show that Britain's food prices were lower than those of some countries at present in the E.E.C.; that they were in fact inside the average food prices of the Community.
It seems, therefore, that the two arguments just do not make sense. We should be very careful before we attempt to alter our present system of agricultural support. It is, after all, something very typical of our British political way of getting things done. Both parties have played an equal part in producing our present support system, and the farmers themselves have played a tremendously important part in it. It is something that suits our methods and our economy and, although I agree that perhaps there may have to be some changes, we should hang on to this method as hard as we can.
The Prime Minister has made it perfectly plain, and the Minister has today underwritten it, that we will not go into the Common Market until we have definite assurances and until we know exactly what are the terms. At the same time—and here I agree with what several hon. Members have said on the matter—it is inevitable that, whether we go in or stay out, things will not remain as they are today. Whether we like it or not, we are turning a page in history and we must have new policies and new emphasis if we are to improve our position.
But among all these problems, which are so difficult to solve, one factor is outstandingly true. We cannot go wrong if we increase the self-sufficiency of our farmers. I use the expression "self-sufficiency" rather than efficiency, because the word "efficiency" irritates me when I think of husbandmen with great knowledge, who are working all the hours of the day and yet who are told to be more efficient.
We must try to make our farmers more able to compete, and that means more capital. We must face the fact 86 that agricultural support in the future may have to be increased. If we go into the Common Market it is essential that we go in able to compete and that we go in happily. If we enter unhappily for any reason, whether it be for agricultural or Commonwealth problems or whatever the reason be, we shall completely disrupt the unity of the West, and an unhappy member of the Common Market might even destroy the Common Market itself.
That is why, in this crisis which is facing agriculture, we have got to make preparation and get ready to meet the challenge facing us. That means further capital injection. That is important if we go into the Common Market, and it may well be even more important if we stay out.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) is a colleague of mine in Western European Union. He has a wide knowledge and interest in European affairs, and I was particularly interested to hear his dissertation upon the agricultural policies in some of the European countries. Having said that I agree with much of what he said about surpluses, I think I can now indulge in the luxury of saying that I disagree with practically everything else he said.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) gave us some fresh thinking—at any rate, fresh thinking from that side of the Committee—on this subject, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister made a very fair appraisal of the pros and cons of the Common Market. I would only say that that was a speech which should have been made at least four years ago.
I stand aghast at the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas); I was aghast and astounded. [Interruption.] The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was not here. He had not left his club to give us the benefit of his attendance. The hon. Member for Lincoln ignored the fact that the really burning issue today which concerns farmers is whether or not they should go into the Common Market; what it is about; the effect it would have on their income; what would be the advantages of their exclusion, and the difficulties of entry.
§ Mr. de Freitas
That was my point, that we had not been provided by the Government with any of the data on which the agricultural community, like anybody else, could make up their minds as to the effect that entry into the Common Market would have on the agricultural community.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I see that it is necessary to give the hon. Member an essay on constitutional history. In the House there are two parties. Sometimes there are three. One of them is the Government and the other is the Opposition. If the Government have failed to rise to the occasion on any particular point, if they have failed to give a lead, if they have failed to keep up with events, it becomes the job of the Opposition to push the Government into action.
For the Opposition to say that because the Government have been stupid and because they have given no information the Opposition need do nothing at all, if that is how the Opposition see fit to discharge their obligations, the sooner they clear out from the Opposition Front Bench and make way for others the better. [Interruption.] We shall be there; I can assure hon. Members that we shall be there. What do we have from the hon. Member for Lincoln—Dutch tomatoes, milk bread, sliced bacon, dirty fish crates and bulk storage tanks—titbits from the Opposition.
So much for the Opposition. What about the Government? It is a relief that at last the significance of the Common Market upon agriculture is being fully and freely debated in the House.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) should wait. I will try to throw some light on this subject.
There have been few subjects which have received less attention and upon which there have been more comments based upon uninformed prejudice. There was a time in the House when it was almost necessary to assure hon. Members that the Messina Powers had no connection with the brothers of the same name. I should like to consider the pros and cons not merely of entering the Common Market but of exclusion from 88 it. I advocated in my constituency at the last election quite clearly the entry of Britain into the Common Market and, in particular, the entry of agriculture into the Common Market. The matter has been raised from this bench, not merely on the Adjournment, by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). The Liberal Party has twice divided the House. The only hon. Member outside the Liberal Party who, to his eternal credit, thought that it was a matter of pressing importance was the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). But from the rest of the House we met with derision.
Upon this issue the Government have totally failed to give a lead. It is only on these benches that this six has consistently advocated joining the Six across the Channel. There is no doubt that agriculture is worried and concerned about the Common Market, and those fears have largely been stirred up by the sort of speeches that Conservative Members and Ministers have been making throughout the country on the question of the Common Market. On 4th October, 1959, at the height of the General Election, the President of the Board of Trade said:We never dreamed of joining the Common Market. If we joined it we would have to abolish all tariff protection for agriculture and horticulture. It would mean the end of the system of annual price reviews. British farmers should realise that in these circumstances they would be given no support without the approval of our continental neighbours.The amount by which the President of the Board of Trade has shifted ground on the question of the Common Market, and particularly upon agriculture, is possibly the explanation why he is regarded in Europe as the quintessence of Perfide Albion.
Then there was the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett). He left the rural fastnesses of Torquay in the last election and went to the constituency of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) and said this about agriculture:If there was one subject on which he would claim to speak with some degree of expert knowledge, it was about the implication of this, as he had been a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Cabinet Minister responsible for these matters during the past two years.89 He went on to say:One of the principal reasons why Britain, under a Conservative Government—and he had to concede that most leading Socialists agreed with their policy on this issue—had insisted that further economic co-operation in Europe could only be via an industrial Free Trade Area, not a Common Market, was that, under the former, Britain would remain free to decide her own agricultural policy.He added:…this one sentence in Liberal policy if implemented would bring ruin to the British farmer and farming workers throughout the countryThat was the voice of doom in Torquay.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for letting me know by note that he was going to say this. He has claimed that the Liberal Party throughout has always advocated joining the Common Market. What he has not said is that in agricultural constituencies they were extremely slow on what the implications were. All I did was to read out a series of comments about the price reviews and so on which are extremely factual, if one studies the Treaty of Rome. The hon. Gentleman's indignation about my remarks can be attributed to the fact that the speech I made created so much stir in the area that local Liberal candidates were put in some difficulty and one failed to return to the House.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I have my election address here—a very good one, and evidently the majority of the electorate thought so, too. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the implications of agriculture entering the Common Market were fairly put forward in the same way that we have put them forward on every other single issue of European integration, from the Coal and Steel Community right down the line.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us in how many agricultural constituencies the attitude of the Liberal Party was made clear?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I think I am correct in saying that in every agricultural constituency in which the Liberal Party fielded a candidate—[An HON. MEMBER: "It was not many."] I know that there is a contempt for minorities. Fortunately, there are some people in this Committee who are democrats. As I was saying, in every constituency in which the Liberal Party fielded a candidate, we clearly 90 stated that we were in favour of going into the Common Market and that this was necessary for British agriculture. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) is about to take off, but he will confirm that his opponent, Mr. Moore, put forward that point of view in the Tavistock Division.
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Gentleman has quoted from his election address. Is he saying that he said in his election address, or in any speeches—if he is, my recollection is at fault—that if we entered the Common Market there would be an ending, among other things, of the Annual Price Review?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am pleased at this interest from the hon. Gentleman in my election addres. I do not intend to waste the time of the Committee by going through it in its entirety. The hon. Gentleman's election address must have been very long-winded if he went into all the details.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I made it perfectly plain, and I will provide the hon. Gentleman with the Press cuttings from the Western Morning News of the speeches which I made at the last election which clearly set that out. I could not be fairer than that.
Even as late as October, 1960, the Home Secretary, who is getting a reputation for making bad speeches covering every other Department but his own, said:The European Common Market would not he suitable for Britain. It would mean much higher prices in the shops and consequent inflation. It was largely for these reasons that we joined E.F.T.A. and not the Common Market.It seems that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to bring one country closer to Europe, but not ours.
The Prime Minister has hedged and prevaricated on this subject. This is particularly clear at Question Time.
§ Mr. Thorpe
We always know when the Prime Minister is in difficulties. His eyes become almost completely hooded. 91 His voice is practically inaudible. Just as the Duke of Newcastle left the premiership with the nickname "Hubble-bubble", so will the Prime Minister leave it with the name "Mumble-bumble". On no other issue could he have failed to give less effective leadership than on this.
If clear and conclusive proof is wanted, last September a colleague of mine went to the Ministry of Agriculture and asked for the comparative prices between farm products in this country and those in the Common Market. He was told that those figures were not available but that possibly an inquiry could be made of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade said that those figures were not available. My colleague said, "Tory Ministers have been stumping the country saying that entry would ruin British agriculture. Surely they must have backed up their arguments with the benefit of economic facts and figures". But still the figures were not available. He therefore went to Brussels and obtained the figures from the Commission in Brussels and sent them to the Ministry of Agriculture, which acknowledged receipt of them with gratitude. That is the sort of bumbling which we have had on this subject from a Tory Government.
Now, at last, a change is preceptible. We had the speech of the Lord Privy Seal on 17th May, in which he said:…British agriculture as a whole, as its post-war record shows, is in a sound state to contemplate participation in a common agricultural policy, provided that that participation is on equal terms as part of an enlarged European Economic Community. The British farmer is efficient and competitive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1961; Vol. 640, c. 1394.]That is a far cry from the President of the Board of Trade, from the hon. Member for Torquay and from the Home Secretary.
The next day, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said:Undoubtedly, some changes in emphasis in our production policy might follow, but there is no reason to assume that, in total, our farmers would stand to suffer under a system which would be worked out between the Six and ourselves. Indeed, it is very difficult to explain how Western Germany, with its high-cost production, can accept membership of the Six in the agricultural field if Britain cannot"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1961; Vol. 640, c. 1575.]92 Again, I agree with the Joint Under-Secretary of State, as I agreed with the Lord Privy Seal. It is only a pity that they were not saying what they are saying now four years ago when the Treaty of Rome was signed. However, perceptibly the Conservative Party is accepting the inevitability of Britain going into the Common Market—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—although I accept that 60, 70 or 80—who knows?—hon. Members will stand out against it.
But we know what happens when the Tory Party is subject to stresses and strains. There is a lot of noise and half-a-dozen resignations from the Whip. But back they come, whether it be over Suez or the Common Market. However, I am sure that the Chief Whip is not losing much sleep on this issue.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
Can the hon. Gentleman say—I am not trying to be clever—whether the farmers in his constituency concur in the view that we should have gone into the Common Market a long time ago, or that we should go into it now?
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman asks me whether the farmers in my constituency concur with the view that I am putting forward about entry into the Common Market. I think that it is true to say that there is a division of opinion about it in the agricultural community, and that there are farmers who are opposed to it. However. I believe that, for the most part, their opposition is based on fear of the unknown. I have been going round my constituency addressing, at my own request, branches of the National Farmers' Union. When both sides of the case were put to them, I found that opposition, which one expected, was certainly very much less than anticipated.
If it is any guide—and the hon. Members for Tavistock and Torrington will concur in this—the other day certain Members of Parliament representing Devonshire constituencies met representatives of the National Farmers' Union. They still expressed some anxiety, but at the end of the meeting they said that many of their fears had been set at rest.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
The hon. Gentleman must be fair. That was a private meeting, but, since he has mentioned it in public in this Committee. 93 I think that it is fair to tell him exactly what happened and to put it on record.
§ Mr. Thorpe
May I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was merely quoting from published Press reports?
§ Mr. Browne
I disagree. The hon. Gentleman was quoting a minority opinion of his own. What in fact happened was this. A Press statement was agreed but with which the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) disagreed. What the Devonshire farmers said was that they would be quite happy at the thought of going into the Common Market so long as there were negotiations beforehand which gave them what they wanted—security. What the hon. Member for Devon, North said was that we must sign on the dotted line first and negotiate afterwards. That is something quite different.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not asserting that that suggestion of mine met with favour. I have not expressed a view one way or the other.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I think that it is fair to say from reading the Press reports that at the end of the day a large portion of the anxiety which the farming com-community clearly felt had been partially removed as a result of question and answer and the discussions which took place. I do not wish to go any further. I do not think that that is going outside the purport of the Press reports.
I suggest that this is not a choice of either going into the Common Market or remaining outside it and enjoying the present conditions which we have in British agriculture. That has been re-echoed throughout many of the speeches today. Secondly, it is impossible to consider the advantage for agriculture of going in in isolation. One has to consider the rest of the economy 94 and the bearing that it would have on British agriculture.
One must also consider whether the obligations which the Government have under the 1947 and 1957 Acts could be discharged, albeit in a different form, by the philosophy and the assurances contained in the Treaty of Rome. I shall deal with that presently. The Government must also be quite plain which branches of agriculture will be adversely affected if we go into the Common Market and they must work out, if we go in, how long a period will be needed for harmonisation of farm prices and production.
One thing about which we must be quite clear is that there is no possibility of a sort of E.F.T.A. compromise. We have tried that and it failed. If we enter the Common Market, we must accept harmonisation of prices, a European agricultural policy and a common external tariff. Those things must be accepted. It would be dishonest to pretend to the farming community that there is some sort of halfway house.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The hon. Member claims to be giving us the official policy of the Liberal Party. Can he tell us this: is the Liberal Party prepared to apply to British food imports the high import duties which are now contained in the common external tariff of the Six? That is the issue.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to talk of high external tariffs, because the height of those tariffs has still to be worked out. It will be worked out in the autumn. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman is asking me what the policy would be towards those tariffs, I would say that they should be as low as possible [Laughter.] Certainly. It is perfectly logical. If we believe in free trade, we should see that tariffs get lower and lower until, eventually—
§ Mr. Thorpe
I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman is talking of a 20 per cent. tariff, for example, in regard to wheat?
§ Mr. Thorpe
That has been abolished. It is now a question of straight levies. The right hon. Gentleman is not clear on his facts. The level of external tariff has still to be negotiated. It will be negotiated when the Commission meets in the autumn and confrontation takes place.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Does the statement that the hon. Member has just made mean that the Liberal Party has abandoned the policy which it has repeatedly put forward, especially through the mouth of the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), now sitting beside the hon. Member, that the Liberal Party believes in a spontaneous gesture of reducing all tariffs on imports into Britain by 50 per cent.?
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the hon. Member will keep quiet I will try to answer the very proper question of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). The Liberal Party has always believed, and, I hope, always will continue to believe, in free trade. That means that one operates in a condition of a free economy and that ultimately industries will not artificially be protected by tariffs, quotas, price rings and the like. We take the view that the best way to stimulate that process, and the best way to stimulate the country's economy, is by going into the Common Market, by applying for membership under Article 237. Once Britain is in the Common Market, it would, I hope, be our intention to see that those external tariffs are kept as low as possible and, ultimately, that the Common Market would expand to embrace America and eventually South America, so that one is working towards a condition of total free trade. That is perfectly logical. By going into Europe in this way, the amount of national sovereignty that we would cede, the amount of decisions which we would take collectively on questions of tariffs, would be the contribution that this country could make to the freest possible condition of trade in the world.
I intended to be brief, but I have been interrupted a number of times. I quite understand that hon. Members opposite have not been able to get all 96 the information from the Front Bench that they wanted. I will endeavour to be brief in the remainder of what I have to say. First, what are the advantages and disadvantages of exclusion from the Common Market? The Common Market is the largest collective importer of foodstuffs in the world. One-third of the total world food exports is absorbed by the Common Market. Put at its lowest, the common external tariff, the levy system and the quota system which will be operated under the Treaty of Rome will make it more difficult, and not easier, for food exporting countries outside the Common Market to sell their goods in Europe. It is for that reason that Denmark has taken the view that if she is excluded from the Common Market, she will face real difficulty with regard to her agricultural exports.
Canada exports 30 per cent. of her wheat to the Common Market countries. Thirty per cent. of Ghana's total exports, mostly cocoa, go to the Common Market countries. Australia's exports to the Common Market are worth £16 million, which are not as much as her exports to the United Kingdom, but they are of a sufficient size to have economic effect. Kenya, Uganda, India and Ceylon, all producers of tropical foodstuffs, have large and expanding markets in the Common Market, which would become more difficult, as opposed to easier, if they were excluded from the Common Market.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am glad that the hon. Member should understand and digest what I say. That is my intention.
That was what Lord Netherthorpe had in mind in January, 1960, when he said that if Britain was excluded from the Common Market this country would be at the receiving end of world surpluses. The same point was put with great clarity by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the debate on 18th May, when he said:By the very nature of our present policies, Britain tends to be the residual market to which world food surpluses gravitate at the present time.97 That is perfectly correct, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman 100 per cent. He continued:It follows, therefore, that if production in the Six were in increase, foodstuffs they had hitherto been importing would tend to be diverted to our market and any surpluses that arose within the Six would incline towards us, with a resulting pressure on our market and on the cost of Exchequer support."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1961; Vol. 640, c. 1573.]That is perfectly correct. Therefore, if we are excluded, if hon. Members are in favour of exclusion, they must bear in mind the fact that not only will we face the surpluses from Europe, but that there will also be surpluses from those countries which used to export to the Common Market which will be kept out. Already, we are feeling the effect of surpluses in regard to Russian and French barley without even the operation of exclusion from the Common Market. This could lead to a subsidy bill, expressed in deficiency payments, of between £400 million and £700 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish".]
If that bill was presented to the taxpayers at a time when British industry was suffering a decline as a result of our exclusion from the Common Market—and we are already feeling the effect of American investment being diverted to Europe and not to Britain, and British firms expanding in Europe and not in Britain—there would be great danger that an industrial nation would want to sacrifice British agriculture. I think that could mean a very dangerous situation for British agriculture.
If that is the danger of exclusion, let me briefly examine the effect of going into the Common Market. The first suggestion is that the price of food will go up. On this the Agricultural Research Institute of Oxford has suggested that it might go up by as much as 1s. per head per week; the cost of living would go up approximately 0.9 per cent. However, in my view, the two factors which those who deplore the increased prices of food overlook are, first, the lower cost of manufactured imports. If one bears in mind that the average tariff on manufactured imports is 17½ per cent. in this country, it will mean that the consumer will correspondingly get cheaper manufactured products; then I believe that the increase in the price of food is not such a terrifying prospect as was thought. 98 And also this: if one bears in mind that British agriculture will almost indubitably be able to continue to enjoy production grants which run at approximately £100 million, and that the deficiency payments, which run at £153 million, will no longer be paid because the farmers—[Interruption.]—if the right hon. Gentleman has only just discovered this he has got a long way to go.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The £153 million we pay out at the moment in deficiency payments will be replaced by the fact that the consumer will be paying a higher market price for his goods, so the farmers will be getting remuneration not from deficiency payments but from the prices of food the consumer pays. If that is so, I would believe that it would be the duty of any Government to make the necessary increase in old-age pensions, in family allowances and in widows' pensions, which would absorb the increase in the price of food.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last few words, but what guarantee have we that all that will follow? The hon. Gentleman has given us no indication about what should happen about wages, and to my mind, at any rate, his argument is incomplete.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The position is that it has to be accepted that, if one is going into a Common Market, the present basis of support to agriculture will have to change. One has to accept that. To some hon. Members that may be a reason against going into the Common Market, but the method of supporting European agriculture is quite different from our method of supporting ours. Ours, of course, is basically deficiency payments; theirs is basically target prices, in which the consumer pays a slightly higher price for his food. What I am suggesting—and I hope that this answers the hon. Member—is that although I accept that there will be an increase in the cost of food I assert that it will be more than offset by the cheaper prices of the manufactured products which we have to import. I think that there is a strong argument that farmers will be able to buy at a cheaper price many of the raw materials which they need for their 99 trade. We shall be discussing a fertiliser subsidy tonight, and I am not going to get out of order by discussing it now, but that subsidy could largely be abolished if the farmers could buy fertilisers in the largest market, particularly France.
Therefore, I believe that we have to assess the comparative balance of advantage and disadvantage of going in, and therefore I come to the other point. If we are going into the Common Market—
§ Mr. Prior
The hon. Gentleman is saying that farmers will be able to buy fertilisers cheaper as a result of getting rid of tariffs on imported goods, but a minute before that he said that production grants would not be touched by this. Does he realise that fertilisers are the subject of production grants and would be touched?
§ Mr. Thorpe
Certainly. Of course I know that fertilisers are the subject of production grants. I am not suggesting that we are rigid. Production grants—[Laughter.]—is it for hon. Member opposite a laughable suggestion to make that they are not rigid? Production grants are changing year in and year out. Dr. Mansholdt, the Vice-President of the Commission, has said in his recent speech at Europe House that, by and large, production grants would be permissible under the Treaty of Rome and that, by and large, existing production grants would be continuable and unlikely to be changed. I am not being rigid. It may be that there may be a variation here or a variation there.
The other matter one must face quite plainly is that if we go into the Common Market the system of the Annual Price Review will go. As I have indicated, the existing method of support of agriculture will be changed. That, of course, touches on questions of sovereignty, and I know that on this issue there is a clear division of opinion on both sides of the Committee.
We in my party have always tended to be in favour of any move towards greater integration and co-operation in Europe. That is why we supported the European Coal and Steel Community and the idea of Euratom and the European Defence Community, which Sir 100 Anthony Eden killed, and now the idea of the Common Market.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the noble Lord will not try to shout me down I will explain. The French threw out the European Defence Community in August, 1953. The reason why they threw it out was that they were not prepared to go into a European army unless Britain was a partner. Britain originally acted upon the call for a European army which came from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and then we boycotted the negotiations and discussions—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I think that it would be better to come back to the question of agriculture.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I would say on this question of sovereignty in regard to agriculture and the Price Review, on which there are points of view on both sides, that again, in arguing whether or not it is right to change the method of support, we shall have to look to the philosophy of the European Common Market and ask ourselves what sort of livelihood this will provide.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted from—I think it was—Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome which set out the objectives which the Community has in regard to agriculture, and certainly on paper those objectives are not dissimilar from our own. This is the point which the hon. Member for Guildford clearly brought out in his speech. I would also suggest that when one is considering whether those objectives are likely to be achieved in the case of British agriculture we should bear in mind certain factors. First, that on the average the acreage of British farms is much higher than the average acreage of farms in Europe. The average is 70 here and in Europe it is 25. Secondly, we are as an industry far more highly mechanised than our European counterparts. The figures are approximately 2.5 workers per tractor here, and 8.6 in the Common Market. Moreover, all Governments in Europe give some form of assistance to their agricultural communities and are 101 no more likely to abandon those communities than we are to abandon ours in this country. We should also bear in mind that politically the farming community is far stronger in Europe in so far as it represents a far higher percentage of the share of national employment: it is 4.7 in this country rising to very nearly 40 per cent. in Italy. Therefore, I believe, to put it at its lowest, that the farm lobby in Europe will be very much more powerful than the farm lobby over here.
Therefore, I cannot foresee that Article 39 will not be lived up to. I think that we shall find that the attempt to raise the standard of living in Europe will go forward successfully.
The only other matter I would mention is this. It is perfectly true that there is still vagueness about the harmonisation period, about the size and the extent of the external tariff and about the extent of the internal regulations among member countries. But that, in a sense, is an advantage, because Britain still has the opportunity of going in and negotiating these matters. I believe that they will be settled, for better or worse, this autumn. Therefore, if Britain is going in she will have to make a decision very soon, indeed even before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
Inquiries are being made in the constituencies by the Conservative Central Office. I have seen one of the forms which are being sent out to try to find out what the opinion is. The Government will have to do a great deal of educating. They have had a rest for four years and now they will have to make up for lost time. They will also have to tackle Sir Anthony Eden. I suggest that the Prime Minister should treat this speech as "a little local difficulty." The Government will have to bring out a White Paper and make perfectly plain a comparison of cost of production between the British product and that of European countries. They must tell the farmers what is likely to be the competitive capacity of British agriculture compared with that of the Six. Everybody has produced figures. The only people who have failed so far are the Government.
The Government must tell us what expansion will be possible within the framework of the Common Market. 102 They must decide which branches of agriculture will be adversely affected and they must plan accordingly. They must consider whether they can discharge their obligations to agriculture under the 1947 and 1957 Acts within the framework of the Common Market and they must do the thinking that they should have done years ago.
The only hope for an extended agriculture in this country, for a secure agriculture and for an agriculture which can work to a fixed plan is within the European Common Market. If we are excluded from it we shall become the dumping ground for the whole world. We shall see a contraction in the country's agricultural economy, and an industrially declining economy will sacrifice agriculture before any other side of the economy. I believe, therefore, that it is in the interest of agriculture that we should go into the Common Market. I congratulate the Minister on at least doing some thinking on this question. I hope that he will persuade his colleagues now to do likewise.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I will not follow in this debate the somewhat lengthy "mumble-bumble" of the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). I regard the Liberal Party as a whole rather like six moths drawn irresistibly to the seductive, flickering candlelight of Europe at the moment. I regret that the hon. Member attacked my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. No one is less perfidious than my right hon. Friend. In his cross-talk with the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), the hon. Member for Devon, North said that his party would be soon sitting on the "Opposition Front Bench". I am glad to note that that is the limit of the ambition of the Liberal Party.
We might now get on with agriculture. I am no farmer. But since I have been the Member for North Oxfordshire I have tried to study farming from the economic point of view. The area which I represent is one which does not have a very rich soil. Farmers there meet problems which are typical of many met throughout the country, and my interim observations on farming are largely addressed to the problem of the small farmer—I mean by this the man who 103 farms about 100 acres. His great problem is that, as things are, he cannot make enough profit to reinvest in his farm. He cannot cut his labour costs because very often the man who farms 100 acres does so with the help of his wife and son and he cannot cut this labour force. He can increase his profits only by taking some action which may be thoroughly bad husbandry such as not doing his hedging and ditching one year. That is not a good thing for the long-term haul of agriculture. Alternatively, he can do it by over-intensive production which, in the long run, may well upset the balance of nature. Again he cannot react to the violent changes in the market. His manœuvrability in the market and his ability to change direction in his line of production are limited because of his restricted acreage.
The small farmer cannot often solve his problems by extending the size of his farm. In North Oxfordshire, the small farmer in many cases would like to buy an adjacent farm, but when it comes on the market there are a great number of people with much more money who will pay a fantastic price for it in an effort to obtain some alleviation from death duties. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture could bring pressure to bear upon his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do something in the next Budget about reducing death duties it would have great and beneficial effect upon the price of land in the countryside.
This is a cul-de-sac in which the small farmer finds himself. Small profits force him to try to increase production and that lands the country with a substantial surplus of food.
This is not a case where the Government should only allow the cold winds of economics to blow through and sweep the problem away, because the small farmer is unable to appreciate the problem against the general national and international background. The Government should give a lead to the industry by reviewing their whole policy on the treatment of small farmers. It has been said in the course of the debate that we should encourage amalgamation and co-operation between small farmers. It would be difficult; but I think that eventually it would be effective.
104 We should consider helping elderly farmers to retire if they so wished. There might be some way by which we could help them on condition that on their retirement the farm then went into some co-operative scheme or was amalgamated to achieve the ends we might have in view. The local authorities have, I believe, about 400,000 acres of smallholdings and they could set an example by amalgamations.
The farming industry might help in solving this problem by setting up certain standards of quality such as those now set up by the County Quality Bacon Association and by establishing standards of marketing which, we must all agree, are needed. I should like to see, for example, some young farmers before settling down for good on their farms doing three or six months' duty behind the counter in super-markets to see what they will be selling and what the housewife wants to buy. The industry could also set up certain standards of management by giving awards for efficient management. I hope that the Government and the farming community will jointly find a solution to this problem.
I must end, as have so many other hon. Members, with a comment on the Common Market. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said in a recent debate on foreign affairs that…there are indications…that the Community might be ready to consider the possibility of modifications in its present proposals for a common agricultural policy in order to go some way to meet us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1961; Vol. 640, c. 1394.]Before agreeing to an association we must know a great deal more than that. We must be quite certain what these modifications are. In a situation of this kind, involving British agriculture and the Commonwealth, with all its political implications, there is no room whatsoever for vagueness.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
In a way, this debate illustrates what will happen to our agricultural debates over the next few years. There will be no constructive policy for British agriculture—let me be fair—on the part of any Government that happen to get into power in the next three or four years unless some constructive decision is taken about the problem of the Common 105 Market. Already the entire issue of British agriculture has been left completely high and dry.
I did not agree with some of the criticisms which we heard from a representative of the Liberal Party. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) had the right to make reference to the milk quota, which is of fundamental importance to farmers in my hilly constituency. If we are to devote an entire debate to the theory of the Common Market while 12,000 people a year are leaving our agriculture, this is an airy-fairy House of Commons. That is a fact; in March, 1961, we had 12,000 fewer workers on the land than in March, 1960.
Let us not bother with jibes. The job of the Opposition is to oppose. I object to my party all the time laying down an accurate policy when we are in opposition—a policy which one can prove like the Theorum of Pythagoras when we cannot, in fact, prove it at all because we are in opposition and do not have the official statistics.
§ Mr. Davies
I have a view. We must have a view and the courage to oppose. That is different from being jockeyed into the position of saying what we would do at the moment. We are not in power. We will do what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said: when we are in power and have all the facts we will say what we will do.
The Government have been very unfair about their milk policy. If we want to encourage British agriculture to grow, men must grow with it and there must be opportunities for the little men to begin in a small way. Therefore, there must always be the small farms to enable the young men to grow up in agriculture, and to provide the opportunity for the expanding economy about which Conservative spokesmen talked so much at the last General Election and previous General Elections. But the Government are wiping out the opportunities for the small farmers and the young men.
I am delighted to find that more young men are going to agricultural colleges and agricultural technical institutes than 106 ever before. But what will happen to that type of ambitious young man if there is this arid kind of economic attitude and this worship of the god of complete efficiency? There is more in the world than trying to have complete efficiency. There is social happiness and social consciousness. An efficient world can be very arid. We want as much as possible in production, though if we are aiming at 100 per cent. efficiency in British agriculture we shall not get it. No Government will ever completely get it.
There is a tendency to say that the small man must go. The Conservative Party committed a sin at the last General Election. An hon. Member said today that the Conservatives were voted in because of their policies. That is complete bunkum. They were voted in because of the hidden persuaders—£2 million spent in advertising on the hoardings. That accounted for 90 per cent. of their success. There is a famous journalist sitting on the benches opposite—the hon. Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter)—and he knows in his heart of hearts that that is so. Give me that kind of money and I will make any duffer on that side of the Committee Prime Minister. I will even do it for the Liberal Party with pleasure. But the Labour Party does not have that money.
To come back to the point, what are we to do in the transition period while the debate goes on and 12,000 people are leaving the industry every year? Mechanisation is increasing the accident rate in agriculture. There have been 150 persons killed in the last five years because of accidents with tractors. The Road Transport Bill is being pushed through in another place with a Clause permitting boys of 16 to drive tractors. I am against that. With a 16-years-old boy in charge of a tractor there can be a fatal accident in five minutes when driving round the hillsides if the weights are loaded in the wrong position. What are we doing constructively about these little things which enter into agricultural living?
I could not understand the ruling which was given earlier about rural transport. The Jacks Committee has reported on it. Surely we want to keep village life in being. The dynamic of British democracy has been the smallness of representation. I still want the 107 parish council. I still want the base of the pyramid of democracy to be strong, with strong units in the rural areas. It is from that that springs the fighting spirit that Britain can give the world. Our profound political common sense grows out of that. We cannot keep that alive if we have a policy which closes down the railway branch lines in the rural areas, while at the same time not giving a chance to agriculture. How can one keep the country going if one cannot reach the country districts? I welcome the Jacks Report, but had we maintained our policy of public ownership of transport we should not have had this problem in rural Britain today.
The Labour Party must make up its mind about the Common Market. I have the Adjournment debate tomorrow night on this subject when I hope to raise the political point; but today it is the agricultural point that we must consider. I recommend hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to turn to page 99 of Sir Anthony Eden's book "Full Circle" and see what he thought of American pressure during the Geneva conferences of 1954. Some of us on this side of the House of Commons at that time asked penetrating questions about our being forced into agreements about S.E.A.T.O. I denounced them then, and I do so now. It is proved in the book that pressure and differences existed. Have we been pushed into the Common Market by United States pressure because of the United States policy for Europe? Have we or have we not? No hon. Member opposite is certain. I was contradicted eight years ago when I said that that was which happened at the Geneva Conferences, that we were forced into S.E.A.T.O. When the right hon. Member for Woodford was Prime Minister, he had to tick off the then President of the United States and the Secretary of State who were trying to force us into military action in Indo-China.
Are we being pushed along too quickly into the Common Market by the United States today, without appreciation of realities in respect of the British standard of life but because of a diabolical attitude towards the cold war? There can be no true Common Market in Europe—books were written about this before the war—unless we 108 have true viability, and a true viability of Europe cannot exist without Eastern Europe as well. In the end even one has to take the whole of Western and Eastern Europe in balance to get the economy of Europe working as it should work.
The Common Market is a monstrosity. It is no real Europe. It is an attempt to build up a cold arid iron curtain more than industry, while the small farmers suffer. There are 9½ million farms in the Common Market countries and 5 million of them are of under 12 acres.
§ Mr. Browne
Yes, I will do so. The Common Market countries have 9 million farms of which 5½ million are of 12 acres or less.
§ Mr. Davies
Did I not say that? I thought I said that 5½ million of the 9 million farms were of 12 acres and under. I was just giving the rough figures.
§ Mr. Davies
This is very clever, is it not? Whatever it is, it proves my point. It may be that there are 5½ million farms of 12 acres or less, but whether it is five million or four million, does that impinge on hon. Members? It is a true peasant economy. What would be the influence of that economy and what representations have we made on the subject?
I looked up the Financial Times last week, when it stated that we in Britain must be prepared to import agricultural labour from Greece and elsewhere. What does this mean to the agricultural workers' union, when 12,000 a year are leaving us? When people say that we should bring in Greek or Italian agricultural workers—perhaps bring in one of those on a 12-acre farm—we see the 109 arid efficiency of this type of argument, but it does not disprove my argument at all. I know that the hon. Gentleman who interrupted is right and that I was half-a-million out, but does it disprove my argument? It does not disprove it. There are masses of cheap labour in agriculture available in Europe, which would completely destroy the British system of agriculture, which both parties in the House have built up.
"Wait and see", we are told, but they said that eight years ago about a lot of other things. This country will go in at its peril, because the only true Common Market could only be created if we took the courage to break through and invite Poland in. Let us invite Eastern Germany in, and Albania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, the great corn and meat areas. That is the only true Common Market. Any other Common Market will be one in which Western Germany—and I am not against the Germans—will get complete command, and it will serve the purpose of the political cold war policy of the United States. When the time comes, I shall vote against it, because I know that its real purpose is not economic but an arid continuation of the cold war that exists at the moment.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
Through the years, I have very often followed the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), and I have always found his speeches of interest. Generally, I have found myself in violent disagreement with a great many of the things he said, but on this occasion I have not found myself in that position at all. There are a great number of points which he mentioned in his speech on which indeed I both share the anxieties he expressed and agree with the principles which he stated.
I have found this a rather strange debate on agriculture, and not at all usual. One of the reasons why I say that is that when the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) opened the debate, I expected him to take one of two quite distinct attitudes towards this debate. I expected that he would either, in some way or other, come out rather violently about the Common Market, or, if that was not the case, that he would attack the Government in some way on 110 what they have done, which has nothing to do with the Common Market, but concerns agriculture as a whole.
I was somewhat puzzled because the hon. Member, having adopted the second of those attitudes, hardly mentioned the Common Market at all, and I found myself in great difficulty in trying to discover how the party opposite could then divide the Committee, in view of what he said. The hon. Gentleman certainly aired a great number of views on news, but I did not find very much substance attaching to them.
I should also like to make reference to the speech of the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Thorpe). I think that he outlined the difference that I myself find in this matter. I am certainly not going to refer to the great passion of his speech, because it seems to me that he confused two things which I most certainly would not have expected him to confuse. After all, a component part of the original signatures were the Six. They are there now. They were there before. The difference—and I am not saying this in any idle way—was that certain countries that were represented there should eventually come within the terms of the Treaty of Rome. The impression which the hon. Member gave us was that certain right hon. Members of the Government had from time to time made statements with regard to the Treaty of Rome which differed as time went on. So far as I am aware, I know of no senior Minister, and I certainly trust that what I am now saying is factually correct—certainly not the Prime Minister—who has ever yet stated that he would sign the Treaty of Rome as it now stands. This is the fundamental difference, because the Common Market as we know it at this moment means the Treaty of Rome.
§ Mr. Thorpe
In fact, it is not possible for any new applicant to sign the Treaty of Rome as it now stands. What happens is that a country applies for membership under Article 237, and, thereafter, there is room for some negotiation. What my colleagues have suggested, and I share their point of view, is that we have not expressed the intention so that an application for membership could be entertained.
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Gentleman's intervention has not in the slightest 111 altered my thinking, or what he was thinking before. If we ask for admission and then sign the Treaty of Rome tomorrow, seeking to go into the Common Market, there may be some slight negotiations here and there, but if we sign it at all now, we sign it with the acceptance of what is contained in that Treaty. The difference is this. The Prime Minister and others of my right hon. Friends have stated from time to time that they wish to consider an association, and they have gone no further than that, and, in considering that association, three vital points must have priority. One is the protection of our own agriculture, the second is the protection of the interests of the British Commonwealth, and the third is the protection of the interests of our associates in E.F.T.A. That is the fundamental difference, and the kind of speech which the hon. Gentleman made makes people muddled and confused, because if one understands anything at this moment as to what the Common Market means, it is that it means the Treaty of Rome.
I now want to say something concerning agriculture as it now stands. I hope that the conditions that we shall make will be such that, in the end, we do not associate ourselves in that way with the Treaty of Rome. I do not propose to go further into that tonight, except to say that the hon. Member for Devon, North, referred to the great differences of opinion on the question of sovereignty, and I entirely agree with him. I have no desire to relinquish sovereignty and he has. I wish to touch upon one or two points regarding agriculture to which reference has already been made. There is great anxiety about the use to which the present abundance of milk may be applied. I was rather surprised that my right hon. Friend did not mention that matter in relation to liquid price structure. The hon. Member for Lincoln referred to the Government "passing the buck"—that is more or less what the hon. Gentleman said—to the Milk Marketing Board. Surely, the fundamental point is that the Government still control the price of liquid milk, and they cannot pass on anything when they still have control of the means by which profitability may or may not result.
One of my hon. Friends, whose constituency escapes my mind, asked a 112 question regarding the damage to our own milk production when my right hon. Friend was referring to the abundance of different forms of milk products coming into the country. Instead of answering, and saying whether we have not already power to levy costs against those imports in certain circumstances, my right hon. Friend went on to discuss the Common Market, which was not the substance of the question. I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will return to that matter and give an answer to the question which was asked.
I was puzzled by the views of my right hon. Friend on the horticultural industry and his reply to an intervention of mine during his speech. My right hon. Friend gave certain figures which did not indicate the hurt which horticulture has suffered of late. I dislike to weary the Committee by quoting figures, but I should like to refer to sales of horticultural produce expressed in millions. In 1956–57 the figure was £123,500,000. In 1957–58 it was £141 million. In 1960–61 the figure went down to £133 million. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that this is expressed in £ sterling and not in the purchasing power of the £. As I asked my right hon. Friend, if we compare total sales or total production in the 1940s—to which he referred—with the total sales and production in volume today, we find that there is a serious decline, which is extremely worrying.
I do not desire to discuss matters which may appear to be "parish pump" politics, but I want to put one point to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. It concerns a matter affecting us in Cornwall, but hon. Members representing constituencies in other parts of the United Kingdom are confronted with the same problem at different times. There is great confusion over the question of who should, and how we can, fence certain parts of the moors which are traversed by major roads. Part of this problem is the concern of the Ministry of Agriculture, part is the concern of the Ministry of Transport, and there are other factors involved, including the part played by people who graze cattle on the moors.
113 The tragic thing about this problem is that—because of the speed of modern means of locomotion and the number of people able in these days to travel by road—the lack of fencing along these roads leads to many accidents to animals and to humans and much damage to vehicles. Yet the actual cost of fencing, as I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will note, might be described as comparatively small. The difficulty is to get any Government Department to recognise as a duty the need for this work of fencing to be carried out.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I am interested in the references by the hon. Member to the decline in the sale of horticultural produce. He will know that recently attempts have been made to stimulate such production. Can he give any opinion about the reason for the decline in horticultural production and what steps should be taken to assist the industry?
§ Mr. Marshall
A number of factors must be taken into consideration and I should not care to weary the Committee by enumerating them all. There are certainly worries regarding our future position and the Common Market, and so on. At the same time, I do not think that the tariff weapon is used with sufficient speed by the Board of Trade. That is the sort of thing which might be partly responsible for the decline in horticultural production, but I must also admit that over the last few years weather conditions have not been of the best from the point of view of horticultural producers. Incidentally, the road to which I was referring was the A.30 on Bodmin Moor.
I am glad to note that the Minister has got an agreed February Price Review with the N.F.U. Broadly speaking, what concerns people in the agriculture industry is the future rather than present-day problems. As the Minister said, the land of Britain is our heritage. It is not only the heritage of this generation but of future generations.
§ Mr. Marshall
The future of agriculture is assured, provided that in any thinking about the Common Market we make certain that a prerequisite is that agriculture is protected. However, I shall not be in support of a Common Market based on the Treaty of Rome.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Gooch (Norfolk, North)
I value the opportunity to take part in this debate. While I join in the criticism expressed from this side of the Committee regarding the conduct by the Government of agricultural affairs, I wish to maintain sincerely that British agriculture has at the moment nothing of which to be ashamed. British agriculture and all associated with it have much of which to be proud.
I pay my tribute to the achievement of those engaged in farming the land of this country. We have had an astonishing result of greatly increased production with fewer men, but in the days to come more men will be leaving the industry, although I believe that production will continue to increase. Nevertheless, given certain conditions, there is still a great future for the industry.
I have been privileged to represent a rural constituency for a number of years and I have spent my life living in a rural part of Britain. One cannot live in such an area and represent such a constituency without knowing something of the problems of farming. I confess that I often hear of the shortcomings of the Government and I pass on the complaints which I receive to the Ministers and Departments concerned, but I believe that the average problem of the average farmer is small compared with that of the farm worker, who has often worked on the same farm for twenty or thirty years only to be told at the end of that time that he is redundant.
That is the sort of thing which is happening today. The order of today 115 appears to be more traction, new techniques, more machines, but fewer men. I am sorry that we have reached that stage. The number of men employed on farms continues to decline and we have nearly reached the half-way stage. I do not know whether we will go past it, but it would be unfortunate if, having boosted our agriculture and having seen production increase and continue to increase, we should deprive the farms of what are regarded as some of the best men to be found in industry today.
The debate has taken an unusual, although not unexpected, turn. It was announced in some of the newspapers that although the House of Commons was supposed to be debating agriculture and fertilisers, this was to be a debate on the Common Market. I do not object to that and we have had speech after speech dealing with this important matter. I am glad we have. The Government have not yet made up their mind about it. Nor have the Opposition. I made up my mind a long time ago. I am utterly opposed to it from the point of view of agriculture. My friends in my constituency know the tenor of my speeches on the subject and I shall continue to tell my friends, the farm workers, that it will be a disastrous day for them if Great Britain enters the Common Market.
I wish that we had much more information than we have. If Britain joins the Common Market, agriculture as we know it today will fast be going down the drain. We shall be going back to the conditions which obtained between the two wars. Some of us who had a part to play on one side of the industry during those disastrous years know that farmers were then going bankrupt by the hundreds and that farms could be obtained two a penny and that the wages of farm workers went down from a top 46s. a week to 25s. a week.
After listening to all the arguments and reading all I could about it and trying to weigh up the situation with an unbiassed mind, I am sure that it will be a disastrous day for British agriculture if we line up with Continental countries.
It is often forgotten that the money provided for agriculture is not in the slightest charity but a worth-while investment by the country. Where should we have been during two world wars 116 without the stepping up of production on our farms and the efforts of our farmers and farm workers? If the support for agriculture can be regarded as an investment, it will be seen as the best possible investment we can make.
Some of my colleagues will say that the country should join with Europe and that we should then get these things sorted out afterwards and see that agriculture is protected. As the Continental countries are waiting to carve up the British food market, I am not prepared to see our agricultural policy dictated by other countries. Let us retain a sense of proportion and keep the power which we possess over the distribution of our own finances. Let us work out our own agricultural policies and the attitude which we adopt towards those concerned with them.
I should want to see the conditions to safeguard our agriculture before changing my mind about joining the Common Market. At the moment, I am definitely against it and I am advising my friends, especially the farm workers, about the attitude which they should adopt towards this proposal.
All the time we have been talking about production and the Common Market and the fate of the farmers. We sometimes overlook the fact that in agriculture there is another partner who needs encouragement and who is worth attention, namely, the farm worker. I am glad that the debate is not hedged round with restrictions about what we can discuss, but what I have to say will safely come within the realms of agriculture. I want to refer to farm safety.
It was a very great achievement to have passed through Parliament the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956, under which the Minister makes Regulations for additional safety on farms. However, there is a deplorable number of accidents on farms and the recently published figures are most disturbing. I know that the human element sometimes fails, but sometimes the machine fails. The workers in the industry are saying that more inspectors are required to go to the farms to see that the Regulations are actually implemented. If the Minister is satisfied that they are, then there is everything to be said for encouraging the human element to play its part.
117 I will not refer to a Bill which is going through another place. It is a Government proposal, and I expect that the Minister knows about it. It is a proposal to reduce from 17 to 16 the age at which a boy on a farm is allowed to drive a tractor. The number of accidents on the roads today is alarming. The number of accidents on farms is alarming. I am sorry that the Government are proposing that farm tractors should be driven by boys of—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. What the hon. Member is suggesting would require legislation, and it is not in order to discuss that.
§ Mr. Gooch
I will leave it at that, Mr. Russell, but the Minister has my point.
For some time we have been pegging away at the agricultural apprenticeship scheme. At last we have got it going. Applicants for apprenticeships are coming forward in increasing numbers, but while some counties are doing very well, others are not. The new Regulations to attract boys and girls on to our farms will succeed, but I am concerned about the fact that when the apprenticeship days are over there is no guarantee that these boys and girls will be rewarded for their additional skill. I am not proposing anything today. I know that there is a proposal before the Agricultural Wages Board to deal with plus rates in agriculture, but if the Minister wants to make a success of the apprenticeship scheme—and I know that he does—he must interest himself not only in the conditions which exist while the apprenticeship is being served, but also in the conditions which follow that apprenticeship.
The debate so far has been worth while. When the Minister referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) he suggested that it might be a case of much ado about nothing. I do not think that it is. I think that it has been worth while, and I am sure that the Minister and all 118 hon. Members will benefit from many of the things which have been said.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
I promised to be brief, and I hope therefore that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument. Much has been said about the Common Market, and I will not mention it, not because I underestimate the great importance of it, but simply because a lot has already been said about it.
If, however, we do enter the Common Market, it will emphasise the importance of the few remarks I intend to make about the marketing of our goods. I do not think that anybody would deny that our growers produce the finest goods in the world, yet I sometimes feel that we present and market them badly.
Consider a Cox's Orange Pippin apple which is grown in this country. Is there any apple to touch it? If we go into the Common Market, we might do a big trade in these high quality apples. But the excellence of their quality must be made more widely known.
How many people in this country have enjoyed the luxury of eating asparagus? I am not talking about the white stuff which is mostly wood, about the size of my finger, but about the delicious stuff which I tasted this weekend and which was grown in my garden. One cannot get asparagus like that in any hotel in London. One might possibly get it at inns in the country. Why do we not produce for the public asparagus at its best?
In my garden I grow tiny broad beans. They are delicious. Yet, what do we get in shops and restaurants? We get great husky tough beans.
I agree that we might have to put up the prices of these quality goods, but I believe that there are enough people who are prepared to pay more for quality goods. By all means let us have the cheaper products as well. In suggesting that we should market better quality products, I am also thinking of the export side of the business.
Consider, again, the broad bean. I have travelled a lot, and in my experience this is the only country in Europe in which one can get broad beans. I have looked in a French dictionary and 119 cannot even find a name for them. Let us educate people about some of our products and make them realise how delicious they are.
I may be called a heretic, but I believe that among the main causes of our trouble are local shows when the one thing which is considered, for example, is the size of the bean—"Mine was 2 feet 4 inches", that sort of attitude. It has nothing to do with quality. I may become unpopular with one or two of my friends in the country, but the fact remains that far too much emphasis is placed on the size of the exhibit as opposed to its quality.
I am also not happy about what happens to our horticultural products from the time they leave the grower to the time they get to the consumer. Nor am I happy about the difference in the price.
Fresh peas from the garden are delicious, but they are very different from the ones one finds in the shops. There is far too great a time lag between the harvesting of the product and its purchase by the consumer.
Another point is the difference between the price paid to the farmer and that paid by the consumer. I know that it is argued that there is a lot of wastage in these perishable articles. That may be true, and one must be fair to the wholesaler and to the retailer and give them a reasonable margin of profit, but the margin is too big.
Next, bacon. We can produce excellent bacon. I know that the pig breeders are grateful to my right hon. Friend for the help he has given them in the recent Price Review by enabling them to make long-term contracts, but the bacon which we see in some of the shops is not consistent in quality. That is one reason why housewives are apt to go for Danish bacon, but one has to bear in mind that the bacon which we buy here and which is called Danish bacon is not the stuff which is sold in Denmark. The rubbish is sold there and the best is sent here.
If someone were to get the views of housewives about the kind of bacon they want and those views were passed on to the curers who in turn told the farmers the type of pigs they wanted, we could put British bacon on the market again. The Pig Industrial Development Authority is doing a good job, but I still 120 hope that my right hon. Friend will consider my suggestion. Having done that, would he consider increasing the length of long-term guarantees to pig producers?
If bacon factories find the kind of pig which is wanted, they should be allowed to enter into really long-term contracts of, say, five years, so that the breeders can get down to breeding a herd of pigs of the right type. In turn, the factories will be able to produce the right type of bacon.
We can and do produce the finest agricultural and horticultural goods in the world. Let us see that they reach the public, and the public abroad, at their best.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), I thought the Minister of Agriculture was rather complacent this afternoon. He expressed the view that all was well in British agriculture, although there is some doubt whether or not we should join the Common Market. If he is so complacent I would advise him to read some of the reports which have come from meetings of the N.F.U. in Norfolk and various other parts of the country. Iii those reports are correct, it is clear that many things are not as they should be in agriculture, although tremendous improvements have been made in recent years.
Most speakers, especially hon. Members opposite, have spoken from the point of view of agriculture generally. As time is getting short, I want to refer particularly to small farmers and to farm workers. The larger farmer may be satisfied, but I can assure the Minister that the small farmer still finds a good deal of justification for being dissatisfied. The Minister must have been relieved that the debate has become virtually a debate on the question whether or not we should join the Common Market.
I want to say only one thing about the Common Market. I warn the Minister—and he had better warn the Government—that if there is any idea of our joining the Common Market he had better make sure that the interests of agriculture and horticulture are fully safeguarded. If they are not there will be trouble with 121 a capital "T" from all sections of British agriculture. Our present position has not been attained without a tremendous struggle, and I do not have to remind the Minister of the wonderful record of our farm workers. There has been no sign of a strike on their part since 1923—nearly forty years ago—and they will not lightly see agriculture again go down the drain.
§ Mr. Holt
This is an important point. There are many different arguments for joining the Common Market. If it were possible to make satisfactory arrangements in all other respects—in connection with Commonwealth trade, and with political matters—would the hon. Member say that failure to arrive at what he would call a satisfactory arrangement for horticulture would provide a sufficient ground for our not joining the Common Market?
§ Mr. Hilton
There is no time fully to debate this interesting point. I said at the beginning of my speech that it was not my intention to debate the Common Market, except to the extent of warning the Government about agricultural and horticultural safeguards.
I cannot understand why, in 1961, people should be expected to invest their money in agriculture without getting the same return for it as do people who invest in industry. Why should farm workers, with their splendid record, have to work longer hours, for much lower wages—it is still only £8 9s. for a 46-hour week—than do people in other industries? Many people working on the farms at present have no security of tenure. I hope that the Minister will be able to help the National Union of Agricultural Workers on this matter of the tied cottage, which has been a burning question for fifty years. I know that it does not apply in many cases, but in 1961 it should not apply at all.
It is wrong that if an employer does not need one of his farm workers any longer, or if that farm worker wants to go to another job, he should have to leave his tied cottage without alternative accommodation being provided. Grave hardship is caused on some occasions. We have had discussions with the Ministry on this subject for years, but we have never had satisfaction. The Minister is basically a kind man, and I hope that 122 he will be able to discuss this matter with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in order to see whether legislation can be worked out to prevent the eviction of farm workers in circumstances such as I have described.
The Minister paid a well deserved tribute to farm workers, especially for the good job they did last harvest, particularly in harvesting the beet, when they were working up to their backsides in mud getting the beet in. Many people have paid glowing tributes to our farm workers in recent years, but fine words do not fill empty bellies.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
Is it not true that there were two agricultural wage awards last year of record amounts? Surely that was a very considerable step forward for the agricultural labourer.
§ Mr. Hilton
There were two wage awards last year, but they merely brought the wage of the agricultural worker up to £8 9s. a week. Surely the hon. Member would not say that that is sufficient for a skilled farm worker in 1961.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was a notable exception, in that he did not pay tribute to the farm workers for their efforts. I informed him that I should be referring to a speech which he made in February of this year, when he said that the farm worker, or the N.U.A.W., which represents him, is responsible for the spiral of wage claims which are negotiated. Those sentiments are nothing new from Dorset. Over a century ago his predecessors in Dorset sentenced the Tolpuddle martyrs to seven years' deportation for forming the first union of farm workers.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North has left the Chamber. I hope that when he makes his annual pilgrimage to Tolpuddle to pay tribute to the martyrs in a few weeks' time he will remind the people of Dorset that there is not much difference between the present attitude of the noble Lord and the attitude of his forebears of 100 years ago.
§ Mr. Webster
Perhaps someone should inform the hon. Member that my noble Friend comes from Huntingdonshire.
§ Mr. Hilton
But the noble Lord sits for Dorset, South.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the farm improvement and small farm schemes were off to a good start. Are the right people getting the benefits to be obtained from these schemes? My experience from having served on a county agricultural executive committee for many years is that, though these schemes are excellent, it is mostly the farmers with plenty of money who are able to take advantage of them. They can lay down their share of the necessary money. The people who really need the help often have to go without it because they cannot lay down their share. These improvements are in most cases necessary. The same can be said of subsidies, though it is sometimes said that all subsidies are not necessary. I am not sure about that. Perhaps there are some farmers who do not farm for a living and have other interests who can do without some subsidies, but for many farmers the agricultural subsidies are absolutely vital.
I am informed that, even with subsidies, half the farmers who farm holdings of from 50 to 150 acres earn no more than the farm worker. Many earn far less. This information was given by a constituent of mine—a noble Lord—in a debate on agriculture in another place on 29th March. If this is true, it is a very poor reward for the small farmer, who has been rightly described on many occasions as the backbone of British agriculture. I vouch for the accuracy of that description as applied to many small farmers in Norfolk.
The time is ripe for a new deal for small farmers and farm workers. It is not right that they should work such long hours for such small reward. They have a splendid record. I do not suggest that the Agricultural Wages Board should be scrapped, but before the Government make large hand-outs to Surtax payers they should ensure that small farmers and farm workers are accorded decent treatment. It is not surprising that so many farm workers are still leaving the land. Experienced men are leaving and going to jobs which are not nearly as important but which carry much higher wages. Their roots are in agriculture, but as they can get better conditions elsewhere it is not surprising that they leave.
124 Small farmers and horticulturists have recently been exasperated by the action of the Government in giving them improvement grants to modernise heating systems in glasshouses and then a few weeks ago proposing to increase the price of oil. They transferred from solid fuel to oil heating because it was more modern, and then they were asked to pay more for the oil.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
If the hon. Member consults HANSARD he will find that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to remit the tax on oil used for heating glasshouses.
§ Mr. Hilton
I agree that the Chancellor has done that. I said that small farmers and horticulturists are exasperated. I conclude that the Chancellor made this concession in regard to oil used for heating glasshouses, but he still persists with the tax on paraffin, which hurts small farmers and horticulturists in other directions.
I suggest that there should be much closer liaison between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Board of Trade to prevent the dumping of surpluses in this country. We have heard of eggs being dumped to the detriment of the producers of home eggs. I recently raised the matter of carrots being imported when in my constituency farmers were having to plough in good carrots. It is not unknown at this time of the year, as soon as strawberry picking starts, for large quantities of fruit pulp to be dumped in this country, again to the detriment of our fruit growers. I hope that in future we can expect closer liaison between the two Ministries to prevent this.
I still want to see more time and money devoted to research into fowl pest and foot-and-mouth disease. We all know the great trouble they caused less than six months ago, but people in certain quarters have already almost forgotten about it. Now is the time to devote more time and money to research. It is very frustrating for a farmer who has built up a first-class herd or a certain strain of poultry to lose the lot at one fell swoop because of disease.
I want to see more education in agriculture. I believe that it will pay dividends in the future if we take action 125 now. Reference has been made to apprenticeship schemes. I am sorry to say that in Norfolk these are virtually non-existent, because we cannot get the youngsters to participate or the farmers to train the youngsters. I hope that the Minister will do more to encourage farmers to play their part, because it will be in the best interests of agriculture in the future. As time is short, I will content myself with those suggestions.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
The hon. Member referred several times to the N.U.A.W. Will he kindly tell me what percentage of all farm workers are members of this body? The Committee will then have some idea of what weight can be attached to the opinion expressed by this body.
§ Mr. Hilton
I cannot tell the hon. Member the national percentage, though I can tell him about Norfolk, which is the home of the N.U.A.W. Much of its membership is in Norfolk. We have an estimated 90 per cent. membership in the N.U.A.W. in Norfolk.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I hope that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far, as I know that other hon. Members on both sides wish to take part in the debate. I listened carefully to him, and I agreed with what he said about the anti-dumping regulations. But I would like to say this to him: it is all very well to warn about the dangers that now face the industry—we can all see them—but our purpose and duty in the House is to consider how they are constituted and how we can get over them, which is not nearly so easy a matter.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about the wage levels for farm workers. If it is any relief to him, I can tell him that, in my own area, I know that it is rare for a farm worker to go home with the minimum wage. I am glad to say that most of them earn a good deal more than that, and some of them double—
§ Mr. Hilton
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how many hours' overtime those men work for that additional wage?
§ Mr. Hastings
These are mostly men on piece work in horticulture, and their earnings depend very much on the season.
It has been said several times today that one of the farmer's greatest headaches is uncertainty; uncertainty about the weather, uncertainty about markets and prices, and now uncertainty about the Common Market. If this debate succeeds in throwing into relief the dangers that undoubtedly exist and rendering them more realistic, it will have done a great service; it is much easier to face something one can see than something that is obscure.
One of my right hon. Friend's remarks in his opening speech seemed to me of particular significance. He said, "It is the objective of agricultural policy that is inviolate, and not the means." That was enlarged on by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), and in present circumstances it is a most significant remark. The sooner this is fairly and squarely faced by the industry, the better it will be. If we join the Common Market, the means of obtaining this objective will, of course, be changed—but what if we do not join? In this connection, I should like to mention two factors, only one of which has, I think, so far been touched on.
The Common Market as at present constituted produces over 90 per cent. of its total requirements in food products. Several of the countries are in surplus. It is also true that there is much room for improvement and rationalisation of the agricultural industry within the Common Market.
If the countries of the Six succeed even in approaching their objectives as defined, it seems to me that they are sure to be building an ever-increasing surplus. Where will that surplus go? It will go into the largest open market in the world for food produce; it will come here. Therefore, as the Common Market succeeds agriculturally—if it does succeed—the danger to our farmers, if we are outside, will increase.
Secondly, let us take the example of Denmark, an E.F.T.A. partner. Denmark at present exports 40 per cent. of her large agricultural production to the Common Market countries. As the common external tariff rises, so will it 127 become more difficult for Denmark to continue to export to those countries. Where will that trade be deflected to? Britain is the leading E.F.T.A. partner, and again I think that that produce is bound to come in our direction as well and there will be a strong moral obligation to accept it. That is the second reason why competition for our farmers, due to an ever-increasing volume of imports, is unavoidable if we are out of the Common Market. In those circumstances, it seems to me that the dangers of staying out are as great as those that exist if we go in.
Having made that general statement, I want to confine the rest of my speech to that sector of the industry that seems to me most threatened—horticulture and market gardening. There are many market gardeners in my division, and there is no doubt—I have talked to many of them—that they are extremely worried. I do not think that anyone would disagree that in present circumstances our producers could not survive against unrestricted imports; without some form of support or protection at the ports.
Because of the perishability of produce and the complexity of the industry generally, support such as is offered to the general farmer is impossible for horticulture, and our form of protection consists of specific and ad valorem tariffs. It is interesting to note that in the Common Market there is no stabilisation fund at all for fruit and vegetables—presumably for the same reasons that we find support impossible.
If we look at the form of protection applied at the frontiers we find a whole range of systems, set up bilaterally at the moment, which differ widely in scope and extent between products and countries but which are all based on a principle known as the minimum price. There are variations of this theme outside the Common Market—for example, in Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. I want to compare the efficacy of these systems with our own method of protecting horticulture by tariffs and by anti-dumping regulations.
How does the tariff come about? It seems a big problem to trace by quantities, or conditions or origin, the imports of fruit and vegetables into this country, 128 and the initiation of a tariff seems to stem from a mounting indignation amongst growers as they watch prices drop to unbearable levels. The N.F.U. takes up the case and makes an exhaustive survey. That may take weeks or even months. It is passed to the Ministry, which then makes an equally lengthy and careful appreciation of the position. If the case is accepted, an approach is made to the exporting country, and some accommodation is arrived at. The resulting compromise is taken to G.A.T.T., and that organisation either approves or disapproves. A lot of time has elapsed by the end of that process, and the situation which the case was initiated to alleviate has in all probability by then disappeared.
As I understand a tariff, it can never be a short-term instrument of protection. It cannot work quickly. It is based, in fact, on a guess that the situation will recur as it was when the trouble first started—and this in a notoriously unpredictable trade. It does not react either to prices or to weather and growing conditions, which are large contributory factors to gluts in general, and particularly to the glut that occurred in the industry last year. As a weapon of protection, the tariff is slow, blunt and inaccurate.
Although the anti-dumping regulations read well on paper, I believe that the extreme difficulty of obtaining the information necessary to set them in motion nullifies their effect. We have heard quite enough today to indicate that there is serious trouble over dumping, as my right hon. Friend brought out most clearly in his opening speech.
Now let us consider the minimum price. As I have said, there are many different systems, but all are based on frequent and regular review of market prices. One good example for us is the arrangement in force between Germany and Italy—since Germany is also a large importer of food. The minimum price as fixed by the Germans is laid down as the average price paid to German growers for top-quality produce. This is the minimum price. If the average market price falls below this and looks as though it will stay there, the German authorities give five days' warning and then close the frontier, either until prices again rise above the minimum level or 129 at the end of a statutory period depending on the product involved. Between Germany and the Netherlands there is a different system. The Dutch manage to maintain minimum export prices. The Norwegians have a system of upper price limits for their own goods above which imports are permitted, but not below. In France the system has a special anti-inflationary slant. In other systems the stoppage is phased in such a way that the import of high quality produce only is allowed to continue.
The truth is that these systems range from the highly protectionist to the truly liberal. Much, of course, depends on how the minimum price is arrived at and the period of warning allowed before any action is taken. But all these systems have these elements in common. They are automatic and they brook of no argument. They are quick-acting. They react to market prices and to a glut, no matter why or how that glut occurs in the industry. Furthermore, if the minimum price is liberal and if exporters are sensible about it, they should find it easier to maintain a steadier flow of trade than they could under a quota system or under a system of second tariffs.
It can be argued, of course, that the minimum price system contravenes the G.A.T.T. agreement, and I understand that an investigation is being carried out by G.A.T.T. to see whether that is the case. But I ask hon. Members: is it likely that G.A.T.T. can put the clock back on the Common Market and other European countries that have already set up these systems and are now working them with success? I doubt it very much.
It is important in this connection to consider how the European Common Market envisages the gradual removal of this minimum price system. It is vital for us to know exactly where we are, particularly if the point is reached when we are negotiating an agreement. There is, firstly, the three-year period during which any member country can make one of these agreements bilaterally, sending a copy for information to the Commission. At the end of three years a procedure for revision is to be introduced after which all minimum prices are to fall in line with certain criteria. This stage has not so far been reached. At the end of the transitional period—12 or 15 years, 130 whichever the case may be—there is to be a further revision and all existing minimum prices are to be abandoned, if possible. But, in this connection, I wish to quote from Article 44 of the Treaty, paragraph 6, which says:At the expiry of the transitional period, a table of minimum prices still in force shall be drawn up. The Council, acting on a proposal of a majority of nine votes "—a small majority by their system of weighted votes—in accordance with the weighting provided for in Article 148, paragraph 2, first sub-paragraph shall determine the system to be applied within the framework of the common agricultural policy.That is, perhaps, not entirely clear, but it has been interpreted widely as meaning that the Common Market countries already envisage the possibility of keeping minimum price systems going after the end of the transitional period. This is a vital Clause in the Treaty for Britain's horticultural industry and one which I feel certain my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has not overlooked.
Thus, having made this comparison between the two systems, my proposition is that the Minister should consider initiating a thorough investigation of the minimum price systems in use in Europe—if he has not already done so—with a view, possibly, to our going over to it, whether or not we join the Common Market.
We should then have a clearer idea of exactly how far we could go towards meeting the aims of the Common Market in horticulture, since we would be using the same system which is, in many respects, more efficient than our own and, at the same time, we would retain a flexible and adequate means of protection.
I have in addition, three recommendations to make. First, if the industry is to meet this competition—and it is coming, whether we join the Common Market or not—we should step up investment in research and development. I believe that at the moment the percentage of the annual turnover of the horticultural and agricultural industries combined devoted to research and development is about .4 per cent. If one includes the National Agricultural Advisory Service, it brings this to .7 per cent. That compares with an average for manufacturing industry of 2.6 per cent. 131 for engineering—less electrical engineering, the figure is 1.8 per cent.—and between 2 per cent. and 3 per cent. for the chemical industry. I cannot absolutely guarantee these figures, but I believe them to be correct. They do show that investment in research and development in agriculture and horticulture is not excessive in any way by comparison. Further, why should not a proportion of the £500,000 so generously offered at the Price Review to the N.F.U. for market research and turned down, be given now to the Horticultural Marketing Council for Consumer Research?
I wonder whether the Horticultural Marketing Council might, second, look into the possibility of setting up at the end of their three-year twin a Fruit and Vegetable Board along the lines—but not with the same sweeping powers—of that in existence in Holland. Naturally, some organisation of that kind with real power is necessary if this industry is to compete with the rest of Europe, as we hope it will.
Third, should any grower, as a result of any arrangements we may arrive at with the Common Market, lose his livelihood through no fault of his own, I believe that the Government should actively consider terms of compensation and resettlement for him. It is never too early to envisage such a possibility and, on the margins of the industry, this represents a very real possibility.
I have said that in my part of the world growers are worried. I wish now to quote something I heard not long ago from one of them. He said:If it is necessary for our country to join the Common Market, then we must accept it. But we must know whether or not our industry is forfeit.I would that those in this country whose intellect is easily satisfied and attracted by this great vision of united Europe, but whose jobs are not jeopardised, would reflect on those words, and on the courage, the unselfishness and the patriotism behind them.
In reply, I told my friend what I believe to be the truth. The industry will not be forfeit. The Government have often repeated their very proper pledge to agriculture, and the horticultural industry—with a turnover of 132 £135 million, employing 150,000 people—is an integral part of it.
There is, of course, much that the industry can, and must, do to make itself more efficient. There will be no room in the future for inefficiency and this had better be said. There may, I think, be a need for changes in the economy and in the production of holdings, but if we do come to negotiate with the Common Market, then we must have a transitional period at least as long as that laid down for the original members. We must insist on continued means of protection through minimum price for the most vulnerable sectors—and here I would cite glasshouse tomato growers—and lastly the industry itself must have the will and determination to get up to date.
With these conditions the vast majority of British growers can and will survive and prosper. Without them, they will be in grave danger.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
I do not propose to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), though I think he expressed some real fears of the horticulturists as regards the Common Market.
I have had the pleasure of listening to six hours of debate and I have heard almost every speech. I thought at the beginning of the debate that more of the speeches would be concentrated on the real internal issues of agriculture in England and Wales as opposed to the Common Market, though it is true that the cloud which is hovering above the farming community is that of the Common Market. One of the questions that one is asked wherever one goes among the farming communities is "Let us know the worst". The difficulty now is that no one—including the farmers—knows what are the implications of entering and not entering. However, I hope to return to that aspect later.
Three things have caused consternation in the farming community in the last few months. We have had, first of all, the December White Paper. If ever there was a platitudinous document it was that White Paper. After all those talks, the comings and goings in the summer, the talks with the President 133 of the N.F.U. and so on, in the end we had this document which was so full of platitudes.
The first platitude was that the Government said that they had stood and would stand by all their obligations under the Agriculture Act, 1947. That undoubtedly, in the present state of affairs of the farming community, is a piece of arrant nonsense. It is a piece of pomposity and is unworthy of the Government and of the Minister in particular. How can that statement be reconciled with the clamant and strident complaint of the President of the National Farmers' Union from time to time about the fall in real farming incomes since 1951? All the time the National Farmers' Union has complained that a real share of the increase in national prosperity is not being obtained by the farmers. How can the Government say that they have stood by all their obligations under the 1947 Act when this complaint is made from time to time?
The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), who has made a series of suggestions—some fantastic and some more reasonable—asked on 9th March for the figures of average net incomes of farms and asked how they had dropped in 1959 as compared with 1958. He was given the figures for farms of between 50 and 150 acres and was told that there had been a 12½ per cent. decrease and that on the larger farms there had been a 7½ per cent. decrease.
On 18th May I tried to clarify the issue and asked further questions about farms in Wales. The figures that I was given were even worse. The drop in Wales ranged from 14½ per cent. on farms over 51 acres to 42 per cent. on farms over 300 acres. That was a drop in farm incomes over one year, and that is an addition to the indictment against the Government for having let down the farming community.
In the last Price Review we had the latest available figures for dairy farmers. It is admitted in the White Paper that in the year 1960–61 as compared with the previous year there was a drop of 1¾d. per gallon in the price obtained by the producer of milk. On an average-sized farm producing about 40 gallons a day over the year, that works out at a drop of £2 a week in every week in the 134 farming year as compared with the previous year. That is a very serious state of affairs.
Last year the attack against the Price Review was that it was restrictionist, and I do not deny it. In the December White Paper we are told that the Government policy is not restrictionist. Surely not even the Minister can deny that there is a restrictionist milk policy.
§ Mr. Soames
Would the hon. Gentleman tell me what was done in the last Price Review which in any way altered the Government's policy towards the amount of milk produced in this country which would carry a guaranteed price?
§ Mr. Morris
I was coming to this. The Minister has intervened rather too early. I was going to endorse and support some of his proposals with respect to milk. I will come to that later.
I prefer the solution offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), in a document which he issued in conjunction with the War on Want Campaign, that some of our excess milk production should be used to stave off some of the dread diseases among the people of Kenya, the Cameroons and Nigeria. In that document my right hon. Friend dealt with the question of mothers in under-developed countries who are suffering because of the shortage of milk, saying that Canada and the United States were able to give milk freely to the United Nations Children's Fund in order to alleviate some of the difficulty.
Before the right hon. Gentleman eventually decides to plump for something which will undoubtedly result in a restrictionist policy, I hope that he will consider making a free contribution of milk to this fund. This is a country which God has created as a natural producer of grass and milk. It is amazing that we should be contemplating a restrictionist policy in order to restrict the amount of milk that we can produce. Until our order of priorities is altered—
§ Mr. Soames
The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a "restrictionist policy". Will he tell me what is restrictionist about our policy on milk?
§ Mr. Morris
The end result for which the right hon. Gentleman is hoping is 135 that less milk will be produced than is produced at present. That is his object. Until the right hon. Gentleman considers what can be done to send our excess milk production overseas, I would say that his policy is sound in that some step has to be taken to reduce the amount of milk which is being produced. The more milk being produced, the more depressed the pool price becomes.
A few years ago I was a senior official of a farmers' union in Wales—and a rebel farmers' union at that. In 1957 we drew up a policy, the first of its kind, for a differential price for milk. We advocated a two-tariff system for milk. The basic idea was that every farmer should have an individual guarantee for milk, and that for the first 80 gallons he should be paid a full price and that for any excess he should be paid a realisation price. That would be a pool price lower of necessity than today's pool price, because every farmer would have creamed off the first 80 gallons.
In our submission, that was an admirable solution. We hoped that thereby the share of the market of the small producer—and he was not so small if he produced, on average, 80 gallons a day—would be assured and the bigger farmer would lose some of the advantages which he now possesses of large-scale production and would produce other commodities which the country so badly needs, in particular beef. I have an analysis of the number of small milk producers in this country. In the last year for which figures are available, 1955, 85 per cent. of the dairy farmers in England produced less than 63 gallons a day.
Our idea was shouted down. I think that almost every farming organisation in the country disagreed with our proposal. A resolution from Yorkshire went to the annual meeting of the Milk Marketing Board at which a two-tariff system of the nature to which I have referred was turned down. I am glad that the Government have now became converted to the idea of a two-tariff system. I for one heartily endorse the Minister's policy on this problem as an interim policy.
There is a statement in the White Paper that the 136Principles implicit in the national standard quantity for milk must be applied to payments to individual producers.Then there is discussion of the two-tariff system. The ambiguity of this statement has created a row throughout the country. When is the second tariff to be operated? Is every farmer to have two tariffs, or is there to be a basic quantity which every producer can produce?
If the small farmer as well as the big farmer has to face a two-tariff system, his already low return will suffer unduly. He cannot afford that. The Minister should seriously consider that every farmer, whatever the size of his production, should have, first, a basic quantity for which he would get the full price, and only after the basic quantity has been produced should the second tariff come into operation. That would be a practical and easy policy, not unlike the policy that was carried out during the war and for many years afterwards with the war-time production bonus, whereby a higher payment was obtained for the first 300 or 400 gallons produced monthly as opposed to the quantity produced after that figure.
The Minister seems to have held the pistol at the farming organisations by demanding that the solution must be arrived at before 31st July. The Department has never been renowned for its wisdom in making speedy decisions. Indeed, I believe I am correct in saying that it is still sitting on the Cook Report. That, however, is the date by which the Minister has said a decision must be made. As I have suggested on more than one occasion, I hope that he will seek the views of some of the smaller producers and that, before any decision is taken, he will consult as many small producers as possible.
I was shocked, as were many other people, by the Minister's statement a few weeks ago when he said that he had no specific proposals to put forward. He should be the first person to put forward specific proposals and he should not rely upon two organisations only to make up their minds how the scheme should be implemented. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whom he has consulted about this proposal. Both organisations have in the past rejected proposals of this nature.
137 To turn briefly to beef, I believe that the fall in the production of beef is closely linked with the insecurity and instability of the beef market. In the December White Paper, we had the statement that demand for beef was strong and that there was clearly scope for expansion. That was one of the platitudes of the White Paper.
Milk is not a commodity which a farmer wants to produce if he can avoid doing so. It involves a great deal of trouble, a seven-day week and a large amount of labour trouble. I am sure that if there were an assurance for our beef producers, if the price of beef did not from time to time fall into the doldrums, many of the people who now contribute to excess milk production would turn to beef and some of the Minister's problems would be averted.
The time has come seriously to reconsider the setting up of a meat marketing board to take over the overall marketing of beef and all other meat products. When he goes to market, the farmer is at the mercy of imports, weather, over-abundance and the skill of middlemen and dealers. As a result of that combination, the difference between the price to the producer and the cost to the consumer is taken from him. It is scandalous that the housewife has to pay such a large amount of money for her weekly joint when, at the same time, beef is so unprofitable for the producer to produce. There should be a serious inquiry into the setting up of a scheme whereby a farmer would know when he is rearing a calf what price he would eventually get for the carcass when it is marketed.
The White Paper reports a reduction in the number of calves kept for beef. Has the Minister any figures of the latest position? Concerning artificial insemination fees, I should like him, in order to increase the number of calves kept for beef, to consider a scheme to reimburse the artificial insemination fee for a beef type insemination if and when the calf has been kept for six months. That is rather to make repayment for the calf which has been kept. That may be some way to achieve the objective which, as I understand it, the Minister has.
I turn briefly to cereals. It is rather staggering to find that of the £150 mil- 138 lion which go towards price guarantees £63 million go to barley. That compares with a mere £11 million for fat cattle and £11 million for milk. I wonder who is supposed to benefit from this staggering, colossal figure which goes to those products? I was seriously concerned, even before the present outcry in the agricultural Press, about the amount which goes to barley. Last year £25 million went to barley. This year the estimate is—and I use that word "estimate" advisedly—that £33 million will go to barley. One looks at the pre-war average quantity of barley grown, or even at the figure for 1946–47, or even last year, when 3 million acres of barley were grown. This year there is this staggering increase of a further 300,000 acres. There has been a vast increase of production between 1954 and this year.
Undoubtedly the barley farmers of this country are seriously worried and alarmed at the dumping which has been going on in recent weeks. The Minister has announced his scheme as an incentive to farmers to retain their barley till later in the season, particularly after Christmas. One wonders, in the light of the dumping which has been going on in recent weeks, whether that scheme will have any effect whatsoever on this year's harvest. We are told by fairly authoritative sources who have made estimates that if the present dumping goes on the subsidies for barley will not be £25 million as last year or £33 million as estimated this year but will rise to £40 million, and one of the objectives of the White Paper, which was to contain the Exchequer payments for cereals, particularly for barley, within reasonable limits, will be blown sky-high.
The Minister said today that he was seriously considering the anti-dumping laws. Time is short. There is no time seriously to consider this issue. It is action which is needed. Here we are faced with the Russians exporting to us barley, depressing the price to such an extent that it is lower than it has been since pre-war years, and the French are continuing to dump it at £10 less per ton than the French farmers are getting for it. The farmers, the taxpayers, everyone in this country is entitled to demand from the Minister immediate action.
139 I say this honestly and sincerely, that if at the end of the year a Supplementary Estimate is introduced into the House to increase the amount of the subsidies paid for barley from £33 million to any figure in excess of that, there will be a serious outcry both in this Chamber and in the country as a whole. It will mean that the barley farmers have been ruined for this year, and it will mean that the taxpayer will have thrown millions of pounds down the drain because of the inactivity of the Minister and his Department.
I have no time to deal with horticulture, but some of us spent many weeks in Committee on the Bill dealing with the horticultural industry, and the Minister's predecessor stated, during the passage of that Bill, that the Government had adopted the tariff as the main instrument and that they would continue that policy for the horticulturists. The horticulturists want to know whether the Government, in view of the development of the Common Market, still intend to keep the tariff as the main instrument for horticulture. I think that the horticulturists are entitled to some assurance from the Minister so that they may know where they stand. They are entitled to know the worst.
Whatever profit and stability the agricultural industry has today, it has arisen entirely from the charter of 1947 and the deliberate policy of guarantees built up over the years, guarantees honoured in the last few years more in the breach than in the observance. Whatever prosperity our agriculture has it owes to that charter, the object of which was to secure reasonable stability for the farmers, which they did not have in pre-war years, and at the same time a supply of cheap food for the housewife. Is all that to be dismantled with Britain's entry into the Common Market? The director of a research station at Oxford has given figures showing that if we enter the Common Market it will cost the housewife 1s. a week on food.
The issue of the Commonwealth has been debated today. We know about the high tariff wall of 20 to 25 per cent. that now surrounds the Common Market countries against products imported into those countries. I do not know whether the British housewife is prepared to pay such tariffs as the price of entry. If 140 the Commonwealth means anything at all and if there is any point in a Commonwealth conference and in a joint approach, now is the time to have such an approach from all the Commonwealth countries.
The strongest indictment that I can make of the Government and of the Minister is that they have abandoned every outward show of leadership on the Common Market. Their hesitation and equivocation mean that they have lost the entire confidence of the farming community. There are many people in that community who firmly believe that if it is in the interest of the City of London and of industrialists who support the party opposite, and if it will ensure the return of the party opposite to power at election after election, the farming community will be dropped overnight.
No White Paper has been published on this issue. We have had White Papers over the years on the most trivial subjects, but here is an issue which concerns the living of hundreds of thousands of men and women and we have had no indication from the Government where they stand and what will be the position of the producers of each and every product if we enter the Common Market. The least that we could have had from the Government was some such indication. There is no point in the hon. Member for Devon, North making up his mind that we should sign the Treaty, accept it and negotiate afterwards.
§ Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)
The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) is not a supporter of the Government. He is a member of the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Morris
Certainly, and I am grateful for that observation. I am saying that it is the Government's responsibility to produce facts and figures in the form of a White Paper so that every hon. Member can make up his or her mind. It has been said that the Government cannot reveal their cards while negotiations are going on.
§ Mr. Morris
But this is not a game of cards. It is a battle of life or death for the farming community and the least 141 that we can demand from the Government is a White Paper on this issue.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I was interested to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), particularly in his final flood, because what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agiculture did today was to put out some signposts, and pretty obvious ones, concerning the Government's attitude towards the agricultural and horticultural industry in connection with our entering the European Common Market. After the strength with which my right hon. Friend put his case at the conclusion of his speech, there will be many people who will be much happier over the negotiations which are now going on about the possibility of our entering the Common Market.
The last few months have seen a great difference in the attitude of people towards the Common Market, and discussions like the one today will help very greatly, because not only is there an economic problem in our going into the Common Market, but it will call for a big readjustment in outlook as well and we shall have to adopt a different attitude towards our competitors across the Channel.
I was extremely interested in what the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) had to say. I found it intriguing how he justified the acceptance by the Liberal Party of an organisation like the Common Market, which is essentially protectionist. I thought that the way in which, when challenged on that, he made the point that it would lead eventually to world free trade, including North and South America, was carrying things just a little far.
With regard to our own industry, I feel that a number of farmers in this country need fear very little from the competition that we should encounter in the Common Market. For instance, the corn farmers would find that because of their greater efficiency, their mechanisation, the size of their holdings and also, if one can so judge, from the economic price that Continental growers get today, that they have nothing to fear. In fact, I would hazard a guess that they would be even better off than they are at present.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
But surely they would be liable to the import of surplus wheat from the other Common Market countries just as the German corn farmers are today suffering from the import of French wheat and barley?
§ Mr. Harrison
I agree with my right hon. Friend, but at the same time it would not be possible for that surplus wheat to be subsidised by the country of origin and, therefore, it would not be profitable for long for that country to go on exporting wheat at £14, £15 or £16 per ton as we are finding in the United Kingdom markets at present.
The effect on certain other products such as beef and lamb would be quite favourable. There seems to be a general shortage in the area as far as one can tell. It would be very interesting, particularly after recent events in Denmark, to see just how the high quality British bacon which is gradually coming on to the market could compete with the bacon produced by the Danes. I had an interesting talk to a pig farmer during the weekend, and he gave me the impression that he felt that, other things being equal, with the increase in quality today with our pigs he should be able to compete with the Danes on level terms.
However, there is considerable doubt in the case of dairy products other than, probably, high quality milk. In this sphere the people who may well be affected are the small farmers, particularly those who have been encouraged by our legislation to take on additional commitments and to borrow money, who have been encouraged by Government grants to borrow more money. They may find themselves in a difficult position.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider very carefully before anything is done which may upset those people. Not only do we have a debt to the taxpayers for the money which is being put into the farms, but we have a moral debt to the people whom we have encouraged to take on obligations by borrowing or putting their capital into new improvement schemes.
I feel that when one looks over the whole picture of British agriculture, particularly arable agriculture, as we are very highly mechanised and have larger 143 farm holdings we can compete with the Europeans. However, there is a problem with regard to certain other parts of the industry. For instance, the horticultural industry, which is at present supported entirely by tariffs, will feel very strongly the cold wind of competition from the Continent, and something will have to be done to make sure that these people, who again have been encouraged to spend money on improving the efficiency of their holdings, are not put at a great disadvantage, and, in fact, put out of business, because the better climates in southern Europe make it possible for crops which have to be grown under special conditions in this country to be grown more cheaply and economically outside. I think the horticultural crops normally grown outside on our farms will be able to be competitive, but those grown in glasshouses will have very great difficulty.
Then, one comes to another aspect of this industry which, so far as I know, has not been discussed today, and that is the seed-growing industry. We have built up, particularly over the last 30 years, a seed trade which is producing seeds specially developed for the conditions in this country, and if this trade is to feel the full force of competition from climates that are slightly more benevolent than our own, it too will be in a very difficult position. I hope that before any move is made towards Europe my right hon. Friend will have found time to do something about the Transactions in Seed Committee's Report, which will help our seed-growing industry and seed production extensively. This is one of the few countries left in Europe and North America in which it is not possible to patent seeds, and the sooner legislation can be introduced to do something to protect our growers and breeders of seeds, the stronger their position will be in order to meet the competition.
One other aspect which also comes under my right hon. Friend's Department and which has not been raised today concerns the effect on forestry. The forestry industry has suffered the ravages of two world wars but is now just beginning to get on its feet. I think we will have to look very carefully at the effect on forestry of any integration with the Common Market. At the same time, to mention one more of the 144 minority parts of the industry, the nursery trade was briefly mentioned by my right hon. Friend. There, there is a most complicated integration with the European countries which will have to be looked at, or we may find that nursery growers will completely go from this country.
There is one final point to put to my right hon. Friend. He is not only Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, but also Minister of Food, and one of his Votes gives a guaranteed price or a subsidy to Australian beef producers. I hope that he will find the opportunity, when these consultations are going on with the Commonwealth, to go to some of these Commonwealth countries in order to carry on the liaison work which has been done through the heads of departments, I think, every November. It would be tragic if, owing to a desire to enter the European Common Market, we did not carry the Commonwealth with us, with all the implications that might result from such a situation.
To sum up, I would say that when one measures the economic effects of our integration with Europe, on balance, there is probably an advantage in going in with Europe, rather than remaining as an area where surplus production could be dumped. But I ask my right hon. Friend to consider carefully and to weigh up whether there might be some advantage in taking part in negotiations to decide on the European agricultural policy, rather than that we should delay and finally have to be forced to join the Common Market on terms arranged by other people.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to debate the subject of agriculture, and I think that the Opposition should be complimented on taking the initiative and using a Supply day to raise this important subject. I recognise that many hon. Members have not spoken in the debate and I recognise also that looming over this important discussion, in which we are considering the effects of Government policy on agriculture, is the great issue of the Common Market. Like the Minister, I should prefer to leave my remarks on that matter to the end of my speech.
145 Irrespective of the Common Market question, today we are discussing what is the Government's agriculture policy. That is the issue. It may well be that political decisions of a major kind, which are outside the province of the Minister, will have to be taken. But today we are discussing whether this Government have pursued a policy which is in the interests of consumers as well as producers. I wish to examine the objectives of Government policy. The Minister gave details which merely emphasised aspects of his policy regarding commodities as expressed in the Price Review. Actually, he gave a clearer political appreciation of his policy to the Farmers' Club in May of this year.
The Minister told us that in the post-war period the main objectives of the Government's agriculture policy was to produce all we could. He may think that was then the policy, and certainly it was in a general sense. But it was not the only aspect of the policy of the then Labour Government. Not only did we seek to produce more food but we also sought to give a fair remuneration to the producers and to the farm workers, and, above all, to link it with a policy to improve social amenities and to prevent the continuation of the pre-war drift from the countryside.
In addition, we had obligations to the new international organisations which were emerging in that post-war world, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, of which mention has been made. I agree, however, that our main objective was to produce more. Indeed, the then Labour Government set a target for increased agricultural production. More than that, they injected capital into the industry. I am glad that the Minister himself has paid tribute to our work in that period. He mentioned the sad history of the inter-war years and how there had been a change, and he paid a generous tribute to the Labour Government in the post-war period, saying that conditions had been improved and that stability had been given to the industry.
He said that our objective was now changed and, to quote his speech to the Farmers' Club, we were now in a position in which we had got to sell all we could. He then proceeded to make an attack on what he termed restrictionism. He argued that it was a popular rallying 146 cry of those attacking the Government policy. Even this evening, in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) about milk production, he referred specifically to that.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the main attack on Government policy in our previous debate, when we discussed the Price Review, a little more than twelve months ago, was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It was an attack which has been repeated not only here by former Ministers, but throughout the country by responsible farming opinion. It is not sufficient for hon. Members opposite to chide my hon. Friends for quoting speeches. Today and on previous occasions my hon. Friends have always been careful to quote responsible farming opinion, National Farmers' Union policy, as expressed through the Union's national organisation at Agriculture House, and the resolutions which have come from county branches of the N.F.U. since we have had Conservative Administrations.
We have always known that politically the Ministry of Agriculture was the graveyard of Conservative politicians. We have already had four Ministers of Agriculture. [HON. MEMBERS: "They were good Ministers."] If they were good Ministers, why did the Government not keep them there?
§ Mr. Peart
If the last Minister of Agriculture was successful in his administration, the Prime Minister owed a responsibility to this great industry to keep him there, but he has been shunted off and hon. Members know it. [Interruption.] It is not enough for hon. Members opposite to express disgust. Over and over again, there have been criticisms of Conservative Ministers by hon. Members opposite and their criticisms have been reinforced by responsible farming opinion. The hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) will remember the crisis we had about pigs not long ago and the uncertainties which then existed. It is true that the present Minister has done something and has changed the policy.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Very often the preliminary and very important work is done by a preceding Minister and the 147 next Minister takes the necessary action. I do not say that to belittle what my right hon. Friend has done.
§ Mr. Peart
I am surprised that the hon. Member should make such a naive comment. I will leave it at that.
While accepting the second objective of Government policy, that we have to sell more and improve marketing arrangements, one of my main criticisms of the Government is that they always say that it must be the responsibility of the industry. That was the theme of the Minister's speech not long ago. I detect that same theme here, especially in relation to marketing. That was the main charge made by my hon. Friend. The Government are responsible for taking the initiative in marketing. It was a very successful Labour Minister, Lord Addison as he now is, who brought in the Marketing Acts before the Second World War. I believe that it was also a successful Minister, my noble Friend who is now in another place, who completed the progress of those Acts in the post-war era. We did not change our Ministers so often, because they were successful. We took the initiative then, and the Government ought now to announce their marketing policy.
I accept that the farmers—the producers—and the workers in the industry must also make constructive suggestions, but the Minister is responsible for legislation, and he must take the initiative in this case. Despite the offer of £500,000 for research into marketing, the Government ought to take the initiative and announce their policy.
I have argued that the Government have shown no initiative. When we were in power we took the initiative, and I go back to the 1947 Act. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, and indeed the Minister, in discussions about the Common Market and in their conversations with the National Farmers' Union, argue that we must keep intact the main provisions of the 1947 Act, and indeed the 1957 Act. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have never liked the planning proposals which we put forward in that period. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) knows this. His party voted against Part I of the Bill when we were laying down the basic principle of providing an assured market.
§ Mr. Marshall
The discussion on that occasion was on guaranteed prices and an assured market. The question of the assured market was left fluid, and so was the question of market prices.
§ Mr. Peart
No. Hon. Gentlemen opposite voted against it because they disliked it. Time and again we had to face the jibe that we were farming from Whitehall. Time and again we had to face the jibe about the planning of agriculture which was so successful, and which I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to weaken. I believe that many hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to make a hasty decision on the Common Market because they desire to weaken the main planning provisions contained in the 1947 Act.
When one examines the 1947 Act, and indeed the 1957 Act, one finds that there has been a decline in the position of the primary producer. The 1957 Act legislated for declining incomes, and if one examines the position not only of the small farmer but of the average farmer, one finds that real incomes have declined. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) so vigorously stressed, hon. Gentlemen opposite must face the reality of the situation that, while other sections of the community have increased their incomes by an average of 40 per cent., despite increased production and increased efficiency, the real incomes of farmers have decreased.
§ Mr. Corfield
Does not the hon. Member agree that if the total sum provided by the Price Review was designed to maintain incomes at the 1948 level it would amount to about £448 million per annum? Would his party advocate the spending of a sum of that magnitude by the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Peart
It is not for me to say what amount of subsidy we would pay, when we have no political power, but when we were politically responsible farm incomes increased in real terms, and there was prosperity in the countryside. Today, after successive Conservative Governments, farm incomes have decreased in real terms. That is the main charge of many of the farming community, and especially of the N.F.U.
I have here details issued by the N.F.U. of its own farm account scheme. 149 This is a recent publication giving the figures for 1959–60. Is the Liberal Party making another of its asinine interruptions? Has it anything to say?
§ Mr. Peart
It is important to take a survey of the views of the National Farmers' Union into consideration. That is not to say that we should always accept those views, any more than we should accept the views of manufacturing associations or other federations. I am merely asserting the fact that the union's views are important. I am arguing that the policies of the union would be better served if we had a Government which really believed in the principles of the 1947 Act. I have argued this over and over again. The Union's farm account scheme survey shows the difficulties which many farmers are in.
I agree that the question of producer grants, aid to our agricultural system, and the whole issue of our support for the industry are major problems. I have argued that the time has come for an inquiry into the question of the incidence of production grants, which are now running at a high figure. I need not quote the details, because I believe that hon. Members have read them in the Government White Paper. We must examine constructively and carefully the question of the agricultural pattern. At present the greater part of the subsidies and grants go to the larger farmers and producers, and I should welcome an inquiry into the incidence of these subsidies.
I go further than that. We should set up a Select Committee, just as we have a Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries, to investigate industries like agriculture. We should have a permanent Committee to examine not only these grants but the administration of the Department and of the public boards connected with the industry. My main charge, however, is that as a result of this Government's policy the small farmer is placed at a considerable disadvantage.
150 I turn to another argument which was brought up in our discussions on the Budget. Hon. Members will probably agree that the Budget did not help the small farmer. The National Farmers' Union—I take its views on this—has criticised it in strong language. In its official publication British Farmer it says:This Budget puts up the costs of producing the nation's food and hits small farmers—the great majority—the hardest of all".
§ Mr. Peart
I am not discussing legislation. I am merely arguing that Government policy has not been designed to help the small farmer. I was going on to say that the same pattern is repeated in horticulture. One of its leading spokesmen, the chairman of the N.F.C. Central Horticultural Committee, has criticised Government policy. Government policy has destroyed confidence among small producers. It is no good hon. Members opposite shaking their heads. It is a fact, and it has found expression time and time again among responsible farming opinion.
I come now to discuss barley. The Minister mentioned his policy. What does he intend to do about the dumping of barley on to the British market? It is not sufficient to say that he is considering the matter. He has all the facts. We saw an admirable statement of the position the other day in papers like the Observer. Its very well informed agricultural expert gave the details. Russian shipments are coming in. They have knocked the bottom out of the British grain market. They have placed the future of the year's record home crop in jeopardy, and there is no prospect of recovery. This is true not only of Russian production but also of French production. There is to be dumping of surplus barley at £10 a ton less than French farmers receive. I understand that last week even the West Germans made offers to deliver barley for harvest time at less than £16 a ton duty paid.
The Union has made urgent representations. The taxpayer is involved. If this situation continues, the problem of deficiency payments will arise. In the end the consumer and the producer will 151 suffer. That is why I ask what the Government intend to do. Why all this dither and delay? Why does not the Minister announce now that something will be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek talked about promotion within the industry. There are many skilled people in the industry who will never get promotion because they have not got the capital. Why do not the Government now afford cheap credit facilities? We have suggested this over and over again in agricultural debates. Time and time again, not only by Conservative Chancellors making statements but in party publications, the Conservative Party has promised that it would give cheap credit to help small farmers. Why has nothing been done? Why is there still silence? If there is to be a policy to encourage new, young, thrusting men in the industry, the real deciding factor is whether cheap credit is available.
What about agricultural research? The Research Council Report states that over £5 million is to be allocated to research. We recognise that much has been done in this respect, but it is too little. The volume of agricultural production is approximately £1,400 million a year. Yet the State is spending only a relatively small amount.
We have only one advisory entymologist for 4,000 farmers and only one plant pathologist for 7,000 farmers. We are still short in the National Agricultural Advisory Service. I understand that it has never really expanded since 1951. I can well understand why, when scientific officers are paid less than civil servants in a similar grade. When do the Government intend to do something about expanding the N.A.A.S., or doing something about agricultural education?
I have here the report of a subcommittee which emerged from discussions arising from the de la Warr Report, the Lampard-Vachell Committee on the figures of day releases. Those figures are bad—shocking. In 1957–58 only 1,963 students were released from their agricultural occupations by their employers. Even today that figure is only 3,737. In other words, in the matter of day release the agricultural industry is lagging behind other industries. What do the Government intend to do about 152 that? Are they to have a campaign? Do they intend to have further consultations? Do they intend to do something about it—or do they intend just to make speeches? I want to know, because nothing effective has been done so far, and there is a long delay.
Then there is water conservation. The Land Drainage Bill has recently had its Third Reading, but it took ten years before the Government made up their mind to introduce it. What is the Government's policy on water conservation? The Land Drainage Bill was limited, but it was an example of the procrastination of the Government. Do the Government intend to have further discussions with the water undertakings? Are we to have a major policy? We could go on indicting the Government for their failure to give a major lead.
There is the great issue of the Common Market. There are differences of opinion about that. Even the Minister himself has had to hedge on this. I understand his difficulties, but the Government should give us the facts; they should give us more information. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon said, why cannot we have a White Paper on the subject? Surely the Government know their mind by now. They have at their disposal skilled statisticians, economists and others to prepare documents and advise on the implications of the Common Market in relation to our agricultural industry.
We have a right to know this. It is all very well for the Minister and for hon. Members of the Liberal Party to chide my hon. Friend for saying that we as an Opposition should commit ourselves now. I recognise that the Liberal Party can commit itself on anything—
§ Mr. Thorpe
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that it is one thing to have a view as a result of having made inquiries and research, but quite another thing to get up at that Dispatch Box and not have a clue as to which direction one's party wants to go?
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member made a long speech, and I thought his offer to give my hon. Friend a constitutional lecture was rather pompous. I understand where the Liberal Party is on this— 153 [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is it?"]—but we are the responsible Opposition, who may one day be the responsible Government.
The Government must make the decision about this, knowing all the facts. It is the Government's responsibility, equally, to give hon. Members the facts. It is their responsibility not to dither, hedge or be evasive. They must come clean.
Government spokesmen have spoken with many voices about this matter. There was one shade of emphasis in the speech of the Leader of the House on a previous occasion. Then there was the speech of the Foreign Secretary recently. Then there were the philosophical generalities, as one newspaper termed a recent speech of the Prime Minister. Considering everything that Government spokesmen have said, I can well understand why the farming world is worried about their policies. I am worried because I know that the Tories let agriculture down before the war. They are letting it down again now—irrespective of the Common Market.
There is a danger, because of the inertia of the Government, that the industry will be sucked into a solution of Britain's agricultural problems in a common European structure. That would be dangerous. I hope that, before any major decision is taken, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will take into consideration all the relevant facts affecting the primary producers, the farmers, the farm workers and, most important of all, the consumers, who may have to pay higher food prices.
The Government's policy has been evasive in relation to the major issues at home, so that many farming people have lost confidence—a loss that could prove fatal in the future.
§ 9.37 p.m.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)
An agricultural debate always ranges far and wide, and the debate today has ranged further and wider than usual, both overseas and at home. Both the hon. Gentlemen who opened the debate, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) spoke firstly 154 about the problems nearer home. In replying to the debate, I will try to follow the same pattern.
I will, firstly, refer briefly to several of the points raised by the hon. Member for Workington. He spoke of an in genious idea; a select committee which would concern itself with agriculture and, I think, with other major industries. The Minister of Agriculture, I must inform the hon. Gentleman, answers in detail for agriculture to the House, which puts it in a different position from the nationalised industries, and I would hardly have thought that a select committee of the sort the hon. Member for Workington had in mind would add greatly to our administration in the House.
Then the hon. Gentleman spoke about credit. May I inform him that he is rather out of date on this question? There was a certain amount of criticism in the countryside a little time ago—
The hon. Gentleman will always be able to find someone who wants a little more, but if he takes close notice in his constituency and talks to the National Farmers' Union—if he is able to do so, since we have been told not to pay too much attention to the N.F.U.—he will not find many cases of creditworthy farmers who cannot get what they need.
The hon. Member for Workington then spoke of the National Agricultural Advisory Service, and I would, at this point, pay tribute to the work it has done. The Service has done remarkable work in recent years and stands high in the opinion of farmers. The Service is always ready to recruit a few extra good men when it can find them, but it will not lower its standards merely in order to add to its numbers.
The hon. Gentleman also spoke about agricultural education. This matter is not strictly within the ambit of my Department. He also referred to research generally and quoted certain figures. I can inform him that, with the increasing quantity of capital flowing into the industry, and farm improvement schemes, the need for certain new branches of research, particularly farm buildings, has arisen. This is not directly the responsibility of my Department, but I can say that the 155 expenditure on research generally is increasing and that the Minister for Science takes a close interest in this work, as we do in this Department.
Turning to the background of our debate, I think we are all agreed, in spite of some of the comments, that farming incomes are higher than they have ever been. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the comparison between farming incomes and the incomes of other industries. It is inevitable in an expanding economy, with a high standard of living, and more luxury items than were possible some time ago, that the proportion spent on food may tend to be less than on other items and, therefore, that the aggregate income of the agricultural community may not keep pace with the aggregate income of some other industries.
On the other hand, I am sure the Committee would like to know that in an F.A.O. table of agricultural incomes the United Kingdom and Denmark stand at the head of the European league, even though I admit that Australia and New Zealand, with their economies depending more on agriculture do in fact stand ahead of us.
Not only are farm incomes today higher than they have ever been, but production is also at a record level and I am going to claim in addition that the land has never been better farmed than it is today. I think I can call in aid two sentences from speeches of hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) said that British farming was modern and thriving and the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) said that British agriculture had nothing to be ashamed of and much to be proud of. I agree with both those sentiments. Never has there been more interest taken in improvements of all kinds, and not least in efficiency, if I may use that dirty word, in both the technical and the economic senses. It is still true to say that there are more good men wanting to enter the industry than ever before—nor is it for sentimental reasons as someone suggested.
There have been a few dismal passages in some of the speeches, such as we would get at many farmers' meetings and 156 which we have come to expect in agricultural debates. If we did not get a few such speeches, most of us would think something was wrong. It is many years since I first became associated with the industry, and in those days things were very different from what they are now. There have always been people ready to say that they are frustrated and uncertain. But let us be clear. The trend for many years has been in the right direction, and still is. All forms of business have their own problems and no Government could solve them all for any industry.
Agriculture over recent years has been able to rely on Government support, including the support of the Government of hon. Members opposite, to ensure stability and insurance against major fluctuations in the price of its products, but we must admit, as has been said several times today, that the present system may well be becoming more costly to maintain. I should like to emphasise the words of my right hon. Friend that the Government are resolutely determined to maintain a thriving industry.
A large number of points have been raised in the course of the debate, and I shall try to answer as many as I can. First, I shall refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln. He raised the question of the tests of the British breeds alongside the tests which are going to be held with the imported young Charollais bulls. The Ministry proposes to undertake a small progeny test within the limits of the facilities available, and records are going to be collected from commercial farms and farms of agricultural colleges and farm institutes which are willing to rear Charollais crosses alongside and in similar circumstances with native beef crosses. That, I think, will meet the greater part of his question.
Then the hon. Gentleman spoke about the marketing of horticultural produce and the experimental Dutch auction. I think that I can help him here. The A.C.C.A. and the N.F.U. have announced that the Gloucestershire Marketing Society Limited is now considering setting up such an auction at Cheltenham. If the experimental auction were tried—I cannot anticipate what the decision may be—it seems that the Horticultural Marketing Council could 157 legitimately use some of its funds to help under the Horticulture Act. Therefore, there is not stagnation under that head.
The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members spoke about the question of dumping and our anti-dumping legislation. Here, I should like to make a few points as it seems to me that there is some misunderstanding about the matter. First, my right hon. Friend said that this legislation was not designed to give blanket protection. The Act is designed to deal with specific incidents, and in this sense it is wrong to imply that it is ineffective. Anti-dumping duties have, admittedly, been imposed on only a few occasions, but where the Government have been satisfied that the requirements of the Act have been met they have taken action, often in the form of direct representation to the country concerned, which has effectively stopped the dumping.
Secondly, it is worth bearing in mind that the Government do not take action just because imports are, in a technical sense, being dumped. The Board of Trade has to be satisfied that material injury is being caused or threatened to the industry concerned and that it would be in the national interest if we imposed an anti-dumping duty. If that were done regardless, then we have to consider the question of other countries following suit and retaliation. We must bear in mind that we are also a major exporting country.
Finally, the Board of Trade can deal with anti-dumping applications very quickly. It has done so when the need has arisen. It did so the other day, even though the issue did not, in the end, involve an anti-dumping ruling.
It took only eight days in connection with the egg application the other day.
Of course, all imports are not dumped, and, as we are a country which is dependent on international trade, it is in our broad interest to keep down barriers to our trade all over the world, and we make trade agreements and enter international obligations with that end in view. Reciprocal obligations have 158 to be accepted. To go against such agreements or to throw them aside lightly would invite retaliation and provoke damage to our export trade.
I make these points to indicate that the alteration of our policy on food imports in the manner suggested could easily raise deep and serious issues, and the balance sheet would not necessarily be prepared quite as simply and satisfactorily as some hon. Members have supposed. Above all, we must remember that we have obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which limit our freedom of action.
My hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) spoke about the needy four-fifths of the world's population in connection with growing world production. It is very attractive to suggest that any surpluses that we may have should be made freely available to those in need. We already make substantial contributions, mainly in cash, but also by technical assistance, in developing those countries. But the permanent solution is the development of the countries concerned and not the giving to them of one's agricultural surpluses. We are not, of course, among those with massive surpluses.
I have tried to explain that the problem is not as easy and simple as hon. Members have suggested. In the minutes which remain available to me, I should like to answer some of the questions which hon. Members have raised in the debate.
As I say, we make contributions in other ways. But these surpluses are not, in the main, ours to dispose of. Nor is it our intention to be freely at the receiving end when it will not only upset our own producers, but will put a charge on the taxpayer and have other far-reaching effects.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
What people are waiting to hear are the Government's conclusions about this problem. Are we going to stop the dumping of barley or are we allowing it 159 to continue? If the latter, to what extent in millions of pounds will the taxpayer be involved?
That is a hypothetical question. Negotiations are proceeding with the Russians and I cannot anticipate the conclusions.
Another question that was raised by many hon. Members was the small farmer. Perhaps for the first time this debate has shown him in proper perspective, because our small farmer is not small by European standards, nor is our land splintered in comparison with Continental standards. On average, our small farms are better equipped. The small farmer admittedly has the problem of staff. He may have too much work for two people and not enough for three, which is a difficulty, but all this points to the need to improve management techniques. In all our technical advances we have probably not yet paid as much attention to management as we have to some other sides of agricultural organisation and science.
The question of amalgamation was raised during the debate. Admittedly, as yet few applications have been made for help under the 1957 Act, but the Committee will be interested to hear that a very large case is now under consideration. It was suggested by one hon. Member that only a small proportion of the production grants found their way to the small farmer. That is not true. If hon. Members look at the whole figure, they will find that something like 33 per cent. of total expenditure on production grants is spent in connection with farms of less than 100 acres. Nor is their evidence that many small farmers who have entered into financial commitments under the small farmer legislation or other Measures are failing in their obligations because of financial reasons. Occasionally, there is illness, death or a change of farm—those things are inevitable—but the suggestion that small farmers fail to keep up their commitments because of financial reasons is not, I am glad to say, true.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, North spoke of the position of the agricultural worker and the steady trickle of workers out of the industry. The reduction in the numbers employed in agriculture is a phenomenon of all industrial countries. 160 The increase in agricultural production, combined with today's mechanisation, has meant that farmers have been working with a smaller labour force. Often when I have seen a man in bad weather sitting on a tractor the idea has struck me how much greater was the skill of that man than that of many of those who have helped to build the tractor in one of our great cities.
Of course, we are concerned with amenities in the countryside. Depopulation interests us greatly. It is not the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend. The population in country districts does not depend solely on agriculture. Agriculture may be the greatest employer, but there are other industries. As for redundancy, I have far more often heard of a farmer saying that he wants a good man or several good men if he could get them than I have heard a good man say that he could not find a job.
Many hon. Members have spoken about the Common Market. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, and as my right hon. Friend the Minister has reiterated today, no decision on this great issue has been taken. It is, therefore, particularly useful to have had this debate today. We must be grateful to the Opposition for having provided this opportunity to hear the various views which have been expressed on this matter against the background of the general problem of the future of agriculture.
A great many different views have been expressed over the entire range. It is clearly useful to the Government as well as to the House of Commons to hear these differences of opinion.
Of course, it must be recognised at the present time that when I say I cannot add greatly to what my right hon. Friend has said, we are dealing with a subject when many of the factors are still very uncertain. It is not a subject which is cut and dried, as some hon. Gentlemen have suggested, as witness the references in the newspapers recently to a difference of opinion between France and Germany.
On the question of the facts, there is a certain amount of information which is available to all hon. Gentlemen published by economists and others based on various assumptions, and the facts 161 as hon. Gentlemen put them at the present time are largely opinions based on various assumptions. We all know that there are certain markets such as the milk market, which is largely a national one; there are others such as the butter market, which is largely an international one. On the other hand, it is quite impossible at this stage to set down in parallel columns all the facts which will be relevant to the consideration of this problem in the future. Many of the countries which are concerned are not yet certain of many of the conditions of their preliminary policies, quite apart from their financial arrangements.
I was interested to hear the anxiety which some hon. Members expressed about the increasing strain upon our present support system and the free market arising from increasing world production. Thus, whether we stay out of the Common Market, as we were urged by some hon. Gentlemen, or become part of it, as we were urged by others, we may well have to consider adaptations in our support system. There is nothing that I can add now to what my right hon. Friend has said on the implications in this respect of joining the Common Market. As he made clear and what several hon. Mem-
§ bers have acknowledged, was a valuable assessment of the problem. A distinction, of course, must be made between methods and objectives. The objectives, are, of course, similar to our own; but the methods which the Six intend to employ are, of course, very different from those with which we have become familiar.
§ Turning again to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln, his criticisms amounted to no very serious charge. On the broad issue there seems little between us. We both want to see a healthy and prosperous agriculture, and it is towards that end that our policy will continue to be directed.
§ Mr. de Freitas
In view of the Government's refusal to give the implications, for which they were asked, of entering the Common Market, and in view of their refusal to deal with the dumping problem, especially on barley, I beg to move,That Item Class VIII, Vote I, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, be reduced by £5.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 171, Noes 252.165
|Division No. 195.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Evans, Albert||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas|
|Albu, Austen||Fernyhough, E.||Jeger, George|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Finch, Harold||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Fletcher, Eric||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Awbery, Stan||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Kelley, Richard|
|Baird, John||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Benson, Sir George||Gooch, E. G.||King, Dr. Horace|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Lawson, George|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Gourlay, Harry||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Boyden, James||Greenwood, Anthony||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Grey, Charles||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Grimond, J.||Loughlin, Charles|
|Callaghan, James||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||MacColl, James|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mackie, John (Enfield, West)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hannan, William||McLeavy, Frank|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Cronin, John||Hayman, F. H.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Healey, Denis||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Darling, George||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Manuel, A. C.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mapp, Charles|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hilton, A. V.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Deer, George||Holman, Percy||Mason, Roy|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Holt, Arthur||Mendelson, J. [...]|
|Delargy, Hugh||Houghton, Douglas||Millan, Bruce|
|Diamond, John||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Dodds, Norman||Hunter, A. E.||Monslow, Walter|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Moody, A. S.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Morris, John|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Moyle, Arthur|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Jenner, Sir Barnett||Neal, Harold|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Oliver, G. H.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Oram, A. E.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Wade, Donald|
|Oswald, Thomas||Ross, William||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Owen, Will||Short, Edward||Warbey, William|
|Padley, W. E.||Skeffington, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|Paget, R. T.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Small, William||Whitlock, William|
|Parker, John||Sorensen, R. W.||Wigg, George|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Spriggs, Leslie||Willey, Frederick|
|Peart, Frederick||Steele, Thomas||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Prentice, R. E.||Stonehouse, John||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Swain, Thomas||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Randall, Harry||Swingler, Stephen||Woof, Robert|
|Rankin, John||Sylvester, George||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Redhead, E. C.||Symonds, J. B.|
|Reid, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jackson, John|
|Allason, James||Deedes, W. F.||James, David|
|Arbuthnot, John||de Ferranti, Basil||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Doughty, Charles||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Barber, Anthony||Duncan, Sir James||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Barlow, Sir John||Duthie, Sir William||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Batsford, Brian||Eden, John||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bell, Ronald||Emery, Peter||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kirk, Peter|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Errington, Sir Eric||Kitson, Timothy|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Farr, John||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Finlay, Graeme||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Fisher, Nigel||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bossom, Clive||Forrest, George||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Box, Donald||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Gammans, Lady||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gardner, Edward||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Gibson-Watt, David||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Goodhart, Philip||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Bryan, Paul||Goodhew, Victor||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Buck, Antony||Gough, Frederick||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Bullard, Denys||Gower, Raymond||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||McAdden, Stephen|
|Burden, F. A.||Green, Alan||McLaren, Martin|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Grimston, Sir Robert||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. C.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N, Ayra.)|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Gurden, Harold||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Maddan, Martin|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Marten, Neil|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hastings, Stephen||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Cole, Norman||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooper, A. E.||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hendry, Forbes||Mills, Stratton|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hiley, Joseph||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Cordie, John||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Morgan, William|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Morrison, John|
|Costain, A. P.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hobson, John||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hollingworth, John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Hopkins, Alan||Noble, Michael|
|Critchley, Julian||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Crowder, F. P.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hughes-Young, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Curran, Charles||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Iremonger, T. L.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|D[...], James||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Peel, John|
|Percival, Ian||Shepherd, William||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Pitman, I. J.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Pott, Percivall||Smithers, Peter||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Walder, David|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Walker, Peter|
|Pym, Francis||Stodart, J. A.||Wall, Patrick|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Ramsden, James||Storey, Sir Samuel||Webster, David|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Tapsell, Peter||Whitelaw, William|
|Rees, Hugh||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Renton, David||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Temple, John M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Wise, A. R.|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Roots, William||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter||Woollam, John|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Worsley, Marcus|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Seymour, Leslie||Turner, Colin|
|Sharpies, Richard||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Shaw, M.||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes) rose—
§ It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.