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FARMERS itJD PARLUMEIIT The following article, reprinted from the Mark Lane Express," is published at the request of the National Farmers' 7 Union to explain iiie position of that body in regard to several current ques- tions of importance. Of course, it does not follow that we agree with all the writer says :— Quite an interesting discussion has taken place in the columns of the Times resulting from the refusal of the agricul- tural labourers' unions to negotiate on the 48 hours question with the landowners, and from the support given by the National Farmers' Union to the view that only organisations composed ex- clusively of employers were competent to negotiate with the workers' organ- I isations. The Chairman of the Central Landowners' Association and the Chair- man of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture have taken up the cudgels in behalf of their respective bodies, and Mr Rowland R. Robbins. Chairman of the Union's Labour Com- mittee, has written an effective rejoinder. He stated that since last Monday we (i.e., the National Farmers' Union) have been in communication with the Irish Farmers' Union, and they are in j complete agreement with the Scottish and English Unions upon the point at issue. Mr Robbins went on to quote some very cogent facts for the consideration of i Lord Selborne and his colleagues. Whenever a dispute arises in con- nection with the hours of employment or 1 wages of farm servants," he points out, it is the invariable custom of the Government Department concerned, when advised of the matter, to communicate only with the fawners' unions and the workers' unions. These organisations have set up in each county machinery to I deal with labour matters, and are, I believe, the only organisations which have done so. The Government have recently been engaged in forming Con- ciliation Committees for every county in England and Wales, and it is to the Farmers' Union that they have turned for assistance in the matter, so far as the representation of employers is concerned. As far as one is aware, no protest has ever been made by these other organ- isations against the farmers' and the workers' unions being asked to alone undertake this work. It is the more difficult to understand, therefore, why objection should be taken to these same bodies dealing with the question as to whether agricultural labourers should or should not come within the scope of the Hours of Employment Bill No. 2." These facts appear completely to vin" dicate the action of the National Farmers' Union, and afford a weighty argument for the consideration of those farmers 11' who have not yet appreciated the vital necessity of joining the organisation which can best espouse and safeguard their interests. There is, however, another feature of the discussion to I which we wish to direct attention. In the Press of November 27 there appeared I the following cryptic announcement :— At a meeting of the Executive Com- mittee of the House of Commons Agricultural Committee last night the following resolution was unanimously adopted, on the motion of Major Wheeler, seconded by Mr Mount :— That in the opinion of this Committee the claim of the National Farmers' Union to be the sole representatives of employers of rural labour is untenable, I and takes no account of the other interests concerned. This resolution, it was explained, is understood I to relate to the negotiations in progress at the present time on the question of the inclusion of agricul- tural labourers in the forty-eight hour week Bill. It is to be placed on the agenda for the meeting of the main Agricultural Committee at the House of Commons next week, and is certain to I give rise to an interesting discussion." ) We can only express the hope that a report of the discussion may be publish- i ed" and that the speeches may prove to I have been concerned with the claim of the JNational farmers Union as it was really presented, and not as the Executive of the House of Commons Agricultural Committee imagine it to have been. The misrepre- sentation of the Union's attitude in the resolution makes it evident that the members of the Committee are much more concerned to study "the other interests concerned" than to do justice to the farmers' organisation-a deplor- able attitude, in all conscience. Had there been even one spokesman of the Union in the House of Commons, the resolution would not have been passed unanimously nor without protest against its biased and misleading terms. This attack on the Farmers' Union by the Agricultural Committee recalls to mind a speech made at Lincoln by the Committee's Chairman, Capt. the Hon. E. A. Fitzroy, M.P. On that occasion he delivered himself of the following gratuitous piece of advice t— "Might he say one word in regard to the Farmers' Union ? The Farmers' Union, he considered, had wasted a good deal of effort to get what they called direct parliamentary representation. If he might give them a word of advice, he would recommend farmers at this moment, when agriculture was at the parting of the ways, when every effort should be concentrated on increasing production, and to make the industry in the future a great and flourishing qpneern, instead of frittering away their resources on this matter of direct parliamentary >-
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representation, to support those who < were working in their interests in the House of Commons at the present time." Reading these words in conjunction with the resolution we have quoted, the task of discerning the attitude of the House of Commons Agricultural Com- mittee towards the tenant farmers ceases to present any difficulty. It may be summarised thus "You get on with producing crops you cannot represent your own interests, but we will do it for you." Capt. Fitzroy's conception of working in the interests of the farmers may be gleaned from his speech on the second reading of the Agriculture (Councils, etc.) Bill, when he pleaded for the adequate representation of urban districts on the Agricultural Councils (after the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture had declared that the representation of these districts as originally proposed must be cut down), and when he condemned the "bad system" of "stereotyping, as it were, the different classes who would be represented on these Councils. We have examples of it in the Agricultural Wages Board and the Agricultural Royal Commission. You have laid down that there shall be so many representa- tives of labour and in the same way representatives of employers." Such a system may tend to diminish the sense of authority of Capt. Fitzroy and those who think and act with him, but we venture to believe that it is not to be condemned on that account. We do not suppose that Capt. Fitzroy's special pleading will weigh much with the leaders of the National Farmers' Union, to whom it is bound to appear, in the literal meaning of the word, an im- pertinence. The whole trend of political events, coupled with the performances of the House of Commons Agricultural Committee, justifies the Union in persist- invn their efforts to secure direct representation in the House, and it is, we are convinced, unlikely in the last degree that open hostility to the Union on the part of the Committee will do otherwise than constitute an added justification of the Union's policy. Far- mers realise full well their responsibilities in regard to increased production, and they are perfectly capable of assisting in the framing of a policy designed to secure such increase. They are also capable of expressing their objections to proposals which would tend to restrict output. As an instance of the latter, we may quote the case which they put before the Agricultural Committee against the inclusion of agriculture in the scope of the forty-eight hours Bill. We suggest that a realisation of these facts and their bearing upon the point at issue might be profitable to Captain Fitzroy and his colleagues.