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been on the land before, were employed in two batches, each working for only half a day and paid 4d. an hour. The work was very rapidly done, and at no greater cost to the farmer than in previous years when men had been employed. Although thousands of women drawn from all classes are working as hard as they can-some, indeed, probably much too hardthere remain many women who are doing little or nothing in the way of actual work. This is by no means always their fault. Old-fashioned prejudices which have limited in the past the range of women's work are still operative and prevent patriotic women from doing work which they would gladly undertake.

Beyond this is the question of wages. Agricultural work is exhausting and often unpleasant. Therefore, if women are to be attracted to it they ought to be offered a decent wage. But there is no point on which the average English farmer is so emphatic as in his dislike to any departure from the custom which condemns agricultural labourers to receive lower wages than almost any other class in the community. Even those farmers who have been forced by economic pressure to raise the wages of the men they employ, still boggle at paying a moderate wage to women. Admittedly for most farm work women are inferior to men ; but there are certain forms of farm work, such as milking, which in the judgment of many farmers can be better done by women than by men. Yet a farmer, who will frankly admit the excellence of his women milkers, is content to pay them 145. a week for seven full days' work. Simultaneously, the Government is offering to any kind of girl clerical work in London at a minimum of 255. a week, plus overtime payments and easy-going discipline. In passing it may be remarked that the country has not yet realised the enormous waste of public money and female energy daily going on in the gigantic hotels which the Government has taken over for the use of the multitudinous new bureaucracies which it is building up. It would be far better if many of the girls now playing at clerical work in these great offices were employed instead upon the land. But it is unfair to expect young women to undertake heavy farm work under unpleasant conditions for the miserable wages now offered.

Unfortunately the late Government by fixing a maximum price for milk has provided farmers with an excuse for continuing to offer low wages to women employed in the dairy industry, with the result that the necessary labour is not forthcoming. The milk industry is one of the most important of our home industries, and there is no reason in the nature of things why it should not be conducted on such lines as will enable it to pay adequate wages to the persons employed. Neither in peace time nor in war time is it just to ask women to work for 25. a day in the cowshed in order that other women employed in factory or office at double or treble that wage may be able to buy cheap milk. The real difficulty in this case arises with the children of the very poor who suffer if they cannot be supplied with a sufficiency of fresh milk. Here again we come back to the problem of poverty. In passing it may be remarked that so far as farm wages rise they tend to force up the wages of other underpaid classes in the community. But such tendencies may work very slowly. In the meantime the problem of supplying cheap milk to the children of the very poor has to be faced, and probably the best way of dealing with it is by authorising the local authorities to supply milk to necessitous families at a reduced price, the difference being met out of rates. The essential point is to do nothing arbitrarily to depress prices. Not only does the producer of milk require an increased margin of profit in order to meet the necessity for raising farm wages, but the price of all feeding stuffs is rising rapidly, and if the farmer cannot pay the increased prices he will not get the feeding stuffs. Already indeed as a reply to the fixing of milk prices and the proposed fixing of prices for other home-grown food the farmers are demanding that the prices of feeding stuffs and fertilisers should also be fixed. In the case of imported commodities this is impossibleunless the Government is to constitute itself the sole importer, and after buying outside at the top market price is to sell at home at a loss.

This indeed is what the French Government has done in the case of wheat. In order to keep down the price of bread, maximum prices were fixed for home-grown wheat, with the result that some farmers used wheat for feeding their stock, others grew less wheat than before, while the additional wheat required for the consumption of the French people has had to be imported by the French Government and sold at a heavy loss. Socialists in this country, who contrast the steady price of bread in France with the rise here, are probably

unaware that the simple explanation of the phenomenon is that the French taxpayer is subsidising the French bread-eater. It may be legitimate, as urged above, that the very poor should be helped in the present grave emergency with a subsidy to enable them to cope with war prices ; but it is sheer folly for the State to supply the rich and the well-to-do with bread below cost price. In the present condition of French finance this piece of political eye-wash makes a heavy addition to the burden of debt which will rest upon future generations of Frenchmen.

Unfortunately there is reason to fear that the new Government of the United Kingdom is inclined to proceed along a similar path. The most important proposal yet made by Mr. Prothero, the new Minister of Agriculture, is that the State should buy up all wheat grown in the United Kingdom in the current year at the fixed price of 6os. a quarter for wheat of a specified standard. A similar bargain is offered to British and Irish farmers for the oats and potatoes they grow. It may be said at once that this proposal is at any rate better than a crude fixing of maximum prices. There is indeed no necessary conflict between such a proposal and the law of supply and demand. In its essence this scheme is a gigantic speculation by the State with the money and credit of the nation. It may turn out well ; it may turn out badly. But already the terms of the proposed bargain have been subjected to very serious criticism. At the very time when Mr. Prothero is offering 6os. a quarter for wheat grown in the coming harvest, wheat is selling in the market at 80s. Many farmers have already expressed with emphasis their opinion that the offer is not good enough. In particular it is pointed out that though 6os. would doubtless be a profitable price on good wheat land it will not suffice to recoup the farmer in one year for the cost of breaking up new land. From this point of view there is much more to be said in favour of the scheme, attributed to the committee appointed by the late Government, that the State should guarantee to British and Irish farmers a price of 45s. for five years. Similar criticisms are made of the terms offered for oats and potatoes. In the case of potatoes it is argued by farmers that the price offered by the Government will hardly cover the cost of seed. Such criticisms are inevitable the moment the Government enters into the market as a speculator.

Nor, even if tre farmers of the United Kingdom were satisfied with the terms of the proposed bargain, is the problem of our daily bread solved We import at present about four-fiths ci der wheat The utmost exertions of our farmers in the current rear will hardly decrease that proportion below three-fifths, and even if so much is accomplished it will be partly at the cost of a reduced home production of meat and milk. There remains the vast stock of wheat we must import

-three-fifths, or for simplicity let us say half our consumption. At what price is that to be imported ? Doubtless the Board of Agriculture has looked ahead and tried to make satisfactory bargains with Canadian and other farmers abroad, but so far as these bargains tend to depress prices, they have the very effect which a wise Government would above all things avoid

- they check supply. The very best means of assuring the food supply of the United Kingdom in the difficult months that lie ahead of us is to allow prices to soar as high as they will so that the whole world will be tempted to grow as much wheat as possible and to risk the new perils of the deep in order to bring it to our shores.

This does not mean that the Government can do nothing. It can do, and already is doing, much. The scheme of the Board of Agriculture for hiring out motor tractors to farmers is an admirable example of State enterprise, and offers great possibilities of a reduction in the cost of tillage. Much also can be done by the Government to help farmers by organising the employment of German prisoners and of British soldiers not immediately wanted by the Army. In addition the Board of Agriculture can through its influence and organisation greatly facilitate the employment of more women upon the land. That Board can also with the aid of parliament take measures for preventing the destruction of good food caused by foxes and pheasants and other beasts and birds who are allowed to multiply for the sake of sport. If, while taking such measures as these to increase the supply of home-grown food, the Government, by means of heavy taxation, cuts down the demand both for food and for other commodities that use up labour or tonnage, it can greatly help the nation to surmount the coming crisis.

No. 460 will be published in April.

The Edinburgh Review

APRIL, 1917

No. 460


I. Dominions Royal Commission : Final Report. Chapter 8:

Migration.' 1917. 2. The After-War Settlement and Employment of Ex-Service Men

in the Oversea Dominions. Report to the Royal Colonial

Institute by Sir RIDER HAGGARD. 1916. 3. Report of the Conference of the Australian Governments on the

Settlement of Returned Soldiers. Melbourne. 1916. 4. Official Report of the Emigration Conference of the Royal

Colonial Institute. 1910. 5. An Untamed Territory: the Northern Territory of Australia.


THE report of the Dominions Royal Commission on

1 migration within the Empire summarises and in some respects controverts the conclusions which have been arrived at by those who have examined the question afresh during the last ten, and more particularly during the last two years. It is an authoritative examination of a problem which can, from its nature, never be finally solved ; and its value lies less perhaps in the actual recommendations—many of which have in fact been anticipated by expert opinion-than in the collection of a body of evidence and detailed statistics which furnish the basis for its conclusions. This evidence, it is true, deals almost entirely with the position as it was before the

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