[16TH ALLOTTED DAY]
Considered in Committee.
[Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]
Civil Estimates, 1949–50
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum not exceeding £20, be granted to His Majesty towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Marginal Agricultural Land for the year ending on the 31st March, 1950, namely:
|Class VI, Vote 8, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries||10|
|Class VI, Vote 9, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Food Production Services)||10|
—[ Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
My right hon. and hon. Friends have put down this Vote for discussion today because the solution of the problem of securing increased meat from the marginal land of this country appears to be the most effective way by which the soil of Great Britain can make a major contribution to the present woefully inadequate meat ration of our people. We are sorry that the Minister of Agriculture cannot be in his place to hear the discussion. We appreciate full well the reasons for his absence and we are glad to have the Joint Parliamentary Secretary here. I propose to deal with the subject in two parts, first by examining the provisions of the recent order No. 536, which is entitled "The Agricultural Goods and Services (Marginal Production) Scheme (England and Wales), 1949," and then to review the whole position and future possibilities of increasing production from marginal land.The order has been made and laid before Parliament under powers given to the Minister of Agriculture by Section 103 of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1947. On this side of the Committee we look upon this scheme as merely an extension of the goods and services scheme which was originally introduced during the war and which has been extended by a Statutory Instrument ever since. The purpose of the scheme, and of other schemes of this nature, has been to assist certain farmers by authorising the remission of part of the charges which would otherwise be made in respect of goods and services supplied or ordered by their county agricultural committees. The first point to which I would direct attention is that the scheme applies only to occupiers. Applications invoking the assistance of the scheme may not be made by owners. Owner-occupiers may use the scheme only for such goods and services as are required by them in their capacity as occupiers. We believe that the omission of owners from the provisions of the order limits the usefulness of the scheme to such an extent as virtually to make it of very little value. In this connection I would, in passing, give one example, namely roads. One of the great problems in marginal land is the improvement and the location of roads. They do not come into the order at all because they are looked upon as the responsibility of the owner, as capital development. I think the Committee will agree that that is one of the most important pieces of work that must be done in areas where there is marginal land. The Committee may fall back upon the argument that perhaps the Minister would not be entitled, under Section 103, to provide for such services, but the Act clearly lays down provisions relating to the management of land; so that owners could have been included in the order if the Minister of Agriculture had so wished. Turning from a major criticism of the order—I hope the Committee will agree that it is a major criticism—I come now to some details of its provisions. I refer first to paragraph 7 which limits to special circumstances, according to the discretion of the Minister, such services as bush clearing and reclamation of derelict land. Those services cannot be authorised for county committees unless the Minister so directs, and they shall not be supplied at less than normal charges. We consider that this is a very grievous mistake, as those two services are the most important of those to be carried out under the order and are, incidentally, by far the most difficult economically for the farmers to carry out. We believe that there again is a big gap in the order. When it comes to the administrative provisions of the order I would direct the attention of the Committee to paragraph 5, "Conditions of eligibility." Subparagraph (3) lays down conditions of assistance which are so involved as to be quite impracticable for county agricultural committees to administer. To quote one passage:
How can county committees and farmers make progress with schemes under this order when such a condition is included? It is extremely difficult for county committees who are versed in these matters, but quite impossible for the average farmer to understand. I hope that the Minister will explain to the Committee exactly what is intended by these words and, indeed, that he will go much further and review the history of what has been accomplished under the various orders dealing with marginal production. For example, how much assistance has been approved to farmers under the orders and, perhaps most important, how many counties have taken advantage of the orders and operated them in recent years before this one was introduced. That brings me to the question of finance. The Minister of Agriculture, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) last week informed the House that the amount of money available under this order would be £300,000 per annum. I hope the Minister will inform the Committee how he proposes to apportion this sum to the various county committees, as it would appear to us on this side of the Committee to be quite inadequate. The Minister will, no doubt, by now have had an opportunity of studying the report of the Exmoor survey, carried out by the Somerset county branch of the National Farmers' Union. He will agree, I think, that this survey is a most valuable contribution to the problems we are discussing today. It deals with only 80,000 acres, but Exmoor is typical of many other areas. In dealing with finance the report states definitely that this sum is far from sufficient, as follows:"the Minister or the Committee shall have been satisfied … that the operations covered by the programme would be uneconomic on the unit in question for the time being, and that other necessary operations on it might be prejudiced by the execution of the programme at normal charges;"
I have tried to assess where the figure of 4½d. an acre is derived from, and I think it has been taken from Professor Dudley Stamp's Land Utilisation Survey of 1948 in which he assessed the position to be that there are 20 million acres of marginal land, mainly enclosed—that is the kind of land with which we are dealing this afternoon—and 4½ million acres of mountain and moorland. So it would appear that under this order the assistance which is to be given to the marginal land producers is in the neighbourhood of 4½d. an acre, which the Committee will agree will not meet the case submitted to the Government today. I hope that in this part of my remarks I have said enough to convince the Committee that an entirely new approach to the question is required and that this order, which does nothing more than perpetuate the goods and services schemes, is merely toying with the problem facing us at present. Now I turn to the problem in its wider aspect because my hon. Friends hold the view strongly that there is an urgent need for a constructive and bold policy for the rehabilitation of marginal land farms. We believe that this should be a permanent national requirement, not a temporary expedient, and upon that hangs the future of our marginal land. I said in my opening remarks that we believe it is from marginal land that we can make the greatest additional contribution to the meat ration of our people. Also it must be appreciated, as is brought out so clearly in the Exmoor survey, that there is within the agricultural industry a depressed section of good farmers on marginal land, and it must be one of our primary purposes to restore the profitability of these areas, thereby creating the inducement to develop them. In this process I believe the first and most important field which we must attack is that of essential capital expenditure. The Committee will want to know in what way capital expenditure should be incurred. I shall suggest a few examples: drainage schemes, farm roads, farm buildings, adequate water supplies—it is no good increasing the cattle and sheep population if there are not adequate water supplies—fencing and walling, reclamation of derelict land, which would include bracken cutting. A decision must be taken by the Government on these matters and a lead must be given by them before they advance from their present static position on the important question of milk versus meat. This is particularly important as far as farm buildings are concerned. Last year all records in milk production were broken with a total of 1,426 million gallons. This is no less than 182 million gallons more than in 1937—a large increase. So I think the Committee will agree that this overall position is satisfactory, and we hope that it will continue. Within this large total there is no doubt that there are many small hill and marginal land farmers who have been saved by guaranteed prices and assured markets. Yet, on the other side of the picture, if meat production has to be increased, and it must be from two national points of view—both to achieve a properly balanced agricultural industry and to reestablish the Sunday joint on the dinner tables of our people—it is primarily to the marginal and hill farms that we have to look for an increase in the cattle and sheep population. I think it will be agreed on both sides of the Committee that cattle and sheep can graze on the same pastures, as they are complementary one to the other, and eat different grasses. A good example of that is what has been accomplished by my hon. Friend the Member for Kinross (Mr. Snadden), who is unable to be in his place this afternoon. He and his partner, by embarking on a large capital improvement scheme in the Highlands, have not only successfully re-introduced cattle to that area, but at the same time have considerably increased the number of sheep which can be grazed per acre on the same farm. To do that he had to set up a very big scheme of capital development, involving roads and drainage, and followed it up by re-seeding and grass conservation. If that kind of scheme were extended to many other parts of the country, in a very short time we should see a big increase in our animal population, both of cattle and sheep on marginal land. Professor Ellison, who the Committee will agree is a great authority on these matters, has estimated that marginal land could provide 250,000 more store cattle per improved million acres per year, which would eventually turn into an increase of between 12 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the home produced meat ration. The sheep population could be rapidly increased at the same time. That brings me back to those who have built up small dairy herds on marginal land. I suggest that scheme should be created for collecting cream from those farms and thus performing a twofold purpose by guaranteeing to those who have gone into milk production the sale of their milk in cream and once again giving the British public a taste for pure fresh cream which they been so long denied. If such schemes were introduced, that would further encourage beef production through an increase in the number of calves which could be reared from the skimmed milk thus made available. I notice that the Exmoor survey make this suggestion in a slightly different form. I hope the Minister will definitely tell the Committee that his Department are in favour of these suggestions and intend to do all that is possible to encourage the bias towards meat production from marginal land. So far I have referred to upland districts, but marginal land is not confined to those areas; it can be found in practically every county in the British Isles. I have had brought to my notice a scheme in Hampshire where in the course of one year 170 acres of scrubland has been reclaimed by the work of three men with modern equipment and is now growing a good crop of wheat. I suggest that this could be multiplied a hundredfold in different parts of the country. When the capital development has been provided, much can be done to increase fertility and in this field I believe direct re-seeding is the solution in many areas and most certainly good grassland management is in all cases absolutely essential. I hope I have said enough to convince the Government that they should take back their Order 536, and introduce bolder and more extensive measures to deal with this problem. I suggest that the quickest way to achieve this would be to——"The Exchequer grant of £300,000 under the new Agricultural Goods and Services (Marginal Production) Scheme is quite inadequate as an impetus to production in view of the circumstances disclosed in a recent economic survey referred to. It amounts to about 4½d. an acre."
Nationalise the land.
I think that would be the worst way; we should get no further forward, but would produce less meat for the people of this country. The quickest way would be to amend the Hill Farming Act, 1946, to include marginal land. During the passage of that Bill through the House my hon. Friends urged the Minister to take this course.
The hon. and gallant Baronet will permit me to say that we are not allowed to discuss questions of legislation. He may mention the matter in passing, but I hope he will not go into it in detail.
I was only mentioning it in passing as an example of the simplest way the Government could introduce a practical scheme to deal with this problem. I think I shall be in Order, without saying anything more about the amendment of that Act, if I refer to what the Minister of Agriculture said during the Second Reading of the Measure on 3rd June, 1946. The Minister said:
Three years have passed since the Minister used those words and we still have no long-term policy. Even in the area covered by the Hill Farming Act very little has been accomplished as far as I can gather in my wanderings about the country. In all these matters the Government have always seemed to take action too late to be effective for our needs. We follow the usual procedure—I am not grumbling at the Minister of Agriculture in this matter—my hon. Friends make a suggestion in this House or outside and a long period elapses. We press our suggestion and, after that, the Minister somehow convinces the remaining members of the Government to do something. Then something gets done, but it is too little and too late, with the result that we have the meat ration as it is today. As an example, take the calf rearing subsidy. We have different ideas in the Committee as to exactly what the subsidy should be, but we are all agreed that that scheme has done a considerable amount to increase stores on marginal land. But it was introduced two years too late. If it had been introduced two years earlier, we should have had more cattle in this country today and they would have been maturing and rapidly becoming beef. The same could be said in regard to pigs and poultry. On this side of the Committee we pressed and continue to press for more feedingstuffs. Is it not true that if the Government had been prepared to spend the amount of dollars they are spending this year on pork, 18 months ago on feedingstuffs, our problem of bacon, pigmeat and pork would not be nearly as critical as it is at the moment? The Minister now has the chance of introducing a comprehensive scheme to deal with production from marginal land. He has had the "all clear" from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his speech at the annual dinner of the National Farmers' Union this year, when referring to the problem of marginal land, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:"the problem of marginal land farms is really one for long-term policy, and not one for this rather temporary Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd June, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 1722.]
Is this miserable little order the result of that lead given by the Chancellor? Those words give the Minister of Agriculture his chance. How much better would have been the position today if even a small proportion of the money spent on the groundnuts scheme in East Africa had been devoted to improving our marginal land. By now, this money would have yielded a good return in increased production of meat. I urge the Minister to delay no longer, but to take action on the lines I have suggested on behalf of my hon. Friends and go forward with a bold scheme to deal with the problem."The problem of marginal land of all sorts is a great problem in national production and in this exceptional case the Government have decided that special ad hoc assistance must be continued."
The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) ended a speech which we all enjoyed with some brave words which will look good as the prologue—or epilogue—to the next edition of the Conservative Party's agricultural charter. I was a little puzzled when he spoke of his wanderings about the country and said that he had seen very little accomplished. He must have been wandering——
Only under the Hill Farming Act.
I am glad to have had that retreat. If we pursue him, we may get a little more retreat, as we did from someone else who got as far as Derby and retreated. If he kept his eyes open when looking through train windows, he would find that more has been done than he was inclined to say. I was amazed to hear him say that his hon. Friends pressed us on the matter of developing home agriculture and that we followed. He said that some of the things we did were two years too late. We all know him for a very modest and likeable chap, and I think that what he meant was 20 years too late—and that is the tragedy. We are doing our best to catch up as quickly as we are able to do. My right hon. Friend, who is unable to be here today, is performing a very useful function for agriculture in the country. If he were in the usual possession of his voice, he would be here taking part in this Debate, and he is very sorry he is not able to do so.On the general theme of the speech of the hon. and gallant Baronet there will be no disagreement. Clearly, the vital need to increase meat supplies is one on which we all agree. That necessarily means that we must face the fact that to get substantial and significant increases involves making the fullest possible use of our marginal land and, indeed, of all agricultural land in the country. Since we have been doing so much work in increasing intensity of production on all our good land, it means we are forced back on to marginal land to get the increased home meat production of which the hon. and gallant Member spoke. It is difficult to say with any certainty either what the cost of developing marginal land will be, or the results which will accrue from that development. Marginal land is not something which is static. The cost of bringing it into production and the results which accrue from that policy differ very widely. Any survey which was undertaken with a view to showing what the national picture is would be extremely costly, very impracticable and rather misleading, because the information would be so diverse. On the other hand, there are various surveys, the work of our county committees, and what is being done by people like Professor Ellison. Through these surveys we have built up a fairly large store of knowledge of what needs to be done, and what the results might be of embarking on that work. We are doing what we can through our Agricultural Advisory Service; in East Lancashire, especially, where there is a particular problem, we are obtaining an experimental farm with a chain of selected small farms with a view to learning ourselves what is the best kind of practice and then demonstrating it to others. The hon. and gallant Baronet referred to a number of things that need to be done—capital works, as he called them—if we are to get ahead with this job. Most of the things he mentioned, however, are covered by Government assistance. At one point of his speech I thought the hon. and gallant Baronet rather misled himself. He spoke mainly about Order No. 536—the Marginal Production Order. But that is not the only means of Government assistance towards marginal land production, or even the most important scheme of assistance. Most of the things which he mentioned—drainage, water supply, farm roads, farm buildings, fencing, walling and land reclamation—are able to attract Government assistance under one or other of the various schemes which we have formulated. I think it might be useful if, with the Committee, I were to go through the wide range of things that we are doing and by means of which assistance is available towards getting our marginal lands into better shape and increasing our food supply. As I have said, there are many other schemes, some more important than the Marginal Production Order, which is not the miserable little order which it was described as being by the hon. Baronet. It is not so much money that is the limiting factor in these matters; it is very much a question of balancing all the available resources we have—labour, machines, etc.—and using them where they will achieve the best results. A good deal of pressure has been put upon us, quite rightly, to ensure, under our agricultural expansion programme that we should do all we could to help the small farmer who was being pressed to farm in a way in which he would not farm normally and traditionally. But to some considerable extent we have had to balance the use of our available labour, over and above the direct employees in the industry, and the use of our available machines. Even if we voted all the money in the United Kingdom it would not have made it any easier to divert labour and resources from assisting those who could do an immediate job, and have done it very well, and put them to the assistance of lands where the farmer, because of his background, was not himself immediately prepared to get on with the job. As machines come into the industry and the farmer becomes more used to the new techniques the picture begins to change. To that extent we are able more easily to turn our attention to longer-term projects without suffering any grave handicap to our immediate production. During the last two or three years we have been faced with that situation, and the picture is changing today because of the way in which the industry is beginning to invest in capital development itself. When looking at the general picture of what we are doing to assist marginal land production I think the most important thing to remember is the assistance given to the hill farmer. A large proportion of our marginal land is on the hills and uplands. The De La Warr Committee estimated that there were some five million acres in that category when they were considering the matter before 1944, when they reported. In Scotland, I am told, the area is twice as much. Clearly, therefore, this is the great bulk of marginal land. In 1946, the Hill Farming Act was passed, which divides assistance into a number of categories. First, it maintains the principle of paying subsidies to those hill farmers who maintain hardy sheep and hardy cattle on the hills in accordance with good hill farming practice. Its main purpose is to ensure to them a reasonable stability in their income from sheep, and to encourage them to adopt and extend the practice of running hardy cattle, particularly breeding cows, up on the hills and thereby increase their income There are two other important byproducts. In the first place, the Act seeks to improve the upland pastures and increase the supply of store cattle for the lowlands, which is of a special importance at this time of meat shortage. Second, by offering summer grazing for agisted cattle from the lowlands it has greatly decreased the strain on the dairy farmer, and has enabled him to make greater use of summer grazing for direct milk production. The subsidies payable in that way have been of enormous value, and have helped a great deal. The Act did not break new ground altogether; it merely placed on a legislative basis what had been going on previously. But where it did break ground was by giving a real stimulus to the long-term rehabilitation of hill farms, so that they could be turned into economic enterprises. The hon. and gallant baronet spoke about certain conditions in the order, to which I shall refer before I sit down. We must bear in mind that the aim of this scheme is not to find a new way of paying out money to the industry other than through the price structure. It is to turn the hill farms, the marginal land, into economic productive enterprises. There is no point in having any scheme of assistance which does not achieve that object. Under the second part of the Hill Farming Act the Exchequer may give grants equal to half the cost of schemes of rehabilitation and improvement on hill farms. Here, of course, the grants are available to any landowner or tenant, or groups of landowners and tenants, who submit schemes which the Minister is able to approve as adequate for the purpose of rehabilitating the land. There is a very wide range—some 23 or more—of items of rehabilitation and improvement which can form the basis of these schemes. Improvements of this kind are not limited only to land that is defined under the Act as hill farming land. They may embrace any other land which is run in conjunction with the hill farm. There may be a good deal of ordinary marginal land which will get assistance under the Act because it is land being run in conjunction with the hill farm land. Schemes can cover new buildings, improvements to buildings and improvements on marginal land farmed in direct association with real hill land. Exchequer grants under this Act, as the Committee will know, may amount to £4 million in the period during which the Act is alive, and with the approval of the House we may ask for an additional £1 million, to bring the total up to £5 million. We must not, however, be misled by the figures £4 million or £5 million, since they are Exchequer grants of half the total cost. The expenditure of the Exchequer's money will mean that the country is investing £8 million and possibly £10 million in the rehabilitation and improvement of the important marginal lands on our hills. May I give a short progress report of what we have done? These schemes are complicated; they take time to prepare, submit and check. It is most important that the taxpayer should get value for money, and that the schemes that are submitted are comprehensive and will achieve the ultimate rehabilitation of the hill farm. So far, the Act has run about half its course, but that is not to say that half the period during which the money is to be spent has run. A lot of schemes will be delayed action schemes. Up to the end of April of this year, the estimated cost of works, including improvement schemes in the United Kingdom either approved by us or under consideration, amounted to £4½ million, divided approximately equally between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other. At 30th April, out of 1,891 schemes which have been put up for consideration in England and Wales alone, work was going on in no fewer than 700 cases, which will cost a total of rather more than £800,000. Therefore, work was actually proceeding in very nearly half the total number of proposals put up for consideration, and the total value of schemes which have been put up for England and Wales is very nearly a half of the total—£2 million.
Does the hon. Gentleman mean £4,500,000 of Government money or does that relate to both sides—the Government and the industry?
The £4,500,000 is the total value of the schemes put up, not the total amount of grant which they will attract.
That means £2,250,000 from the Government?
Roughly a half from the Government. It is quite obvious from these figures and the fact that we are only half way through, and that the rate at which schemes are now coming forward is half as high again this year as it was last year, that the time taken to prepare the schemes is being caught up. We shall probably need to come back to the House for the additional £1 million; we shall use up all the money that was attracted under the original Act.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us any idea of that figure?
I have not got it here, but I will try to provide it before the end of the Debate.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary talks of £800,000. Is that the cost of the scheme and not the Government's share?
It is the cost of those schemes on which work is proceeding. The £4,500,000 is the total cost of all the schemes which we have as yet received. The Government will pay something of the order of 50 per cent. of that.I would refer to the Exmoor Survey and the comments which the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond made on that point. He used the somewhat amusing figure of 4½d. per acre mentioned in the Survey, which has been out about a week or so; there has not been much time for any of us to go into it. It is clear from what the hon. and gallant Member said that that figure is arrived at by paying attention only to the £300,000 for the Marginal Production Order. Much of Exmoor will come not under that but within the definition of hill farming. I shall give some rather significant figures about Exmoor. We have received 50 schemes covering 26,000 acres of Exmoor—well over a quarter of the total area—the total estimated cost being £90,000. That is additional to the £300,000 to which the Survey referred. A much higher proportion of the area is already covered by schemes which have been put up for improving Exmoor than is covered by schemes which we have received from any other hill-farming area of England. Work is proceeding on a number of these schemes.
Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary now add anything to the reply which I received from the Minister to a Question on 31st January last? How many of these schemes in Exmoor have received approval for work to start?
The difficulty I have in answering that question is that work does not proceed only after the scheme has received final approval. In the first place we receive a scheme in principle, without details. It is then sent back for the compiling of a detailed scheme, which has then to be forwarded and considered in detail. We may give authority for work to proceed in advance of the final approval I cannot tell the hon. and gallant Member how many schemes have been finally approved, but work is now proceeding on rather more than 13.
The answer which I received on 31st January was that in no case had work been started at that time on any scheme which had been submitted, so that what the hon. Gentleman now says shows an improvement.
The point I am making is that a good deal of work is obviously being done on Exmoor quite apart from the marginal land scheme, and a figure of 4½d. per acre is a little unfair and unreal. The total figure which we anticipate spending on hill farming up to 1951 will run into several millions. There will, in addition, be £900,000 provided in the next three years under the Marginal Production Order. If these are added together and all the other forms of assistance—drainage, liming, water, etc.—are ignored, we have a figure much nearer 11s. or 12S. per acre than the 4½d. mentioned in the Survey, with which the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond amused himself.The Committee may like to know the sort of improvements which have been included in the improvement schemes to which I have been referring, and the approximate cost under principal headings. Out of rather more than £2 million in England and Wales, farm buildings schemes which we have so far received account for over £400,000, farm houses and cottages for rather more than £300,000, improvements to permanent pasture—manuring and re-seeding and things of that kind—£300,000, fencing rather more than £200,000 and roads rather more than £150,000. It should be remembered that I am speaking about schemes which have been submitted only up to the half way mark and before the upsurge has arrived. Water supply, drainage and electricity each account for about £100,000. Both water supply and drainage attract grant under different arrangements as well as under the scheme to which I am now referring. The total Government contribution towards costs both on hill and upland farms will therefore be considerably in excess of the figure which I have given.
What has been the expenditure on cottages?
I do not think that I can break down further the figure which I gave of £300,000 for farm houses and cottages together, but if the hon. Member wishes to have it further broken down, I will see if that can be done.
And the money.
The remaining chief items are liming, shelter belts—vitally important in some of these areas—and the provision of sheep dipping accommodation, each of which has accounted for about £50,000 in the schemes so far received. I understand that in Scotland the total sum is about the same but the distribution between the various items is rather different.The hon. and gallant Member for Richmond, who I hope will bear in mind the enormous amount of work that is being done, pointed out that outside the scope of that scheme there are marginal lands which cannot qualify under the Hill Farming Act. It is to them that the other Order, No. 536, is directed. It is to meet the needs of farms of this sort that the marginal production scheme was devised. This scheme is not new in principle. It continues, as it were, a scheme which was in existence, which was based on the authority of annual Appropriation Acts. This new scheme began on 1st April as an agricultural goods and services scheme under Section 103 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, and goes a good deal wider than anything we had in this direction previously. One reason why I was disappointed by what the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond said was because he seemed to talk as though we were doing something very limited when in fact we are going a good deal wider than hitherto. He asked me what would be the increase in expenditure. In the previous year expenditure was at the rate of £50,000 to £60,000 annually whereas under this scheme expenditure is expected to be of the order of £300,000 a year, something like a six-fold increase when compared with the previous arrangement. I must emphasise that this scheme is only one of several measures directed to raising the productivity of marginal land, and we shall be unable to do justice to what is being done as a whole unless we set the scheme in its proper perspective among the other schemes. The hon. and gallant Member criticised the fact that the sort of work which one would expect the landlord to do is excluded from the scheme. Whatever sum of money is available its total imposes a limitation. With £300,000 per annum available for England and Wales the assistance under this scheme must of necessity be rather more limited than that given under the Hill Farming Act. We have thought it right, in order to secure the utmost benefit, to exclude from the operation of the scheme landowners' works which could normally be required of them. Semi-capital and expensive works like farm roads, clay marling and any land reclamation which exceeds a field or two, in other words big schemes of reclamation, are not included in this scheme. The object of the scheme is to use the sum available to the best advantage. We believe that the best way to do this is to concentrate on such things as improving crop husbandry by encouraging the use of fertilisers, lime sprays, etc. One does not wish to say anything to hurt anyone's feelings but with the kind of farmers generally found on marginal land that is probably the way to get the biggest immediate improvement. Under this scheme my right hon. Friend is authorised to approve the supply of goods and services at less than normal charges. It may be that the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond was misled when referring to paragraph 7, which says that except at the Minister's discretion certain things shall not be supplied at less than normal charges. That is merely because those things can be very expensive and could run away with a large part of the £300,000. Everything can be supplied under the scheme at less than normal charges but before those goods and services referred to are supplied, the matter must be referred to the Minister. It does not mean that they are excluded, but because of the abnormally high cost we wish to look at their provision in relation to other goods and services and not to spend all the money on expensive goods which give a limited amount of benefit when the money could be used to better advantage. A wide field is covered by both goods and services and the main conditions of eligibility are that the programme for which assistance is sought shall be calculated to increase or maintain food output, and that a grant is necessary because the operations covered by the programme would for the time being be uneconomic. The hon. Member asked about paragraph 5 (3). Obviously some watch must be kept. The rate of grant is usually 50 per cent. and most of these farmers will be able to obtain the rest of the remaining 50 per cent. on credit terms. A considerable amount of work can be done by the small farmer even on these, amounts. I wish to say a few words about the differences between this scheme and previous practice. We expect an expenditure of £300,000 a year in England and Wales as against £50,000 hitherto. The second fact, which I rate highly, is that committees under the old scheme had no discretion, but had to send every scheme to the Ministry. We have now given county committees a discretion up to £100 per farm per annum. Anyone who has served on a county committee will know that that provision will give them considerable scope without having to refer to the Ministry. Bigger schemes will be referred to the Ministry while the immediate or urgent work is proceeding.
Does that mean that any scheme of over £100 must come to the Minister?
Yes, any scheme of over £100 per year will come to the Ministry. The hon. Member looks as though he does not like the sound of that, but the discretion will enable immediate and urgent work to proceed while the bigger scheme is coming forward in the ordinary way. It does not mean that the bigger scheme is turned down but that a check is kept over expenditure.
I thought that the hon. Gentleman's point was that there was to be more speed in getting these things going. I was disappointed to hear that schemes over £100 had to be sanctioned by the Minister.
There has to be some upper limit and we think that that is the right point at which to impose that limit. I am sure that the new arrangement will allow of a good deal of speed.
It is not in the order. When the hon. Gentleman says £100, does he not mean that £50 is the amount of the grant?
No. I think I am right in saying that, but I shall make quite sure. I think that it is for a scheme which will attract £100 grant per farm per year, but I shall make sure of that before the end of the Debate.There was one other difficulty in the past. It was that the scheme had tended to become rather too closely associated in the minds of people connected with its operation with upland counties and with re-seeding. All have now been told that the new scheme is applicable to all counties and the improvement of crop husbandry is as important as any other. We had the difficulty in the past that the receipts of marginal production assistance and hill sheep and cattle subsidies were mutually exclusive and that the scheme did not cover certain other kinds of services, such as ditching, which attracted other grants. These mutual exclusions have now been removed and the schemes can receive assistance under this order notwithstanding that they attract grants in some other way by some other provision. A good deal more latitude has been given to our committees in the interpretation of the conditions describing the financial status of a farm. We have gone to some trouble to see that our committees have been made more clearly aware of what we want them to do in this way. Therefore, I think we can say that the improvements we have made in this scheme show clearly that the Government are pursuing a vigorous course of action, that they are not at all complacent and that they wish to see a good deal more done. Indeed the sum of £900,000—nearly £1 million—for which we have provided under this order shows what we expect to do. The hill farming and the marginal land production schemes obviously involve expenditure over a short number of years of a considerable sum of money, but they do not end the forms of assistance to marginal land production. The hon. and gallant Baronet raised a question of the calf subsidy scheme. That clearly is of particular benefit to these people because their lands are so suitable for calf rearing. I should like to take the opportunity of announcing publicly that the Government have decided, subject to securing the necessary Parliamentary approval, to make an order under Section 1 (4) under the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, to extend the calf-rearing subsidy to cover calves born in the United Kingdom up to 30th September, 1951. The existing scheme would have run out in September of this year. For calves born after 1st October, 1949, and before 1st October, 1950, the rates of subsidy will be £5 for a steer calf and £2 for a heifer calf. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides who took some part on our somewhat exciting discussions of the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act will see that their views have been taken into account in the new rates which have been fixed.
The hon. Gentleman has not taken account of my view. I wanted to abolish the subsidy.
My hon. Friend must be happy that we have come somewhere near his view in one regard.The rates for calves born during the last year of the subsidy period will be settled at the time of the 1950 February price review. One point which will please my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) is that, in addition, from next October the standard of quality for eligible calves will be varied as necessary to avoid any grounds for criticism that calves that are not worth rearing are being reared to attract the subsidy. Other indirect methods are grants for liming, drainage and water supplies. People on marginal land will benefit, as will others, from the proposal of the Government to provide grants of 50 per cent. for the restoration of rural dwellings. Of course, one must not forget that Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1947, by its guarantees, gives considerable assistance to these areas because indirectly they gain from the guarantees to the lowland fattening industry and, therefore, create a better market for stores. Obviously one way in which one could give a good deal of help would be to bring wool within the ambit of Part I of the Agriculture Act. My right hon. Friend has made it clear that if producers will get together and agree on an orderly marketing scheme for wool we shall be glad to bring wool into the Schedule of guaranteed commodities under that Act. I am happy to say that I understand that the producers' organisations are making substantial progress in their efforts to formulate a satisfactory marketing scheme for this purpose. I hope that I have said enough——
Could the hon. Gentleman say a few words on the question of milk versus meat?
I am not sure that I wanted to be tempted too far along that line. I recognise the courage of the hon. and gallant Baronet in going as far as he did. I thought that perhaps it was easier for him than for me. Obviously, there must come a point where a controlled movement from one to the other must take place, but I think that it would be very rash for me to embark on any statement of policy. Such a statement ought to be made by my right hon. Friend after some considerable detailed consideration as to whether or not we have reached the stage at which that swing ought to take place.
Could the hon. Gentleman say that he will look at the possibility of some sort of scheme dealing with cream?
Certainly. The whole range of related commodities is already being considered by my right hon. Friend and by the Minister of Food. It is a question for consideration when we ought to say something more about it.
Under the marginal production scheme grants will be available to hill farmers as well as to marginal farmers. There are a great number of marginal farms which are not eligible for grants under the Hill Farming Act. Does what the hon. Gentleman has said imply that there will be less grants available for that class of farm?
No, I do not think so, but to some extent that might be true. I said that schemes which attracted grants under one of the other ways, would not be excluded under this scheme. To that extent, some part of the £300,000 might go on improvements which attracted grants under the Hill Farming Act. Some of the matters which will attract grants are water supply schemes, drainage schemes, and then there is the liming subsidy arrangement. Hitherto these have been excluded, but they will not now be excluded. To that extent, the marginal farmer will gain because he will be able to draw grants under the two different heads. Perhaps on balance they will cancel each other out.I hope I have said enough to convince the Committee that the Government have not failed to recognise the importance of the marginal land problem and have not been idle in their attack upon it. The hon. Baronet said that a new approach was wanted and that we must take the order back. I hope that I have now convinced him that it would be a disservice to the industry to take the order back. The order goes a good deal further than hitherto we have been able to go. I believe that in this, as in other agricultural matters, my right hon. Friend and the Government have a solid record of achievement behind them. However, we are not complacent about this. I agree that much remains to be done before we can say that we have mastered the problem of our marginal land whether on the hills or on the lower slopes. I recognise that we have probably moved into the position where we are able to make a much bigger attack upon the marginal land on the lower slopes. I recognise the poverty of these areas as regards essential services such as roads, and the low level of equipment on many of the farms. Therefore, we are already thinking what further action may be necessary, particularly when the Hill Farming Act expires in 1951. When the Hill Farming Bill was introduced my right hon. Friend explained that the Government proposed, for the five years of the Act, to try out a voluntary system. I would emphasise that improvements now depend on the submission of schemes to us. The initiative is with the landowners or the tenants, as the case may be. It is a voluntary scheme. If they are to receive benefits from it, much depends upon submitting a scheme. We recognised at the time that one difficulty about such a course is that where it is desirable that an important scheme should cover a very large area, the reluctance of one owner to participate might greatly diminish the value of the whole scheme and might even make it impossible to proceed. So long as schemes are on a voluntary basis, there is a risk of a certain degree of fragmentation. Clearly, in thinking about this problem from now on, one of the matters which must be considered, should financial assistance towards rehabilitation of hill farming land continue, is whether a bolder approach involving compulsion, or the acquisition of land owned by a non-co-operative landowner, would not yield greater benefits. We have also to consider the very difficult question of common land. That is a difficult question. It is not enough just to toss it to one side. It is a question of whether the country can afford to allow waste acres to remain in their present unproductive state. It is also a question of whether we can afford to let the common land which was brought into cultivation during the war, return to the commoners and revert to its pre-war state. We must face up to this question. We must think about it. Since the Hill Farming Act was passed, there has been a material change in meat supply prospects which emphasises the need for further efforts to secure even greater productivity from our hill farming land and other marginal land. As I have tried to show, my right hon. Friend has this problem under review and I know that he will give the fullest consideration to any concrete suggestions which hon. Members may like to make during this Debate.
I am glad to have the opportunity of taking part in this Debate, because it happens to be just 12 months ago today since I kept the Joint Parliamentary Secretary here until 12.30 a.m. in order to discuss this problem. On that occasion we had a "big" House of about half a dozen Members and probably the staff looked at us with a considerable amount of annoyance because we were keeping them up unnecessarily. I am glad to think that this Debate is taking place at a reasonable hour and that it has been initiated from the Front Benches instead of the back benches.In spite of what the hon. Gentleman said on several occasions about the Minister not being complacent, I am afraid that I do not agree with him. I think that not only the Minister but the country is complacent on this question of waste land. About three months ago I broadcast on the subject of idle acres. That was the only time in my life when I had a fan mail. I received letters from all parts of the country agreeing with what I had said, describing what was taking place and suggesting what else could be done. The only letter I had which did not approve of what I had said was from a member of the Liberal Party to whom I replied by pointing out what that party had done in the past.
What about the hon. Gentlemen's party in the past?
I do not want to enter too much into that question, but I could not resist making that comment.In spite of the many activities to which the Parliamentary Secretary called attention, one can find more waste land during a ten-mile drive through the English countryside than one can find in the whole of Denmark. I cannot help feeling that too many people are still living in the hope that the 19th century, with cheap food produced from the virgin soils of the world, will return. If people continue in that belief, it is my opinion that some day they will be even more hungry than they are now. I do not think that the growth of population is sufficiently realised. It is worthy of consideration that the population of the world is increasing at the rate of 20 million annually, and that in this country during the last 12 years the population has increased by three million whilst agricultural land has decreased by 800,000 acres. It is quite obvious that with a decreasing agricultural area the rate of population increase must bring disaster to the world and that we shall be involved. We have also to look to the immediate future for our food supplies. We must face the fact that the export trade upon which we depend—as many of the leaders of the Socialist Party have said—for the purchase of our raw materials and foodstuffs—I believe that food and feedingstuffs come to about £900 million a year, plus what we get from our invisible exports and money from the American people—is getting more difficult, a fact which is acknowledged by all. The American Loan comes to an end—I hope it will—in 1952. Therefore, we must make up our minds that by 1952 we must produce not a few million pounds worth of food, but several hundred million pounds worth more than we are doing at present, There is another problem that we may have to face. I do not want to put myself in the position of an economist, but, having read what many of them are saying, I feel that sooner or later this country will have to consider devaluing the pound. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said quite emphatically that he would not entertain that idea, but circumstances may force it to come about. As I understand it, the immediate result would be that our export trade would be assisted to an enormous extent, but that the cost of our imports would rise very steeply, and that is why in my view the waste land can do such a lot for the economy of the country. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned what has been done to bring back this land into production. But how long, at the present rate of progress, will it be before we get a few million of the 16 million acres which are today scheduled as rough grazing? We are discussing marginal land which includes, of course, a great deal of that rough grazing. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) has said, marginal land exists all over Great Britain. It is not land which lies at the foot of hill country; it is land which exists in every county in the country. I was rather surprised to see a statement by, I think, the president of the Red Poll Society a short time ago to the effect that within 40 miles of Ipswich there were 100 square miles of marginal land which could be brought into production. [An HON. MEMBER: "You would not like to farm it."] I would not mind, at a price, and I am sure I could make more use of it than is being made at the present time. Individual people or groups of individuals have tackled this waste land to see what can be done with it. If there is any hon. Member in this House who wants any evidence as to how much marginal land there is in existence in the country and what can be done to deal with it, I suggest that he buys the journal of the Farmers' Club and reads the lecture given by Professor Ellison and the discussion which followed. I think it was a most enlightening discussion, and I am quite sure that the Ministry of Agriculture have read every word of it. All I hope is that having read it, they propose to act upon the suggestions made therein. I want to see the Ministry make use of their county executive committee staffs, not in connection with farming individual farms or in operating machinery pools and losing a lot of money by so doing, but by being instructive and by making a detailed survey of every county, parish by parish, and submitting to the Ministry details of the marginal land which can be tackled in a particular area.
Am I to understand the hon. Gentleman as saying that he is in favour of not having a machinery pool, for example, in Herefordshire, to assist the small farmers there?
Definitely. I think the time has gone by when the taxpayers of this country should be called upon to waste money on machinery pools in the way we see it wasted in that connection wherever we go in the country today. If a farmer has a farm which it is not economical to run with his own machinery, then he should not cultivate it; he should keep it unploughed and improve his grass. To plough up smallholdings which are better under grass is not an economical thing to do. The smallholder in such circumstances should improve his grass and purchase more feedingstuff with which to feed his poultry and pigs. That is how he can contribute his bit to the country.In my opinion we are faced with three alternatives unless we tackle this question of waste land as a battle operation. They are mass migration, starvation, or an increase in home production. I want to see the Ministry tackling this matter in a much more forthright manner than they are doing at present. I do not wish to say anything about mass migration, although I believe in spreading our population round the Empire, but that must wait until we have faced the immediate future, as otherwise we shall be short of food. This week we have passed a Measure in this House which is going to cost the country millions of pounds for the rehabilitation of dwelling-houses. The sum involved is an unknown quantity. I suggest that there is something much more important than providing an extra bathroom or something else to a house, and that is that the dwellers should first of all have something on their plates to eat. I have nothing to say about spending money on housing the people—I agree that it is a good thing—but, at the same time, let us rehabilitate the land as well as the houses.
May the hon. Gentleman be forgiven. As he knows, one of the main reasons given why the essential workers cannot be attracted to the countryside is because the farmers cannot build them a fit place to live in.
I was coming to that point. I suggest that, instead of wasting time and energy in building new towns, the Government ought to spend that money on building houses in the countryside. At the present moment, I am taking up with the Ministry of Health the problems of two rural districts which had to wait nearly three years before getting a licence to enable them to go on building rural houses. They are now in the state where they are asking the people in those houses to pay a rent of 31s. a week. To ask an agricultural worker to pay one-third of his wages in rent is too stupid.
That question does not come within this Vote.
I am sorry, Major Milner, but I was rather tempted along that line.This week I have been in the company of a party of young farmers from Denmark, and I discussed this question of waste land with the leader of the party. He said that he thought we were farming very well in this country, but I pointed out to him that when foreign visitors come to this country they are only taken over the best farms, and I told him that I could take him to land where nothing was being done. With regard to waste land in Denmark, he said that the Danish Government were running a scheme whereby land due for rehabilitation attracts a grant of two-thirds and that the remaining one-third is advanced in a way of a loan and repaid commencing after a period of three years. I suggest that something of that sort might well be carried out in this country. I am not suggesting—and I notice that the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) is not present—that this should be done to assist the landlords of this country. The scheme could be tied up in any way we liked, but let us get this land producing, otherwise disaster will overtake us. I wish to end by saying that not only is it necessary for our survival as a nation to get our people into the countryside, but that it is necessary for us to remember, if unfortunately war comes again, that the second line of defence is our food production. Instead of sending tractors to Poland in order to bring back food to this country, surely it is better for us to keep them here and to provide the food in preparation for that day if it ever comes.
I am very sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) was not present to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) because I think he would once again have claimed that an hon. Member opposite had justified his nationalisation project. It is a sad commentary on the farming community of this country that after all these years and all the schemes which have been put forward by the Government to provide grants and subsidies for different types of land, the hon. Member for Leominster should point out that the owners and tenants of that land all over the country have failed miserably to bring it into production. If they have failed with all those schemes at their disposal, what course must be taken to bring that land into production?I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on making out a very good case, but he reminded me of the housewife who was spreading a little bit of butter over a great deal of bread. The marginal land of this country is, I think, the most difficult problem with which the Ministry of Agriculture has to deal. It is a most complex and diverse subject, and whatever may be the solution, it is the most costly. To bring this land into full production will, in my judgment, need at least £100 million. The little schemes—the hill farming scheme, the grants and the subsidies that are made— merely touch the fringe of the problem. They never get to its roots, and they will have no permanent effect upon bringing this land into proper production. Marginal land is of two types. There is the land which is marginal through neglect—and there is a great deal of it even in these days—and there is the land which is marginal because of its geographical position, because of its poor soil and because of its stony ground, and so forth. The land which is marginal through neglect could be brought into good cultivation under proper management and could be kept useful and productive through proper farming. On the other hand, the other type of marginal land will take a tremendous amount of money to bring into cultivation. The Ministry have not yet seriously tackled this problem. They need a bold and courageous scheme, as suggested by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), in order to bring this type of land within the agricultural scheme for the whole nation. These piecemeal palliatives of subsidies and so on are no solution at all. Until we get right down to the rock bottom of this problem, any improvement upon the tables of this country will be very slight. My firm belief is that the financial requirements of this land are quite beyond the resources of private individuals. It can only be dealt with by the Government, and it is upon the Government's shoulders that the burden must fall. Apart from the marginal land, I am afraid that over a long number of years we have developed something far worse, and that is the marginal farmer. The marginal farmer will have to be dealt with just as the Government have to deal with the marginal land. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned East Lancashire where I live and where I have seen marginal farming ever since I was born. I understand that East Lancashire is, in the eyes of the Ministry, one of the most difficult areas in the country. In East Lancashire they have farmed through the years by the easy method. The importation of cheap feedingstuffs before the war enabled the farmers in that area to lay a foundation for an absolutely artificial type of farming. It is far easier to farm out of the proven sack than it is to plough and cultivate one's land. We developed a type of land which was used simply for summer grazing and winter hay, and it was neglected for the rest of the year. We also developed the farmer who prefers to buy imported feedingstuffs and use his land entirely for the purpose which I have just mentioned. This trend reached its climax just before the war with the development of the Boutflour system of farming. Professor Boutflour, with his system of "steaming up" cattle, condemned roots and told the farmers to give as little hay as possible, to feed 3½ lb. of meal for every gallon of milk and to produce milk by utilising imported feedingstuffs. It may have been a profitable method of farming, but it was disastrous both to the farmer and to the land which he ought to have been cultivating. It permitted him to neglect his land, and the result was that we had full pails, fat cattle, thin farmers and poor land.
What about the labourers?
The labourers were poor also. As I have said, this system produced the marginal farmer. How are we to deal with this problem? I have put forward this idea before, and I make no apology for doing so again. First, we must create the economic unit. There are far too many small farms on this type of land, and no matter what may be the subsidies, grants and prices, the farms are entirely uneconomic and will remain so. At present they are kept going in all kinds of ways.Let me give three examples of farms in an area which I know well. In farm No. 1 the farmer is farming 18 acres of land. He has one cow and two calves. He does not plough. He cuts his grass and grazes his cattle. His wife keeps a draper's shop in a nearby town and that keeps the farm going. Farm No. 2 is a farm of 25 acres. There is a farmer, two sons and three daughters. They farm by agisting cattle through the year. Not one of those persons farms the land. They all work in mills down in the valley. The only bit of farming they do is when they leave the mill at night and come home. On farm No. 3 the farmer simply uses the farm in order that he may live in the house. He turned over his land to another farmer who lives about half a mile away, and he himself works for a contractor. I could multiply these cases time and time again throughout this area.
Without multiplying the cases, could my hon. Friend give me the details of these three cases? He will know that under the Agriculture Act the county agricultural executive committee has full power to deal with cases of this sort. Will my hon. Friend give me the details of those cases?
I shall give my hon. Friend the details of 20 cases.
I mean the details of these three cases.
Certainly if my hon. Friend wishes. I should add that when I discussed this matter with the advisory officer he said, "If these people are turned out, who are we going to put in their places?" We should get the same type of person because the farm itself is not an economic proposition. Until the Ministry groups these farms into an economic proposition—which will require a tremendous amount of money, because the houses and buildings very often need re-siting and the whole area needs to be made into a compact unit—nothing effective will be done with that type of land.
How does the hon. Member propose that this type of farm should be dealt with?
I was just coming to that point. It varies, as so many things vary in agriculture in this country, with the locality. Local conditions will determine what the economic size of a farm should be, but I would say that on marginal land no farm should be less than 150 acres. With 150 acres a farmer can afford to purchase the necessary machinery with which to work his land properly. He will be able to do a certain amount of ploughing, and with his stock, poultry and pigs he will get a comfortable living for his family.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Exmoor Survey reveals that the average size of an Exmoor farm is 150 acres, and they are among the least profitable farms in the whole country? Therefore, it would seem that 150 acres is not an economic unit of marginal land.
I said that local conditions would determine what the economic unit should be. In my area 150 acres is an economic proposition. I would point out that in the Exmoor Survey it is stated that 250 acres produces an economic return. The economic farm varies with the locality and according to the circumstances surrounding it.First we must make an economic unit of the marginal farm. Secondly—and this is a very important point—the credit facilities available at present for this type of farmer are inadequate. From questions put to my right hon. Friend from time to time, it would seem that he considers that the facilities provided by the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation and by the joint stock banks are adequate to meet the needs of this type of farmer. I beg to differ. What is required is Government support, even if the credits are obtained through the joint stock banks. Government support is needed, with the Government acting as a guarantor, with greater facilities and cheaper credit. That is far better than giving grants and subsidies. The farmer would much rather deal in a businesslike way with his finance than accept gifts from the Government. Larger credit facilities will make a tremendous difference to all these farmers. I refer particularly to the young farmer. A young man came to see me about four weeks ago. He has taken a farm of over 100 acres and he has been to his bank to try to obtain some credit with which to run the farm. He has a little stock and a little machinery, and with some help from the bank he could run that farm profitably. However, he is quite unable to obtain any credit whatsoever. The bank does not look upon it as a safe proposition.
Is this farm freehold or leasehold?
He is a tenant farmer. Therefore, he cannot bring in his farm as security. The only security he can offer is the stock on the farm. It is in cases like that where Government support is essential. This problem of finance is driving many of our young farmers off the land. The hon. and gallant Member for Richmond quoted a large number of cases in which capital is provided. Capital is available for building, roads, fences, walls, drainage and for the recovery of derelict land. The farmer makes his living out of his cattle and his land. When he has all this capital expenditure laid out it is useless unless he has the money for stock and crops.What we require credit for is in order that the farmer can provide stock and crops—something out of which he makes his living and which contributes to the needs of the country. I think we are becoming lop-sided or top-heavy with capital expenditure. We can overdo it; it ought to be balanced. Lay out a certain amount of capital expenditure at the same time as you lay out a certain amount of money for stock. We are overbalancing agriculture by providing this capital expenditure without, at the same time, providing the wherewithal for the farmer to develop his stock and his land.
The hon. Member will not have forgotten the goods and services scheme which my Department operates. That will certainly cover the question of crops and of cultivation operations. I rather wonder whether he is suggesting that there is nothing at all which the farmer should be expected to provide for himself.
But the goods and services scheme is totally inadequate. We must come out with a bold scheme.I am sorry that I have taken up so much time, and I should like now to come to the manner in which this land should be developed. We have to concentrate on the growing of grass on marginal land, for that is our greatest crop—the growth of stock from grass, the development of ley farming. It is surprising what can be done with marginal land if one concentrates upon that aspect of farming. I shall give only one instance, and that from my own farm last year. Last year, 1,200 ft. above sea-level, we grew a crop of oats and peas. We dried them by the Scottish method of "tripod-ing." Last year was an exceptionally bad year for drying crops of this nature and even for drying grass, but we succeeded for the first time in the history of our farm; we threshed that crop, we had it ground and it lasted for the cattle until the beginning of March. That is on a purely marginal farm It can be done if one, first, has the grass foundation, the stock to do it and the knowledge on the part of the farmer of how it should be done. It is undoubtedly our salvation, the salvation of the marginal farm—the development of the farm for stock-growing and stock-rearing, providing both mutton and beef for the needs of the country. We have been noted in the history of this country for adventure and for the acceptance of risks. I think it is the spirit of adventure and the spirit of risk which has made us great. Here we need to take a risk. I know it will be a risk. We need to risk our capital, with Government backing, on the development of this land. I am confident that the farmers would rise to the occasion, that they would feel the obligation which lay upon their shoulders when this credit was placed in their hands, and that the Government would not lose money, as they do lose it today by grants and by subsidies. I am confident that the Government would have a good return from a large outlay and that the farmers would themselves create what the Minister desires—a land that is productive and is contributing to the tables of the housewives of this country in a far quicker way than any scheme which has yet been put forward.
Northern): I should like in a moment to make some comments on the interesting speech we have heard from the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), but first may I say that I listened with interest to the Parliamentary Secretary? I think he proved that a great deal of help was being given to farming and that some help was being given to marginal farming, but what I think he completely failed to convey was that there was any deliberate target and purpose behind this new Marginal Production Order.As I see it, the position is that at the beginning of the war we had an agricultural revolution and we left a system which did not serve this country well, and which had existed between the two wars under the Conservative Party. As a result, we established in this country a much higher level of arable farming. That goes on; it needs certain help and guidance, but it has been a success. Secondly, we enormously increased our milk production. I believe that is well on the way to reaching its target every year. It is steadily going up and it is a great contribution to the country. The problem which we are considering today is how to do the same sort of thing for the industry of meat production, and particularly the production of mutton and beef, which, partly as a result of the other two campaigns, has greatly suffered. From the answer given by the Minister of Agriculture when he was first asked about this, I think on 5th May—and nothing the Parliamentary Secretary has said today has dispelled the impression I had on that occasion—it became perfectly clear to me that this order is introduced as a result of pressure, suggestion, cajolery and persuasion. At last the Ministry have said: "We shall have to do something about this marginal land." It is not introduced with a precise and definite object, with a request to the farmers, "Go ahead and meet this situation; and the only place in which you can meet it and the only way in which you can meet it is to produce mutton and beef from the marginal land." I believe that that is the case; I believe it has been shown technically that this thing can be done. It has been shown by agricultural advisers, it has been shown in universities, in colleges and on demonstration farms; it has been shown on big farms and on small farms; there have been demonstrations all over the country of how we can increase the productivity of marginal land, of hill land, fivefold and tenfold. Technically, it can be done, and there is nothing to stop it. We have Professor Ellison's figure that if we want 250,000 more stores we must practise this improvement on one million acres. Yet, when the Minister of Agriculture is asked on 5th May how much land he expects £300,000 to improve, he says he does not know and that it depends on how much of this assistance is taken up by farmers. There is no plan behind the thing. When the Parliamentary Secretary spoke about it today, he said he did not know how much marginal land there is. Is that not something which should be found out? What is the margin in which British agriculture can expand its production on this type of land? Is not that a vital thing for the Minister of Agriculture to know? I should have thought that the figures were known to some extent. Sir John Russell has given a figure that, since 1891, 2¾ million acres of land have become marginal. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) is not here, because, incidentally, I work it out that during that period the Conservative Party were probably responsible for the government of this country for about 40 years, the Liberal Party for about eight years and the Labour Party for perhaps a couple of years, or more if we include the four years since the war. That, however, is beside the point. The main issue is that land which, at the end of the 19th century, was producing food at a reasonable level has gone out of cultivation and become marginal to the extent of 2¾ million acres. It would be an achievement if it could be brought back into cultivation. I agree that I am going back 50 years and that it cannot all be done in a hurry, but at least it would be something to aim at. Why should we not aim at something big, as the hon. Member for Chorley suggested? We spend £50 million or so on the groundnut scheme. We are prepared to spend something of the order of that sum on producing meat in Australia. Why not spend something of the order of that sum on this production, which is under our own control, here in this country, and which, I insist, is technically possible and has been demonstrated everywhere as being possible? The answer I have heard—and though the Parliamentary Secretary did not pursue the argument very far today he did touch on it—is that it is better to spend our resources, not so much in money as in manpower, machinery, fertilisers and so on, on the better land. If that is the case, cannot it be proved? Can we produce 250,000 store cattle by spending money on the better land? If we can, well and good—spend that money if we want 250,000 stores.
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. What I said was that at one stage it may be arguable that it is the wrong thing to do, but that as machinery becomes available it may well be that the time will come to switch our available resources to an attack on the marginal land. That is the theme I was developing. I was not saying that in all circumstances it was a case either of the marginal land or of the better land.
That intervention would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary believes that at this stage—granting him, at this stage—we could get results from the marginal land. I believe that we should get a quicker return from marginal land than from the high hill land for which the Hill Farming Act provides. I believe that the provisions of that Act are very good and that that is a very good thing to do, but it is a long-term policy.It seems to me that this marginal land, which is already enclosed and some of which was in much better production 25 to 50 years ago and which, as far as I make out, amounts to about six million acres, would, if we could improve it all, give a production of mutton and beef which would be a very substantial contribution to the feeding of the people of this country. Even if we cannot improve all the land, I do not myself see that this order and the amount of money it proposes to spend will do more than encourage and help a few marginal farmers who are exceptionally enterprising and who will put up schemes to their county committees and will be able thereby to obtain help on their own farms. It will not really make a substantial and noticeable contribution. It will not start the movement for producing enough improvement to make a real difference, or to make us really substantially more independent of the Argentine in 10 years' time than we are today. I believe that this technique is not only technically sound, and that we can improve land with modern methods so as to achieve this extra production, but I believe that at the present time it is financially well worth doing for the tenant farmer, given certain conditions. The first condition is that he has the capital to do it. The marginal farmer, of whatever size he is—and I am coming to the point of what the hon. Member for Chorley said—has not the capital to do it at the present time. Whether his farm is of 25 acres or 150 acres he has not got the capital to make the necessary improvement. If you ask marginal farmers—it is my experience, at least—why they are not making these improvements, they will tell you frankly that they cannot afford them. They have gone into milk selling, the most enterprising ones, in order to get their monthly cheque. The high price of stores is due to the high price set by the Minister for fat cattle. I certainly give him that credit. The production of stores is a profitable business. But, again, frequently marginal farmers have not the capital to last the two and a half years until they have sold their store cattle, and if they have not the capital for that, they certainly have not the capital to spend something like £10 an acre on re-seeding, or considerable sums on buildings—if they own their farms—or a great deal on manures and fertilisers. Though it is quite a good scheme, the total finance which is behind it is not going to make any real difference to the financial position of the marginal farmers. That is my belief. I think the hon. Member for Chorley was right, and that there is a case for re-grouping marginal farmers. But it is not only a case for making them larger; in some cases it is for making them smaller, so that the land which is under one farmer's control can be farmed more intensively. Therefore, I come to the last difficulty which prevents this sort of development, and it is one which has all kinds of implications. I cannot go into any great detail, because I am sure I should soon be out of Order, but one of the difficulties of high-lying farms is that people feel and are isolated. The roads are bad; they have no telephones; they are a long way from schools, from doctors, from shopping centres; their houses are bad. There is a whole social problem to consider with regard to the higher lying farms and villages. I believe that in some cases the way to improve the land would be to improve the roads. A way to get more of the schemes carried out would be to improve housing and provide more houses. People will nowadays often go to quite isolated places if they can get better houses. Were this problem considered not in England but as a problem in Australia or East Africa, some sort of priority would readily be given to the housing, at least, for the workers concerned. There would be new housing, the planning of new villages, perhaps, and the planning of a new transport system. I wonder whether we could not approach this problem in that sort of way? It may be that it is not necessary for parts of England, but certainly in the Highlands and, I imagine, perhaps in parts of Wales, it would really be worth while taking a biggish area to see whether it could not be replanned, not only in respect of the size of the farm, but in respect of the layout of the whole district. I believe that this order is only the first step. Sooner or later the country will expect to get a bigger meat ration. I do not believe that, with demand increasing in other parts of the world, we can rely on getting nearly as large a proportion from overseas as we did before the war, and I think that not only the country-people but the townspeople will demand that the Government make a really big effort to solve this problem. I say again—I have repeated it ad nauseam today—that this can be done: technically it can be done; there is no scientific difficulty about doing it. I do not believe there is a difficulty about doing it as a business proposition if the capital is available and if the personnel are there who want to do it. They can be attracted to this sort of job. Eventually, I believe, the Government will have to satisfy the people that this opportunity is not being missed, and that a really big effort to provide a much bigger meat ration from our own resources—a much bigger proportion of our beef and mutton from our own resources—is being made.
I want to say a few words about what the Parliamentary Secretary said. The Parliamentary Secretary, like his lord and master, is a very good friend to agriculture, and we on this side of the Committee fully appreciated the difficulty in which he found himself. He had to defend this situation in which there are something like 16 million acres lying, not idle, but not fully employed. He had to defend that situation, and he told the Committee that there were various difficulties, that there had been great improvements, and that, instead of £50,000, £300,000 was being spent. He went on to talk about how hill farming development and all these works mounted up in cost. They do mount up to a sum total of capital expenditure of various sorts to something like £6 million by 1951.This is a huge problem with which we are faced. As the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and my hon. Friends have pointed out, it is the overriding problem of the nation's food supplies. It seems to be tackled not with a pair of Treasury scissors, not with a trowel borrowed from the Ministry of Works, but with toothpicks pinched off the Treasury banqueting table. It is the scale of investment which we regard as totally and absolutely inadequate, and it is the gravamen of our charge that there is here a great area which ought to be made productive. As the Minister rightly said, it is an area which is very diverse in character. It is an area of great variation in land and of great variation in land use. Incidentally, it may be of interest to hon. Members opposite, that that, of course, is one of the fundamental arguments against land nationalisation. However, I should be out of Order if I were to pursue that subject. The fact remains that we are faced, as my hon. Friends have said, with this very grievous food shortage, especially of meat. There could be no better quotation to make at this point than one from that most interesting pamphlet, "Labour Believes in Britain." On page 14 it is said:
With that we on this side of the Committee are perfectly prepared to agree. We have to face the fact that there has been since the war a complete change in our terms of trade. There is no longer foreign investment; there are no longer food supplies coming in so easily. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) pointed out, the situation has changed and will permanently remain changed; and we have to face the fact that if we are to get meat on to the plates of the people of this country we must increase meat production in this country. In time of world economic expansion we shall find it extremely hard to get more from abroad, and in times of recession we shall find it easier to get meat in large quantities. If there is a recession now there will be meat, but if we have an upswing of the economic cycle we shall be short. The fact remains that we must provide our own meat. That means the development of these 16 million acres. Whether it is possible to develop all those 16 million acres is the point at issue. I was amazed by the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that there is no need to carry out a survey in this matter. I should have thought that every conceivable charge could be made against the Government for not having looked into this matter on a national scale long before. The whole problem, I believe, is that the Minister and the Government on the whole tend to approach this matter in a far too slap-dash a manner. I will quote from a Government statement which, I think, sums up the whole attitude and approach of the Government—of the Government rather than of the Minister actually concerned. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he spoke at an N.F.U. dinner, when, doubtless, he was polite, if acidly polite perhaps, said:"In the battle of food the nation cannot afford one wasted acre or one inefficient farmer."
That is precisely the problem, that the assistance being given is essentially ad hoc and ephemeral. The Government have to consider this seriously. Our charge is that there has not been proper research carried out. As the hon. Member for Chorley and the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said, research should and must be carried out at the local level, not only into the economics of the thing but into the sociological aspect. My hon. Friends and I, again and again, have raised the whole issue of land use. Despite what the Prime Minister said the other day, agricultural land is being lost at the rate of about 50,000 acres a year. That loss has to be made up somehow. I agree that there must be a certain amount of land going out of production. With the expansion of cities and so forth that is only natural, but there should be this review of this special problem of the land, and it has not taken place. Judging from the Prime Minister's answer to me the other day, it is not likely to take place. The Prime Minister said:"The problem of marginal land of all sorts is a great problem in national production, and in this exceptional case special ad hoc assistance must be given."
Since 1891 there has been this grievous loss of agricultural land, it is still going on and this survey should be carried out. The second thing which emerges quite clearly is that the Government have been working this matter in a way which is entirely hand-to-mouth. We have seen the anomalies which have crept in. I should like to mention the overall and rather absurd distinction which is made between marginal and hill land, when, at the same time, the Minister pointed out that low-lying land could be treated as hill land for the purposes of the Act provided that the herbage is of the right sort. Then there is the question of the cattle subsidy. Again the hill cattle subsidy comes under the Hill Farming Act, yet, as the Secretary of State for Scotland well knows, hill-farming schemes as such are not permissible under that Act. The whole thing stands out as one of hand-to-mouth legislation with occasional help given by the Minister and his assistants, who, I believe, are trying as hard as they can but are not supported by the Government as a whole. That, I think, is the whole point. I think that we ought seriously to consider, as the hon. Member for Chorley said, whether the type of assistance being given is the right type of assistance; whether this matter should not be considered, not in terms of subsidy as such, in this ad hoc, ephemeral way; but, considering the scanty food of the people of this country, whether it should not be approached from the point of view of capital investment. I would say that there has been too much subsidy in proportion to the amount of the investment carried out. I suggest to the Government that now that they have secured some sort of agreement with the Argentine, and some little success in carrying out what we on this side of the House have always advocated—that is, the immediate advance of further feedingstuffs to our own pig farmers—they should stop for a moment to consider whether they should ameliorate and improve the existing organs of legislation, or go in, as soon as possible, for a much larger scheme of capital investment in these marginal areas. The whole danger of subsidies is that the long-term and lasting effect is not great. What is needed, in the changing conditions which we see today, is that this country should make use, as the Government supporters say in their pamphlet, of all available acreage. That does not mean just a policy of subsidies, but a policy of capital investment, and not capital investment of the tune of £6 million or £7 million, but capital investment on a really large scale. I think that there should be amelioration of the existing legislation, but I think that it is far more important that we should look at this matter as a much broader issue, namely, that this marginal land is a reservoir from which can come the stores, whether they be cattle or sheep for fattening, and thereby increase to a great extent the meat ration of this country. There are, I think, various lines of approach which should be made. The first important thing is to see that a proper review is carried out in this country. There are bodies prepared to carry out that review, not only the county agricultural executive committees but the National Farmers' Union, which is at the moment investigating such an inquiry, the Central Landowners' Association, and, of course, the Land Survey people under Professor Dudley Stamp. In addition, as the hon. Member for Chorley said, I believe that in future we should make approaches not merely to individual farmers or individual landowners, but to groups of farmers and groups of landowners. It may well be that in certain areas—I do not want to be dogmatic on this point—it is far better to get some form of grouping of co-operatives and people working together to develop the areas. That is not an argument for land nationalisation, but an argument for voluntary effort and co-operation which, I believe, would be forthcoming from the farming community. The next think is to see that the national agricultural advisory services are switched more to this idea. Experiments in Aberystwyth, and Wales in general, are remarkable, but I think that it will be found that throughout the country they are very little known. The next great thing is to see that, as the hon. Member for Chorley and the hon. Member for Leominster said, there is flexibility of agricultural credit to farmers and landowners in addition to grants and loans. I believe that the approach of the Government should be far more from that angle. The approach of our party when returned will be far more from that angle. The terms of trade have changed since the war and changed completely. Today there is complete economic justification for what I am saying."I see no need for the appointment of a special committee to control land use, which can be adequately done under existing departmental machinery."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 874.]
The country cannot afford to wait until the hon. Gentleman's party is returned.
No indeed it cannot. If there were a plebiscite, we would be returned tomorrow. It is on the capital side and the injection of capital into farming rather than on the ephemeral side of subsidies that we must rely, although subsidies must continue for some time to play their part. We must have capital injected into this marginal system and better credit facilities for the farmers.This is a huge problem. If only six million of the 16 million acres could be put into production, the difference to the people of this country would be more than 6d. a week in the meat ration. How long that will take to come about I do not know. I know, however, that it is today, from the technical point of view, possible. Hon. Members know full well about the production of grass-drying machinery, new silage methods and methods of re-seeding which have been carried out, and the modern application of technique means that this country could carry a much heavier head of cattle than it does today. With strong action, the Government could begin on this great problem. I believe that it would be a well worth-while investment. Some hon. Members opposite have said that the country cannot afford this type of thing. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, it is vital that we should afford this type of investment. It may well be that the Government could make this, when they have unemployment difficulties and so on, one of their priority schemes for capital investment in the time of a threatened recession. When one compares our prices with those abroad today, the price of British-produced meat is, of course, well above that of estancia or ranch meat. These prices will come down and can be brought down with proper development. To take one instance, the enormously high price of store cattle in this country is due largely to shortage and with a further increase of store production the price would come down. The people of this country want more meat, and I think that they would be prepared to pay more for their meat if there were meat to offer them. We have to change our ideas about cheap food. If we were to ask the people of this country, I believe that it would be their serious and right and proper judgment that they could afford and would be willing to pay, even at the present level of wages and income, 2s. and more for meat and that they would be willing to pay it. We can produce meat here. It will cost money but when the investment has been made, costs will slowly begin to come down, and there will be a sure and certain supply. I think that the Government have a duty to this country to see that these acres are developed and to give to the farmers living in the marginal land a new deal and to the people of this country an extra cut on a decent Sunday joint.
I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) on three points—the people of this country need more meat; it could be produced on our marginal land; and we have to tackle this matter not merely in a determined way but in a way that will show that we mean it to be our long-term policy to make the utmost use of our marginal land. This problem has arisen in the last one and a half centuries almost every time we have been "up against it" for food. We have then always had this lift-up, and the marginal land which has given this, has then been allowed to drift down again when conditions have become easier for the importation of food from abroad. Since this is such a really vital matter, it is regrettable to see so few Members taking part in the Debate or apparently even willing to attend to listen to it.The hon. Member for Stone mentioned the question of research. As he is aware, a most valuable and fair-sized research has taken place in the last two years, as is instanced in the document known as the "Exmoor Survey." One paragraph in that Survey emphasises the manner in which one type of people has been neglected at a time when the generality of farmers are doing very well, and probably better than ever before in their lives. It states:
That I am sure can give no satisfaction to hon. Members opposite, and leaves them in a poor position to lay any charge against this Government. If they had done anything even approaching their duty in the years that followed the first world war, we should not be facing this grievous problem in anything like the form in which we are facing it now."Less than half the men farming on Exmoor today weathered the 20 years of agricultural depression which followed the first world war. These years were probably the saddest in the whole history of the district. Farmers and farm workers left the land; houses, buildings and fences were neglected; much of the improved land reverted, and the deterioration of the rest was reflected in its crops and stock Hard work for small and uncertain reward created conditions akin to serfdom. Some times the farmer's wife earned more by taking in visitors during the summer than her husband could make in a year on the farm."
Would the hon. Gentleman say what the Socialist Party did in the years 1929 and 1931?
The Socialist Party by 1931 had produced the policy that was implemented to a great extent by the war-time Government, and which provided the ground work on which we are now basing a policy, which will produce not merely better conditions for the farming community, but more food for the people of this country. What a minority Government did during those two years has nothing to do with what was not done by a party, which had an overwhelming majority in this House during 18 of the 21 years between the wars.I hope my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary will study this survey very closely, because it gives figures covering 80,000 acres and some 400 farms. It indicates that the average Exmoor farm is about 150 acres, and that five out of every six have a profitability of only £107 per 100 acres per annum, which is less than the wages which would be earned in agriculture by the members of the family who provide the labour. That is, too, in the years when farming generally is prosperous, and is not like anything good enough. In other words, we are talking about a depressed class and depressed land in the midst of a community, which is, generally speaking, prosperous. On the farms themselves there are small fields of four to seven acres. Buildings are quite inadequate, and very few have proper approach roads while only two have electricity supplies from a public source. That will give some idea of the gross inadequacy of their equipment. They are very short even of capital to equip themselves with stock, and one marvels sometimes at the fact that these men are still able to farm at all. That they are still there is largely because of their own efforts. I want to make the point that the balance is weighted against them, which is because of the inevitable war-time pressure, and the bias towards dairying, which has meant, when prices are fixed, a depressing of prices in other directions. One has only to look at the facts. For example, a pound of meat produced brings the farmer 1s. 3d. and a gallon of milk, which requires about the same effort, produces about 2s. 6d. or 2s. 8d. In other words, the rewards in dairying are practically double what they are for the production of meat on land of this kind. This is something which must be altered. In spite of everything today, in places like Exmoor the income from dairying is less than it is from the rearing of cattle or sheep, but a great many farms have had to go in for dairying simply because of the cash cheque which they get. They cannot afford to wait for the rearing of meat. These things are admitted, and the remedy is, in fact, specific. On Easter Sunday I stood in a field of a farm on the Brendons, where a pedigree herd of Guernsey cattle were grazing. It was beautiful thick herbage, and I learned that the yield from it produced £84 sterling per acre per year, and I do not think there are many farms throughout the country of which that is true. So the job can be done. First of all, it needs determination that it shall be done; the right plans to back up that determination; and money, though I am not of the opinion that it needs the vast sums which have been suggested. My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) mentioned a sum of £100 million. I do not think that anything like that sum is needed even today. We have to realise that the whole of our marginal land is a natural livestock reservoir not only for store cattle, but for breeding stock. The marginal farms also perform the intermediate function of raising cattle for finishing them off on better land. On the question of money, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has referred to what the Government are already doing. They have indeed done valuable work, but the Exchequer grant of some £300,000 under the Goods and Services Scheme works out, if we are to accept the figure of 12,000 acres of land capable of substantial improvement, as little more than 6s. per acre.
My hon. Friend must bear in mind that I dealt with that point, and I pointed out that if there is added to the £300,000, the sum of £4 million or £5 million for hill farming and the great expenditure in all kinds of other grants, including grants for water, drainage, lighting and so on, it works out that the marginal farmers are likely to get a figure which is nearer 12s. than 6s.
I appreciate that this is only part of it, but what we are considering is that in spite of the schemes which my hon. Friend has enumerated, these marginal farms are still depressed, and not in the position, for the reasons I have stated, to produce the food which we know are capable of producing. I submit that it is from that standpoint that we must look at this matter. If it is a fact that by improving one million acres of land we could raise an increased number of up to a quarter of a million stores, then that is a matter of vast importance.I do not subscribe to the shallow view that it is wrong to spend millions in East Africa and not to spend more millions here. Each of those schemes and ideas have their values. Each of them should be done, for they are likely to show a return, but the point is that because we are spending money in East Africa it is no reason why we should not also very carefully consider ways of effecting improvements on our own marginal land. I know that it is sometimes said that there is a constant pouring of public funds into the land. It is the unfortunate lot of this Government in many respects to have to take over something which is more or less lying in ruins, and, at a time when we are in extremely straitened circumstances, have to restore the deficiencies of earlier years. That position, however unfortunate, has to be faced. I submit that for a moderate outlay on marginal land allied to the skill and industry of the farmers who in most cases are a tough lot or they would not be on this marginal land, we can produce an adequate return. The machinery already exists in the Hill Farming Act and the Calf Subsidy scheme, though I would like to see fewer farmers receiving subsidies, and instead see some of the money going to the marginal land. Some farmers tell me they are producing pedigree cattle, and when a heifer calf is dropped it is worth £50, but they also get a £3 subsidy for it. Some of that money could perhaps be used to better advantage on marginal land. As has been said, the Agricultural Goods and Services Scheme is another useful Measure. I ask that careful consideration should be given to studying this narrow division between hill farming and marginal land with a view to bringing the provisions of the Hill Farming Act to cover, in many if not in all cases, the cattle and sheep raised on the so-called marginal farms, and that the implementation of the Agricultural Goods and Services Scheme should be enlarged with an increased annual grant. I feel that this is a vital and important matter. The Government's record in respect of agriculture is something of which we can be very proud, but in this particular matter our situation demands that something substantial should be done. If that is so, let it be done urgently and with the view that on this long-term measure this country cannot and must not ever go back. It has to be continuous, and I hope that it is in that spirit that my hon. Friend will consider the remarks, which I and other hon. Members have made, so that our marginal farms can make a very valuable contribution to the food supplies of our country.
Before I come to the question of marginal land, I should like to say how pleased we are that the Government have agreed to extend the provisions of the calf subsidy scheme, and we are especially pleased that they have adopted the suggestion made from this side of the Committee that the steer subsidy should be increased in order to give extra incentive to meat production.Every speaker, including the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins), has delivered critical attacks on the Government for their policy towards marginal land. But the first shot in the campaign was not fired today, but last Thursday by the Minister of Food when, in winding up the Debate on the purchase of meat he used these words:
That is the indictment they are facing today. It is because the Government have not in the last three and half years faced up to this question of marginal land that we have got this deficiency in home-produced meat at present. It was necessary during the war to change the balance of our agricultural economy in order to concentrate more on cereals, and to let our cattle and sheep population decline. That was an inevitable result of the submarine menace, and the necessity to rely more on canned meat than on fresh meat. That phase of agricultural economy had ended by the end of 1944. By then it was becoming clear to the whole country that Britain should be getting back to a policy of more livestock. I remember well my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) making it quite clear in an announcement he made in the House on 5th December, 1944, when he said,"The meat shortage in this country is entirely accounted for by the fact that we cannot as yet produce anything like the quantity of meat at home that we were producing before the war. There is roughly about 300,000 tons less meat being produced at home than was being produced before the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1946; Vol. 465, c. 1575.]
My complaint against the Government is that they have allowed 3½ years to pass without taking any effective steps to deal with this problem. The main argument that the Parliamentary Secretary has to answer in this Debate is: Why is it that since the Government came into office in 1945, the number of cattle going to slaughter in this country has not increased but has decreased by 200,000, and the number of sheep and lambs going to slaughter has not increased but has decreased by 700,000? The document that has been quoted very frequently, the Exmoor Survey, and quoted not least by the hon. Member who sits for that constituency, the hon. Member for Taunton has told us that if the Government had adopted a policy of improving this marginal land there would have been an addition of 5d. to the meat ration by doubling the present contribution from home production. That is the estimate of the Exmoor Survey. We on this side of the Committee stressed that point of view in the Debates on the Hill Farming Bill in 1946. Unfortunately, at that time the hon. Gentleman who is replying to the Debate was not the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. He will no doubt remember that Debate. In particular, we argued that, in order to get an increase in meat production, it was vital to widen the scope of the Hill Farming Bill, so as to provide for marginal land. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was then, and still is, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. He put the case for the Government. For some reason, the Ministry of Agriculture preferred that the answer to our case should be put by him. It is right that the Committee today should remember what that answer was. This is what he said:"It is contemplated that during the period of the four-year plan, ending in the Summer of 1948, some change will be necessary in the character of our agricultural output to meet changing national requirements in the transition from war to peace. Broadly the change will mean a gradual expansion of livestock and livestock products and a reduction from the high war-time levels of certain crops for direct human consumption."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th Dec., 1944; vol. 406; c. 366.]
We are still waiting for this policy that was going to be dealt with at another time. I cannot see, having listened to the Parliamentary. Secretary's explanation and to his juggling with the figures in order to make 4½d. become 12s. per acre, that he himself is satisfied either with this order or thinks that with the Hill Farming Act he is tackling the problem of marginal land. Let me deal with the "gratifying progress" report—the expression that he used—about the Hill Farming Act of 1946. As he said, half its time has already run. Now two and a half years have passed. What has been done under that Act? In the first year, 1947–48, the Government included a sum of £60,000 for work to be done under that Hill Farming Act. That was the estimate. How much was spent? Not one penny. In the second year, 1948–49, the Government put down in that estimate a sum of £300,000 under the Hill Farming Act. How much was spent? A sum of £7,990."I think all sections of the Committee appreciate the problem of marginal land, but that probably must be dealt with at another time. The farmers of that marginal land … have not benefited, as has the agricultural industry generally, by the assured market and guaranteed prices for agricultural commodities during the war years. I think that even in the future they are not likely to benefit proportionately unless something is done for them specially.… The £5 million proposed to be spent on the rehabilitation of hill land would not suffice to rehabilitate the hill farming lands in this country if we should so widen the scope of the Bill to bring in the marginal land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th June, 1946; c. 2037.]
Is not the hon. Gentleman now making a criticism of the farmers of marginal land, who were not prepared to take advantage of the legislation which was on the Statute Book?
I will discuss the reasons for that situation. I will not leave that point. That is not the kind of gratifying progress report with which the Parliamentary Secretary delighted the House. I got up to ask him to make it quite clear that he had already approved schemes costing £800,000 out of which £400,000 would be spent as grants. In that figure the Parliamentary Secretary exceeded the figures in the Estimates of last year. Now the brake is to be put on. They then expected to spend not less than £300,000. Now they expect to spend, according to their estimates, £150,000. I cannot think that the Government are tackling this hill farming side of the matter with the dash that we should expect of them. Is it the farmers who have been slow in preparing schemes? Is it not that the Government had been slow in considering these schemes and that they are so muddled in their administration between the counties and Whitehall that little has been done or will be done in the immediate future, either this year or next year?
Would the hon. Gentleman give us the evidence on which he makes that statement?
If the hon. Member will read the document which has been so often quoted today, "Meat from Marginal Land," he will note that the Exmoor Survey has said that one of the drawbacks of the Hill Farming Act—I will quote from page 9—is:
The ex-Parliamentary Secretary may well feel rather unhappy that the Hill Farming Act is being administered so badly by his successors. The problem of hill farming does not really touch the problem of marginal land. We have often felt the Government were tackling this matter, as they have tackled others, at the wrong end. We should improve first the land which shows the greatest return, not the land on the top of the hill but the marginal land. In what I think was a very misleading reference to the Hill Farming Act, the Parliamentary Secretary said that it was possible that fields in marginal land would be included in the Hill Farming Act. That has only limited application to where there are on such a farm moor sheep that are qualified under the Hill Farming Act. That means that it is only the minority of marginal land farms that are included. The problem of marginal land must be tackled if we are to increase and improve the meat situation. I should like to quote one further passage from the Exmoor Survey which has not been quote up to now. It states, in page 8:"It is considered that the scope of the Hill Farming Act, as at present administered, is too restricted; nor is it administered uniformly in all counties."
They go on to say that in Scotland, Northumberland and Wales economic surveys agree with the results of the Exmoor Survey."The Survey confirms the generally accepted view that the marginal land farmer is the most depressed class in British agriculture today—and next to him the hill farmer. They are depressed because of their low level of remuneration. They have run out of capital. They are often forced into dairying under unfavourable conditions, because of their need for ready income."
That is the problem, I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree. As he goes round the country he will see that life is uneconomic for the people on the marginal land. What good is it, as has been announced today, to throw an odd £100 among the marginal farms in the country. That is not the way to tackle the problem. It has no imagination or drive and it may produce bad farming rather than good. Farmers may want to bring back into good cultivation by reseeding a field of some 12 acres. Is that a problem which they can tackle under the £100 scheme? £240 would be the cost of the seeds alone. I suggest that the Government should think again on this scheme which would concentrate the round sum grants on a very small number of farms. We should try to organise ambitious schemes for opening up areas of marginal land. The first thing that my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out in his opening speech was that unless the Government face the problem of roads in remote agricultural areas they will never attract the maximum number back to those lands or bring profit back to those marginal farms. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to take that matter back to the next meeting of the Cabinet and tell them that in order to bring productivity to the marginal lands he must be able to do something to increase and improve roads. Most of the marginal areas are not equipped with good roads. They must be so equipped. That is work of a capital nature. I did not gather from the Parliamentary Secretary that he disagreed with my right hon. and gallant Friend when he said that this was urgently necessary. What he said was that the sum of money available imposed definite limitations. That was one part of his speech with which I agreed, and I sympathised with the Parliamentary Secretary when he had to make that remark. Imposing such a limitation is negativing a solution of the problem. The danger is that by excluding work of a capital nature we are going to throw that work on to the tenant instead of on to the landlord, where it should be placed. One of the greatest mistakes in the order is that by putting in it works such as fencing and ditching, which are normally carried out by the landlord, they will be forced on to the tenants by this order. Therefore, it is important that the Government should reconsider the wording of Order No. 536. And while on that order, would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether there is any limit to the number of farms which county committees may help under the £100 limit? I gather that as there are 60 county committees under his jurisdiction, it will work out at 50 farms per county. Will a county be allowed to help more than 50 farms? The real test of the Government's agricultural policy directed to marginal land comes when one looks at the distribution between the different grasslands in the present economy. The temporary grasses have gone down in acreage since the Gov- ernment went into office; the permanent grasses have increased by 400,000 acres. What about the rough grazings? They were 5,550,000 when the Government came into office; today there are 1,000 more. So the result of the agricultural policy which the hon. Member for Taunton found so hard to criticise is that 1,000 more acres have become rough grazing. Surely we must tackle this problem by works of a capital nature, works that will encourage the farmer to get back into livestock production, and works that can be carried out by a tenant. Finally—and I believe this is most important of all—we must have a system of encouragement of price that will help these marginal farmers to grow stores by getting a good price and a good market, whether it is for scalded cream or butter or some other form of cream. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary after this Debate, and after he has taken into consultation Members of the House of Commons, to consult those bodies which are at present studying the problem of marginal farming. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) said, there is today a committee of the National Farmers' Union studying this problem, and bodies such as the Central Landowners' Association and the National Union of Agricultural Workers are vitally interested in it. I do not ask for a committee which would involve delay, but I ask for new action based on consultation. Then will the Parliamentary Secretary go back to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and say that he and his Minister cannot tolerate the limitations imposed by this small amount of £300,000? We do not grudge the money to the grandiose schemes of the Minister of Food, such as the £50 million for the East African groundnut scheme, but we do say that if a far smaller amount than that had been spent on the marginal areas of England, more meat would have been produced for the housewives of this country."Two out of every three farmers on hill and marginal land are earning no more than the value of their own family labour."
Before the Parliamentary Secretary replies, may I ask one question?
The hon. Gentleman may in the course of the Minister's speech ask a question, and the Minister might then give way, but he cannot do so at the beginning.
I may have occasion to regret that Ruling, Mr. Bowles. This has been in many ways an interesting Debate, interesting for the light shed upon the speeches of hon. Members and their attitude on political issues elsewhere. I hope I shall be forgiven for starting perhaps on the wrong tack, if I say that when we have been backing this industry more than it has been backed in the lifetime of most of us in the House of Commons, when we have been putting all kinds of capital reinforcements into the price structure elsewhere, at a time when hon. Members opposite are continually pressing for reductions in national expenditure, it really is fantastic to make all this criticism that what we are doing is not enough.Hon. Members had better get their political views straight. If they want to pretend to their agricultural constituents that they would double anything we do, that is all right, they can do it, although most agricultural constituents will have memories of what hon. Members opposite did when they had the chance. But they must not at the same time pose to other sections of the community, as the party that would get Income Tax and other taxation down because it would spend less. It cannot pose as being able to do both things for different sections at the same time. I suggest that there has been some refusal to face the facts with all this pressure to do yet more, to spend enormous sums of money and to take bolder views. Before I deal with the points that have arisen, may I clear up three points that arose on my earlier speech? The hon. and gallant Baronet asked what was the acreage covered by the hill farming improvement scheme. I gave the cost but was unable to give the acreage. The figure for England and Wales is 730,000 acres, for Northern Ireland 80,000 acres, and for Scotland 2,220,000 acres. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) asked for the expenditure on cottages. I gave the figure for farmhouses and cottages of £300,000. Expenditure on cottages alone was £120,000 in England and Wales, within the inclusive figure of £300,000. Then I was asked, both by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) and the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), about the £100 discretion on which, apparently, I completely confused the last-named hon. Member for he is absolutely in the air over this. The £100 discretion is £100 of grant as I said, and not £100 total cost. While on that, the hon. Gentleman was rather scathing about what he called the £100 "scatter" policy, which, he said, would lead to bad farming. He has it all wrong. All I said was that to speed up the approval or the beginning of work, and to reduce delay before the work begins, committees now have authority to put into operation immediately, or to pay out immediately, on any work up to a limit of £100 per farm in any area without reference to the Ministry. The re-seeding of a 12-acre field, if it cost more than £100, would still qualify but the committee would not be able to authorise it at once. It would come into the Ministry, to the Land Commissioner, in the ordinary way for approval, but that would not stop it being carried out because it was a more expensive scheme.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary go a little further and say how long in his estimation these schemes will take inside the Ministry before they get final approval? Is it four months? I knew of one case which took as long as that.
Not if I have anything, to do with it, and if hon. Gentlemen know of any schemes taking that time, I hope they will let me know. It has been quite a headache to get the administration running smoothly. I should have thought that four months on a marginal land scheme was exceptional, although there have been some cases under the Hill Farming Act where we have taken more time because they were rather more comprehensive schemes. The intention of the marginal scheme is to get our part of it down to weeks, not months. I should be glad to know of any cases, because it gives us a chance to see where the bottleneck occurs.I hope the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton has it right now, that this is merely a limit over which the committee has not discretion to act but has to refer schemes in the ordinary way. The hon. Member also asked me whether I could say that my right hon. Friend will listen to the views of the N.F.U., the N.U.A.W., the Transport Workers' Union and the other bodies representing the landowners' interests in order to see what wider action could be taken. I said, and I repeat, that my right hon. Friend is considering this problem in the light of changing circumstances, and will certainly take full account of the concrete suggestions which I hoped would be made in the Debate. They have been extremely rare as it has turned out, but what I said about this Debate is certainly true about any views expressed to us outside. We are considering the wider aspects of this and will certainly take account of anything that other people have to say. Certainly the Exmoor Survey is one of those things which we shall be considering. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton tried to make some point of the fact that we have spent little money in the first two years of the Hill Farming Act. I pointed out that necessarily the implementation of the work was almost certain to lag behind. Although the Act runs out at the end of five years, we shall still be doing work under it for some time afterwards because these are comprehensive and big schemes which are bound to take time in preparation. Time is also taken before the farmers put in their schemes, and so I ask the hon. Gentleman not to ride off too easily on that point. It is not solely a matter of Government responsibility if the scheme does not work out. If it does not, we shall have to consider seriously what has to be done to get the marginal land into full production. I say there is a responsibility on those farming the land, there is a responsibility on the industry, and if we make provision for schemes and schemes do not come in quickly enough for the work to get ahead, it is not necessarily a criticism of us. I refute completely the suggestion that we have been delaying them. I say the fact that we have given authority for work to proceed on 700 of the first 1,800 schemes, many ahead of final approval, is the answer to that suggestion. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) had the total expenditure all wrong. He said we were envisaging capital investment in this industry to the tune of £5 million or £6 million and that it was neither here nor there. I cannot make the total figures of investment under the hill farming schemes less than £13 million.
It is not only Government money. Why will hon. Members Opposite talk as if it is only Government money? If the sole responsibility for farming these lands properly were on the Government, and if only Government money were to be taken into account, then many of my hon. Friends would be entitled to say that in that case the Government had better reconsider the future of the industry. The hon. Gentleman is doing the greatest disservice to the industry and to the farmers. It is not only Government money. What we are doing is to make a contribution to them in order to assist them in what is, and what ought to remain, their fundamental responsibility. Therefore the figure is £13 million and not £5 million or £6 million.
That is exactly what I said.
It is not exactly what the hon. Gentleman said. It is even less what he said, for another reason. One would think that hon. Members opposite had never heard of the 1947 Agriculture Act, had never heard of the expansion programme, had never remembered that we have, since the implementation of the expansion programme, put in £40 million a year by way of the price structure in order to provide £200 million for investment in this industry. We have put in £40 million a year over five years in order to provide from Government sources a large part of the capital needed because we knew the industry had had such a raw deal in the years before the war, about which hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to know a good deal.We accept what is in "Labour Believes in Britain." We take the view that we cannot afford to waste a single acre. All the schemes I have outlined—the Hill Farming Act, the marginal land scheme, the other forms of assistance such as the Goods and Services scheme, our own committee services are all ways in which, on top of the Agriculture Act, on top of the expansion programme, we are trying to see that we do not waste any acres. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) has had to leave. When he gets back to Hereford and starts talking to his small farmers and tells them that he has advocated the complete withdrawal of our machinery pools, he will have an uncomfortable time. For an agricultural representative in this House to talk like that, with the picture of world population and food as it is and with the heavy dependence on North America and all the tragedy one drought in North America or one crop failure would bring—there has been a series of good harvests there—to talk as though we could lightly do away with the acreages of cereals and potatoes we are growing in this country, is to do a disservice.
The hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what my hon. Friend said. If we took away the machinery pools we could release the small farmers on arable land from arable cultivation.
And we could not get the acreage of cereals in this country. To that extent we would be more dependent on North America for cereals and that would be doing the greatest disservice to our people. My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) mentioned three particular farms. We have all the power necessary to deal with people who are farming in that way and if he can give the details I will find out what the county executive committee are doing about it. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who told me he was unable to stay, said that we had failed to show a deliberate purpose in this marginal order. Again, that is taking the marginal order out of the picture in which it must be set. I was very careful in my opening speech to say that we cannot deal with this alone.The deliberate purpose is the target of food production set out in the programme, of which we are now in the second year of achievement. The order is the means by which we seek to enable one group of farmers suffering exceptional difficulties to have special assistance in addition to other assistance they get, to meet their part of the target. There is a very clear picture.
I wish to ask an important question which contains a practical suggestion. Following the Exmoor Survey, will the hon. Gentleman invite Lord Fortescue, Mr. Tom Robbins, Mr. John Robbins, Mr. Oliver Robbins, Mr. Westcott, Mr. Clatworthy, Mr. Harry Watts, and Miss Mary Etherington to advise him how to increase the sheep and cattle population of Exmoor? I am sure they could make a practical suggestion, and I will supply their addresses.
At least some of those names are well known to me. I am on friendly terms with some of them and know something about that area. Exmoor happens to be one area in the country making much better use than others of the assistance open to them under the Hill Farming Act. We do all we can to assist them in doing that. I am sure that if they take advantage of the arrangements we shall step up production much more.We have had an interesting Debate. I cannot believe that anyone would say in respect of this group of farmers on the marginal and hill lands that they are not better backed up in their job today than they have ever been before. They have a guarantee of security and the benefits of the price structure and there are these additional schemes which we are discussing today. I like much more than the note struck by some hon. Members, the speech of the Deputy President of the National Farmers' Union at Seale Hayne, which was quoted in last week's "British Farmer." He said he believed the outlook for British agriculture was better than it had ever been. He went on to say:
That is the note which should be struck and that note is being struck in the change of attitude in this industry since we have been in power. If we talk about the responsibilities of the industry and then about the duty of the Government to help them to meet those responsibilities and a little less as though the responsibility were all on the Government, we should get on better in the countryside. Of course we have not solved the problem of the approach to the marginal land question. It has occupied the time of greater men than I am. We have to find the answer and we will think about it and be glad to hear others, and if a bolder approach can be found, I am sure my right hon. Friend will consider making it. In the meantime, we say quite firmly that we have made a pretty big effort in helping to give these farmers an opportunity to do a better job than they have done before."I think we are taking part in a second agricultural revolution. We have the greatest opportunity we have had for 100 years to rebuild the industry."
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum not exceeding £50, be granted to His Majesty towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Rural Water Supplies for the year ending on the 31st March, 1950, namely:
|Civil Estimates, 1949–50|
|Class V, Vote 1, Ministry of Health||10|
|Class V, Vote 13, Department of Health for Scotland||10|
|Class VI, Vote 9, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Food Production Services)||10|
|Class VI, Vote 20, Department of Agriculture for Scotland||10|
|Class VI, Vote 18, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research||10|
—[ Mr. Joseph Henderson.]
Rural Water Supplies
The Opposition have asked that the Committee should now direct their attention to another subject of interest to agriculture and the rural areas, the supply of piped water. In my experience there is no convenience, no amenity, no social service which the countrywoman wants more than a tap in her kitchen. If one asks her whether she would rather have a new bus service, a better school, or electricity, or water, she always plumps for water. The farmer says just the same. The man who is out to increase the quantity and quality of his milk and livestock must have plenty of clean water.In an area like Salisbury Plain, on the edge of which I live, where there are thousands of acres without piped water, a man finds it difficult, if not impossible, to practise modern methods of grass management. The essential improvement, if he has to increase his output, is water for the grazing. I do not think the Committee require further arguments from me to convince them that water is a prime necessity in the home and on the farm.
In the course of his speech, will the hon. Member explain whether the need was just as great between the wars when we had two million unemployed who could have been put on the job?
Certainly, I agree. It is necessary to bring the water to people who have not had it at any time. The need being as great as the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) says it is, it is quite right that Parliament, as occasion offers, should review the progress made in carrying out the express duty laid upon the Minister of Health to promote in England and Wales the effective execution, by water undertakings under his control and direction, of a national water policy.Those are the words of Section 1 of the Water Act, 1945. They put upon the Minister an obligation which did not exist before. I am perfectly ready to admit that it ought to have existed before, but it did not, and it was a Conservative Minister, Mr. Willink, who brought in that Act which makes all the difference. Before the Willink Act the responsibility and powers of the Minister of Health in respect of co-ordination and the planning of water supplies were vague and ill-defined. The 1945 Act made so great a stride forward that no one familiar with its provisions can compare progress before the war and before the Act with progress after the war and after the Act. One might say—and it would be a fair description—that before the war the Minister of Health was armed with a shovel; now he can drive a bulldozer.
I do not intend to give way again. The point for the hon. Member to get into his head is that the present Minister of Health is the first man to hold his office who has been given a duty, powers and funds to secure the effective carrying out of a national water policy.In order to put the Committee into a position fairly to judge the progress of the last four years. I will briefly describe what are the new powers possessed for the first time by the present Minister. The main Water Act provides that the Minister of Health shall be responsible to Parliament for seeing that local authorities and other water undertakers shall effectively fulfil their obligations to bring a supply of wholesome water in pipes to all houses where the cost of bringing that supply is reasonable. The Minister has wide default powers to deal with any local authority or undertaker which fails to carry out that task. He can transfer their function to the county council, or to another suitable body, or to himself. He can provide compulsorily for the amalgamation of water supply undertakers. This means that where there has been a multiplicity of water supply undertakings that have not served the public well the Minister already has the power to knock their heads together and to form them into a larger group according to the geographical or other conditions of efficiency. Then, where agreement is not reached the Minister can compel an undertaker to give a bulk supply to another undertaker. The Committee will observe that that is a very important provision for the rural areas because it means that there is no excuse for failure to supply any rural area through which passes a viaduct carrying water to one of our great cities. That is a new power which the Minister has. He can also provide by order for the compulsory acquisition of water rights. One thinks chiefly of the rights of riparian owners to take water out of a river. If those rights are not consolidated it is difficult to form a single scheme for dealing with that river. This power gives the Minister a simple central control over the surface resources of water in England and Wales which no Minister has had before. The Act also provides that if any local authority or any twenty local government electors in the area complain to the Minister that a statutory undertaker is charging too much for his water the Minister has the duty to hold an inquiry; if he is satisfied that the charges are too high he has to reduce them. Profiteering in water is therefore a thing of the past. All that is necessary is for 20 consumers to get together, and they can have justice done. The main Water Act, some of the provisions of which I have been describ- ing, was supplemented by the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1944. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that when that Act was passing through this House I took great interest in it, for high hopes were raised. We are having this Debate this evening because those hopes have not been fulfilled. That Act sets out the obligations upon local authorities which the Minister, under the main Act, has the duty to see are fulfilled. Local authorities are required, where it is practicable at a reasonable cost, to:
Clearly there may be a catch in its application arising out of what is meant by "a reasonable cost." The Act foresaw that, and provided that, if a local authority pleads excessive cost any 10 local government electors in the area can complain to the Minister, who must hold an inquiry. From my own experience I can tell hon. Members that this right to call in the Minister is a very powerful threat. I venture to recommend its use to hon. Members in their constituencies. The Act places at the disposal of the Minister a sum of £15 million out of which to make grants towards the capital cost of these water and sewerage schemes. Adequate funds are therefore provided: there is no obstacle on the money side. The Committee will be aware that questions about the reasonableness of the cost of bringing water usually arise in connection with isolated farms and groups of farm cottages. Parliament also foresaw that difficulty and provided for those remote agricultural consumers in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1940 and 1943, under which the Minister of Agriculture has power to grant up to 50 per cent. of the cost of the water taken to farm land, farm houses and farm cottages. Those are some of the powers to improve the supply of water which Socialist Ministers are the first to possess. I have troubled the Committee with a description of them because I want to show that there is no foundation thereafter for the idea that any further change in the law is required before Ministers can initiate, co-ordinate and control the bringing of water to all who need it. In support of this view I call as witness none other than the Minister of Health himself. Two years ago, at the Labour Party Conference at Margate, the right hon. Gentleman resisted a resolution calling for the nationalisation of water. He said at the time, and we certainly look to him to repeat his words at Blackpool next week:"provide a supply of wholesome water in pipes to every rural locality in their district in which there are houses or schools, and shall take the pipes … to such … points as will enable the houses or schools to be connected thereto at a reasonable cost."
The right hon. Gentleman went on:"You can alter the machinery of Government as much as you like; you can carry this resolution and alter that Act of Parliament and you would not get a single drop more of water. The limiting factor at the present time on the provision of more water is the lack of iron and steel for the piping and the lack of labour."
There ended the first lesson, and we await with interest the second instalment at Blackpool. The Committee will note that the right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Margate, said that the rate of progress, which is admitted to be bitterly disappointing, has been governed by the shortage of labour and materials. That is a half truth, but not more than a half truth as, I think, can be shown by examining the stages through which a water scheme must go from the day when it is first conceived in the rural district council's office to the day when the last pipe is laid in the earth. I must ask the Committee to go back to September, 1944, when the Rural Water Supplies Act was placed on the Statute Book. Immediately afterwards the then Minister of Health, Mr. Willink, sent out an important circular to all local authorities, instructing them to get on with their plans to carry out their new duties so that work could begin as soon as possible after the war. The councils responded very well. Indeed, the present Minister has never complained of their inactivity. The fact is that plans came forward in an embarrassingly large volume. Every one of these plans has first to go to the appropriate county council for comment, which is sensible enough because they have to make a contribution to the cost and they have the knowledge which enables them to suggest co-operation between two or more rural districts. I have, not heard any complaint that the county councils have taken too much time over the passing of plans. The next stage is to send the plans to the Minister for approval in principle. The right hon. Gentleman can, and often does, order a public inquiry, and when that is out of the way the Ministry have to decide that they can give the plan a starting date. The Committee may be surprised to hear that the phrase "starting date" does not mean the day on which the work can be started. Those two words represent a rarified concept thought up by the central planners, and means solely that the particular scheme has been accepted within the national investment programme. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, when I first came across this phrase I was completely taken in as, I believe, were many others as well. After the scheme has got its so-called starting date, the Ministry begin to consider when they can give it final authorisation. Final authorisation does mean what it says; it means that the contractor can go ahead with the work. But long before this final authorisation is given half a dozen Ministries have to be consulted and countless formalities have to be gone through; I will not weary the Committee with details, but I ask hon. Members to note this salient fact about all this steeple-chasing around Whitehall—jumping one fence, dodging another and burrowing under a third. This is the salient fact: At every stage the time-table is in the hands of the Minister; at every point he can delay action if he wishes. His Department can hold up the answer to the rural council or, if they are hard pressed they can do as they did in the case of the water scheme coming to my village a week or two ago—send an answer dealing with another scheme in another county altogether. This, of course, is not like steeplechasing. It is like a game of snakes and ladders. One has to go way back and start all over again. The Parliamentary Secretary will say, as the Minister did at Margate, that all these delays are necessary because rural councils send forward more schemes than can be begun with the available materials and labour. The Committee cannot accept this defence because the Government themselves decide how much labour and materials are to be allocated to water schemes, and within the national total the amounts required for these schemes are not very large. Indeed, they may be called very small. To what extent has the Minister tried to get adequate labour and materials for water schemes?"I should be hypocritical if I said that we could solve water problems in Great Britain by accepting this resolution. The plain answer is that we have all the machinery we need for adequate water supply in Great Britain, but what we have not got are the materials and the labour."
I hope the hon. Member will let us know what schemes he would reduce, in order to increase allocations to water schemes.
I intend to discuss priorities in a few minutes.I was saying that it is not easy to get a figure for the quantity of materials that have gone into water schemes so far. The reason is because the Ministry's figures always relate to authorisations, and never to the amount of work done or likely to be done. We know that in the four years since the war the total authorisations in the rural areas amount to little more than £6 million. The only way I can check the actual amount of work done is to look at the Ministry of Health Estimates and accounts, at the money going out from the £15 million by way of grants under the Rural Water Supplies Act. The figures are most revealing. Take the last two years: In 1948–9 the amount was £450,000, which the Committee may well think is very small. But in the Estimate for 1949–50 that figure is reduced to £380,000. These are paltry figures, and I ask the Committee particularly to observe the drop this year compared to last and to remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has forbidden any Supplementary Estimates. Therefore, there can be no increase. The Minister cannot wriggle out of this; he has budgeted to do worse this year than last, and his master, the Chancellor has told him that he must stick to his budget.
I hope the Committee realises that the hon. Member is now quoting Estimates, and not actual payments. Payments now, as before the war, lag behind the actual work done by a considerable margin.
I entirely agree, but I am giving the Committee an estimate. These are the only hard figures we have; all the other figures from the Ministry are paper figures. This represents money going out and work done. I want to make a calculation based on what the hon. Gentleman has just said. Suppose the total value of work done is four times the grant. That is very generous, because we expected the Ministry's grant to be one-third of the capital cost. This means that in 1949–50 the total value of work done will be only £1½ million.That is a very low figure. I ask the Committee to realise that it is quite unsatisfactory. How far is this low figure the inevitable result of shortage of materials and labour? Again, it is hard to give exact comparisons, but the Committee will be interested to learn that the export of cast-iron pipes in the year 1947 was valued at £2,400,000, and the export of cast-iron pipes—I am taking only the sizes suitable for water schemes—was valued at not less than £3,600,000 in 1948. Will the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply, be good enough to give us the value of the pipes going into water schemes in England and Wales? That is the figure we want for comparison. I believe that if we had it we should see that any suggestion that exports have not interfered with domestic water consumption in the rural areas is sheer nonsense. I have drawn attention to these export figures because those who live in the countryside, and indeed those who go to party conferences, ought to be aware of the way in which Ministers, by deciding priorities between this demand and that demand for the same products, control the rate of progress in getting on with water supplies in this country. On this side of the Committee we say that the Minister has misjudged the crying need for water. That is why he has failed to get the priorities out of his colleagues which we think that rural water deserves. I do not believe that the Parliamentary Secretary dare give us figures for work done or likely to be done this year. The reason is that he knows that too many of the schemes which are actually in hand are held up by thoroughly bad planning of materials. The Ministry of Supply lets him down every time. In Anglesey, for instance, where what I imagine to be the largest rural water scheme under construction at the moment is in hand, I am told that the whole place is littered with straight pipes. Time and again, work is at a standstill because there are no "specials," no angles and bends. They are not there to match the straight sections and, therefore, the whole work is at a standstill. The same is true of valves. If I can use the jargon of planners, valves, too, are "hopelessly out of phase." If we were to examine the exports of pipes should we find that pipes sent to the Middle East and to Africa went without "specials" and without valves? I very much doubt it. I think that we should find that England and Wales get the dirty end of the stick every time. My hon. Friends may well think that a bird in the hand is worth two in the Kongwa bush. What goes for materials, goes also for labour. The final authorisation of a water scheme has to be held up until the labour required can be found within the maximum quota allowed for work on water in the region concerned. The Committee must know that these minute sub-divisions of the presumed labour force into paper allocations for this type of work and that type of work are nothing better than the fanciful figurings of overcentralised statisticians. Any robust man such as the Minister of Health could, if he wished, brush them aside in 30 seconds. The Opposition's case, and we put it in all seriousness, is that these two water Acts which completely revolutionise the powers at the command of the Minister have not been given a full and fair trial. The result is that progress in the rural areas has been slow and really, if the Minister's estimates mean anything at all, it is bound to be slow this year. The Minister has all the powers to go faster but, for some reason, he chooses to hang back. My view is that he does not use his opportunities because he considers other matters—housing and the National Health Service—of far more importance. That is why he is not here today. If the right hon. Gentleman had insisted that resources equal to half the labour, half the money and half the materials that have been diverted to the groundnut scheme by the Minister of Food, had gone into rural water supplies at home, what a vast change there would have been in our countryside. I merely take the groundnut scheme as an example of a large capital project to which we are committed. I hope to see both the groundnut scheme and the tools for the production of food at home provided by an intelligent Government. The trouble is that the low priority given to water schemes in this country was, and is, a thoroughly bad decision by the Government. All that was wanted after the war, with the new Acts on the Statute Book, was enthusiasm and administrative drive. In the event, the new machinery has gone to work very slowly and hesitatingly and at every stage the Minister has been in control of the rate of progress. It is time that we raised a loud protest about the deliberate policy of "go-slow" on water. If the Minister should dare to say that the policy is not deliberate, I will ask him one simple question: Why is it that no special priority has ever been given to the materials required for water schemes in our countryside? Priority has been given to coal mining, to electrical generation and to the development areas, but it has not been given to food production. The refusal of that priority is an act of policy which means "go-slow on water because it is of second-rate importance." There is no dodging that. We are told that the Labour Party intend to try to cover up this policy by a political campaign for the nationalisation of water. They will not be serving their constituents well. Already this threat unsettles the water undertakers and those who have plans for expanding supply. I am certain that if it is persisted in, country women and farmers will, as a sheer matter of practical economics, have to wait longer for their water than otherwise they would. Nationalisation can do nothing but throw into chaos the machinery which has not yet been tried out. Anyone who has studied this matter knows that no changes in the law are required. All the powers are there. What is required are pipes and pumping machinery and a new sense of urgency in the Minister and his Department. I ask the Committee, as a result of this Debate, to insist that the Government put water high on their list and begin to make amends for a sorry story of calculated delays and administrative incompetence.
I think it would be convenient to the Committee if I were to intervene at this point to give some information which the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) clearly requires, and which the Committee would naturally desire to have, and which will be helpful, I am sure, later in the Debate. The hon. Member for Chippenham is, of course, a member of the Central Water Advisory Committee which has done some very valuable work during these last two or three years and whose sub-committees have produced a series of most valuable reports which have been made available to water authorities throughout the country.I think it is fair to say that the hon. Member for Chippenham takes a rather more useful and constructive line on that committee than he does when he contributes to the "Daily Mail," or when he makes speeches such as he has made in this Committee today, alleging delay by the Ministry of Health in developing water supplies in this country. He knows so well the difficulties of the present situation and he knows well, though he cloaked it, the complete lack of any activity in past years by hon. Members opposite when they had the full opportunity of carrying out the work. Of course, I realise that he pointed out that the provisions of the 1945 Act gave further powers to the Minister of Health. That is perfectly true, but it hedged those powers around so carefully that it has proved in practice very difficult to move as quickly with the large numbers of authorities involved as would clearly be desirable. Of course, it is also very true that the limitation of supplies and of labour, to which I will come in detail in a moment, are factors which we certainly cannot omit from our calculations. It is, I think, about 11 months since the House had an opportunity of discussing this subject, and then my predecessor, the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, forecast that by the end of the financial year it would be found that the year's output had been substantially better than that of the best year before the war. We are, I agree, here discussing authorisations. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite want to see the Ministry of Health carry out the full projects themselves—whether they are pressing that—but it is certainly true that we are dealing here, first of all, with the question of the actual authorisations given. When my hon. Friend made that statement 11 months ago, it was received, I understand, with some doubt and some incredulity. It was thought it would be impossible, so shortly after the war, to achieve a figure of authorisations greater than the best year before the war; but I am glad to say that forecast has proved to be completely correct. The value of schemes finally authorised during the year ended 31st March, after full allowance has been made for the increased cost of schemes today, is a great deal in excess of peak pre-war years. One must remember that in those pre-war years there were none of the limiting factors that we have to face today.
Before the hon. Gentleman goes on, can he say how many of the schemes authorised have actually been started? What percentage?
The great bulk of the schemes authorised have, of course, been started, but if hon. Members opposite wish us to keep a complete check of every scheme authorised they must be prepared to face the extra expense of officials of our Department which, on the expenditure side, they always refuse, or try to refuse, to sanction. But the valid point that we must make in this discussion today is that when we are comparing, as we have the right to compare, the authorisation work today with that in those pre-war years, we must remember that at that time there was certainly no shortage of labour. There were then many hundreds of thousands out of work, and there were comparatively few competing demands from urban areas, whereas today the demand from those areas after the long period of the war is very real, and, what is more, we are faced today with considerable pressure from a great variety of other urgent needs. The hon. Member for Chippenham referred to some of them, and it would be fantastic to suggest that water supplies for rural areas must be given an overriding priority over all other needs. For example, there is the urgent need for power stations, for oil refineries, and for a great variety of other things, of which I think everyone knows perfectly well.
With regard to water supplies, I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that there are areas in my Division where the water is impure and unfit to drink. Does he suggest that there should be no priority for having that situation remedied?
I entirely agree that there is every reason why we should press on most actively with the problem of impure supplies as well as with the problem of supplies as a whole. But we must keep in mind the other urgent needs of the community as well, and it is quite fantastic to suggest that any one proposal should have complete priority over everything else. The hon. Member for Chippenham mentioned the export figures of certain supplies. We need to face the fact that the necessity for our exports is very real. We must export to pay for our essential imports. If our industry is to run, and if we as a people are to live, then we must allow the diversion of supplies of some goods—plant, etc.—abroad. Indeed, it is absolutely vital to do this, for if we do not allow these exports to continue we may lose vital export markets in the future.It is worth while mentioning here that the value of rural schemes approved in the pre-war peak year of 1935–36 was £2,500,000, whereas the value of schemes already authorised and ready to go ahead for the year 1948–49 was over £6 million, which shows that the figures quoted by the hon. Member for Chippenham were inaccurate.
Will the hon. Gentleman give us separate figures for Wales?
I am quite willing to give the separate figures for Wales if the hon. Member will put down a Question about it.
The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned values; he mentioned the years 1935–36 and 1948–49, and he quoted £2,500,000 and £6 million. Are those correct values or true values at the dates given, and will the hon. Gentleman translate them into modern costs?
Allowing for the increased cost, there is no question that the figure of authorisations today is substantially in excess of pre-war. Therefore, it is quite clear that, in spite of the difficulties which did not exist in the past, and in spite of the fact that in those years hon. Members opposite were so callous of the whole agricultural interests of the country that they were not prepared to develop either the agricultural schemes or the water schemes, or, indeed, in other ways to meet the urgent needs of the community, we have been able considerably to increase the amount of work which is being put in hand. In those days, also, there were no competing demands.This, of course, is certainly not the full story. The total value of schemes finally authorised—schemes that are now ready to go ahead or which have, in fact, gone into operation—from the end of the war to the present day amount to some £11 million worth. That is as against £5 million worth which my hon. Friend was able to mention to the House some 11 months ago.
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but to get these figures quite clear may I ask him this question? He keeps referring to "schemes authorised" and "schemes finally authorised." Could he give us the figures for the schemes actually begun?—because it is of little use to have a scheme authorised if there are no pipes available with which to begin it.
The figures that I have given are figures for final authorisation after which the work can go ahead without further delay. The question of supplies has already been dealt with prior to the final authorisation. I would mention that in addition to those figures for final authorisation, schemes read to go to tender amount to another £1 million worth, and schemes approved in principle and in the final stages of planning are estimated to cost a further £10 million. Hon. Members opposite smile about this as if it were of no concern that these schemes should be properly planned and prepared in advance. It is clear that when hon. Members opposite had any control of the matter they certainly did not care for the effective planning of these schemes. I do not see why we should not insist that that should now be done.The total value of work authorised and approved in principle, including all the work that is going on, now totals some £22 million worth. It is worth commenting that in a White Paper "A National Water Policy," dated April, 1944, it is stated that pre-war grant schemes produced work to a value of £6 million in the period from 1934 to the date of the publication of that White Paper. Again, the totals that I have given of £22 million do not include small schemes carried out for new rural housing. They do not include the large schemes designed chiefly for urban needs, which will also be a very valuable further provision for the rural areas. For example, there are works under construction or recently authorised for 16 large urban authorities at an estimated total cost of some £12,500,000, and these will eventually afford supplies to the whole or parts of no fewer than 60 rural districts. In addition, there are the grants from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture for farm supplies, and the total value of approved schemes for farm houses and cottages, buildings and fields is now little less than £8 million worth since 1941, or £4,750,000 since 1945. During the 20 inter-war years that ended in March, 1939, loans sanctioned by the Department for rural water supplies amounted only to £13 million. I think it is fair to say that, as I think Mrs. Malaprop said, "Comparisons are oderous," and perhaps that is a fair comment to make about some rural water supplies. More encouraging than this is the speed-up of the work during the last 12 months, because from the end of the war until 31st March, 1948, some 847 schemes at a total estimated cost of £3.8 million were finally authorised. During the 12 months ended 31st March last, the number of schemes finally authorised was 834, at a total estimated cost of over £6 million, which is not far short of twice the value of work finally approved during the previous 2½ years. Again that fulfils the estimate that was made by my hon. Friend 11 months ago. This is, in fact, also the first year in our local government history in which the rural areas have been given the major share of the work in comparison with the population. There has been a very real change in the proportion of work undertaken in the rural areas in comparison with the urban areas, and that is steadily proceeding. In addition to all the work to which I have referred—that is, in addition to the work that has been finally authorised and is in a late stage of planning—there are a large number of schemes which local authorities are preparing the cost of which is of the order of a further £21 million or £22 million. Most of those have not yet gone through the provisions of the 1945 Act for local inquiry, nor has there been opportunity for opposition by the interests affected. It is perfectly true that the provisions of the 1945 Act—the opportunity that is given for protest and objection, the need for public inquiry in very many cases and the difficulty of securing the combination of the many separate water authorities—undoubtedly delay the procedure. That is a matter which gives the Department concern, as indeed it does everyone else, but the procedure has been clearly laid down in the 1945 Act, and no one can complain if that procedure is fully carried out.
Could the hon. Gentleman say at which stage of the procedure, if he is blaming the procedure, delay occurs? As far as I have been able to discover, it is always at the Ministry of Health.
That is perfectly untrue. I notice that suggestions of that kind are often made, but no concrete evidence is ever given. Hon. Members opposite like to put forward all sorts of general and vague suggestions of that kind, but when we very naturally ask them for detailed cases so that we can investigate them and give hon. Members the advantage of the facts about them, we never find that we can get those details from hon. Members Opposite. I shall be very glad to investigate any individual cases of this kind where undue delay by the Department is alleged. That is the only way in which one can track down difficulties of any kind. I invite hon. Members opposite to give us the information of individual cases of that nature.
Surely, if the Parliamentary Secretary is taking this line about information, hon. Members sitting for various rural districts are not likely to know about more than one thing directly. The hon. Gentleman must be able to know. Will he now tell us what is the average delay between the receipt of an application at his office and the answer? Does it, on the average, take one month or two months or 10 months, or what? No one but he could know that, and can he please tell us?
This is completely valueless because it depends entirely upon the type of scheme that is being put forward. Hon. Members opposite are the very first to attack us if we have not given proper consideration to the variety of other interests which are very often involved in the schemes presented to us. But we do want to have evidence of delays in particular schemes so that we can investigate them. It is quite true that schemes which are being proceeded with today, and for which complete authorisation has been given, vary very greatly from large schemes to those which are of a more minor character, but which are of great value to the local areas concerned.An example of the larger schemes promoted is that proposed by the North Devon Water Board, a board which covers about half of the county. This scheme was approved in principle in 1947 and final authorisation was given in the following year. The first instalment of the scheme, costing some £696,000, is now in progress. That work includes intake treatment plant and works for some 60 miles of mains. Now as hon. Members opposite sometimes make the charge against my Department that we are suffering from some sort of megalomania about large water schemes as against smaller water schemes which, they sometimes allege, would provide more water more quickly, I should point out that this board, as in so many similar cases, are also carrying out interim schemes for urgent local requirements. Fourteen of these schemes, estimated to cost some £95,000, are either completed or nearing completion. Another five are in hand and another six approved. It is hoped that a start will be made towards the end of the year on the second instalment of this Devon scheme, which is estimated to cost some £825,000. Another point which has been raised is whether or not there is adequate discussion between the Departments concerned on the subject of the schemes which are brought before us. It is, indeed, essential that agricultural interests should be properly safeguarded and watched in the development of these proposals. That is precisely what was so often neglected in the past, for in going forward with many smaller schemes very often the possibility of providing water supplies for agricultural use as well as for housing purposes was neglected. Today we find that by devoting at any rate a large part of our attention to larger schemes, which will benefit agricultural interests as well as the householder, we are doing very much more valuable work than was done at the time when schemes were introduced without effective planning or consideration of the needs of the area as a whole. Grants already promised for water supply up to the present, since the end of the war, amount to just under £4 million. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Chippenham this evening that there is some discrepancy between the actual payments that have been made, and the progress that we are claiming is being made, on the one hand, and the work in progress, on the other hand, and it is true that the estimated payments up to date amount to some £250,000 while the estimates for 1949–50 amount to some £350,000. Hon. Members opposite are claiming that that shows there is little work, in fact, being carried out. They should realise the reasons for the discrepancy between the amount actually being paid out in grants and the work in progress. First, there is the simple reason that very many of the schemes are not grant-earning. Where there are smaller interim schemes, which involve very little loss to the local authority or the water undertaking, it is often agreed that the small loss shall be taken into account in calculating the grant when later schemes are considered. Another very good reason is that first instalments are normally paid when work to the value of half of the estimated total has been completed. The second instalment is paid on completion of the work. It is perfectly true, as hon. Members have said, that works today take longer to complete than they did before the war. That is for the very simple reason, with which I shall deal in a moment or two, that delays occur in the provision of labour and of materials; but final payment depends upon when the local authority makes its application. The final payment to contractors is not due until the final certificates have been given by the council's engineers, and it has been the custom in the past, just as it is the custom today, that these payments may lag behind the completion of schemes for periods of up to well over a year. That is why we shall not see the effect, in the actual payment of grants, of the amount of work now being undertaken for some little time ahead, but it does not mean that the work is not being carried out.
I grant the Parliamentary Secretary's assumption for the sake of argument, but could he then explain the drop in 1949–50 by comparison with 1948–49?
There is no drop in the actual payments. I have given the figure for the actual payments today. The total payments to date amount to some £241,000. The estimated payments for 1949–50 amount to some £357,000. So, far from there being any drop, there is, in fact, an increase in the actual value of the work being done. Where the hon. Member is confused is that he is comparing the estimates for previous years with the actual amount of the payments which have been made and it is perfectly true that the amount of payments which have been made have been considerably less than was originally estimated.
The Parliamentary Secretary is also confused, because he is comparing the payments actually made with what he estimates will be paid in the future. He is falling into the same error.
It is quite true that difficulties in supply were underestimated, but it is quite clear from the work now in hand that we shall require this total sum of £357,000. It is also perfectly clear that the sum will continue to increase rapidly with the amount of work which is now being undertaken. It is a very simple matter, of which hon. Members opposite should have had a great deal of experience in the past.Let me mention the difficulties which exist. First, there is the question of labour supplies. Hon. Members know the many demands which are being made today upon the labour force. The Ministry of Health are in close touch with the Ministry of Works and it is very heartening to know that there has been a steady improvement during the past year in the amount of labour which has been made available for water supplies. We hope that the schemes which are going ahead today will not be held up for that reason in the future.
Surely the Parliamentary Secretary should be able to give some complete figures. Simply to say that there has been an improvement is not sufficient; surely he can give some figures.
No doubt we could do that later. We shall see whether the figures are available.
I do not wish to delay the Parliamentary Secretary, but he must surely agree that, when he is challenged on the question of the labour force, simply to say there has been an improvement, without giving any starting or finishing figures, is not enough. The Committee would like to know what is the labour force at work upon these schemes and how much it has improved over the period.
It must be perfectly clear that there have been delays because of the shortage of labour in the past, but these are largely being overcome because of the help being given by the Ministry of Labour. That seems to me perfectly clear. It is also true that there have been difficulties in the supply of materials, but not in the supply of straight cast iron piping. That is where hon. Members opposite seem to fall in error. They seem to suggest that the large export of straight cast iron piping is holding up the work on water supplies. That is not so. Delay such as occurs is due more to the shortage of specials and bends, which are not, in fact, being exported. I am glad to be able to say that arrangements have been made with the Ministry of Supply, and with the manufacturers through the Ministry of Supply, to bring the production of bends and specials into gear with the production of straight piping.
It is only straight pipes that are being exported?
They are being exported. Plenty of other things are being exported, as the hon. Member ought to know. The point here is that there are very real difficulties in increasing the production of specials and bends in the factories, and these are now being overcome. With regard to the production of valves, there has been a good increase since 1946, and the figures are still increasing, but it may be some time before the demand can be overtaken. We are doing everything we can through the Ministry of Supply to increase production, and, of course, standardisation is being fully considered.It is exactly the same case with the supply of pumps. I agree that pumps are being exported, but will hon. Members opposite say that no export of pumps should be undertaken? Are they prepared to face the real difficulties that would be involved if we were not to get the supplies back from abroad that that export brings us? That is the sort of challenge that must be made to hon. Members opposite. They lightly say, "You should not export so many, but should devote more to work at home." They never face the actual need to consider what they would cut down in this way. The oil refinery programme at home, power stations—all are urgently needed if we are still to meet our currency problems. I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have appreciated that fact. It is true, however, that the need for the development of our piped water supplies is fully appreciated by our Department, as, indeed, is shown by the figures I have quoted, which show how enormously the work of the Department has developed in this field, and which show a striking comparison between the work the Ministry has carried out during this period and that in past periods when the difficulties I have referred to did not exist. I think that the Government can fairly take pride in the amount of work that has been undertaken in this period in spite of all the difficulties. It is still true to say that there is indeed very much to be done, but the people of the countryside can be assured that this Government and its Labour successor will press on with the work for rural supplies, which was sadly neglected in the past by all previous Administrations.
I am afraid the Parliamentary Secretary has not convinced me that he realises how urgent is the need for the supply of rural water. In his speech he harped back to the past. He pointed out the difficulties that faced him, and he rather smugly said, "We are putting a higher priority on rural water as opposed to urban water." That, surely, is not surprising, because most towns have an adequate water supply. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), in a first class speech, said every cottage should have a tap of water. In my constituency this summer, far from every cottage having a water tap, many villages will have no water at all. This is not due to neglect in the past, but to the fact that the consumption of water is going up quickly each year. In the years from 1938 to 1948 the consumption of water in London, I understand, went up from 30 gallons a head to nearly 60 gallons. It has gone up in the same degree in the countryside. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Even in the cottages whither water has to be carried in buckets from a village well consumption has gone up. In many cases water closets that flush have been put into these cottages, and for that purpose alone probably as much water is used as was used by the whole cottage household in years gone by.Again, to produce milk a large quantity of water is required. In a small village not 10 miles from where I live a farmer has recently acquired a herd of 20 T.T. cows. His farm is on a small private water scheme. He is now using 400 gallons of water a day—20 gallons of water per cow—and has thrown the scheme completely out of balance. The problem is that with the increasing demand in the countryside for water, supplies, which were sufficient in the past, are no longer sufficient, and the position has been further aggravated because there have been two years of exceptionally dry weather. Already wells are running dry which normally provide water in adequate quantities throughout the year.
That is not the fault of the Labour Government.
It seems particularly hard to me that my own constituents, who have done their best to produce extra milk, should be penalised because to produce extra milk they have to use more water. The people of Devon in the past have been very discerning in their selection of county councillors. They slipped up a little in 1946; six Socialists were elected.
That is why they have water supplies.
At the last election they were all thrown out except one. Before the Socialists were elected in 1946, the Devon County Council paid great attention to the provision of water in Devon. I was most interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary describe the North Devon Water Board. Under that scheme, thought of long before the Socialists came into power, 1,300 square miles of North Devonshire were to be provided with piped water. The Parliamentary Secretary said the scheme was to be carried out in two instalments, the first instalment to complete the water works, and two mains from the waterworks at Prewley on Dartmoor to Huntshaw Cross and from there across from North Devon to East Devon to the village of Rackenford. The waterworks are going ahead. Work on the first main however was due to begin on 1st July, 1948, but work could not start until the 1st March of this year because there were no pipes available. Even now the scheme cannot be completed because there is a shortage for that particular main of 50 valves. The secondary main across North Devon cannot be started because no supplies of pipes and valves are available.The second instalment is to supply water to my own village and to villages nearer to Dartmoor. It is impossible to say when it can be begun let alone completed. The Ministry of Health says that it must not be started until the progress on the first instalment justifies it. The total scheme of the North Devon Water Board will require about 100 miles of pipes. I gather that pipes to supply 50 such schemes have already been exported. I realise that there is an urgent necessity to export, but I wonder whether it is wise that hard-earned currency should be spent on Colonial developments, such as the groundnut scheme, which the hon. Member for Chippenham mentioned. I believe that if it is not possible to develop both the Colonies and this country, charity should begin at home, and British agriculture should be given the first call on our resources of men and materials.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House, and incidentally the country, why, when there were thousands of men unemployed and plenty of material was rotting on the scrap heaps, these things were not carried out by his party or the Conservative Party in power?
I am afraid that I should be out of Order if I discussed that matter. The thing that interests my constituents is when they are to get tap water. I say quite definitely that we should have made a far better investment, with a much quicker and more lasting dividend, if any resources that were available for development had been given to British agriculture, and in particular to agriculture in Devonshire.
I would like to say a few words about the provision of water supplies in rural districts. The Committee will forgive me, I am sure, if I turn my attention to the great nation of Wales. I did mention this subject during the Welsh Debate, but I did not enlarge upon it. I hoped that an opportunity would come whereby we could discuss these problems together. I want to deal with the agricultural side and the domestic side. May I point out to hon. Members opposite the legacy that was left to this Government, by quoting the figures from the National Farm Survey of 1941–43. In Wales itself, only 32 per cent. of the farm houses had a piped water supply. Only 23 per cent. had a piped water supply to the farm buildings. Only 7 per cent. of the fields had a piped water supply. That means that in respect of 8 per cent. of the farmhouses there is no record of where they get their water. Neither is there any record of where they get their water in respect of 46 per cent. of the farm buildings. It is probably derived from the heavens. The position stated in the report with regard to the fields is very damaging indeed. The report, referring to seasonal shortages, says that the area most approaching a black spot is strangely enough Wales, where there is the highest rainfall. All Welsh counties, except Flint, show figures of shortage well above the average.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the figure of 7 per cent. in regard to fields. Does he mean each separate meadow or the fields attached to each separate farm?
The fields attached to each separate farm.I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, because we are voting money for his Department, what has been done since that survey to provide a water supply for farm-houses and farm buildings. I know what the position is in Wales from year to year according to the Welsh White Paper, but I would like to get the figures up to date. On the domestic side, in the last Welsh White Paper we were informed that schemes provisionally approved for grant numbered 48 and those finally approved for grant numbered 38, but only four schemes had been completed and 20 were under construction. That is not too good a figure and I am wondering where the fault lies. Are the schemes being held up by the Welsh Board of Health or are they not being put forward by the councils? In my constituency it is not the fault of the Welsh Board of Health; it is the fault of the councils. This is a fine opportunity for someone on this side of the Committee to reply to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). In the first Welsh White Paper, we were told that there were 209,000 rural properties, of which 84,000 were without a proper water supply. It also told us that a comprehensive plan was envisaged for the whole of Wales. I would like to know how far that plan has gone. I would also like to know how many of the counties in Wales have had a water supply survey. We were told that they had not all submitted a survey some two years ago. A survey was also promised of the development areas which encroach on the rural districts. What is the position with regard to that survey at the present time? Members will forgive me if I now revert to the position in my own constituency. I think that I have the right to refer to it, because it is an area covering 770,466 acres. Some may say that we cover nearly the whole of Wales. I asked the Minister of Health in December, 1946, how many parishes in my two counties were without a piped water supply? There were 21 in the County of Brecon and 14 in the County of Radnor. I made it my business to find out who was responsible for this situation. I found that in Radnorshire, where it is estimated that there are about 36,000 cattle at the present time, that houses without a piped water supply numbered 2,255 out of 3,962. It is a remarkable and a shameful thing that in Christian Wales 2,910 of these houses are without a w.c. Who is responsible for that? I represent in this House 11 rural district councils. There are some of them which I would commend to the House by way of reply to points raised by the Opposition today. In Colwyn Rural District 54 per cent. of the houses are without a piped water supply, with no sewerage scheme at all, and only 23 houses with baths. This is in 1949. In New Radnor 75 per cent. of the population are without a water supply. There is no existing works of sewerage and sewerage disposal plant. At Rhayader—and hon. Members of this House will know that from Rhayader comes the great Birmingham Corporation water supply—outside the parish of Rhayader itself, 66 per cent. of the population are without piped water. Birmingham Corporation makes provision for any council along its route wanting a water supply, but all of them do not take the advantage of this offer which they should. In Presteign, a town with an estimated population of 1,100, the water supply is derived from a private water company. It is extraordinary to find from the engineer's report that the level of the meadow, whence comes the source, is below that of the river. It can easily be understood from where they get their water supply when the river is in flood. When a visit was paid by an engineer not long ago, it was found that water from the neighbouring ditches was going into the water supply. Is it any wonder that people like myself rose at the Labour Party Conference and asked the Minister of Health to speed up the scheme for the nationalisation of water supplies? In the county in which I live, from a question answered by the Minister of Education some time ago, I find that 19 primary schools get their water from springs, and six are without a supply at all on the school premises. That is the legacy left to us as a Government. In the district council area of Brecon in 1946, 61 samples were taken of various water supplies, and 18 of them were found unsatisfactory. Of those 18 unsatisfactory samples, nine were the responsibility of the council. That is where the difficulty lies. In most of the cases I have quoted no plans have been submitted to the Minister of Health for a better water scheme. What I am asking the Committee to do is to impress on the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity of getting these local authorities to do their duty according to the Acts, or the power of default ought to be applied to them instantly. Neighbouring towns and cities take a water supply from an area, but I do not think that that should be allowed unless provision is made for the local people. If the local council is not prepared to do it, the Minister of Health himself should insist on the place having a water supply. One of the results of the lack of water is that housing sites are not placed in convenient areas. This has a great effect not only on the cost, but on the convenience of people who want houses. I hope the Minister of Health will speed up these schemes, and will either undertake them himself or ginger up some of the local authorities. One hon. Member opposite said that there was no priority for any kind of scheme. From my information I understand that priority is given for electricity, if that electricity is used in a small scheme to provide a water supply in a village. That is a very good way of getting water supplies in rural areas. What I am afraid of is that the £15 million provided by the Minister some years ago will have all gone, unless something is done to give us a good water supply for the rural districts. I hope that this Committee will urge the Minister to get something done to waken up local authorities. If there is a fault with a local authority it should be gingered up, so that we should have, as the hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) said, a tap in every house. And not only do we want that—we want a water supply in each village.
I should like to draw attention to the fact that, whoever may have been listening to the phrases used by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), or will listen to the criticism that may come from this side, there is no representative present from the Ministry of Health, so far as one can see. Powers exist for the provision of water schemes, if the Ministry will use them. There are too many people who think that the provision of water supplies is simple, even in districts where they have not been developed on a large scale or where they are undeveloped. There are many people, especially town-bred people, who think that all that is required is to have a tap and to turn it on, and that the water will at once come. In that case, they are likely to be disappointed when it comes to the point of action in getting a water supply.To such people I say that when water has been laid on, much waste would be prevented if the supply were charged for by meter, according to the amount used, rather than by a charge on the rateable value or by a fixed amount for the supply to the premises. If water were paid for by meter more care would be used in consuming it. It has been suggested that rural district councils have not made the necessary efforts to fulfil their duty of seeing that adequate supplies of water are available in their districts. I cannot speak for counties other than my own, but Hampshire's rural district councils have not only made great efforts but, in a number of cases, have made remarkably successful efforts to get water supplies laid on. Apart from the action of district councils, there are differences among the districts affecting the ease or otherwise of getting a water supply. Some districts have deep well supplies only, while others have surface water supplies which are much more easily got at and laid on. The expenditure in those two cases is very different. As in all cases of undertakings by local authorities, those authorities have not the last word in the initiation of water schemes, which have to be approved by their county councils and subsequently by the Ministry of Health. Not infrequently, the Ministry take what seems to be an unconscionable time before giving approval. When approval has been given, more often than not there is great difficulty in getting pipes and other materials and the supplies of labour necessary to carry out the work. These difficulties are very real ones for the local authorities concerned, and it often seems to them and to those wanting supplies that the Ministry might do a great deal more to help, first, by accelerating approval of the schemes, secondly, by accelerating the provision of materials for those schemes and, thirdly, by making available the necessary labour. In spite of the necessity for export, I believe we should check the amount of pipes and materials exported so that they could be used to accelerate the provision of water schemes in this country. The necessary labour could be provided if a less rigid and cumbrous procedure were employed by the Ministry in making it available and in approving its provision. The provision of rural water supplies is certainly not assisted by such schemes as the one now being promoted in my county of Hampshire and in the adjoining county of Berkshire, known as the Enborne scheme, for providing water for London. This, quite apart from draining the water supplies of Hampshire and quite apart from the enormous expense involved, will, if put into effect, permanently flood many thousands of acres of valuable and productive agricultural land. We hope that scheme will not be approved, we are opposing it, but it is obvious that, if schemes on that scale of expense are approved for the provision of water for towns many miles away, it will not assist—to put it mildly—the provision of water in adequate quantities is the counties from which the water is taken away. Then there is the question of making the best use of potential water supplies. I believe that the action taken by the Hampshire County Council has been well worth while. That action was to cause a survey to be taken and a plan to be made of the actual and potential water supplies in the county. The making of this plan may have delayed for a time the provision of supplies in some cases, but it has been made now, and it shows clearly the supplies which are available and of which use can be made. Also it shows clearly how it may sometimes be undesirable to choose the simplest way of drawing water from some other district, because it is possible to rob Peter to pay Paul. So ultimately a comprehensive scheme for a large county like Hampshire should accelerate the provision of water on an adequate scale. There is one other matter of importance to which I shall allude, and that is the question of co-operation between the county agricultural executive committees and local authorities as regards supplies to agricultural land and buildings. In most cases the committees have done their best and have laid on a great deal of water. In most cases they have been successful in their co-operation with local authorities, but I have heard of cases in which they have not been so successful, and I would urge that such co-operation is of great importance. To sum up, approval of schemes by the Ministry ought to be accelerated, there should be more assistance in the provision of materials and labour, and further powers to approve and facilitate the carrying out of schemes should be given by a process of devolution from the Ministry to county councils. I believe that if the Ministry were to devolve more powers to approve schemes upon county councils, there would be acceleration of schemes and the county councils would be found worthy of the responsibility so placed upon them.
The importance of water supplies in rural areas cannot be too strongly emphasised. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfleld (Sir G. Jeffreys) is always listened to with the greatest amount of respect. His moderation is commendable and everyone will give praise for the sound sense which always permeates his pronouncements in this House. I always like to listen to his colleague the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), although I thought tonight he sounded rather hollow. In attempting to focus the blame for the lack of rural water supplies on the present Government, I am sure he fell very flat. While he was speaking there ran through my mind some verses by Macaulay:
"But hark! the cry is Aster:
And lo! the ranks divide;
And the great Lord of Luna
Comes with his stately stride.
Quoth he, 'The she-wolf's litter
Stands savagely at bay:
But will ye dare to follow.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) adequately tore to ribbons any chance the hon. Member for Chippenham had of focusing responsibility for the condition of rural water supplies or the lack of rural water supplies on the present Government. I can assure hon. Members opposite that this matter is a very acute question North of the Border. In the last half century we have seen houses drowned in water where there was none to drink. We have seen railway cottages where the railwaymen have had to get in water by means of water cans on six days a week and on the seventh, because there was no train running, there was no water. In another district there were artesian wells to which people had to travel half a mile to get water. The streams also were a source of supply in some districts. Everyone will agree that if an epidemic breaks out, especially in England, medical men nine times out of 10 put their finger on the source of infection as an inadequate or impure water supply. The hon. Member for Chippenham doubted whether there was any hold-up in the supply of pipes, specials, and so on. I draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to Monday's issue of "The Scotsman" where they will find the report of Glenfield and Kennedy, probably the best makers of hydrants and valves in Britain. Hon. Members will find that they are doing well nowadays, although 15 years ago they were not doing so well. Today they are doing splendidly. But delivery is many months ahead. I have some experience in regard to the laying of water pipes, and I know that in the days of a Tory Government the men of Falkirk could not get employment moulding pipes and bends. We have no unemployed today and the whole question is bound up with that of housing. Scotland requires 100,000 houses according to the capitalist Press. The moulders cannot keep up with the demand for rones, pipes, bends and specials. There is no question of doubt in regard to materials. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor pointed out, the day was when men who laid pipes either for water or for drainage were three a penny. I have seen that work done for a shilling an hour; we cannot get it done for that now. We cannot get the men, they are engaged in more congenial occupations. The Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland is here, and I would like him to give us some of the figures which are applicable to Scotland, because although I know that much has been done since 1945 I also know of the great need that exists in Scotland. I know of a 24-inch pipe being laid from the great reservoir of Gladhousemill across the eastern portion of my constituency where there was previously no pure water supply. But that only touches the fringe of the problem which we have seen for half a century. Surely the present Labour Government cannot be expected to assume responsibility for the defects of 50 years ago? Yet in Peebles and Midlothian—and what Peebles and Midlothian think today the rest of Scotland will think tomorrow—we have great reservoirs. I should like an explanation of why it was that the great city of Edinburgh secured the watershed right down to Biggar and the great city of Glasgow cornered the fine water reservoir of Loch Katrine, while all the rural areas had to suffer in consequence. The hon. Member for Chippenham sneered at the Labour Party annual conference, which is the most democratic piece of political machinery that this world has ever seen. I shall go to Blackpool and vote for the nationalisation of land and rivers. Possibly we shall again defeat the Minister of Health, as we have twice previously defeated him on tied cottages and the nationalisation of water. But we shall not defeat him here. Although he can stand at the Despatch Box, take all the bowling that the Opposition can give him and smack it all over the House, as he has so often done, when it comes to the annual conference of the Labour Party, he is like me, just a cypher. The rank and file say what has to be done, just as they did in 1945 at Blackpool, when they laid down "Let us Face the Future," which we have implemented——If Aster clears the way?'"
The hon. Gentleman should not go into too much of the history of the Labour Party conference. The discussion is confined to rural water.
I was dealing with some of the phrases which have been used on the other side of the Committee. I know that we are not angels. Only last week an hon. Member opposite said in my constituency that the Prime Minister, myself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I was in the first three, as I hope I shall be on Saturday—were not angels. We in the mining fraternity have always been candid. We are never hypocritical; we call a spade a spade. I say in all sincerity that I would rather go to the devil with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer than contemplate spending eternity with that prize crop of synthetic angels, beer barons and "baccy" barons, landlords and landleeches who composed that warlock's cauldron in Peebles that Friday evening. I am surprised that there are not more Scottish Tory M.P.'s here tonight because——
Where are the Scottish Labour M.P.s?
Where are the Scottish Tory Members?
I hope that they are also interested in pure water. In asking the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to give us the figures for Scotland, may I say that we on this side know that although the country is struggling to get adequate water supplies, it will take a second strong Labour Government another five years in which to pull us all out of the mire and provide something like a proper supply.
It is almost 12 months since we had an opportunity of discussing this very vital subject. When the present Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor told us, a year ago, that an enormous amount of preparatory work had been done, I was led to hope that during the 10 or 11 months which would follow a great deal of practical work, which would contribute to a solution of our problem of water supplies, would be carried out. I am sorry to say, from my observations in my own area and from available statistics, that I cannot express other than intense disappointment at the present position. Further, I must say that the rather self-satisfied speech of the Parliamentary Secretary has not consoled me.Several Members on both sides of the Committee have indulged in recriminations in this Debate, and although I do not dissociate myself from them in so far as they are accurate, do they really help in a Debate of this kind? The Parliamentary Secretary invoked the assistance of Mrs. Malaprop, and talked about comparisons. Comparisons are certainly valuable, but I do not think that a comparison between what has been done in the last 12 months with what was done 10, 15 or 20 years ago is of any real value. The true comparison should be between what is being done now and what remains to be done, between what is actually happening and the immensity of the problem. If that comparison is adopted, I do not believe that any Member of the Committee would be entitled to be other than disquieted by the position today. There may be occasions when it may be of assistance to compare records of various parties, in which I would be only too glad to take part, but the questions that people in my area and other rural areas are asking are, "When shall we get an adequate supply of piped water? What is being done now? What will be done next year?" Judging by the present position their anxiety is fully justified. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) gave us some statistics about his own constituency, and I was very glad that he did because his figures are not peculiar to his own area; they are typical of rural Wales. I will not burden the Committee by giving comparable statistics for my area. Wales, in this respect, is a particularly black spot. Although some improvement has been made during the past year, the rate of development and sense of urgency have not been nearly sufficient. I detect a worsening of the position. Immediately after the war, local authorities were possessed of a real sense of urgency in this matter. Many schemes were forwarded to the Minister. Local authorities generally were anxious to tackle the problem. But now we have a sense of frustration. Local authorities have lost some of the enthusiasm which they had a few years ago. I do not share the views of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor about the degree of responsibility. The local authorities have a measure of responsibility, but the Minister has a great responsibility also. This sense of frustration caused by delays in approving schemes and deciding on the amount of the grant, delays in the provision of technical experts and of materials and labour, is a matter for which the Minister must bear a substantial part of the responsibility, and these delays have brought about this lowering of the sense of urgency.
Would the hon. Gentleman give some concrete illustrations of the delays and the responsibility with which he charges the Minister, rather than make bald statements?
Yes. If hon. Members do not agree with me, I hope they will indicate their disapproval. I have tried to ascertain the reason why between the submission of a scheme and its implementation there are delays of many months, and in some cases years. The difficulty always is to put one's finger on the real fault. The local authorities throw the ball back to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health either throws it back to them or blame difficulty over labour and materials.What is clear is that, wherever the actual fault lies, the gap between the decision to carry out the scheme and its implementation is far too long. When one speaks to the local authority officials they talk of periods of two or three months between communications being sent to the Minister and replies being received. Whether or not those delays are justified, it is difficult to ascertain. Sometimes, no doubt, the fault is with the Minister; sometimes it is with the local authority, and sometimes it cannot be blamed on anyone.
If the hon. Gentleman will give a specific case we shall be able to fix the blame. He has not given one.
I can give a case from my own constituency in the village of Cilyn. It is now two years since a scheme was first submitted in respect of that area, but the people there are still without a drop of water from a piped supply. The Minister should know where the fault lies. He has all the facts at his disposal. I am not really concerned to attach blame. I am concerned to eliminate delay. We have been told that the machinery is there and that the difficulty is in the supply of labour and materials. I am not satisfied that the machinery is working properly. The time which the machine takes to work is quite inordinate.I should like the Minister, in conjunction with the local authorities, to see whether some of these delays might be shortened very considerably. I do not think that the explanation for all these delays can be laid entirely on the labour and materials problem. Certainly in my area, in reference to small schemes, very considerable delay arises even when there is no labour problem and material is available. As I say, I should like the Minister to look again to see whether the machinery itself is the right machinery, and, if he is satisfied that it is, to inquire why there is all this delay in its working. With regard to labour and materials, the Minister said, "What are you going to do? It is all a question of what you are going to give up by way of imports if you are going to reduce your exports of materials which could be used for water supplies." All of us who are deeply anxious about the problem ask that the supplies for the implementation of water schemes should be given a priority in accordance with the urgent need of those schemes.
That does not answer the question.
With great respect, it does. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary talked about schemes for the erection of oil-refining plants and for the erection of generating stations, and so on. What I would like to know is, if there is any question of priority between similar materials for those schemes and for water schemes, which has the priority?
The hon. Member asked himself the question, but he has not yet answered it.
If it is a question of giving priority for pipes for a generating station or for an oil refinery, or for the supply of piped water to a village populated by people who have to walk perhaps a quarter of a mile to get water from an insanitary source, then I have no doubt at all which scheme should be given priority.
It should have been done years ago.
All the more reason why it should be done now. I would sooner go short of light and power than short of clean water. As far as my area is concerned, the problem is particularly acute. The county I represent and the other two counties in the area have made a contribution second to none in England and Wales with regard to providing clean herds and increasing milk production. The agricultural community in that area say that the least that can be done for them in return is to try to expedite the provision of clean water.The cry is heard that a greater effort should be made to produce cleaner milk, but if the people producing milk are to produce cleaner milk there must be an improvement in the water supply available to them. The anxiety I feel in the matter is this. The way the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this question of priorities indicated to my mind—I hope I am wrong—that the provision of labour and materials for water supplies was a low priority. It that is not so, I hope we shall have some specific indication to the contrary. The scarcity of cast iron pipes has been referred to, and the same applies to galvanised and asbestos pipes. There is a hold-up all the time. To my mind—that is why I spoke of this priority in those terms—the provision of adequate water supplies to rural areas would provide the solution of almost all the problems, or, at least, contribute to the solution of almost all the problems in our rural areas. In my area at the moment, new housing schemes have been held up because of the absence of water supplies. The reconditioning of houses has been held up because of the water supply position. The improvement in conditions under which milk is produced is being held up for the same reason. The problem of labour on farms, particularly the difficulty with regard to female labour, the burden placed upon the housewife and the agricultural worker's wife in running her household, and the whole problem of the depopulation of the rural areas, turns very largely upon this question. We shall not retain young people in the rural areas and we shall not provide an adequate labour force in agriculture unless we face up to this problem. The Minister should try to instil into the Government and into local authorities a far greater sense of urgency in this matter than exists at the moment.
The Minister seemed to me to confuse the issue on this very important point, on which I think all Members are agreed, namely, that it is vitally necessary to get water to the rural countryside. I should like to direct the Minister's mind back to the Debates that took place in 1943–44 during the passage of Acts concerning water. At that time all the criticism that was coming to the then Minister of Health was that £15 million which had been granted was not enough. The criticism which is now being made, and rightly so, is that, whether that is a sufficient amount or not, the Minister has not taken advantage of it.The Minister's excuse, so far as I can see, was directed along these three lines: First, he said that we have now got to make up for 25 years of Tory misrule and all the rest of it. I do not think that is a very good excuse because I assure the Minister that I should have no patience with my hon. Friends in 1954 if they used the same argument and said that it was all due to five years of sulky Socialism. The hon. Gentleman's next excuse was that he thought that the Act under which he could get water to the rural countryside was rather slow in its working, and that it was difficult to work. I would like to know what the hon. Member would do to alter that Act in order to make it work that degree faster. The third excuse goes to the centre of the whole matter. He said, "This is a matter of priority; what schemes should be cut down in order to get on with the provision of water?" I think I am quoting accurately what he said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). Then he went on to the question of exports. I found that a very funny argument, coming from the representative of the Minister of Health. Quite apart from that, however, the importance of exports is fully recognised by all hon. Members. Let us see why it is important. It is important because it enables us to pay for the necessary imports, but what the Minister is making a mistake about is this: Our ability to get greater production of food and to get a greater intake into agriculture in order to get that greater production, depends on our ability to get water to the rural countryside. By getting on with that job he will save a far greater amount on imports than the amount obtained by the export of these very pipes the shortage of which is holding up the schemes. To my mind the important matter under discussion at the moment is where exactly does the priority lie. I speak with some feeling because I do not think there has been a single Debate in this House on the question of water supply in which Cornwall has not been mentioned again and again by the Minister as being one of the most notable areas urgently in need of water.
The Tories should have supplied it.
That argument will not do; it is senseless. It is as if nationalisanon were some magical password which hon. Members opposite mention at different times and by which they think everything could be done.I do not want to delay the Committee because there are several hon. Members who wish to take part in this Debate, but I want to make a point on this question of priority. If the priority of export—and I believe it to be so—is based a great deal on the question of raising the standard of life of this country, then that standard of life is related to food. The greatest increase which we can possibly bring about in that standard is the increased production of food in this country. That is my opinion. To my mind that increased production cannot be accelerated to any great degree except by the provision of feedingstuffs and the provision of water for rural districts. I am convinced that if these matters are dealt with fairly quickly, then, indeed, we shall get the intake into the rural districts. Moreover, we shall give the people what they need and the things to which they have every right. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham quite rightly pointed out that if we asked everybody living in the countryside what was their greatest priority they would most definitely state that it was water. To my mind, in order to provide water quickly we have to bear in mind the relation of water to electricity. I believe that that is the only method by which we can bring this about quickly—by getting electricity into the rural districts. After all, farms are scattered and we cannot alter the fact that they are scattered. It is easier to bring wires across the country than to deal with the whole question of piping. The provision of electricity and the production of pumps are, I think, the only quick methods by which we can bring about the supply of the existing needs to the remote areas. I sincerely trust that the Minister will address his mind to this matter and will realise, when considering the priorities which are given to exports, that the priority for water for the countryside is a priority ultimately towards lessening the amount of imports we require and is of precisely the same importance as the exports he has mentioned.
I have listened with very great interest to the Debate so far and I am glad that it has been held. There can be no shadow of doubt that one of the most pressing problems in the minds of the Government at the present time is the question of water supplies for rural areas. I have listened to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite speaking, but we must remember that the past has something to do with the present and the future. It may be that at last, for certain reasons, hon. Members opposite find there are advantages which make it necessary for them to try to stress the need for this long-overdue supply. Country people are asking questions today which, perhaps, they did not ask many years ago. It is rather a pity that they did not ask them then. One of the most important questions they are asking is, "When are we going to have water in the countryside and some of the other amenities which have been enjoyed for so long by the town dwellers?" The answer, I suggest, is, "You will have them pretty quickly under a Socialist Government."If ever there was a case for nationalisation it has been made out today. In all that has been said there is the clearest evidence for the case of the nationalisation of water and water supplies. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) said he agreed with one passage, at least, of Labour's policy and programme as set out in "Labour Believes in Britain." I am sorry he is not here now, because I should like to ask him if he would not agree with another passage relating to the fact that we are going to consider very seriously the question of the nationalisation of water. We ought to be ashamed of the general situation. Conservative Governments in the past have spent large sums of money in parts of our Colonies for the provision of water supplies, but in their own country they have failed to recognise the necessity for water supplies in rural areas. A few years before the war legislation was passed—with which I entirely agree—which provided that dairy farmers should supply clean milk. It required the dairy farmers to have well kept cowsheds, and that they should keep their utensils scoured clean. As a result of that legislation, passed by a Conservative Government, many small dairy farmers lost their businesses, because that legislation failed to recognise that the first essential requirement in the supply of clean milk is a supply of pure water to the farms. It is not only because of the legislation that those farmers were forced out of business. It was because that Administration, which eliminated the dairy farmers, though they required them to do certain things, did not provide them with the first means of fulfilling their obligations—clean water. What is the position in the countryside today? It so happens, unfortunately, that in my own constituency there are even schools without water. Since I became a Member of Parliament I have received something like 30 letters from farmers asking for water to be supplied to the farms. They were represented in this House for 23 years by a prominent Conservative. How can hon. Members opposite deny that there was neglect in the past. You were not interested in the countryside until recently. Why not be frank and say so?
Is it not a little hard, Mr. Bowles, to say that you have never been interested in the countryside?
Hon. Members do frequently and quite unnecessarily refer to the Chair. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) said I was frustrated, which was quite untrue. I would respectfully advise hon. Gentlemen that to address the Chair is really very important indeed.
I apologise for my slip, Mr. Bowles. I say that the Opposition have not had due regard to this all-important question.
Is the hon. Member aware that of the district I have the honour to represent two-thirds were covered, in the period to which he refers, with piped water supplies, and that the only reason why the third part was not covered was the advent of war, and that this was done during the period when he says there was no interest in the subject?
I reply to the right hon. Gentleman that one swallow never made a summer. I have the honour to represent one of the largest rural constituencies, and I claim to know what I am talking about. I am talking seriously about this matter, because I am deeply concerned about it.While I am in this House I shall endeavour to see that there is no delay by the Government in bringing about the conditions which I want to see, namely, a pure water supply to every house, farm and school in the country. Are we satisfied that all is being done that might be done? I do not think that all the progress has been made that ought to have been made. It is quite true that some local authorities, unfortunately, have not yet even faced up to the responsibility which is theirs. I know that it is an easy matter to try to place the blame for delay entirely on the Minister, but I feel that the Minister must take a hand in this, and that he must drive the local authorities in those areas much harder than they have been driven in the past. We have to be satisfied that where there is delay on the part of any authority or any individual that delay is removed as early as possible. The number of schemes already carried into effect is comparatively small. Whatever the provisions which have been made from this side of the House, they have only been piecemeal, and I shall not be satisfied until we have a national water supply which will link up all the towns and villages. I am also concerned that village schemes for the supply of water are put into operation without any purification plant and with no one responsible for the standard of the water used and for the difficulties that may arise in the case of an epidemic. With a national water supply and the reservoirs attached to the mains it would be possible to provide a pure water supply for every town and village in the country. May I say in conclusion that this has been an interesting Debate on a subject about which Members on both sides of the House, despite the neglect of the past, are really concerned; but there is one other item to which I would refer in connection with lack of initiative and energy in the past, and that is the failure to provide water conservation in the rivers. We are suffering today from something which should have been tackled many years ago. Britain has all the water during the 12 months which she could possibly need, and yet we find ourselves facing up to a position at the present moment which will probably have extremely serious results for the people of this country during the summer months. Many millions of pounds worth of damage has been caused in the past owing to our failure to evolve a scheme of water conservation which would prevent disastrous flooding, on the one hand, and give us the additional water required during the summer months, on the other. I think that this is a matter which the Government should go into in the immediate future, because it is one of the main problems connected with water supply, and one which should be tackled immediately.
I am very grateful to you, Mr, Bowles, for calling me, because this is the second Debate on rural water supplies which I have sat through. The last time I was not called, and this time I have been called only by the skin of my teeth. I have promised to sit down in five minutes. My constituents regard this matter as only less important than housing, and they will be sorry indeed that the Minister of Health is not here himself to deal with this matter. They would have been equally sorry if they had to listen to the very apologetic speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. It needed to be apologetic, because the progress that has been made has been exceedingly disappointing. I shall not enlarge on that.There are several questions which I must ask the hon. Gentleman. The first has been touched on by many hon. Members but the real question is whether the greatly increased demand for water can be met from the normal water supplies of the country? I want to know—this may sound frivolous but it is serious—whether we really have the water supplies in this country to meet the increased water demand? The Minister of Agriculture last year spoke about the desirability of having water laid on to every field. That is important, but if that is done then an enormous amount of water will be wanted. Are inquiries going on, and have we got the water supplies we need? I will only draw attention to one constituency matter. A large part of my constituency consists of some of the most fertile land in this country which has been reclaimed from the sea. That land has one peculiarity—it has got no water under it except possibly at a very great depth. It has to rely on pipe schemes, and I want to stress the special needs of my constituency and other constituencies like mine which have got land which has been reclaimed from the sea. There are one or two things which can be done to help the general provision of water, and I want to make certain constructive proposals. First of all, the Minister could help if only he would let the local authorities know what grant they will get. No local authority in my constituency anyway knows what grant it is going to get. It may be said, "They ought to go ahead." The representatives on these councils are rightly careful in spending public money. Many schemes have been delayed owing to the fact that the matter has been referred back to the water committee by the council simply on this question of cost and ignorance of the amount of the grant. That is the sort of thing which delays matters and which could be avoided. I would ask the Minister to consider that point, and if he cannot let the councils know exactly what the grant will be he should at least let them know the minimum amount they may expect. I should like to see better co-operation between the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health in this matter of water. To the ordinary countryman it does not matter whether it is Ministry of Health or Ministry of Agriculture water; it is just water. I have known of cases in my constituency where the need is perhaps not sufficient in the opinion of the Ministry of Health nor sufficient in the opinion of the Ministry of Agriculture for a grant, but yet when the two reasons are combined they make a perfectly justifiable case. It has however taken months to get a case like that through. Will the two Ministries try to pull better together? Thirdly, there should be quicker decisions, particularly in small cases, for agricultural water schemes. Some of these very small cases, which cost under £100, have to wait six weeks and longer perhaps for a decision before any start is made. It is perfectly obvious that very little material is to be used, but each of these issues has to go to the Minister to be decided. Could not the county agriculture executive committee give sanction in such cases so that the work could start? Afterwards it could be decided whether the scheme should rank for grant or not. Let the Government speed up the procedure, reduce the amount of work the Ministry have to do, and at the same time help us in the country. Finally, we in the countryside are very disappointed about the smallness of the grant which is estimated for this year. It does not look as if we are going to get what we believe is our right in the coming year. I know that we have to be careful and cut down on capital expenditure. That has been made clear in the Economic Survey for 1949, where water supply is mentioned. In agriculture, the Government have taken power to keep labour on the land. Agriculture is a directed industry under the Control of Engagement Order. Men have to stay on the land. If the Government are to keep men in the countryside possibly against their will, then, I maintain that the Government have an added duty to give to those men that most important countryside amenity, water.
I do not think that anyone can deny that we have had a short but most interesting Debate. It is a pity that we have not been able to have a full day upon the subject, to the regret of many hon. Members who were most desirous to speak, and who could have made very useful contributions. They have necessarily been cut out. I, too, am working under a very strict time-limit, for I have undertaken to give the Minister the time which we originally arranged, which was that we should divide the last half-hour between us. My own share has been slightly cut into already.The Ministry had rather a poor story to tell today. We knew that it would be a poor story because on this occasion the Parliamentary Secretary is both batting and bowling. We know, when he has to carry the heat and burden of the day single-handed, that it is because the Minister feels that it is not the sort of occasion on which he can make one of his fiery and rumbustious speeches, and that it is better that he should leave the matter to be dealt with on a more piano note. The story of the Department was one of very limited output indeed. Hon. Members opposite have tried to defend it on the ground that enough was not done before. I should have thought that was an argument they might have been very chary of using. Water engineering in this country is one of the great glories of the social services of the whole world. An unrivalled amount of water supply was put into force in years before the Labour Party was ever heard of—[An HON. MEMBER: "In urban areas."]—in the urban areas it is true, but the rural areas also were coming under review. [Interruption.] Yes, it is true. When we were building 380,000 houses a year there was a call on water supply which is not present now when the Government have allowed the number to be cut down to 200,000. The Labour Party ought to be very careful about casting animadversions upon the achievements of water engineering, or on any subject connected with the development of the countryside before the war. [Interruption.] Yes, and I know it well, having had to fight the thing through, every time I brought forward a constructive scheme for agriculture. I had to fight it through against the solid hostility of hon. Members opposite. There were constructive schemes for wheat, sugar and milk, and they met the solid hostility of hon. Members opposite. They were all voted against by Labour Members, every single one of them.
Surely there could not have been much of a fight during the 30's in view of the enormous Tory majority in the House of Commons?
What they lacked in numbers they made up in vituperation. The hon. Member must not underestimate the offensive power—to use a technical term—of the small band of hon. Members who sat on these benches before the war. No, hon. Members late converted have come with the zeal of the convert on this matter and are anxious to show that they are now really interested in the countryside. They have had some difficulty in convincing the countryside of that, as the recent local government elections have proved conclusively, but they will have still more difficulty in the countryside if the figures recited tonight by the Minister are to be taken as reason for satisfaction on the part of the Government.What is the Minister's figure? He twitted my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) with using estimates. Well, my hon. Friend was using the Minister's own figure. The Minister gave a figure of the amount actually spent. It was estimated, he said, that for 1949–50 the sum would be something of the order of £357,000. Am I right?
Well, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland gave some figures recently as to what that meant in the way of manpower. He said that a million pounds would be equal to the work of about 3,000 men. The Parliamentary Secretary is preening himself on the expenditure of something of the order of £350,000, that is to say, less than one-third, so that the great effort of the Labour Government towards the solution of this problem is the employment of 1,000 men upon it. Is that what hon. Members are pleased about? Is that what they are proud of? Is this the great banner of reform which they are hoisting in the countryside? The Parliamentary Secretary said there had been steady improvement in the labour supply. Well, I have asked him before, and I hope he will be able to tell us, what is the number of men which he computes are employed on these schemes today? Judging by his figure, it looks as if it were of the order of 1,000 men.Will he answer the other very proper question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham: what is the figure of pipes going into rural domestic schemes and how does it compare with the admitted figure of 5,000 miles of pipes which have been exported in recent years? Hon. Members opposite ask, "Do you wish us to go without our imports?" Not at all, but surely some proportion might be observed, and when we are told that 5,000 miles of water pipe has been exported, we are entitled to ask what is the figure which is going into rural areas as part of that expenditure of £357,000 which the Parliamentary Secretary gave us tonight. These are proper questions, questions which on this night the Minister ought to be able to answer. He is coming before the House of Commons for a vote of money. This is the moment at which the House of Commons asks, "What have you done with the money which you had before? What will you do with this money if we vote it tonight?" It is not enough to say that some great sum of £15 million or £20 million has been made available, or that thousands of pounds worth of schemes have been totalled up as authorisations. These grand totals of authorisations simply describe the length of the authorised queue. We do not estimate the success of a shopkeeper by the number of customers who are unsatisfied, but by the number of customers who are satisfied, and it is not the total authorisations we wish to have, but the figures for work actually being put through, the number of men employed and the amount of material being built in. Those are the figures we ask from the Minister tonight. We also want to know how he expects the development to proceed in the immediate future. He says these graphs will rapidly rise. That may be, but we are entitled to ask for some forecast, some sketch, or projection of the curve, for he must admit that the curve falls lamentably short of the vast sums voted by this House and of some of the extravagant promises made by the Minister. The contention was brought forward by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Tolley) that a clear case has been made out for nationalisation tonight, but I would say that of all things no case has been made out for more paper plans in regard to water. A clear case has been made out for action and more rapid progress, a greater sense of urgency, as hon. and right hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have demanded. Another set of paper plans and proposals to re-organise and another set of excuses due to the fact that a new Act has just been put on the Statute Book and that it is unfair to ask the Government to show results immediately—that is not what the Committee are asking for tonight. The Committee have not refused the Government anything they have asked in the great sums which have been brought forward as necessary to bring these rural schemes to life. The Committee are entitled to ask, as they have voted £20 million in Scotland and £15 million or £20 million in England, how rapid is the progress towards using money already voted? That is what we ask before we are willing to vote the sum which the Minister asks us to vote tonight.
I think it will be agreed that we have had a very useful and interesting Debate on the important and vital question of water supplies in the rural areas. We do not object in any way to the question being raised in the Committee tonight and we are in no way surprised that there has been pressure, from my hon. Friends particularly, to see that there is rapid progress made in all these very important schemes.I do not think there has been any question on either side of the Committee that a very large amount of work has been prepared and that the actual amount of authorisation which is being carried out is far beyond what has been done in the past. The criticism has been rather that, so far as authorisation of works is concerned, progress in the completion of those works has not been as rapid as hon. Members opposite would have desired, in spite of the fact that very much larger sums of money are being made available today for this work than was the case in the past. Hon. Members opposite seem to be a good deal at variance with one another as to whether they would give priorities to water supplies or to other essential work which the Government are undertaking. It is obvious that in this general question of priorities, there must be a proper balance held between a great variety of essential but competing demands. Our criticism of the past is that at a time when those other needs were urgent they were not allowed to become vocal and that, indeed, the urgent needs for electricity, the urgent needs for housing and many other services in the country were not given the opportunity of making their claim upon the resources of the country as they are today. It is quite impossible that we can pick out any one item of all these very important requirements of today and say that that particular issue must be given an overall priority. What we say is that it is certainly right and proper that full attention should be given to the needs of the countryside and water supplies for the countryside and it should be our duty to see that supplies of materials and labour are made available to carry out essential work keeping in mind all the time the other very real needs which are pressing upon us. We can fairly claim that we are now attempting to give much fuller consideration to agricultural needs than was the case before the war. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that we are not giving sufficient attention to wider agricultural needs, but it is just that determination to give consideration to the wider needs of the rural areas and to immediate housing that means that we must give consideration to larger schemes than was the case in the past.
Is attention being paid to horticulture?
In the past schemes for rural water supplies were all too often of a limited character and only provided water for particular areas of parishes, and never or rarely gave consideration to the wider agricultural needs which, as hon. Members have said, demanded much larger supplies of water, and which meant larger schemes requiring the co-operation of many different bodies. That, in turn, inevitably means delay in preparation. We do not deny that a great deal of time has been spent in preparing schemes in order to provide schemes which will be of real value to the countryside instead of concentrating upon large numbers of comparatively limited schemes which would not provide for the larger needs of the farming community as a whole.I have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) for some figures about the position in Wales. The schemes approved for grant in Wales represent a total of some £5 million out of which some 14 schemes have been completed and another 31 schemes are under construction. The cost of the 14 schemes was some £40,000 and the 31 schemes under construction represent a cost of a little over £1 million. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) complained of the length of time needed to get approval for schemes. He suggested that one of the difficulties was that of securing pipes. I repeat what I said earlier, that so far as ordinary lengths of piping are concerned there is no difficulty. The difficulty is to get the bends and sections. With that we have been actively dealing, and we are satisfied that we shall be able to get the supplies which we need.
I waited for three years for lengths of perfectly straight pipes. I do not think that that quite bears out the Parliamentary Secretary's story.
I do not think that is so today.
We cannot get them in Worcestershire. It is absolute nonsense.
The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield went on to refer to the Enborne scheme, and complained that it might provide water for London at the expense of the rural communities in Hampshire and Berkshire. That is a typical case in point. That scheme has not been approved for the very sound reason which the hon. and gallant Member himself advanced, that in a case like this we have carefully to weigh the needs and the position of the rural area that might be affected by a scheme of this magnitude. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks us to give full and fair consideration to the rival claims in a case of that kind, he must not be surprised if approval and authorisation of some of these schemes take some little time. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) asked whether we were giving sufficient attention, in our water schemes, to the question of agriculture as against rural housing. The answer is that we are giving that wider consideration which was so absent in past years.
Is any attention being paid to horticulture?
Certainly. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield also suggested that domestic supplies should be metered. If right hon. and hon. Members opposite are complaining of lack of materials, what would be the effect of a nation-wide scheme of this sort? It seems that Members opposite have suddenly found an interest in rural water supplies which they have never evinced in the past. The benches opposite are rather more crowded now than they were throughout the Debate, but the fact is that there are few Members opposite who take a real interest in this matter. It is only because the party opposite have the hope of showing their flag to the rural electors again before long that they have dared to bring this issue before the Committee tonight. I hope there will be no question that the Committee will willingly await any Division which might be called, so that we can show the country that the Committee is fully behind the Government in their vigorous efforts to bring adequate supplies to the countryside.
The extent of the interest of the Government in rural water supplies may be shown by the fact that the responsible Minister has not bothered to put in an appearance during
Division No. 164.]
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Morrison, Rt. Hon W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Glyn, Sir R.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Birch, Nigel||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Grimston, R. V.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Bowen, R.||Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Haughton, Colonel S. G. (Antrim)||Prescott, Stanley|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J. G.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Renton, D.|
|Byers, Frank||Hope, Lord J.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Chatlen, C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon R. S. (Southport)||Ropner Col. L.|
|Channon, H.||Hutchison, Lt-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hutchison, Col J. R. (Glasgow C.)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col U. (Ludlow)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Keeling, E. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Touche, G. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Turton, R. H.|
|De la Bère, R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Low, A. R. W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Drewe, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||McFarlane, C. S.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Elliot, Lieut-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fox, Sir G.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M.||Maude, J. C.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Gage, C.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Mr. Studholme and|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Burke, W. A.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Albu, A. H.||Callaghan, James||Fairhurst, F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Champion, A. J.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cobb, F. A.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cocks, F. S.||Field, Capt. W. J.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Collick, P.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Balfour, A.||Collins, V. J.||Foot M. M.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T. N.|
|Barton C.||Cooper, G.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Battley, J. R.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Berry, H.||Cove, W. G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Grierson, E.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Daines, P.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Gunter, R. J.|
|Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. W.||Deer, G.||Guy, W. H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pt, Exch'ge)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Delargy, H. J.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Dobbie, W.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Burden, T. W.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Herbison, Miss M.|
the Debate and that the Parliamentary Secretary has not even bothered to answer either of the two simple questions I asked: how much labour is engaged on present schemes and how many pipes are being laid?
I beg to move, "That Item Class V, Vote I, Ministry of Health, be reduced by £5."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 99, Noes, 196.
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Moody, A. S.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Morley, R.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Holman, P.||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Snow, J. W.|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank|
|Houghton, A. L. N. D. (Sowerby)||Nally, W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Noel-Baker, Capt F. E. (Brentford)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W)||Oldfield, W. H.||Swingler, S.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Oliver, G. H.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Orbach, M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N)||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)||Parkin, B. T.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Peart, T. F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Popplewell, E.||Tolley, L.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Keenan, W.||Price, M. Philips||Viant, S. P.|
|Kenyon, C.||Proctor, W. T.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Kinley, J.||Pryde, D. J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Lang, G.||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Ranger, J.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Rankin, J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Reeves, J.||Wigg, George|
|Logan, D. G.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Longden, F.||Rhodes, H.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Lyne, A. W.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|McAdam, W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Willis, E.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Mack, J. D.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Royle, C.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|McLeavy, F.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Woods, G. S.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shurmer, P.||Yates, V. F.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Medland, H. M.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Messer, F.||Simmons, C. J.|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Middleton, Mrs L.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Mr. Pearson and|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Skinnard, F. W.||Mr. George Wallace.|
|Monslow, W.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
Original Question again proposed.
It being after Ten o'Clock and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.
Lords Amendment considered.
Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 39, at end insert New Clause "A" (Provisions as to operation of British Nationality Act, 1948).
(1) A person who—
shall not be deemed to have ceased to be a British subject on the coming into force of that Act unless either—
(2) In relation to persons born before the said sixth day of December in the part of Ireland which now forms the Republic of Ireland, being persons who do not satisfy any of the conditions specified in paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) of subsection (1) of this section, sections twelve and thirteen of the said Act (which relate to citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and to British subjects without citizenship) shall have effect and be deemed always to have had effect as if, in paragraph ( a) of subsection (4) of the said section twelve, the words "or a citizen of Eire" and in subsection (1) of the said section thirteen, the words "or of Eire" were omitted.
(3) So much of the said Act as has the effect of providing that a person is, in specified circumstances, to be treated for the purposes of that Act as having been a British subject immediately before the commencement thereof shall apply also for the purposes of this section.
(4) Nothing in this section affects the position of any person who, on the coming into force of the British Nationality Act, 1948, became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British subject without citizenship apart from the provisions of this section.
I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."I notice a great array of legal talent on the other side of the House, and I have read the criticisms expressed in another place on the legal complications of this Clause. I do not propose to give a legalistic argument in support of it, first, because I am incapable of doing so, and secondly, because, in addition to being legalistic, the issue is also Irish. The object of the new Clause is to repair an omission in the British Nationality Act, 1948. The effect of Section 1 of that Act is that a person who was a British subject and a citizen of Eire on 31st December, 1948, and who did not become a United Kingdom citizen on 1st January, 1949, under Section 12 of the Act, ceased to be a British subject on 1st January, 1949, unless he sent a notice to me under Section 2 of the Act. Under the law of the Irish Republic, a person born in Ireland before 6th December, 1922, is a citizen of Eire if, firstly, he was domiciled in the Irish Free State on 6th December, 1922; or secondly, he was on or after 10th April, 1935, permanently resident in Eire; or thirdly, he had registered as a citizen of Eire. The important date to bear in mind there is 6th December, 1922, for that was the date under which, under an Act of this House, the Irish Free State was constituted, and as constituted on 6th December, 1922, it consisted of the 32 counties with the six counties which now form Northern Ireland having the right to vote themselves out. They did so vote themselves out on 7th December, but on 6th December, 1922, the whole of Ireland, the 32 counties, was the Irish Free State and it was not until 7th December, the next day, the six counties having voted themselves out, that the Irish Free State became confined to the 26 counties. Therefore, the Eire law, by inserting the date 6th December, 1922, and attaching to that the domicile, meant that anybody domiciled inside the island of Ireland on 6th December, 1922, was a citizen of Eire. When the British Nationality Act was passed the United Kingdom did not know that a person who was born in Southern Ireland of a Southern Irish father and on 6th December, 1922, was domiciled in Northern Ireland was regarded as a citizen of Eire under Eire law. They therefore considered that such a person became a United Kingdom citizen on 1st January, 1949, under Section 12 (4) of the British Nationality Act. But the Government of the Irish Republic have now stated that they regard the words "domiciled in the Irish Free State on 6th December, 1922" as meaning domiciled anywhere in Ireland including Northern Ireland, and they support this interpretation by a decision of an Eire court in the year 1933. The new Clause makes it clear that whatever may be the position under Eire law, a person who was born in Southern Ireland of a Southern Irish father, but was domiciled in Northern Ireland on 6th December, 1922, and did not acquire Eire citizenship by residing permanently in Southern Ireland on or after 10th April, 1935, or by registering as an Eire citizen, did not cease to be a British subject on 1st January, 1949, and became on that date a United Kingdom citizen unless he was a citizen or potential citizen of some other Commonwealth country. Subsection (1) of the new Clause declares that the person concerned shall not be deemed to have ceased to be a British subject. Strictly it is not necessary to say this, but the subsection has been inserted in order to meet the suggestion of a former Lord Chancellor that the fact that the person did not cease to be a British subject should appear on the face of the Clause. Subsection (2) secures that the person concerned is a United Kingdom citizen if he is neither a citizen nor a potential citizen of some other Commonwealth country. Subsection (3) secures that the person concerned enjoys the benefit of certain other provisions under the British Nationality Act which provide for treating as having been British subjects on 31st December, 1948, persons who were not, in fact, British subjects on that date. For example, it will ensure that a woman born in Dublin of a Dublin father, who was domiciled in Belfast on 6th December, 1922, and not permanently resident in Southern Ireland on or after 10th April, 1935, or registered as an Eire citizen, and who married a German in 1930 and so lost her British nationality, shall be deemed to have been a British subject on 31st December, 1948, under Section 14 of the Act and, therefore, became a United Kingdom citizen on 1st January, 1949. Subsection (4) is designed to ensure that nothing in the new Clause prejudices the position of a person who, on 1st January, 1949, became, under the provisions of the British Nationality Act, a United Kingdom citizen or a British subject without citizenship. Examples are: a person domiciled in Belfast on 6th December, 1922, who was born in Dublin of a father born in England—that person is a United Kingdom citizen by descent under Section 12 (2) of the British Nationality Act; and a person domiciled in Belfast on 6th December, 1922, who was born in Dublin of a Southern Rhodesian father—that person is a potential citizen of Southern Rhodesia—that is, a British subject without citizenship—under Section 13 (1) of the British Nationality Act. It should be borne in mind that the interpretation given by the Eire court to the Irish Free State does not in any way affect the position of persons born in Northern Ireland or born in Dublin of a Northern Ireland father. Such persons are United Kingdom citizens under Section 12 (1 a) and subsection (2) of that Section of the British Nationality Act. In moving that this House doth agree with the Lords in this Amendment, I have endeavoured to put the matter before the House as clearly as I can, but very distinguished lawyers elsewhere, who had the advantage of hearing the exposition of the joint authors of this Clause, expressed some doubts as to the clarity of the exposition. I have done my best. I hope that the House will accept this Amendment, as one dealing with a very intricate subject, in the spirit in which we conducted the Third Reading Debate of the Measure in this House. We do not desire that any person who desires to remain a British subject shall be deprived of that inestimable privilege by any legalistic considerations. We believe that the words which have been put into this Clause succeed in ensuring that and I earnestly commend the Clause to the House.
I am sure that the legal and the non-legal sections of the House heard with great pleasure the right hon. Gentleman's abjuration of any claims to a legalistic exposition, but so clear was the exposition when it came that I have great pleasure in informing the right hon. Gentleman that if, as I hope, he will soon genuinely be seeking work, a very happy and prosperous future awaits him at the Bar if he turns that way. I think the House will agree that, apart from the difficulties, and apart from the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which reminded me of that almost forgotten sentence of Kipling:
that there is underlying the legal difficulties an important point here. As I see it, it arises from what has been found to be a defect in Section 12 (4) of the British Nationality Act. It does require a little consideration to see how it arose. The governing words there are:"We didn't talk of 'stetrics when the little stranger came,"
Therefore, we have to look, not at our own law, but at the law of Eire in order to discover what is a citizen under that law. Of course, we could have—and if we had had more time at our disposal, we should have—looked at that more closely; but I think the House will forgive the right hon. Gentleman and me if, while attempting to look carefully at all the provisions of our own law, we did not find out every provision of the law of other countries that we had to discuss. Still, the matter has now been carefully considered, and I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble and learned Lords, and especially, if I may say so, to Lord Simon for the careful inquiry he has given to this matter. As I see it, it turns on Article 3 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State, because we are sent back to that by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1935. That says:"… unless he is then a citizen of Eire. …"
I think that the right hon. Gentleman and I and anyone, whether he be lawyer or layman, applying common sense might well have concluded from Article 3 that when different words were used in contradistinction to each other, namely "Ireland" and "the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State," they meant different things. Therefore, it did come as a surprise to me that the Government of the Irish Republic were claiming that they had the same verbal content. Because the last thing that we want to do is to have anyone to believe that we are being legalistic, or taking any advantage of the position, we ought to consider carefully what the position was. The right hon. Gentleman has said—as I believe, correctly—that the critical date is 6th December, 1922. It is correct that under the legislation of that time the area of jurisdiction of the Irish Free State was, in a curious and rather Irish way, the whole area of Ireland, but it was subject to two clear points, namely, that the Free State were not to have any power in that area which was outside the 26 counties, and that the Northern Irish Government were to have the right within one month to opt out of that jurisdiction; so one had the conception of jurisdiction without any power at all and the right to opt out, which was in fact exercised the day after on the 7th. If the House will do me the kindness of approaching my arguments in no legalistic sense but merely on the grounds of common sense, when one has this conception of no power exercisable in the area and that area having the right to opt out within a month, which in fact it exercised within a day, I think that the ordinary man could be forgiven if he considered that the jurisdiction was limited to the 26 counties in contradistinction to Ireland, as I have already explained. That is the foundation of the position and the actual fact that we have to deal with is that when someone who has been born in Ireland and at that time was domiciled in Northern Ireland—that is, permanently settled, if I may paraphrase a difficult word—Northern Ireland being either the place where he had assumed his permanent residence or the place where he intended to remain—if in that sense he was there domiciled and permanently resident on 6th December, 1922, then for all practical intents and purposes and for all the surroundings of his working life he was settled in Northern Ireland, and he was entitled to presume that he would continue to be in the same position as other people in Northern Ireland and therefore to remain a British subject when the occasion for delimitation arose. That is the foundation and the necessity of this Amendment and my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself are glad that His Majesty's present advisers have looked at the reality of the situation and have clarified the position for those in Northern Ireland who were in that position and are therefore affected in the way I have stated. I am sorry to have had to re-traverse, I hope as briefly as possible, the ground which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with so clearly, but I think that in an important matter like this it is right that we should state the reasons for our adherence to this Amendment, and for these reasons I venture to support it tonight."Every person, without distinction of sex, domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State … at the time of the coming into operation of this Constitution who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland who has been ordinarily resident in the area of jurisdiction of the Irish Free State … for not less than seven years. is a citizen of the Irish Free State …"
I think that the Home Secretary made the excuse for one of the most lucid speeches I have ever heard in this House that he was neither a lawyer nor an Irishman. I can only claim half that excuse, but as an Irishman I would like to express thanks for the great thought that was given in another place to this Amendment. It took two days and very great minds—probably the greatest legal minds in the world were brought to bear upon it—and we are very grateful for that. I read in the Press that in another place a noble Lord expressed the view that the only thing he really apprehended was that one who was arguing the point was reeling under a misunderstanding of the whole thing.I would like to express a word of thanks for all the thought brought to bear on a useful Amendment which has been accepted by the Government. The Home Secretary thought fit to cite Dublin and Belfast, but they are not the only places in Ireland—there are Cork and Cullybackey! I hope we shall end this Debate on the note on which we ended the Third Reading—one of harmony and gratitude for all that has been done.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Colonel Haughton) is a brighter boy than I am. I could not find a great deal of lucidity in the speech made by the Home Secretary. I must say also that the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite did not do very much to dispel the almost impenetrable gloom which surrounds me. But we are all in very good company. The Marquess of Salisbury, speaking in another place, said that he thought he understood this Amendment for about two minutes. I think that the noble Lord is about two minutes ahead of me. The second subsection of this Amendment I have not even attempted to decipher. Even such an eminent lawyer as Viscount Simon regards it as a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. At the end of a very hard day in the House of Commons I am in no form for crossword puzzles. The first subsection is more comprehensible, though I do not altogether agree with the Lord Chancellor that it is a plain and simple statement that the ordinary man in the street can read and understand.There is one question I should like to ask. Are there not now some people who are regarded as Irish citizens by the Irish Government and as British citizens by the British Government? For example, take the case of an Irishman who came to this country two or three years ago and has been living here but who did not between 30th July, 1948, and 31st December, 1948, register as a citizen of Eire, as mentioned in subsection (1) (iii). I take it that the Republic of Ireland will still regard that man as one of its own citizens, and according to this Clause we regard him as a British subject. Again, consider the case of a man not covered by the provisions of this Amendment as to Irish birth or Irish domicile, but who is registered as a citizen of Eire due to some claim of parentage under the Irish Citizenship Act, 1935. Here again, he is regarded by the Republic of Ireland as Irish and by the British Government as a subject of this country. Has such a person now a dual nationality? Can he, for example, hold two passports? I hope this question will be answered, perhaps by the Attorney-General. It is all so bewildering for simple people like us. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman does answer, I hope he will give us the reply in plain and simple language, but not in what the Lord Chancellor considers plain and simple language. I hope preferably that he will answer us in monosyllables.