§ 3.35 p.m.
Mr. Frederick Pearl (Workington)
On a point of order, Sir William. I was under the impression that the Minister of Agriculture was to make a statement to the Committee. I understand that it will be part of his speech, but we are informed today that the right hon. Gentleman did, in fact, make the statement to a meeting of the Conservative Party last night at the House. This is an unusual procedure, and it is also rather embarrassing. There has been a leak—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) probably has a different conception of standard in this House from mine. I hope so.
§ The Chairman
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will help the Committee by telling me what the point of order is
§ The Chairman
that is not a point of order. It is for hon. Members to make their speeches. I cannot tell them what to say.
§ Lieut.- Colonel Sir Walter Bromley- Davenport (Knutsford):
On a point of order that is not a point of order, sir William—
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)
The problems facing agriculture in the developed Western world were nowhere better illustrated than at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade meeting in Geneva which ended last night. As never before in the G.A.T.T., the willingness of many countries to see tariffs on industrial goods throughout the developed world reduced was tempered by, and even made conditional upon, progress in improving the state of trade in temperate agricultural products.
Thanks to the scientific revolution in agriculture which has led to spectacular increases in productivity, output in agriculture in the developed world has tended to outstrip the level of commercial demand for food. Faced with this situation, the traditional exporting countries have found it increasingly difficult to dispose of their production at remunerative prices.
The result has been plain to see—growing surpluses, depressed prices, unstable marketing conditions. Different countries have felt the effect of this in different ways, but all of them have found it difficult to secure for their agricultural industries a proper share in the general improvement in living standards. They have responded to it in different ways. There has been increased protection against foreign competition, but, at the same time, agricultural exporters have been increasing their pressure on world markets. There 443 have been many attempts to control production, and even to take both land and people out of agriculture.
Here, at home, agriculture has been protected to some extent inasmuch as returns have been kept up by the deficiency payments system. But it has been apparent for some time now, and certainly to me ever since I have been Minister of Agriculture, that we could not hope to insulate ourselves completely from this general malaise. This we have seen most strikingly in the depressed state of our market for major commodities—so much so that our efforts to implement the spirit of the Agriculutre Acts as regards fair returns to farmers have resulted in a rise in the estimates of Exchequer cost of agricultural support of more than one-third, or over £100 million, in the last three years.
This has been the cause of growing concern to Government, taxpayer and farmer alike. Our overseas suppliers have also been concerned at their falling returns on our market, often brought about by the competition of dumped or subsidised supplies. It has been plain for some time that these difficulties were likely to increase rather than to diminish. I should like to remind the Committee of what I said in a debate two years ago, on 12th June, 1961, on the subject of dumping:…;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 control 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 444 heights."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1961; Val. 642, c. 57–8.]
And so, indeed, it has turned out to be.
We then, in July, 1961, went into the Common Market negotiations. In the meantime, during the eighteen months that these negotiations lasted, pressures on our market and, therefore, on our system continued. This was the background to the Price Review this year, which began only a matter of days after the Common Market negotiations had broken down.
Therefore, while it was clear that we would need to make some changes in our system, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House of Commons so in the post-Brussels debate, the extent to which we could use the Price Review for this was, naturally, limited because of the time factor. But those which we did make in certain of the guarantee arrangements were to my mind more important than the adjustments of the actual guaranteed prices, in which overall we made no net change, from the point of view of Review arithmetic, in the value of the guarantees.
We have related the guarantee for eggs to an indicator price representing the price which the Marketing Board can reasonably be expected to secure when normal supply and demand are in balance. While this in itself should lead to greater stability in the egg market, we have made provision for the guarantee payments to be adjusted if imports rise above a certain level and the market is depressed.
For pigs, we greatly improved the effectiveness of the flexible guarantee arrangements and we also made a start on withdrawing the special stabilising arrangements which have been a somewhat artificial element in the balance of supplies between the pork and bacon markets. We have shown that we are making our own contribution to more orderly marketing in the pig industry and we shall be looking to our overseas suppliers to play their part. This we are discussing with Denmark and other suppliers.
We also gave notice in the Review that we shall be considering changes in the method of calculating the guarantee payments for fatstock, that is to say, the 445 weekly calculations and the seasonal scale. What we have in mind here is the need for producers to pay more attention to the level of market prices through the year and to refrain from unloading supplies on a weak market because of the attraction of subsidy as opposed to the attraction of the market.
The most important of the commodities where we did make changes in the guaranteed price was milk. This is the commodity that has caused more difficulties in successive Reviews over the years than any other. We have been living with a spiral of rising milk production resulting in a higher proportion being sold at unprofitable prices for manufacture and the pool price paid to producers thereby being reduced. Encouragement to increase production would merely have aggravated this spiral. However, there was evidence this year that the rise in production more nearly matched the rise in sales on the liquid market, and, therefore, we felt able to increase the guaranteed price by ½d. a gallon.
This, along with the increase in the standard quantity, has meant an extra £6 million for the dairy industry. We looked at the increase in the guaranteed price very carefully, but I was convinced that to have given any bigger increase would have been to run a grave risk of setting off again the spiral of higher production and lower average returns. A greater increase might have had immediate attractions, but it certainly would not have been in the long-term interests of the dairy industry.
While the Review as a whole was disagreed and some individual price determinations, notably for milk, were included in that disagreement, I believe that what underlines the anxiety felt in the industry is the growing awareness of the new situation brought about by the altered supply and demand pattern which has changed a seller's market into a buyer's market, coupled with a feeling of impotence in having to sit back and see imports coming in without restriction and total supplies of home and imported foods pulling down farm-gate prices and thus forcing up the subsidy bill. These combine to put at risk our whole system of support. It is this which, fundamentally, is causing anxiety over the future, and it is with the future that I should like to deal.
446 In the White Paper following the Review we said that changes were needed in our system and we gave notice of our intention to discuss proposals to this end with leaders of the industry and with our overseas suppliers. I should like to tell the Committee about the broad approach on which the Government have decided. We adhere to our system of support through guaranteed prices and deficiency payments and intend to adapt it to present circumstances by bringing about greater market stability. This is desirable in the interests of the farming community and to avoid inflation of the cost of agricultural support by sudden and unpredictable falls in market prices.
There are two factors in this problem. The first is the market price which determines the rate of subsidy. This can be undermined from time to time by imports coming in at unduly low prices. Secondly, for cereals and meat there is no limit to the quantity of home production on which the subsidy is paid. We have concentrated our first attention on fatstock and cereals, and for good reason. The estimates that I have put in this year for the total cost of support for agriculture were, in round figures, £360 million. Of this, £120 million were for direct farming grants we can always predict what they are to cost and they are firmly in the control of the Government, to be altered as necessary from one year to another. Of the remaining £240 million, £210 million represented the cost of support for cereals and meat, leaving only £30 million to cover all the other major commodities.
Indeed, the rise in our estimates of £100 million in the last three years is all accounted for by cereals and meat. Moreover, in these sectors the prospect is one of increasing total supplies in our market, and measures to prevent our market prices from being undermined are necessary not only in our own interests, but also in those of our overseas suppliers.
The Government, therefore, intend to secure greater stability in the market for cereals and fatstock by a system of control of imports or import prices, combined with the extension at home of the standard quantity concept into these commodities. As the Committee will know, the standard quantity is an accepted principle under the Agriculture Acts, 447 which authorise the guarantee to be related to such part of our production as it is in the national interest to produce at home. It already applies in one way or another to milk, pigs, eggs, sugar beet and potatoes.
It will take some time to settle the precise application of this policy both on the home side and on imports, and the measures to be introduced may well be different in detail for the different commodities. We shall, of course, be discussing this with the leaders of the agricultural industry, and these discussions will include consideration of other changes in the machinery of our guarantee arrangements, as we foreshadowed in the Review White Paper. We shall also have discussions with the trade organisations principally concerned.
I hope that the Committee will appreciate that at this point I cannot go into any great detail, but I should like to give an indication of the extent of the changes we have in mind and how our broad approach will affect the consumer, the food trades, farmers and our overseas suppliers. First, the consumer. Let me say at once that we do not intend to restrict supplies in order to raise market prices. We should start from broadly the present level of supplies. We are not aiming to raise prices, but to iron out the more violent fluctuations in the market. In other words, we are aiming to put a floor or a bottom into the market.
I believe that this approach will win a broad measure of support in the Committee, apart, perhaps, from the Liberal Party, who, as I understand, would like to see us reject our system and go over to a full-blooded managed market system. It follows, also, that there will be no significant interference with the operations of the food trades beyond what may be necessary to ensure that there is a floor in the market. The Government's aim is certainly to leave the maximum freedom to the trade, consistent with their objective of ensuring that there is a stable market.
For the producer there will, I believe, be many advantages in this new approach. Farmers have disliked seeing the rising Exchequer bill at least as much as any other section of the community. Their record of improvements in efficiency and 448 productivity stands high in comparison with other industries. Productivity per man has been increasing by 5 per cent. per annum. Yet this tends to be obscured by the fact that the Exchequer support bill has also been rising so fast, due to weak market prices calling for a higher deficiency payment on each unit of production.
I grant that there have been occasions when the home farmer, either because of the quantity produced of a particular commodity or the way in which our system as it now is leaves him to market it, has been a partial or even a main contributor to this, but the fact that we are the only big commercial free importer of food in the world has meant that time and again our market has been undermined for reasons over which our agricultural industry has no control whatsoever.
We have seen barley down to £14 a ton—a totally unrealistic price for any country to be able to deliver it here economically. Equally, during the last few months, as in 1961, we have seen the price of fat cattle in our markets forced down to 110s. a cwt. On the other hand, during the calendar year 1962 the average return from our markets for fat cattle was 142s. a cwt. compared with a guaranteed price of 167s. This was a year when there happened to be, perhaps more by good luck than by good management, a satisfactory and steady supply of beef from all sources throughout the year, and, consequently, a stable market. What we want to see is this sort of pattern being the rule rather than the exception.
1 believe that the incentive to improve marketing of home produce, which must be an important feature of our system, has been seriously weakened by the knowledge that, no matter what is done for home production, it could be thwarted or brought to nought by the importation of supplies from abroad at low prices. The action that we have in mind to prevent imports of cereals and meat disrupting the market and the improvements in the guarantee arrangements at home will, we believe, provide a new stimulus to improving our marketing machinery. In that connection, we hope to have in the autumn the report of Sir Reginald Verdon Smith's committee on fatstock marketing and its advice on how this vital part of our marketing system should be reformed.
449 Though the farmers, to say nothing of the taxpayers, will be relieved to have a greater measure of stability in market prices, they will be the first to appreciate that, as a great trading nation, it must be in our national interest to decide these arrangements with the concurrence of our Commonwealth and other overseas suppliers to whom we have our obligations under various international agreements. In reaching agreement with them on measures which they should take to contribute to the stabilising of our market, we must be prepared to make our own contribution to that same end. That is why, on the home front, we will be introducing standard quantities and the other changes that I have mentioned in our deficiency payments system.
In the preliminary discussions that we have had recently with some of our overseas suppliers, in the E.F.T.A. meetings, with the Commonwealth Trade Ministers and in the G.A.T.T., we have found a good deal of understanding for our general thesis that if they are to obtain a reasonable return from our market there must be some control over the conditions under which it is supplied.
Often in the past, different countries have complained to us of the low prices that they are getting on our market, but they cannot expect, in times of surplus. to have both limitless access in terms of quantity and, at the same time, to be sure of getting a reasonable price. With the entry to all other world markets restricted, it is not possible to keep our market completely open and free in times of surplus without having violent falls in prices from time to time. Surely, therefore, it is in their interest, every bit as much as in ours, to secure more orderly marketing arrangements.
The detailed arrangements for the different commodities which we would aim to agree with our overseas suppliers might well need to include a body to keep under review the level of supplies and also the phasing of those supplies in our markets in the light of changes in the pattern here and overseas and other factors, such as the opening up of new markets. But whether or not a body of this kind will be necessary, and, if so, what form it should take, will depend on the arrangements we finally make. We are keeping an open mind 450 about it. It would be unwise to decide on the machinery before we can see clearly what its task would be.
In working out the proper balance between home-grown and imported food we should, as I have said, start from broadly the present level of supplies. We want arrangements which will ensure fair access to our market at reasonable prices, both to the overseas supplier and to our home producer. We do not wish them to be rigid, but to be as flexible as can be consonant with their fulfilling their purpose. This will be particularly necessary where the control would be on a quantitative basis. Where it would be better for the control to be exercised on the price of imports, our approach would be to establish minimum import prices to prevent the market falling to unreasonably low levels, leaving the market to run normally above the minimum price level.
The best method in each case can be discussed, but we hope and believe that, on such a basis, we will be able to reach agreement with our trading partners and that they will recognise that arrangements of this kind are likely to be more satisfactory than the prospect of unbridled competition in an overloaded market. At the same time, the fact that greater stability in our market will benefit our overseas suppliers means that this may be at some cost to our import bill. We shall expect these benefits to be taken into account in the overall balance of concessions which will he struck in the forthcoming trade negotiations.
What of the opportunities for growth? Both our standard of living and our population are rising. The forecast is a population of 70 million people by the end of the century. This will mean a rising demand for food and a growing market which will offer opportunities both to the home producer and to exporting countries. It is obviously not possible to be precise over proportions. Plainly, they will vary in the event from one commodity to another, and many factors will play upon them, not the least being the competitive position of our home producers in relation to overseas suppliers. But I have no doubt that, in the discussions we will he having, our overseas suppliers will appreciate that we could not agree upon arrangements which would not provide full opportunities to 451 our farmers to secure a proper share of the growth of demand on our own market.
In the longer term, much will, I believe, turn on the successful conclusion of international commodity arrangements. At last week's meeting of the Commonwealth Trade Ministers and, even more recently, of the G.A.T.T., we have affirmed our policy of support for such long-term solutions. I want to remind the Committee of the policy of the Government towards this. It was set out in a declaration made after the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in September last year. Their statement declared their desire…;to maintain and expand world trade in commodities and to improve the organisation of the world market in a manner fair alike to producers and to consumers.The statement went on:They will support a fresh and vigorous approach to the negotiation of international commodity agreements to this end. In any such approach principles of price, production and trade access would need to be applied on a commodity by commodity basis so as to encourage maximum consumption without over-stimulating production and to offer to efficient producing countries adequate access and stable prices at a fair and reasonable level.They believe that in the disposal of any surplus agricultural products opportunity should be taken to the fullest extent compatible with the legitimate interests of traditional suppliers to meet the needs of those peoples of the world who are in want.This was said, of course, in the context of our negotiations with the Common Market. But, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out in his speech in the post-Brussels debate on 11th February, the failure of the negotiations with the E.E.C. in no way relieved us of the need to fit our agricultural policies into our overseas trading arrangements, although he was at pains to underline the need for adequate reciprocity in any arrangements we made so as to safeguard our balance of payments position. We have since reaffirmed our intention to co-operate with the Commonwealth in dealing with the various world agreements which can be of such benefit to the economies of the less developed countries.
We shall be pursuing our objectives in the working groups for meat and cereals which will meet shortly under the 452 G.A.T.T.—indeed, arrangements were made early today for an early meeting—arid also, where appropriate, we will be having discussions on a bilateral basis. We will do all we can to reach agreements which we believe will be advantageous to both parties. The Committee will realise that world-wide commodity agreements in the full sense of the word cannot be arrived at quickly or easily, and it will be the Government's intention to use the G.A.T.T. forum to discuss what has to be done in the short-term to bring about the stability we seek.
I have given the Committee an account of where we have got to in the development of our policy. It may be summed up by saying that our intention is, while adhering to the principles of the 1947 and 1957 Acts, to adapt and to tailor out existing system of support to the new conditions of today. Though our attention has so far been concentrated, for good and obvious reasons, on fatstock and cereals, we believe that this new policy will have great advantages for agriculture as a whole, for small farmers as well as large, because it will serve to preserve our system of support—to which the whole industry attaches so much importance—by removing the pressures and strains which at present are weighing on it and putting it at risk.
We cannot judge today how long the process of discussion with our overseas suppliers will take. But I believe that it will be a satisfaction and a relief to the industry to know that this is the policy which the Government have decided upon, that our system of support will be assured and that it will provide a solid base for future opportunity.
We believe that it is a responsible policy in world terms. It will provide sound assurances for British agriculture, with opportunity for growth, and also the maintenance of trade with our traditional suppliers on a basis which is mutually advantageous.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
I refer again to what I said when I raised a point of order at the beginning of this debate. We are having the debate because the Opposition chose a Supply day for it and normally, in courtesy, we allow the Government spokesman to make a statement first, if necessary. I 453 still believe it to be discourteous to this Committee for the Minister to have made his statement last night to a private meeting upstairs. The Times has revealed this today.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The account in The Times is grossly inaccurate. A full and frank exchange of views took place between my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the back benches.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Because I was there. That is how I know. That was a perfectly honourable course; there was nothing dishonourable about it. My right hon. Friend made no statement in advance of his speech today and I think that he has behaved with the greatest decorum. as he normally does.
§ Mr. Peart
I still assert that it would have been better if he had made his statement in the House of Commons first rather than to a private meeting of the Tory Party. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) should not be so naïve. The Minister made precisely the same speech today as he made last night to a private meeting.
We take the view that the Government must bear some responsibility for the indecision and uncertainty which have hung over agriculture for a long time The Minister said that his speech would end the uncertainty, but it is our case that hon. Members opposite must bear major responsibility for it. The Minister has been converted. He chided the spokesman of the Liberal Party about the Liberal Party's belief in the managed market, but over the last two years the Minister himself has lauded the virtues of the managed market over and over again and has constantly advised hon. Members and the farming community to accept the common agricultural policy 454 of the European Economic Community. The right hon. Gentleman has argued strongly and vigorously that the managed market was necessary, so it is not for him to chide the Liberal Party.
We must realise that, because of pressure of events, the Government have had to jettison the policy which they have pursued and appreciate that there must be planning not only of home production, but of the phasing of our imports to home production. We must now recognise that hon. Members opposite have thrown overboard their old doctrine which was once annunciated by a Conservative Prime Minister when dealing with agricultural policy when he argued that we should reject the planning concept of the first post-war Labour Government and return to the doctrine of the law of supply and demand.
At long last, after pressure of events and after a series of prodding debates which we have initiated from time to time, the Government are now admitting that there must be planning and coordination of imports. Hon. Members opposite who disagree with that must know that throughout our debates on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure this year and throughout our discussions of many Orders and in our debates on horticulture and the implications of the European Economic Community, Labour spokesmen have constantly pressed the need for essential planning and for the co-ordination of home production and the supply of imports.
§ Mr. Peart
I will give way in a moment. Hon. Members should have the courtesy to allow one to develop one's case before asking one to give way. I certainly will later.
Over and over again we have argued this need. The Government have now endorsed the policy contained in the Agriculture Act, 1947, which was put through the House by my noble Friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh, who was then the Labour Minister of Agriculture, the policy of guaranteed prices and assured markets. That policy, and the policy of the Agriculture Act, 1957, which did not alter the main concept of the 1947 Act, are not now to be thrown overboard, 455 as was likely only a few months ago—the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will agree with me about that. There was a danger that the Minister would lead agriculture into having to accept the policy of a managed market and the implications of the main principles of the Common Market agricultural policy. The 1947 and 1957 Acts would have been thrown overboard. Some hon. Members opposite know very well that they have argued this case.
It is a change for the Minister now to endorse these main principles. I agree that the 1947 and 1957 Acts are not sacrosanct and that we must adapt them, their principles, implications and administrative effects to the present situation. We endorse the main principle of policy which has now been accepted by the Minister and put forward by him today, but hon. Members opposite must still bear some responsibility for our present situation. We must now dramatically change our approach to meet the new situation.
§ Sir H. Harrison
Would the hon. Member agree that there have been many Supply days on which the Opposition could have initiated a debate on agriculture, but that it was not until I gave notice of a Motion, which is to be debated next week, on the need for greater control of imports that the Opposition suddenly decided to have a debate?
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. and gallant Member is being rather naive. We have chosen to have this debate because we believe that it is right and proper that at this stage, which may well be our last Parliamentary debate on agriculture this year, we should examine Government policy critically. The Opposition took the initiative, and also we shall participate in the debate next week.
Let us quickly examine why the responsibility for present events rests with the Government and consider the history of policy over the last ten years. In debate after debate on agriculture we have pressed the Government about their uncertainty. In 1958, we had a major pig production crisis when the Government's stop-start policy caused uncertainty in the industry. It happened later with meat imports. Time 456 and again producers have asked the Government to do something.
I have with me a report of a speech by the president of the National Farmers' Union, Mr. Harold Woolley, which he made at Caernarvon in March this year. [Interruption.] Harold Woolley is a very responsible farm leader and I am rather surprised that a Conservative Member should jeer when his name is mentioned.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)
If an hon. Member does not give way, the hon. Member who rises must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Kershaw
On a point of order. Is it not in the tradition of the House that if an hon. Member mentions another hon. Member in a pejorative sense he will have the ordinary courtesy to give way?
§ The Temporary Chairman
That is not a point of order. It is for the hon. Member concerned to decide how he will proceed.
§ Mr. Peart
I cannot understand why hon. Members are so touchy. If it is their intention to try to upset the debate, I remind them that we can do the same.
I quote from what was said by the president of the National Farmers' Union, and I hope that hon. Members will accept it:The Union has made repeated and urgent representations to the Government to bring some sense into this situation and to adopt a sensible policy of co-ordinating imports with home production. In the first three 457 months of this year imports from the Argentine are running at double the rate for the same period last year. Our market prices are 25 per cent. below what they were in 1961 and 20 per cent. less than in 1962. Could any industry plan its business operations properly (n a chaotic situation of this kind? Let me emphasise that when the subsidy bill for all this is presented, it must be made clear that the responsibility for the increase lies clearly and unmistakably with the Government.Repeatedly, the farming community has protested at the policies pursued by the Government.
Meat imports are no isolated example. In our major debate on the subject when the Minister presented a Supplementary Estimate to the tune of £78 million, in February, 1962, we argued that the Government would have to change their policy and bring in new arrangements. The deficiency payments system within a free market cannot operate, and this is precisely what the Minister has reaffirmed now.
§ Mr. Peart
But we are not having a free market. We are really seeking to change the system which is in operation. We are seeking, virtually, to have a managed market and also co-ordination and planning of our production in relation to import policy and planning as a whole. In no sense is this a free market.
We have often argued that the Exchequer support system which is now in operation, and has reached the level mentioned by the Minister —he quoted the very considerable figures in his own White Paper —would inevitably place a strain on the industry and on the Exchequer while, at the same time, bringing no real benefit to the producer and the consumer. We argued this when we censured the Minister for his miscalculation of February last year.
All that we have said has come true. We are seeing now the end of an era. The Government have had to respond to events and to prodding from this side of the Committee. [Laughter.] Hon. Members know that that is true. Otherwise, why come to the House with a change of policy? Why reject the traditional policy pursued hitherto by the Minister?
The Minister had adopted a new approach now, under the pressure of events. Throughout the last two years 458 he believed that the solution to our agricultural problems was to be found elsewhere. He believed in the managed market of the European Economic Community. He was an enthusiastic defender, in no sense a negotiator. I respected his views and understood them, but I found it rather strange because, when the Labour Government were operating the 1947 Act, the then Minister of Agriculture was chided by hon. Members opposite for planning, for"farming from Whitehall"; yet, ironically, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would have"farmed from Brussels."The main policy decisions would have been taken elsewhere, and the principal measures which gave our farming community security under the 1947 and 1957 Acts would have been jettisoned.
We have sought to impress on the Government that, with the collapse of the Common Market negotiations, there should be a new approach and an attempt to assert a new policy which would be in the interests not only of the producers, but of consumers. Today, the Minister has sketched the broad principles of his policy. I trust that, in the working out of the details, all sections of the industry will be consulted. So far, the right hon. Gentleman has consulted only the National Farmers' Union. Has he made arrangements to consult the workers' side? Have the meat retailers been consulted? They are an important section, and they have felt that the Minister treated them rather brusquely eighteen months ago. It is only right that this section of the retail trade should have a voice in the shaping of policy.
The Minister must consult all sections as he proceeds, because, in the end, however much we may declare principles in the House of Commons, as the Minister has done today, everything will depend upon the Government's earnestness in working out proper and sensible arrangements for administration. We still do not know what is in the Government's mind. The Minister has said that he will consult the industry and that today we can discuss only general principles. I accept this, but, in the end, his policy will be judged by the details of any machinery which he creates to administer his policy. This is vital in marketing, as the Committee knows.
We have a difficult problem. The question is: how do we balance all the 459 interests affected by events? Quite rightly, the Minister must, first, consider the farmers and farm workers. Whatever policy emerges, we must think in terms of fair remuneration for our agricultural producers and workers. As yet, the wages of agricultural workers still lag behind those in industry generally. We still have to get to a situation where the skilled worker in agriculture has a wage comparable with that of the skilled industrial worker. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton), who represents the National Farmers' Union—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—who represents the National Union of Agricultural Workers; in a sense. he represents both, having a farming constituency, although he specialises in organising the agricultural workers—will have an opportunity to deploy this argument later.
§ Mr. P. Browne
I entirely agree about farm workers' wages, but will the hon. Gentleman elaborate a little and say how he suggests that these wages could rise if, at the same time, he is as keen as I am—I believe that he is—on the welfare of the smaller farmer who finds it very difficult to pay high wages?
The farm workers' wage is inevitably linked with the prosperity of the industry. As the hon. Gentleman knows, wages are a matter for negotiation. There is a wages board. [Laughter.] I do not know why the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) is being such a silly fool today. This is how matters proceed. I should like to see the industry getting a bigger and better return and having more security so that the farm worker may have his standard of life raised by wage increases.
We have argued this before. I think that these questions should be properly negotiated through the wages board. It is a problem affecting farming not only in this country, but in most countries of Western Europe. I read only today how West Germany's farm leaders have pressed the Chancellor-designate. Professor Erhard, to do precisely this in Western Germany, where the problems of agriculture are somewhat similar to ours.
While one of our objectives is to give security to the farmer and farm worker, 460 as we provided in the 1947 Act, we must bear in mind the needs of the consumer. Consumers' interests will have to be balanced with the producers' interests. I have always taken the view that there should be no conflict between the two and that a healthy, prosperous agriculture which gives fair remuneration to the farmer and farm worker is essential to our national economy. The consumer will not benefit if our home agriculture is depressed.
High Exchequer support, which has been the order of the day, has given us our food at reasonable prices which compare favourably with those of any highly developed country in Western Europe or elsewhere. We must bear in mind, however, that the consumer has a point of view which the Minister must consider when working out the details of any marketing scheme. I will not labour the question of Exchequer support. Hon. Members on both sides know the figures.
The Minister must also consider E.F.T.A., to which he referred this afternoon. Denmark wishes to have a larger share of our home market. Naturally, as a country, we have to balance the question of our industrial exports and the rapid elimination of industrial tariffs with the need of the Danes and our home market. This is not easy. It is something which will have to be negotiated and the Minister is now involved in working out the detailed negotiations.
There is the problem of the British Commonwealth. I am glad that hon. Members opposite are converted to the Commonwealth. There was a danger during the Common Market negotiations, when the Government rejected and, indeed, discouraged any approach to bring about Commonwealth unity. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and others often prodded the Government on this matter. It would be wrong if we failed to meet the desires of Commonwealth producers. This matter can be dealt with only by careful and hard negotiations. We have to balance these interests and to decide who, in the end, shall produce Britain's food and at what cost. For these reasons, we must inevitably balance our home and imported supplies.
The Minister referred in his speech to the general policy which was partly 461 foreshadowed in his Annual Price Review. Then the guaranteed price payments were related to specified quantities. For example, in the ease of pigs the guaranteed price is to be adjusted to number of pigs slaughtered. This confirms what the Minister said today, that we must think in terms of a guaranteed price related to specified quantities of food.
There is one matter, however, which I should like to take up with the Government, and that is the role of production grants. These are running at a very high figure, over £100 million. These grants are essential in many respects to improve efficiency and to enable the Government to inject capital into a certain section of the industry. What is the Government's policy on production grants? This was foreshadowed during our debates on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, when I remember quoting from Gavin McCrone's "The Economics of Subsidising Agriculture".
Mr. McCrone refers to the fact that it has been the Government's deliberate policy to divert their main support more and more to production grants. This may be the right policy. I should like to know from the Secretary of State for Scotland whether this policy will continue and whether more and more support is to be diverted from deficiency payments to direct grants. This has been the tendency over the last four or five years. It is important that we should know how these grants will fit into any new policy.
We have a right to press the Minister on the question of production in the industry. It is all very well to say that we shall have a more efficient industry, but there is the problem of over-production. What is our target? We must have a policy which aims at increasing efficiency on the farm. Why are we having production grants and why are we seeking to develop our National Agricultural Advisory Service and doing what is outlined in the broad policy statement of the Government if we are not seeking to improve the efficiency of each farm unit to make it more viable? If we talk about efficiency and increased productivity on the farm, that must mean increased production.
This is discussed at great length in the Report of the National Economic De- 462 velopment Council enlitled "Growth of the United Kingdom Economy to 1966". I congratulate the authors of this document on their fine annexe dealing with agriculture. Most hon. Members will have read it. It deals with the growth of agricultural output from 1956 right up to an estimate of what we should have in 1966. Is it the Government's intention to pursue a policy of increased production? Are we seeking to expand quickly our own home production? We had no indication on that from the Minister today.
May I quote from page 62 of this semi-official document:The industry contributes to growth in two ways. First, efficient production from the land helps the balance of payments by enabling us to displace imports of agricultural produce; secondly. greater efficiency of resource utilisation in agriculture contributes to growth.Do the Government accept this Report? Js it the Government's policy to increase production? Is it their argument that this is the way to challenge our balance of payments problem? The Government should give a clear indication of their policy.
The whole of the section on agriculture in this Report deals with aspects of growth which are important for the industry. On page 67 the Council outlines a policy for dealing with the problem. It refers to the need for effective planning, for the effective organisation of marketing and for the maintenance of adequate credit facilities. This is a policy which we have pressed the Government to adopt. This Report confirms again and again some of our main criticisms. That is why I ask the Government to declare their policy on this essential balance of payments problem.
There was a very challenging article in the Sunday Times only recently by William Rees-Mogg on this problem. Is it the Government's intention to have more home production, or is it their intention to phase our imports with home production under this new arrangement and to have a policy whereby home production remains stable? Will the Government continue to drive out the small farmer? The Minister said that he was very anxious to safeguard the position of the small farmer, but is that true? In many instances, the small farmer has 463 been driven out of business by Government policy. Pressure of events has forced many small farmers out of business.
Let me give the figures of the number of milk producers. In 1954, there were 179,740 registered milk producers in the United Kingdom. In 1956, the figure had fallen to 170,440. In 1958, it had dropped to 162,600, in 1960 to 151,700 and in 1962 to 143,100. Is this the way in which the Government intend to deal with the small farmer? Is it their intention to make units larger and more viable, to use a fashionable term, and to drive the small man out by pressure of events?
Do the Government intend to allow this trend to continue? All hon. Members wish to know. Or do they seek to provide the small farmer with more credit facilities, aid under extended small farmer schemes, help through producer corporations and other administrative means of giving the small farmer a role in our agricultural economy? The small farmer is the backbone of our industry; 60 per cent. of our farms are under 100 acres. He is the backbone of our agricultural economy. He can be affected by any major change of Government policy.
While I pay tribute to those on larger acreages who have contributed to more efficient production and the new methods of agricultural research which are being applied to the industry, I remind the Parliamentary Secretary, who looks a little doubtful about this, that the head of the National Agricultural Advisory Service, not long ago, praised the small farmers. There are 140,000 of them. He said that the small man must have a place in our agricultural economy.
§ Mr. P. Browne
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way in that spate of words. The Minister said that our population was increasing and that he expected our farmers to take a larger share of the home market. Does not the hon. Member accept that evolution is going on and that there are fewer farms in this country?
Is it not the job of any Government to do what the Government are doing—to cushion the evolution by introducing such things as producer subsidies and small farmer schemes? The hon. Member gave figures for milk producers. These do not prove that the farmers went out of farm- 464 ing. They mean that they stopped selling milk. What would the hon. Gentleman do about it?
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
There are over 300, nearly 400, fewer small farmers in north Staffordshire alone than in 1952.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member may be a bad farmer.
To suggest that the small farmer is not worried about his future is nonsense. I have spoken to the N.F.U. in Devon and elsewhere in the area and I know that there is concern in the South-West and in many other parts of the country among the small farmers, particularly about the man who relies on one commodity. He could well be affected by any Government policy announced today. I should have thought that the hon. Member would support me in my comments. He should not get angry. He is usually rather pleasant, even if he is giving up his seat at the next election.
May we have an indication of Government policy? Is the Minister thinking in terms of a five-year production policy such as is foreshadowed in the N.E.D.C. Report, which is a semi-official document? Do we intend to have a five-year food plan by which we can assess what should be the target for home production? I agree with the Minister that we have to think of the pressure of food surpluses on our home market.
I have stressed repeatedly that this is partly the key to our own agricultural approach. I am glad that producers have recognised this in their own "Farm and Food Plan". We have always said that we should press for world commodity 465 agreements. There is a need for international commodity agreements for our basic commodities, such as wheat, meat and dairy products. The Minister has reinforced that point of view. At the same time, I take the view that we should have not only international commodity agreements, but also limited regional commodity agreements. This is an urgent matter affecting, for example, mutton and lamb from New Zealand.
We must also work with the European Community. I took a critical view of the Common Market policy in relation to agriculture and my view has been reinforced by events, but we must still have reasonable agreements with Europe. The body for this is the O.E.C.D. This is the way in which such international agreements should work. Every year we could have within these regional organisations, such as O.E.C.D., a confrontation of national agricultural policies affecting production, prices and farm incomes. This is essential. We cannot plan our home agriculture unless we bear in mind what it happening in Europe, the Common. wealth and elsewhere. There must be an approach to international understanding through international commodity agreements.
I am glad that the Minister has emphasised that we should participate in a world food programme. It is ironical and sad that we are talking about farm surpluses in a world which is still facing the challenge of hunger, in which millions of our fellow men, women and children are under-nourished and starving. And yet we are discussing how the surpluses in the Western world and even in this country can affect our stability. Somehow, the Western world must take the initiative. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that we will participate in a world food campaign.
The Minister asks me for suggestions. I suggest that we take the initiative at F.A.O. in this matter. It was discussed in Copenhagen as far back as 1946, when a World Food Board was mooted. I should like to see a World Food Board which would seek to stabilise the prices of agricultural commodities in the world market, including the provision of the necessary funds for stabilising operations.
I should like to see a world food reserve. too, adequate to meet any emergency which may arise. I could develop 466 this argument, but will merely say now that somehow we must come to this concept of world planning and a World Food Board, which would also supervise the international commodity agreements and, perhaps, the regional agreements which I have mentioned. We require international planning,
Lastly, and my main theme today, we must then come back to our national policy at home. The Minister has talked about marketing, but what do the Government intend to do? We have often prodded the Government to produce their schemes for marketing. The Minister has said that it is not his responsibility. I remember one of the first speeches he made to the Farmers' Club, in 1961, when he said thatthe job of marketing is one for the industry itself.The right hon. Gentleman repeated this a year later. He repeated this at the Oxford farm conference. It is time that the Minister took the initiative. It is time that the Government realised that marketing is partly their responsibility. It is not something which we can just leave to the industry.
In the case of meat, how are we to co-ordinate and phase our imports unless we are to bring in some sort of new machinery? How are we to do this—just write letters to the Argentine Government, as the Minister has done over the past few months? We want Her Majesty's Government to be really specific. It was only after we raised the problem of meat production and its effect on the Exchequer payments that the Minister produced his estimate in February last year. He announced the setting up of a committee to investigate the meat industry, and no doubt the Minister is now waiting for the report of the Verdon Smith committee, but, in the end, it is for the Government to take the initiative.
I should like to see—I will be quite frank here—some new machinery which would co-ordinate and regulate our imports and phase them with home production. I should like to see commodity commissions for meat and cereals. I am sure that this would be welcomed even in the trade. I got a letter this morning on this from a leading producer who takes the view that this is a"must". A new statutory body must be brought into 467 being which would be continually sitting, a body independent of the industry, a small body which would regulate and phase imports.
Many hon. Members opposite, I know, take this view. I am sure that the trade would welcome such a proposal. I was guest of honour on Monday night at the Institute of Meat, where I met many of our traders with the Argentine and other countries, and what responsible people in the industry say is that they are tired of the uncertainty of the present situation and that there must be some new machinery to co-ordinate imports. Will the Government do something? It is all very well for the Minister to come to the House today and say, "I believe in marketing". He must speak out in relation to commodity commissions.
I should like to see for horticulture a new statutory authority. The Minister did not mention horticulture today, yet the horticultural industry is a large section of our food-producing industry. We want urgently a new statutory authority which will plan our wholesale markets. We have pressed the Government to do something about marketing. As yet, we are not certain what the Minister will do. It is all very well for him now to change his mind on essential planning—we welcome this—but we still wish to know what are the details of this policy, details which have not been forthcoming today.
We on this side accept that it is not easy to work out a completely satisfactory solution for our agricultural problems. The industry is so varied. Also, we are concerned not only with home production, but with food from many of our traditional suppliers abroad. The industry has a long history and has faced many very complex problems. Therefore, it is essential not only to declare one's principles but also, when one is in government, to give the details. I hope that when the Minister has come to some conclusions about the details he will present a White Paper which we shall be able to debate here when we have another Parliamentary opportunity.
We assert that essential marketing and planning is vital for the industry, vital for the producer, vital for the consumer and vital for the nation. We maintain 468 that the Government bear a main responsibility for the indecision which has rested upon the industry, the uncertainty which still hangs over it. The negotiations over the Common Market, the failure of the Minister to respond with adequate marketing facilities—all this indicates that the Government cannot be trusted to deal with agricultural matters.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)
I was disappointed with the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). I think I could have done a jolly sight better myself in criticising the Government.
§ Sir A. Hurd
Really, he did not tell us anything new. It was all the old stuff which we heard in 1955 and in 1959, and no doubt we shall hear it again when the next election comes along. Of course, he had only 16 colleagues of his on the Opposition benches to inspire him.
Anyway, I do not think we need spend a great deal of time on criticising this year's Price Review, or, indeed, other policy decisions of recent years. I realise, as clearly as anyone does, that not all farmers on all farms in the country have been doing well. They never have done in my forty years' experience, and they never will do; it is not in the nature of the farming business. But if we take the broad picture of what has been happening in our land, looking back over our own lifetimes, we find that really the industry has been going places.
It had the great challenge, the great spur, of the war years. That has continued until now under successive Governments on the basis of assured markets and prices. The industry has seized hold of the new things which science has brought along, the new techniques. So today we have an industry producing 86 per cent. more than it did before the war, and it is an industry which, by that performance, has undoubtedly greatly strengthened our balance of payments position. I am one who believes that we should continue in that course and that the good of the nation will require it.
As I look around the country I find that the land is in good heart, and I believe that the people of the country are in good heart. They know that they are doing a good job, especially when we 469 remember that the agricultural labour force has been falling, failing very rapidly. There are 200,000 fewer people working on the land than there were ten years ago, a reduction of about 25 per cent. There has also been a sharp reduction of 12 per cent. in the number of separate farms. This shows that a good many of the least economic, little farms, and some of the part-time holdings which were formally listed as farms, have been grouped together to make farms which will provide a better living and make more economic units. While this has been going on—the employment of fewer people, fewer farmers and fewer farms —nearly twice as much is being produced as before the war. This is a great record of productivity which it is worth underlining in National Productivity Year. If all our industries were going ahead like this our country would indeed be in a very happy and prosperous state.
We do not lack vigour or young life in our industry. I spent last Saturday at the Berkshire Young Farmers' Club rally. The people there were full of beans, and, of course, they took a knock at the Government, and quite rightly. They were taking their cue from their elders in the National Farmers' Union. They had great fun with their decorated floats. One was pillorying Dr. Beeching's new railway plans, and others portrayed some of the terrible things that are happening to agriculture because the Government have failed to come to grips with the import position and have allowed the price for home produce to fall below the levels which some members of the N.F.U. would like. We expect this sort of criticism from our young people. It would be disappointing if they were not full of criticism of their elders. It is right and proper that the young should be, but remember how British agriculture has forged ahead year by year; and after hearing my right hon. Friend today think that we are now on a course which will enable us to go ahead still further.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend. He has done mighty well to carry his Cabinet colleagues with him in pronouncing today a balanced policy for food and agriculture. This should do several important things. First, it confirms the basis of price support for British agriculture, retaining the principle of the 1947 and 1957 Agriculture Acts. It is on that basis that agriculture has gone for- 470 ward in these last few years, and there is no reason why home food production should not continue to increase. As my right hon. Friend said, the market will be expanding. We shall have to be stronger contenders in the market through better marketing organisations, and I think that we shall now have a basis of confidence to enable us to get ahead with developments.
These new organisations may be marketing boards. If that is what the industry wants, I would not object to them. There may be a marketing board for cereals and one for meat. Certainly the Milk Marketing Board has done a good job for the dairy farmer, and it may be that if the industry wants it we can have a board to deal with cereals and a similar organisation to deal with meat. We have to grapple with marketing problems much more effectively than we have done in the past. I believe that these organisations can run most smoothly when they are inspired by producers and are not overlaid with too many appointed members or try to represent too many different interests.
My right hon. Friend referred to standard quantities, and I am sure that there will be further references to this topic. My right hon. Friend spoke about standard quantities being attached to the amounts of home production that are to be covered by price guarantees. There is nothing new in this idea. As those who have followed the working out in practice of the Agriculture Acts know, this principle of standard quantities applies to liquid milk. We have it with eggs now, and we have it with pigs, with potatoes and with sugar beet. Indeed over a whole range of products we have the standard quantity principle in operation, and I do not find anything alarming about it. It is right and reasonable that British agriculture should make a contribution to a steady market which will benefit us all. If by our enterprise and skill in marketing we can earn a bigger share of the market, and it is an expanding one, the standard quantities can be increased, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will press for that to be done.
Secondly, I think that this policy which sets out to stabilise prices in the British food market by controlling imports will enable imports to be integrated and 471 balanced not only in quantity but in timing with what we produce at home. This should effect considerable savings in the Exchequer support which British agriculture has had to call on in recent years. The Committee hardly needs reminding that in the first three months of this year, when so much additional Argentine beef came unexpectedly on to our market, the subsidy bill on home-killed beef rose to £9 million as against £5.4 million in the first three months of 1962.
I hope that we shall carry this policy to the point not only of stabilising the market but of considerably strengthening it so that we can aim at effecting a saving of say, £100 million a year out of the £240 million of taxpayers money which we are today using for farm price support. I think that we must be fairly clear about the levels at which we want the market to be stabilised.
Thirdly, with this policy we shall be using the importance of the British food market as a trading asset when we do our business in the world. I think that here we must see that our special concern is with Commonwealth trade. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will want to keep their full share of the British market, and they should be the more ready to afford corresponding advantages to us when we go to sell our manufactured goods and our services in their markets. Trade with Denmark and Argentine? Yes, of course, in so far as they justify their claims to access to the British food market. We have here a unique asset. Let us use it to full advantage in strengthening our trade policies throughout the world. I put the Commonwealth first because I think that it will respond the more readily, and then we come to our other established traditional trading friends in the world. I put them all well ahead of Jugoslavia, Poland, Roumania and those others whom I think we should deal with last.
The Minister spoke mostly about cereals and meat. These are the two major items in the British farms support bill. They present urgent problems, and so does the dairy produce market, which is of particular concern to New Zealand. I hope that we shall soon move on to consider integrating imports and home production and thus get a more stabil- 472 ised price for butter, cheese and other dairy products than we have so far achieved. It is time that we have taken emergency measures over butter quotas, and this has had the desired effect, but it is not a permanent policy, and it cannot be altogether satisfactory to New Zealand, Australia, and our other Commonwealth friends, let alone to Denmark.
We do not know which methods of import control are likely to be the most effective for the various commodities. It will take time to work these out. I do not think that we should pin too much confidence on getting an early result from the discussions now starting at the G.A.T.T. meeting about international commodity agreements. I wish them well; we all do. It would be a great simplification of our problem if we could get international commodity agreements, with arrangements to siphon off surpluses which weigh heavily on the world's markets and which depress prices, and move them into the quarters of the world where they could really do good in building up the nutrition of people who are not so well fed as they should be. I think it will be difficult to get completely comprehensive commodity agreements. I hope that we can, and we should certainly work for it. I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend the Minister said, but I do not think that we should allow our agriculture or food policy to depend on getting an early result in that quarter. I am sure that we must take action on our own which will be complementary to and fit in with international commodity agreements when they come.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will confirm tonight that we are meanwhile to carry on fully our price support system under the 1947 and 1957 Agriculture Acts, costly though that system may be. and that we shall also continue to be ready at short notice to safeguard our markets from overloading by unforeseen supplies, such as the extra shipments of Argentine beef that we saw early this year, or with excess arrivals of butter from all quarters which weighed on our market so much last year and which worried our New Zealand friends. I hope that we shall always be ready if necessary to control by quota, preferably by agreement, in order to limit the 473 supplies and to level them out month by month.
We must be ready to act promptly and not have to wait either for Members of this House or the National Farmers' Union to prod the Board of Trade on import figures before action is taken. I hope the Government will say, "We have got this running well now and intend to keep it that way as the basis for this broader policy which we are developing." The Cabinet have come to grips with events as they have developed since the breakdown of the Brussels negotiations.
I was very glad to see my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade sitting beside my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, because it is very important that all Ministers should not only speak with one voice but should think with one mind about these problems. Quite a bit of education has had to be done. I believe that it has been achieved, and I am pretty confident now that we are moving on the right course thanks to a good many jabs from several directions. I very much hope that this food import policy will soon be developed in more final and detailed form as an essential part of our national economic policy.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he has achieved with his colleagues. I wish him well. This is a policy which should serve our own country well and our Commonwealth friends well, because they will have a stable market and will know how they stand when they send their produce to us. It will benefit our trading partners; it will ease the load on the taxpayer, and it will not hurt the consumer. Really it does not benefit the public when we have these extra supplies unexpectedly thrown on our markets. How much of the £4 million odd that went in beef subsidy in the first three months of this year filtered through to the consumer of beef? It certainly did not come through in full measure.
I am sure that it is in the interests of everyone concerned with the food markets and British agriculture that this policy now outlined by my right hon. Friend should succeed. I wish him and his colleagues well in pursuing it.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
I am glad that the Labour Party found time out of its limited number of Supply days for this important debate on agriculture. Despite the crack of the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) that it was he who had worked the oracle, I would remind the Committee that I pleaded with the Leader of the House a fortnight ago to give Government time for this debate. The Government refused to allow the time, and I applaud the Opposition on finding the necessary day out of the few precious days allocated to us for this purpose. I am not surprised that the Tory Government refused to find official Government time to debate agriculture, because they know, despite what the hon. Member for Newbury (Sir H. Hurd) has said, of the grave dissatisfaction all over the country with the Government concerning the present position in agriculture.
If the hon. Member for Newbury is not aware of this, may I remind him that it is only a very few weeks ago that we had a number of irate farmers from Norfolk, Devon and other parts of the country in the Lobby complaining of the treatment meted out to those in agriculture by the Government. If the hon. Gentleman wants further evidence, may I advise him to consult his hon. Friend, and my neighbour, the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), who, I believe, has been put through the mill in no uncertain manner in recent weeks by irate farmers in south Norfolk? If still further evidence is needed, only yesterday I presented to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food a petition signed by 720 dissatisfied farmers, many of them from the constituency of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South and from my own, protesting at the present adverse trend in agriculture. The farmers are very apprehensive as to the future of this important industry. Therefore, I want to present an entirely different picture from that portrayed by the hon. Member for Newbury.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I can quite understand his enjoying very much the discomfiture of the Government over a problem of this sort, but can he tell me of any one piece of policy which his party has put forward 475 which will give the answer to the agricultural problem of this country?
§ Mr. Hilton
I should not have to remind the hon. Gentleman that we are not the Government of the country. However, I prefer to carry on with my speech, and it is the criticism of the Tory Government's policy for agriculture to which I am referring.
Of course, to some extent the Minister's statement this afternoon has forestalled some of the criticism that I had ready to level against him this afternoon, if further evidence were needed of the plight of agriculture at the present time. There is the question of agricultural apprentices. In Norfolk and other important agricultural counties the number of youngsters applying to become apprentices to this important industry is very disappointing, and in some counties, including my own, hardly exists at all. I think that this is an indication that at the present time many people can see no future in the industry. I do not share that view because I believe that, in the right hands, there is a great future for British agriculture. It is important for young people to be attracted to agriculture and to be taught the "know-how".
I am pretty sure that quite soon we are going to have a change of Government, and I believe that youngsters will then be encouraged to come into the industry. This is the state of affairs after twelve years of Tory Government, and we must remember that this followed six years of general satisfaction in agriculture. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) does not seem to agree with my statement that from 1945 to 1951 there was general all-round satisfaction in British agriculture at a time when we had a Labour Government, with my noble Friend, then Tom Williams, at the helm.
One thing which I have never been able to understand is why farmers who invest their money in food production are expected to do so for a far smaller financial return than are people who invest in industry. I do not have to remind the Committee of the importance of food production. Neither can I understand why farm workers doing this important job, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) remarked, are expected by so many 476 people to work longer hours for a far smaller wage than their counterparts in industry.
Since the war, production from our farms has increased steadily by 50 per cent., but my farmer friends tell me that farm incomes in the same period have increased by only 11 per cent. On the other hand, industrial production has increased by about the same amount—50 per cent.—but the incomes of industrialists have kept pace with production and gone up by 50 per cent. It does not make sense to me, and I have never been able to understand why this should be so. After all, the farmers and farm workers of this country have a splendid record and they deserve far better treatment.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
If this sad story is really factual, will the hon. Gentleman explain why farmers of their cwn free will are prepared to pay the earth for grazing for their cattle during the summer? Does he really think that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) looks threadbare and miserable?
§ Mr. Hilton
If the hon. Member considers that it is a fairy story I am trying to tell the Committee, I can assure him that that is not the view of the average farmer in Norfolk. I am not talking about people in the same category as the hon. Member and a number of his colleagues, nor of my lucky friend the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). I do not regard either as the average normal farmer. I am speaking on behalf of farmers who do their best to get a living from their farms alone. Those are the people with whom I am concerned. People who have eggs in a number of baskets are, of course, in a different category. I am not referring to them specifically.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Circencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Gentleman also said that farmers do not get as good return on capital invested as industrialists. Has he any figures to substantiate that statement, which I would have thought was quite untrue?
§ Mr. Hilton
I am quoting figures given me by Norfolk farmers. This is National Productivity Year, when everybody is asked to increase production. The Chancellor in his Budget speech laid 477 emphasis on increased production, and everybody accepts the need for it in industry.
I cannot understand why farmers are not expected to share in this increased production. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington asked the Minister point blank if it was the Government's intention to encourage increased production from the farmers. He refused to answer that question. After all, it was a restrictionist Price Review, and as the Minister failed to answer the question I think that we can take it that the Government do not intend to encourage increased production from our farmers.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Noble)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) asked for a reply either from the Minister or from the Secretary of State when winding up, so I do not think that it is quite fair to attack the Minister for not answering.
§ Mr. Hilton
I hope that we shall get a favourable answer to that question anyway.
The point that I wish to make is this. At a time in history when millions of people in other parts of the world are starving, it is up to us in this country to produce all the food we can. If there are surpluses they should be diverted to the starving millions in other parts of the world. We have just been hearing of the wonderful performance of another American astronaut, and in these days of wonderful inventions it should not be beyond mankind to be able to divert surpluses of food to areas which are badly in need of them.
I am pleased to note that the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) is quite shortly to lead a delegation to America, to the F.A.O., to discuss this problem. I am sorry that the Minister is not at present in the Chamber, because I intended to put a question to him. It has been customary when similar delegations have gone to F.A.O. for one representative of the workers of this country to be included in it. This time no worker is included in the delegation, and I wanted to suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider this matter. I believe that the workers' representative has an important part to play in these discussions.
478 To come back to the question of production and surpluses, less than a year ago we had the situation in this country in which it was admitted that millions of pints of surplus milk had been poured down disused mines. Never again should that state of affairs occur in this country or in any other country, while there are so many people so desperately in need of it
I am often asked a question by farmers in my constituency, and I think that it is a legitimate one: in recent years, why is it that we have to pay more for nearly everything we buy, farm machinery, fertilisers and other things, when we get less for nearly everything we produce? This is an important question, and I hope that the Government will be able to give a satisfactory answer to it. I believe that it will be very difficult for the Government to give an answer satisfactory to Norfolk farmers.
There is another important matter which I hope the Government will take note of. When I presented a petition to the Minister yesterday I was asked by the Norfolk farmers to inquire if the Minister would receive a deputation from them in the near future to discuss their problems. It is not a request by the National Farmers' Union, although many of those Norfolk farmers, probably all of them, are members of the N.F.U. It is not, however, as members of the N.F.U. that they have asked that the Minister should meet them. I hope he will accede to their request.
The subject of farm workers was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington. He asked why they should receive worse treatment than industrial workers. At present they receive £4 10s. a week less, on average, than workers in industry. We also have the old complaint about the tied cottage. For years we have requested various Conservative Governments to introduce legislation to make it impossible for farm workers to be turned out of their tied cottages before alternative accommodation is provided. I am not saying that many farm workers are turned out in this shocking way, but it is quite wrong that any should be turned out and this system should not be countenanced in 1963. Even now I hope that the Government will have second thoughts on the matter and will introduce legislation to deal with this state of affairs.
479 Another complaint of farm workers is that they do not have sick pay schemes, although industrial workers do. I do not see why a sick pay scheme should not be introduced. Everybody seems to be sympathetic to the plight of farm workers until they ask for an increase in wages or benefits. I remind the Committee that no section of our workers has a better industrial record than the farm workers. It is forty years since we had a strike of agricultural workers in Norfolk. In view of their record they are entitled to far better treatment.
We were all glad to hear the Minister's statement about import control. This is something that we have been pressing for, together with all sections of the community concerned with agriculture. In fact, only the Tory Government have taken the opposite view. I am glad that they have seen the light at last and intend to do something about it. I realise that it is too early to expect them to go into details, but the Minister's announcement on this matter and his suggestion about improved marketing arrangements are long overdue improvements. When we receive the details of what the Minister has in mind, I hope that we shall be told about new markets as well as marketing arrangements. The two things go together. We must have new markets if the new arrangements are to be carried out satisfactorily. I suspect that these suggestions by the Minister are really vote catchers for a fairly early General Election. Nevertheless, I welcome them.
The Minister also reminded us of the support which the Government propose to give to agriculture during the current year. We knew of this, but I hope that the Government will see to it that the money will really go to the farmers this year—to the people for whom it is intended. Another complaint of the Norfolk farmers is that too much Government money goes into the wrong pockets—the pockets of the middlemen. I hope that on this occasion great care will be taken to ensure that the help Wes to the people for whom it is really intended.
A year ago £78 million mysteriously disappeared and nobody would admit having had it. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members opposite are becoming agitated. I know that many other hon. 480 Members are anxious to speak, and I shall refer only to a few more important matters. First, there is the question of swine fever. I recently raised this matter in the House, and the Minister gave me some rather alarming figures concerning the number of outbreaks and the amount of compensation given, which was fairly large. On that occasion I asked that more money should be made available for research into the cause of this disease and into the question whether it was advisable to vaccinate against it. Some Norfolk farmers are advised to vaccinate and others are advised against it. There is some confusion in the matter. By this time the Minister ought to be in a position to advise farmers whether or not they should vaccinate against the disease. If no action is taken the disease will get out of control, as fowl pest did a year or two ago, in Norfolk.
In the near future there should be a completely new charter for British agriculture, to ensure fair returns to all farmers and proper rewards for farm workers. This is the oldest and still the most important industry not merely in this country but in the world. As food producers, farmers are entitled to, and should receive, as good a return for the money they invest as do industrialists, and farm workers should receive treatment comparable to that given to industrial workers. They have never had it in twelve years of Conservative Government. We shall shortly have a return to a Labour Government, when we shall probably have a new charter. This will be welcomed by everybody in Norfolk who is interested in the welfare of agriculture.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I was surprised at the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). He seemed to feel that it was all our fault that difficulties have arisen in changing to a new agricultural policy. He ignores the fact that we made a very determined effort to change our entire agricultural economy when we applied to join the Common Market. When those negotiations first started, on 2nd August, 1961, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:I believe that there is a growing realisation that with changing world conditions we are 481 faced with the possibility of changes anyway." —[OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd August, 1961; Vol. 645, c. 1487.]The Government were fully aware of the need for changes as long as two years ago. What happened was that the system would clearly have been affected by the decision to join the Common Market. It would, therefore, have been quite unrealistic to try to bring about alterations before the negotiations unfortunately failed in January of this year.
§ Mr. Ridley
I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the Common Market agricultural policy, but I think that the hon. Gentleman was entirely mistaken in his appreciation of that policy and its effect on British agriculture. When we look at the present situation, we come to the conclusion that we are moving closely to that same system although we are not actually proposing to join the Market.
I believe that farmers will be glad to hear of the plans announced today by my right hon. Friend, and that these plans will achieve some of the things which would have been done under the Common Market system. The whole of the agricultural community will watch with interest the development of the details, which are much more important than the broad outline. These are the things by which we shall judge the new policy. I congratulate the Government on moving so quickly for the first time in this sphere. I have every sympathy with the concern which has been felt by farmers during the two years of waiting, because that is how I regard the last two years, as a period when we were waiting for the Common Market to come, or now, for a new policy.
With the subsidy running at £360 million a year it is understandable that one should feel vulnerable. It presented a "sitting duck" for politicians to aim at, particularly politicians representing urban constituencies who in the past few months, together with others, have done 482 much criticising. We have heard of all sorts of figures relating to the farm subsidy and the high proportion which it represents of the total farming income. But in terms of the total farming turnover it is very small indeed. There has always been the fear of a change of Government which in some way might endanger the present arrangements by which farmers receive their income. There has been the fear each February that the Price Review would impose some further burden.
I have noticed the resentment which is felt against the middlemen in food production—the butchers, the grain merchants and others—who, it is alleged, have been taking a large proportion of the subsidy. I do not believe that there is any foundation for this accusation. I hope that my right hon. Friend will refer to it. I think that we have been allowing members of worthy professions to be slighted, and I do not think they have had an unreasonable share of the profits resulting from the general production of food.
It is easy to expound a wise and sensible agricultural policy when one is at the Ministry, or speaking in the House, or taking part in a conference. It is easy to make arrangements which sound sensible and which bear economic scrutiny. It is extremely difficult for a farmer to work out what this means to him individually and how he can influence the situation and how it will affect his day-to-day buying and production policies.
I have noticed the gap between the broad, sensible direction of farming policy at the centre and its understanding and comprehension at the fringes. To particularise, I wish to refer to a paragraph which appears in this year's Price Review referring to pigs, to the effect that the Government will be widening the stabilising limits this year preparatory to abolishing the separate stabilisers at the next Review. To me that sounds more like the design instructions for a supersonic aircraft than anything to do with the future price of pigs. I am certain that there are few people who really understand the whole conception of the pig subsidy and how it works in detail, admirable though it may be as an economic principle of how to control this difficult industry.
483 This brings me to my first point relating to the new policy. I hope that when the proposals become less sketchy and more firm my right hon. Friend will continually bear in mind the need to make it possible for every farmer to be clear about what the arrangements mean and how he would be affected if certain things happened; if there were to be increased production, why it is that the price he receives may drop and how he can influence the situation by his own actions. In this matter intelligibility is extremely important, and I hope that the scheme will be explained with the greatest care.
I wish to refer to expansion of production upon which the hon. Member for Workington spoke at some length. The main reason why in the past Governments have discouraged expansion of agricultural production in this country is that inevitably there is an automatic increase in the subsidy bill; and that is an understandable reason. But if my right hon. Friend succeeds in fixing the bottom end of the market—and I hope that will result in a great reduction of the total subsidy, because the farmer will get a larger proportion of his total income from the market rather from the taxpayer—in my opinion that motive will become less important. Furthermore, if by the control of imports my right hon. Friend succeeds in putting up the prices received by overseas suppliers, it will land us in a worse balance of payments situation than we are at present. We shall be paying, possibly, more for the same quantity of food. In this situation, it seems to me that there will be very strong motives for allowing an expansion of foodstuff production. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will not be too rigid in defining any limitation on production and will allow reasonable margins for expansion in ways best suited to the industry.
In the last few years, as was said by my right hon. Friend, we have changed from being a sellers' market to being a buyers' market. It is noticeable that the prices of practically everything imported into the country bear no relation to the cost of production. French wheat has been coming in at under £20 a ton, whereas the internal price is about £33 a ton. M. Pisani, 484 the French Minister of Agriculture, in a speech the other day referred to this as being an act of extreme generosity on the part of the French Government, designed to subsidise our industrial products, for which we should show him nothing but gratitude. That attitude is not adopted in this country. We should use the strength of our position to a certain extent. It is worth noticing that the bulk of our supplies of feedingstuffs and food come from prosperous countries. France is prosperous. So are Canada and Australia. These three countries have standards of living higher than our own, and New Zealand is close on their heels.
I do not think that we should make the mistake of thinking that those countries which supply our food are underdeveloped countries to whom we should show every sort of respect and kindness in trying to boost their incomes. We are in a difficult trading position, and we must be tough and use our position as the major food market to make as good a bargain as we can when making arrangements for the future.
My right hon. Friend does not say whether he would prefer import controls on the basis of quantities or quotas or whether he would prefer to have price control in some way to affect the prices of imports. This is a very important point. I do not think it easy to fix quantities by controls and the sort of planning which hon. Members opposite talk about—fixing so many tons and so many shipments for different times of the year. I do not think it within the wit of man, however hard he studies the problem, to get it right. It is bound to go wrong, and then it opens up all the possibilities, with shortages and black market dealing such as we have had in the past. It is very difficult to plan quotas like this. There are opportunities for going beyond strictly honest dealing in the fixing of such quotas.
I prefer the idea of trying to control the price at which food comes into our markets. My right hon. Friend has spoken about minimum prices, but he did not specify whether he meant to use levies or tariffs on food coming in, the yield of which the British Exchequer would keep, or whether he would make contracts at high prices so that the difference between the present low prices and the market 485 prices will be kept by the exporting Government. We should try to raise from levies on imported food a large part of the subsidy. By heightening the bottom end of the market we could make agriculture very nearly balance in the Exchequer accounts without in any way damaging incomes 'of farmers.
I think this new policy is, and certainly could be, a step towards making our agriculture more like that of Europe. I know there are many drawbacks in the European system, and I would not for a moment advocate that we should copy every part of it, but it is obvious that if at a future date we are to join Europe the more we can align our two systems the more likely we are to find it easy and less painful to make the decision to join. We rather asked for one of the jibes made by President de Gaulle at his Press conference on 14th January when he said:The question is to know whether Great Britain…;can now cease any pretence that her agriculture is privileged.Some people here presented our agriculture as if it needed a special privilege, whereas in my opinion it is one of the most efficient, competitive, modem and first-class agricultures in the world. I hope that on any future occasion we shall not put ourselves in the position of being open to such a jibe.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
I do not altogether share the enthusiasm or optimism of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). I disagree with him on many of the points he raised—he will not be surprised to hear that—but I found myself in complete agreement when he said that he hoped there would be no rigid limitation of production. I hope that we shall not go in for a policy of reduced production.
There was a phrase in the Minister's speech which I found disquieting, and that was when he said that one of the items of the commodity agreements was that there should be no over-stimulation of production. I hope that before the end of this debate we shall have a clear explanation of what over-stimulation of production means. I agree with all hon. Members who have said that in a world where half the population is under- 486 nourished it would be quite indefensible to have commodity agreements between nations which in any sense restricted production.
The Minister has told us today how he intends to reconcile loyalty to the principles of the 1946 and 1947 Acts with a modification or change in the open-ended subsidy. He said that he was not going to depart from the principles governing the 1946 and 1947 Acts. I think the phrase he used was that he was going to adapt and tailor them. I hope we shall have a further explanation of what "tailor" means, because it is open to all kinds of interpretations. I am sure he will not be surprised that representatives in the House of farming areas are a little suspicious, because the process of whittling down and eroding of the 1946 Act has gone on over the years particularly in the last ten years.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) spoke about the financial position of farmers. He said that not all individual farmers are doing well all the time. Of course not, but be said that we must take the broad view, and the broad view is that the farming community has not shared in the general improvement. The facts are that in the terms of purchasing power the net farming income was substantially lower in 1962 than in 1952. This was the general position which the hon. Member invited us to look at. I agree with him when he says that the farming community has certainly kept its side of the bargain.
There is no doubt that they have increased efficiency. They have increased productivity by 80 per cent. over prewar days. If anything like that ratio had been achieved in other industries our industrial position today would be very different and our place in the "league tables" would have been very much higher. There is no doubt that year by year farmers have increased their efficiency through mechanisation and other means. They have applied science to farming practice. There has been nothing short of a revolution in agriculture in the past few years. That has been made possible—let us face it—by guaranteed prices and guaranteed markets. I am sure that the hon. Member agrees with me about that. It is true that this revolution has taken place in production, in productivity and efficiency, 487 but it certainly has not taken place in distribution.
This is where we are still lagging way behind and that is particularly true in meat marketing. I was very disappointed in this respect by the Minister's speech today. He told us about the quantitative control on the subsidy level for fatstock. I am very glad that he made it quite clear that we are to start from the present level and not from a more restricted basis. I am sure we shall all note those words of the Minister and keep him to them. I am certain that the farmers and the farmers' unions will also keep him to them.
I was glad to hear of the arrangements for the control of imports. There is no doubt that farmers have been exposed for too long to unfair foreign competition, but I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had been more forthcoming about the reorganisation of marketing at home. No one can deny that it is an absolute vital necessity to reorganise this market.
When there was a precipitate fall in meat prices to the producer some time ago there was no corresponding fall in the price of meat in the shops. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, said that he thought that certain people in the industry were being unjustly blamed. But it was not only the importers of meat who did well out of this fall in price. Not for the first time, the subsidy went where it was not intended to go, and many people had a cut off the joint at that time which they ought not to have had—on the fringe of the industry, the middle men and even the butchers had an unfair cut off the joint.
I wish that the Minister had been more forthcoming about this. He said that he would wait for the Verdon Smith Report in the autumn—perhaps I should say in the fall. Why wait for that report? There has been an exhaustive investigation into the matter. The Lucas Committee went into it and made some admirable recommendations, including a commodity commission for meat—a commission made up of impartial people who would plan and co-ordinate home supplies and imports. That is exactly the policy which the Minister announced to the Committee today. Why should he wait until the autumn to establish a com- 488 modity commission to carry out the policy which he advocated today?
We are all concerned about the price of food, whether we represent urban or rural constituencies. Since the cost of distribution plays such an enormous part, a disproportionate part, in the cost of food, particularly of meat, I ask the Minister to tackle this matter now, without further delay. As has been pointed out, it can be only the Minister's decision. I hope that he will not pass the buck but will have on his desk a copy of that famous notice, "The buck stops here."
The building up and the structure of this great industry is not a matter of concern only for farmers or agricultural representatives in the House. We are always being told that farmers must face the economic facts of life. I think that the country must face the economic consequences of modifying or diminishing agricultural support. The subsidy is not there only to protect the farmer but also to protect consumers against high prices.
We must remember the value of agriculture to the national economy. In the last 10 years Britain's balance of payments has varied between a surplus of £328 million in 1958 to a deficit of £300 million in 1960. Between 1953 and 1961 home production of food rose by £349 million and food imports rose by £121 million. There was an interesting comment made on that in the article, which has already been quoted, by Mr. Rees-Mogg last Sunday. He drew some interesting conclusions from those figures. He said that had those proportions been reversed, as they probably would have been if the Government's policy had not been one of supporting agriculture, the cost to the balance of payments would not be running at over £200 million a year. He pointed out that on that basis we could seldom have hoped for a balance of payments surplus and possibly would have been unable to avoid devaluation. On that basis, the farm subsidies may in this period have been producing £1 of imports savings for every £1 of expenditure.
These are important conclusions. They are of concern not only to the farming community but they affect the country's economy. I am sure that we shall keep a vigilant eye on the progress of the negotiations which the Minister is to have with the National Farmers' Union, the 489 workers, the various trade organisations and foreign countries, because the value of agriculture and the contribution of the farmer, and the small farmer—do not let us underestimate his contribution—must be safeguarded. But in the last analysis the value of agriculture cannot be measured purely in financial terms. It has great social as well as economic implications for the nation.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)
I agree with a good deal of what was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), but I did not think that the speech of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and other speeches by hon. Members opposite measured up to what I believe is the historic nature of this debate and the announcement made by the Minister. The policy of this country for over a hundred years has been one of virtually free importation of food. It is true that home farming has been protected to a large extent by the deficiency payments system, but the arrangements which it is proposed to make with exporting countries about food are a great departure from our historic principles, and I think that they are justified by the circumstances in which we live.
I shall be interested to hear the way in which the policies are worked out in detail. I hope that when it comes to working out the details the Minister will stick to the method which he outlined today—that the aim will be to cut off sudden increases in imports, dumped imports and excessive imports rather than to interfere with the basic volume of trade which I believe it to be necessary to continue in the interests of the rest of the country and which must be continued from the farming point of view, too, in respect of feedingstuffs for farm animals.
I was also glad that the Minister stressed that the purpose of the new policy is to enable the present system of deficiency payments to continue. In other words, it is not to replace the present system but to enable it to work with less burden for the taxpayer.
I hope that we shall hear from the Opposition in greater detail what their proposals are. I know that the Opposition always argue—and I think that I would argue in the same way if I were in Opposition—that they are not the Gov- 490 ernment and will not take risks by sticking out their necks and saying exactly what they would do. They have certainly not stuck out their necks to any extent today.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
The Minister spoke about restricting the imports of foodstuffs. The hon. Member for King's Lynn is talking about the Opposition's policy. The Minister said that somebody took advantage of existing arrangements. Would the hon. Member tell us—because his right hon. Friend did not—against whom he is safeguarding the customer, the consumer, in this country?
§ Mr. Bullard
I am not sure that I follow the purpose of that intervention, which was almost as long as I intended to make my speech. I think that I had better carry on.
The Liberal Party has put down a Motion which I read with great interest advocating a managed market. I do not know what it means by that. Does it mean managed in the Common Market sense? I remind the hon. and learned Member on the Liberal benches, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), that he should define exactly what he means by this. It is essential to remember that the managed market conception demanded a stiff tariff to make it operate, and I think that neither the consumers nor the producers of this country are at all anxious to see the managed market conception introduced at present.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
If he does not wish to have a managed market, will the hon. Gentleman say how he proposes to reduce the subsidy bill and at the same time keep up the prices to the farmers?
§ Mr. Bullard
I do not think that I should go into those details. After all, it is not my Motion which was put on the Order Paper. I stand by this, for I do not believe that either the producers or consumers really want what the Liberals are proposing.
We have heard a good deal today from the hon. Member for Workington and the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen about commodity commissions. I am firmly convinced that this would be 491 the wrong method of attempting to control imports. Such bodies would be far too powerful and I believe that Parliament would not be prepared to give them the necessary powers to carry out their duties, including the licensing of exports, which would involve political decisions of the highest order. I do not believe That a body of supermen would be capable of running what would be a vast world trading organisation. For these reasons this idea is wholly fallacious and I am not particularly surprised that hon. Members opposite have not made a greater song and dance in favour of it, for it would be not only unworkable but a most unpopular proposition.
The right policy for Britain to pursue for the control of imports—a policy which has been shown to be necessary by past events—is that outlined by my right hon. Friend. He said that he wants in some cases to enter into price agreements with exporting countries and, in other cases, to employ a policy of minimum import prices; by which, I presume, he means that when a price falls below a certain fixed level either a duty or an embargo will come into operation. That is the method we should adopt.
I have certain misgivings about the concept of standard quantities for cereals and beef. I have no objection to the broad concept of standard quantities. It is advantageous to the Government to know roughly the quantities on which they will have to pay the deficiency payments. I do not believe that these standard quantities need be regarded by the producers as oppressive or that they would prevent them from expanding, because if they decided collectively to produce more than that provided for by the standard quantity they might, perhaps, take a lower world price for the remainder, but they would still be free to go on producing it. The system might have the effect of lowering the producers' prices generally. The producers cannot complain about that because they still have opportunity for ample expansion; with a guarantee behind them; that is, provided that the standard quantities are fixed in a reasonable way. Everything will depend on the way in which the standard quantities are operated.
In his speech today my right hon. Friend gave me what I regard as a very 492 adequate assurance about the intentions of the Government. I gathered from his remarks that it is certainly not intended to use the standard quantities to cut down the proportion of home production. My right hon. Friend mentioned the possibility of expanding home markets and he indicated quite clearly that it was the intention of the Government to allow the standard quantities to move in accordance with the size of the home market. It is essential that that should be done. The proposition for beef and cereals is somewhat different from that which applies to milk and eggs. The standard quantity for milk can be fixed rationally on the basis of the total home liquid consumption. There is some sense in that standard quantity.
When dealing with eggs, we are clearly in the position that the standard quantity becomes the total home production because we are producing virtually all the eggs we consume. Cereals and beef, on the other hand, are commodities which are produced essentially from the land itself. This is not a particularly good way to illustrate what I mean, but I hope that hon. Members are following what I am driving at. These commodities are produced as a result of the elementary principles of farming. They are produced in many parts of the country and are not to any extent produced as the result of imported primary products. It would be a serious matter if we were told that it is intended to limit the quantities of either of these commodities, the importation of which is now running at a fairly high level.
I suppose that it would be possible to adopt a system of import control which would have the effect of increasing the costs of feeding-stuffs at home. This would have the effect of raising the prices of various home produced commodities, but it would not increase the producers' prices because of the operation of the deficiency payments system. Such a system would not be regarded in a favourable light by the producers if they thought that an elaborate scheme for import control would be instituted where. by they would receive no benefit in terms of prices and would, at the same time, have to pay higher prices for their feeding-stuffs, so that only the Exchequer would benefit. I appreciate that the Exchequer has borne the brunt of the troubles that we have had in recent weeks 493 and months over beef prices, but my right hon. Friend must realise that the producer would like to think that, out of any import controls, he would receive some of the benefits. I hope that this will be borne in mind by the Government when standard commodities are fixed.
I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies to the debate he will refer to sugar. A great deal of sugar is produced in my constituency and in my part of the country generally and the present world price is extremely high. The world price is very high, and the producers have an idea that they would rather like to participate in some of this production. I hope that some reference will be made to this particular and very topical matter.
Horticulture, which has not so far been mentioned in this debate, is a very important part of our agricultural industry. It has been protected up to now by the tariff, and talk of the Kennedy round and the other means of tariff reduction—and, of course, the suggestion in past months that we might go into the Common Market—has caused horticulturists a great deal of uneasiness about the form of guarantee that we on this side of the Committee have always maintained should be the method of protection for horticulture. I believe that these fears have been justified, and I hope that now that my right hon. Friend is introducing a measure of import control he will not hold over the head of this industry some kind of threat that the horticultural tariffs may be modified, or even removed. I should like to hear some long-term assurance given to horticulture similar to that now being given to the agricultural industry.
Agriculture, of course, has the benefit of the deficiency payments which the horticulture industry does not enjoy, and such an assurance is due to it—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Would not my hon. Friend agree that horticulture would probably welcome a system of minimum import prices perhaps even more than ordinary agriculture would, and is not one of the difficulties at present that, owing to the increasing spending power of the consumer, tariffs give less and less protection as the years go by?
§ Mr. Bullard
I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend says, and I hope 494 that some reference may be made to this matter at the conclusion of this debate.
I hope that I have made it clear that I give my wholehearted support to the measures my right hon. Friend has taken, and I look forward to his implementing in a liberal and generous way his decisions about standard quantities.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I remember being told by a missionary that it was better to semi-convert a man than to fail to convert him at all. In so far as that thesis is true, which is arguable, I suppose that the Liberal Party should be congratulating itself on semi-converting the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman has today referred to the fact that the Liberals were in favour of a managed market. He was right—we do advocate a managed market for agriculture—but what the Minister has proposed today is a semi-managed market. That is to say, he agrees that the agricultural industry needs management, but it must not be full management but half-hearted management at the present time.
I have been amazed to find that this most important statement made by the Minister today, has been treated so gently by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, because it seems to me that in the Minister's speech there are the most tremendous implications for agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman stated, and I understand that this was the purpose of his introducing the policy, that it is the aim of the Government substantially to reduce the subsidy bill. At the same time, while chiding the Liberal Party for its advocacy of the managed market, he expressed concern for the consumers and said that he did not want the price to consumers to go up. There is only one other price left in this triangle, and that is the price received by the farmers.
If the subsidy bill is to be reduced, and if the price is not to go up for consumers, is not the only price that can be reduced the price received by the farmer for his products? The Minister has introduced this very cleverly, and I congratulate him. He certainly foxed the Opposition Front Bench, because this is an oblique attack on the prices obtainable 495 by the farmer at present. It is right that we should look at the Government's record in this matter. Over the past few years the subsidy bill has steadily gone up.
It is now at a very large figure, and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee have quite rightly expressed concern. But the price of food to consumers in the shops has also gone up. At the same time, farmers' incomes, in real terms, have been reduced. In real terms, there has been only an overall increase of 11 per cent. in their incomes since the end of the war. Therefore, the Government have succeeded in doing three things. They have succeeded in increasing the subsidy bill, prices have increased in the shops and, in real terms, farmers' incomes have not kept pace with those of the rest of the community.
Today, we have the introduction of a principle that has further grave implications for agriculture—the idea of standard quantities for some commodities. If the Minister really came clean about it, he would admit that this really means restricting home production. There should be no illusions at all about that.
I understand from the Minister that there have not yet been any negotiations with anybody, but there will have to be negotiations with the Commonwealth producers, with our E.F.T.A. partners, and with our allies—the United States of America, for example, which has an enormous maize surplus. Thereafter, there will have to be negotiations with the National Farmers' Union. All these bodies will be scrambling for a share in our agricultural market.
Under this concept of standard quantities. what share is to be left to the British producer? Of one thing I am quite certain, and that is that the British producer's share will not be announced until after the next General Election—
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
If the Liberal Party does not approve the principle of standard quantities why, when we had an important debate on 2nd May from ten o'clock until towards midnight, was there not a single member of the Liberal Party in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Hooson
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) was in the Chamber on that day.
496 The result of this policy is that we shall reduce or curb our food production—as the Minister must admit if he comes clean.
What is the background to all this? This step is proposed when there is a world shortage of food. The Minister referred—inadvertently, perhaps—to a world food surplus. There is no such thing as a world food surplus. That is a myth, and it will remain a myth while hundreds of millions of people are short of food. We can only refer to surplus food production in the West, and the real problem is one of maldistribution of world food supplies. Our people have become more and more aware of this through the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, but what contribution are the Government making, what leadership are they showing? At a time when, through that campaign, we are being made aware of a world food shortage, the Minister is proposing that we should produce less food.
That really is an example of benevolent genius. A policy for food production, for agriculture, that virtually ignores the fact that half the world's population is short of food is entirely illiberal and utterly inadequate. We have the paradox of burgeoning surpluses in the food stores of the West and, at the same time, grinding poverty and lack of food over a great deal of the world's surface. Unless we solve this problem, we shall never really solve the British home agriculture problem. One of my chief criticisms of the Government is that they have done so little to begin to attempt to solve this problem.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
Could the hon. and learned Member suggest one agricultural product produced in this country which we could send to an under-developed country with a serious food problem with any hope that any economic trade would grow out of it? If we start to send food from this country at the cost of production here should we not be perpetuating world charity and inhibiting the production of food on the spot in the under-developed countries?
§ Mr. Hooson
I will come to that point in a minute. I suggest that the hon. Member should read Sir John Crawford's paper "Using Surpluses for 497 Economic Development", presented to the International Conference of Agricultural Economists in Mexico in 1961.
I will take the example of dried milk. Children in this country over the past 25 years have improved enormously in health, and if there is one single product responsible for this it is cheap milk. We should take the lead in this matter of Food for Peace. There is need for a sustained international campaign against hunger and malnutrition throughout the world. I suggest that our country, particularly as it is the greatest food importer, should take the lead. We have not backed the Food for Peace campaign which the United States Government put forward. At least we have done so only in an half-hearted way. There is a kind of benevolent indifference to this problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
I come to the point which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) made. It is suggested that it is impossible to provide food for backward countries, but the F.A.O. has prepared a successful plan to provide food as capital for the development of underdeveloped countries.
I was replying to an intervention, having given way to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. I stand corrected and I will not pursue the point. I will answer the hon. Member privately.
The choice for advanced Western countries taken as a whole is either surplus food or a surplus capacity to produce food. It seems to me very much preferable to have surplus food in the West, which can be used sensibly in the rest of the world for the development of under-developed countries rather than that we should have surplus food-producing capacity. This is an international problem, but it is sad to see that our Government have not been in the vanguard in trying to solve it. Indeed, I cannot see that we can do more than postpone from year to year our own agricultural difficulties unless the West as a whole tackles the problem of surplus food production in the advanced countries.
498 International commodity agreements are needed. At least the National Farmers' Union has shown itself aware that this is a world food problem, but it is not enough for the Government to give lip service to the idea of international commodity agreements. A real attempt must be made to achieve them. I should like to know of a single attempt the Government have yet made. New Zealand, for example, has put forward a scheme for an international commodity agreement on butter. Are our Government supporting that, or not? It seems to me that Britain has a vital role to play in this matter because she is the largest food importing country.
We have come to the conclusion on these benches—[An HON. MEMBER:" These benches?"]—on this bench, shortly to become "benches", that nothing short of a managed market can solve our agricultural problem, because we are faced with a problem of Western food surpluses. Reference was made to the Government between 1945 and 1951, but, to be fair, there was then in the West an acute shortage of food and therefore the plans put forward in that era must be regarded in perspective in the light of that knowledge. But 33 per cent. of our subsidy bill now goes on cereals whereas they are responsible for only 21 per cent. of our total food production, and cereals and meat together are responsible for over half the projected subsidy bill.
We can tackle the problem of these commodities in this country at present only by having integrated planning of home food production and food imports. This is what we mean by having a managed market so that target prices are fixed and meat and grain supplies are controlled by a Commission, on the lines of the Common Market Commodity Commissions which the Minister was so warmly commending not long ago. These Commissions should also have powers as purchasers of last resort.
§ Mr. Soames
Could the hon. and learned Member say whether it is his policy that a managed market should operate in the way it operates in Europe, where the farmer gets his full return from the market, and that therefore there should be no deficiency payments, or is it his policy that our present system of 499 guaranteed prices and deficiency payments should remain in being?
§ Mr. Hooson
Eventually it is intended that the farmer should have his whole return from the market. This could not be done overnight. It would have to be done by phased stages. Perhaps the Minister has that in mind.
§ Mr. Hooson
As for the farmer's position, it is obvious that because of the long-term nature of his investment he ought to be able to expect a reasonable return from the market. He should not be asked to compete with subsidised surpluses coming in from other countries and he should be protected from fluctuations in prices which can result sometimes from very small surpluses. These surpluses could be ironed out if we had a meat office and a grain office which could respectively store food and phase out the supply to the market.
Hon. Members who have referred to the need to improve marketing are quite right. Far too great a proportion of the price of food is added on to the price between the farm gate and the shop counter. I have to declare an interest. I have some experience of this matter. I am the chairman of a farmers' cooperative which has been engaged in selling meat. It has become quite apparent to me that there is great need for the co-ordination of imported supplies and home supplies of meat. The companies that do best in the wholesale meat supply of this country are those which also import a great deal of meat and therefore are able to phase out and coordinate their imported and home supplies of meat in the market.
One of my experiences over the last two years has been to realise that meat marketing is a specialised job which cannot be done easily by amateurs. I should not like to see the kind of corn-mission recommended in the Lucas Report; that is a bureaucratic body owning the product from the farm gate to its final destination. I believe that we should control the meat and cereal supply of the country under a commission of the kind that we on this bench propose.
500 May I come to one other matter, which greatly affects young farmers and small farmers in their efforts to improve their position? I refer to lack of capital. There is an old tradition in farming that capital is obtained largely from three sources—parsimony, patrimony and matrimony. It is said that the Scots favour parsimony, the English patrimony and the Welsh matrimony. Suffice it to say that these three sources of capital are not in themselves sufficient today, and the farming ladder is becoming increasingly difficult for the young man to ascend.
I should like to see more credit facilities available especially for young and small farmers who cannot improve their farming because they have not the capital available. For farm improvement schemes I should prefer to see loans at a reasonable fixed interest rate over 10 to 30 years rather than grants, because very often the grants go to those people who can afford to find the necessary money for their own improvements. For example, in the case of a one-third grant, the wealthy farmer can find the necessary two-thirds to enable him to obtain that grant. But the young farmer and the small farmer very often cannot find the necessary two-thirds in order to attract the one-third grant. It would be much better economically if they were granted a long-term loan at a fixed rate of interest.
In my view, the Minister has today announced a very important change in British agricultural policy the full implications of which have not yet become fully apparent. But one thing is certain: there will be a restriction on food production in this country, and that I abhor and oppose. Secondly, it is clear that if, as the Minister suggests, the subsidy bill is to be decreased to a significant extent and the price to the consumer is not to be increased, then the price to the farmer is bound to be reduced.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
The farmers in my constituency are most depressed and dissatisfied at the state of our agricultural industry. They assure me that they cannot make a fair living and they do not see how they ever can in the foreseeable future under present conditions.
501 I know it is easy to quote facts and figures to prove that net farm income has been rising, that relative to the rest of the community their position has improved since before the war and that they do better than farmers in most other developed countries. This sort of political claptrap is like a red rag to a bull for them. The fact remains that times for them are extremely hard. They are making less and less money every year compared with so many who seem to be making more and more.
I have never known the farmers in my constituency to be so depressed at the conditions under which they have to try to earn their living. They cannot strike for more pay and less work, as we have seen in every other industry since the war. They, and they alone, have to work harder for less and less reward. They, and they alone, are not allowed a really fair standard of living compared with all the hard work that they have to put in under all circumstances.
In the dairy county of Cheshire the farmers would like to see full powers returned to the Milk Marketing Board so that a furl economic price may be charged to the consumers for their milk. Could not the Board deal with any surplus as it thought best for the industry? The dairy farmers cannot understand how there can be over-production of milk when milk products are imported on such a large scale.
With regard to dumping, although the President of the Board of Trade has complete powers to deal with the dumping of foreign food, action never seems to be taken sufficiently quickly or firmly. The damage is done long before the civil servants have filled in the necessary forms to prevent it. Prices tumble and the taxpayer has to provide extra support for the industry.
Further, is it not a fact that certain foreign products are aided by a hidden subsidy in the producer country? For instance, in the case of Danish bacon, after contracts have been agreed between the United Kingdom and Denmark, is not the price of pig feed in Denmark then adjusted by the Danish Government so as to give Danish producers a fair profit? If that is so, how on earth can British farmers compete under those conditiors?
502 The turnover of money in agriculture annually is greater than the combined agricultural output of Australia and New Zealand. It is greater than the combined turnover of British Railways and the National Coal Board. The British public are forced, by strike action and other means, to pay fair prices for all end products in those industries, such as railway fares, bus fares, coal that will not burn, electricity, gas and so on. Why should the British farmer not have the same treatment? Why cannot the British public pay a fair price for their food so that the farmers and farm workers can earn a fair standard of living? With reasonable protection and fair treatment, the British farmer would prefer to do without subsidies. It would save many millions of pounds each year to the Exchequer and, therefore, a saving in taxation. After all, other industries are protected.
Listen to the pathetic noises made by Lord Robens about the proposal for cheap imported coal or the reduction of the duty on fuel oil—"Give the coal industry a fair deal", "Give the miners a fair chance", and all that sort of thing. [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear, hear:I Hon. Members say "Hear, hear", but what about the British farmer? Why should he not be given a chance? What about the motor industry? American cars are not allowed into this country free of duty. Why?—to protect our own motor industry. What about the farmers? Why cannot we also protect them? The one party in which the farmers have always believed and trusted is the Tory Party. We must not let them dawn.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
As my name was taken to task earlier in the proceedings by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton), I feel that I should first and foremost declare my interest. I am a farmer, farming slightly above the average. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West suggested that many of us here who are farmers have our eggs in other baskets and that, therefore, we do not require a fair income from farming. The only other basket that I have is the one that 503 I am in now, and in the last four years it has not proved very profitable.
Being a farmer, I agree entirely with nearly everything that the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) has said. I hope that he will be able—he has not much time left—to get his party to give the fanners what they would like. The farmers in Cheshire are concerned mostly with milk production. I have gone out of milk on my farm in Scotland because I find arable farming more profitable. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will cast his mind back to the days of the war, he will remember that the late Lord Hudson took a hand in farming in Cheshire. He made the Cheshire farmers plough up considerably more than they were prepared to do, but they found it quite profitable to do so and still managed to keep their cows. They might well be able to go back to that system. Nowadays, one has the equipment to operate in wetter districts, and the Cheshire farmers, who might have had some excuse for their attitude in the days before combine harvesters, the extensive use of tractors, and so on, might do well to think again. If his own party will not help him, perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take back to his constituents some advice from this side of the Committee.
The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) said that the Opposition had not announced what they would do. It is not the Opposition's job to give the Government a policy. Under our Constitution, it is the job of the Opposition to oppose and criticise what the Government do. This is what we are doing today, and, I may say, the criticism is well deserved.
The Minister was quite right to emphasise that Britain's position is very different from that of most developed countries of the West. Nearly all those other countries feed themselves. Although they may import some luxury foods, nearly all the developed countries of the world produce their own basic foods. This applies to all the E.E.C. countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and so on. The Commonwealth, the United States and the Argentine, of course, are all exporters of food. It is most important, and I am glad that the Minister emphasised 504 this, that we should consider our agriculture carefully against this background of Britain having to buy half the food she needs.
There has been a lot of talk about this country exporting food. This is absolute nonsense. We cannot export food. We may export some livestock. Incidentally, I hope that the Minister has taken careful note of the memorandum which I sent to him the other day. If he had acted six or seven years ago, in accordance with the suggestions there, we should have had a market in Russia today for a considerable number of the Charolais cattle which they are buying from France this week.
People sometimes have very confused ideas about farming. Genuine farming is growing things and then using them either to produce milk, beef and so forth or for direct sale as farm produce. There is a tremendous difference between gross production and net production. Net production is the result of what one can grow and convert. Gross production is something quite different. A man could lay down an acre of cement, buy feeding-stuffs from abroad and produce stock in that way, but that is only gross production, and the net production from the country's point of view is nil. We should remember this when we talk about exporting farm produce. We could, of course, buy enormous quantities of feedingstuffs from abroad and then export the produce, but that is not net production. That is gross production, and it gets us nowhere.
What should be our objectives against the background I have set? We are an industrial nation with an enormous population. When the Minister mentioned a total of 70 million in a few years, I thought I heard someone gasp and say, "God forbid, on this small island". Nevertheless, we have an enormous industrial population to feed, and our first objective must be to keep prices at a reasonable level while still maintaining a prosperous agriculture, ensuring to farmers and workers at least reasonable parity with commercial and industrial incomes. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West spoke about the incomes of farmers, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West suggested that I did not look like one of the threadbare people my hon. Friend was talking about. It is essential to realise that a farmer farming 500 acres must have a bigger 505 income than a man farming 50 acres. It is ridiculous to suggest that all farmers should be on the same level. If we are to maintain the man with 50 acres or less, there is a very strong argument for doing something for him.
I should like to see farm workers have parity with industrial workers, but there is too much loose talk about the nominal value of perquisites, farm workers' houses, and so on. My biggest job during the past five or six years has been to provide garages for farm workers' cars and then pay the rates on them as soon as the local authorities found out that we had put them up. Again, as regards houses, if one advertises a job without a house there are very few applicants. Advertise it with a house, and the applications come.
As regards evictions, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend when he speaks of people being evicted without somewhere else to go. But this applies everywhere. Why pick on the houses of farm workers? Council house tenants are evicted. All sorts of people are evicted. Sometimes houses are pulled down for some purpose or other and people have to go. The principle should be that people in general should not be evicted without somewhere to go. Why pick on farm workers?
My second objective is to help the balance of payments by the efficient production of commodities which will do this. The more we succeed, the more shall we help the world pool of food to help feed the hungry. Our object in this country should be to produce as much as possible so that we do not have to import more than is necessary for ourselves, thus helping the world food situation.
My third objective is to maintain, in the interests of world trade, a market of our traditional suppliers of food with whom we wish to expand trade for our urban industries. We must maintain this connection because we require it in order to be able to buy at least half the food we need.
My fourth objective—I think that everyone agrees with this—is to make somehow a considerable effort to reduce Government expenditure on agricultural support. This is not easy. There is bound to be a considerable amount of rationalisation in the industry and in 506 our marketing arrangements. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) made a very good point about how much can be done by efficient marketing arrangements.
I put this point to the Committee about the idea that subsidies actually keep down prices. I have never subscribed to this theory. I have argued about it before with the right hon. Gentleman. They did during the war and up to 1952, but since world prices came below our guaranteed prices the situation has been quite different. I am convinced that with a slow reduction in the subsidy to farmers food prices would not rise above prevailing world prices. Even if we had a drop of £300 million or £400 million in our agricultural production, this would not, I think, embarrass the world producers of food, we buy from to-day. Two days ago, one read in The Times of American efforts to reduce the enormous stocks of wheat which they hold. Canada has 300,000 tons of butter. Speaking in terms of the pure economics of food production, I am certain that this would not be so. The case for helping and supporting the British farmer is the simple one of saving on our balance of payments. The article in The Times a week ago hit the nail on the head, as did the extract from the Report of the N.E.D.C., which my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr Peart) read in his opening speech.
There is a tremendous case to be made for a saving of world exchange. Since the war, we have made no headway in improving our balance of payments. This is the way to do it, and it is the strongest argument we have for supporting British agriculture while, at the same time, helping world food supplies.
I admit that some of the four objectives I have mentioned conflict with one another. I have mentioned keeping prices down, maintaining a prosperous industry and giving less, support. They all conflict with one another. But this is our difficulty, and it is the job of the Government to reconcile these conflicting factors. The Government are doing their best, although it may be a poor best. We must strike a balance which is fair to the farming community and yet gives greater benefit to the country as a whole. I hope that whatever else we do we do not 507 make this a farming vote catcher at the next election.
May I say a few words on the structure of the industry? I think some people are a little mixed up in their figures. I have the official figures here. In the last ten years, the number of holdings has reduced by 57,500. I do not think that that is the true figure in the accepted sense because many of those holdings were probably farmed by one fanner which, having been amalgamated, appear as one in the returns. The number of people who have gone out of the industry in the last ten years is just over 200,000. Some hon. Members opposite admit that that is the way they like it. One hon. Member opposite said that this was just evolution I suppose the fact that we have I million unemployed and had 3 million unemployed before the war was evolution, too. We do not believe that that need happen with some control.
We do not know what heartbreak there have been among the people concerned with the 57,000 holdings which have gone out of action. Many of these people have gone out of the business through economic pressure, and we do not believe in that. I am worried not so much about people going out of the business as the way in which they go out. We must have some sensible and humane system of the voluntary amalgamation of farms, and only the Government can give a lead in this. We on this side will ensure that that lead is given when we come to power.
I come to what has been the main theme in the debate, namely, the Minister's announcement that at long last the Conservative Party realises that it must bring some control into this great industry. I should have liked the Minister to say a little more about the exact plans that he has in mind. Perhaps he did not have time to do so. Therefore, we should be fair and hope that he will tell us what his exact plans are in the near future. There is no doubt, however, that if he feels that he has no alternative but to raise the price and not the quantity, then he is in for a nasty time, because any suggestion that we should control imports by raising the price would not be tolerated.
508 I suggest that we have to do much more than control imports. An hon. Member opposite told us how he would deal with surpluses and how he would have buffer stocks. We must have buffer stocks, because during the bad weather like we had last year and the beginning of this year we cannot get feeding stuffs abroad at a moment's notice. Who will control these buffer stocks? Who will provide the capital for them? There is a host of things like this to be decided and they cannot be decided on the basis of controlling imports only. The Minister will have to take a look at commodity commissions and at the Lucas Report. These commodity commissions must have considerable powers before the control of imports can be a success.
I should like to say a few words on the question of guarantees for potatoes. I have tackled the Minister about this before. Potatoes are the one commodity of which we can produce all we need. We can produce all the shell eggs we need. But we do not produce anything like the amount of liquid and dried egg that we need, and this we have to import. We produce liquid and manufactured milk, but the amount of cheese and butter which we import is tremendous. Apart from a few early potatoes which we import and which we do not need—they are purely a luxury—we can produce all the potatoes we need throughout the year.
In the last four or five years, there has been a scarcity of potatoes. I do not know what will happen this year, but probably the price will go up again because the earlies will be very late, and the price to the consumer will probably be excessive. Farmers will not plant the acres of potatoes which the Potato Board wants without a better guarantee. The present guarantee is worked out on the basis of paying to the Board the difference between the price of the potatoes and the price which the farmer gets over the amount which goes for human consumption. If there is a surplus, that price must be used to put a floor in the market. We all know that the surplus price of potatoes is so much lower than the guaranteed price that all that money is immediately taken up. If the Potato Board had the same power as the Milk Board and if all potatoes went through the Board and 509 then went to the merchants at a fixed price, the housewife would get a decent supply of potatoes at a reasonable price, whether there was a scarcity or not. The housewife does not begrudge 3½. to 4d. a lb., which gives a retail price of over £30 a ton and the farmers a price of £14 or £15, with which they would be satisfied if it were guaranteed to them. But often they have had to take £10 or less. The Potato Board will not operate properly unless it is given power to do that.
We have heard a great deal about world trade agreements, adapting to new conditions and a policy for large as well as small farmers. All of this must be done. This is not an easy problem, but it must be solved. It will not be solved if the Government continue to fall over backwards to give what they call "the maximum freedom" to the trade in carrying out their policies. The Minister said that he was against unbridled competition. He cannot have it both ways. That is why the present policy has failed. It was produced in order to give maximum freedom, and that is why it has failed. We should work out the policy, decide on the best way to implement it and then try to give the maximum freedom. The Government do it the other way round. They give the maximum freedom first. Therefore, their policy will continue to fail. They will make the same mistake again if the Minister carries out the policy of giving maximum freedom along with control over imports. Fortunately, he will not have very long to carry out that policy.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
I agree with the reasons which the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) gave for the maintaining of a prosperous agriculture in this country. It used to be claimed that, perhaps, the most important factor was the strategic one. I do not believe that that is so any longer. I do not write off its importance altogether, but I believe that a prosperous agriculture is important to this country because of the contribution which it makes to the balance of payments and because of the tremendous market which it provides for the products of the factories of British industry. If agriculture were allowed to decline, industry would find that a very 510 good and valuable customer had gone. Those are the important factors which I think dictate the proposition that agricultural prosperity and industrial prosperity are complementary one to the other. If one goes into decline, the other will suffer as well.
The subjects of import control and standard quantities have been commented upon fairly thoroughly and I should like to turn to the prospects of growth in home agricultural production in the years ahead. Two things are necessary, both of them being within the grasp of the industry, if we are to increase our share of the home market.
The first need is for better management within the industry. A tremendous amount has been achieved and I pay tribute to the benefit which the farming industry has derived, particularly since the war, from a great deal of new blood which has come into farming from outside, bringing with it a considerable number of good new ideas and minds which have been free from dogmatic, traditional ideas and ready to experiment and to give a lead in pioneering. They have been of immense advantage to farming.
The results of good management within the industry as a whole may be shown by two items which I extracted from my cash book at the end of last week. It is interesting to reflect that the price of barley which I received last autumn was precisely the same as it was in 1955. Whereas in 1955 the price of wheat was £33 per ton, the price of the last crop—I am, of course, including support payments—was £26 5s. Few industries, if any, have held their prices at the 1955 level and far fewer industries are receiving lower prices than seven years ago.
That a tremendous amount of work has still to he done is borne out by the immense variations in the profits of farms in different sectors of the industry. According to figures issued not many years ago by the Edinburgh School of Agriculture, arable farms showed a profit of £8 an acre as a result of what was described as average management and £12 an acre where the management was good.
§ Mr. Stodart
The sizes were strictly comparable between the two groups. I 511 was told not long ago by a man in Scotland who is the leading authority on the management of pigs that he could show me two sets of farm buildings. In one of these the pig unit was making a net profit of £40 per sow whereas the other, less than half a mile away, was making a loss. Although in dairy or arable farming it can be said that one field or farm has poor and unhelpful land, nothing but good management can dictate the financial results of a pig unit.
I noticed in the Scotsman on Saturday an article by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State giving two examples concerning hill sheep and describing the results on one hirsel as showing a loss of 10s. per ewe and the other, not far away, showing a profit of 30s. Whether one of those was my right hon. Friend's—and, if so, which one—I will not be so indiscreet as to inquire.
I should like to pay great tribute to those in the National Agricultural Advisory Service in England and Wales and to all the advisers attached to the agricultural colleges in Scotland for the work they have been doing in making farmers accounts conscious. There was a time when farmers used to be furtive about their profits.
§ Mr. Stodart
I would not go so far as to say that they had entirely cured their modesty, but it is now common practice, largely as a result of the work of the advisory service, for farmers to publish complete financial results. This is of great benefit educationally to their neighbours in enabling them to find out where their own weakness lies. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that this is a sector of the advisory service which might with great usefulness and advantage be expanded. Furthermore, I see no reason why farmers should not pay a share of the cost of getting that kind of advice. I make no bones about saying that I would willingly pay a substantial fee if I were to have a loss on my farm turned into a handsome profit.
The second direction in which much work has still to be done is better marketing. This is a subject in which the industry has been slow in dealing with what is virtually its Achilles heel. 512 Wonderful work has been done in production, but we have been slow in putting our house in order in the way of marketing.
Within recent years, there have been amalgamations and take-overs among those buy our produce. I am certain that farmers must amalgamate and cooperate and must reduce costs to the greatest conceivable extent from the farm to the counter. This is particularly relevant in the marketing of meat. Meat marketing is a subject which generates a great deal of warmth because the vast majority of our meat finds its way to the auction marts, where it is then sold on the hoof.
There is no question that the livestock auctioneers have been good friends to farmers for a long time, but it is not the job of an auctioneer primarily to give the farming industry credit or to lend it money. The fact that auctioneers have done this, and continue to do so, should not deflect us from a dispassionate appraisal of the whole livestock auctioneering system. I have sold fat cattle and sheep for a long time in the marts and I confess that I have liked doing it. I have enjoyed now and again seeing a buyer come back for my beasts a second week running, because I assumed he had been satisfied. Added to which, of course, farmers love going to marts in order to see their friends and hear what is going on—
§ Mr. Stodart
—but I have never, I think, deluded myself into thinking that this system formed a very efficient link in the chain of distribution. If we think of the transport to the mart, of the animals standing about, at the best for quite a few hours, in all weathers, and then going through the ring—a ring in which there is complete uncertainty of the numbers which are going to be supplied and the utter chanciness of the place in the sale which one will draw by ballot—and then of the transport of the animals away from the auction mart to the slaughterhouse, then no one really can possibly claim that this is an efficient system of distribution.
I have asked myself two questions. Why have broilers made such inroads into the meat market within the last few 513 years? We must remember that the broilers, which have enjoyed no subsidy whatever, have been so competitive that the consumption of poultry meat in this country has gone up to double what it was in 1956, and one reason for that is surely a first-class marketing system. They are net double handled they do not draw lots in the sale; they go through a specialised processing centre.
§ Mr. Mackie
But will not the hon. Gentleman agree that they get the advantage of cheap feedingstuffs through subsidy—they get the advantage of the fertiliser subsidy, and things like that—so that it is not altogether true that they do not get anything from support?
§ Mr. Stodart
Surely cattle and sheep get precisely the same advantages? Therefore, I think that the broilers' competitiveness lies in the efficiency of marketing which has in fact put them ahead.
Secondly, how is it that lamb from New Zealand can come on to our market as competitively as it does? Of course, the New Zealanders produce it in wonderful climatic conditions, but at what a distance away from the London market. Yet the costs from a farm in New Zealand to Smithfield Market in London are no more than the costs from a farm in Scotland to Smithfield. Of course, there is sea transport versus rail, and that makes quite a difference in costs, but a very important factor is that in New Zealand there is no double handling of fatstock, for the very good reason that they have come to the conclusion that they cannot afford to do it. They grade nearly everything on the hoof, compared with only about one-quarter of our fat-stock which is handled in that way.
We have got here, in our meat, an asset of very high quality indeed. It enjoys a high reputation backed by a considerable tradition of excellence, and I think that the future for meat production in this country is very bright, provided that farmers will not allow themselves to be duped by such nonsensical utterances as we have had in recent weeks about flavour not mattering in the least.
I personally was one who regretted the failure of the Common Market negotiations. I have always believed that really keen production costs plus first-class salesmanship would take a lot of our meat into Europe. We are so often 514 told in rather general terms that the French never have been eaters of mutton. If New Zealand can build up a considerable trade in selling ewe mutton to the Japanese—of all unlikely commodities to sell to all unlikely people—I should have thought that there would be little difficulty in our selling our quality stock to the people of Europe.
I am certain that the revolution in agriculture over the next decade will not take place so much in the fields as it will in the orbit of marketing, and if that revolution is as spectacular as it has been in the fields since the war, then I believe that our costs of distribution will have been lowered to such an extent that a very great expansion in production in this country will easily be within our grasp.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). I should like, first, to deal with the question which has been so often prompted from the other side of the Committee, namely, what is the policy of the Labour Party. Let me explain to hon. Gentlemen opposite that the very basis of any decent economy in British agriculture, the foundation of it, was laid by the Labour Government in 1947. We proved beyond any shadow of doubt what could be done when agriculture was put on a decent basis. Indeed, I was surprised at some hon. Members opposite wanting to know what was our policy and then confessing that they did not know what the Minister had said this afternoon. They would do better to direct their attention to finding out what the Minister had to say, or what he meant by what he said.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, West said something with which I agree, that industry and agriculture are complementary to each other; it is so obvious that the success of the economy of each is dependent upon that of the other, either as supplier or customer; and this is true. I do not altogether agree with him in the comparison which he used, that the price of barley remained steady for so many years. It may be that it did. I do not know how the subsidies moved. All I can say is that, according to the latest Estimates—and I do not want to make too great a point of it—and if these are correct, the 515 barley subsidy was £34.8 million in 1962–63 and is raised to £38.4 million for next year, 1963–64. So while the price may not have risen, perhaps, for the consumer or supplier, at least it will cost the Government—the taxpayer—some £4 million more.
There are two immediate questions I want to raise. I am surprised that only one was touched on, and that very briefly indeed, by an hon. Gentleman opposite. The hon. Gentleman said that he would like to know the Government's view about the current price of sugar. The price of this commodity has shot up to an all-time record during the last few weeks, and it is therefore extraordinary that nothing has been said about it in this debate. After all, earlier this year during our discussions on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, now an Act, the Government said that they had entered into negotiations with the Irish Sugar Company as a result of which thousands of £s were involved. It is interesting to recall that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said then thatthe world price of sugar has risen to a startling extent…".—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, Standing Committee E, 31st January, 1963; c. 386.]The price was then £40 a ton. Today it is nearly £100 a ton, with appalling consequences not only for the housewife but for many industries, because sugar is the basis of the chocolate industry, the confectionery industry and to a lesser degree the aerated mineral industry on whose products the Government imposed a 15 per cent. tax some years ago. What are the Government doing about this state of affairs? They cannot just wash their hands of the whole affair and continue to allow these extortionate prices to be charged.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the good things the Government could do in this connection would be to remove the acreage quota for sugar beet growers at once?
§ Mr. Hoy
That may well be an argument for increasing our sugar production by growing more sugar beet. I am saying that we have reached the point at which we are having to pay nearly £100 per Ion. Even if we had an increased acreage 516 for the growing of sugar beet it would not have much effect on the extortionate prices that we are having to pay. We need quick action to provide some benefit for both the home and the industrial consumer.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
Does my hon. Friend recall that there was a time when Mr. Cube, in alliance with the party opposite, paid for the arvertisements saying that they would mend the hole in the purse?
§ Mr. Hoy
I did not want to take up too much of the Committee's time, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us of the campaign run by Messrs. Tate and Lyle in the name of Mr. Cube, but that campaign has been effectively disposed of by tonight's Evening Standard, which points out that the cubes of sugar are disappearing through the ceiling at the price that housewives are having to pay. [Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Gentleman, who appears in a Christian programme, would either hold his tongue or get up and say what he wants to say.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
The hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) raised the subject of Messrs. Tate and Lyle and said that the company's activities were related to the increased prices. May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is the policy of his party to nationalise this industry?
§ Mr. Hoy
Of all the most inconsequential interruptions, that is the worst that I have heard. If, after having been in the Chamber for about two minutes, that is the best contribution the hon. Gentleman can make, it would be better if he were to take himself out of the Chamber again.
I turn now to the question which I raised earlier this year, the level that potato prices are likely to reach. The Secretary of State for Scotland will remember that in introducing the prices under the Agricultural Price Review the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stated that through the Potato Marketing Board he expected 700,000 acres to meet our needs. There is a feeling in the industry that this acreage will not be sufficient, and that the price of potatoes will rise considerably. I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite recollect 517 the tremendous increase in prices last year when housewives were held to ransom. We therefore want some assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland tonight that action will be taken now to ensure that a similar shortage does not occur again, with the consequential increase in prices that is sure to follow.
This has been an unusual debate in many ways. In the earlier part of it my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) spoke of the difficulties that farmers were enduring. This was immediately objected to by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West and the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) who said that the farmers were doing all right.
I prefer the statements of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), to which I shall refer later. One of the problems with which we are confronted is a considerable fall in the numbers in agricultural employment. Since 1929 the number of agricultural workers in Scotland has decreased by about 27,000. I am prepared to admit that the tremendous mechanisation which has taken place in the industry has accounted for a considerable part of this decrease, but if we compare the figure for last year with that for 1961, we see that it fell from 65,600 to 62,100, a fall of about 5.3 per cent. No one can argue that this fall was caused by further modernisation of the farms, and if we examine the figures of part-time and casual workers, we see that the fall was even more marked.
From the employment point of view this is extremely bad for Scotland. It means that thousands of people are leaving the land, and there must be a reason for it. This is where I take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West. I think that a great deal of the trouble is due to the extremely low wages paid to agricultural workers compared with those paid to the rest of the community. My hon. Friend seemed to think that his main job was providing garages for the cars of his agricultural workers. I assure him that this is not the position in Scotland, because the highest wage, that paid to grieves, is 237s. while the general worker receives 194s. These are gross wages and no 518 one can suggest that they are an over-payment for the work being done.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
If my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) had referred to the bicycles of agricultural workers in Scotland, he would have been much nearer the mark.
§ Mr. Hoy
I could not agree more. The figures that I have given are those of the total earnings, including overtime and perquisites. These are the figures returned by the Department, so I think we can assume that they are accurate. How can we hope to retain the best men and their families on the land if this is the best that the industry can offer? The decrease in the number of agricultural workers is to a large extent due to the low wages which they are able to earn.
§ Mr. Stodart
I accept that possibly the rush of mechanisation is past, but from the figures which are available showing the amount of money spent on farm improvement grants, and from my own experience, I believe that a substantial proportion of the reduction to which the hon. Gentleman referred is still due to the mechanisation which is taking place.
§ Mr. Hoy
I have stated that mechanisation has a great deal to do with especially when we compare the numbers with the pre-war figures. Even the hon. Gentleman will not suggest that at least the very substantial reduction which took place last year was through the increase in mechanisation.
I am arguing that part of it may very well be due, and is due, to lower total earnings as compared with the rest of the community. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that one thing which has gone up substantially, and which was the greatest cost to farmers last year, was increased rent, which went up by a further 8 per cent. That is one of the things that the landowners and farmers might get together about, and then perhaps they can sort out these continual increases in rent which make it so costly for the farmer.
The right hon. Gentleman, at the beginning of his speech, said that he had come to the conclusion—hon. Members who were present will remember that he did it with great fervour, as if, in fact, 519 he had made some discovery—that we have to have import controls. He said that this is the answer to it. We have had to carry such a tremendous burden because of the deficiency payment system that we have to introduce import controls. He said it as if it were something new. May 1 remind the Committee—I do not claim it all for myself—that even when he was making his statement on the Agriculture Price Review I asked him whether he intended to introduce a system of import levies or import controls. Indeed, I also suggested to him at that time that in addition to these he might also be prepared to consider commodity marketing arrangements.
These were the things which the right hon. Gentleman was calling for this afternoon, but I am certain that it must be in the recollection of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that this was asked for a long time ago. What hon. Members opposite ought to have been doing was to complain to the right hon. Gentleman that he had taken so long to make up his mind about it. Having made this intimation there is not one Member of the Committee who knows when he will pat this intention into practice, or with whom he will discuss it. He merely made this bald statement, left it at that, and the Committee is no better off. I thought that he took a back-handed swipe at the farmers, too.
I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West talking about the trials and tribulations of taking cattle to market. The Minister said that the farmers paid too much attention to the attraction of subsidies and not to market prices. He was thinking the other way round. In other words, the subsidies were being used for the farmer, who says, "What does the market price matter so long as I get the subsidy to bring the figure up to the price that I am guaranteed to get? "This indeed calls for some important changes.
I should like an explanation about this. The Minister said that we must perhaps aim at standard quantities of meat. What does he mean by standard quantities? This can be very important especially in Scotland. Tonight the House will be discussing certain Orders for increasing production. This is the 520 very complaint that the agricultural community is always making. First, we shall use these orders to increase production, to encourage output, but the Minister talked about standard quantities of meat which might well mean restriction. This is the sort of indecision that the agricultural industry is always protesting against, and it will be the job of the Secretary of State for Scotland to explain quite clearly what is meant by standard quantities of meat, because, as an hon. Member opposite said, this is of supreme importance to Scotland, and especially to the farmers in the uplands who are finding it in many ways difficult enough. We shall have to have the reason for it. We shall have to understand what the Minister means because unless the industry knows what it means, it will be left in this indecisive position.
It makes a change for the Minister to talk about international commodity agreements and guaranteed prices. My mind went back to the early days of the Labour Government when we were making these agreements with the Commonwealth and how they were attacked by hon. Members who are now sitting on the other side of the Committee. What nonsense, they said, it was to enter into these agreements. In fact this is perhaps the important part of the answer to the problems which confront the industry. I hope that the Minister will have something more to say about it tonight.
I want, finally, to say something about marketing which is so important. This apparently has appealed to the Secretary of State for Scotland. There has been a series of articles in the Scotsman on the agricultural industry. While perhaps not agreeing with them or asking everyone to agree with them, at least they have been very provoking and have stimulated a great deal of thought. It said in an article on 1st April:After all, 80 per cent. of the price subsidies are at present paid out on fatstock and cereals, the two commodity groups in which no boards exist and in which free-for-all marketing has proved unacceptable.I think it states quite clearly and bluntly, without argument at all, that if we are to get out of this state we have to have marketing arrangements. If it wants support it has had it from the Secretary of State for Scotland, 521 whose article appeared in the Scotsman on Monday. He said:For instance why do we bring so much of our food to London, to Smithfield, Covent Garden and Billingsgate, where it is handled. broken up and then whistled away back to York or wherever it came from. Surely this cannot he said to be an efficient method. I was in Holland recently and they lust laughed at our methods of marketing vegetables. I believe this whole process of marketing, particularly of perishables, is desperately important to both farmer and housewife and that is why everybody is awaiting with such interest for the Verdon Smith Committee's report on meat marketing.If these continentals are laughing at us, there is some responsibility on the Government for not having taken measures to bring in effective marketing schemes. They cannot absolve themselves from the blame, and if the Secretary of State for Scotland admits, as he does in this article in the Scotsman, that it is so bad that we are entitled to be laughed at, he and his party ought to be ashamed of the fact that they have taken no action to correct it. If at last the Secretary of State realises that it is along this road that we shall have to travel, not only for the benefit of the farmers, who are awfully important men, but also for the farm workers, and not least for the consumers, who are entitled to expect a reasonable price, we shall have gone a fair way along the road. But I do not think that he will have the opportunity of putting it right. It will fall to my hon. Friends to carry out that change.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I do not think that many hon. Members on this side of the Committee could follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) in a great deal of what he said, but I want to add a few words about what he said about marketing, because that was one of the most important parts of his speech. There is already a quite adequate system of marketing on the hook if the farmers want to make use of it. Is it the policy of hon. Members opposite to go all out to hit the auctioneers and the auction markets hard and put them out of business? However inefficient the system of selling in the market may be for fatstock, it is essential to the movement of stores and the store trade generally. Where would the north of Scotland be if it were not for the store trade and store markets 522 clearing out the whole of the lamb crop from the Highlands?
I agree with what the hon. Member said about sugar. I hope that the Minister will study carefully the possibility of increasing sugar acreages for next season. But the hon. Member wants to take the weather out of farming altogether, judging by what he said about potatoes. Of course, this will be a difficult year for potatoes; the weather could not have been more adverse for the production of this commodity. He asked for a practical example to show that farmers could derive any confidence and feel any sense of security as a result of what the Minister said. I can give him one straight away. As soon as the Minister announced the quotas on the import of Argentine and Jugoslav meat the price of fat cattle started to rise, because it meant that the market was no longer threatened by unlimited meat imports from those countries. That is one practical example showing that the Minister's speech today gives us confidence and hope that we will achieve the extra stability that is required in the agriculture industry.
Since the end of the war both parties have been trying to find a way to give our farmers the stability they need. The 1957 Agriculture Act was a great step in this direction, but it had two weaknesses. The first was the tremendous demand on the Exchequer for unlimited liability because of cheap imports, and the other was the weak home markets, with the price dropping on the home market in many cases because of oversupply. The complaint of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) was that the period up to the end of the Brussels negotiations had left the agriculture industry in some doubt. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said, this has been an unhappy period in the countryside. But I am not certain that it has been entirely a bad and unconstructive period. It has given us all a chance to look at our present agriculture policy. Many ideas have been put forward. People have said that we must take the Lucas Committee off the shelf. From what has been said today it is clear that hon. Members opposite are firmly wedded to the idea of commodity commissions.
The hon. Member must not misrepresent what I said. The commodity commissions that I referred to were quite different from those mentioned in the Lucas Report. If the hon. Member has read the Lucas Report he will know that that is so.
§ Mr. Kimball
There must be a difference of opinion between the hon. Member for Workington and his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie)—my distinguished constituent. In this period of reappraisal there has been a strong canvass in many places for a return to the 1932 Wheat Act. Throughout all this period of uncertainty and unsettlement there has been a lurking fear that our position as the world's largest food importing country may be exploited as a bargaining counter to stimulate exports.
The matter was crystallised just before the Price Review by an article in The Times which highlighted the exact position and showed where the runaway elements were in our present deficiency payments system. As the Minister said, the bulk of the money at the moment is going in cereals and meat. We must not consider the latter in isolation, but must look at them against the background of a vast supply of cheap poultry, turkeys and ducks coming into this country. An equally important factor is the need to replace the timing of the New Zealand lamb crop as it now comes into this country.
All my hon. Friends would agree that these are the three weaknesses in the 1957 Agriculture Act. Having pointed them out and accepted them, and agreed that what my right hon. Friend has said today is the right way to deal with them, let us consider the 1957 Act—which nobody seems to have done—and see what a splendid piece of agricultural support it gives us. It is the envy of all the other European countries. That is common knowledge. Everybody in Brussels who was able to understand our system said that if only he could get away with it politically their life would be a great deal easier. I am not impressed by all these semi-trick statistics about farm income that are put up. I do not believe that they affect the prosperity and the feeling of security that now exists in the countryside. Every farmer I meet talks about expanding. The normal philo- 524 sophy of farmers nowadays is bound up with the question of where they can get more land so as to increase their enterprise. Mention has already been made of the terrific price of grasskeeping this year, and the high prices of farms let by tender and for sale. During the debate hon. Members opposite have made much of the fall in the number of people farming today. The hon. Member for Enfield, East, whom we all know to be a successful and practical farmer, ought to have been honest in his remarks and admitted that in these days retiring farmers usually say that they have been offered such a good price for their land, and that they had reached the age at which they did not want to work too hard, that they thought it would be a good moment to retire. The good price being paid for what they have invested has encouraged many people to retire.
I thought that we might have had some constructive ideas from hon. Members opposite, but we have had nothing so far. I thought that we might hear something of their ideas about the way in which amalgamations and increases in holdings could be made easier, and how the hardship that often exists could be taken away, but nothing constructive has come from them. Nothing has been said about the important part played in this process by the normal landlord-tenant relationship, and by the proper reorganisation of estates into economic units.
I want to dwell in some detail on two main points that my right hon. Friend made in connection with the question of the practical control on imports. There is no doubt about the success of the two negotiations that the Minister has just concluded with the Argentine and Jugoslav Governments. We have seen the practical reflection of that in the increased price of meat in the markets in the last three weeks. If we are to have any control over cattle and meat imports it must be by numbers and not by price. Alternatively, in the matter of cereal marketing, I do not think that anybody would deny the great success of the ex-port of entry price agreement that we have had for barley. It was a difficult thing to explain to the Russians that they could not sell us barley at £14 a ton. but had to sell it to us at £20 a ton, in order to protect our barley market.
525 The hon. Member for Leith asked why the subsidy had been increased. It has been increased because the acreage has been increased, together with production, while the price has remained incredibly steady. The striking example that we have had of the success of the control of cereal imports, as applied to the import of Russian barley will, I hope, persuade my right hon. Friend to proceed in the same way with control of the other grain imports, by price rather than quantity.
I feel absolutely confident that we have had from the Minister of Agriculture a statement of policy that will give us the security and stability needed in the industry. It will give us that final rounding off of the position established by the 1957 Act. We may see when we open our papers a picture of the hon. Member for Workington trying to thumb a lift on our agricultural policy. That is about all we shall see from hon. Gentlement opposite, because we have certainly heard no alternative policy from them. I am confident that the speech of my right hon. Friend will result in a vastly increased majority for those of us on this side of the Committee who represent agricultural constituencies.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)
One could comment at some length on the speech of the hon. Member for Gains-borough (Mr. Kimball). But the speech of the Minister, important as it was, requires examination before one can comment upon it. Most hon. Members who have discussed it have done so on the basis of hypothetical detail which they themselves provided because the Minister himself said that he could not yet give details. They have to be worked out. Hon. Members provided the details and nothing which they discussed was disclosed by the Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was trying to prevent the import of uneconomic foodstuffs which would depress the market prices. I think much of the fault may be found in sections of the industry. The Minister was right in saying that one of the causes of discontent is the lack of supplies to the market. We know that if the supply of meat to the meat market had been properly phased, and the meat had arrived at the proper time, the 526 large subsidy payments for meat would not have been required. But until we get the details of the right hon. Gentleman's plan it is useless to try to discuss it.
I agree with the noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) who discussed the cost of the distribution of foodstuffs which is astronomical. The difference between the price received by the farmer and the price which the housewife has to pay needs a great deal of examination. The system of distribution as well as marketing may be complicated. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) told the Committee what happened to his cattle when he sold them, and be described the manner in which they were transported from the market. All my cattle go to the Fatstock Marketing Corporation. The Corporation sends a lorry to the farm to pick up the stock which is taken to the slaughterhouse, where it is weighed on the hoof and payment made for weight and quality. There is no waste and no loss. The wasteful system of marketing referred to by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West is extravagant and unnecessary.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Gainsborough said about the store market. That is an entirely different market from the fatstock market. It gathers the store stock from different farms and the stock is ready for distribution. The stock has to be distributed to be finished and fattened. But fatstock can be taken from the farm to the slaughterhouse, and that is what ought to take place.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
My hon. Friend has referred to a crucial point about the distribution of fatstock. Would he agree that part of the necessary reforms is a rearrangement of the slaughtering arrangements on a district and regional basis?
§ Mr. Kenyon
Certainly. The slaughtering arrangements built up by the Fat-stock Marketing Corporation should be expanded in order to cut out the mileage covered by transport.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield. East, (Mr. Mackie) who said that we are self-sufficient only in respect of potatoes. That is nonsense. We are self-sufficient in milk. We could increase the production of milk in this 527 country to a tremendous extent were we allowed to do so. We import milk products, such as butter and cheese, which were referred to by my hon. Friend, because we can buy them more cheaply than we can produce them. But we could increase the production of milk far beyond the present figure and there is no question about it. Everyone in the dairy industry knows that.
The Government have been urging hill farmers to go in for beef in order to assist the milk market and many have done so. But were it necessary—many farmers would prefer to do it—they could concentrate on producing more milk. That is one of the difficulties confronting the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said that to encourage the production of milk would aggravate the position. But who is more responsible than the Government for aggravating the position regarding milk? The Small Farmer's Scheme which they introduced some years ago was designed to enable small farmers to produce three things of which we already had sufficient—milk, eggs and pigmeat. The money poured into that scheme aggravated the market, and the Government were to blame. They poured money into producing something entirely unnecessary and enabled a number of small farmers to keep going who should have amalgamated their holdings to form larger economic units. We know that such economic units are necessary. We do not want small farmers to go out of business because they are small farmers. But they will be crushed out by economic circumstances and it is far better that small farms should be amalgamated into economic units.
§ Mr. Kenyon
I am not suggesting anything of the sort. I am pointing out what is happening. Economic circumstances today are forcing the small farmer out. The figures which were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East show that that is taking place—57,000 small farms have gone out in the last 10 years. That is taking place under a Conservative Government.
Mr. W. M. F. Vane (Westmorland)
Is the hon. Member distinguishing between full-time and part-time holdings, or is he including both?
§ Mr. Kenyon
I have given way twice and I am answering the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). He asked about the part-time farmer.
§ Mr. Kenyon
I can deal with only one Conservative at a time. I shall answer the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) when I have finished this answer.
The part-time farmer plays a very small part in the economy of the country. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time where he gets his money, in the industry in which he works. Than he spends his spare time on the farm. That is not farming. That is not agriculture. It is far better to have an economic unit where the family is growing up and working on the farm, producing the income of the family and producing the future generation of farmers.
I have been asked, what is a small farm? It depends from which part of the country one comes. In one part of the country if one is in horticulture 10 acres is a small farm, but in another 50 acres is a small farm. In another part of the country 300 acres is an economic unit. We see all round us farmers struggling with 50 acres and even 25 acres. I do not know if the hon. Member for Bristol, West watches television on Sunday afternoons. If he does, he may have seen a fortnight ago small uneconomic farms in east Lancashire. The question what is a small farm depends on which part of the country one is in. The point is that we must have economic units where the farmer farms to the best advantage, produces what is necessary for the economy of the country in a proper way and also produces the farmers of the future.
We are almost, and could be in a very short time, self-sufficient in three things, milk, potatoes and eggs. The imported liquid eggs which my hon. Friend 529 the Member for Enfield, East spoke about could be produced here if we set about the task. We have made tremendous strides in the production of beef, lamb and mutton, and in poultry. I am confident that we could become self-sufficient in a short time in meat. I do not like the intensive way in which birds are fed. I always think there is no taste in this stuff. They are not like the hens one sees running about the fields. They have a different taste, if they have any taste at all. However, people seem to like them. There is a tremendous market for meat and we could become self-sufficient, but we have to get over the problem of marketing.
Let us look at the way in which we are marketing today. We are going into the pre-packed market. Have hon. Members ever examined pre-packed meat and pre-packed bacon in the shops? It is the most expensive stuff one can buy. I was looking at some bacon only this morning. I do the shopping. The pre-packed bacon does not contain ½lb. in a package, but between 7 ozs. and 7½ozs. It is sold for 2s. 10d.—almost 6s. a lb. There is no sense in that. Bacon can be bought much cheaper in the piece or sliced. I am afraid the housewife is carried away by the package instead of by what is in it. It is nice, it is clean and it is hygienic, but housewives should not blame the farmer for the price. To package and transport it from place to place and then to sell it in the shop makes The cost more than the cost of production. Here is waste which should be eliminated. Marketing is one of the most important matters with which we have to deal in agriculture.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West mentioned the good work of the Advisory Service. I commend that work, but I also criticise it. We are living in an age of change, change in agriculture as well as in other things. I wonder if hon. Members in agriculture have noticed how the advice of the Advisory Service reverses itself over a number of years. We were always brought up—you, Sir James, as a farmer as well, no doubt—to believe that to harrow the land was a good thing. We were told that it aerates the land and enables the roots of plants to extend. Altogether it was a wonderful thing to harrow, but now I learn from the Farmers' Guardian that 530 the Advisory Service says harrowing is no good. It says that if we lime, slag and fertilise the land that is all that is necessary.
If I merely limed, slagged and fertilised the land I should feel like someone who had a bath but did not take his clothes off. The land needs a thundering good harrowing to get the stuff in and that does it a world of good. This is a change in advice from the Advisory Service. It used to be" Give it a good harrowing, rip it up, knock it about", and now it is, "Leave it alone. Put the slag, lime and fertiliser on, and that will eat through the rough grass and get down to the roots".
A short while ago we were told that leys were the great asset of farming—breaking up the old land and getting into ley farming. We were told that the ley was richer than the permanent grass, that it produced more and that if we wished to be modern farmers we should get on with the leys. We did it, and a wonderful job it was, too. What are we told today? We are told that if we treat permanent pasture right we shall find no difference between the production of leys and the production of permanent pasture. We have been ploughing, harrowing and fertilising for all those years for no good at all. I have wasted a terrible lot of money. In the experiments which are carried out on the Ministry's own experimental farms, they are proving that permanent pasture treated with lime, slag and fertiliser and properly grazed will produce as much meat as the ley on which we have taken all that trouble.
We were taught when we were young how to produce silage. I went into this business three or four years before the war. We were told that the best thing was to mow the grass, take it immediately to the silo and consolidate it, wasting no time and filling the silo day by day until it was finished. That was said to be the way to make silage. The agricultural implement manufacturers made implements for the job. There was the forage harvester which came along with the cutters and cut the grass, blowing it into the trailer so that it could be taken to the silo. That is the easiest way I know of dealing with grass. But the Agricultural Advisory Service now says, 531 "Cut your grass, and then wilt it. Do not take it into the silo straight away. You can use the mower and then you wuffle it, which means lifting it up and shaking it about. You wilt it for a period of 12 hours and then put it into the silo. That is the way to make good silage."
What a waste of time in the past by many of us—and we are still doing it. They may be right. They are proving what they say. But when hon. Members talk about farmers not being up to date they must remember what we have to put up with to be up to date. We have to go back to what we were doing 10 or 20 years ago, and then, apparently, we shall become up to date.
Food production and distribution is a world problem and should be dealt with in the context of world production. I recommend to the Committee the plan of the National Farmers' Union—a great plan which is a world plan and which deals with the production of food from all the different countries and suggests ways of its distribution to underdeveloped countries and under-nourished people. It is a crime that we permit surpluses to go to waste, and a crime that we do not produce as much as we could. Some countries are even paying farmers to leave 50 per cent. of their acreage idle—and yet people in the world are under-nourished. Only a world plan can deal with this. It may need brilliant minds to get it working. The Food and Agriculture Organisation ought to deal with this problem. When we utilise the food which is grown year by year and grow all that we can, then, and only then, shall we be able to give to those who are in need that which the earth can produce.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) in any great detail, for it would almost complete the time for the debate if I did. It was sometimes not entirely clear whether he was speaking in support of the Housewives' Union or the Landowners' Protection Association. He ranged over a number of subjects, and much that he said was wise in its way.
I want to comment on what he said at the end of his speech and what the hon. and learned Member for Mont- 532 gomery (Mr. Hooson) said earlier in connection with world food production and surpluses in this country. It is a simple and attractive thesis that we could produce surplus food in one or two products, that there are other people in the world who are hungry and that therefore we should send them our surpluses. But we must be certain about what we intend to do. If we are to help the under-developed world we must teach it to produce its own food. If, occasionally, in cases of emergency, a small quantity of food delivered to an under-developed country will help that process, then that may be a justification for sending it, but it is nonsense to pretend that we can export food at a very high cost from this country, transport it to the shores of under-developed countries and then, at even more fantastic cost, distribute it throughout those countries, and hope that this will boost that country's economy. In some underdeveloped countries a small rise in price for the popular foodstuffs will create quite enough production within the country itself. Our job is not to send food from here and to get rid of our surpluses, but to establish a price structure in the world so that there is incentive in the under-developed countries for food to be produced.
§ Mr. Hooson
Has the hon. Member noticed the analysis made of the help given to India by food from the United States over the four year plan? This has enabled people to be taken off the land in India, but agricultural production in India has improved considerably.
§ Mr. Clark
I have not seen that analysis. There are a few individual cases which are exceptions but, in the general run of events, exporting expensive food from this country and giving it to people who are not adequately nourished can probably do more damage to their economy than anything else. If I have an opportunity to see the hon. Member privately I will give him a number of examples where this has happened.
§ Mr. Kenyon
The hon. Member has got a completely wrong impression of what I said. I certainly did not intend to suggest that the giving of food should be a permanent thing. The hon. Member must realise that people must be fed properly before they can produce it for 533 themselves. That is what I meant to say.
§ Mr. Clark
I would like to agree with the hon. Member if I could. The trouble is that when food is given it tends to go on being given. I know of one famine which could have come to an end after two years, when the climatic conditions improved. However, food has been distributed free for four years and it will probably be distributed again next year. The trouble is that the incentive of the people who should be producing is taken away and they become unable to stand up to local conditions. I will not expand my arguments on this subject because I am probably already well out of order.
I wish to deal with the practical problems of British agriculture. I would like to begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend on the excellent way in which he has set at rest the fears which have been expressed throughout the farming industry in recent months. Had his speech been made in my constituency it would have been delivered amid cheers, even at a meeting of the Farmers' Union, because my right hon. Friend said the sort of things the farmers in my constituency have been wanting him to say. We are delighted, in particular, with the fact that my right hon. Friend has agreed that the spirit of the 1947 and 1957 Acts is to continue and be brought up to date. We are delighted that he has agreed that some system of import control will have to be established.
We all accept that the concept of standard quantities can be applied over a wider variety of farm produce. As my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) said, there is some difficulty about this concept. If established, standard quantities must be reasonably flexible because there is an important difference between establishing standard quantities of production for those commodities in which we are nearly self-sufficient and establishing them for commodities of which at least a half of our needs is imported. Are the standard quantities to stay for all time as between the amount of a commodity which is imported and the amount which we produce at home?
For example, we are importing a considerable quantity of bacon from Denmark. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is 534 doing all it can to boost its bacon production. We have solved the problem of breeds and are producing a uniform and high grade quality of bacon. We are just launching into a huge campaign to promote the sale of Northern. Irish bacon on the British market. If our campaign succeeds, and if the British public demands mare bacon from Northern Ireland, are we to be limited by a standard quantity, bearing in mind the standard quantity set for Denmark? For this reason the standard quantities must he flexible.
It must also he remembered that on occasions a country like Denmark is in a stronger bargaining position than one of our own farming areas. Denmark is able to say—and produce figures to show —to us, "If you do not buy our agricultural produce we will not buy your manufactured goods". Unfortunately the farming areas in this country are not quite in the same position to be able to say that to the manufacturing areas of Britain. if Denmark can say it, Northern Ireland and the agricultural areas of Scotland and the West Country should he able to ask, If you will not buy our agricultural produce how can you expect us to buy your manufactured goods?".
Control of the import of feedingstuffs is of vital importance in the whole concept of the general control of imports. In Northern Ireland there are a large number of small farms. I should like to see them all become bigger, and I would not want to crush any of them out of existence. Because they are small it is essential, if the farmers are to earn a decent living, that they should concentrate on the farmyard production of livestock—poultry, eggs and pigs, although that production depends largely on imported feedingstuffs. We can turn those imports of feedingstuff into bacon, eggs and poultry just as efficiently, if not more so, than anywhere in the world.
If we have a proper structure for our imported feedingstuff prices the business will be done here in the United Kingdom and not in some foreign country. If my right hon. Friend decides to consider controls on imports, I urge him to remember that a reasonable, perhaps low, price for imported feeding-stuffs is absolutely essential.
A good deal of misrepresentation has occurred throughout the country—and 535 the Ministry must take some responsibility for it—about the position of the farming industry. It is only too common for the figure of £350 million spent in subsidies to be bandied around. An even more invidious figure bandied around is that 80 per cent. of the farmers' income comes from subsidies. The figures may be true, but it must be remembered that the farmers' income is the last charge, the top slice, of the cost of production of farm products. Inevitably the subsidy contributes most of the income. If the subsidy was taken away the men who would suffer would not be the tractor or seed merchants but the farmers. Inevitably, therefore, a large part of the farmers' personal income is represented by subsidy.
Subsidies must be looked upon as a proportion of farm costs. I have some figures with me which show that of a farmer's income, 83 per cent. can be put down to subsidy, but of the total farm receipts the subsidy represents only 20 per cent. I wish that that figure of 20 per cent. was used more widely than the one of 80 per cent. We talk a great deal about the £350 million, but we forget the size of the national food bill. My figures show that our annual food bill is £5,219 million. This reveals that farm subsidies cost the country only 6.5 per cent. of our total food bill.
I agree that the total bill takes into account the processing of foods which does not take place in our farms, but subsidies are a very small part of the money we spend on food. In this connection, it is important to remember that we produce half our own food, or about two-thirds of our temperate foodstuffs. That cost in subsidy is 61 per cent. of our national food bill. Because we produce that very high percentage—high for a small industrial country—we need buy only a relatively small amount of food in the markets of the world. We buy this food in a buyers' market and we are in an extremely strong bargaining position.
I suggest that if we produced only 30 per cent. or 25 per cent. of the food we need, and had to buy twice as much on the world market, we should be in a very much worse bargaining position. We should have to pay prices that were 536 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. higher. The £350 million that it costs under the present system to keep our farms going would be chickenfeed compared with the additional cost of feeding the nation. That fact must be kept clearly in mind.
The idea put forward, particularly when we are discussing national finance, that the bill for subsidies is big enough and must not be allowed to grow at all, is nonsense. As long as the farmers are running their farms efficiently, there is no reason why the subsidy, which puts us in such a strong position in world markets, should not go up to £500 million or even more. I do not base that statement on any social arguments, though the social arguments for keeping the farming community thriving are still there. One can justify subsidies by plain, straight, economic argument.
These are the facts. The wrong figures seem to be put about, the wrong impression is created. It is up to all of us in this Committee and, in particular, it is up to the Ministry, to put over the case, and to justify to the country and the world the real economic value of Great Britain's farming industry. A great responsibility rests on the Ministry to put over that case concisely to those who matter, so that we can face our farming problems with a sensible and down-to-earth outlook, and not with the talk of feather-bedding which, unfortunately, is still too common throughout the country.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I can only tell the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) that if I told the country the effect of his views on the people in the backward areas of the world who are living in conditions of starvation I could win any General Election. In this one instance the hon. Member's mentality is sufficient to breed Communism anywhere.
The Minister has introduced, very conveniently at this moment, the idea of import restrictions. I do not know what else he could have said had he not had something to say about those, but the result is that tonight he will be the toast of the farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country—
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Let me finish.
The Minister has taken a very weak and gentle step. We have had no details of what he is proposing, but merely an announcement made in the House at a convenient moment. It is possible that, in the working out of the details, the idea itself may be lost.
i want to speak on behalf of people who have never been properly mentioned in this debate—the slaughter men, the gut men, the tripe dressers and the butchers—but if we are to relate the meat trades to the agricultural industry I believe that the butchers, and those who work in the slaughtering industry, are as much entitled to be heard as the farmers.
There has been a tremendous amount of criticism of our butchers because of the high price of meat—one of my hon. Friends has criticised them for that reason—but I say categorically that the high price of meat over the last three years has not been caused wholly or mainly by the butchers. If the Minister wants to challenge that statement let him take the wholesale price of meat over the last three years, when he will still find that the margin between the wholesale and the retail price has changed but little over the past twenty years.
Where, then, has the system fallen down? Why the failure of a deficiency payments system in the meat industry which was originally introduced to protect agriculture and to keep prices low for the consumer? Why have we had tremendously increased deficiency payments and tremendously increased meat prices? Every butcher knows that the system of production and distribution of meat is hopelessly chaotic. It is in that condition because there has never been an effective check by the Government of the free-for-all in the market. The Government have never attempted to introduce a systematic flow of stock from the farm to the butcher's block. In saying that I take into consideration all the difficulties, including even the seasonal fluctuations.
I condemn hook, line and sinker the free-for-all scramble where fatstock guarantees are concerned. I am not grumbling about deficiency payments. I approve of them, but evidence was submitted by the trade union movement to the inquiry into fatstock and carcase meat distribution which justifies my sub- 538 mission up to the hilt. if the Minister will examine the situation fully he cannot help but come to the conclusion that he must approach this position not as a farmer himself but as the Minister of Agriculture.
A great deal has been said about marketing. As the Minister of Agriculture the right hon. Gentleman should survey the whole complicated machinery of the marketing of the beast from the farm to the carcase on the block. If he does, he will find what many hon. Members have mentioned today but have not enumerated in detail—a great many people who are completely unnecessary in the process of meat distribution. I should like to mention a few of the people involved.
First, there is the farmer. I have no grumble about him. He does a good job of work and deserves all he gets, but there is the local livestock dealer who, for all he does, could be easily dispensed with. The local livestock dealer takes the cattle to the wholesaler and then they go to auction, In addition, there are wholesale stock dealers who sell to the commission agents. There are about seven other different types of intermediaries, all of whom want their cut and whose profits automatically affect the final retail price of the commodity. If there is anything that is open to speculation and price rigging, it is this system of meat distribution. Animals are moved from one auction to another and all sorts of things happen, as the Minister must know. If he will really face the problem, he will find that even the auctions are unnecessary and that it is possible, even in these days, to have a direct link between the producer and the butcher with one intermediary, namely the wholesaler.
The Minister talks of import restrictions. Let us examine the other side of the question. What about exports? Is it true that continental buyers at British auctions, buying at prices that are regulated by subsidies and exporting cattle to the continent, are getting the benefit of the Exchequer subsidy? This is one of those questions that must be asked. The Minister must know about this because this is part of the evidence that has been submitted to the committee that he mentioned earlier today, the committee which was set up last year and to which all 539 interested organisations have made their contributions, including those trade unions which are connected with meat distribution.
All this chaos and confusion in British agriculture, and particularly in the marketing of fatstock, need not have occurred. If in 1954 the law as it then was, with its regulations, had been slightly amended, with a few additions and a few omissions, it would have been possible for the existing law to have functioned, even in the most intense conditions of private trade in meat distribution, without the necessity to introduce many of the measures that have been brought about by the Conservative Government under successive Acts of Parliament. It would have been possible to keep out the intermediaries, the cost of which has contributed largely to undermining the original principle, namely the subsidisation of cattle production in order to keep prices low to the consumer.
I ask the Minister to consider the problem of grading. I know that there are some people who are very skilful at judging cattle, who, when a beast is on the hoof, can tell almost at a glance what its deadweight will be, almost to a pound, but there is no guarantee that such people will be right when the beast has been killed. I suggest that the time has come for the introduction of the deadweight at the point of kill, in order to prevent the unnecessary double payment of subsidies such as is taking place at present. The Minister knows what I am talking about. These reforms are essential if we are to get agriculture out of the mess into which it has fallen.
Before the war, there were 12,000 slaughterhouses in this country. By the end of the war, by wise concentration, we had reduced the number to 600. It was again allowed to rise, under wise supervision, until, after 1954, two Acts of Parliament affected the number of slaughterhouses in this country. After the first Act, introduced by a Conservative Government. the number in England alone rose to nearly 5,000. Scotland was not affected because the practice of restricting slaughterhouses by wise concentration has obtained in Scotland for many years. The second Act of the Conservative Government restricted the 540 number of slaughterhouses again until there are today about 2,500.
But there is no adequate meat inspection. Meat inspectors receive information that cattle are being slaughtered at one or other slaughterhouse at times when it is impossible to go to the slaughterhouse for the purpose of making an efficient inspection. All kinds of malpractices are taking place. These are some of the things about which the butchers are complaining. They suggest that the right relationship between the production of cattle for distribution in this country and the interests of the butchers at the selling end would best be safeguarded not by the intermediaries or even just by wise concentration of slaughterhouses but by a radical reform of the whole business of meat marketing from the farm to the butcher's block.
In 1951, the Trades Union Congress passed a resolution which went to the extent of saying that the business of meat distribution should be nationalised. I do not go so far, but I am convinced that there must be a thorough rationalisation. There should be about 12 to 20 slaughterhouses in this country doing all the killing. There should be a good factory abattoir at each slaughterhouse to deal with the by-products. The canning processes are of the utmost importance nowadays. The possibilities of canning may be latent at the moment, but people in the butchery trade and the canning industry know of the great opportunities there can be to develop the whole industry and make it a worthwhile partner of British agriculture. The Minister fails in his job if he does not see the potentialities of the relationship between slaughtering on this kind of basis and British agriculture.
The Minister has failed throughout. Even though he may tonight be the toast of the farmers in many parts of the country, and even though what he has done may be good as a short step towards progress, it will eventually be proved that he has not gone half far enough to meet the needs of agriculture and the butchers.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Before I begin my indictment of the Government, may I first congratulate British agriculture on having survived 12 years of Toryism from the Minister and his predecessors. 541 The best hope for the industry is that it will not have to suffer very much longer.
One hon. Member opposite indicated that this was an historic debate. Those of us who have not had the advantage of reading The Times report this morning of what the Minister told a Committee last night have been able to gather two things from his speech today: first, that he had some proposals for import control, and, secondly, that the standard quantities for which guaranteed prices are paid would be extended to new production. When it came to the details, the Ministry frankly said that he had an open mind on the machinery and an open mind on how the whole of this would work. He finished his speech by saying that it would bring satisfaction and relief to the industry that the Government had decided on this policy.
However, the reception which the right hon. Gentleman had from hon Members varied considerably. We did not know the details. We did not know how this would work out. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said that he would have been happier if the proposals were less sketchy, and that there was a need to make clear to each farmer how the Minister's proposals would affect him. How right the hon. Gentleman was. He seems to have forgotten that when the Government's Common Market proposals were being canvassed at Brussels and in the House of Commons, even though the hon. Gentleman was an ardent supporter of the Government at that time, never at any time was it made clear to the farmer how he would be affected by the Government's proposals. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) said that he was satisfied with what he called the adequate assurances of the Minister. May I say that the hon. Gentleman was satisfied with very little indeed?
Over the years, the belts have had to tightened in the agricultural community. Farmers' incomes in real terms have failed to keep pace with those in the rest of the community. We have been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) that, despite a 50 per cent. increase in output, the real net income of agriculture has gone up by only 11 per cent. compared with 50 per cent. among the remainder 542 of the community. That is the main issue before us today. Not a word was said by the Minister about what return he expected the industry would get from his proposals—whether it would be more or less.
We had an interesting theory from the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) about prices. He said that it would be the farmer who would suffer, and that the Minister said that the consumer should not suffer and that the right hon. Gentleman would cut subsidies. I did not gather from the Minister that he proposed to cut subsidies. If the Minister did not say that, the theory of the hon. and learned Member falls to the ground. I hope that this will be made clear by the Parliamentary Secretary.
The 1963 Price Review is the last chapter in a very sad story. Try as he might, the average farmer has never quite grasped that elusive prize or a fair return for his toil. Small farmers—I am speaking not of part-time farmers but of full-time small farmers—and their wives whose immense labour we should not forget, have to slave and struggle day and night for seven days a week. They have not had a square deal in real terms as a result of the Government's policies.
The 1947 Act obligations are known to all of us. Proper remuneration for the industry and proper living conditions for farmers and farmworkers are mentioned specifically in the Act. But has there been proper remuneration for the industry? Can the Minister look farmers in the face and say that they have been properly remunerated when the stark figures reveal that incomes in the industry have not kept pace with those of the rest of the community? My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) commented on the fact that the Minister accepted the 1947 Act and said that he would adapt and tailor it. What does this mean? Does it mean that there will be a smaller return to the industry, a subject on which the Minister was exceedingly silent?
In December. 1961, we had the special White Paper, which was endorsed by the Government who said that they stood by all their obligations under the 1947 Act. We remember the special reason for those talks in the autumn—or, as one of my hon. Friends would call it, in the 543 fall—of 1961. Perhaps we shall see the fall of the Government in 1963. There were special reasons for those talks. They were held between the Prime Minister and the president of the National Farmers' Union because of the unanimous wave of derision which swept the country as a result of the 1960 Price Review. That flatulent White Paper could be summed up as a promise from the Government never to do it again.
Today, however, we are back in the same position. For the fifth time in eight years we have had an imposed Price Review settlement. It should not be forgotten that five times out of eight the farmers have failed to agree with the Government. Only a few weeks ago the teachers were clamouring, and rightly so, at having suffered from an imposed settlement. It is no comfort to them to know that in agriculture an imposed settlement is the rule rather than the exception.
Protests have been heard this year from Norfolk and Devon. Farmers have marched to Westminster to make their protest. From Wales also have come protests. Indeed, a vote of no confidence in the Minister has been passed in all parts of the country. I need not mention all the places from which protests have come, but passing I mention the Council of the Scottish N.F.U. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to deal with that declaration of no confidence. A vote of no confidence was passed by the Council of the N.F.U. in Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, a fact which must be cold comfort to the Minister.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary, whom we like so much, went down to Devon the other day where he faced a rather stormy meeting of the Devon N.F.U. He advised farmers with unprofitable lines to move into a more profitable line. Where and when are they to do it? Perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will be abe to tell the small farmers of Devon, and small dairy farmers everywhere, what the Parliamentary Secretary failed to advise them: what profitable lines they should adopt. They will be exceedingly interested in the advice that the Secretary of State can give.
544 There is not time to go through every aspect that was dealt with by the Minister. In the beef industry in particular, however, there has been an immense drive for expansion over the years. I have traced the statements made in each of the Price Review White Papers. In 1954, we were told that there was still need for more beef. We were told the same in 1956 and 1957. In 1959, we were told that there was still room for increased beef production. In 1960, it was the same story, and in 1961 it was said that a further stimulus to beef production was needed.
Having regard to the Minister's proposals today, what is the position of the beef section of the industry? Suggestions and fears have been expressed from these benches that the Minister's policy may well be restrictionist. Twice in recent years—and this is why the Minister has tonight been forced to come to a decision concerning imports—the industry and the Exchequer have suffered from the severe gluts on the market because of the inadequate policies of the Government. Although they have been in power for 12 years, all that happened in the past when there was a glut was kid-glove treatment from the Government and exhortation which did little to avert repeated and violent fluctuations. There seems to be a lack of co-ordination between the Minister and his colleague the President of the Board of Trade. I do not wish to blame the Minister unduly in this matter. It may be that it is the feet of the President of the Board of Trade which are dragging.
I was interested in the innuendo by the hon. Member fo Newbury (Sir A. Hurd), who has just come in, when he said with reference to imports that there was a great deal of need of education and for Ministers to speak with one voice and how glad he was that they were sitting together when this debate was inaugurated. There seems to have been a dichotomy of interest of the two Ministers in this respect in the past. The Minister of Agriculture seems to have lacked, in particular, anticipation of a glut. No steps have been taken in anticipation of one. Now he has been forced tonight to come to a change and to take decisive steps in this direction. We on this side of the Committee can argue why, despite the protests we have made over the years, this was not done before.
545 What was the real cause of this recent glut of Argentine beef? The real cause of it, of course, was that there was a lack of exports of Argentine beef because of a series of abattoir strikes. Did the Minister anticipate that at the end of the strike the beef would flow once again, and that there would be a glut on the market, and a severe one, because of the accumulated amount which would be forced on to the market? An inherent difficulty in this respect has been the failure of the Minister to co-ordinate with the Board of Trade and to take decisive action in time. As the hon. Member for Newbury said, there has been exhortation time and time again in the House, but there has not been sufficient anticipation to meet the problems arising. The Minister tonight can thank his lucky stars that he will have no need to introduce a Supplementary Estimate this year.
I failed to understand the Parliamentary Secretary when at the end of March he told the House quite plausibly that the level of imports this year had not been appreciably above that of previous years. No one quite knew what that statement meant—the farming papers certainly did not—since imports from the Argentine at that time were running double those for 1962 and those of Yugoslavia were five times those of 1961, So I do not know what source of information it was that the Parliamentary Secretary had that day.
I turn now to the question of milk. Milk is of fundamental importance to our discussion this evening because this was—I do not want to mix my metaphors too much—the last straw which broke the camel's back so far as agreement on the Price Review was concerned. The latest farm accounts report from the N.F.U. revealed the real state of the dairy producers. I do not know what the Government's policy is on this tonight. I do not know what are their views on this matter, or how they fit in with the announcement which the Minister made today.
In 1961 the White Paper told us of the need to bring home to individual producers the fact that output beyond a certain level was not in their interests and the principles implicit in the national standard quantity must be applied to the payments to individual producers. The 546 Government saw the need at that time, but they failed to take any decision themselves. They left it to the industry. The industry was given till 31st July to discover what was the right solution. The industry rejected the Minister's proposals, and, obviously, as promised, retribution came the following year, in the following Price Review.
Now I do not know what the position is. It may be that the Government have turned full circle on this, and the Milk Committee of the N.F.U. may be taking up a different attitude from what it did. But having regard to the importance of milk, 22 per cent. of all United Kingdom agricultural output, and having regard to the fact that we are getting closer and closer to Europe in trade, sooner or later the Government will have to find a solution to this problem, and it cannot be shunted on to the industry, as the Minister has done with this product and so many other products.
To summarise, I think that there are three major heads to the agricultural problems of today. First, that of management; secondly, that of marketing; and, thirdly, that of imports. I deal first with management. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) talked about increased productivity. Certainly from the technical point of view great strides have been made since the end of the war and output has increased considerably. It was the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West who told us that, but we are now faced with two greater and more difficult problems, those of productivity and profitability.
I was delighted to read of the emphasis which the National Agricultural Advisory Service is putting on management treatment on farms. It is able to deal with 20,000 farms now, and with the standardisation of procedures one expects that this will shortly snowball and will have an enormous effect on management. I am convinced that the universities, farm colleges, farm institutions and young farmers clubs must play a full part in ensuring that the practical mechanics of production receive more and more emphasis. All these institutions can do a great deal to help.
Dealing with the farm college, we in Wales are deeply disappointed with the dilatory attitude of the Government, 547 because this was one of the institutions situated in a suitable place in Wales which could act as a magnet to draw in young men and women from all parts of Wales and give them a weapon with which to fight the enormous battles we have to fight in Welsh agriculture to make it solvent.
The Government should also remember that it is seldom easy to increase income or productivity without stepping up output. Our farms are not big enough to do anything else. This is particularly true of the milk industry, and it is implicit in N.E.D.C.'s Report that home agriculture should have a fair share of the rising demand.
What is the target for the home producer? What is he supposed to do? Perhaps we could have a White Paper on this. There seemed to be an intimation from the Minister, for which I was grateful, that the home farmer would have a proper share of the growth in demand, but even though the demand rises in the home market, and even though the home producer will have an increased share, one hopes that the standard quantity will go up in line with the growth in home demand. The principle of standard quantities will be a restrictionist one if 'this is the only criterion. When there is more and more technical progress, when agriculture becomes more and more efficient, and every year an allowance of £25 million is made in the Price Review because of increased agricultural efficiency, if the growth of the market is the sort of criterion for expanding and raising the standard quantity, this policy will be restrictionist. At the same time the Minister will have to remember that increased efficiency results in increased production.
The comment was made, and I endorse it, that we live largely in a hungry world. We have a great responsibility in this respect, and I hope that every aspect of this policy of standard quantities and its implications has been studied to ensure that we do not adopt a restrictionist policy. I hope that the National Farmers' Union's food and farm plan has been given serious consideration. It may be years before it can be implemented in full, but I believe that fundamentally we would do great harm if we were unduly to restrict our agricultural 548 production when there are boys and girls without adequate food.
The long-term solution is the proper distribution of all the food that the world can produce. I hope that, even though we are involved in trading agreements with other nations, and even though there are many and diverse interests concerned, the full implications of the policy of standard quantities has been considered and that its application will not be restrictionist. We do not know, because the Minister has an open mind on this matter, what machinery has been worked out for implementing this policy. This is why we cannot endorse what he is asking for.
I come next to the question on marketing. This is of fundamental importance, but no proposals have as yet been put forward. We are still waiting for the Verdon Smith Report, and have been waiting for it for some time. I gather that the Report is not expected until the autumn. Marketing in agriculture is of fundamental importance, and, despite the prodding of my hon. Friend and others on this side of the Committee, it has taken twelve years of Tory administration even to set up a committee to consider it. It would be wasting the time of the Committee to have a long and involved debate on marketing because, having regard to practical politics, the Verdon Smith Report will not be available until the autumn and, therefore, there is no possibility that this Government can put anything that it proposes into effect. I will leave the question of marketing to my hon. Friend who, I hope in the process of time, will be able to put into effect the obvious reforms which are needed in this matter.
There is a vital need for industry to weld its buying and selling powers together. I was interested, having regard to the importance of co-operation and the need for the small farmer to become viable, in the observations of the president of the Scottish National Farmers' Union when at Oban he threw out the suggestion of what might be done in the matter of co-operation. He said that he was thinking of local levels where groups of farmers could get together to market a steady crop of fatstock or to sort out their store cattle in regular drafts at local sales.
I believe that a major drive, inspired by the Government of the day, will have 549 to be undertaken in the matter of marketing both at national and local level. We have seen in recent years the immense growth of machinery syndicates. and they are badly needed. We need selling syndicates, group producer syndicates and enterprise syndicates. I am convinced that this is one of the ways in which the small farmer will be able to help himself.
I turn lastly to imports. The question that farmers are asking, and will be asking at the end of this debate, because they do not know the answer concerns home production and imports. Both problems are tied together and we cannot separate them.
The question that they will ask is: what part has British agriculture to play? What has the Minister in mind? Is it not vital before he comes to the House that he should have some target in mind. Merely to say that it is the present production figure after 10 years' exhortation to produce more will not be a source of great satisfaction to those who produce beef. They are being told that from now on there will be a standstill.
Secondly, how much import control are we to have? How is it to be operated? Is it to be on tonnage or is it to be on price? There has been no indication from the Minister on this tonight. In the past —and this is why the Minister has been forced to put a proposed solution to the House tonight—it has been left to the accident of nature or to industrial strife in foreign parts as to the amount of imports which would at any particular time come into this country.
It is not merely the quantity of imports throughout the whole year, it is the saturation of the market at particular times which has caused this run on the Exchequer. What is wanted here is orderly co-ordination. There must be somebody, as my hon. Friend proposed, a commodity commission, call it what we will, to co-ordinate home production and imports so that there is someone overall to decide and to ensure that there is an orderly regulation in the part that both the home producer and also the importer can play.
Obviously, no marketing arrangements can work in isolation. There must be an import regulator with real teeth. The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested standard quantities of 550 imports means that he is a convert to planning, because this is planning pure and simple. Even though he is a recent convert, I welcome him. But before I can do so with open arms I want to know exactly what he intends to do.
This industry is vital to all of us. The cloud of an unfavourable balance of payments is still with us. We heard tonight some excellent speeches on the importance of agriculture to our balance of payments position. Parts of the excellent article by Mr. Rees-Mogg in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago have been quoted. It should be made apparent to the whole country that British agriculture has played a very important part in our battle to remain solvent. l hope that agriculture will continue to do so in the future. Unless production had been increased at the rate at which it has been increased, the balance of payments situation today would have been very much worse than it is. May British agriculture continue to play this vital part—a part which it has played so honourably and well in the past. May it play that part in the future, despite the inadequacies of the right hon. Gentleman and his Government.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Noble)
We hold these agricultural debates from time to time in the House or in Committee, and at regular intervals one side or the other complains that it has been too long since we held the last one. Nevertheless, today's debate has been interesting, because a number of lion. Members have spoken on a wide range of subjects. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee have been looking forward to the debate with great relish, because this is the occasion for the quinquennial courtship of agriculture by the party opposite. They have assured us regularly during the course of the debate of their certainty of a General Election in October. My only sorrow is that on this great occasion there should be so few hon. Members opposite to enjoy the ceremony.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) misquoted my right hon. Friend when he said that he had talked about adapting the policy laid down in the 1947 and 1957 Acts. That was not what my right hon. Friend said. He said that we adhered to the principle laid down in 551 those Acts, but that we had to think about adjustments to the things that flow from them. That is very different from tailoring the Acts themselves.
I was rather shaken to hear the hon. Member say that his condemnation of the Government's agricultural policy derived from the fact that five out of eight recent Price Review settlements had had to be imposed on the farming community. Is he suggesting, on behalf of the party opposite, that in respect of a problem which many hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) among others, recognise to contain many difficulties in striking a balance between the claims of the agriculture industry, the consumer, the Commonwealth and all the other industries and interests, it is the duty of the Government to accept the assessment of the agriculture industry? If he is not saying that, his statement makes no sense.
He also spoke about the expansion in beef, and said that for many years the Government had been asking the beef industry to expand and had been encouraging it to do so, and that this was rather odd in view of the fact that the Government were now talking about standard quantities. It may have occurred to him that one of the main reasons for encouraging an expansion of beef was exactly the point that he raised about the difficulties that exist in the milk industry. If that industry was to move into another section of agriculture and be profitable, beef was the natural and best choice. I cannot speak with knowledge of his part of Wales, but I can speak with knowledge of my part of Scotland, that this has been happening to the benefit both of the farmers and of the nation.
I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the three important factors. These were mentioned also by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). Management and marketing are two of very great importance. I will say more about them later. He also mentioned imports and it may interest him to know that the reason the Scottish National Farmers' Union members were so upset by the position in the early part of this spring was that there was no control of imports.
552 The debate has expressed clearly and rightly that the farmers all over the country have been anxious for one or two specific reasons. First, there was the problem of the income of farmers, mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberavon. It is interesting to note—I throw out these figures because sometimes they get forgotten—that at the last F.A.O. census in 1959 this country was third in the league of countries when farming income was related to industrial income. The two top countries were Australia and New Zealand. If we take industrial income at 100, our farming income was 80. It is true that farmers are anxious. It is also certainly true that compared with almost every other developed country in the world we have done better than any except those two countries which, let us face it, are largely agricultural in the whole of their production.
I can quite understand that many people have felt that some changes were needed in our system of agricultural support. We felt it right to maintain the basic principles of the 1947 and 1957 Acts to which our farmers have rightly attached a great deal of importance over the last 15 years. In one way or another hon. Members opposite have said during the debate that they agreed with a great deal of what was said by my right hon. Friend. There were a great many "Hear, hears", from hon. Members opposite, as well as from hon. Members on this side of the Committee, while he was speaking.
Hon. Members opposite have said in the past that they agreed that we should enter into negotiations with the Common Market. I know that there might have been quite considerable differences of opinion about how the negotiations should proceed, and about what a satisfactory outcome would be. But at least hon. Members opposite agreed that the negotiations should take place. Having done that, one would imagine they would have agreed to the carrying through of the negotiations to the end. The breakdown in February was the moment when one could move to some new consideration of policy, and I think, therefore, that they can hardly blame the Government for being slow about new ideas when there has been only the period since February in which to develop them.
553 I do not think any hon. Member opposite would have carried on negotiations with the Common Market and at the same time carried on negotiations for an absolutely different policy. That at least seems to be a curious way of dealing with it. In that period we have moved fairly fast and I think it not unfair to point out that what the hon. Member said was that this was the sort of policy we ought to have followed a year ago, at a time when his own party would have been negotiating with the Common Market.
It is always a relief to get a clear picture of what the Liberal Party means to do. This at least we have had in very clear measure today. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hopson) has told us quite clearly that in the Liberal Party's view the farmers—not immediately, but in the presumably near future—should get their return from the market.
It will be a comfort to the farming community to know that it will be a very long time before the Liberal Party can put its ideas into practice. The hon. Member said, or implied, and this was perfectly fair, that a managed market would put up food prices, and that this was what my right hon. Friend had been trying to achieve in the negotiations in Brussels. This indeed could have been done in the context of a satisfactory negotiation with the Common Market. This could in these circumstances have been accepted, but I am amazed that the Liberal Party wants to accept it without any of the advantages which would flow from that policy.
If I may move to other points made in the debate, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) asked me specifically about sugar. The same subject was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard). Until April the price of sugar in Britain remained pretty steady in spite of the increase in world prices from about £25 a ton last autumn to £65 a ton. The increase was offset by the removal in stages of the Sugar Board surcharge. We were protected against changes in the world price by our fixed price contracts with the Commonwealth and South Africa.
Since the beginning of May, however, the world price of sugar has suddenly 554 spiralled up from £70 to £97 a ton today, a quite unprecedented and fantastic rise. This has naturally been reflected, although not yet fully reflected, in the price which our shops have to charge for sugar. At first these prices looked suspiciously like a speculative bubble which might burst, but now it looks as if the prices could well be maintained for a considerable period.
My right hon. Friend has naturally been considering urgently with the Sugar Board for the past fortnight the possible introduction of distribution payments, a kind of surcharge in reverse, so that our housewives can enjoy again the benefits of the price which is well below the present world price—under which we are buying most of our sugar under the Commonwealth and South African agreements. There are certain technical difficulties in the way which must be removed. This must take a little time, but we are satisfied that we can find a way round them. Unless the world price falls substantially, it is clear that we must soon introduce these distribution payments. My right hon. Friend will make an announcement to the House as soon as he can.
§ Mr. Noble
The retail price has been moving only recently because of the large stocks of sugar which were held.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who opened the debate for the Opposition, raised one or two points with which I shall deaf as quickly as I can. He felt it wrong for the Government to announce changes of policy "just like that". Perhaps he does not realise that the whole principle of agricultural stability rests on trying to maintain a consistent policy over as long a time as one can. This we have tried to do. It is true that my right hon. Friend, as he told the House in 1961, foresaw that this position could arise, but if, as soon as one foresees that a position may arise, one switches policy violently one way or another, then one 555 does exactly what the farming community has begged every Government of every sort to avoid.
I was amused when the hon. Member referred to our conversion to faith in the Commonwealth. I can think of other people who seem to have had a rather sudden conversion. He asked me specifically whether our policy was to switch money from deficiency payments into production grants. The position is reasonably clear—that the whole policy of production grants must be worked out in relation to specific items which we need to stimulate. For instance, later this evening we shall be talking about winter keep grants and grassland renovation grants. There is no fixed policy to increase or decrease production grants. They will be judged on their merits at the time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) made a very careful and thoughtful speech on lines which most of us in the Government expected him to follow, because the policy which the Government have announced today is one which my hon. Friend has been advocating for the last month or two. It is, therefore, not surprising that we expected him to be pleased about it. He asked me specifically whether I would confirm that the Government were retaining the principle of the 1947 and 1957 Acts, and I can give him that assurance. He asked whether the butter and cheese arrangements were satisfactory from the point of view of New Zealand and Denmark. At the G.A.T.T. meetings this week New Zealand asked for a group to be set up to consider dairy products. My right hon. Friend supported New Zealand in this request and this has been agreed.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I tried to discover by question from the Minister the other day whether anything had been done about the importation of pig meat from Denmark, because under agreement Denmark can export to this country any quantity.
§ Mr. Noble
My right hon. Friend, of whom the question was asked, tells me that we agreed with the Danes at the E.F.T.A. meeting that we should consult about this problem.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) talked about a great 556 many points. The main point which I wish to pick up was one mentioned also by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), the hon. Member for Aberavon and others about millions of people in the world who are starving. This is a problem which faces the world squarely. Half the world's population is undernourished. In its support of this scheme the N.F.U. is right, but for us, as the biggest food importing nation, it is a little odd to be talking about producing large surpluses to export to underdeveloped countries. It is a pity that during the course of the debate, when the point was made, insufficient was said about the tremendous amount of aid which we have given in the past to these countries not only in food but in technical advice and all forms of aid, which we are most able and ready to give in supporting a better standard of living in those countries, either by encouraging them to produce more food for themselves and giving them the know-how or by encouraging them, by building up their industries, to make the money to pay for food. This country has led the world in these ways for the last fifteen or twent years.
I need not mention the points he made about farm workers, because he was admirably answered by his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East. However, the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West made a point with which I entirely agree: that the farm workers have a very high reputation, not least because they have never taken part in strikes. One of the reasons for this has been the closer and better liaison that has existed between farm workers and employers, a much closer relationship than has existed in any other industry.
It was suggested that we should look for new markets as well as new marketing systems. We are always ready to do this and, although I do not see him in the Chamber at the moment, I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend who is the Chairman of the Livestock Export Group, which has made considerable strides in the last year. I would also like to congratulate a very distinguished Scottish market gardener who will be known to some of my Scottish hon. Friends and who has been doing a great deal of exporting to the Common Market countries over the tariff, showing what 557 a really go-ahead horticulturist can do in competition with countries to which we are so often said to be inferior in this field.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)
Order. If the Minister does not give way other hon. Members must not persist.
§ Mr. Noble
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) raised several points which have already been dealt with, but I agree with him that the farming community as a whole feels slighted by the fact that large subsidies are apparently paid to them, although the price of food continues to go up and they do not get any better off. I agree with him that the farming community does not want large subsidies on those terms.
I also agree with him that very few people understand the subsidy arrangements for pigs. It is unfortunate that as the farming community moves into more sophisticated forms of farming the language necessary both to make the facts clear and to be effective often gets more complicated. I am assured by my right hon. Friend that his Department is doing its best to make these instructions clearer and simpler; and I will certainly try to do the same from the Scottish Office.
The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen asked why we were waiting for the Verdon Smith Report and could we not just accept the Report of the Lucas Committee. I am sure that she realised that the Lucas Committee's Report, written in 1946 or 1947, was written 558 in very different world conditions from those we have today. Further, when we have set up a Committee to inquire into marketing, it would be the height of discourtesy to the Chairman and the Committee to announce a decision without waiting for that Report. It would also be stupid. Finally, if we were to try to tackle the problems now, as the hon. Lady asks, instead of waiting till the autumn, it would mean imposing something on both of the N.F.U.s, the trades, and all the others concerned. I do not think that she really meant us to do that.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, apart from giving us a picture of the Liberal Party's policy, attacked my right hon. Friend on the grounds that my right hon. Friend wanted this subsidy bill to be reduced—something that he neither said nor implied—and said that this was an oblique attack on farmers' prices. The hon. Member for Aberavon made it quite clear that my right hon. Friend had not talked about cutting prices, and that is so.
If members of the Liberal Party want to make an effective contribution to our debates, they might at least listen to the debates, and not come with their speeches prepared beforehand—[Interruption.] The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that the farmers should be protected from subsidised food from abroad. Indeed, the Liberal Party's policy has changed a little in the last few years. When he referred to parsimony, patrimony and matrimony as the three methods of obtaining credit in the farming world, I must say that the mention of matrimony made me think of the Liberal Party—
§ Mr. Hooson
Did not the Minister say that he wanted to reduce the subsidy bill and, at the same time, keep the price to consumers down? If so, is not the only third price in the triangle that paid to the farmer?
§ Mr. Noble
That involves several entirely different conceptions, and it is not even an accurate version of what my right hon. Friend said.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) suffered a little from the same complaint, if I may be so bold as to say so, and did not notice that the 559 wicket had changed a bit overnight. I hope that, as a bowler of some distinction, he appreciated the point.
I have already thanked the hon. Member for Enfield, East for dealing very successfully with the points made by his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West, but he also mentioned the problem, and it is a problem, of the number of holdings that have disappeared and the number of people who have gone out of agriculture. He said, rightly, that this had caused some hardship. It is inevitable, I am afraid—it has been inevitable in many other realms besides agriculture—that if we are to be efficient, and if we are to be more productive, as we have been for the last 15 years, there must be some amalgamation of holdings, and if profit is to be made there must be more mechanisation and less labour.
The hon. Gentleman also spoke about extra powers for the Potato Marketing Board. I am informed that the Board itself has never asked for the powers he referred to but, if it does, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will consider the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West, referred to an interview which I gave to the Scotsman. I am glad that he and I were roughly in agreement. He fat that management and marketing, as did the hon. Member for Aberavon, were two of the key points. My hon. Friend told us also how farmers in the past had been too conscious of their accounts to let anybody else see them. This is an attitude which we must dissipate as quickly as possible and until farmers are prepared to show their accounts to the appropriate advisory authority and get advice we have little chance of securing increased efficiency.
The Government feel, and I think that the party opposite feel to a considerable extent, that marketing systems should be encouraged by government but should be originated by the farmers themselves. The whole of the farming co-operative movement started from the industry, and the best of our marketing boards started
§ from within the industry. We feel that this is the right method. We are delighted to help, encourage or advise on any of the problems involved as they come up. I hope that the National Farmers' Union will be able to think out ideas for marketing which will be successful and which will achieve the sort of results that I think we all want to arrive at.
§ The hon. Member for Leith asked about the potato problem. This year, as he probably knows, the price of potatoes is already falling, and I think that I can reasonably safely give him an assurance that the price will not rise again. As for next year, the Price Review has specifically added an extra 10s. to encourage rather more acreage and that should help the position. The hon. Member spoke about the standard quantities, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark). These are things which the Government must consider carefully in the next months with the N.F.U.s. It is a machinery point but it must be carefully considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North, also referred to the price of feedingstuffs. This is important to the farmers in his area and I appreciate his point.
§ I feel that the important thing in the debate is that it has been made abundantly clear that there is growth available for the home farmers if they are prepared to take the opportunity to get it. Ours is not a restrictive policy. I believe that what my right hon. Friend has said will have removed the anxieties which the industry has had over the problems of imports. I believe that the farming industry in Great Britain is as efficient as any in the world and that from today farmers will have the confidence to go forward and plan their arrangements sensibly.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 173, Noes 232.563
|Abse Leo||Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Ballenger, Rt. Hon F, J|
|Airtsley, William||Bacon, Miss Allce||Bence, Cyril|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Beaney, Alan||Blackburn, F|
|Blyton, William||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pentland, Norman|
|Boardman, H.||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hilton, A. V.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Holman, Percy||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bowles, Frank||Hooson, H. E.||Probert, Arthur|
|Boyden, James||Houghton, Douglas||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Randall, Harry|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hoy, James H.||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reid, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Callaghan, James||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Roberta, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Chapman, Donald||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Janner, Sir Barnett||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Collick, Percy||Jeger, George||Ross, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Short, Edward|
|Cronin, John||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||Kelley, Richard||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kenyon, Clifford||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Dalyell, Tam||King, Dr. Horace||Small, William|
|Darling, George||Lawson, George||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Deer, George||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Steele, Thomas|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stonehouse, John|
|Dempsey, dames||Lubbock, Eric||Stones, William|
|Diamond, John||McBride, N.||Taverne, D.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||MacColl, James||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacDermot, Niall||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McInnes, James||Thornton, Ernest|
|Fernyhough, E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Finch, Harold||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Timmons, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McLeavy, Frank||Tomney, Frank|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Manuel, Archie||Wade, Donald|
|Forman, J. C.||Mason, Roy||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Millan, Bruce||Watkins, Tudor|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Milne, Edward||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|George,LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn)||Mitchison, G. R,||Wigg, George|
|Ginsburg, David||Moody, A. S.||Wilkins, W. A,|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morris, John||Willey Frederick|
|Gordon, Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moyle, Arthur||, Williams, D J. (Neath)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Neal, Harold||Williams, LI (Abertillery)|
|Grey, Charles||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Williams W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||O'Malley, B. K.||Wilson, Rt. Hon Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oram, A. E.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Paget, R. T.||Woof, Robert|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parker, John||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hannan, William||Parkin, B. T.|
|Harper, Joseph||Pavitt, Laurence||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||. Charles A. Howell and|
|Healey Denis;||Peart, Frederick||Mr. McCann.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Dance, James|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Buck, Anthony||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Allason, James||Bullard, Denys||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Burden, F. A.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Doughty, Charles|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Drayson, G, B.|
|Balnlel, Lord||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cary, Sir Robert||Emery, Peter|
|Barter, John||Channon, H. P. G.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Clark, William (Nottingham, s.)||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Cole, Norman||Farr, John|
|Biffen, John||Cooke, Robert||Fell, Anthony|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cooper, A. E.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Foster, John|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(Stafford&Stone)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, F. V.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Costain, A. P.||Freeth, Denzil|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Coulson, Michael||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Gammans, Lady|
|Box, Donald||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gardner, Edward|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)|
|Braine, Bernard||Crowder, F. P.||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Brewis, John||Cunningham, Knox||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)|
|Bromley-Davertport,Lt.-Col,SirWalter||Currie, G. B. H.||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)|
|Brooman-White, R.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Goodhew, Victor|
|Gough, Frederick||Longden, Gilbert||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Gower, Raymond||Loveys, Walter H.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Grant-Ferris, Rt.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Roots, William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grosvenor, Rt.-Col. R. G.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Gurden, Harold||MacArthur, Ian||Seymour, Leslie|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaren, Martin||Sharpies, Richard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McLoughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Shaw, M.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Smithers, Peter|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maddan, Martin||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maginnis, John E.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maitland, Sir John||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hay, John||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mawby, Ray||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hiley, Joseph||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Mills, Stratton||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side|
|Hobson, Sir John||Miscamphell, Norman||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, t|
|Hocking, Philip N.||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Holland, Philip||Morrison, John||Temple, John M.|
|Hollingworth, John||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Heave, Airey||Thompson,SirRichard(Croydon,S.)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Howard, Hon. G. It. (St. Ives)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Turner, Colin|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir Jo|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|James, David||Partridge, E.||Walder, David|
|Jennings, J. C.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Percival, Ian||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Wall, Patrick|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wells John (Maidstone)|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Whitelaw, William|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pitkington, Sir Richard||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pitt, Dame Edith||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Kimball, Marcus||pott, Percival)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Kirk, Peter||Pitman, Sir James||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Powell, Rt. Hon, J. Enoch||Wise, A. R.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Prior, J. M. L.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Woollam, John|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Worsley, Marcus|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||TELLERS FOR THE NOES,|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Rees, Hugh||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Longbottom, Charles||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Mr. J. E. B Hill|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.