§ LORD TEVIOT rose to call attention to the present agricultural policy of His Majesty's Government, especially in regard 565 to the best treatment of the land in order to produce the maximum quantity of healthy food, and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Woolton has asked me to apologise to your Lordships for his non-attendance here to-day, as he feels that in view of the terms of my Motion he should have been here. Circumstances have arisen which have prevented him from doing so, and he has asked me to say that he will take an early opportunity of answering any questions arising out of the debate which relate to his Ministry.
§ The whole question with regard to our agricultural policy seems to be whether we are going to have a long or a short war. If we art; going to have a short war, and the Government are legislating as regards agriculture with that prospect in view, then I am bound to say I have very little to say; but I feel that it is not wise for us to gamble on that. This year the two million acres that were ordered to be ploughed up by Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith will be producing their second crop. What of the future with regard to the fertilization of that land? We know that the animal population of the whole country has been reduced, and still is, owing to force of circumstances, being reduced, resulting in an equivalent reduction in that very valuable fertilizer that comes from the animal. How do we propose to fertilize these extra two million acres, plus what has been ploughed up since, let alone the normal arable land of this country, without endangering the humus which is so important in producing healthy crops? We know how dangerous an overdose of artificial fertilizer is to the land and its future. This question has been, and is, exercising the minds of cultivators all over the country. Looking at it from a logical viewpoint, it would appear that there will be less food produced in 1942 and 1943 if the present agricultural policy is pursued. It is really a question of retaining the fertility of the land, and this is, and must be, of paramount importance to all of us in view of the, as yet, undecided result of the Battle of the Atlantic.
§ Farmers really do not know where they stand. Orders and restrictions were issued—I think they were beginning in 1939—and then came the knock-out blow in April of the present year, when 100 per cent. of the wheat was required to be sold 566 to the Government for human consumption. The farmer, therefore, is unable to retain crops, wheat in particular, in order to feed the pigs and poultry through which he is able to maintain, in a great many parts of the country, the fertility of his land. In the last few weeks, when visiting various farms, I have found that crops which have been properly fertilized are looking very well indeed, but that there are other crops which, through want of animal fertilizing, look a bad colour and will undoubtedly show a very small return. In regard to the former—the crops which have been property fertilized—in the particular area which I have in mind there is undoubtedly going to be, with respect to wheat, a return of fifty bushels per acre and upwards. But in regard to the rest of this land, it is already beginning to show the defects arising from the want of animal fertilizing, and we shall be very lucky if fifteen to twenty bushels per acre come from it. I fully appreciate the anxiety of the Minister of Food to keep a full larder. But we must realise that if, as a consequence, the land is unduly strained, he will find this task increasingly difficult to carry out. I would seriously suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture should determine what amount is available for the Ministry of Food to distribute. Only the agriculturist can know what he can take out of his land without reducing his future crops, and he must, if he is to go on producing, keep his land in good heart.
§ I should like to dwell for a moment on the treatment of the soil. This, of course, is very familiar to many of your Lordships. To put it baldly, if the humus is to remain healthy and full of life it must have animal fertilizing. At present it seems to us in the agricultural world that this question has been forgotten. Nothing can take the place of organic manure, balanced, of course, according to the land, with a certain amount of artificials of various kinds. It appears that the Government take the view that if animals are fed with food that can be used for human beings, it is a waste. I am absolutely certain from what I have seen and from what I know that that is a fallacy. If you feed a certain percentage of what you grow through your animals back into the land you will obtain far bigger crops and produce far more human food than you do by reducing the number of your 567 animals, which is now being done. I suggest that it is advisable, and even necessary, to permit farmers to exercise discretion in retaining a sufficient amount of the crops which they grow in order to continue the present and the future productivity of their land.
§ Let me give as an instance the case of a farm which I know intimately. In 1940 this farm produced 942 cwt. of pig meat, 200 cwt. of eggs and poultry, 11,000 odd cwt. of corn and 1,600 odd cwt. of dry grass meal, a total of 14,000 cwt. This will probably be maintained this year as far as cereals are concerned, but next year, owing to the various Orders and restrictions, there is no doubt in my mind from what I have seen with my own eyes that there will be a reduction, and I am afraid quite a large reduction, in what is produced on that farm. At the beginning of the war the particular farmer concerned had eighty-five breeding sows; he now has only twenty-five, simply because he cannot do what he likes. His poultry have also been reduced by at least two-thirds. If he had had his own way, he would have one hundred breeding sows now, and an equivalent increase in the poultry. He would not have asked the Government to risk a ship or a man in order to bring feeding-stuffs to this country. Now there is this final blow, that he is to sell for human food 100 per cent. of his wheat. The land of which I am speaking is poor land, land which can be hired at about 10s. an acre, but it is capable of producing magnificent crops, entirely by folded pigs and folded poultry. It is a curious thing that the poultry seem to beat the pigs; the poultry seem to succeed on this land slightly better than the pigs.
There is a very serious provision in this recent Order with regard to that, however. Those who have been interested in raising poultry will know that unless they are given at least 10 per cent. of their ration in whole wheat the mortality amongst them is very serious indeed. The fact is that it is necessary to put back into the soil through the animals on it some of the food which is grown on the farm; if not, the humus dies sooner or later, for it cannot live on artificials, as was shown by the Woburn trials, which brought out this point very clearly indeed. What do you get if the humus goes? Poor, diseased crops,
serious mortality among the animals and eventually the danger of erosion, of which the world has now plenty of experience. Land is like a man. If you are going to work a man hard you must feed him well, and you must occasionally give him periods of rest. He can carry on on artificials with the assistance of the bottle in some cases, but he does not last very long, and then, when the deterioration begins it is very rapid. A friend of mine puts it very cogently in a letter I have received from him. He says:
To my mind the application of too much inorganic artificials at regular intervals has just the same effect as 'dope' has if taken regularly by the individual.
When one goes into that question one finds that it is absolutely true, and this letter is written by a man of great experience. I stress the pig and the poultry because they are very prolific and their fertilizing is very valuable.
§ We in this country are rooted in this soil. For our own health and salvation we must treasure and preserve it, and see that it has no overstrain. We all know what overstrain means. We see evidence of it to-day in many walks of life. The soil of our country is our greatest heritage. Through that soil, as we all know, we have become the stud farm of the world. Where is it that the foreigner comes when he wants a pedigree animal? He comes here. Let us not jeopardise that great position at which we have arrived. We know of the Battle of the Atlantic. We know of the Battle of Britain, and we know of those great battles which are being fought by our Armies to-day. This is going to be a great battle, and it is a simple one. It is going to be a great battle for us to retain the fertility of the soil of our country. I welcome whole-heartedly the appointment of the Agricultural Improvement Council, and particularly its terms of reference where it is to advise from time to time concerning agricultural problems which appear to require scientific investigation. I have tried to give a general picture of the position as far as I see it. One could, of course, go into much more detail and be far more technical, but I am not without hope that, as the result of this debate, the Ministries concerned will perhaps call some of us in for consultation on this subject. I beg to move for Papers.569
§ VISCOUNT DAWSON OF PENN
My Lords, although it falls to me to follow my noble friend opposite on. this question, I do not mean to convey that I am in any way competent to follow him on this abstruse question of the fertility of the soil. I do so rather for this reason. The subject of agricultural production has various aspects, and certain aspects are made the more important by the fact that the country is at war. If my song is different to his, it is because it seems to be desirable that two aspects of this question, not necessarily opposed, should be before your Lordships prior to what will, no double, be a valuable discussion. My song is milk and the production of milk, a matter that presents an anxious problem at the present moment. Last February there was a debate in your Lordships' House on the subject of food on the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. That discussion ended with a notable; speech by the noble Lord the Minister of Food. After a lapse of nearly six months; it would seem to be proper that we should pass the food question in review. We should have had an opportunity of doing that because, originally, there were to be two discussions this afternoon which would have included both the question of agriculture and the question of food; but, in the unavoidable absence of the: Minister of Food, my noble friend Lord Davies is postponing his Motion, and I hope that the postponement will be for a few days only. For that reason I shall confine myself to the question of the production of milk and its present great importance.
On the one hand there has been, and is, an increasing consumption of milk in this country, but unfortunately that increased consumption exists side by side with decreasing production. The Minister of Food gave the measure of the increasing consumption of milk in this country by stating that the consumption of milk by the population as a whole had, last February, increased by 5,000,000 gallons a month, and the consumption of milk by people who had prior needs had then reached the large amount of 10,000,000 gallons per month. At present it would probably be true to say that at no time has this country consumed so much milk as it is consuming to-day. On that I venture to offer this opinion, with some confidence, that the present consumption 570 of milk is contributing in no small measure to the good health of the people of the present day, notwithstanding the rationing of staple foods and the inevitable wear and tear of the times.
Now I pass to decreasing production. The Minister of Food stated last March that production of milk in this country had been falling since 1939, and was still falling. As recently as June 11 of this year a disturbing statement was made by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Food who, when asked if one pint of milk daily could be provided for children under sixteen and half a pint for adults, had to reply that such suggested allowances of milk in the winter would be 50 per cent. in excess of the total production of the country. Further than that, in a recent article in a technical journal, it was stated that a reduction of even 12 per cent. in the production of milk would disable us from meeting the needed requirements of the population in the coming winter. Now in contrast with that, although the Germans have talked very big about guns and butter, it is to be noted that we do not grumble much about butter. Does not the available evidence show that the production of liquid milk in Germany increased from 1939 to 1940, and further increased in the early months of this year? No doubt the Ministry of Agriculture can confirm or deny that statement. I would, with respect, suggest that the Government should inquire into this matter, for it is a question that affects, at any rate, His Majesty's Government, and I think it is a question of fact which, I hope, can be given quite freely to your Lordships' House.
The problem of the milk production is concerned with winter feeding. After the vegetables and potatoes and leguminous foods that are needed for consumption by the human being direct, the next claim on home-grown food should be that of the dairy herd. Before the war we were importing 6,500,000 tons of cereals from other countries each year for our stock. This importation has had to be seriously curtailed, for reasons we all know. The Minister of Agriculture has put forth great efforts, which show an increase in the home-grown food that is available. I take it that that is why the grasslands are, to some extent, being ploughed up and also why there is an urgent campaign 571 for the further adoption of scientific methods. High authority holds that of the 15,750,000 acres of permanent grass in England and Wales no less than 9,000,000 of those acres should be ploughed up for a space of two or three years, and we are told that if that were done we should, in a very short time, receive from the special crops sown upon that land far more food for our animals, and possibly even for ourselves, than if the whole of that acreage were left permanently to grass. I am not in a position to judge that question, but as an outsider reading the evidence I would have said that there is a strong case for considerable ploughing up of permanent grassland, step by step no doubt.
This policy has been pursued energetically by the Ministry of Agriculture this year, but it is obvious that its fruition, even if it is to produce what is hoped for, must be a gradual process, so that the replacement of imported cereals by home production can, for the purposes of next winter at any rate, only be partial. I would point out to my noble friend opposite that, although he may be right in the long view that he takes, we have constantly to keep before ourselves that we have to feed this country during the war, and in order to feed our people I think, although we are not justified in spoiling the land, we are justified in straining the land if such temporary strain will help us in. providing the essential nourishment for our people so as to maintain the present standard of living. It follows, then, that if milk production is to be maintained in this coming winter, dairy cattle must have priority of home-grown food beyond such food as is required for direct human consumption, and that the balance of nourishment needed above and beyond what home production can give must be obtained by giving the dairy cattle priority in the consumption of imported foodstuffs.
If we cannot do something to make good the diminished production of milk the only alternative I can see to giving priority, and real priority, to dairy herds is to reduce the consumption of milk in this country, and that leads me to ask for the consideration of what that would mean in the health of our people. I would put forward the view that any material reduction 572 of milk for the consumption of the people during the coming winter would inevitably entail risks, and might easily be fraught with danger. Milk is a complete and unique food. It must stand alone in all matters connected with the nourishment of the people. It contains proteins, it contains sugar, it contains fats, it contains the necessary vitamins to activate those substances. Equally important, it contains those essential minerals, calcium, phosphorus and iron, and not only contains them but contains them in a strikingly assimilable form which increase their value as nourishment. You can curtail meat within reason, you can even curtail that almost essential food cheese; you can, in short, ration even imported food provided you do not tamper with your milk supply. Milk is the keystone of the nutrition problem, and you cannot interfere with that keystone without injuring the whole fabric.
It is not too much to say that the production of milk should be rated as of equal importance with munitions, and if it is necessary to import food for the purpose of producing milk, then that should be done. It might be said that if you reduced the consumption of milk you could still secure the milk required, for example, by expectant and nursing mothers, young children, and the infirm, and that you might concentrate your reduction in the consumption of milk among the adult population. I think that can only be done with considerable danger and considerable risk, for after all, from the war point of view, what we are most concerned with is the working adult population, the war workers, and most people are war workers in these days. It is those people who are contributing to the war effort and their health and stamina are a national asset which should be maintained. Let there be no mistake about it, with the present rationing of foods, milk contributes more remarkably to the maintenance of the present state of efficiency of those people than anything else. And this is doubly true of that large body of sedentary workers, with their long hours and, in the winter months, the fatigue and harassing effects of getting to and from their homes. Many of these people, when they get home, are not in a mood to eat ordinary food. They are tired, their digestions are at fault, and if they are given ordinary food, 573 in many instances it will do them little good. That is where the value of milk in the lighter foods comes in, and that is one of the reasons why we cannot afford to reduce the amount.
It is well known that in many people stress and anxiety are apt to produce digestive disorders. They carry on, but unless they are carefully fed their ailments will become illness, and illness means incapacity, and incapacity means a weakening of the war effort. If we want to prevent illness and maintain the standard of the people, which we all admit is of prime: importance for the war effort, what is the solution? Clearly, milk is the answer, not only for its own sake, but also because of the essential part that milk takes in a great many of the lighter foods. We were fortunate last winter in the small amount of epidemic illness which invaded this country. We cannot be sure that we shall be equally fortunate this winter. The noble Lord, the Minister of Food, was right when he stated in this Horse that we: must maintain our dairy herds at almost any cost. Dairy herds are at the present time being reduced in numbers. I would like to ask this question of the noble Duke who will reply to the debate: Is this reduction being limited to poor milk supply? It would be reassuring if the noble Duke could answer that question in the affirmative. It is surely plain that a cow which only produces, say, two gallons of milk against a normal quantity of five or six gallons, is an uneconomic proposition. Such animals, I have no doubt, would ultimately reach the butcher.
Apart from the health effect of milk, it must be borne in mind that the bullock in its production of beef is a far less economic animal than the cow in the production of milk. If you take a ton of feeding-stuff and give it to bullocks, and take another ton and give it to cows, you will produce, as human food, more than twice the amount from the cows as milk as you will from the bullocks as beef. Beef will not: compare with milk in regard to its economic value. I am not saying that a certain amount of meat is not only desirable but necessary for the people, but one thing which the Minister of Food has taught this nation is that it has been eating a great deal more meat than is good for it and that it would be better off if it ate less. He has 574 converted the people to a more rational view of meat in their dietary, and to the eating of flesh foods to a less extent than formerly.
There is an uneasiness in people's minds that the Ministry has been hanging back on this question of reducing the bullock population. It must be borne in mind that as long as those bullocks exist they must be fattened, and fattening requires foodstuffs. I am well aware that the reduction of bullocks does reduce the means of fertilizing the soil, but I think the state of the war should lead us not to put too much stress upon that point, and it can be otherwise met. It would be interesting if the noble Duke could tell us to what extent the bullocks have already been reduced. We are given to understand that the dairy herds are being reduced to the extent of 5 per cent. We were also given to understand that bullocks would be reduced to a much higher extent. Perhaps he can tell us to what extent they have already been reduced and what further reductions are contemplated.
To sum up, if I may, my contentions would be these: Keep up milk production by giving first priority of home-grown food for your dairy herds, outside, of course, such home-grown food as is necessary for direct human consumption. Secondly, substantially reduce the bullocks for beef and seek the more economic milk. Give priority of imported foods to the dairy herds; and, in my submission, the second on the priority list for food would be eggs rather than beef. If, with all these efforts, the milk production still threatens to be materially reduced, my suggestion is that powdered milk and powdered skim milk should be imported in such quantity as to maintain the milk production as it is at present. New Zealand, if I may say so, the founder of powdered-milk products, would, I am sure, come to our assistance; indeed, we had a statement by the Minister of Health that he was taking steps even some months ago to lay in a large store of powdered milk. Incidentally, I may perhaps say that powdered milk only contains two per cent. of water, whereas a bullock contains 60 per cent. of water and 20 per cent. of inedible food. I would not for a moment substitute powdered milk for liquid milk without first having taken all the measures I have suggested, but I submit that if necessary 575 enough powdered milk should be introduced to carry on through the coming winter. Given adequate reduction in the number of bullocks, and if we do not have a repetition of the drought which we had last winter, I hope every effort of which we are capable will be made to avoid the rationing of milk with its great attendant evil.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I would like to associate myself with the two noble Lords who have already spoken in regretting that the Minister of Food could not be here to-day. My text has largely gone because I had prepared some material on the doings of the Ministry of Food. In particular, I had intended to talk about eggs and milk and certain other exploits of that Ministry which I think ought to come under review without delay. Therefore, I hope it will be possible for the noble Lord the Minister of Food to join in a discussion here very soon, perhaps on the Motion which my noble friend Lord Davies has on the Paper or on some other appropriate Motion. I am quite sure that it is of first importance that the relation of our food policy to agriculture should be under review regularly.
My noble friend who has just spoken championed milk. He has been a champion of milk for many years, and I am very glad that he intervened in this debate. I am sure that he is sorry, as I am sorry, that the Minister of Food is not here to-day, but I know that the Minister will take note of what the noble Viscount has said with the great responsibility which attaches to everything he does say on this subject. I will, therefore, defer what I had intended to say about milk until a later date, and will only say now that I give 100 per cent. support to what the noble Viscount has said as to the vital importance of milk as a food. I think he was perhaps unduly apprehensive as to the policy of the Ministry of Agriculture in this respect, because I know that they are insisting that the maintenance of milking herds is a first necessity. I believe that every county agricultural executive committee is fully alive to the importance of maintaining the milking herds. Although as you go about the country you find a few very select herds from which no animals ought to be taken out, if you regard the country as a whole I am sure that it is a very moderate statement to 576 say that 5 per cent. of the animals in the milking herds could be dispensed with without doing any harm to our milk production. Indeed there are herds in which animals of the class described by the noble Viscount number even more than 5 per cent. Discriminate culling of indifferent milking cows will be all to the good. It will leave more food for those that yield a good return.
The Minister of Agriculture, so far as one can judge from the instructions issued to county agricultural committees, is fully alive to the importance of maintaining our milk supplies, and I am sure that the importance of that cannot be exaggerated. I wish that the Ministry of Food would take the same view about eggs, but I will defer what I have to say about that. What we have to do in the next year or two is to produce as much food as possible for the people who eat it. It may even be necessary to capitalize some of the dormant fertility of the land in order to do that because it is this crisis that we have to get over. I should not be apprehensive as to the diminution of the beef-producing herds for the reasons already mentioned in this debate and for another reason which I will mention presently. I should like to say something in support of what has been said as to the results of the Orders of the Ministry of Food in reducing the poultry population, but that can well be deferred, although I would say in passing that I am glad the noble Viscount placed eggs so high in his category of valuable foods.
We have in the neglected grassland of this country a reserve of fertility which is almost of unaccountable dimensions. I think the noble Lord did not do justice to his subject in omitting reference to that. Millions of acres of poor grassland would be all the better for being ploughed. I saw last week a series of most interesting and valuable experiments carried on under the supervision of a young man from Sir George Stapledon's school. I would like to tell your Lordships of what I saw in one place. There were two fields, one worn-out arable and one worn-out grass. That is the only way to describe them. On the grass field there was indifferent herbage of a miserable kind which supported scanty herds; indeed, it was not worth calling herbage. Both those fields had been ploughed up and treated in 577 exactly the same way. With the oats that were sown there had also been sown a special seed mixture of clover and other grasses for the production of the necessary humus next year. The result of the experiment was really startling in demonstrating what can be produced if worn-out grassland is dealt with properly. There were crops showing splendid promise with a good growth of clover and other grasses among the spring corn. You will produce vastly more animal food from those fields in that way in one year than would be produced in five years, or even ten years, if they were left as they were before.
We have in this unused fertility an immensely valuable store which is only just beginning to be tapped. If the Minister perseveres, as I hope he will, in this policy of getting poor grassland ploughed up and properly treated, he will immeasurably increase the fertility of the land of this country. Therefore I do not feel a bit disheartened at the outlook. I think that what is happening is going to do a lot of good, because it is going to enable us to appreciate some of our splendid land much better than we have hitherto done. I will not continue the discussion any further except to say that I think the war is bringing home to us what many people have been saying for many years—that we have in the land of our country, if we use it, a food-producing potential far beyond anything that we have hitherto made use of. I hope sincerely that it will be possible for the different parties to arrive at some measure of agreement by which the valuable lessons which we are now learning will not be neglected later.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to my noble friend who has introduced this Motion, both for the Motion itself and for the very eloquent and interesting speech which he made. I am perfectly certain that every one of us will support his demand for the maintenance of the fertility of the soil. There cannot be any controversy about that. I venture to hope, and I believe, that in advocating the maintenance of the fertility of soil he is not saying anything with which the Ministry of Agriculture will disagree. I believe that the Ministry are very much alive to the necessity of doing what my noble friend has advocated. I believe, also, that the Ministry of Agriculture are 578 alive to another point on which we shall all agree—the necessity of protecting existing agricultural land from further depredations. I believe that the figures are very disturbing on that score. I have an idea that at the end of the last war there were something like 1,500,000 acres of really first-class agricultural land, land of the highest quality, and that of those acres a very large proportion—I think, if I recollect the figure aright, something in the neighbourhood of 200,000 acres—have disappeared since then, under buildings of one kind and another or have been lost in some other irretrievable way. At all events, whether those are the figures or not. protection of existing agricultural land from further loss is, in my submission, as important as protection of the fertility of the soil.
I believe that the Ministry of Agriculture are alive to that also, but if that be so I would like to ask the noble Duke who is going to reply what the Ministry are doing about it. Protection of agricultural land is a matter which does not lie in the hands of the Ministry alone. Quite obviously, it is a matter, firstly, for coordination with other Ministries, and secondly, for planning in its most vital sense. I would like to feel that the decision is imminent to establish some central planning authority which will look after that aspect of our agriculture as well as a great many other aspects of our national life. It seems to me to be absolute folly to go on without having regard to the rapidly diminishing quantity of our agricultural land. Factories are being set up here, there and everywhere, when in all probability if all the factors were competently examined it could have been found that equally good situations were available without the same loss of agricultural land. Those are two points with regard to which I am quite certain the Ministry of Agriculture arc, at all events, alive to what is desirable, however helpless they may be to secure all they want on the second count.
Passing from those two points we come, I think, into regions of controversy. It is obvious that there may be a distinction to be drawn between a war agricultural policy and a long-term agricultural policy. As has already been pointed out by noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, during a war you have to 579 produce the maximum amount of food, and there may well be differences of opinion as to the method by which the maximum is to be produced. I do not propose to go into that because I have not the knowledge with which to make any useful contribution to a discussion on such a subject.
There is, however, another aspect of this matter on which I think there will be dispute and which I would like to feel was receiving the attention of His Majesty's Government from the long-term point of view. I suppose that there has never been a time when one's postbag contained so many little pamphlets. Hardly a day passes in my experience—and no doubt the experience of other noble Lords is the same—without one getting little pamphlets, a large proportion of them about agriculture, all written from one particular point of view. I try to read as many of them as possible and I find them interesting. Some of them are better than others, and many of them are convincing from the point of view they set out to expound. But few take into account another, and different, point of view. Taking agriculture as a point of view, no agriculturist whose pamphlet I have yet read has taken any account of any claims of industry which may be in opposition to it. What strikes one is that sometimes people advocating one kind of agriculture or another forget that we have a great exporting industry to look after. In order to sell our exports we have to import. T do not desire to go into this question except to raise the point as to whether attention is being given to finding a via media, a summum bonum as between industry and agriculture. There must be a course which will produce the maximum of benefit. It is no use any single industry, whether a manufacturing industry or agriculture, hoping to get everything its own way. National necessity does demand a synthesis. I would like to know that a long-term synthesis is, even now, being thought out.
There is another synthesis which requires thinking out and that relates to the interests from the agricultural point of view of the Dominions and this country. New Zealand, as your Lordships know, is a very big exporter to this country of butter and cheese, and the point was 580 reached, not long before the war came to alter the situation, when it appeared to be becoming necessary to put some limit on the quantities of butter to be imported into this country from New Zealand. That is a thing which should be receiving intent study now with a view to the future. I am going to suggest that there is only one angle from which all these possibly conflicting interests can be synthesised and that is the angle of nutrition, which has been dealt with—and I was very glad to hear his contribution—by my noble friend Viscount Dawson of Penn. If we take nutrition as the starting point, it seems to me that it will give us the hope of finding the best possible outlook from all these different points of view and will be an extraordinarily good angle from which to study these matters in the postwar world.
We are going to face a very difficult situation in the post-war world, and a great many countries are going to be starved of essential foodstuffs. It may be useful to have a subject on which all the different countries can come together and seek to find some mutual interest. Germany and other countries which have been under the heel of Germany may be starving, and this may be an extremely useful point from which to re-start international relations. I hope that even in the midst of the struggle to win the war—and that must come first—these questions of long-term policy are not being overlooked, because unless we are ready to deal with them immediately after the war we shall find that our victory may not give us the fruits for which we all hope.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I should like first of all to associate myself with other noble Lords who have spoken in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for putting down this Motion, and also for the extraordinarily interesting and important speech which he delivered on the subject. Other noble Lords have followed, and the subject has been treated from a number of different aspects; but there is one current which seems to run through the whole of this discussion, and it is that most of us feel that, while we are primarily concerned at the moment with growing more food in order to help us through the immediate war situation, nevertheless it is going to be very difficult to do so unless we take into account the 581 fact that nothing responds so unsatisfactorily to short-term policies as the land of this country.
There were two points in particular which seemed to worry the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, and the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn. To some extent they were the same point, but each noble Lord approached the matter from a different aspect. The question is that of the slaughter of stock. The noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, was mainly concerned with the loss of dairy herds, while the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, thought of the subject more in terms of those animals on which the fertility of the land depends. It has now been announced that there is no intention to slaughter stock at the moment, apart from the scheme for disposing of bad and diseased cattle; and I was very pleased to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, associate himself with others in saying that, provided that restriction were maintained, the step would be a wise one. There is no doubt that there are, unfortunately, large numbers of cattle at the present moment which are doing very little but, in the words of an old farmer, "growing older," and the sooner the country is rid of those cattle and not wasting good food and money on them, the better it will be for the farmers and for the country as a whole. Far from reducing the supply of milk, I think that the slaughter of these bad dairy cattle may tend rather to enable us to make the most of our available feeding-stuffs, because there is no doubt that feeding-stuffs fed to these cattle are wasted.
Many of us have been surprised to find that the farmers who took the Minister's advice and looked ahead and grew feeding-stuffs for their cattle have not in fact lost milk; their cattle, they say, are milking better and looking better because of the freshness of their food. It is the farmers who did not take the advice given so strongly by the Minister who have suffered. I remember that when the present Minister first took office he was criticised for seeming to exaggerate the seriousness of the feeding-stuff position by the warning which he gave to farmers; but since then he has proved to have been optimistic rather than pessimistic. His problem has always been to make the most of our available feeding-stuffs in order to save as many cattle as possible, 582 both on the fattening side and on the dairy side, while, as the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, said, rightly giving priority to milk production.
This debate is really concerned with the fertility of our land and the need to safeguard that fertility in order to enable us to face a long war. There can be no one solution for a problem of that character, in view of the varieties of farming, the varieties of land and the varieties of climate in this country. The hill sheep farmer of the Borders and the market gardener of Kent are dealing with circumstances as different as those of the iron and steel industry and the coal industry. It is impossible to generalise, but there may be certain general principles which it is worth attempting to lay down, and we must try to do so, because this problem is quite fundamental. It cannot be settled in terms of artificial fertilizers alone or of organic fertilizers alone. The fact is that at the present moment it is a waste of time to discuss whether artificials or organic fertilizers are better, for the simple reason that if we are going to get through this war and feed ourselves we are going to need every kind of fertilizer that we can possibly have.
The Minister, by almost superhuman drive and energy, has managed to increase the supply of artificials very considerably; I think that he is providing us with nearly double the nitrogen that we had before the war and just under double the amount of phosphates. He would probably be the first to admit, however, that what he has managed to do has not been sufficient for our needs. We therefore come back to the point which was made by the noble Lord who initiated this debate. Assuming, as it is right to assume, that we shall almost certainly have to face a long war, and that this problem of fertility is fundamental, assuming that we are going to need all the fertility that we can get, assuming that we have all the artificial fertilizers that it is possible to obtain, and that still the supply is not enough, what are we going to be able to do for ourselves on the farms of this country? I think that the value of this debate is that your Lordships' House provides a platform from which to speak to the agricultural community. This debate is not merely a question of pressing the Ministry of doing more of this or more of that, it is a question of getting more 583 ideas across to the whole agricultural community.
There are a number of things we can do on the farms for ourselves. The first thing we have to get across to farmers is that they must in future both conserve and increase all the available supplies of farmyard manure. At the present moment there is no question that frequently on the farms our methods of using and handling farmyard manure are wasteful. To some extent that is unavoidable, but to a great extent it is not. In recent years a wasteful method has grown up of wintering out our stock. That is wasteful because the stock, if kept in yards or sheds, could be making fertility, making farmyard manure. They would be eating less if kept warm and and dry, and they would not be treading in the spring grass or the ditches. The Minister has already reminded committees that they have a right to tell farmers to keep their stock in. Whether they utilize that power in terms of compulsion or by way of advice is for them to decide, but I know that some committees are writing round to farmers warning them to look to their sheds and yards now in order to bring them into repair if necessary so that they can be used during the winter months. We burn a great deal of old straw now. We ought to use more as litter. Some farmers, particularly in large arable areas, who keep a number of bullocks, tell me they are now putting four and five times as much straw under their cattle as they did before.
All these may seem to be technical details, but it does seem to me that we have no right as a farming community to demand, as we have done, that we should be allowed to keep our stock in order to maintain fertility unless we are going to make use of that stock in the best way possible for increasing fertility. Lord Addison has also mentioned the question of extending the folding of sheep. I agree that grass sheep are inefficient producers in terms of war economy, but a great number of our so-called grass breeds of sheep are perfectly all right for folding, and farmers should be encouraged, particularly in view of the present sheep prices, to increase the use they make of the fold.
Finally—and the noble Lord, Lord Addison, also mentioned this point—it is 584 not necessary to think of this problem in terms of going on thrashing crops out of the same land again and again. We have got almost unlimited acres of land not yet ploughed, and there is no question that a great deal of the land that was arable before the war needs to be laid down. There is no doubt that a great deal of the land, mainly because of twenty years of depression and therefore of neglect, is in a very poor state of fertility, and we should be wrong to take more than one or at most two crops out of that land before sowing it down. In this land which we have not yet ploughed the mat or top sod which we turn over when we plough is a great reserve of fertility, and we are entitled to draw upon it because at the present moment it is sour and not available; but when we plough it over it turns into fertility. If we crop that land, it is going to increase food production, and when we lay it down it will give us a greater amount of pasture. We should actually be building up its fertility provided we did not farm it out.
The Ministry of Agriculture in some of their literature have been talking of ploughing round the farm, and there has been talk of alternate husbandry. When we talk of these things we tend to regard them as a revolution whereas, in fact, in the part of the country from which Lord Teviot comes it is one of the oldest systems of farming in existence. All that it means is that we should give up this distinction we have been playing with of drawing a line between the arable portion of a farm and the grass portion, and in future say that high-yielding temporary grasses have to take their turn in the general rotation of the farm. The advantage of that system from the point of view we are discussing is that if we lay down the arable land with temporary clover we give the land a rest, we restore its fertility, we grow more grass for our stock, and we maintain our head of stock, which, in turn, contribute to the fertility of the land.
Therefore, if I may sum up briefly, we should do our utmost to maintain our stock. We should do our utmost to see that we make the most of our farmyard manure, and make more of it. We should see to it that we develop as far as we can arable sheep farms; and, finally, we should continue with our ploughing-up policy and increase fertility in the matter of permanent pasture. If we pursue that 585 policy we shall increase food for human consumption, we shall increase rather than decrease the fertility of the soil, always remembering that the soil is very like the supply of human energy—namely, the more we make use of it, providing we use it wisely and intelligently, the greater its store of vitality.
My Lords, I join in thanking my noble friend Lord Teviot for giving us an opportunity for discussing this all-important problem, and for his admirable speech. I do not wish to repeat the things which have already been said so truly. There is a very general agreement in the speeches to which we have listened. The noble Earl who has just spoken has achieved a very brilliant synthesis between the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, and the Government's policy. There is no real difference of opinion as to what the proper war policy is. We are committed to this ploughing-up policy, which is certainly the right national policy. It is undoubtedly right to grow as much of our own cattle food as possible, and, while doing that, we have got to maintain the fertility of the soil. I do not think there is any serious criticism against the policy of the Minister of Agriculture. The only criticism one does hear is that sometimes these Orders and edicts from Whitehall are applied in local circumstances where they arc altogether unsuitable. I do hope the Minister in framing his edicts will always, give as much latitude as possible to the county war agricultural committees and the men on the spot because, as the noble Earl who has just spoken has remarked, the diversity of conditions in British agriculture is so immense that it is extraordinarily difficult to dogmatise from Whitehall or from anywhere else about them.
I have not risen to discuss these technical points on which there is so much agreement. I have risen rather to support my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, in pleading for an agreed postwar policy. I do so for this reason, that I am quite sure one of the most important factors that is militating against the maximum food production at this moment is the feeling of insecurity which still haunts the minds of farmers. It is an immensely important point. With the best will in the world, with the utmost 586 patriotism, these men cannot help remembering what happened to them after the last war when many of them were ruined, and many more were so crippled financially that not only has their land suffered in its cultivation, as has been pointed out this afternoon, but the advent of this war found them financially weaker than they ought to be in order to rise to the great opportunity of increased food production. I am aware that it is possible for a farmer now to get very generous credit facilities, that the Government are ready to help him with loans, and that banks have come forward and played their part in assisting farmers financially. But no prudent or wise, or honest man will incur expenditure which he does not see his way ultimately to pay back. The point I wish to make is that if we can get an agreed agricultural policy which will give the farmers of this country a sense of security, then that must inevitably increase the food production in this present time of national crisis. Therefore I want to support the appeal made by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh.
I would like to make an appeal to noble Lords opposite. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Addison is not present at this moment, because I know he would give a generous response to such an appeal. He and I have collaborated together in agricultural matters in the past, and I am asking: Is it not possible that those of us who know a little about agriculture, who care about agriculture, and who represent different schools of political thought, should come together and arrive at an agreed policy which will commend itself to the nation as a whole, so that there shall no longer be disputes about agricultural policy any more than there are disputes nowadays about gas policy or electricity policy? Really, cannot we approach the subject from a scientific point of view? My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh has pointed out one line of approach which certainly would have to be taken into consideration. He has suggested that we must consult the industrialists of this country and the Dominions, we must achieve a synthesis between what is grown at home and what is imported from abroad and from the Empire. There are other approaches that can be made to the problem.
587 I would like to suggest to my noble friend this approach. I would like to look at the problem from the point of view of man-power and national security. Let us ask ourselves, how many men do the security and the health of the nation require to be on the land? Having arrived at that figure, then let us decide what is a fair wage for the agricultural worker who, I venture to say, is just as much entitled to a good wage as any artisan in any town, for he is the most skilled artisan in the country. There is no insurmountable difficulty in ascertaining what prices you have to secure to agriculture to enable these wages to be paid to that number of men. I am suggesting that the whole subject should be approached from that scientific basis. I would like to make an appeal to agriculturists of the Liberal Party and of the Socialist Party and to the industrialists of this country and the representatives of our great Dominions on these lines. Can they not come together in some small conference—because the fewer the number attending the conference the more likely we are to get speedy and valuable results—and lift the whole of this agricultural problem right above the level of Party politics, so that there can be an agreed purpose for the whole nation after the war as to what we are going to do with our land? If that can be achieved, I venture to believe that it is not only going to help food production in war-time enormously, but it is also going to bring great benefit to this country in the generation which is to follow us.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, I do not propose to follow previous speakers in this debate. We have listened to very able speeches upon the subject of producing our supply of food, but the point I should like specially to direct your Lordships' attention to is the production and collection and sale of vegetables. A few weeks ago we had a discussion in this House on the question of food supplies, and I raised the question as to whether the Minister of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture were in agreement with regard to the steps to be taken for increasing the production of vegetables, especially in private gardens and allotments. It was then suggested to me that this matter should be raised on another occasion, and that is my reason for bringing it forward to-day.
588 Two weeks ago there appeared a letter in The Times written by Professor Orwin, of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Oxford, and Chairman of the Oxfordshire Garden Produce Committee. In this letter he complained of two things. He said:On November 9 last you published a letter from me drawing attention to the organisation of county garden produce committees under a scheme inaugurated by the Ministries of Food and of Agriculture. Their purpose was to increase the production of non-perishable vegetables in private gardens and allotments, and to arrange for collection and marketing. Recently the responsibility for the work of these county garden produce committees has been transferred entirely to the Ministry of Agriculture, and the policy of the scheme has been modified. The Secretary of the Ministry has informed my committee that: 'it is not the Minister's policy to stimulate the production in private gardens and allotments of surplus vegetables for sale.' While this change of policy may cause some disappointment, and even disorganisation, in those counties where active steps have been taken already to procure a marketable surplus of non-perishable vegetables from private gardens, it is satisfactory to know that the food situation is so well in hand that this is no longer necessary.That appears to raise two questions. In the first place, may I ask the noble Duke why it is that the partnership which apparently existed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food has apparently now been dissolved? When these committees were first constituted they were placed under the control of a joint committee, at least under the joint supervision of the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. One gathers from this letter that they are now entirely under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture. In these days when the closest collaboration between Departments is essential, one would have hoped that they would still have remained under the joint supervision of both Departments. It may be said that that letter did not quote in full the circular from the Ministry, and that the complaint is one which does not appear from the context of the letter. I do not think that that charge would be at all justified, because the letter from the Ministry to the committees certainly gave them the impression that the original policy of increased production was not now the policy of the Ministry.
Here is what the letter says—this was written on the 19th April, 1941—I am directed to refer to your letter of 2nd April, and to say that the progress report 589 of the Oxfordshire Garden Produce Committee for the period July, 194O, to April, 1941, has been read with much interest. As you are aware, the policy of the Minister is to secure the orderly cropping of gardens and allotments on the lines indicated in Dig for Victory Leaflet No. 1, rather than to encourage the indiscriminate production of surplus vegetables which may fail to secure an effective outlet. It is not the Minister's policy to stimulate the production in private gardens and allotments of surplus vegetables for sale. …As I have said, that is the complaint which was made in regard to Professor Orwin's letter which appeared in The Times. From the full context of the letter it is quite clear that the Ministry intended apparently to discourage the production of vegetables. In June, 1940, when the circular was first issued, all these committees and other organisations engaged in stimulating production were encouraged to do so, and I should like the noble Duke to tell us why they are now apparently discouraged from producing surplus vegetables. Then, in regard to another remark in the letter of the 8th March, 1941, in which it was said that "the question of the function of the committees in relation to the collection and disposal of surplus non-perishable vegetables is reserved for subsequent consideration," I understand that this "subsequent consideration" is still going on. I should be very grateful to the noble Duke if he would tell us what the considered view of the Ministry is in regard to collection and disposal, because that obviously is a matter which is of great importance to the committees who have hitherto endeavoured to organise that part of the war effort.
So I would again ask, what really is the policy of the Ministry? Is it to encourage or to discourage the growing of vegetables? I am told that part of the policy is that rural areas should become self-sufficing. Everybody knows that they have always been self-supporting so far as the production of vegetables is concerned. What they were asked to do was to provide a surplus which would obviously have to be sold in extraneous markets to provide for the necessities of the people in urban centres. It has been suggested that the Ministry have been anxious to protect the greengrocers and the licensed wholesalers and retailers from any competition which may arise: from the sale of the surplus from private gardens and allotments. Well, in these days 590 when every ounce of food is wanted, surely it is unwise to allow any private interest to interfere with the production of our food supplies. There are people who hold licences, I understand, for the sale of vegetables, and I should like to ask the noble Duke: Have any licences been refused to those who have been engaged in carrying out what the Ministry suggested more than a year ago in collecting and trying to dispose of the surplus which they were asked to provide? Advice is one thing and compulsion is another. If it is true that pressure is brought to bear by withholding licences or by any other means, I am sure your Lordships would agree that it is entirely wrong and should not be allowed to continue. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us on this point because the general interest, the interest of the public, the interest of the consumer, is the first consideration, and we cannot afford in these days to let slip any opportunity of increasing the food production of the country.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE DUKE OF NORFOLK)
My Lords, I am sure that everyone will agree that the very full debate to which we have listened has been most sustaining and it will be very valuable to His Majesty's Government in the carrying out of their policy. I should like to begin by saying that the point stressed by the noble Lord who opened the debate will find a ready response from all of us engaged in the food production campaign. The point to which I refer is the general one, that the foundation of agriculture—in peace or war—in the production of crops or of livestock rests ultimately on the fertility of our land. I am glad that this and other matters have been raised to-day, since some misgivings have been expressed that the Government's policy seems merely to be the ploughing up of so many thousand acres of grassland. Nothing could be further from the truth and few aspects of our work have received more lengthy and careful consideration than the problem of the land itself—a problem that means considering the proper balance between grass and arable, the proper balance between crops and livestock, the proper balance between the imports of food and of fertilizers, and finally, as the noble Lord has indicated, a 591 proper balance between long-term and short-term policy.
These are the fundamental issues and it is dangerous to consider the production of any specific crop or type of livestock apart from them. Measures to such an end, however desirable they may seem in themselves, may disturb the general balance and fail to bring about an increase in the total output from our land over the next two or three years, which is the main task from which nothing must divert us. Most of us here realise that to get a proper balance of farming means in reality that each farm must be treated on its own basis. From this it follows that for the best results we must allow considerable latitude in each county. For that reason the policy laid down in Whitehall must be left to be worked out by the war agricultural executive committees. Now the broad objectives of our policy are, (I), to raise total food production from our land to the maximum; (2), to ensure as far as practicable that within that total, foodstuffs are produced of the kind and in the quantities desired by the Government. This means keeping up the milk supply. The noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, raised the question of the culling of the dairy herds. I would like to assure him that there is no intention whatever that any cow should be killed that is not either diseased or unthrifty in some other way. I cannot give exact figures, but the total is not expected to exceed 5 per cent.
Our instruments for giving effect to this policy may be divided into two main groups. First, there are general measures—propaganda, prices and guaranteed markets. Secondly, there are individual measures—specific advice and directions by war agricultural committees: rationing or control of feeding-stuffs and fertilisers. Specific advice or directions or rationing of individual farmers are carried out by the Ministry's agents, the war agricultural committees, and the policy is being interpreted in the light of individual circumstances. This is why we have not attempted to lay down the law for every farm from Whitehall and why any effort to do so would not lead to maximum production; and this is why we have enrolled the voluntary services of several thousand farmers to interpret on each farm the 592 general policy in the light of their local knowledge and experience. In such circumstances results cannot conform to a uniform standard. Some failures and errors of judgment are only human. Nevertheless, I think that the Minister, the county committees, the district committees and the Ministry's staff can together claim a greater and quicker revolution and improvement in farming than this country has ever seen. Anyone who, like myself, has recently travelled through a great part of England can see it with his own eyes. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, referred to some crops which I think he said looked poor in colour, but I have been myself to nine or ten counties in the last few weeks, and I have found farmers very much more cheerful than I ever anticipated. I think the general opinion in all those counties was that crops are going to be good.
I turn now to the very difficult question that has been so widely discussed to-day: the fertility of the land or, to put it another way, the relationship on each farm between crops and livestock. The needs of war demand that the stored up fertility of our grassland should be converted to human food—there can be no question as to the wisdom of such a policy. But this need not of itself be accompanied by an undue depletion of fertility of the remaining arable land. Seeds and temporary leys will not only restore fertility but will yield more hay and grazing than much of the permanent grass not ploughed up. To this extent, available fertility is being increased and not diminished by taking the plough round the farm. Grass dairy farms which become self-supporting in winter foodstuffs will in most cases be able to maintain the fertility of their new arable land for several years, whilst it is the Government's desire to encourage arable sheep.
The extent to which crops for direct human consumption should replace crops for livestock must be governed by two main factors: the maintenance of the milk supply and the maximum output of direct human food for the next two or three years on the farm in question. On many farms the present numbers of cattle are necessary to achieve the latter, that is, to consume the by-products and to maintain crop yields by keeping the land clean and in good heart. On other farms in high condition it may be possible to devote 593 large areas to wheat and potatoes and reduce the fodder and cleaning crops. Those who have relied on pigs and poultry fed on imported concentrates and other feeding-stuffs, which have now fallen away to a very low level, may have to alter their peace-time practice. But the revision of the rationing scheme is now under consideration and these matters, as well as others, will receive attention.
I have touched briefly on one or two points which have been mentioned in the course of the debate, and I must now come to the speech of my noble friend Lord Davies, who mentioned a subject which he has raised with me before. If I may say so with all diffidence, I think that there is some misunderstanding on this matter which really need not arise. It has always been the policy of my right honourable friend to encourage the production of all food from the land. What he has said, as the statements in the letter which my noble friend read indicate, is that he does not want to encourage the inopportune production of perishable vegetables—that is, vegetables; which could not well be stored in the various places where they might be produced. If the people who produce these vegetables will—as we hope and believe they will—so arrange matters that they will have a continuous production throughout the year, we shall not see, as we saw last spring, a certain number of gardens without anything in them at a time of the year when it is most wanted.
It has now been decided that where there is a surplus amount of vegetables which it is possible to keep, and there are not the available storage facilities in the growing area, arrangements will be made for collecting and storing such surplus. But it is quite obvious that it would be impossible to collect all the perishable vegetables which might be produced as surplus production, because of difficulties connected with the supply of petrol and the available means of transport. To do so, it would be necessary to have transport vehicles going round the country continuously. In the case of vegetables which would keep, however, it does not much matter whether they are collected one week or the next. I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied with this explanation.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt, but in the statement 594 made by the Ministry of Agriculture there was no differentiation between perishable and non-perishable produce, and the inference was that it applied to both.
THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
My Lords, I think that possibly there may have been some slight misunderstanding. I hope that I have made the matter clear to the noble Lord now. Somewhat wider claims have been made in some quarters that the health of the plant, or indeed the health of the man or animal feeding on the plant, is dependant in some mysterious way on whether the plant obtains the chemical salts which it requires from decaying vegetable matter—that is, from humus—or from chemical fertilizers. There is a great deal of argument upon this subject, into which I do not propose to enter as I do not profess to know enough about it. I feel that your Lordships will all probably agree as to the profound benefits humus and farmyard manure confer on the general condition of the soil, and the most ardent advocates of chemical fertilizers regard them as a supplement and not as a substitute for them. Dung lightens a heavy soil and binds a light one; it encourages the right kind of bacterial action and improves the whole physical condition of the land. It also supplies chemical foods, the nitrogen, phosphates, potash, and so on which the plant requires. But these, it must be remembered, are derived from foodstuffs eaten by the animals making the manure. The maize, the linseed and cotton cake from overseas have helped every year to promote the fertility of our land. These imports have now largely ceased and it must take many thousands of tons of fertilizers to replace them. Far from there being any question of danger arising from the excessive use of fertilizers, a recent report from Rothamsted and all available evidence indicate that the growth of full and healthy crops demands very much larger quantities of artificial manure than have been used in the past.
I hope that I have said enough to indicate to your Lordships the inflexibility of our determination, shared, I am sure, by farmers and farmworkers throughout the country, to achieve the maximum contribution to the war effort, and the flexibility with which, in our view, the production programme has to be translated into action on each individual farm, bearing in mind the needs of the nation 595 for milk and food crops and the needs of a fertile land to provide the best possible yield of those crops.
Before I sit down I must refer to the speeches made by Lord Balfour and Lord Wolmer concerning the future agricultural policy of the Government. This, as your Lordships will realise, is a very wide and a very live subject, and it is one which my right honourable friend has always in his mind. Speaking as one of the younger generation—and we were told just now that it would be for us to help—I can assure your Lordships that we all want to see that heritage which the noble Lord who raised the debate called the "land of England" got under the plough and farmed as it used to be.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, may I ask, before the noble Duke sits down, whether he can give a reply to two of the questions I put to him? The first was whether the joint supervision of the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture would be resumed in the case of the county garden produce committees and other organisations. The second was whether the noble Duke could assure us that no licences to enable them to sell their surplus produce 596 are withheld from these committees or other organisations.
THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
With regard to the first question I can only say that I am not in a position to answer it. As to the second, so far as I know, no licences are withheld. I will, however, look into this matter and let my noble friend know the result of my inquiries.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I should like to say how much we all appreciate the very able exposition of the noble Duke in his appreciation of the debate. I think it was most admirable in every way, and it has given me great confidence in the future. I am particularly pleased with his reference to the fact that in the different areas consideration will be given to different circumstances; and also with what he said regarding the pig and poultry question, which was particularly stressed by me. I am glad to think that the pigs and poultry, also, will not be forgotten. I thank the noble Duke most sincerely for his speech and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned.