§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether, in framing a long-term scheme of reconstruction in relation to cultivated land to be put into operation after the war, they contemplate including in such scheme small-scale cultivators and stock-owners, such as smallholders, allotment holders, and cottage gardeners, with a view to (1) their continued material contribution to the national food supply; (2) the provision of an effective ladder enabling enterprising workers to become independent husband-men; and (3) the equipment of more of our home population to be successful settlers on the vast areas of fertile but undeveloped land in the British Commonwealth and Empire overseas; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, during the last fortnight there has 483 assembled under the ægis of the Royal Agricultural Society a notable conference of representatives of various agricultural organizations who were able to agree upon a large number of essential features of a new postwar agricultural policy, thereby enabling the Government the better to frame such a policy without any substantial criticism on the part of the various political Parties or indeed on the part of the different classes associated with the industry. Included in that conference were representatives of the two unions of agricultural workers and of the Land Settlement Association, and I understand that they cordially associated themselves with those various proposals upon which there was unanimity.
§ In the past we have heard the expression "land hunger" employed by politicians and others in this country, but the term "land hunger" has seldom been applied with strict accuracy to the purely agricultural land of this country during the last sixty years. It is true that it has been applied, and rightly applied, to land required for building and other purposes associated with the increase of our urban and manufacturing populations. Indeed, for many years past so far from there being land hunger in our rural areas there has not even been a land appetite. This fact has betokened, in my judgment, a deplorable economic condition which has not conduced to national well-being. I submit that a country in which there is little or no land appetite has in it the seeds of decay. It is all the more deplorable in the case of a country with a teeming population, a falling birth-rate and an immense Empire whose fertile expanses are crying out for experienced settlers with British blood in their veins. It is perfectly true that, in our Dominions and oversea territories, we welcome those from other lands who are loyal to the British Crown and connexion and who are prepared with knowledge and experience and energy and a pioneering spirit to help to develop the land of the territories of the British Commonwealth overseas, but after all we do want, and want particularly to-day, a fresh infusion of British blood if those overseas territories are to maintain their solidarity and to maintain their maximum value as units in the British Commonwealth.484
In passing I should like to draw attention to a certain publication entitled An Atlas of the British Empire. Many thousands of copies of this publication have lately been issued from the Oxford University Press and I may say what an admirable publication in the main it is. In fact I do not think I have come across any better compendium of useful information regarding the British Commonwealth than is contained in this little pamphlet. It has very useful maps of the different parts of the Empire and, incidentally, a reference to all the important economic products of its countries, but there is one statement in it which I am bound to say alarmed me not a little. Under the heading "Peoples and Population" occurs this sentence:
The United Kingdom is now an immigrant rather than an emigrant country, and, with a declining birth-rate, it appears that it will so remain. One of the crucial problems that will confront the Dominion Governments after the present war will be how best to develop their undeveloped lands with suitable immigrants, who, though they may not be of British stock, will uphold those democratic traditions that are the common heritage of the English-speaking nations.
I regarded that as so unfortunate a statement that I sent a copy of this so-called Atlas of the British Empire to the Leader of the House and asked him whether he would be in a position to say if that did or did not express the considered opinion of His Majesty's Government because, if so, I felt sure that it would be very disappointing to many of those of the right type who would like to make their home overseas in other parts of our great British Imperial heritage and would be almost equally disappointing to countries like Australia and New Zealand who, although not at present prepared to welcome British immigrants from the Old Country till their own fighting men have been accommodated with employment, nevertheless, taking the long view, are extremely anxious to see a larger accretion of people of British blood within their territories.
My Lords, as the noble Lord has asked me personally a question perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I answered it very briefly now. He has drawn the attention of your Lordships to the words of a pamphlet which has been issued by, I think, the Oxford University Press and has asked me whether a quotation which 485 he has given from it represents the policy of His majesty's Government. The answer is a perfectly simple one. That pamphlet represents the views of the writer and does not commit anyone else. It does not represent the views of His Majesty's Government. The policy of His Majesty's Government on this question of migration has been defined again and again not only in your Lordships' House but in another place. I say once more quite clearly that His Majesty's Government are in favour of migration between various parts of the British Commonwealth and their aim so far as lids in their power will be to encourage such migration. We are already in communication with the Dominion Governments and we hope the possibilities of migration will be further explored at the forthcoming meeting of Empire Prime Ministers. I think that will relieve the anxieties of the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
I am extremely grateful to the Leader of the House for the reassuring statement which he has made (and which indeed I myself hopefully anticipated) as affecting the general question of providing a more effective ladder of advancement for workers in this country who have the ambition to be independent husbandmen. I know t is suggested that with a much larger area of arable land as a normal condition of our post-war economy there will be scope for more well-paid land workers. To set against this of course there will be a greatly extended use of labour-saving machinery, and I think it would be quite rash to prophesy first of all that we shall maintain to-anything like the present extent e existing arable area or, on the other hand, to say with any pontifical assurance that we shall require in the future a larger number of agricultural workers on our own soil in this country.
On February 15, in the course of a very interesting two days' debate on Post-War Reconstruction, speeches were made by my noble friends Lord Bingley and Lord Elgin in regard to certain features of rural reconstruction. The Minister of Reconstruction confessed that he had not the time to reply in detail to those speeches. My noble friend Lord Bingley stressed, among other things, the insecurity of tenure of many of the allotment holders in the urban and suburban areas in this 486 country and also advocated better credit facilities for small-holders and other small-scale cultivators. The noble Earl, Lord Elgin, disclosed on that occasion some truly remarkable and most encouraging figures in regard to the successful land settlement of workpeople, some of them miners from the special areas of Northumberland and Durham and some of them former agricultural workers, as set out in the last annual report of the Land Settlement Association. Of this body, by the way, the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, is Chairman and my noble friend Lord Phillimore is Chairman of its chief Sub-Committee. I very much regret that my noble friend Lord Phillimore, owing to indisposition, is unable to be here this afternoon to support what I am about to say in this connexion.
In passing I may say that I entirely agree with what both those noble Lords said on that occasion, and I want, with your Lordships' indulgence, to press it to its logical conclusion as calculated, if followed up with vision and determination, to affect materially the future stability and efficiency of our whole agrarian structure and population and, as I have already indicated, incidentally to furnish to countries of the British Commonwealth a further infiltration of experienced and competent settlers of our own race. The achievements of our agricultural workers during this year with an output per man—aided by machinery, of course—greater than that of all other European countries, is indeed very commendable, although admittedly variable. At least as praiseworthy is the war effort of our allotment holders and cottage gardeners, whose contribution to the nation's supply of essential foods is officially admitted to represent over 10 per cent. of the total immense increment of war-time food output from the soil of Great Britain. But, compared with the record of several other countries, we cannot be altogether satisfied with the extent to which we in this country provide a ladder of advancement to enable our working population to become independent husbandmen and their own masters.
It is being stated with perfect truth that if capable young men are to be attracted to the land for a livelihood—and I think I may add that that applies almost more to capable young women who become their wives—they must be more decently 487 housed, and that they are even willing to pay out of an enhanced wage an economic rent for such accommodation. But their ambition would not thus be wholly satisfied. The satisfaction of these urgent needs, better housing and a continued satisfactory wage, do not open up a vista of economic and social advancement such as in a highly democratic country should present itself to the more efficient and ambitious of our rural workers, and indeed to many of our industrial workers who yearn after the free, open life of the countryside for themselves and their families. The noble Earl, Lord Elgin, truly said in his illuminating speech on February 15:Greater security through higher wages is not the only inducement which can be given to the agriculturist; independence through having a holding of his own is an equal inducement.I go further, and I would submit that if you want really to vitalize the whole agricultural industry you must have within it a ladder whose rungs enable the experienced persevering climber to get from the bottom to the very top. That is true in most other industries, and why not in agriculture?
In this connexion I venture to submit what has been with me a growing conviction throughout a life devoted in the main to the study and practice of agriculture in different parts of the world, that in the highest interests alike of our own countryside and of the British Empire overseas, which after all is predominantly agricultural and crying out for skilled agriculturists, our national agricultural policy should be based upon the advancement and well-being, not of the large farmer nor even of the average farmer—I speak, of course, of acreage and not of ability—but of the small-scale cultivator and that we should give definite encouragement to the competent farm worker to become an independent husbandman. If and so far as financial subsidies or guaranteed prices or credit facilities are essential, they should, in my judgment, be conditioned by the healthy economic existence and survival of experienced and efficient small-holders as a class and not of their larger fellow agriculturists. After all, if with such help as the Government of this country are prepared to give, the small man can be enabled to make a decent living, ex 488 hypothesi the larger man should be well able to do so if he is reasonably competent. If, as a result, he happens to make considerable profits, let him be taxed upon them under Schedule D and contribute proportionately to the requirements of the Exchequer.
But, of course, if the small man is going to be a valuable and an efficient factor in our countryside there must be a greater development of co-operative methods. Apart from appropriate training and efficiency, the great essential would appear to me to be the adoption of co-operative methods or the existence and utilization of a co-operative agency through which his raw materials can be provided and his crops marketed. This, coupled with generous credit, would appear to have been the chief explanation of the striking success of the Land Settlement Association scheme. I will not repeat all the interesting figures which my noble friend the Earl of Elgin gave to your Lordships' House on February 15, but I may incidentally remind you that amongst other things he told us that the average net profit of the ordinary settler for the last completed financial year was £418. I believe that the average holding is about eight acres. The average profit was £418, and in the case of the more experienced men £490. The noble Earl also told us that roughly 30 per cent. of the agricultural group—that is the group recruited from farm labour—made over £600 in the year and several made over £1,000.
The success of the scheme appears to depend upon co-ordinated management and co-operative marketing. The co-ordinating and co-operative factor in that case is the Estate Service Department which carries out the equipment and marketing under a system which pays its way without any subsidization. Experience has shown in that case—I do not know whether this would apply to the ordinary statutory small holdings under county councils—that not less than forty holdings are needed to carry the ordinary overhead costs of each settlement estate. In passing I cannot help asking the question which Lord Elgin seemed, impliedly, to ask the other day—cannot such a scheme as this be embodied in the organization of the statutory small holdings as carried on by our various larger local authorities?
May I ask your Lordships to compare for a moment the trend of the small 489 holdings movement in this and other comparable countries? In this connexion, the noble Duke has kindly provided me with an answer to a written question which I put down some three weeks ago, to the following effect. During the last twenty-five years in Great Britain there has been a fall of 40,000, or 12 per cent. in the number of holdings of fifty acres or less and a fall of 7,000 or 8 per cent. in those between twenty and fifty acres, the reduction of small holdings being appreciably greater in England and Wales than in Scotland. I cannot help wondering in passing whether that is due to tie higher average standard of education, as well as, possibly, the greater technical efficiency of people North of the Tweed. On the other hand, we are told, that during the same period, that is to say the last quarter of a century, there has been a fairly considerable increase in the number of holdings provided by the county councils under the Small Holdings Acts.
For further elucidation, I asked the noble Duke if he could give me some more precise figures in regard to the difference in the numbers of statutory small holdings twenty-five years ago and immediately before the war. He has been good enough to do so and with his leave I would like to read the reply which I received from him yesterday. It states:The [...]7,000 (approximate) increase in the number of statutory small holdings in Great Britain during the past twenty-five years represents an increase of nearly 116 per cent.,—I may perhaps be allowed here to remark that of curse we started from a very low datum level as compared with other countries—the number of such holdings in December, 1918 being 14,504 and in 1943 about 31,300. We have no information as to the proportion of the total holdings in the country between twenty and fifty acres which are statutory holdings. The type and average size of the latter holdings vary considerably in different counties—e.g. in counties where market gardening is predominant they are relatively small, averaging from five to ten acres, whereas in counties such as Shropshire, Cheshire or Stafford where mixed farming or dairying is practiced the holdings are of much larger area. The total number of all holdings in the twenty to fifty acre group was 82,400 in 1942 compared with 89,600 in 1919.That, of course, as already stated, is a difference of 8 per cent.
Now that, to my mind, is very significant because it is quite obvious that whereas you had a very substantial fall 490 in the number of small holdings generally in this country during the last twenty-five years, you have got a somewhat remarkably large increase in the number of statutory holdings—a number which, by the way, abated considerably after the effects of the last war came to an end. During the last decade that fall was very marked. The significant fact surely is this, that in this country unless you have an artificial stimulus provided, such as is provided by our Small Holdings Acts, there is not a natural increase in the number of small people, small farmers, who are their own masters, people who have become small holders after being agricultural or other workers. In fact it is a stimulus which has been so essential to keep small holdings going at all, and the stimulus, I venture to suggest, is much greater in certain other countries than it is here.
I have had most valuable assistance in regard to Denmark, Holland and Belgium—all comparable countries in this connexion—from the Agricultural Attachés to the Legation or Embassy in these countries. I find that in Denmark during the same period of twenty-five years prior to the war, the agricultural holdings of over 150 acres have shrunk by nearly one half, and those below forty acres have increased by one-third. In passing I may say that in the matter of climate and natural fertility Great Britain has the advantage over Denmark. In Holland during the same period holdings of over 200 acres have shrunk by one-third while those of between twenty-five and fifty acres have increased by one-half. In that country between 1930 and 1937 holdings of under twenty-five acres—and tins is rather interesting and valuable as an experience—decreased appreciably. Those from twenty-five acres to 125 acres increased. During the depression, which lasted from about 1930 to 1934 or 1935, small holdings in Holland did not provide a sufficient livelihood.
What we learn from Holland is interesting. Under the Agricultural Workers Act of 1918 in that country, every agricultural worker in the Netherlands can cultivate some land on his own account if he wishes to do so. Once a small-holder, he can extend his activities by renting or purchasing extra parcels of land or by reclaiming waste land in regions where the opportunity to do so exists. This is 491 evidently a great advantage socially. In 1930, some 68 per cent. of the farmers were owner-occupiers. It is pointed out by Mr. Gerritzen that one drawback to the ownership of small agricultural units by those who farm them is that under the Code Napoléon, which operates as regards the law of inheritance in those Western European countries, the land is apt to become more and more divided, because it devolves equally upon all members of a family, and not only, as in this country, upon the eldest son. The result is that there are perpetually diminishing units of agricultural occupation passing to an increasing number of people, until eventually there is a danger of their ceasing to be economic. In Belgium during the first 25 years of this century holdings of over 150 acres shrank by one-third, those over 200 acres by one-half, while those under 30 acres increased by one-third.
I want to quote a few words from a very remarkable address which was given recently by Mr. Moltesen, the Agricultural Attaché to the Danish Legation, before the Federation of Women's Institutes in this country. He said:For over a century the Danish Government have constantly maintained an agricultural policy aiming at the creation of independent holdings, not too small to be economically organized, and this movement has been animated by the realization that freedom is a condition necessary for the most profitable use of the land. … Danish legislation has always aimed at preserving the greatest possible number of independent farms by preventing any land belonging to the peasantry being added to the large estates, and by providing against the shrinkage of farms which are large enough to support a family, but which would not be able to do so if it were permitted to dispose of parcels of land belonging to them.He then goes on to describe a very valuable type of institution which unfortunately does not exist in this country, the small holding societies, of which there are no fewer than 1,300, provided with a Government grant and themselves providing advisers, field experiments, demonstrations, lectures, prizes for particularly good cultivation and so on. He says:The small-holders' sons, as a rule budding small-holders themselves, very often, like sons of the larger farmers, spend a winter at one of the agricultural schools. Some of these schools have their curriculum especially adapted to the requirements of future smallholders.He gives expression to a sentiment which I entirely endorse—and I venture to hope 492 that your Lordships also will do so—when he says:When we consider the problem of small versus large units in agriculture it is a fallacy to consider the problem merely from an economic point of view. There are so many imponderables connected with small-scale farming which should not be left out of consideration. A population of independent small-holders is much more valuable to the nation and has far better qualifications to bring up the coming generation as happy citizens than a population of farm labourers. In most countries the independent farmers, whether they be large or small, rich or poor, are the backbone of the nation, and if you want to have a contented and happy rural population you must assist as many as possible of the agricultural youth to attain the possibility of independence. No country can thrive without a yeomanry, and the small producers of Denmark are an indispensible part of the Danish yeomanry.Turning for a moment to our county councils and their operation of the Small Holdings Acts, I understand that the experience of the county councils on the whole has been very much the same. In my own county of Gloucestershire the small holdings increased rapidly after last war from 4,000 to 14,000, but fell off by 7 per cent. during the last decade. Less than 5 per cent. of the holders have failed. Incidentally, the county council, in my county at any rate, has done its utmost to assist them by way of advice and encouragement through its agricultural and horticultural departments. The main needs have been water on the one hand and adequate and suitable farm equipment on the other.
I should like, before I sit down, to quote something written by Mr. Gooch. Many of you will have heard of Alderman Gooch, who is the President of the Agricultural Workers' Union and a very prominent member of the Norfolk County Council. Writing quite recently in an East Anglian newspaper, and referring to the taking of a small holding, he said:It has not been altogether a profit-making concern, measured in terms of money, but a way of life, and has given them"—that is, the small-holders—a measure of freedom and independence which cannot be assessed.He goes on:Some of them did well and have taken on larger holdings, but practically all that was done on the last occasion was to give a man a few acres and wish him luck. And then prices came tumbling down, and his holding, instead of providing a livelihood, proved a 493 millstone around his neck. This must not happen again. … If small holdings are to form an integral part of post-war farming policy the country must create the conditions that will Enable the diligent and capable holder to make a living, and the State must at the same time extend the helping hand that will mean so much to the men venturing on to the land. Too many of them were left to their own resources on the last occasion and it involved a life akin to serfdom. …Only a system of co-operation between small holders can bring them the advantages of bulk purchases and large sales. Without co-operation with his fellows a small-holder must look forward to a struggle which the hardest and most strenuous work may render unsuccessful. If the movement is to be developed under country councils then I suggest that the councils should not merely provide the land and approve the applicant, but provide the advice and the services and thus assist the marl to get a living.In other words, they must provide the advisory and co-ordinating services which the directorate of the Land Settlement Association has provided with such success.
It seems to me that the factors which militate against the progressive and successful development of small holdings in Great Britain, unlike their counterpart in other continental and overseas countries, are first, a lack of organized co-operative buying and selling—and incidentally I may say that my noble friend Lord Phillimore told me that had he been here he would have advocated making that compulsory—secondly, lack of advice, supervision and direction in the matter of cropping, animal husbandry and marketing—and again Lord Phillimore tells me that he would make that compulsory also—thirdly, a lack of credit facilities; and, fourthly, a lack of training and experience in the conduct of commercial transactions. The ordinary small-holder is not by training or experience as a rule a man of business acumen and knowledge, and, so far as the commercial side of the business is concerned, is all the better getting someone to manage that for him.
There is one thing I should like to add, and that is that if you are going to make the ladder effective from the lowest rung to the top, it would be advantageous if on the one hand you could link on the allotment movement to the small holdings movement, as they do very largely on the Continent, and if, at the other end of the ladder, where you have promising, successful and industrious small-holders occupying small areas of from 20 to 50 494 acres, you allowed the county councils to provide them with larger holdings by the purchase by the county councils of larger farms to provide their needs, say up to 150 acres. By that means you would also set free some of the smaller holdings for those who are still at the foot of the ladder. Apologizing for speaking so long on a subject upon which I feel very earnestly and seriously, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, every one of us is aware of the lifelong devotion of the noble Lord to the subject on which he has spoken to-day, and it seems almost as if we were back in old times to hear a speech like that. I do not place myself second to the noble Lord in zeal, but I do not altogether agree with his initial diagnosis. He told us that the small holdings movement has suffered in this country because there was a lack of what he described as land hunger, and he proceeded to say that if that continued it would be hopeless to contemplate the adequate cultivation of our own land and the peopling of our Dominions with increased numbers of British settlers. That is true, but I do not agree with him that the land hunger has disappeared or declined. It has been suppressed. It has never had an opportunity, as it ought to have had. Gradually year by year the number of workers on the land has diminished, and their boys have sought other occupations, not being ambitious to remain on the land because the opportunity was inadequate. It is not that their desire has been diminished, it is that the opportunity has not been there, and I think we have ourselves to blame for that. It is because we as a nation have not set ourselves to make this calling what it ought to be and to give the opportunity which it ought to have.
I may call your Lordships' attention, perhaps, to the fact that in 1931 there was a Bill placed on the Statute Book called the Agricultural Land (Utilization) Act. Some of your Lordships who are here present were with me through the stormy times that accompanied its passage. It took nearly six months, sitting two days a week, to get through Committee, and I think it is true to say—in fact it is an understatement—that if that Act had been acted on every one of the things that the noble Lord has been 495 asking us to do to-day could have been done, and could have been done in abundance during the last fourteen years. But it is the will that has been lacking. In the Act itself there are adequate powers for the Minister of Agriculture. But I well remember that, as a final compromise in order to get the consent of your Lordships' House—of which I had not then the advantage of being a member—it was necessary to agree that the Bill should be limited to eight years. The eight years were completed some years ago and therefore the Act, I suppose, is dead. But it was never used. I suggest that if the opportunity were provided we should all be delighted to find that there were plenty of men yet in this country who were willing and anxious to make better use of our native land. I will not develop that theme, but I am quite sure that that lack of opportunity is the fount and origin of the trouble.
Now as to the nature of the opportunity, I agree heartily with most of what the noble Lord has said. At all events we do not want to repeat the dismal experiment which we were committed to on a large scale at the end of the last war when men, many of whom I am afraid were without any training whatever, were induced to take holdings. Many of them lost their little bit of war gratuity because they did not know the business they were taking up, and they were committed to a life of dull servitude which in a large number of cases ended in ruin. As the noble Lord put it in his speech, they were given the bit of land and the blessing of the authorities, and left to it. That clearly is not the way to do it. I think the thing to get into the minds of people is that you cannot suddenly leave another occupation and somehow or other make a success of husbandry. That is a highly skilled occupation, which needs training and understanding, like other occupations of a skilled character. Therefore, if we are to expect success we must provide the necessary training and facilities for training. After the last war, with a number of very encouraging exceptions of course, I am afraid a very large number of men failed because they did not understand the business sufficiently or had inadequate capital. For a great many, too, the small-holder's life has been a life of drudgery from one end of the year to the other, seven days a week. 496 That is not a sufficiently attractive life in that form.
Now I should like to come to the experiment of the Land Settlement Association. It is an exceedingly significant experiment. I myself had the honour to be on the Association's executive for several years, and it is impossible to imagine a worse handicap than that with which they were originally faced. That was on account of the mind of the British Government. The Land Settlement Association was not allowed, at the beginning, to settle anybody on the land unless he had been two years out of work. That was the first condition. Just imagine. What happened? The result, in a large number of cases, was that men had to be trained and fed for six months before they could do a day's work. Just fancy making it a national condition that a man, to be settled on the land, must have been out of work for two years! I am not rubbing it in, if I may put it in a slang phrase; I am only pointing out that that was the state of mind of His Majesty's Government. How can you expect a thing to succeed, how can you get the best out of it, if you make that a preliminary condition? Then the men had to be taken—I am talking about the original handicaps under which the Association started—from specified districts only, from districts where there had been prolonged distress. It was right to give the poor fellows from these districts a chance, but these were the preliminary conditions of entry. A good agricultural worker, an experienced labourer, was not allowed to get a holding. Talk about asking for failure—that is the way to begin. There was no conception of a ladder in that. The remarkable thing is that after years of struggle this Land Settlement Association scheme is succeeding. Of course the conditions have been altered. I am not going to recite the details but, in its present form, this is a very promising experiment.
What are the essentials of the scheme? First that the men who have undertaken small holdings should have some form of training, instruction, and guidance, which is clearly essential whatever the form of occupation may be. That guidance is provided in an organized and skilled form, which is clearly necessary. I remember, when I was Minister of Agriculture, at one time having a most depressing experience, although those who took me round 497 did not share my point of view. We were taken to see some thousands of acres of small holdings in adjoining counties. The feature in which most pride was taken was the glorious independence of each small holding, and the result was that you saw men cheek by jowl, with a few acres of land, each with separate equipment of implements. The fact that the implements were standing 95 per cent. of the time doing nothing had not entered into account. In other words, there was a great waste of capital expenditure, as there was bound to be.
There must be co-operative organization able to supply the implements, and it is not fair to saddle every individual small-holler with all the capital expenditure required for a complete set of equipment. I am glad to say that in the war we find a number of farmers co-operating in this way. In the county with which I am particularly associated, these machinery pools are becoming very popular. It is partly a question of management. You have to get the right man to manage the pool. The idea is right that the more costly implements should be shared by a number of people, and then you will get an adequate economic use out of them. Ts he Land Settlement Association provides central guidance and to some extent a separate set of implements which can be used in the different holdings on appropriate terms. That is the right way of using expensive implements. The capital charges which were saddled on to the small-holders under our old conception crippled the man at the start in a very large number of cases. He had no working capital left. As a matter of fact he was in debt before he had started work.
Then again, the system of saddling each individual holding with a rent which represented the interest and sinking fund on all the capital equipment on the holding, was crippling to the small-holder. You found small-holders in many cases paying £3 or £4 an acre or more while the land over the hedge, which was not included in a small holding, was being let for £1 per acre. That was exceedingly common because the capital equipment was allocated to each individual holding. Under the despised Land Utilization Act we made provision for an agricultural farming corporation which could spread the charges widely over the whole organization. In that way it would not cripple any individual holder. I suggest that the 498 same kind of principle, somehow or other, will have to be established if we are to get many of our farms properly equipped. Many of the farms which are poorest need the most spending on them. If you are going to saddle such farms with all the capital equipment, the rent will be crippling as it was in the case of many of the holdings.
Again, we come back to bigger-scale organization whether in terms of instruction, provision of machinery, or charges for capital equipment. It all comes back every time to doing it with a much bigger organization, which we have never yet attempted with the exception of the Land Settlement Association, in itself a comparatively small experiment. As to the other side of it, I agree entirely with the noble Viscount, but he knows, as I do, as one intimately concerned with it, how difficult it is to persuade men to buy and sell in common. It is exceedingly difficult, especially when it comes to selling. We know very well it is the only way that inexperienced producers can realize an adequate price for their products, but it is a heart-breaking business sometimes to induce them to work together. It is on that account that quite frankly, none of us need apologize for the compulsory principle introduced into the Agricultural Marketing Act. There is no other way of doing it. Under the Land Settlement Association you have an improved organization of organized buying and selling.
There is, I suggest to the noble Viscount, another form of ladder—I am using his expression—than the one he has been thinking about. In the first place, so far as this particular ladder is concerned the standard of life and wages for the agricultural worker and the opportunities for obtaining a home were so crippling in the past in this country that only a very trivial percentage could ever get a foot on the bottom step of the ladder at all. The industry has never been organized, not even on those lines. I would suggest one other form of ladder in this industry which has not yet, except here and there, been adopted. Why should not agriculture provide a ladder as other industries do? Other industries provide a ladder for brains and competence, but the only way you can get a step at all in agriculture is either by having a certain amount of money in the 499 bank or knowing somebody who will lend it to you. Capital is needed and I suggest that there are great possibilities in developing other kinds of ladders in agriculture by means of which competent, bright young people can get an opportunity of rising just as they do in other industries. That is why our million pound Agricultural Farming Corporation was in my opinion a very good idea. I hope we shall, and I think we probably shall, see it in operation before very long; but then of course it will become respectable because it will be introduced by somebody else and it will not then be labelled with any nasty labels and will be a highly organized institution.
Large-scale farming and management with the opportunities that that brings with it in this industry should provide a ladder for competency and brains just as it does in other industries. We have suffered very much because of the intense individualism of the industry. We have seen more organization and wider vision being brought into it in these days and one hopes that His Majesty's Government will seize the opportunity that is being presented. I am glad the Minister of Reconstruction is present to-day. I know that he will bring his business training and mind to look at this problem from a wider point of view than that of the isolated individual. Whether there is provision by a ladder through small holdings or through a different agricultural system, in both cases I suggest there is required a larger scale conception of the organization necessary to promote and encourage the activities of those engaged in the industry.
§ VISCOUNT WIMBORNE
My Lords, the Motion which the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, has on the Paper this afternoon and which he expounded with that thoroughness we all expect from his great knowledge, will, I am sure, commend itself to the House. It deals with the small agriculturist, the small man, the individual who latterly has been having rather a thin time throughout industry, because so many small one-man businesses have had to be shut down on account of considerations of efficiency vital to the war effort. I think the noble Viscount made out a very good case, showing that the small agriculturist will be an essential part of our general post-war picture. The lot of the small agriculturist has not in 500 the past been a very easy one. The actual physical work on a small holding is very heavy for the man and also for his family unless he be in a position to hire labour which he very likely will not be. I think it is true to say that lack of capital and lack of adequate marketing facilities are apt to put the small farmer in a bad position both for buying and for selling.
I should hate to see the disappearance of the man who wants to be his own master, who wants to plough his own furrow. I think that such a person should be encouraged in his ambition. The value to the State of the sturdy individual who wishes to make his own way in life is immense. I cannot help reflecting that the agricultural methods that were introduced in this country during the eighteenth century may have brought, and probably did bring, prosperity to the countryside and to the country; yet at the same time they brought about the Enclosure Acts and the disappearance of the yeomen or small freeholder class. It is always open to doubt whether large-scale farming is more efficient than small-scale farming. It is said that the large farm produces more per man employed whereas the small farm produces more per acre. But I think so far as intensive agriculture is concerned, embracing, that is to say, milk, poultry, vegetables and fruit, these things can be produced just as well, if not better on a small holding than on a large farm, and they are just the products which are better produced for our home market in this country than imported from abroad.
I think it is agreed, and the noble Viscount has said so, that if this small farmer type is to be kept in being what is needed is that he should have capital available at easy rates, that prices should be such that he can get a reasonable return for his labour, and that marketing and distribution should be improved. Moreover, and I attach great importance to this, he should have some kind of guidance and help to see that he produces a good product. Take for instance the question of vegetables. No doubt many of your Lordships have in the past partaken of a dish which used to be known as "meat and two veg." I say "in the past" because now it is usually "two veg. and no meat." I think that very often the vegetable part of that dish was not very good. There may be a lot in the cooking of it but there is a lot too in the growing. Visiting agricultural shows, it has always 501 struck me that the first prize seems to be given to the largest vegetable. Surely we all know, or should know, that a vegetable is most palatable and has most nutritive value when it is picked young and tender. I think also that many more kinds of vegetables can be grown in this country than are usually attempted.
In short, if we are going to give assistance to this type of agriculturist we must see that he produces the right stuff. If the local war agricultural committees are going to be kept in being, perhaps slightly modified, after the war, they will be, I think, the right bodies to give this guidance by means of lectures, competitions and the like. If they will adopt the policy I suggest the local agricultural committees might take a leaf out of the book of the Ministry of Food and circulate in suitable periodicals something on the lines of the excellent information in regard to food facts which we see once a week. I am sometimes tempted to think that even I might be able to cook a meal if I followed "Food Facts" very carefully and did not deviate from the instructions. If we had more vegetable growers among our small agriculturists we might have a higher level of products than we have at present.
I will not dwell upon the question of small stack owners, but it seems to me that the great difficulty in their case is keeping up the quality of their stock, which in many cases in this country is very bad. I wonder whether it might be possible to have something on the lines of the King's premium sire scheme which works well for horses or whether artificial insemination might be made available. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, referred a little scathingly to land settlement. I do not think he was against land settlement, but he seemed to be against the methods by which it had been carried out.
§ LORD ADDISON
No, it was not that that I was against. I was against the method, of selecting applicants which placed the Association at a great disadvantage.
§ VISCOUNT WIMBORNE
What I want to call attention to in that connexion is the position of returning ex-Servicemen. I think a great many men and women in the Forces to-day when they are demobilized will wish to lead an independent outdoor life, but we must not repeat the position after the last war when numbers 502 of ex-Service men sunk their gratuities in five acres and a cow or in small poultry farms and lost the lot. If those people are to be settled on the land it must be done by some land settlement association.
One point which I think is important is the question of the urbanization of the land. A large number of small holdings and market gardens are to be found on the outskirts of large towns, for the obvious reason that the market gardener or small-holder wishes to be near his market and 'the allotment holder wishes to be near home. I should Ike to react two extracts from the Barlow Report in this connexion. In paragraph 36 the Barlow Commission say:The amount of first-class la ad in Great Britain suitable for market gardening is limited. It has been estimated that the amount of land at present intensively used is only about 2 per cent. of the whole and that only 5 per cent. could be so used.In paragraph 197 the Commission say:The Essex County Council, for example, informed the Commission that in Southern Essex alone, building development has involved the loss of thousands of acres of the most fertile land in the county where market gardening in its highest form has been carried on for generations.The Royal Commission was dealing with pre-war conditions. It was appointed in 1937 and reported in 1940. What is going to be the position after the war? Are we going to allow this absorption of agricultural land to take place? I for one hope that we shall not, because it is perfectly useless giving assistance to these small farmers and allotment holders if the Government are going to allow the land most suited for their operations to disappear. I think one of our first aims in post-war planning should be to see that a balance is held between the genuine needs of housing and agriculture.
The noble Viscount did not stress very much the last sub-heading of his Motion about Empire settlement and I do not intend to say very much about it myself, but two things struck me. I wonder whether the small-holder is the right person to develop what the noble Viscount in his Motion calls the "vast areas" overseas, and I wonder also whether we should be wise to encourage the emigration of a type of person who, having regard to our falling birth-rate, may be most important in our post-war 503 economy. I feel that the noble Viscount has done a great service by bringing this Motion before your Lordships this afternoon, and I hope that when the noble Duke replies he will be able to assure us that the Government will give this matter very sympathetic consideration.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, like the noble Viscount who has just spoken, I am grateful to my noble friend Viscount Bledisloe for introducing this Motion. There are very few things in the farming world to which he has not given the most devoted and deep-seated attention. I believe there are very few things to-day more important than this question of small farming units versus large farms and the importance of maintaining a vigorous population on the land. We are, as any reference to statistics will prove, pre-eminently a small-scale farming nation, but I think nobody would deny that there are large parts of our country eminently suitable not for large-scale farming in the overseas sense, but for the moderately large-scale farming which we see amongst our best pioneer farmers to-day. I would like to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Addison, that given reasonable security and adequate prices those are the farms where the ladder will be available for the young man who wishes to be manager but not owner. Even in the large-scale farming areas I am certain there are many pockets which can adequately support the small family unit type of farm. I do not believe that large-scale farms in this country in the future will be able to get really satisfactory labour unless there are successful and prosperous smaller holdings throughout the country, scattered far and wide, because unless there is a ladder for the farm worker—who after all deserves it most thoroughly—to enable him to rise not only to be a manager but to be the master of his own fate, he will not stay upon the land.
But whether we have large or small-scale farms, I do not believe myself that farming can be successfully carried on in present-day circumstances unless we have, as in the past, the very highest quality of farm worker. If your Lordships require proof of the fact that the small holding and the small holding settlement improve the quality of the farm labourer it can be found in Denmark 504 and Scandinavia. The higher standards of nutrition envisaged by the Hot Springs Conference, and the plans of many well-informed thinkers for the future of Europe, lead us to suppose that there will be a very high standard of nutrition everywhere in the post-war world. That must mean that we in our own country will have to rely much more on ourselves for our so-called protective foods, in other words, the produce of good well-mixed horticulture and farming. The noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, like other speakers, stressed the efficiency of small farms. No one would wish, at this moment, to decry the efficiency of our larger-scale pioneer farmers. We have room, and ample room, for the best pioneer farmers on the bigger scale, as well as for the best pioneer farmers of fifty acres, and we shall be able to learn much from either of them.
It has been my privilege for well over four years in this war to watch, and to have to some extent under supervision, something like 7,000 farmers and market gardeners with establishments of all sizes, in my own county. I have also been watching the general improvement of good husbandry not only in my own county but throughout the country. Now in my own county we have the production figures of something like 150 farms. Production is recorded in terms of efficiency per acre, and what stands out is the importance of the efficiency of the man himself. I can take your Lordships to at least half a dozen farmers with farms of well under 100 acres whose standards of production, whose standards of fertility, and whose standards of technical efficiency are such that if they were to represent the average for all types of farming in this country, we would to-day be exporting food instead of importing it.
This brings me to my second point, which is that if we are going to have—as undoubtedly we feel that we must have for the safety and happiness of our country—a great intensification of food production by smaller units as a ladder by which this country may rise, then we need very much better education in agriculture. We shall also need—as has been emphasized by every previous speaker—much greater co-operation not only in buying and selling, but as between farmer and farmer in neighbourliness on their 505 own lands. Thirdly, we shall need an increased flow of the very best blood in this country on to the land, whether as labourers or as master men. My post bag, doubtless like those of very many of your Lordships, is filled with letters from members of the Services—men who have been farm labourers and others—and with letters from people working in factories, all asking how it will be possible, when peace comes, and we are able to put into operation our peace-time plans, for them to secure some parcel of land upon which they may settle down and lead a happy and useful life. The very mechanization which has taken place in the Services for war purposes has driven men to think with longing of quieter and more attractive things. I know it is true, also, that large numbers of prisoners of war are studying agriculture, that they feel the same insistent urge and that they ask the same insistent question: "How can I get a country life when this is over?" It is our imperative duty to meet this need. Not to be ready to fulfil the demand, and to fulfil it in the best way that we can, will cause not only protests and temporary unrest, but will set a canker gnawing at the heart of the nation.
It is clear enough, however, that nothing could be more disastrous than to set up some last minute quickly-evolved scheme of post-war land settlement as a palliative, some scheme which would put people on the land without proper selection and without adequate knowledge and training. At the same time, it will, obviously, strain all our resources and will call for the utilization of all available methods to meet the demand for settlement reasonably and in due course. There are several methods which I believe hold out practicable possibilities, and I do not think that we should rule out any methods which give any promise of success. One suggestion I make is that we should select, as soon as possible, a suitable type of farm whereon intending settlers could work as farm labourer-pupils and so get one, two or three years training. These farms should, if possible, be so situated that the trainees will have opportunities for theoretical education at local centres established by the county and other authorities. The two things, practical and theoretical training, must go hand in hand. Those of us who have had experience of pupils being taken on farms before the 506 war know that with all the good will in the world on both sides the form of training obtainable is limited. There is the objection to this method that it is very much more difficult for the intending small-holder, while in training, to learn other than the rudiments of those branches of his future trade connected with the matter of co-operation. He will not learn the best way to work with his neighbour, and the most effective methods generally of central co-operation for buying and selling. Therefore, while this method should not be overlooked or rejected, I do not think we can look to it to fill the bill.
The second method is one which has already been discussed, the State form of settlement, a settlement possibly private or semi-public or purely State run, and using, perhaps, the Land Settlement Association as a model. This method does indeed hold possibilities of great opportunities, but I see two difficulties. The first is that if it is going to be utilized on a very much wider scale than at present, it is bound to suffer from bureaucratic inefficiency and red tape, which, with the best will in the world it may be found impossible to get over. The success of the Land Settlement Association in its present form is not necessarily a criterion of what would happen when a very much bigger scheme on similar lines is put into operation. But I do not think for one moment that we should neglect that form of training or fail to do our best to expand it to a reasonable extent, especially from the buying and selling point of view.
There is, however, another disadvantage attached to it and that is that there is not sufficient trained personnel, not already in good jobs, to carry out a very much wider scheme on a big scale. Yet a further great danger is that in a large-scale scheme you are bound to have what I can only describe as horticultural suburbs. That is to say you get large numbers of people all specializing in the same thing massed together in the same area so that the advantages of freshness of outlook and individuality are likely to be lost to some extent, and mass problems of a difficult character nay accrue.
There remains a third method which, to my mind, should be used side by side with the other two, a method which perhaps offers a greater scope in the long run—private land settlement with the co- 507 operation of both landowners and farmers. Early on in this war I was partly responsible for starting a farm training scheme for boys which I have had the opportunity—because it has been domiciled in my own house—of watching for some three years. We have taken, as part of a Government scheme, about 25 boys between the ages of 16 and 18. They have been settled in the house as if it were a hostel. They have been working and earning their board and lodging, and a certain amount of pocket-money, by doing between 35 and 40 hours' work a week as gang labour on all types of farms and elsewhere for the county war agricultural committee. For the rest of their time they have been attending lectures (150 lectures a year) and doing specialized training—so many weeks in the dairy, so many weeks on pig farming, so many weeks tractor-driving and so on.
That scheme has suffered from wartime improvisation and from the difficulty in getting staff, but it has been helped by the devoted work of our county staff in lectures and training. It has had, however, the germ of a proper form of dealing with trainees for future settlement, because there has been the possibility of their earning their living, if not much more, while learning their trade, and of having theory go hand in hand with hard practice, and of learning the difference between the nostalgia for rose-covered cottages, foaming milk and singing in the haycocks and the real rigours and difficulties and hard work of country life. I believe that there are many blocks of land where small hostels for between 15 and 40 people could find a place. It is important to have hostels for both sexes, so that there will not be merely an influx of male entrants to the land but of women as well, because the woman in successful settlement is half the show. There is a chance in that way that, with due encouragement, people already available can create opportunities for private settlement. I believe that there are very few 300-acre blocks of land which could not take one settler as a small-holder engaged in market gardening or dairy work or small live stock, or perhaps in a mixture of these. On a block of land the individual owners or a group of owners and farmers might very well co-operate to run a settlement, with a central farm as its background, where men and women could learn the 508 elements of their job, could be conditioned to it and could find out the difficulties, so that they could go away before it was too late, and where constant individual attention could select trainees for the final opportunities with a view to their success. While that is going on, there is in our countryside an immense demand for forestry work, for continuing land reclamation work and so on, and we shall need many new buildings. A great amount of unskilled labour will be required, and I feel that there will be every chance for entrants in these hostels, provided by private initiative of this sort, to earn their living while gaining their training at the same time. They will have the advantage that they may even be able to begin the building of their own homes, and they will see the formation of their own holdings, arising out of nothing. Work upon something from the very beginning is essential to the heart of a future successful undertaking.
In addition to that, a great many people who long for country life may not be heaven-born farmers. They may, however, very well be successful bricklayers with an urge to work in the country, or successful foresters, or practise one of many other crafts. Out of these trainees through private initiative I see no reason why the village should not be repopulated with its essential craftsmen, in the form of people who will have a house and a subsistence holding to provide themselves with their small live stock and vegetables and other necessities of life.
The difficulty there, of course, is capitalization; but if we are—as most of us are—trusted, as employers, to be unpaid tax collectors on behalf of His Majesty's Government under the "Pay as you earn" scheme, which involves a great deal of wearisome labour, and probably extra clerks, for which again we are not paid, surely approved schemes initiated by private individuals might be allowed the same grants and the same credits that Government and more bureaucratic schemes receive, provided that supervision is always possible and that there are due safeguards. I can see no reason why, where grants are given for small holdings to be established, these grants should not be given pari passu through the private initiator of a scheme and through public channels, or why when credit is given it should not be given to 509 the private initiator on equally favourable terms as regards both interest and amortization. If that could be done, I am sure that the actual cost of administration to the State to settle small-holders would be very much lower through private initiative than through public channels, from the very nature of the method, and because those who would be doing it for private reasons would be, or should be, debarred from getting any large extra profit from what they were doing, and would be doing it for love of seeing their own countryside flourish. There would be also, for this reason, less dis-balance to existing systems on the farms themselves. One would not necessarily have to take half a large farm; one could take the pockets of lands which were most suitable, leaving the farms as they exist with the least interference and the greatest use of their land by taking out pockets for the small-holder.
There is no time now to deal with the last part of my noble friend's Motion. We could very profitably spend not one but many days in debating this all-important, and to me all-engrossing, topic. If ever we do have a rejuvenated countryside, I for one shall not be frightened about our birth-rate, as I shall be if we have no hope, in town or country. If we have a vigorous and prosperous countryside, the a on a long view, apart from whatever immediate schemes may be undertaken, it provides the only hope for this country to give to the Commonwealth and to the Empire its proper complement of good country blood for the good country in the Dominions and in the Empire. It is from sound stock in this country that we shall be able in future to supply blood instead of money to the new world.
THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE
My Lords, the noble Viscount who introduced the debate referred to some remarks of mine in February in which I brought forward the work done by the Land Settlement Association in this particular field. In the reply to that debate, the Minister of Reconstruction, unfortunately, felt that agriculture was outside his scope on that particular date. I am glad to see that he has been present with us this afternoon, and I am sure that both he and the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, must have been impressed by the unanimity with which speakers to-day have declared that some place must be 510 found for the small man in our future scheme of agriculture.
I have had so many bouquets thrown to me, or rather to the Land Settlement Association, this afternoon, both by the noble Viscount and by Lord Addison, that I am somewhat embarrassed in dealing with the work of that body. But I do feel that some further illustrations may be useful. It is quite true, as the noble Lord, Lord Addison, said, that in the initial stage the one qualification in a would-be settler was that he had been for at least two years out of work. But that is not the case now, and since the war the Land Settlement Association has given tenancies to some 300 tenants who have had previous experience on the land. In the figures which I gave to your Lordships in February I referred to the returns by the original land settlers and also by these tenants who have had previous agricultural experience, and while it is true that those with agricultural experience have made good, it is none the less true that those who have been through the training given to them by the Land Settlement Association, and worked in with the co-operative spirit which that means, have also made good. The average returns by both classes of tenants are very near one another, in fact I think some of the Land Settlement tenants have some of the highest figures.
The noble Viscount referred to land hunger and the question of whether or not there was a demand for this type of holding. Within the last three months the Land Settlement Association has received no fewer than one thousand inquiries and applications for holdings. The great majority have come from men with agricultural experience, but a very large and an increasing number have come from men in the Services. I have in my hand a small packet of these applications which I brought from the office this morning. They come from different branches of the Services, from the Middle East, from the Central Mediterranean, from Tripolitania, from prisoners of war camps, and from the Air Force. A great many of them have got their information from the Eighth Army News.
One is from a sergeant in the Air Force, who writes:I am interested in your land settlement scheme which I have seen outlined in the local newspaper. Will you please let me have de- 511 tails in accordance with the information given in the same paper? As for personal details, I am twenty-seven years old, I have a wife and a child, and have had some previous experience of land work. I shall be free to take up a holding as soon as I leave the Service.The next is from the Central Mediterranean, and after referring to the way the news has reached him the applicant says that he wants a holding, preferably in Scotland. Unfortunately, there is nobody that I can refer him to in Scotland, except the Department of Agriculture, which has at present not taken up the same kind of view as the Land Settlement Association does for England and Wales. The third application is from a man who has already been demobilized; he was discharged over a year ago. He says he has read the statement that forestry combined with a holding was valuable for discharged men, and he adds: "Will you please send full particulars? In Scotland if possible." I have mentioned those cases because I think definite illustrations are sometimes helpful as showing demand.
There is not only a real demand, but there is a real wish to get a first foot on the ladder of promotion in agriculture. But if we are to provide that, I think it is perfectly clear that it can be done not by increasing wages only, but by giving an opportunity for an independent holding. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, we have to ensure better conditions, but also, on the other side, we must insist that this industry gives an opportunity for, and demands, the best brains. It is not an industry into which you can push all those who cannot make their way in other industries; it is a real profession which responds, probably more than any other, to individual effort and enterprise.
I gave your Lordships on the last occasion a few comparative returns showing what was being achieved in this field in the year 1939 in comparison with the present date. Perhaps I may repeat those figures, particularly in view of what the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, said. The total value of horticultural production on the Land Settlement estates in 1939–40 was £130,000. That rose in 1943–44 to £496,000. The total receipts in the former period were £357,000, which has now risen to a total of £617,000 for last year. Taking up the paint which the 512 noble Lord mentioned of productiveness per acre, I was told on inquiry at the Ministry of Agriculture this morning that £22 per acre might be taken as an average or normal figure for agricultural and horticultural ground. On an analysis of the horticultural plus agricultural holdings of the Land Settlement Association, I find that the figure works out at nearly £72. We may claim, I think, that the land is put to good use and is used economically.
Finally, I do feel that this point should be kept in view by His Majesty's Government. It is important that men should have the opportunity at a suitable age, when they have a young family and not when they are in their declining years, to get their foot on this ladder of promotion. That is the time when it is most important, and if we can secure that, through giving them the opportunity of an independent holding under the system of the Land Settlement Association or under any other system such as has been outlined by the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, it will be all to the good of the country. I hope that the noble Duke, who, I understand, will reply to this debate, will feel enthused by what he has heard this afternoon, enthused by that and by his own association with the Young Farmers' Clubs, to give us some real encouragement that in the future plans of the Ministry of Agriculture we shall see to it that there is a place for the small man.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE DUKE OF NORFOLK)
My Lords, I, too, with other noble Lords who have spoken, welcome this debate and welcome it very warmly, as the noble Viscount who has introduced the Motion shares with other noble Lords who have spoken a deep interest in the present as well as the future of agriculture. The subject of this Motion is a body of food producers who have rendered yeoman service during the war in the maintenance of a sufficient diet for our people and whose achievements are, I believe, universally recognized. As I was able to inform the noble Viscount in reply to a question recently, persons in Great Britain cultivating holdings of less than one acre, such as allotment holders and gardeners, are calculated to be providing some 10 per cent. of the total tonnage of home-produced food, or about half as much again as before 1939; and 513 they have made an especially notable contribution in vegetables, eggs and pig-meat. That figure excludes the produce of small holdings, by which I take the noble Lord to mean holdings of 5, 10, 20, and up to 50 acres. There were, indeed, no fewer than 220,000 holdings of 5o acres; or less in England and Wales alone immediately before the war, representing over 60 per cent. of the total number of holdings in the country; and whether you take account of all these small farmers or only of small-holders in the more restricted sense of persons settled by county councils the Land Settlement Association, the Welsh Land Settlement Society and other bodies, it is well known that they have indeed made, in the words of this motion, a "material contribution to the national food supply."
All farmers have had their difficulties since the war began, and it may be invidious to argue that one class of farmer has had greater difficulties than another; but it is proper to say that the small farmer has had more difficulties than the larger firmer has had. These small farmers, and the small-holders with them, have had the difficulties of mechanization and, apart from that, they have had to change over from producing food from pigs and poultry which, to the small man, has been a staple form of industry, to other forms of production. This has necessitated great sacrifices. They have also had to produce types of food to make themselves self-supporting. It would be fair here to add that it is with the help of county war agricultural executive committees that all these problems have been faced, and this has enabled the small farmers and smallholders to play their full part in the national effort. No less is this true of what I might call the amateur cultivators, the allotment holders and the gardeners. I call them amateurs, not because of their skill, but because they do not derive their livelihood primarily from the soil. They in their turn, during this war, have produced very large quantities of vegetables. They have saved internal transport to a very large degree, and they have brought town and country together by producing food in the towns as well as outside. This bringing together of the urban and the rural mind I personally believe must continue, as in this war, if we are going to have the proper 514 understanding that we need for the agricultural industry afterwards.
I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the national organizations without which, I believe, a great deal of this food could not have been produced. There is the National Allotments Society, organizing the allotments movement and raising standards of cultivation. There are the County Garden Produce Central Committee and the County and Village Produce Associations which, under the wise and active guidance of Lord Bingley, have achieved notable results in many parts of the country. There are also the small live-stock organizations—the Small Pig Keepers' Council and the Domestic Poultry Keepers' Council, over which my right honourable friend who sits with me at the Ministry is Chairman. All over the country these organizations are doing their best by propaganda and other methods to produce the maximum amount of food. May I turn for a moment to something which the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, mentioned—namely, that he had read many leaflets which led him to believe that one day he would be able to cook his own meal? He referred to leaflets produced by the Ministry of Food. If I may with due respect, I would ask him to read the leaflets produced by my own Department known as Notes for Victory Diggers. I hope they will educate him to dig his own garden.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, in one of the three specific questions on the Order Paper, stressed the importance of a ladder. I would not dissent from the noble Viscount's contention in any way. I think that it is important for any industry to have a ladder which will be helpful to those who are hard-working and ambitious to start on their own account should they wish to do so. There may be opportunities for this as there have been in the past. Many people have risen to be employers, not only for their own good, but also for the benefit of the nation, and I hope that that process may go on. But there are two points which I would ask your Lordships to note. We in this country have not now got an unlimited amount of virgin soil for development. If small holdings are to be set up in the future the land required for them must of necessity be carved out of the larger farms and that circumstance immediately 515 puts a limit to the opportunities. Another matter, which I think the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, mentioned in his admirable speech, is that of capital. If we are going to have many new schemes, new outlay of capital upon equipment will be necessary. Capital and equipment must be in short supply for the next few years. Moreover, I do not know that we ought to consider only the small-holder when we are talking about ladders for the agricultural industry. The agricultural industry is a vast one and in this matter we must view agriculture as a whole.
The noble Viscount referred to the question of the settlement of some of our rural population overseas. As my noble friend the Leader of the House made a few pertinent remarks on that question, I will make only one suggestion in connexion with that part of the Motion. We should not overlook the fact that we have no longer a rapidly increasing working population. The agricultural population of this country has been declining for years and after this war it may well be found that we have not in this country the number of people needed on the land. At the same time we must not forget what Lord Addison stressed very clearly in his speech, that agriculture is a skilled job.
I have this afternoon made certain reflections which must be considered as in place of a statement of long-term policy. We know that at this moment the future of the industry is being discussed by its leaders with the Government. It was because at this moment we wanted maximum food production that the four-year plan was introduced. It was introduced so that we might get over the transitional period before we decided upon a long-term policy. A long-term policy will, I hope, be based on the recommendations of Hot Springs. We have also to remember the lessons that we learnt after the last war. I would say definitely that there is and must be a place for the small-holder in any long-term policy, and I hope the noble Viscount will be pleased to hear that the Ministry of Town and Country Planning are at this moment having consultations with my Department and have already made it clear that there must be provision for the allotment holder in their plans. But at this moment it is too early for me to give any definite details. I would say, however, that we have 516 had a very valuable debate to-day. We have heard the views of Lord Elgin and others who are particularly concerned with the small-holder and the land, and I will place all the suggestions and recommendations which have been voiced here this afternoon before those in the Ministry who will be responsible for the framing of a long-term policy for the industry.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I cannot be other than gratified by the high standard of debate which my Motion has evoked, and I wish particularly to thank those noble Lords who have contributed so materially to what I may call a constructive policy in regard to the small man upon British soil. I am grateful to the noble Duke for the satisfactory reply which he has just made to this debate. It is satisfactory from every point of view, and not least satisfactory for the statement that the humble allotment holder and cottage gardener will be included in the picture of rural reconstruction which sooner or later will come to be painted by the Government. He spoke a word of warning about small holdings having to be carved out of larger farms, and on that I would refer to the remark made by my noble friend Viscount Wimborne, to the effect that, although we are priding ourselves—perhaps overmuch in view of the large use of machinery—upon the relatively large output per man, we must bear in mind the enormous importance, in a relatively small country with a large population, of a sufficient output per acre. The more we employ machinery the greater will be the danger of our embarking upon extensive methods of land cultivation rather than intensive methods, which in a small country like this become more and more important if, as the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, indicated, we are to produce if not all, at any rate a very large proportion of the foods essential for our population.
The noble Duke referred very feelingly to the small producers having the greater difficulties. Of course they have, and it is because they have the greater difficulties that we have suggested this afternoon certain methods by which those difficulties may be largely overcome, particularly by the development of—possibly by compulsory insistence upon—co-operative methods, and by what we have seen in a great many districts, the pooling of plant and machinery and the development of a 517 neighbourly spirit among small producers rather than an excessive exhibition of that individualism from which unfortunately our rural population, typically British, so signally suffers. We have had a most interesting debate and I for my part most earnestly hope that it will crystallize into some definite and reassuring, policy regarding the small man on the land in this country. I would emphasize the warning which has come from several parts of your Lordships' House that we should not encourage ex-Service men without experience to settle down either upon British soil as small-scale producers or upon soil overseas—as I have seen myself in South Central Africa—without proper guidance, hoping that the countryside would provide them with a living but ending by losing their little capital. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.