asked the Minister of Agriculture whether there is a Department in his Ministry charged with the duty of investigating new agricultural inventions and to aid the inventors thereof if necessary; whether he is aware that Mr. H. M. Lucy, of 22, Martensen Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool, submitted on the 1st December, 1921, two of his inventions and that two months elapsed without reply, whereupon he wrote to the Ministry again on the 2nd February, 1922, and the Ministry replied on the 7th February stating that one of the inventions, a potato-planting machine, was not a labour-saving device, despite the fact that it would do four separate operations at once, namely, open the furrows (three in number), deposit the sets, thirdly distribute the manure, and fourthly covering the sets, and stated that the general principle and design of the machine had been well thought out, and also suggesting that the inventor could take out a patent; that the Ministry have stated that they were simply investigators and that the Ministry has no funds to aid inventors; and, if so, why such a Department of investigation is maintained?
The Ministry has no funds at its disposal from which grants can be made to inventors. Its Research Branch includes a section which deals with agricultural machinery. The main duty of the section is to promote investigations into general problems connected with agricultural machinery and to conduct demonstrations of improvements; but inquiries from inventors are often received, and information is supplied so far as the limited resources of the Branch permit. With regard to the particular case to which my hon. Friend refers, the Ministry cannot accept as accurate the particulars contained in the question. Mr. Lucy's first letter was written in May, 1921, and correspondence followed A reply to his letter of 1st December was despatched on the 31st of that month explaining that owing to the pressure of other work a full reply could not be sent immediately. In the case of the particular machine to which reference is made Mr. Lucy was not informed that his proposed machine was not a labour-saving device, but his attention was drawn to certain principles of design which should be followed in order to reduce the cost of operating. I may add that considerable trouble was taken to answer Mr. Lucy's inquiries, and that the officer who examined his designs voluntarily devoted a good deal of time after official hours to the purpose.