House Of Commons
Friday, 16th March, 1923.
The House met at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Port of London (Finance) Bill,
South Staffordshire Mines Drainage Bill, Read the Third time, and passed.
West Riding of Yorkshire County Council (Drainage) Bill (by Order),
Second Reading deferred till Friday next.
Potteries and North Staffordshire Tramways and Light Railways Bill,
Order [15th March] that the Bill be committed read, and discharged.
Bill referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
Selection (Standing Committees)
STANDING COMMITTEE B.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS reported from the Committee of Selection; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee B: Mr. Harris; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. Albert Bennett.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee B: Mr. Hurd.
STANDING COMMITTEE C.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Members from Standing Committee C (added in respect of the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Bill): Sir Arthur Shirley Benn and Lieut.-Colonel Croft.
Reports to lie upon the Table.
Orders Of The Day
Merchandise Marks Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."In the regretted absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Sir William Bird), through ill-health, I am, by his request, moving the Second Reading of this Bill on his behalf. I do not think there really ought to be very much difference of opinion as to the Second Reading of the Bill, although I can quite understand that there may be a great deal of care required in the Committee stage, because I think the principle which this Bill endeavours to carry out is one which will be acceptable to the whole House.
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who always seems to realise that the first duty of the Opposition is to oppose, might remember that it is not the only duty of the Opposition. Before he has even heard what the principle of the Bill is, he shouts out "No" at the top of his voice, from mere force of habit.
Before this Bill was introduced, the whole of the leading commercial organisations in my constituency have condemned it root and branch, and that is why I shouted "No."
Then all I can say is that the hon. and gallant Member is erring in good company, and that his constituents are as precipitate as he is himself. Perhaps he will bear with me, however, while i state what the principle is, aid when I have done that he will know whether or not he really objects to it so strongly. The only principle that really underlies this Bill is one which I again suggest cannot but be acceptable to my hon. Friends opposite, namely, that: when anybody in this country desires to consume anything eatable and goes to buy it, he shall, if possible, be able to be aware of its origin. There is nothing else underlying this Bill. I admit that there may be very great difficulties in applying that principle, and I can understand that there may be hon. Members who will think the difficulties and dangers in applying the principle are so great that it is hopeless and useless to attempt a Bill of any kind. That is not my opinion.I think we can get great good out of this Bill, particularly if it be very carefully considered in Committee, and I do not claim that the Bill, although it is brought forward under the agis of the Agriculture Committee, is merely for the advantage of the agricultural industry. We are perfectly well aware that it would be quite wrong to state definitely that all food products produced in Great Britain are necessarily better than imported food products. There is no such suggestion, but we are willing to face that issue and to take our chances, and we think that the consumer has the right to know where the article he is buying comes from. If he finds that an article which is imported is of better value than an article which is produced at home, he is perfectly welcome to buy it, and it would be quite impossible for us to raise any objection to that, but it is obvious that in a very large number of food products freshness is of enormous importance and that at the time of actual production there may be equality of quality between products from this country and from abroad. The mere fact that an article has been produced here and is therefore, presumably quite fresh, gives it an advantage in the eyes of the consumer and also in itself. From that point of view, therefore, agriculture has something to gain. I will not elaborate that, because it must be clear to everybody that all that this Bill desires to do is to give the consumer that right to which I have referred. I may remind the House that it is not always to the advantage of the British farmer that there should be a differentiation between his products and those which are imported. Take the case of wheat. The British farmer suffers in the case of wheat. The price of Manitoba imported wheat is about 10s. a quarter higher than the price of imported British wheat, and the farmer has no chance of substituting British for Manitoba wheat and of getting a higher price for his wheat because it is indis- tinguishable from that imported from the other side of the Atlantic. However, when we come to the other staple product of agriculture, which is meat, there the British farmer has the advantage. There is no doubt that the best meat produced in England and in Scotland is of better quality than imported meat, but the farmer, although he loses on the wheat, does not gain proportionately on the meat, because when the meat is sold it is not like the wheat with an absolute differentiation between the two. There is no doubt a certain amount of substitution which takes place, and both the consumer and the producer suffer owing to that substitution. It is the object of the Bill to prevent that, so that when the consumer desires to buy meat he may know whether or not it is British, and if it be foreign and cheaper, and if he cannot afford to buy British meat, or, putting it simply, if he thinks foreign meat at its price is better value than British meat at its price, even though the British may be the better article, then he is perfectly free to buy foreign meat. All we say is that he ought to have that free choice and to know which it is that he is buying. There are two great difficulties, I admit, in carrying out this principle, and I take it that it will be round these two difficulties that most of the debate will centre, and, of course, they will be referred to in Committee, but they are root difficulties, and I think they are certainly appropriate to be debated on Second Reading. The first of these is—Is it practicable, as is proposed in this Bill, to make this sufficiently watertight; that is to say, can these provisions be effectively, or sufficiently effectively, carried out to be of real advantage to the country? That is a very difficult point, I admit, because when you come to meat it is extremely difficult to identify a particular piece of meat and to prove whether it is imported or home produced, but the Bill approaches that subject from two directions. It first of all says that the imported foreign article, when it reaches this country, must, either as to the article itself or as to the case or package in which it arrives, be indelibly marked, otherwise it will not be allowed to come in, and nobody may remove that mark. That is not very difficult. That enables the Customs Officers to see that everything which comes in from abroad in the way of imported foodstuffs is marked, and in some cases, as hon. Members will see in this Bill, we go on further than that at present, although in Committee a further proposal may perhaps have to be made. I want this Bill not to be a party Measure in any sense, if we do puss it, and I welcome criticism, particularly from anybody such as the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), who understands the trade through all its stages, if he accepts the principle, as I know he does, because he said so in a debate last Session when I raised this question generally in an agricultural discussion. He then supported me in what I said, and made an effective speech, in which he promised his support to the principle, I notice he has now put down an Amendment to reject this Bill, but I take it that, after what he said on the occasion to which I have referred, I have only to understand by that, that he accepts the principle and not the details. He cannot change his mind, because when he last spoke, as I say, he definitely supported and advocated the principle of this Bill, and therefore I welcome his opposition. That is the kind of opposition I welcome, because if he accepts the principle, I want his help in thrashing the matter out, so that we may make the Bill really practicable. We want to get some real value for the whole country out of it, and we shall be very glad to discuss it from that point of view. I see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull is again smiling, but I think that he and I approach politics from two very different points of view.
I am only in this House to try to get something done. I do not care much about party or party fighting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] No, I do not care so much about that as getting something done. My hon. Friend opposite is just as welcome to his point of view as I am to mine. He may be just as right. I am entitled, however, to put my point of view to the House. Everybody wishes well. I think the one good thing we have got out of the War—there may be others—but that which strikes me, is the real permanent advance which has been made in small cultivation in this country, and in small food production Although we are constantly getting up and telling the House the absolute truth, that farming per se is absolutely unproductive at the present time, because the cost of production exceeds the price of the article produced, that does not apply to small cultivation, because those engaged in it, for the most part, are not wholly dependent upon it. It is an additional source of income to them, and the labour they give to it is largely in their spare time. The work done in allotments and the rearing of poultry by people who occupy and cultivate a small patch of land, is really a sort of bonus food production to the whole nation. That development took place when foreign food could not be imported to the extent it was before, and, surely it is worth while, if we possibly can, to maintain that production, and do anything we can to help the small people to keep a fair and reasonable market for their products where they can out of the poultry hut or the allotment.This is not a large farmers' Bill at all. Particularly in the matter of eggs, the whole poultry industry is desirous of seeing something done to prevent the substitution of foreign for British produced eggs, and there, I am sure, the House will see it is quite obvious, if the provisions of this Bill are carried out, that the question of the Bill being watertight does not arise in that case, because the egg is an unalterable unit. An egg is an egg. I will come to the difference in size in a moment. The egg in outward appearance, whether imported or not, is the same unit, whether it comes in thousands in a case, or whether exposed on a retailer's counter. It is an indivisible unit, and if you once indelibly stamp that unit, it can always be identified. Therefore, in the matter of eggs, the Bill, if carried out, is absolutely watertight. As to the inside of the egg, there is a considerable difference in quality between eggs produced at home, which are fresh, and eggs produced in very distant countries, which are anything but fresh, though in outward appearance they are very much the same. I believe it is not at all an uncommon practice of some vendors of eggs to purchase British eggs in their own neighbourhood from British producers, and then buy cases of foreign eggs very much cheaper, and mix those eggs with the British eggs, and sell them all at the same price. The result sometimes is somewhat extraordinary. I rather regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. G. A. Spencer) is not in his place. He has paired in favour of the Bill, but he has authorised me, in his absence, to relate an incident which occurred in his constituency, for which he is prepared to give chapter and verse and name the parties concerned. There is an old lady in his constituency who had a broody hen, and she wanted to have a brood of chickens. As she was a little short of eggs, she bought half-a-dozen new-laid eggs and added them to the clutch which this hen was to sit upon. When hatching-time came, out of four of these eggs emerged four lizards. These were, apparently, lizard eggs from China which had been sold as British new-laid. This incident is vouched for as a fact.
By an hon. Member for Nottingham—a member of the party of my hon. Friend opposite. I would not have poached that story from him, and he would have told it himself to-day had he been present. It is at his request that I tell it to the House as from him, and hon. Members can question him as to details when he conies back. That is the kind of substitution which takes place. There is an alternative in the Bill. The eggs, or any other produce dealt with by the Bill, may be marked either with the name of the country of origin or with the word "Imported." That carries very considerable consequences. Where a country, for instance, Denmark, is near this country, where the agricultural interest is well looked after, there is probably very little difference between the quality of the eggs brought from Denmark and the quality of the eggs produced in this country, and when you get to other kinds of products it may very well be that some people will think that Danish products in certain cases may be, in some respects, superior to those of this country. We face that issue, and we say that where a good article is sent to this country, the name of the country printed on that article will be a trade mark to which they are welcome. I would like to read to the House a letter which I have received from a representative of one of the principal Danish importing houses in this country. He says:
I do not know whether that meets to some extent, the argument broadcasted round the House by interested people, that it would be quite impossible to mark eggs without incurring enormous expense, reducing imports and raising the price. Here is a foreign importer who makes the statement that they mark every egg they export with a trade mark now. He continues:"Much interested in the Bill which you have in hand, I have much pleasure in submitting the following for your consideration. If the trade does not think it can gain by purity and accuracy in selling methods, there is no doubt that the consumer will. I believe that no single article of food offers greater scope for irregularities in selling methods than eggs. Our biggest egg export association in Denmark, the Danish Farmers' Egg Export Association, stamp every egg they export with a trade mark. "
" It is not an English farmer who signs this; it is a Danish exporter—apart from the English or the Irish. ""I know of people who will not buy those eggs, as they cannot mix them with English eggs. I believe, at the same time, that there are others who sell those Danish stamped eggs as English dairy eggs, but this may be exceptional. On the salesman's board all eggs are called respectively new laid or fresh, no matter whether they come from China, Morocco, Egypt, Styria, Rumania, Poland, Russia, Holland, France, Denmark, Italy or Sweden—apart from English or Irish. "
That is another argument which is used in the circular which has been broadcasted."The absence of suitable trading methods is thus obvious. Every egg should be stamped with the name of the country (in English) of its origin. It has been argued against this that the shipper docs not always know before packing the eggs where he is going to send same. "
I suppose if he likes lizards—"The reply to this is that if he takes the name of his country (in English) as his trademark for his eggs, these will be known the world over by that name, and if they are good they will be readily absorbed at any time. That the marking of an egg should eliminate the chance of selling anywhere is absurd, as anyone anywhere is pleased to have an article which is known to be reliable, and which in this way will have a real chance of advertising itself. Again, as regards the argument that prices would be raised by the marking, it should be noted that all trade prices are dependent on supply and demand. If, for instance, the consumer finds that the Chinese egg is the best value "—
I will not read any more, though there is more, but just put forward the arguments that are most likely to be helpful to the Second Heading. Anyone who opposes this Bill will require to make a pretty strong case to show it will not be for the benefit of the consumer in this country that when he buys eggs they shall be marked so that he shall know where the eggs had actually originated. As to meat, there are very considerable difficulties. Here, again, it is not possible in regard to fresh meat to draw any actual hard and fast line between meat produced in this country and meat produced abroad. When I say meat produced, I mean in the sense of being wholly produced. In the fullest sense of meat produced in this country, I suppose you refer to meat from an animal which had been bred, reared, fatted, and killed in the United Kingdom. That is really the home meat. Then at the other end of the scale you have the animal bred, reared, and fatted abroad, and brought into this country and slaughtered at the port of debarkation. It is impossible, on the butcher's slab, to distinguish between the two, or between any grade between the two. For instance, there is the cattle landed here to be grazed and fatted. Therefore, when one speaks of British meat one can only refer to British-killed meat. There is another stage, that is, of animals which have been fatted in some adjacent country, the Continent, say, and the meat has been brought over here freshly killed. It is impossible to distinguish on the butcher's slab meat of this kind and the meat to which I have just alluded. Therefore, in the matter of fresh meat, there is very great difficulty, but it is a matter I shall be perfectly prepared to have considered and thrashed out in Committee. I have had some discussion already with those skilled and interested in the trade at Smithfield about this matter, and they have some available statistics. On the other hand, I admit that the Clauses as regards the retail sale of meat will require to be very carefully considered in Committee to see how they can be made really effective to carry out the principle which this Bill desires to enforce. I know my hon. Friend, who will, I have no doubt, speak presently, the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) is in favour of this Bill being applied, for instance, to bacon, and also, I understand, to meat, but he will agree with me that in practice there are very great difficulties in differentiating between the article on the butcher's slab. Even when subject to skilled examination, it is extremely difficult to detect the difference in origin between the different brands of fresh meat or fresh pork. Therefore that will require more careful examination. But some people will say, and with justice, that substitution takes place now. If what I have said be true it shows the more necessity for marking if the meat appears all alike. There is a good deal of substitution which takes place not only between the different brands of fresh meat but between British meat and chilled meat, and even frozen meat. The real basic price is very different and it is very necessary that there should be strict enforcement of these Regulations, because with skilled examination it is possible to differentiate between the meat which is fresh killed and the meat which is either killed or frozen. Then there is one other point in the Bill, which is a thorny one, and that is whether or not the Bill shall apply to Ireland. The House will see that in the first Clause of the Bill these restrictions on importation are applied, and they will have to be carried out by the Customs authorities. I believe that the present customs barrier of Great Britain includes Northern Ireland. Therefore, the natural barrier under which this Bill will be carried out will be that of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that is the way the Bill is drawn. There is no hostility in this to Southern Ireland. We shall be quite prepared in Committee to consider any suggestions on this point. I think it is proposed to set up a separate customs barrier in Southern Ireland, and also if there is an entirely separate Customs jurisdiction in any country or in Ireland, it may be, as between Ireland and this country, it might then be possible to import large quantities of unmarked foreign produced meat into Ireland, into the Irish jurisdiction, and to bring it over here unmarked because it has merely passed from Ireland. That, of course, would defeat the whole purpose of this Bill. I do not think I need detain the House much longer. I think I have done my best to make the case clear. I have said that the first Clause of the Bill in regard to the marking and importation falls to be enforced by the Customs. The second and third Clauses of the Bill, which turn on the retail sale are under the jurisdiction of the Board of Agriculture mainly. But the provisions of Clauses 2 and 3, as regards the retail sale, fall to be carried out by the local authorities. The officers of the local authorities will be carrying out practically the same duties as they have now to carry out in the matter of the adulteration of foodstuffs, and the same officers will be able to do the work. In Clause 6 the power of entry to premises where there is a suspicion that substitution is taking place is given. The House will see how Clauses 2 and 3 are linked up. Of course, if any foreign produced foodstuffs is on the retailer's premises, and is properly and indelibly marked on importation, the officer has a right to visit those premises, and will then have the opportunity of seeing what is in store on those premises, and to see whether the foreign stuff which is indelibly marked coincides with what has been displayed on the counter for the customer. That shows the necessity of having the two procedures. I do not think I have left anything out in the matter of principle, and I would only, in all humility, commend this Bill to the House or the Second Reading. I know it is a very difficult subject, an extremely difficult subject, to carry out practically and soundly. I admit that this is rather a large adventure for a private Member's Bill. I face it with courage, because I believe the principle to be absolutely sound. I feel that this Bill can be entrusted to the tender mercies of the House in no party spirit, as I have said before, and I do plead for the attention of the House to this Bill with good will. I do not put it forward in any sense as a demand by the agricultural industry, but I put it forward as a national Measure. I ask the House to accept it with good will and to criticize it fully. I feel sure that hon. Members will not be anxious to destroy this Bill for the sake of destroying it, and if it can be made a good Bill I hope those who are opposing it will join with its promoters and try and produce something which will be a good thing both for producers and consumers."he will inquire for same again and again, with the result that the retailer will be quickly sold out. The retailer orders another lot from his wholesaler, who may be also the importer, otherwise the wholesaler has bought from the importer The importer finds his stock quickly cleared, and realises that he can get more money for the next lot. He, therefore, buys heavier from the shipper. "
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at, the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."In moving the Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman opposite has quite properly directed attention to the very great defects which the Bill contains. Let me at the outset make it perfectly plain that many of us who oppose this Bill on these benches are not in any way hostile to a proper agricultural policy, and we are not opposed to doing everything in our power to secure that consumers may know the origin of the food which is offered them for sale from time to time. That is no part of our case. I hope to show this morning that this is not the proper time or the proper way of going about the reform which the right hon. Gentleman has advocated. There are three parts in regard to which arguments may be led with great force against this Measure. First of all there are the details of the Bill itself, which the right hon. Gentleman has already admitted are matters of very great difficulty indeed. In the second place, there is the fundamental Act for this purpose, namely, the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887; and in the third place, there is the report of the Committee appointed by the Board of Trade in 1919 to deal with the specific question as to whether there should be any extension of the Merchandise Marks Act and similar legislation in this country. That is a report to which the right hon. Gentleman in the whole course of his speech made no reference whatever. Under these three heads I propose to offer one or two objections. In the first place, let us look at the Measure itself. It is quite true that at the present time we have the Ministry of Food Orders as regards the sale of meat and other articles. This Bill begins by dealing with eggs, and it suggests that every egg imported into this country should be stamped. I do not exaggerate the difficulty of stamping, but I would like to remind the House that present statistics show that anything up to 2,000,000,000 eggs per annum are imported into this country annually, and there cannot be the slightest doubt that, if we are going to impose the Regulations under this Bill, there must be some increase in the price of a commodity which a large number of poor people consume. I think that is beyond a shadow of a doubt, and if there is a tendency of that kind we should look very carefully at any such proposal. Not only that, but the Bill goes far beyond eggs and applies to different classes of meat. It is extended to raw fruits and vegetables, and finally comes down to poultry, and other commodities on which the people live. In other words, this is a very wide and sweeping Measure bringing within its compass a great range of commodities consumed every day by the people of this country. So much for the general scope of the Measure as applying to these articles. Let us now look at some of the other proposals which this Bill makes. It evidently recognises that there will be, as indeed there has been, plenty of room for evasion and fraud, misdescription of goods, and the rest of it. It recognises that it is very difficult to brand the actual commodities, and it falls back upon the branding of the crates or the packages in which the articles are contained. While that may be a safeguard up to a point, when the goods are removed from the case the protection afforded to the consumer largely disappears, because it becomes very difficult to trace the origin or to supply any specific information on that point. Again, large quantities of meat are imported into this country, and the Bill makes the extraordinary proposal that while there is a method of marking the slab or board on which the meat is exposed for sale, the description "home" or "imported meat" need not be applied when the quantities are 1 lb. or less. So that I defy any consumer in this country, going into an establishment for the sale of meat, to be in any way certain as to which is the imported and which is the home commodity a matter which my right hon. Friend who moved this Bill admits is very difficult. This is not the scheme which is really intended by the Merchandise Marks Act, and if any protection or special treatment is desired for home produce surely there are other ways of achieving that object. At all events this is .not the way. I will now refer to the machinery of this Bill. It is notorious, and it was made perfectly clear by the investigations of the Committee of 1919, that the staff available for inspection at the central headquarters or under the local authorities is altogether inadequate for the purpose, and yet this Bill very greatly extends, presumably, the duties of the central and the local authorities who would be entrusted with this task. If any proper protection is to be afforded, it can only be achieved by increasing the staff of the central Department and the local authority. It would be necessary to increase those staffs very largely in order to be effective. Let it be noted that the burden of all this would fall upon the local rates at a time when by common consent the local rates are carrying as heavy a burden as they can possible do. I am not very much impressed with the right hon. Gentleman's argument with regard to Ireland. I should have thought at this stage, admitting the customs difficulty, that it was very undesirable, in promoting a Bill here, to seek to draw any kind of distinction between Northern and Southern Ireland, partly because of the great practical difficulties and political aspects. Many of us look forward to a united Ireland and we want to see that achieved at the earliest possible moment. For this reason I regret even seeing a Clause of this kind in the Bill which seems to introduce distinction between Northern and Southern Ireland. There is another proposal which again illustrates the kind of practical difficulty which we have in mind. It seems that the definition of meat is extended to meat as we commonly understand it—bacon, veal, and so on—but it does not cover meat coming into this country in the form of sausages or offals. I do not want to treat a very serious subject irreverently, but I must say that, everything considered, sausages are likely to be more dangerous than meat. I do not understand an artificial line being drawn between these difficult classes of commodities with the idea of giving the consumer protection, on the one side, by providing him with a knowledge of the origin of the commodity, and of giving the agricultural community some encouragement on the other. I believe the Bill to be administratively well-nigh unworkable, and on that ground alone, I think, the House will be entitled to reject it. Important as these arguments are, there are far more important arguments regarding this matter which we are bound to urge in opposition to the Measure. My right hon. Friend, in introducing the Bill, made practically no reference to the fundamental Act for this purpose, namely, the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887. I am excluding for the moment later legislation, because that was very largely of an amending character, and the Act of 1887 is still the fundamental and governing Act for this purpose in this country. There are two Sections of that Act which are relevant to-day. First, there is Section 2; and, secondly, there is Section 16. which, more particularly, is the Section dealt with in this Bill. Section 2, if I remember its terms rightly, deals with people who forge a trade description or use a misleading trade mark, or who have a die or stamp for a purpose of that kind or who are guilty generally of giving a false description of goods which are imported into this country under misleading and fraudulent devices, and which under that Act are liable to forfeiture. When we pass to Section 16 which this Bill proposes very largely to extend, we find that it is divided, roughly, into two heads. The first point in that Section refers to the goods which I have described as being liable to forfeiture on the ground of a misleading description. There is a violent distinction between what Section 16 of the 1887 Act proposes and what this Bill proposes. The two matters are really entirely different, and I do not think that it is proper to seek to extend Section 16 of that Act in the way now proposed. The second part of that Section is aimed at people who seek to send into this country goods which have a mark or description similar to or like one which is used by a producer here, unless, of course, the articles are very clearly branded with something which indicates that they are of foreign origin. I think that is a perfectly fair description of Section 16 of the Act of 1887. Hon. Members will see that it is directed against any misleading description, tinder a mark or title or whatever it may be, used by a foreign producer to mislead the people of this country into believing that they are getting a home article. There are two other parts of that section with which I need not detain the House. They refer to penalties, and so on, and there is also a reference to certain fraudulent marking. Is it unreasonable to suggest that, if we are going to do anything to safeguard the consumer by the marking of these classes of commodities—and incidentally I think it is quite clear that the purpose of the Bill is to give some kind of preference or safeguard to the agricultural community—the proper way to go about it is not to propose an extension of Section 16 of the Act of 1887, and on that ground, as a matter of legislation, we can put up a very strong case against the Bill. This matter was investigated, as I have stated, by a committee appointed by the Board of Trade in 1919 and which reported in Command Paper 720 of 1920. This is a very recent investigation directed to the specific point whether there should be any extension of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887. What did that representative committee say? They quite properly went back to the principal part of the Act of 1887, and they reminded the public that that was directed against fraudulent marking. In the second place, they came to the conclusion—unanimously, so far as I remember—that it was not practicable or possible to have any general description, such as "foreign" or "imported" or "Dominion" or "Colonial" applying to different classes of goods. They also reviewed the evidence of the manufacturers on the one side and the merchants or middlemen and consumers on the other. Many manufacturers, of course, were in favour of an extension of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, but, speaking generally, the merchants and many others were against it on the ground that the tendency would be to increase prices, to make trade more difficult, to interfere with the entrepôt trade and also to interfere with the carrying trade, the value of which to Great Britain at that time before the War was placed at rather more than £100,000,000 a year. These reasons were all reviewed by the Board of Trade Committee in 1919, and finally and generally they came down against any wide extension of the Act except for the specific purpose of dealing with this prob- lem of fraudulent or misleading marking. That Committee was presided over by one who was then a Unionist Member, and I rather think a Tariff Reformer. At all events, at that time he was a Unionist Member of the House of Commons. That Report also indicated that in this matter, in order to secure efficiency, international action was required, and various proposals were made as to whether it could be taken up later by the League of Nations, or by any other machinery, in order to arrive at a common policy. From beginning to end, however, of that very recent Report on the advisability or otherwise of extending the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, there was not one proposal which in any way resembled the proposals included in this Bill. That is a very recent investigation applied to the whole problem, which gives no encouragement to the central purpose of this measure. I cannot conclude without making two other points perfectly plain. We on these benches are not arguing this morning in favour of town consumers as against rural or agricultural producers. That is no part of our case at all. We deplore the stagnation which has overcome a large part of the agricultural community in Great Britain. We believe that an agricultural policy is urgently required. But, although it is not strictly relevant now, we on these benches, at all events, feel that there must be a fundamental change in the land system of this country, and in other directions which I could suggest if it were relevant to do so. We are not differing from hon. Members opposite in seeking to help the agricultural community, and we recognise that the interests of town and rural dwellers are bound up together. We do say, however, that this problem is not going to be helped in the very least by a Measure of this kind, and we say so mainly for a second reason which I want to put. I think that no hon. Member who reviews this Bill and for a moment imagines it to be applied, even to a limited extent, with all its inspection, regulation, marking, and the rest, can suggest that the tendency would be other than to increase the prices of the commodities affected. Every process that is applied to the production and distribution of a commodity tends to add to the price, and there cannot be the slightest doubt that there is grave danger in doing that if at the same time we are not going to have the slightest guarantee that we are safeguarding the consumer. Within recent times there has been a very heavy fall in all classes of in Great Britain, to the tune of £500,000,000 or £600,000,000 annually, or even more, in the income of from 7,000,000 to 10,000,000 of the people of this country. At the same time, for nearly a year now, there has been practically no change in the cost of living as compared with August, 1914; that is to say, it has tended to remain stationary at about 80 per cent. above the pre-War level. My suggestion is that we should hesitate, and I think we should refuse, to pass a Measure the effect of which must be to influence prices in an upward direction, at a time when the cost of living is still a very grave problem for all our people, and for millions of them in particular, and when the real income of these people, that is to say, as measured in terms of purchasing power, has been very seriously impaired. For all these reasons I have no hesitation in asking the House to reject this Bill.
I beg to second the Amendment. I desire at the outset to say that I. quite appreciate the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) with regard to the speech that I made on the consideration of the Importation of Animals Bill. I am sure that he does not desire to misrepresent me, but he has, as a matter of fact, misrepresented what was in my mind at that time, I referred then to the fact that the provisions for the protection of consumers which had been operative, and are still operative, through the medium of the Sale of Food Order of the Food Department of the Board of Trade, had been introduced as proposed permanent legislation in the Merchandise Marks Bill of last year by way of Schedule. I said I thought that that was a perfectly proper thing, and we did desire as a consumers' movement in co-operative circles, to do all that we could to see that the selective right of consumers was maintained, so that they might know what they were getting when they went to buy any particular food commodity. That is entirely different from what is proposed in this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I think hon. Members who disagree will see what I mean. I do not deny that there is a plausible case in this Bill on the ground that it will afford that selective right to consumers, but I do wish to point out that, instead of this being on the lines of the protection which has been afforded in the past through the medium of the Sale of Food Orders, it is in fact a Bill which will prohibit imports unless these things are done. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] This is a prohibitive, and therefore a protectionist, Bill, instead of a Bill which will provide permanent powers for the appropriate Department of the Government to see that the retailers and wholesalers of produce in this country do give a reasonable opportunity to their customers to know what they are buying.We have pressed as a co-operative movement—and I think, with great respect to hon. Members opposite who claim to speak for consumers, that there is no organised body in this country that can so well speak for consumers as that which represents 4,500,000 co-operators, organised in trade for their own purposes—we have pressed all the way through, from the period of the operation of the Consumers' Council during the War, that the administrative provisions for the protection of the consumer which were operative then, and which were found to be effective, which is the real point, and the point that was made by my hon. Friend, should be made permanent by legislation. We know quite well, from experience of the administration of the Food Orders, and I am sure the President of the Board of Trade will agree with me in this, that many of the original attempts to protect consumers in this matter were ineffective because they were not administratively possible, that is to say, they could not be carried to a logical conclusion by securing convictions. That was impossible even during the period of food control, and with the Ministry of Food, an extraordinary large and complicated machine of itself, with a whole army of food inspectors. Even then, it was not possible to carry it out. If that were so then, how can it be possible now, when that Ministry has been disbanded, and all those special inspectors had been disbanded, to make the provisions of a Bill like this effective administratively through the medium of local authorities? If the Bill were passed, and if the local authorities attempted to administer it, they would have to admit that fact, or they would have to do the very thing about which hon. Members always complain, namely, enormously increase the inspectorial and inquisitorial staff of the Department. We say that there are some ways in which we can proceed. In the co-operative movement we have something like 800 retail meat branches, so we know something about the trade and we have proved that there is no real difficulty in effectively administering the provisions which the Board of Trade has maintained for the labelling of meat. We have pressed upon the Government for over two years now that the provision with regard to the labelling of imported meat should be made permanent by Statute. It is operating to-day with all the effect of a Statute under the Schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and we are quite prepared, from the point of view of the consumer, to see that that should become permanent. Moreover we are prepared to see that some measure of protection to the consumer should be afforded in regard to this very debatable question of eggs. There is a Clause in the Sale of Food Order, which I daresay the right hon. Gentleman will say is not very effective, but which we are prepared to see made permanent, that a person
The co-operative business is owned by the consumers, so they cannot be cheating themselves. If there was any question of that they would soon make their presence felt at the meetings, where they exercise absolutely democratic control. That provision can be worked quite adequately. It is possible that the Board of Trade might be urged to strengthen the administration of that Clause, but that is a very different thing from suggesting that every egg which is imported into this country shall be indelibly stamped. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) said the marking of eggs would increase the price, and there was dissent from the other side. Anyone who knows anything about the import trade in eggs knows that that is an indisputable fact. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford quoted from a letter from a Danish firm seeking to show that the cost would be infinitesimal. That is natural coming from a Danish import house. They have, as agriculturists know, a very large share in the imported egg market in this country. They have obtained it by very scientific co-operation amongst egg producers in Denmark. They have gone in for the scientific grading as well as marking of eggs, and the stamping of their eggs gives them a place in the, top of the market. They want, therefore, to get protection in the British market, in which they have obtained such a strong footing. That is the real reason for the communication sent to the right hon. Gentleman. They want protection—[HON. MEMBERS: "Against fraud!"]—for their article which obtains a high price, and if they could get the Government of this country to so further restrict the importation of eggs from other countries as to cause a more limited supply they would be able to get a still higher price. It is said the stamping of individual eggs is not going to make any real difference in the price. That might be quite true if the exporters abroad knew exactly to which country their eggs were going, but that is not so. In the case of China and Egypt, the exporters do not know to which country their eggs are going to be sent, and in the entrepôt trade it is certain that the cost of marking the eggs would not only be the original cost of marking. It would mean the unpacking, stamping, and repacking of every one of these consignments at the place of the entrepôt merchants. That would not mean a cost of 9d. or 1s. a thousand, but more like 7s. 6d. or 10s."shall not sell or offer or expose for sale, whether by wholesale or retail, as fresh eggs or new-laid eggs or under any description of which the words ' fresh ' or ' new-laid ' form part, any eggs which have been imported into the United Kingdom unless the description also includes the word ' imported ' or a word or words disclosing the country of origin. "
The thing has actually been tried, and a case of eggs, containing, I think, 1,440, can be unpacked, stamped and repacked in one hour by one man.
How many per second?
I should really like to see the man actually at work packing and repacking 1,440 eggs in an hour.
You shall have the opportunity.
I should like to know also the rate of wages paid to him for an hour's work. Experience in regard to other matters has led people engaged in the distributing trade, as we are, to be absolutely certain that it can have no other effect than a substantial increase in the price of imported eggs, and from past experience we can say that if there is an increase in the imported article there will be at least a corresponding increase in the home market. The right hon. Gentleman said the homo consumers had a right to be protected, because the home-produced egg was a fresh egg and imported eggs might not be fresh eggs. It is true they might not, but until the agricultural egg producer is far more scientifically working than he is to-day we shall go on getting, as we do very often got, eggs which are not fresh from our home producers. From the experience of the Danish co-operative farmers and small holders in securing the top of the market, voluntary organised grading and marking is the best suggestion to make to the home egg producer. If you want the top of the market in regard to eggs of that kind it is open to you to organise cooperatively and on scientific lines, so that the public may know that the graded British egg is the best egg they can possibly get, and you will get a better price for it, but you have no right to prevent the import of eggs which are not perhaps quite as good, but still are extraordinarily valuable factors in the food supply of thousands of people who are existing on the subsistence level very largely, sometimes with the aid of hon. Members opposite.To revert to the subject of meat, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the substitution of foreign for British meat was common, and that meat is deliberately sold to the public as British when it is in fact foreign. I suggest that that is not in accordance with the facts. I have as much desire to protect the consumer against any such fraud as anyone in the House. If I did not, members of the co-operative movement would soon be after me. You can go to any butcher's shop you like to-day and you will find that the administrative working of that Section has been so effective that in the butcher's' shops various sections of meat are clearly set out and labelled and you will find customers getting just what they want, either imported or British meat. There is no real foundation for the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the butchering trade in general is exercising wholesale fraud upon home consumers by the substitution of imported for British meat. I ask the House to look at this Bill from the point of view of the consumer and not from the point of view of those who desire to introduce a Protectionist Measure under the guise of being the consumer's friend. We have had experience before of those who say that they speak for the consumer but who are, in reality, speaking for the protection of the producer. We have found that in our efforts to make permanent the provisions for the sale of food, many of the people who are avowed Protectionists—of course, they have a perfect right to be Pro-tectionists—who would support a Bill like this, are amongst those who prevent us from carrying into effect some matters which are vital for the consumers. We have found their opposition to the first Clause of the Sale of Food Order to provide that bread should be sold by weight only. We have had their continued opposition to the second Clause which, fortunately, with the aid of the Government has been made permanent, that tea should be sold by net weight and not sold by gross weight. It is rather strange to find that when we are pleading for what is administratively possible in the interests of the protection of the consumer, we have the opposition of those who, when it comes to introducing a wide Measure like this, which is bound to enhance the price to the consumer, support it on the ground that it will not raise the price. It is difficult to reconcile the two points of view. However desirable it may be to protect the consumer, it is not going to be done by this Bill. This Bill will exploit rather than protect the consumer, and I ask the House to reject it on Second Reading.
I claim the indulgence of the House as a new Member. Last Session and this Session I have wondered whether I should go down to posterity as one of those Members who never made his maiden speech, or whether I should face this House, even if I died in the effort. I have listened to the able way in which this Bill was introduced by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), and I think he has covered very clearly the main points and reasons why I am prepared to support the Bill. The speeches which we have heard from the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) and the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) are sympathetic towards the Bill and I hope that the arguments which will be put more clearly than I can put them, will result in the difficulties which those hon. Members forsee being overcome, and that they will support the Bill. Very largely, it seems to me that this question is turning on the question of eggs I believe the late Dan Leno experienced great difficulties when setting up as a grocer in how to conduct his business successfully and conscientiously. He determined to give the public exactly what they asked for. The first thing he was asked for was a fresh egg. It is well known to many of us who are past middle age that he was confronted with a difficulty on discovering that there were new laid eggs, fresh eggs, and electioneering eggs. Fortunately, owing to the scarcity of eggs at the last general election, we did not receive electioneering eggs. That difficulty would have been overcome if the eggs were distinctly marked with the name of the country of origin. It has been suggested that the Danish egg has established itself by virtue of its quality in our market. What is the difficulty with other eggs, whether they are Chinese, Italian, or even Russian, in those countries sending eggs to this country which may eventually prove themselves to be perhaps equal to the Danish egg are very little inferior to the English egg. Some hon. Members say that the cost would be raised if the eggs were marked. I do not agree with that. It might temporarily mean the unhinging of the trade, but eventually I am sure that the trade would accommodate itself to the new conditions in regard to the imported egg. In supporting this Bill, my desire is that the public should get what they want and what they pay for, and that the agricultural interest in this country should not be undermined by fraudulent selling of eggs or other produce. If it comes to the question of hotel proprietors or boarding-house keepers or shop keepers who want to supply at the very lowest prices possible to their customers, it seems to me that if they want the cheapest eggs they should say what that egg is and it will be sold to the consumers at the same price. The idea that merely marking eggs will raise the cost is, I think, negligible.I do not want in my maiden effort to attempt to make a speech. I have been warned not to do so, but I would like to call attention to the position of bacon. I am informed that the market is almost inundated with Danish bacon, greatly to the detriment of the English producers and curers of bacon. If the retailer puts Danish bacon in his window for sale, and he will also put in the window English bacon, and let them both be clearly marked, there is a very large number of consumers who would willingly pay more for the English bacon, knowing that they were getting English bacon. It might be for the sake of patriotism that they would support English bacon. A any rate, we should give them the chance. On the other hand, where a retailer only puts a label on the bacon that it is the very best bacon procurable, it gives no idea of the country of origin. The customer asks the retailer for the best bacon; I do not say that the retailer has no conscience, but be forgets it slightly for the moment, and he says that it is the very beet bacon procurable. Otherwise, he might have only been able to sell it at 1s. 5d. a lb., and he may sell it at 1s. 6d. or 1s. 7d. because he says that it is the best bacon. If the consumers could get English bacon they would give more for it than for the imported article. Coming back to the question of the egg, there are certain difficulties and there are frauds on the public. Many years ago I remember a friend of mine in the city whose clerk appealed to him to support his old people, who were very small farmers and in bad way. The clerk suggested that he might supply my friends and any of his friends with eggs from the farm. These eggs were sold by the clerk to many people, through my friend. My friend was not altogether struck, after a time, with the quality of the eggs, but he was more struck with the neat way in which the eggs were packed. After some time the clerk was seen coming out of one of the well-known large shops with several boxes of eggs under his arm, which he carefully took to the office and delivered to his employer as English eggs. I would not support this if it were going to raise the cost of living to the people in this country, but thousands of pounds have been spent on educating men in this country in poultry farming, and these men should have some consideration. Many men who have spent their money promoting farming interests are now on the verge of bankruptcy. If something were done so that people who wished to buy English produce could be sure that they were obtaining it these people would pay more for that produce. Those who want imported cheaper goods can always get them. The matter is entirely in the hands of the public, and not in the hands of those who make extra profits out of the distribution.
As a life-long free trader, I rise to support this Bill. The only protection which I can see in this Measure is a protection against fraud. Every hon. Member wishes to protect the consuming public against fraud. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) represents the opinion of his constituents, but he cannot claim to represent the opinion of Scotland as a whole, and the agricultural opinion of Scotland is strongly in favour of this Measure from the point of view both of the consumer and of the producer. I am not here to speak for the interests of the middleman. With regard to eggs, I appreciate that this Bill might increase slightly the aver-ago cost of British eggs, but I do believe that it would make a considerable difference in the variation of different grades of the same article to the consumer. There is a large number of consumers of eggs in this country who in the winter months cannot afford to purchase this necessary and agreeable article of food, and it is only by a variation in the price that many of them would be able to purchase during the winter months. The British new-laid egg would presumably go up in price, and the imported fresh egg, which is a good article of food, would fall in price, and thereby many consumers in the winter months might be able to purchase these eggs, when now they cannot purchase them at all, because they are sold as British eggs. The case of dairy produce has been dealt with. As to cheese there is a lot of cheese imported into this country and sold as whole-milk cheese which is not whole milk at all, and in a great many cases, though not in all cases, is inferior to British cheese. I claim the same with regard to cheese as with regard to eggs. The price of the best British cheese—
Would the hon. Member contend that the average quality of cheese imported into this country is lower than that of British cheese? If so let him ask anybody who knows.
I am not dealing with cheese from the English point of view, but more from the Scottish point of view, and I claim that Scottish cheese is superior to the majority of imported cheese. In the part of Scotland from which I come we have large co-operative creameries where we manufacture cheese of high quality, and that cheese, I am convinced, will always top the market if it gets a fair chance. My hon. Friend who seconded the rejection of the Measure spoke from the point of view of co-operative societies. I am a great believer in industrial co-operative societies and I am a member of one, but is it the policy of industrial co-operative societies to supply cheap food to its members or large dividends? I think that in many co-operative societies they are inclined to go in for largo dividends, and have not made any very great effort to reduce the price of food to their members.
My hon. Friend says that he is a member of a co-operative society. Surely be is lacking in technical knowledge of his own movement.
My contention is that if the price were reduced the whole consuming public would benefit, because the other retail traders would have to come down along with the co-operative societies, whereas it is only the members of the societies who benefit through the dividend. I admit that there are many possible leakages in this Bill, but I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading. If we get to these matters in Committee, we should be able to produce a workmanlike Measure that would go a great distance in protecting the interest of the consumer and of the agricultural producer. I am sorry that oatmeal was not included in this Bill. I hope that if the Bill gets a Second Reading, and goes to a Committee, oatmeal will be included. Oatmeal has been a foundation food in Scotland. It has gone a very long way to build up the Scotsmen who have attained such pre-eminence in this House and throughout the Empire. The Scottish oatmeal trade at present is suffering greatly through the competition of an inferior imported article, mainly husks, with very little kernel, which is sold as the genuine Scottish oatmeal. In the interests of the general community and of the whole consuming public, I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading.
There is, I think, only one argument which can be produced in favour of giving this Bill a Second Reading, that is that it would add very much to the gaiety of nations and would help materially to brighten London. We have listened to a powerful plea from one of my Scottish colleagues who himself is the product of oatmeal which does not include husks. I presume that with the husks he carries on a very lucrative industry on the farms which he himself owns. But I am amazed that he wishes to introduce oatmeal into the category of this Bill, because I foresee tremendous difficulties in adequately and indelibly marking even separate portions of that very delectable diet. Really, that is the characteristic of this Measure. The Bill proposes to prohibit, as far as it can by a system of coupons or labels, the introduction into this country of meat and eggs and fruit and vegetables. First of all, take the question of meat. It is proposed that the meat shall be marked indelibly so that the consumer, who is perfectly well able to look after himself just now and is protected against having foisted upon him meat which is not home fed, if he wants that meat, shall be protected. If you are going to protect the consumer, it seems to me that you must do it thoroughly, and there must be some method by which the consumer can identify particularly, oven meticulously, the kind of meat that he is purchasing. I do not think that that can be done by a label or a coupon.The scientific home breeder and the scientific breeder of cattle elsewhere will require to put their brains together in order to discover some method of marking their products so that there can be no doubt about them. I foresee great possibilities in such a scheme. Experts here may correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that it is quite possible to develop streaks in bacon, and a streak of that kind will require to be developed in all the cattle that are exposed for sale. We shall be obliged to have some scheme by which the consumer can know whether the steak that he purchases, or the leg of mutton which he carries home to his wife, reveals the origin of a particular animal. I can imagine home breeders developing cattle in such a way that, wherever you cut the carcase, the Union Jack will be revealed. I can also imagine that the Canadian farmer will develop a breed of cattle which will show the Maple Leaf wherever it is cut; or in the case of America expose the Stars and Stripes to the purchaser. That is the only way in which you can have an indelible mark on meat which is exposed for sale. There is another thing which rather worries me in connection with this question of meat. I notice that at the end of the Bill there is one article which is exempted from the definition of meat, an article which requires to be identified more readily and more often than any other article of meat. Hon. Members will notice that sausages are excluded. If there is more mystery about the origin of any article of food than there is about the origin of the sausage, I would like to know what article of food it is. The sausage is the most perfect coalition that has ever been devised by anyone who exposes goods for sale. Some of my Labour Friend's may be interested if I state what I have noticed. I do know whether it is true or not, but I understand that for economic reasons the Labour party have been driven largely to the consumption of sausages in this House. For the protection of the Labour party and of the official Opposition in this House, I desire that sausages should be indelibly marked so as to reveal their source of origin. I suggest that this Bill may be a plot on the part of the promoters to get rid of the Labour party in this House, and as one who regards the Labour party as an important contribution to the public life of this country and as a very excellent opposition, I am opposed to these attacks upon the physical well-being of the party. The hon. Member from St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) suggests that these things have some effect upon his mental qualities, which none of us would care to see dimmed in this House when he takes part in debate, or when, in his leisure moments, he is contributing to the gaiety of the stage of this country. Putting joking to one side, it comes back to the point which probably has already been made, namely, that the object of this portion of the Bill is to increase the price of meat to the consumer. Then we come to eggs. I listened with interest to an hon. Member opposite, who made his maiden speech, and to his reference to an old-world variety artist whom we all enjoyed in his descriptions of eggs. But if Dan Leno had been alive to-day he would have found his principal gag in this Bill. For what is to happen to eggs? An hon. and gallant Friend from the South-West of Scotland described an egg as a very delectable form of diet. We are led to believe that there is actually such a thing as a freshly-laid egg. I do not believe it. I was talking in this House with an hon. Member who has reached politics and Westminster by selling eggs. I shall not reveal his identity. He assured me that on this farm and on the farms of his colleagues in this industry the fresh laid eggs supplied to the markets of this country are collected once a week, so that before they leave the British farm they are at least one week old. It is desirable we should have some method of identifying a fresh laid egg. I understand that the egg producers of this country are up in arms against the foreign egg. They say, to slightly change the words of the old song
and presumably, if another line could be added, that is because—"They scorn the foreign yoke, "
They insist that their eggs are the only articles that should be supplied to the British market. They are going against the foreign eggs, eggs mark you, which are collected abroad and marketed in this country by British money. It is not the money of the foreigner that is used in this business; it is carried on by the genius and enterprise of British merchants who spend money in collecting these eggs and marketing them here. These eggs, according to the promoters of the Bill are to be marked. Why not be thorough about it? The promoters simply want to put on the egg a label saying that it is an imported egg—a Danish egg or a Russian egg or whatever it may be. Why should not every egg have a passport? Why should there not be on the shell of every egg a portrait of the mother of that egg, identifying its source of origin, and why should it not be subject to the visas which trouble so many hon. Members of this House. I think it is imperative if you are going to do the thing that you should do it thoroughly. Then there is a type of egg which seems to have been forgotten, and which is imported into this country in large quantities, and that is the liquid egg—an egg the existence of which never even occurred to Dan Leno. It is imported into this country in barrels and tins, and sold to large restaurants and possibly even to the Kitchen Committee of this House. How are you going to mark liquid eggs? Are we going to have a little buoy floating in the barrels, around which these liquid eggs will float, and on it a statement of their source of origin, or is each liquid egg to take its chance of carrying its coupon into this country. Again the real answer to the argument put forward by hon. Members opposite, is that this means protection for the British hen and the man who owns the British hen. It gives him the power to raise the price of an article of diet which should be made as cheap as possible. There is yet another type of egg which has not been considered. What about the powdered egg? How are we going to mark the powdered eggs which come into this country? Are we going to have the same difficulty as with the oatmeal of the hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Major Dudgeon). The Bill is also going to deal with fruit and vegetables. A great difficulty arises there, because some fruits and vegetables are already named. I believe there is an article of food known as the brussels sprout, but it does not come from Brussels. I foresee an attack upon vested interests which may raise considerable difficulties. The sprout has a vested interest in Brussels, and if you are going to insist that the origin of each particular vegetable should be marked, I foresee great difficulty. My right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister, was defending Welsh water in the House of Commons the other night. He was a Protectionist so far as Welsh water was concerned. I see some hon. Members from Wales present, and I would ask them what about the leek? Leeks come from other places besides Wales, and I do not want to see this geographical protection arrived at, after the fashion of the curate's egg, in various parts of the country. Yet it might have advantages; it might reduce the cost of education, because every mother taking her child with her when she went shopping would be able to teach the child an amazing amount of geography if at every greengrocer's store the fruit and vegetables were labelled each with the place of its origin. It would be an easy and pleasant way of imparting to the child a long and wide view of the geography of this country. We come back to the argument that all this means the raising of the price of these products to the consumer. As I said, the only reason why one could support the Bill is because it is a good joke. German marks are falling in value. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They may have gone up a little recently, but in any case merchandise marks designed to protect the home products of people who want to make money out of the working classes should not go up. This is an attack on the breakfast table, the dinner table and the supper table of the working class of this country, and those of us who believe that the products of all the world should have free access to this country and cheap access to the homes of the people will vote against this absurd Bill."Their hens are Plymouth Bocks. "
I must ask the House for that consideration which is always extended to one who addresses it for the first time. I rise to support the Second Beading of the Bill, because I believe it is in he interests, not only of the small producers of food in this country, but also in the interests of the consumer. I hope I may be pardoned if I touch upon the subject of eggs rather lightly. Only yesterday somebody said to me that if I supported the Bill I would find myself up against eggs the next time I faced my constituents. I hope such will not be the case, but I can realise that it would be to the advantage of the honest voter, who wished to impress that sort of argument upon an unsuspecting candidate, if he had some indication of the country of origin of the egg which he was going to use for that purpose. It seems to me there are three main arguments used against the Bill: first, that there would be a difficulty in applying the measures of the Bill; second, that there would be a considerable addition to the cost especially of eggs if they were marked; and third, that the Bill, even if it became law, would not carry out the objects for which it was introduced. With regard to the last argument, it is not always possible to do everything you want in a Measure; therefore, it seems to me, if a Measure goes part of the way some object has been gained. We know, for instance, that rats are a very great nuisance in this country, but because we cannot get rid of all the rats, that is no particular reason why we should not try to get rid of some of them.I do not anticipate the same difficulty with regard to the marking of eggs as do some hon. Members. I quite agree probably it would not be possible to train the domestic fowl itself to act as a dating stamp for eggs, but it might be possible to devise means by which some sort of inscription could be placed on the egg at the time it was laid. Some years ago, I heard of a poultry farmer who had been very successful, and had managed to produce more eggs than any of his friends engaged in the same trade. For a long time he kept his secret, but at last it appeared. He was a man of very great powers of observation, and he had noticed that when a hen laid an egg it got up from the nest in which it had laid it, had a look at the egg, and then sat down on it again. Having observed this again and again, he conceived the idea of having a special nest made, with a trap door underneath which would open when the hen had moved from the nest. The effect of this was that when the hen had laid an egg, and had got up from the nest to have a look at it, to see if it were a satisfactory egg, it found it was not there. Then, it came to the conclusion that it had not laid an egg, and proceeded to lay another. I mention that, not with any idea of encouraging poultry farmers to do likewise, but to show that it might be easy and possible to devise some means of marking eggs at the time of their production by the hen. In any case, there would not be great difficulty in marking eggs. They might be marked automatically in large numbers, without any practical increase in price. I have received circulars—I suppose all hon. Members have received circulars—asking me to vote against this Bill. In most of the circulars, although they came from people interested in the importation of goods and agricultural produce in this country, it was argued that we should vote against this Bill because it would raise the price. I do not quite believe in that argument. I fear the Greeks when they bring gifts. I rather fear the real reason at the back of that objection is, not that if the Bill becomes law it will raise the price of imported produce in this country, but that it will cause the price of imported produce of this kind to fall. That is far more likely to be the reason for this intense interest in the welfare of the consumer by importers of eggs and other produce. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who made a very humorous speech, to which we all listened with delight, referred to the stigma which seems to attach to eggs which are supplied to young curates at episcopal breakfast tables. Surely, that stigma which, in fairness might undoubtedly have been applied to eggs for so long, is likely to be removed by this Bill becoming law. I do not think a bishop would supply eggs of that kind, if he had an opportunity of being sure that he could get good English eggs.
We have heard a lot about foreign eggs. I am the last person to wish to speak with disrespect of foreign eggs. I believe that if it had not been for Columbus doing something to a foreign egg—making it stand on one end—he would not have discovered America, and we should not have had all the blessings of American civilisation, which may, to that extent perhaps, be attributed to a foreign egg. I thank the House very much for listening to me, and this is my last ward. One realises fully that there are great difficulties in carrying through a Bill of this kind, and that it requires a great deal of adjustment to make it a success. A Bill which has the good objects of this one deserves a Second Reading, so that it may be considered in Committee and, if necessary, knocked about thoroughly. Then it can come back to the House as a proper, workable Measure. There are so many points in this Bill that are good and sound that I sincerely hope the House will decide to give it a, Second Reading.
I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, not because I believe in all its provisions, but because in regard to two outstanding foods our people have a perfect right to know whether the goods they buy are of British origin. It is not a question of Protection or of Free Trade, but of the right of the housewife to know, when she buys eggs, whether or not she is being genuinely supplied with the article she demands. I know the arguments that have been used to prove that the price of eggs will be increased. Those arguments leave me entirely cold. It is not a difficult matter to mark an egg. As a matter of fact, many English egg producers mark their eggs in order that their mark may be known. It could not mean a great increase in price if the eggs were marked with a rubber stamp. Everybody knows they can be marked in that way at the minimum of cost. With our present Customs regulations there is always some examination, and I cannot think there will be a great increase in cost so far as the examination of eggs at the frontiers and in our ports is concerned. For these reasons, I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.I want to deal with one or two of the arguments used against the Measure, so far as the marking of eggs is concerned. Every hon. Member of the House has, I suppose, received circulars of the same type. One of the suggestions therein made is, not that the exporter into our country should stamp his eggs, but that the local man, our own countrymen, should be the person to stamp the eggs. Look at that argument. It is that if imported eggs are to be stamped you will increase the price to the consumer, but if you stamp your own eggs, then I suppose, in some miraculous way, that will not increase the price. The argument seems to be twisted clean round. I believe in the right of a person to know what produce he is buying. That is common sense, and it is common logic, and if it comes to a question of common honesty, I suggest that there is far more danger of foreign eggs being mixed with English by the grocer than there is to the grocer by selling an article that is stamped either with its country of origin or a mark to show that it has been imported into our country. Some of us have very small households, and our wives buy personally their own goods. My wife is one of that type of housewife, and I am bound to look at it from the point of view of my own personal knowledge. I come from a part of the country where eggs are produced, and tradition—and I suppose tradition weighs with me very considerably in the speech I am making— demands that I should be satisfied that I get an egg that has been laid in our own country, and as near to the time that I eat it at the breakfast table as I can possibly get it, and I want everybody else to have the opportunity of having a guarantee of that kind. If imported eggs are stamped, anybody who wishes to buy them can buy them, and if I want to buy Danish eggs, there is nothing to prevent it. There is no argument that I have ever heard yet to prove that there will be any appreciable increase in cost or that can in any way invalidate the fairness of the idea that a person has a right to know whether he or she is buying home or imported produce, and because I believe that in the case of eggs and meat our people have a perfect right to know whether they are buying home or imported articles, I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, reserving to myself, of course, the right on the Third Reading to criticise any details with which I do not agree.
I rise as a consistent Free Trader, and a kind of a sort of an egg producer myself in a small way, to oppose this Bill. What I am astonished at is the inconsistency of lifelong Free Traders, like my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) and others, subscribing in any sense of the word to the policy of protection. For the life of me, I cannot see why you want a mark on foreign eggs at all. They speak eloquently for themselves. As a matter of fact, I have known cases where they have come home to roost. As to the price, it is not very long ago that I myself paid 22,000 kroners for two eggs in the land of their birth. I do not want to make a joke on this, but I want to say that on that particular occasion I knew the value of the distinction between new-laid eggs, fresh eggs, and eggs; mine were simply eggs. It is not true to say, in my opinion, that the introduction of foreign eggs in any way injures the working-class consumer, except on those occasions when they do speak eloquently, when they get an unfortunate egg that has been too long alive. As a matter of fact, the production of English eggs to-day never reaches the working classes. They are consumed before they get to the retail shop at all. It is almost impossible for the working-class consumer to get them, not on account of the price at all, but from the fact that there is not sufficient production of eggs in this country to cover one-fiftieth part of the consumption.If we start on this business of marking foodstuffs, where are we going to stop? In the neighbourhood in which I live, I am surrounded by market gardeners, and again, in a kind of small way, I happen to be a market gardener myself. It is a notorious fact that lettuce and potatoes and fruits of all kinds are imported into this country long before the British market gardener can get them on the market, and yet I have not known a case where the home produce market gardener has not found a ready market for his produce in the markets of this country. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) spoke about a further protection —a foreign egg with not only the mark of its origin upon it, but a portrait of the mother as well. I would not myself accept even the evidence of the mother in regard to some eggs, as a guarantee of their genuineness. Where are we going to stop? Potatoes, lettuce, grapes and apples are a very great boon to the working classes and are on the market here long before the natives can produce fruit for their own market. It does not injure the price of the native stuff, either. You can always find a ready market for it when it is ready. One hon. Member spoke of the nutritive qualities of Scotch cheese, but how, in the name of logic, are you going to mark a pennyworth of cheese for the working classes? This sort of thing can easily be reduced to an absurdity. I remember in the old days, when the policy of rigid tariff reform was before us, that I heard a lecturer deliberately describing the importation of dead meat into this country without the hoofs as having ruined the tripe and trotter industry of this country. There is not any kind of foodstuffs meant for the working classes that would not be injured by the carrying of a Bill of this character, and again let me say, as a life-long free trader, that I strongly and vigorously protest against any attempt to introduce such a Measure.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) said that this Bill attacked the breakfast-table of the working man. I wish to join issue in those sentiments. This is not an attack upon the working man's breakfast-table. The whole object of this Bill is to try to protect his breakfast-table, and to try to ensure that all he has got on his breakfast-table is in reality what he thinks he has purchased, and what he has certainly paid for. I am sure all those of us who support this Bill were delighted with one sentence in the speech of the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), in which he said that neither he nor his party wished to make this a question between the town consumer and the rural producer. I, personally, am not at all sure whether this Bill is in reality going to do very much for the rural producer, except that it is going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that all the produce which is put on the market, and which he believes to be of superior quality, is shown as such, and that his produce is not mixed up, as is often the case at the present time, with a whole lot of foreign, and very often inferior, produce, with a label around the lot, making it appear as if the whole consignment were British. On the other hand, the consumer is going to get a great deal out of this Bill. He is no longer to pay a price, which is far in excess of what he ought to pay for foreign and inferior produce, which he has to pay at the present time, because that inferior quality is mixed up with a small amount of British or superior quality, and the whole article is labelled as though it were English grown.I should like to say a few words with regard to the horticultural point of view. There is a very great deal of horticultural produce coming into this country every year, and the curious thing is that the exporters of first-class foreign produce, and the retailers of first-class foreign produce in this country, are not ashamed to mark it with the country of origin. The foreign countries which are sending us first-class fruit are proud of that fruit, and the retailers believe that it is to their advantage to mark it with its country of origin. We know quite well, that if we look into the shop windows, of fruiterers especially, the best apples very often come from Canada or Australia, and they are often labelled "Oregon Pippins" or "Newtown Pippins." Coming to the question of tomatoes, there is a very large amount imported into this country every year, and I understand that in the sale there is a great deal of dishonesty going on. I am told that cases are repeatedly being reported of foreign tomatoes—which, after all, have a very similar appearance to British tomatoes, but which, in many cases, are greatly inferior in quality—being exposed for sale, and labelled as British grown. I am also told that it is quite a common practice for a shopkeeper to build up a great heap of these tomatoes, mixing a few tomatoes grown in this country with a large quantity of foreign and grossly inferior tomatoes, and to put a label on the top of the whole consignment "British grown." That is a direct fraud on the consumers of this country who go into that shop, intending to buy a British tomato, and believing they are in fact getting a British tomato and paying the price for it. There is also a very large amount of fruit coming here from abroad for the purpose of jam-making, and the containers of jam, which are sent out from the various jam factories, very often have a label on them with such words as "Made in the orchard factory," leading the people of this country to believe that it is not only made in the orchard factory, which is true, but that the fruit from which it is made has been grown in the orchards around the factory. There, again, that is an absolute deception upon the British public, and it is the whole object of this Bill to try to do away with that. The whole argument against the Bill hag been based upon the additional cost and the great fear that the effect of this Bill will be to raise the price to the consumer. As regards horticultural produce, I can only quote from a gentleman, a Mr. Hooper, who is a member of a very large firm of importers of foreign vegetables and fruit in Covent Garden. I believe that his firm is one of the largest importers of foreign market garden produce in London. At the end of his letter he says that, in his opinion, no decrease of supplies or increased cost could possibly result from the measures which are proposed. He says, in continuation, that, as an importer of foreign fruit and as a salesman of foreign fruit in Covent Garden, he has on many occasions approached the Ministry of Agriculture with the request to try and get some measure such as is now proposed passed in the House of Commons. That is the considered opinion of a man who, I believe, is a leading partner of one of the largest firms of fruit importers in this country. Then as to the additional cost from the marking of eggs. There, again, I believe a test has been made which shows that a man can mark 1,440 eggs in an hour. An hon. Member asked how many that is a second. As a matter of fact, I do not think it is a very remarkable feat to unpack, mark and repack 1,440 eggs in the course of an hour. It only comes to 24 a minute, and I do not think it would require a very skilled man to take 24 eggs out of one box, stamp them, and put them back in the course of a minute. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you tried it?"] At all events, I am told that, as the result of experiment, the additional cost of marking these eggs would come to about 9d. for a case of 1,440. It works out at something between ½d. and ¾d a hundred. That additional cost in the production of eggs I do not believe will ever be put upon the consumers in this country. I do feel the great advantage of this Bill, which is, of course, supported by organisations of producers all over the country, by farmers' organisations, poultry organisations, and so on. I do not myself believe that it is going to help the producer except in this way: The only real good it is going to do is in the satisfaction that the producers will feel that their goods, which they believe to be of superior quality—and which in most cases are of superior quality—when they are exposed upon the British market, are such that when foreign imported goods in all cases are marked, as indeed they are at the present time, and as in the ease of apples, if they are of first-class qualities, will get the benefit of it. Thereby the British-consuming public will be protected, and there will be an assurance that everybody is buying what he wants to buy, and paying a price corresponding.
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, and in one point I entirely agree with him. I do not believe that if this legislation pass this House, and receives the Royal Assent, it will involve any advantage to the producer in any way: that is the only point on which I agree with the hon. and gallant Member. It seems to me that this measure is a barefaced measure of protection. It also seems to me that that is the only justification for the measure. The only justification for this measure is that it will improve the price of homegrown produce for the producer, and so will place him in a favourable position in competition with those who produce foreign goods. That undoubtedly is bad, and otherwise there is no reason at all for the Bill. The Bill does not help the consumer, it is not going to make anything cheaper for the consumer. It is not going to help the middleman. It is going to make it more difficult for him. The only person that the Bill is going undoubtedly to help, if it goes through as a measure of protection, is the producer.Personally I am in favour of the Bill. I myself in a small way am a poultry farmer, and I quite realise that if this Bill goes through my produce will command a higher price in the market than at present. But on general grounds, apart from my own personal interests, I am against the Bill, because I believe that for the majority of inhabitants of this country it will result in what we believe to be a good article—the English —becoming more expensive. In other words the general consumer in this country will be driven more and more to use foreign stuff because English stuff is expensive. Our whole object should be to stimulate an improvement in the British methods of marketing. I do not know whether hon. Members of this House are aware of the methods of marketing our eggs. English eggs may be roughly divided into two classes, eggs that come from the poultry farm, and eggs that come from the egg merchant. The eggs that come from the poultry farm are, I believe, very frequently marked already. Hon. Members who frequent the small restaurant beyond the reading room of the House will find that every egg that they eat there is stamped, showing that it comes from a certain locality. That is undoubtedly the right method. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill told us about the way that eggs are now marked. He read a letter from a Danish importer, who told us how the Danish eggs are now marked. The reason for that is that in the marketing of the Danish eggs it is an extra advertisement. That is what we want to induce the British egg producer to do, to market his eggs in a similar way. May I give the House an instance of how the thing may be done? When I commenced poultry farming I endeavoured to do it on the very best lines. I graded my eggs. I would not allow any egg to go into the box that did not weigh two ounces. The rest I put aside for auction, or for use in the house, or to be disposed of otherwise. One day a purchaser of my eggs happened to see a lot of the lower-graded eggs and he inquired: "What are you going to do with these?" When I told him he replied: "Do not be a fool, I will give you the same price for these as for those in the boxes. "That practice undoubtedly obtains among some people. The Irish method is quite different. There they grade their eggs and sell them by weight, 15, 16, 17 or 18 lbs. per 120, and they get different prices for the different quality and size. Surely that is a method that we want to stimulate in England? We want the English egg producer to market his eggs in this superior way, and it is not until he markets his eggs in this superior way that he will command the superior price that the egg deserves. It is only when we market our eggs like that, and the person buying the English egg knows he is going to get an egg of a certain weight and quality that we shall be able to compete with the foreign eggs. There is another objection to this Bill, and that is that we shall have a displacement of supplies. When it is known that before foreign produce can be marketed in the English market that produce has to be marked indelibly is it not clear that any exporter in a foreign country who does not at the time of production know where his goods are going to is going to send them to some other market? If he is a Danish exporter he will send them to Germany, or France, or Sweden, or other market and avoid the British market because he has to mark his produce. We want as full a supply as we can get. Our prosperity demands that we shall get as large a supply from the outside as we reasonably can. British prosperity depends upon it. In foreign competition, if we put forward a superior article, we shall undoubtedly get a superior price. May I point out that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down was perfectly right in what he said about advertisement. We have the Canadian apples. They demand a special price and they demand a special market. The reason is that none of these articles are allowed to be packed which is in any way defective. First of all the apples are graded and packed properly, and then they are inspected by a Government inspector. No apple is allowed to leave the country which is any way defective. That is the way to procure a market. We shall not secure our market by protecting our apples against those magnificent apples from Canada. The way in which we shall secure a market is to deal with our apples in a similar way, and see that only healthy apples are marketed. Such a method is bound to help the English apple industry, which is capable of very great things, and it should be able to compete with the foreigner, for we all know that the English apple is as good as or better than the foreign apple. What we want to do is to stimulate the British producer to market his goods, whether they be apples or eggs, or whatever they may be, in the proper way so that he may command a better price. This measure will only protect the inferior marketing which now goes on. It will raise the price of the article, which we know to be inferior, at the expense of the article which we know to be good. If only we can induce the British producer to market his goods in the proper way he will be perfectly able to compete against foreign goods without any artificial aid such as this. There are great difficulties in working this measure. I wonder whether the House knows of a product Called factory butter. It is made in this way. The manufacturer of the butter purchases in the local markets farmhouse butter in small quantities, and then he takes foreign butter and blends them together, and that is factory butter. How is that butter going to be sold under this Bill? Is it going to be labelled foreign or British butter? Are you going to label it as foreign, or are you going to allow it to be sold without a label? There is no provision in the Bill for anything of that sort. I think the best way of stimulating British trade in these minor agricultural products —I am not referring to meat at all, because I do not know anything about that trade—is to induce them to improve their methods of marketing so that our articles on the market will compare in appearance, as undoubtedly they do in quality, satisfactorily with the foreign imported articles. There is one other grave objection and it is the inspection which is provided for under Clause 6. It provides for powers of entry and for taking samples of any produce, and this means a great deal of trouble for the business man. It will interfere with his business and it is liable to cause him trouble at any moment, and all this is really quite unnecessary. First of all you make it an offence under the law to sell produce that is not stamped, and then you proceed to make provision for enforcing this unnecessary law. I sincerely trust the House will vote against this Bill and reject it.
There is one aspect of this question which I am sure will appeal to the Whole House, and that is the point of view of the ex-service man. We are all aware that many of these men came back from the War with the impression that they were coming back to a "land fit for heroes to live in." These men and our country farmers do not object to the importation of foreign eggs, but what they do object to is the mixing of their home produce with inferior foreign produce. It is not a question of the importation of equally good produce, but inferior foreign produce which is foisted off upon the public as fresh English produce. I can give hon. Members an example.Quite recently I visited a very large poultry farm which is run in the interests of ex-service men. I saw a number of eggs produced on that farm, and was told that undoubtedly they would in the end by mixed with a cargo of eggs which had arrived from China. The eggs produced on this farm had been graded as being two ounces, and they were to be mixed up with some millions of imported eggs from China. This seems to me to be a very unreasonable thing. The reason why the dealers do not wish to have the eggs marked is because they wish to mix them, and the wholesale people want to sell the foreign eggs as English, and therefore they do not want the English eggs to be so marked. This mixing of the eggs is arranged by the dealers, and it is really a fraud on the public and it restricts the English production of eggs. I should like to give one or two figures in this respect. The average hen will lay 200 eggs per year. On this basis the average poultry farm will produce 20,000 eggs in a year. If this Bill passes, not only will the producer benefit for each 20,000 eggs, but the consumer will benefit, and one may reasonably suppose that there will be 100 consumers of those eggs and they will benefit in the same way. As a rule the rich man can buy eggs from his own private dairy, and therefore in this matter it is the poorer classes who suffer, because they have to buy their eggs at the grocers' shops, and they will not get what they pay for. This Bill will enable an Englishman to sell his goods where there is a market for them, and it will enable the purchaser to see that he gets what he pays for.
In the constituency which I represent there is a very large agricultural area, and for many years there used to be a bacon breeding and curing industry that employed a very large number of men. During the past five or six years that industry has practically disappeared, simply because in the main there has been no compulsion in regard to marking Cumberland produce and Cumberland fed bacon. Therefore this industry has gone, and a very large number of men who were formerly employed in that industry either had to join the ranks of the unemployed, or find work elsewhere. It has been found throughout the country, and I say this with very great respect to Wiltshire and other bacon-producing counties, that Cumberland bacon has a name of the first rank in this country. Only a fortnight ago I saw in one of our large grocer's shops in London half a flitch of bacon hanging up marked "Cumberland." I asked the grocer if it was real Cumberland bacon, and he said, "It is marked ' Cumberland.' "I asked him what part of Cumberland it came from, and he said it was not Cumberland bacon, but Cumberland cut. I asked him if he meant it was cut with a knife which came from Cumberland. In the end it proved that the origin of the bacon was the United States.If bacon which is home produced costs more, we expect to pay more because there is more in it. Cumberland bacon would probably cost 2d. to 3d. per lb. more than American bacon, but if you put a piece of Cumberland bacon into the pan and turn your back, when you return the bacon is there; but when you put a piece of American bacon in the pan you have got to sit on it to keep it then, and it never fries. The result is that people get better stuff and consequently in the interests of an industry of this kind no matter whether it is Cumberland or Wiltshire, or York ham it ought to be marked. Much has been said by the Member for East Edinburgh on this subject, and the hon. Member gave us a good deal of very unconvincing nonsense without much real argument. The only thing that he did seem to convey was that we still have remaining in this House a very pale shade of the humour of the late Dan Leno. He said that it was impossible to mark this and that. But take the question of beef, for example. The respected members of the Jewish persuasion have always had their beef marked. It is impossible to serve any member of the Hebrew fraternity with a piece of English beef, because their beef is properly marked, and you cannot get English beef with the Yiddish mark or Yiddish beef with the English mark. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) said that eggs speak, and speak eloquently for themselves. Undoubtedly, many of them do, but, if eggs speak, either eloquently or ineloquently, they ought to speak before they are bought and not afterwards. Wages being as low as they are, and the spending power of our working classes being so small, it is not very entertaining for them, when they are able to go in for the luxury of an egg, to have it talking to them after they have spent their few coppers upon it. A point was made by the last speaker in regard to the ex-service men. I have the honour of being a member of the Cumberland County Council. We have a large colony of ex-service men at Englethwaite. We have spent an enormous amount of money on poultry farming, and it is a good healthy outdoor exercise for ex- service men who unfortunately have contracted consumption. We train these men in our colony, and then make them a grant of money to set them up on a poultry farm, and they are able to eke out the very miserable and contemptible pensions now granted to them. The experiment, on the whole, has been successful, and it is one that ought not to be destroyed by the competition of foreign eggs. One of the absurd statements made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) was that it was impossible to mark powdered eggs. As a matter of fact, powdered eggs are marked to-day. If the packet does not contain the nature and the substance of the article demanded, the person selling it is liable to be prosecuted, and persons have been prosecuted under the Food and Drugs Act. Consequently, we are not carrying this idea of having things marked very much further than it has been done in the past. From time to time Trade Marks Acts have been passed, and they certainly have had beneficial effects. I confess that I do not subscribe to everything in this Bill, but I think it ought to have a Second Beading, because whatever faults it may have can be remedied in Committee. The great bacon and ham industry in the past has reflected credit not only upon agriculturists, but also upon the men employed in the curing, and this industry can be preserved by marking in the way suggested in this Bill. It is not a question either of Free Trade or Protection. That kind of flapdoodle has been talked about during the last 100 years. Neither Free Trade nor Protection has ever solved any social or economic problem in this or any other country. I do not think Protection is helpful, though Free Trade may be. But this is not a question of Free Trade or Protection; it is a question of enabling those who have money to spend to go into a shop, demand what they want, and know that they get it.
I look at this Bill from the point of view of the protection of the purchaser, and realise that with things like bacon and eggs it is difficult for the purchaser to know what he or she is going to get unless the articles are properly marked with the country of origin. I am bound to say, however, that I have some misgivings as to whether imported raw fruit and vegetables ought to be included in the Bill, though, perhaps, that is a point that can be best dealt with in Committee. I was interested when I heard the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) refer to the fact that he had a small market garden. He said he recognised that a good many things came into this country before those which were grown here were ready for use. One has only to refer to English-grown apples, such as Cox's orange pippin, which must be familiar to all hon. Members. One knows perfectly well that by November or December Cox's orange pippins are practically over and cannot be purchased, but the Newtown pippins and the other supplies that come from abroad have a market during the following months of January, February, March and April. I do feel that, if you go to the expense and burden of marking such things as imported fruit and vegetables, it is very likely that you will increase to a very considerable extent the amount that has to be paid for them.In regard to vegetables particularly, when the purchaser—and in most cases it is a feminine purchaser—goes into a shop to buy vegetables, they are bought on their appearance. The purchaser looks at the cauliflower, the cabbage, or even the Brussels sprout to which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) referred so tenderly, and chooses it by its look. So far as vegetables and raw food are concerned, I would appeal to the promoters of the Bill to see if they cannot, when the Measure comes before a Committee, make some arrangement which will meet the objections that are put forward by dealers and other persons engaged in that trade, and have raw food and vegetables excluded from the provisions of the Bill. One is bound to realise, so far as vegetables are concerned, that the less delay there is in their coming to the market and reaching the consumer, the better for the vegetables, and really the purchaser is able to judge for himself or herself. That does not apply in the case of eggs and bacon. So far as I am concerned, I have been a Free Trader all my life, but I propose to support this Bill on principle. I only intervened because I desired to call the attention of the promoters to these points that arise on paragraph (c) of Clause 1.
I am afraid I did not quite follow the hon. and learned Member who spoke last, when he told us that if this Bill were to apply to vegetables and fruit, it would increase the price of those articles, whereas it would not have that effect if it were applied to bacon and eggs. Like many Members of this House, I have been inundated with letters from my constituents upon this question, chiefly from those who are interested in the production of eggs. I am afraid I do not subscribe to the doctrine that a Member of Parliament comes here specially to safeguard the interests of his own constituents. I take it that we come here with a broader view than that—to consider and consult the interests of the nation and of the community as a whole. I do not, therefore, propose to trim my sails to the salubrious breezes which have been blowing so strongly in my direction from the poultry farms of Wiltshire during the last fortnight. May I say, however, that it does seem to me, from the letters I have received, that it is not so much the question of mixing English eggs with foreign eggs as the question of the price of English eggs that appears to be worrying the people who have written to me. They tell me they cannot go on producing at the present price of English eggs, and, therefore, I cannot get it out of my mind that the real reason for this legislation is in some way to stop the importation of foreign eggs in order to raise the price of English eggs.The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill referred to a decision of the Board of Trade in, I think, 1919, when there was no particular agitation for a Measure of this kind. It is curious that the price of imported eggs now is just half what it was in 1921, and it does seem to me that it is the fall in the price of imported eggs that is really prompting those who are promoting this legislation. It is very difficult to say what the effect of this legislation would really be—whether it would result in a great reduction in the import of foreign eggs, owing to the difficulties and restrictions and regulations which would be imposed on people intending to ship eggs to this country, or whether, on the other hand, it would have the effect of advertising the foreign eggs and greatly increasing their importation. It is difficult for us to decide now what the effect of this legislation would be. I understand that a great many of these im- ported eggs are graded and selected, and are very much better than a great number of those produced in this country, and it is quite possible that, when these better graded and selected eggs come here marked, there will be an immediate demand for them which will result in a still larger importation. 2. 0 P.M. My chief objection to this Bill, however, is that it is an interference with trade. If you are gong to tie up with red tape and seal every egg that comes into this country, that must have the effect of increasing the price. The appeals which I have received in favour of this legislation have come, as I have said, from those who produce the eggs. I have had no appeals from those who consume the eggs in this country, and, in fact, the evidence which has been placed before me from those who are interested in the consumption of eggs leads me to the opinion that this Measure is not desired by the people who consume the eggs in this country. Hon. Members opposite are always very fond of claiming in other matters, such as Empire Exhibitions and Overseas trade, that the Chambers of Commerce in this country are in favour of their proposals. I have had a good deal to do with Chambers of Commerce, and my opinion of them is that they are very difficult bodies from whom to get any economic opinion. It must necessarily be so, because they are composed of representatives of all kinds of conflicting interests.
They do not represent working people.
I do not agree. Hon. Members are always claiming that the opinion of a Chamber of Commerce is a sort of final judgment on any question, and it may, therefore, interest them to know that I have here a letter from the London Chamber of Commerce strongly opposing the passing of this Measure. Perhaps hon. Members opposite will give their consideration to that.
Working people are for it, then?
It does seem to me that this is an extraordinary Measure, and that there must be something wrong with the industry in this country if a perishable article can be brought from a place thousands of miles away, and sold here in competition with the home-produced article. If that be the case, there must be something fundamentally wrong with our present egg industry. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain once said, and I think it is worth quoting:
It seems to me that there are certain questions in this country affecting allotment holders and agriculture in general which are much more likely to cheapen the price of home-produced eggs than this Measure. I must confess I was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate should have trotted out the old story about the lizards. It would be treating the House with contempt to suggest that because of an isolated case of that kind there should be imposed upon it legislation of this kind, fundamentally altering another Measure which has already been before the House. If there is anything in that story at all, the egg must have been fairly fresh, or it would not hatch, and one of the complaints against these foreign eggs is that they are not fresh. It is not necessary to pass an Act of Parliament to prevent people from buying eggs which have lizards inside them. Is it not a case of caveat emptor? That is the duty of the consumer, and the ordinary housewife is quite prepared to do that duty. If she finds that she is buying eggs with lizards in them from any particular shop, she would not go to that shop again, and that is the real protection. But what is the good of frittering away our time in discussing Regulations imposed by legislation of this kind? The real root cause of the whole thing is the question of the land. Sympathy has been expressed for the allotment holders on the other side. What we want to get is the breaking of the monopoly of the land."Those who are doing well do not advertise it. Those who are doing badly blame everybody else but themselves. "
I think this will raise questions beyond the scope of the present Bill.
I am sorry I must withdraw because I was going to make a very pertinent point. I should like to support the point made by the Mover of the Amendment that the Bill largely extends the scope and principle of the Act of 1887, and I hold it is a very serious matter that you should blow in by a side wind legislation which alters so vitally the principle of the main Act. In spite of the risk of offending many of my constituents, I shall certainly vote against the Measure.
Unlike the hon. Member who has just sat down I pay very great attention to the letters I receive from my constituents. I have here a petition from poultry breeders and egg growers.
I entirely object to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's opening remarks. I did not say that I did not pay attention to the wishes of my constituents. I pay every attention to them, and I put before them the views I hold in connection with this Measure.
I apologise if I misunderstood the hon. Member. I will now say that, like him, I pay very great attention to what my constituents wish. This petition says that imported eggs are often mixed with English new laid eggs and sold as such. Certainly the marking of imported eggs was agreed to by the World's Poultry Congress, representing all countries where modern poultry culture is practised. Further, they say that the passage of the Bill will not increase the cost of eggs, and I am rather inclined to agree with that. They also claim that the Bill is introduced as much in the interests of the consumer as the producer. Who are these people who have sent me this petition? They are men and women who deserve well of their country. They have taken small holdings, on which they have been placed indirectly through the aid of the Government. I hold in my hand second and third applications for rent. The rent, which is at a very heavy price I agree, and other things come to about £l00 per annum. These people must live somehow and if they hope to be able to live by the selling of eggs, why should they not do so? It does not necessarily mean that the price would be high. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh, who is always very fair in his remarks, said he was not hostile to the Bill. I take it is not a question of being not hostile. We want more than that, we want support. Unless of course he means by not being hostile that he will abstain from voting. It would be very interesting if he would go as far as that. Further he said this is not the proper time. When will the proper time be when we are going to protect consumer and producer at the same time? Perhaps Labour Members have been reading a pamphlet where it says 200 per cent. is made out of poultry. That is only an advertisement to sell a certain kind of meal to people they wish to trade with, unless of course they expect that the hens will go on laying for ever, on the principle that "their son never sets." With regard to the cost of marking, I do not really think the 2,000,000 imported eggs will cost more than about £75,000 to £100,000 and the value of the eggs at 2d. each is £16,000,000, or at 1d. each, £8,250,000. If the marking be added to the cost to the consumer it would be very small. Will not hon. Members realise the fact that £8,250,000 might be put into the pocket of the producer. This also has to be considered.
In the first place I do not support the Bill, and secondly the number is not 2,000,000, but 2,000,000,000.
Yes, I mean 2,000,000,000, and, at 1d., the value is £8,000,000. That is what I refer to. The hon. Member said poultry farmers want to maintain the price. May I point out what the poultry farmer has to contend with? First there are the climatic conditions. Imagine rearing chickens in a damp atmosphere, with a cold easterly wind, and the young chickens running about. It is a very costly business protecting them. Then chicken food is expensive and railway charges are high. The expense of sending eggs by rail is very costly. Bates and taxes are also high. The Labour party have something to say to that. Rents are high; the cost of labour is higher than it used to be. When all these things are taken into account, I think that 2d. for a British laid egg is not a very exorbitant price. We have Danish eggs, French eggs, German eggs, and United States eggs; in fact, all kinds of eggs. We have Chinese eggs at 10s. per long 100 of 120. We also get Chinese eggs in 5-cwt. barrels, yolks only, which are preserved, I suppose, in boracic acid to the extent of about 1¼ per cent., and sold at 8½d. or 1s. per lb. We have the competition of the world to fight against. The United States send dried eggs here in tin-lined 100-1b. cases. Then there is the question of poultry and ducks, which come in from China, packed in light cases, and frozen turkeys from Hungary. All these should be marked as imported. All we ask is that these things shall be marked with the name of the country whence they are exported, and that they are sold as imported food. I do hope that hon. Members opposite will see their way to support the Bill.
I doubt the sincerity of those who have been issuing some of the literature in support of this Bill. The last speaker pointed out all the difficulties of the poor ex-service man who, like the poor, is without any money. He has spoken of the cost of producing eggs, the high rent, the high rates, the high cost of feeding. Then we are told that this Measure is going to remedy these things, to benefit the producer, and not raise the price of eggs. Where is the logic in all this? This is a Measure of Protection. You are not going to remedy the grievances of the agricultural worker by Measures such as this, but by an entire revision of the conditions under which agriculture is to be conducted in this country. If you protect the egg producer in this way, by indelibly marking imported eggs, the tomato grower has the right to say that the tomatoes imported shall be indelibly marked, and the grape grower has a similar claim. We should be introducing all sorts of difficulties. In logic, I cannot see how we can apply this principle to eggs, and not extend it to everything else. In times of difficulty and dispute in this country, when coal is introduced from abroad, will the cobs of coal be marked so that the loyal trade unionist housewife can see whether the coal she is buying has been produced by British labour? About one-half of our foodstuffs are imported from other countries, and in return, as for instance in the case of China, we send cotton goods and other things. We have to take these matters into consideration.I do not think that this Measure has been introduced in the interests of the consumers. I do not think it has been introduced in the interests of the farm workers. In whose interests has it been introduced? [HON. MEMBERS: "The producers!"] Ultimately the advantage will go into the pockets of the landlords. When there was a rise in the price of agricultural produce during the War the rents went up. The very same people who are so anxious that we should not consume foreign goods without knowing it, were anxious a little while ago that we should introduce foreign cattle into this country, and in a few months time those foreign cattle can be killed here and sold as English meat Some of us have other ideas as well as ideas about profit. We think of humanitarian things, and we would not like to eat meat that has been introduced from abroad in this way. We have as much right to say that the meat that has been brought here alive, kept here a few weeks and then killed and sold as English meat should be identified. The egg is, I suppose, alive when it comes here. Are we going to identify the chicken when it comes out? The whole thing is absurd. The hon. Member for East Central Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) drew attention to the absurdity of the thing, when he said that we should be wanting to have our rock toffee marked, like "Southend Rock," with the name going through it. The difficulties of the position to-day, industrially within the country, and in regard to our international relationships, will not be remedied by our wasting time on Measures of this sore. Let us get down to fundamentals and see what is wrong at the bottom. Whatever we import has to be met by exports in some way or another. The difficulties we shall put in the way of trade by a Kill of this sort will make it the more difficult for us to recover our commercial position and to get back to our commercial prosperity. I hope the House will reject the Bill as a whole and not accept it even for the sake of the eggs, but to recognise what is the full implication of the Measure. If we are going to give a special advantage to one section of producers, we cannot in fairness deny the same thing to any other section of producers.
The discussion this afternoon seems to have ranged particularly about the topic of eggs. I want to talk mainly about something else. I think hon. Members opposite are mistaken when they say that this Measure will increase the price of eggs to the consumer. It will certainly increase the price of the high-grade egg, because the man who gets the high-grade egg will get the British egg instead of a mixture of one British egg to 11 foreign eggs, which is happening now. The fact that the foreign eggs are excluded from the higher-grade eggs will increase the number of lower-grade eggs in the country; therefore, by the ordinary law of supply and demand, these lower-grade eggs will, if anything, be cheaper. The price of the higher-grade egg will be increased, but the price of the lower-grade egg will be decreased.There has been a certain amount of Free Trade talk on the other side of the House, but the last speaker let the cat out of the bag. There seems to be certain hon. Members, and there are people outside, who dislike the present land system so much that they will oppose any Measure that tends to benefit the tenant farmer or the agricultural labourer or the smallholder for fear that it might help the landlord. They are prepared to cut off the nose of every other class engaged in agriculture if by doing so they can spite the face of the men who, to a certain extent, and only to a certain extent, now own the land. I am prepared to give the opponents of the Bill, for what it is worth, the benefit of the fact that the introduction of this Bill is hailed with great satisfaction by agriculturists in this country. One hon. Member, who represents a Division of Wiltshire, said that he had had a great many letters from producers, but none from consumers. I am in the same position, and I have had a great many letters from middlemen, and there it seems to me is the real point under this Bill I am greatly surprised to find hon. Members opposite taking a line which is so obviously in favour of the middleman. As a rule, whether prices go up against the consumer or whether they drop out of sight, to the loss of the producer, the middleman very seldom fails to get his bit, whatever happens. I should think that this House would be very loath to take a line of action which is probably only in favour of the middleman who is engaged in distribution, and who manages, as a rule, to do very well for himself. There is another class of producer who will receive this Bill with great satisfaction, and that is the milk producer. Their satisfaction will be increased by the fact that many of them have been very anxious as to whether dairy products were going to be placed in the Bill. One hon. Member said something about foreign cheese. The question in regard to milk products goes far deeper than that. A great many people think that the milk producer is all right, because he supplies an article which is not to any extent subject to foreign competition, as liquid milk cannot effectively be brought into this country. That is true as far as it goes, but at the same time milk production is enormously affected by the question of the foreign importation of milk products. I do not know whether hon. Members were interested in the very grave crisis which occurred last year in the milk trade, when we were threatened with the great dairy companies forcing on the producers a contract which would place them in a position of getting little or nothing more for their milk than they got before the War, though their expenses had increased by 100 per cent. Later in the year the contract now in force was arrived at. It has a great bearing on the point which I am trying to make. The dairy companies take, at a price, a certain amount of milk in the winter months, and the contract provides that they will take that amount of milk plus 10 per cent. during the summer months. Beyond that 10 per cent. they will not guarantee to take, and they will not give the same price for the 10 per cent. of milk as they do for the remainder. The reason is obvious. Though people do not drink any more milk in summer than in winter a great deal more milk is produced in the summer months when vegetation is most flourishing. No matter how carefully a dairy herd is managed, you are bound to have a big surplus of milk in the summer, which has to be made into condensed milk, butter, cheese or some milk product. The question whether the milk industry is going to flourish or not depends on whether you have a market for the by-products or have to throw them away. That is a point, not only for the milk producers, but for the consumers also. If the milk producer has to sacrifice his surplus milk it is bad for the consumer, for the trade eventually adapts itself, and the consumer will have to carry the loss on the surplus milk produced in summer. If, on the other hand, by reason of a market, the producer gets a chance to sell the surplus milk elsewhere at a reasonable price, everybody interested benefits because the milk producers of the country do not want to sell milk at a high price. What they want is to see people drink a lot of milk, which would be better for them and for the country. The whole crux of the matter is that, if there is a shortage in the winter, some people will have to go without, and milk prices will go up, and if there is no shortage in winter, there must be a considerable surplus in the summer, and the question of the loss of that must be all important. It is not a question of protection, because, as has been pointed out again and again with regard to other products, there is nothing to prevent the foreigner coming in if he can sell a better article, and cutting out the home producer, but this legislation will encourage good production in this country because the producer will see that if the foreign competitive stuff is better, this Bill will act against the English producer. But it will give him a fair chance, and if he produces a better article than the foreigner, people will buy what he produces. I do not think the Bill says anything about imported tinned milk. This is rather important, because in the milk crisis a year ago, so far as my own county was concerned—
Clause 1 (d) says:
"Poultry or dairy produce unless each box, tin," and so on.
If that be so, so much the better, because the crisis in my county started over the fact that the factories were so overloaded with tinned milk which they could not sell that they said they would only take the milk of 10,000 cows where formerly they took the milk of 30,000 cows. I am as much in favour of the rest of the Bill as I am in favour of the part which refers particularly to the dairy products. I am especially in favour of it because it helps the small man. The large farmer is, as a rule, a grower of cereals. The small farmer as a rule is a dairy farmer. The smallholder produces the various articles that are safeguarded by this Bill, but it is not only the small farmer and the smallholder, but the ordinary cottager who is interested in this Bill. He owns a few hens and a pig, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, who say that this is doing nothing for the agricultural worker, that he is very much interested in it because he knows that it will help him. I would ask hon. Members to realise that this is not a producer's Bill. It is a producer's Bill only as a by-quality. It is a consumer's Bill. If English stuff is not as good as the foreign stuff the consumer will have the foreign stuff. Hon. Members know that as well as we do, and they are only speaking with their tongues in their cheeks when they say that if this Bill passes foreign eggs will not be sent to this country.
I particularly resent the closing remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and if he had not resumed his seat I would have risen to a point of Order. I do not think that it is courteous to accuse hon. Members on this side of the House of having in their arguments their tongues in their cheeks. We come here to present certain points of view. Neither do we, with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), bring forward our arguments for purely party reasons. From the point of view of party tactics, I should say that this Bill would do us a great deal of good in the country, but if the hon. Gentleman and his friends had set to work deliberately to frame a Bill which would irritate the greatest number of individuals in the country and do the least amount of good, I think that he would have framed a Bill on these lines. Who are the people who will be annoyed and hampered by this Bill? The people to whom the last hon. Member referred in contemptuous terms as middlemen. He went on further to assail them by saying that they were trying to make money. That is what they are there for. They are working to make money; they do not make money nowadays unless they are fairly efficient. There are a great many failures in that class. If they serve the community well under our present system they are entitled to make money. Why they should be singled out for attack I cannot understand. This Bill is supposed to be brought in the interest of cottagers, smallholders, farmers and land owners. I do not attack the Bill, because it is supposed to help certain interests, though why the unfortunate middleman should always be attacked by agricultural Members I cannot understand. He performs a very useful function. He serves the community to the best of his ability and he is subject to these continual attacks from hon. Members who pretend to speak for the farming interest.
I think that my hon. Friend said he objected very much to hon. Members on this side pretending an opinion. He is now suggesting that we are pretending an opinion.
When the right hon. Gentleman attacks the middlemen, I dare say he does it genuinely. He does not like them. Judging by his arguments, he wants to reduce this country to the condition of a peasant state, in which there will be landowners and farmers and labourers, and no others, and the trader will be taxed out of existence or harried out of his livelihood. I am sure that he believes that that would be for the good of the country. I object to this Bill very much, speaking on behalf of the constituency I have the honour to represent. Hull is a great port, and probably, after London, the greatest port in England for the importation of fresh produce. [HON. MEMBERS: "Russian eggs!"] Hon. Members talk about Russian eggs. I suppose we shall be told that we get Bolsheviks out of Russian eggs. That would be just as good a story as the story of the lizard. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rotten eggs!"] If they were rotten eggs, the people would very soon leave the shopkeeper who sold them. The point I am interested in is that the Port of Hull is probably the greatest importing place for fresh vegetables and fruit from the Continent. The whole of the traders of Hull are unanimous in their opinion that this Bill will injure them, and for that view they give reasons which I will briefly put before the House. These are men who are not actuated by party feeling at all, nor, as far as I know, are they particularly strong on Free Trade.First of all, let me take the Chamber of Commerce. It has unanimously condemned this Bill as likely to be injurious to the fruit and vegetable trade of Hull. Let me take next the Fruit and Potato Buyers' Associaion. They say that they have carefully considered the provisions of the Bill. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford made so bold as to state that every section of the House would welcome this Bill, and when a number of hon. Members on this side of the House said "No," the right hon. Member picked me out and said I was hasty, and when I explained that the reason why I said "No" was that it was my duty to represent the views of my constituents the right hon. Gentleman replied, "They are equally hasty, too." The Fruit and Potato Buyers' Association is made up of middlemen engaged in importing fresh fruit and vegetables from the Continent and selling it again cheaply. I dare say that many of them make a good profit, and that some are comfortably off. That is no reason why they should be attacked and harried in this way for the mistaken support of agricultural interests. In its resolution the association expresses the opinion, in regard to the inclusion of fresh foodstuffs, that the Bill, by its restrictions and Regulations, would enormously imperil the supplies of imported foods and vegetables. The resolution adds:
These are men who have been engaged all their lives in this particular trade. They have to meet competition from other ports, and they are by no means inefficient. That is their considered opinion of this Bill. They have asked me to do everything I can to oppose the Bill. I can speak and vote against it, and I hope the Bill will be defeated fairly and squarely in the Division Lobby and relegated to the place where it should be. I have other letters from the Fruit Merchants' Society, from the meat traders of Hull, and from many individual traders and merchants, and they all agree that this Bill would hurt them. They are not people who are easily alarmed by legislation. They managed to live through the Defence of the Beam Act and through the very serious period of control and bureaucratic Regulations during the War. But they are alarmed at this Bill, and I think with good reason."We have no doubt that the delay and extra cost caused by labelling and inspecting will be extremely detrimental to the consumer, and it will naturally decrease supplies and thereby increase cost. "
Why are the hon. and gallant Member's friends so much alarmed?
I will explain. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford seems to visualise the population of this country, apart from the wretched and despised middlemen, as a population of smallholders and ladies with baskets over their arms who are buying for their households. They are not by any means the only people who buy imported produce. Has the right hon. Member for Chelmsford considered, for example, the position of a great industry in this country, the jam-making industry, which employs many thousands of hands, with a large capital invested in it. It is an industry which exports largely. I suppose that, like most Protectionists, the right hon. Gentleman wants to encourage exports and to discourage imports. This industry depends for its financial stability on periodic gluts of fruit. If it had to buy the ordinary market surplus of fruit the cost would be so high that jam could not be made profitably for export. That would mean that the consumer in this country would have to pay a higher price for jam. The jam manufacturers have to rely on gluts of fruit, when they can buy very cheaply and produce jam which, while not up to the standard of table consumption, is fit for export. Without such gluts they would not be able to run the industry at a profit. Of this I am assured by those who are engaged in the industry. What happens is this. In certain countries on the Continent there are very heavy fruit harvests in good years. Our ports are free ports and they ship these goods over here, on speculation if you like, to be sold for what they will fetch. If you are going to impose these regulations on foreign exportes to this country, and of course also on Britishers engaged in importing these goods, it will involve extra trouble, expense and labour. If this surplus fruit has to be marked clearly and indelibly as the Bill provides it will not be worth while sending it over here at all. As it is, this fruit only just fetches enough to produce a small profit over and above freight charges. If this extra expense, is put on we shall be deprived of this inrush—this exceptionally heavy import—of foreign fruit at intervals as a result of which our jam manufacturers are able to get supplies from time to time. That is one example of the way in which this Bill is going to hit British industry.
I should like the hon. and gallant Member to explain how extra cost or labour is to be involved.
I will tell the right hon. Baronet with pleasure. The fruit, as I am sure he has seen for himself on his visits to the Port of London and elsewhere, is imported in comparatively small packages or crates. There are a tremendous number of these, and if each one has to be labelled and marked it would add considerably to the expense.
Are they not addressed and labelled already?
They are in bulk, but not as regards each packet. When they are brought on board ship each separate packet is not labelled. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Of course not. They are put on board and a document is made out by the mate of the ship. The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister for War, and I believe he has also been Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he does not seem to know much about the details of the overseas trade of this country. Documents are made out by the mate of the ship, and that is the only labelling. It is done in lots, but this Bill says that each particular packet must be labelled as of foreign origin and with the country of origin. I am assured by those in the trade that it will seriously add to the cost. Thus you will hit British industry directly, and you will also hit it indirectly, because you will affect shipping. This means less freights and less work at the ports and, in fact, you have the old story once again—once the Protectionist Juggernaut is put into motion by its fanatical worshippers, it rolls over, injures and crushes interest after interest. I am going to trouble the House with one other example of the indirect effects of the Measure. I will not go into details, but will quote the case of one trade, a very important one, which is going to be adversely affected, and that is the confectionery trade. Again, may I beg hon. Members opposite to remember that the person who buys eggs for the breakfast table is not the only purchaser. Those engaged in the confectionery trade are very huge purchasers. They rely a great deal upon eggs which are sent here for the ordinary markets and which are left over after a certain period—still perfectly sound. [Laughter.] Well, that is the fact. In the confectionery trade they do not use absolutely fresh-laid eggs. They use eggs that are perfectly sound but are not of that freshness which would satisfy the individual con- sumer. There is nothing wrong in that. If they use food unfit for human consumption the law is ample for their prosecution and the protection of the public, as, in fact the law generally, is ample to carry out all the legitimate objects of this Bill, if I may so describe them without offence.The only other point I make against the Bill is the extra cost involved by the bureaucratic inspection and the extra officials necessary for the carrying out of the Act. There is an economy campaign at the present moment. I believe Civil Service Departments are being cut down and officials are being dismissed. I suppose it is thought employment will be provided for some of them, in other directions, by this Bill. How many officials who would otherwise have been dispensed with have been kept on, by Protectionist or semi-Protectionist Measures of this kind? If you are going to carry out the provisions of the Bill seriously, there must be extra inspections of ports, there must be extra Customs officials, and as the trades concerned are largely seasonal, the officials will not be fully employed, but they will have to be paid and there will be great loss to the Exchequer. The provision giving power of entry into anyone's premises will be a fine means of giving employment to extra officials, who will interfere with shops and other places when they have power to enter and search at any time of the day or night by producing warrants. That is another interference with the liberty of the subject. There is another point which I think was admitted to be a Committee point, but to which I should like to refer. I do not see why this Bill should be aimed against Southern Ireland and why Northern Ireland is exempt. We hear much about the interests of the cottage producer and the smallholder and so forth, and I must say that the explanation of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford in this respect was not very conclusive. Why should we specially pick out Northern Ireland for exemption and put a prohibition on goods coming from Southern Ireland?
There is no idea of putting any penalty on anybody. As I explained to the House, at present the Customs boundary of the United Kingdom is on the frontier of Northern Ireland. That is the fact, and that point has been considered very carefully. It is a point which can be considered in Committee, but we have no desire to do anything unfair.
I accept that statement, and I hope this matter will be put right in Committee if the Bill ever goes so far, as I sincerely trust it will not. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister at the last election was forced by public opinion to declare that he would not, at any rate in the beginning of a new Parliament, introduce any drastic change in our fiscal system. Therefore the right hon. Member for Chelmsford and his friends are prevented from adopting protection, and by roundabout ways, they are trying to give a sort of indirect, illegitimate protection to the interests they represent. Why are they rot honest? Why do they not say, "We want the agricultural industry protected"? We talk of key industries. I admit it is a key industry. Why do not they come forward and ask us to support them in seeing what can be done for the agricultural industry on these lines without going in for these back-door methods?
Will you support us if we do?
I would much rather directly protect agriculture than protect the makers of dolls' eyes and nonsense of that sort. I have been publicly thanked by the Farmers' Union for my efforts in this House on behalf of the farmers, although I have not a single farmer in my constituency. The Safeguarding of Industries Act left agriculture out, and in the last Parliament I introduced an Amendment to exempt from that Act everything used in with agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman actually voted against me and took his friends with him into the Lobby. I am glad to say, Mr. Speaker, that you and I miss a great many gentlemen who went into the wrong Lobby. Their agricultural constituents visited their sins upon them properly at the last Election.
There are some more to go.
There are some more to go—I quite agree. This is an interfering, trumpery, ridiculous Measure. It will irritate and annoy an immense number of people. I have listened to many very able speeches in support of the Bill, but I have not heard any proof that this is going to help the growers of agricultural produce in this country. It is admitted—tacitly, at any rate—that prices are going to be put up —[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—at a time when wages are falling, and people are unemployed and suffering great distress. I hope for these, and for many other reasons which could be cited, that the Bill will be rejected.
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken worthy) very far in the discourse which he has just given us. As he has suggested that we on this side were pursuing the middleman with evil intent, I may put one point. We do not in the least mind the middleman making money if in every case he makes that money perfectly honestly. We suggest—I could read cuttings if necessary, but time is going on— that in trades to which we have referred there is a certain amount of dishonesty and fraud. We think that in those cases the middleman is making money to which he is not entitled, and that that money will be much better diverted into the pockets of producers of agricultural produce in this country. I do not want to go into all the details of the subjects which have been mentioned to-day, but to devote myself to one particular part of the agricultural industry, namely, poultry. With regard to question of fraud, the point is this. Every hon. Member present will acknowledge that there are many kinds of eggs introduced into this country in the course of the year. Some are better and some are worse.
What about the election eggs?
There are election eggs, and there are things called Chinese eggs. Is there a single hon. Gentleman opposite who has ever seen Chinese eggs, advertised as such, in a shop in this country? I do not think there is. Is it not perfectly obvious that those eggs are mixed with other eggs and then sold, and that that is creating fraud? The point we on this side are trying to put forward is, why should not the consumer in this country know what he is buying? Why, if he is buying a Chinese egg, a Canadian egg, a Russian egg, or any other egg, should he not know? Why, if he has a preference, as a great many people undoubtedly have, for an average English egg, should he not be certain of it, and be able to obtain it, even though, as has been suggested, he might have to pay a little more for it? Objection has been raised that if we insist on the Clauses in this Bill, and on the marking of eggs, we shall raise the price. Various figures have been suggested. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) put the price at 7s. 6d. for case of 1,440 eggs, and on this side hon. Members have suggested from 9d. to 1s. Any of us could probably suggest figures which would vary, but we have a very good example of what the marking of eggs does cost. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh told us that already marked eggs were being introduced into this country from Denmark. He also said other eggs were coming from Denmark unmarked. I suggest that he should compare the prices of the marked eggs and the unmarked eggs coming into this country.
What is the difference?
I am coming to that. If the eggs are going to the wholesale market, and if you inquire into what they make, you will find a difference of something like 1s., on a case of 1,440, between the two grades of eggs. I suggest that if the difference is only 1s., the cost of marking cannot possibly exceed 1s., because, if so, the exporters in Denmark would not spend money in marking the eggs because it would not be worth while. It could not cost more than 1s. to mark eggs here, and there is no real ground, therefore, for the fabulous sum mentioned on the other side of the House.Another point raised by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Hope Simpson), and other hon. Members, was that foreign eggs would be kept out of the country. Our importation of eggs at the present time is something like £11,000,000 worth, in the course of a year. Where are those eggs going, if they are not sent to England? All the European countries are exporting eggs. Something like 35 countries send their eggs to this country. and a great many countries put tariffs on imported eggs. Therefore, it can hardly be put forward as a serious argument that that £11,000,000 worth of eggs, amounting to a total of something like 1,639,000,000, are going to find a market anywhere else than in England. One other, if I may say so, extremely humorous suggestion was put forward by hon. Members opposite. Two or three of them suggested that the solution of our difficulty was to mark English eggs. They told us, first of all, that the marking of eggs would raise the price and to cause great difficulty. Then, in order to show how much they wish to help the producer in this country, they said they would place the cost of marking on the English producer of eggs. That is hardly a serious argument, but if you admit that side of it, the suggestion entirely kills the one idea we have had in our minds, of preventing fraud. If you are going to mark only English eggs, our middlemen friends—there are black sheep in every family, and I do not refer to all middlemen—will immediately buy other sorts of foreign eggs, mark them as English eggs, and so perpetrate an even greater fraud. It is suggested that English eggs will rise in price, but I quite candidly say I would prefer to see English eggs rise sooner than see what is going on at the present time. At the present time, eggs are kept at certain prices under what I consider to be more or less a system of fraud. If this Bill passes, people will know whether they are buying English or foreign eggs, and then it will become only a question of supply and demand. If the consumer in this country wishes to buy English eggs, the law of supply and demand will settle what the price shall be, but nothing will be settled by this Bill. It will only be a question of supply and demand, and if under that law we can get a proper price for the English article, surely nobody opposite or anywhere else will object. My right hon. friend pointed out that the effect will be that it will increase production in this country. We have now smallholders growing up all over the place. One of their great industries at the moment is egg and poultry production, and I am sure that we should all like to see that encouraged. What we, as agriculturists, ask is that we should be put on the same footing as manufacturers in this country. Manufacturers have insisted in the past that match boxes and other articles of that kind should be marked before they are brought into the country, and why should not agriculturists have the same guarantee? The effect of the Bill may be that it takes some of the profit out of the middleman's pocket, but if the effect is also that we shall stop frauds and transfer some of the profits from the middleman's pocket to the pocket of the producer, I do not think the Bill will do any harm to the general community in this country.
There has been a very interesting and well-informed discussion on this Bill. I confess I was surprised to find the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), in opening the discussion, disclaiming all partisanship. I seem to recollect him, in old days, playing a very notable part in party controversy, and I confess I never thought the worse of him on that account. But even on a more recent occasion I seem to recollect that he was, in a sense, a main actor in a celebrated gathering which brought to an end the late non-party Coalition Government, and thereby brought into existence once more party conditions in this House. I think, therefore, that in disclaiming all partisan spirit, he was making a somewhat large claim upon our credulity. But this is not a party Bill in one sense, because I think most parties are divided in relation to it. As there are hon. Members sitting on the opposite side who are opposed to this Bill, so there are hon. Members on both sides of the Gangway who are supporters of this Bill. I think this is very fortunate, because on both sides we are able to examine the proposal on its merits.There is only one reservation that I would make in relation to that, and it is this, that a number of hon. Members in all parts of the House have somewhat light-heartedly given pledges to support this Measure in the course of the late General Election without maturely considering all that was involved in the Bill. We all know the questionnaires with which we were pestered at the last General Election, and I think hon. Members who were candidates for agricultural constituencies in all parts of the country found in their letter bags one questionnaire from the Farmers' Union, one of the questions in which was whether the candidate would support the application of the Merchandise Marks Act to agricultural produce. I believe that, in the exigencies of the General Election, great number of Members somewhat lightly gave their assent to that proposal without considering all that was involved in it and, furthermore, without considering the practical effects of the Measure if it were adopted. What we have to consider to-day is not simply the object of this Bill. Undoubtedly, the object of this Bill is to do good to agriculture. I think that is agreed. It is presented as a part of the agricultural policy of the farming interest in this country, and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he comes to take part in this Debate, will indicate that the Government not only look with a favourable eye upon this Bill, but intend to give it active support as representing part of the agricultural policy of this Government. We have travelled a long way since 1919. when there was a great agricultural policy to re-create the rural life of England. That was one of the lessons of the War. We were to have guaranteed prices for corn, which were to last four years, and did not last two. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not six months!"] I am not given to exaggeration. We had the minimum wage for agricultural labourers, and we were told that all this was necessary in the interests of national security. Now the frail remnant, the trumpery remnant of this policy is in the Bill before this House this afternoon. Agriculture is to be saved, the rural life of England is to be re-created, our security in the next war is to be safeguarded by marking Brussels sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes, Russian eggs, condensed milk, plums, aye, and leeks. That is a tribute to the author of the great reconstruction policy, to show that he is not forgotten, even though they have rejected him at the Carlton Club, and that there is yet a place for him in their hearts. I am sure the right hon. Member for Colchester Sir L. Worthington-Evans) will appreciate this compliment to his leader. I have no doubt he has sat through the Debate this afternoon to show that he appreciates the compliment. I propose, very shortly, to examine the various parts of this proposal. There are, first, fruit and vegetables. I have some difficulty in understanding that fruit represents agricultural produce. We have a clear definition in several Statutes of what is contemplated under agriculture, and I should say that, under Measures in which we have been dealing with agriculture in this House, these things would come under horticultural produce, and, therefore, this is not within the scope of the Bill. What is the real object of the Bill? If you are going to have this marking it involves two things —first of all, additional marking before the goods are despatched, and, secondly, inspection at the port of arrival. These two things are essential, and I wish in particular to lay emphasis on the inspection at the port of arrival, because that involves delay. It is of the utmost importance in regard to the importation of fresh vegetables and fruit that there should be no delay, and in particular that the delay should not occur under conditions of a changed temperature, because, under these circumstances, you are going to injure very seriously the quality of the article. It will cease to be fresh; it will cease to be of the same value, and thereby you will discourage importation. If you discourage importation you limit supplies. If you limit supplies you cannot avoid this result, that you are going to raise the price. That is, frankly, the object of the Bill. The whole thing, of course, is ludicrous, and lends itself to satire, as it has been satirised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). If we look at the practical effect we see that it means restriction of supplies, and in consequence an increase of prices. But there is, indeed, a great deal more involved in this matter of fruit. It is important for us to maintain our general export and re-export trade in fruit. An example was given to me the other day in connection with this, showing how even an import of this kind may encourage the export trade. A season or two ago there was a failure here of the plum crop. There were practically no plums from the trees, and a certain gentleman, finding he could not get fruit here, went over to Czechoslovakia to buy plums to make up the deficiency here. He did so, and the people here were able to get plums at a reasonable price. But that was not all. Having gone to Czechoslovakia he was able to make trade connections there, and to arrange for the importation of other fruit which was re-exported from this country This fruit included oranges, bananas, and so on, and the friend I mentioned has been able to build up a considerable trade in this way, which has been an advantage., not only to him, but to the carrying trade of this country. It has encouraged increased supplies of these tropical or semi-tropical fruits to this country, and enabled our merchants to make a profit by the connection thereby springing up. That is very important. We lost a large part of this trade during the War. Under war conditions, we had to restrict the imports into this country, and consequently during that campaign no Spanish oranges which came to this country before came in. You had not their redistribution to Scandinavia and other countries. The Spanish oranges were shipped direct to Scandinavia and the other countries of. Northern Europe. Here you have an opportunity of rebuilding that entrepôt trade and to encourage the carrying trade, and I say that this Bill, in so far as it affects fruit and vegetables, is going to discourage that trade and deprive our people of profit and diminish the prosperity of the country.
But the plums and fruit are already bought, and marked on the baskets?
All this sort of thing tends to disarrange trade with foreign countries in such imported fruit, and it is intended to do so. The point is that the inspection is going to affect the quality of the goods as they come in. [Dissent.] Anyone who knows anything at all about inspection knows that. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are inspected now!"] The main thing in the case of these fresh fruits is speed. Any delay is calculated to create a scarcity, and, in fact, the people who are promoting this Bill know it. They know that by this method you restrict supplies, and consequently raise the prices to the consumer here, to the benefit of the producing classes and injury to the great bulk of the community. I believe that when consumers come to know this that those who vote for this Bill will find that they have made a great mistake. They may think that they are getting a little favour with a few farmers at the present time, but they will find that the consumers will be up in arms against it. When they discover that prices have been raised by it they will be sorry for the votes they are giving this afternoon.
We will vote for it, because we believe it is right, and not in order to curry favour with anyone.
I am not accusing the right hon. Baronet of ever having given a vote in this House to curry favour. I should be the last person to do it knowing the right hon. Gentleman's record. I know he represents a constituency that is superior to all considerations, and he is often in that respect an object of envy to many of the rest of us. With regard to currying favour, I think most of us would have to plead guilty to having done it at one time or another in regard to representations which have come to us from outside. Is there any hon. Member of this House who can get up and say that he has not done it? I take it that there will be general assent to my proposition. The important thing to remember is that we have been told that this Bill is intended to protect the consumer from fraud, but is there a single hon. Member who will say that in the Clause dealing with fruit and vegetables there is a single word to protect the purchaser? There is not a single word to say that a single Brussels sprout, a single French bean, or a single Spanish onion has got to be labelled; consequently, it is quite clear that the claim that the consumer is being benefited in this connection in regard to fruit and vegetables is an open imposture.I agree that the case is somewhat different with regard to eggs. If you take eggs each individual egg has to be labelled, every one of them. Every one of these 2,000,000,000 eggs has to be labelled. The result of this will be a restriction of supply. It is said that the marking will cost very little, but if you take it that 2,000,000,000 eggs were imported last year on the basis of cost laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford the cost will amount to £659,000 and that will be an addition to the price and will have to be included in the total amount. What is more, everybody that handles those goods afterwards adds the profit on to that, and I a sure hon. Members are not so simple as to think that we do not see that even that small charge is going to mean an addition to the price, and indeed it is intended to be so. It is undoubtedly true that there are many people in the poultry farming industry to-day who are hardly hit. I know there are some discharged soldiers who have taken up this business and have lost money by it. We all regret it and we want to know what is the real cause of it. We doubt in the first place whether this Bill is going to help them, and in the next place we believe that if this Bill is going to be passed you are going to injure an infinitely larger number of ex-service men who have not poultry farms. I was surprised to hear a Labour Member arguing (his ease from the point of view of the working man. How many working men can afford to buy an English egg. How many of the 1,300,000 unemployed people with whom we are dealing locally or nationally can afford to pay 2d. or 2½d, for an egg? I say that, so far as the poorer classes of this country are concerned, they are interested solely in these cheap foreign eggs. They never think of asking for an English egg; all they are concerned about is getting an egg which they can eat. Sometimes they cannot get it. My point is this: Under this Bill, you are going to limit the supply of these eggs for the future. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not expect hon. Gentleman to agree with me, but I have put an argument forward, I have pointed out that it involves delay, that it admittedly involves an extra charge, and that there is a risk of diversion to other markets, because there are other markets in addition to the British market which take these foreign eggs. The largest market for foreign eggs is not Great Britain but Switzerland. There is no doubt that many of these other markets would absorb the foreign eggs which would be diverted from this country. There is a serious risk—I put it no higher—that the supply will be diminished both on account of delay and on account of diversion of traffic. Consequently, you are going to raise the price to the poorest of our people at a time, too, when wages are falling, when there are about 1,500,000 people unemployed, and when practically every class of the community is suffering more or less from the depression of trade. I think a case is clearly established, in regard to eggs, at any rate, that you will do little good, if any good, to the small poultry farmers whom you profess to benefit. The hon. Member for Taunton—a name of happy omen—is engaged in this poultry farming industry, and he has given the expert view how poultry farming can be made to pay. It is not by these artificial methods. It is by improving your marketing as they have done in Denmark. Forty-seven per cent. of the eggs that come into this country come from Denmark. Why should they come from Denmark? There is no depreciated exchange, is there? [HON. MEMBERS: "Very slight."] There is practically none. They have better commercial methods. Some of them, as we have been told from the benches opposite, can afford to pay even 1s. a case for stamping the eggs to advertise their quality. Why should they in Denmark he able to do that without any compulsion, when we cannot do it here? I think you will find some reason in the system of land tenure there. The poultry farmers of this country go after strange gods. Let them base themselves on the experience of an agricultural community where agriculture has prospered, and adopt the same methods, and these trumpery, artificial expedients will be driven out of court. In regard, again, to meat, it is claimed that this Bill will ultimately do something to protect the consumer, but I observed, with interest, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford, that he was very apologetic about the meat Clauses, and the machinery necessary to make them effective. It is not simply a matter of saying "imported." That is not the real distinction. There are a great many kinds of meat, and that brings us to the point that this Bill is totally inadequate, that it has never been thought out. People think that, you can simply draw a distinction between English meat and foreign meat and the whole thing is settled. Nothing of the kind. There is, for example, a good deal of fresh meat which comes into this country, and very good meat it is. There is Dutch veal, which I am told, by people in the trade, is as good as any similar meat produced in this country and, indeed, in some places, it has a better reputation. There is, I agree, a distinction when you come to frozen meat, but is it worth while to set up all the machinery of this Bill— machinery for inspection on importation, and calling upon local authorities to have inspectors going round all the shops— when the fact is that it is only for the benefit of a very small minority of the people of this country? The great bulk of the people of this country, or, say, of this great city, can only afford to buy frozen meat. They are not the people who are to be protected from fraud under this Bill. There is no chance of their being in that position, because they have not the money to spend on English meat. Over 80 per cent. of the meat consumed in this country is imported frozen meat. The shops where it is sold sell nothing else; and yet there is all this talk—I was going to say eyewash—about fraud. What is going to be the effect on agriculture? I come back to the great agricultural policy. It is going to improve the market for English meat, for English cattle. It is going to encourage the further laying down of land to grass.
Does not my hon. Friend know that more cattle can be produced on arable land than on grass land?
I agree that it may be so, but it is not the practice.
Yes, it is.
Let us follow this matter. I followed the controversy over the Agriculture Act, and I remember Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, after the Agriculture Act was repealed, drawing attention to the fact that now the English farmer must concentrate on cattle, and give up arable production.
May I explain to my hon. Friend, as I should like to have the matter clear, that while it is true that on grass land you can only fat cattle, you will have less cattle? On the other hand, on arable land you will get more cattle in every way. You cannot grow corn without cattle, or cattle without corn.
I quite agree, but I am dealing with the proportion. I never suggested that we were going to abolish arable land altogether, but the question is as to the proportion between arable and grass, and I say that, if you are going to concentrate on grazing rather than on cereals, you will have more grass land and less arable. I believe that that is a sound contention. I did not say that arable farming was going to be abandoned; I was not so foolish as to say anything of the kind. I have not a great deal of personal association with agriculture, but I was born on a farm, and practically all my relatives have been associated with farming, although they never owned land like the right hon. Gentleman. I have seen, on considerable areas in Scotland, the changes in cultivation, and in the proportion of arable to grass land; and, undoubtedly, the change in that proportion represents a diversion from cereals to cattle grazing. If you are going to raise the price of meat, you are going to alter those proportions and reduce the amount of land under cereals, and you are going to reduce the amount of employment available for the agricultural labourer, which will still further reduce the wages which are already so low. There you have the case. We see to-day agricultural labourers working for 25s. a week. Why is it? It is because the demand for their labour has gone down. If you still further alter the proportions in farming you will, as I see it, further lessen the demand for their labour, and that lessening of demand will create further depression. I say, therefore, that this Measure is not conceived in the real interests of agriculture, nor in the interests of the workers in agriculture, and, above all, it is directly calculated to worsen conditions by raising prices for the great mass of the consuming public in this country. I hope, therefore, that the House will not give it a Second Reading.
I will not follow the hon. Member who has Just spoken in his disquisition on general agricultural policy, as to which, I observed, he did not profess to be an expert I would rather come immediately to the business before the House, and I think I ought to say, to start with, that the Government mean to support the Second Reading of this Bill. In fact, they could hardly do otherwise, because the Bill is an accentuated edition of that which passed the House of Lords last year, and it is a more forcible form of an Order that is now in existence, although it will expire at the end of the year. I quite realise that there may be difficulties in putting into force some of the provisions laid down in the Bill, but that is a matter for Committee. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, who is an expert in Committee points, when those points come on in Committee will be able to deal with them adequately, and when the Bill leaves Committee under his skilful hands it will come to the House again as a workable Measure. I have been particularly impressed by the opposition to the Bill. I do not think I ever heard cleverer opposition speeches. The case lends itself to humour. Everything connected with eggs always seems to be regarded as humourous. The opponents of the Bill made full use of those associations and by humour and discursiveness they endeavoured to hide the weakness of what undoubtedly is a very weak case. I want to go into what that case professes to be.The whole opposition to the Bill professes to be on behalf of the consumers. It is the consumers whom we want to help by the Bill. The consumer may want to eat Chinese eggs. Then let him have them, and let him know they are Chinese eggs, and let him be able to tell they are Chinese before he breaks the shell. Almost all the opposition has centred on the subject of eggs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The greater part of it has. I have been in the House practically the whole day and have heard the speeches. The next criticism was that it was said to be difficult and expensive to mark the eggs. That point has been dealt with already. There is no difficulty about it whatever. Half the eggs that come from Denmark are marked already. In this country it was done for a long time by the National Poultry Organisation Society with rubber stamps, and the estimates I get are somewhere between 9d. and 1s. per case of 1,440 eggs—an absolutely inappreciable addition to the cost. Then it is said it will make imported eggs more popular. We are quite ready to risk that. Then we are told by a good many other Members exactly the opposite, that it will make the foreigner send us fewer eggs. The real fact is that our market is so very much the best and the largest in the world that you must do very much stronger things than marking eggs to get the foreign producer to even think of sacrificing that market. To say you will scare away the foreigner is one of the old bogeys we have heard trotted out time after time by the superannuated Free Trader. The next argument is that eggs will be dearer if the marking is put on. Yesterday a deputation came to see mo from the Provision Merchants' Association. They were very strongly against this Bill. What was the reason they gave for it? They told me a good many foreign eggs were marked already, that people did not like these foreign-marked eggs, that they were very shy of buying them, and that the price of these eggs was lower than the price of other eggs, So that what they say is that by marking the foreign eggs you will not make the foreign egg dearer. You will actually make it cheaper. That, I believe, to be the ease. I believe it is actually the case that it is in the interest of cheapness to the knowing consumer of foreign eggs, if there be such a person, that this Bill should be passed, because he will get his foreign eggs cheaper than he ever did before.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Danish-graded egg is dearer even than many English eggs?
I am only saying what I was told, that the marked egg was sold for less money because it was marked. The fact is that the opposition to the Bill is not a consumers' stunt at all. It is a middleman's stunt. What is the consumer doing now? He is paying for a chance. He is paying the price for a dip in the lucky bag. He may get an English egg, a Chinese egg or an egg from any country in the world. The proposal of the Bill is that he should no longer pay for a chance, but that he should pay for a certainty. The tendency of this Bill undoubtedly would be that there would be a better price for British eggs and a lower price for foreign eggs. What we want by this Bill is to get fair play for the British poultry industry. I do not know whether it is realised that the value of the products of the poultry industry in this country is larger than the value of the product of the wheat industry. And it is distinctively an industry of the smallholder. It is also distinctively the industry of the woman. It is also the industry of those ex-service men whom we have settled on the land. We have incurred considerable obligations towards those men. We have given them this occupation out of which to make a living, and a great many of them find that it is a very poor living. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bents are too high!"and" The valuation of the land is too high!"] We can discuss the question of rents when we come to a more general discussion, but they are very much below an economic rent. We are under particular obligations to those men. The poultry industry at present is not doing well. No one says that the smallholder is doing well. This is a Bill to help it, and it is a Bill in the interests of the pocket of the farmer and the smallholder, and of the palate of the consumer. I am asking the House to support the Second Reading of this Bill. It has been hinted to me, when I said that the Government were giving it their support, that I might be taken to mean that the Whips were being put on. That is never done in the case of private Members' Bills, and we are not putting on the Whips, though the Government are in sympathy with the object of the Bill, but I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
I hope that nobody in this House will charge me with being either a Protectionist or a Free Trader. I say "A plague on both your houses." I may suggest, however, that in the matter of eggs I am an expert. I have had them thrown at me from every angle and in all sorts of conditions. I would suggest that instead of introducing a Bill of this character for the purpose of protecting the smallholder and others who may be interested, we should insert a time machine in all hens so that they would be able to date their own eggs and save us all this trouble. I have noted that there is no question of giving protection to Irish eggs. Will they be looked upon as foreign imports? You cannot have it both ways. If the Bill is carried you will have to pay more for your Irish eggs, and you will not discover their nationality until you have cracked the shell. As a matter of fact the whole thing is a farce. I know that the importance of the egg trade is to be measured by the millions of eggs imported. Do Members of this House realise that the great mass of the workers of this country, particularly those in a constituency like that which I represent, cannot afford eggs? We get our eggs in egg powder—Bird's custard powder. God knows where they come from. Is their nationality to be examined? Are we to have an advisory committee to discover where they came from? Our eggs are artificial eggs made in factories.Who are to get the benefit of this Bill? English eggs—red, white and blue eggs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Easter eggs!"] They will be Easter eggs by the time we get them. They will have the Union Jack flying over them when we place them on the table. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then our patriotic friends on the other side of the House will ask: "Are they from Australia? "[HON. MEMBERS:"Why not?"] It would take longer for them to come from there, and therefore they would be disqualified. Those who believe in Imperial trade will denounce the New Zealander and buy the Dutchman. Surely the whole thing is ridiculous. We are the greatest producing and exporting country in Europe. Here we are trying to create barriers around an egg, and trying to pretend that there is one egg that is a true-bluer and another that is down and out. Yet we send our commercial travellers to Denmark and ask the Danes to buy dairy machinery—ask them to use the things that we produce to enable them to produce the eggs which they send to us. They could easily ask that our machines should be stamped. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are stamped!"] Yes, and that is their passport for popularity, because they are made in England. Why not stamp our hens? Hon. Members know that while they are asking about eggs they are not exact. We want to protect everything that is necessary, but when a country like Great Britain talks about stamping eggs, and using a microscope to examine hens—
The hens will stamp the eggs themselves.
You have been stamped on by many a hen. [HON MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I do not mean what hon. Members mean. I ask hon. Members to realise that we on this side of the House are not out to protect eggs or hens, but to protect the people from being taken advantage of by those who want to raise prices still higher, although the people cannot afford to pay the prices which are already being charged.
Question put, "That the word ' now ' stand part of the Question. "
The House divided: Ayes, 183; Noes, 100.
Division No. 44.]
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Gates, Percy||Peto, Basil E.|
|Apsley, Lord||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Philipson, H. H.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Goff, Sir R. Park||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Gould, James C.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gretton, Colonel John||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devlzes)||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Halstead, Major D.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Harrison, F. C.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Harvey, Major S. E.||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hawke, John Anthony||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Bonwick, A.||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hayday, Arthur||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Boyd Carpenter, Major A.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.|
|Brass. Captain W.||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hilder Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hinds, John||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Sandon, Lord|
|Brown. Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hood, Sir Joseph||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Bruford, R.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hume, G. H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Hurd, Percy A.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Irving. Dan||Singleton, J. E.|
|Button, H. S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Jarrett, G. W. S.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Campion, Lieut-Colonel W. R.||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stanley, Lord|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Lamb, J. Q.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Coates, Lt.-Col. Norman||Linfield, F. C.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dine, E.)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Mercer, Colonel H.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Millar, J. D.||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Willey, Arthur|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Leslie O. (P'lsm'th.S.)|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Winterton, Earl|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Murchison, C. K.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Wise, Frederick|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Nesbitt, Robert C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Falcon. Captain Michael||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Fawkes, Major F. H.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Yate. Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Flanagan, W. H.||Nield. Sir Herbert||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton))|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Pease, William Edwin||Mr. Pretyman and Major Dudgeon.|
|Adams, D.||Dunnico, H.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Ede, James Chuter||Hemmerde, E. G.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Edmonds, G.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Batey, Joseph||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Ellis, R. G.||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bowdler, W. A||Fairbairn, R. R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Briant, Frank||Falconer, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Brotherton, J.||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)|
|Buckle, J.||Greenall, T.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Burgess, S.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Burnle, Major J. (Bootle)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Groves, T.||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Collison, Levi||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Leach, W.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)|
|Duncan, C.||Hardie, George D.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Lunn, William|
|MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Saklatvaia, S.||Warne, G. H.|
|M'Entee, V. L.||Salter, Dr. A.||Watson. Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|McLaren, Andrew||Scrymgeour, E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col, D (Rhondda)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sexton, James||Webb, Sidney|
|March, S.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Wedgwood. Colonel Josiah C.|
|Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Shinwell, Emanuel||Welsh, J. C.|
|Middleton, G.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Morel, E. D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wignall, James|
|Mosley, Oswald||Simpson, J. Hope||Williams, David (Swansea. E.)|
|Nichol, Robert||Sinclair, Sir A.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Snell, Harry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Potts, John S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Wright, W.|
|Pringle, W. M. R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Sprlng)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ritson, J.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Mr. W. Graham and Mr. A. V.|
|Roberts, C. H. (Derby)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Alexander.|
|Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
Bill read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[ Mr. J. Jones.]
Division No. 45.]
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hemmerde, E. G.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bonwick, A.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Hogge, James Myles||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Brotherton, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Buckle, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Burgess, S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Snell, Harry|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Leach, W.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Collison, Levl||Linfield, F. C.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lunn, William||Sullivan, J.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||M'Entee, V. L.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Duncan, C.||McLaren, Andrew||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Ede, James Chuter||March, S.||Warne, G. H.|
|Edmonds, G.||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Middleton, G.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Millar, J. D.||Webb, Sidney|
|Falrbairn, R. R.||Morel, E. D.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Falconer, J.||Mosley, Oswald||Weir, L. M.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Nichol, Robert||Welsh, J. C.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, J.|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Williams. David (Swansea, E.)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pringle, W. M. R.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Crlffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Wright. W.|
|Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Roberts, C, H. (Derby)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Mr. John Jones and Mr. A. V.|
|Hardie, George D.||Royce, William Stapleton||Alexander.|
|Harris, Percy A.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Apsley, Lord||Brittain, Sir Harry||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Bruford, R.||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Davles, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)|
|Banks, Mitchell||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davles, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington. S.)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Butcher, Sir John George||Edmondson. Major A. J.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Cadogan, Major Edward||Ellis, R. G.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.|
|Berry, Sir George||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Eyres- Monsell, Com. Bolton M.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Falcon. Captain Michael|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Blundell, F. N.||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Fawkes, Major F. H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Clayton, G. C.||Flanagan, W. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Coates, Lt.-Col. Norman||Foreman, Sir Henry|
|Brass, Captain W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
The House divided: Ayes, 102: Noes, 166.
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Sandon, Lord|
|Gates, Percy||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dlne, E.)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|George, Major G, L. (Pembroke)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Mercer. Colonel H.||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Singleton, J. E.|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Skelton, A. N.|
|Halstead, Major D.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Harrison, F. C.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Harvey, Major S. E.||Murchison, C. K.||Spender-Clay, Lieut-Colonel H. H.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Stanley, Lord|
|Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Nesbitt, Robert C.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hayday. Arthur||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Hilder. Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Nield, Sir Herbert||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Hinds, John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Peto, Basil E.||Weils, S. R.|
|Hume, G. H.||Phillpson, H. H.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Pildltch, Sir Phillp||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Whitla, Sir William|
|Irving, Dan||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Willey, Arthur|
|Jackson, Lieut-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Jarrett, G. W. S.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Leslie O. (P'tsm'th, S.)|
|Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Remer, J. R.||Winterton, Earl|
|Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Rentoul, G. S.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Wise, Frederick|
|Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rothschild, Lionel de||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Lewis, Thomas A.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Lloyd, Cyrll E. (Dudley)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Pretyman and Major Dudgeon.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
Adjourned at a Quarter after Four' o'Clock till Monday, 19th March.