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Ministry Of Agriculture And Fisheries

Volume 320: debated on Monday 22 February 1937

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £25,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants and grants in aid in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and fishery research; and grants, grants in aid, and expenses in respect of improvement of breeding, etc., of livestock, land settlement, improvement of cultivation, drainage, etc., regulation of agricultural wages, agricultural credits, and marketing, fishery development; and sundry other services."

10.12 p.m.

This sum of £25,900 is arrived at as follows: There is additional expenditure under various sub-heads amounting to £87,900 and savings under other sub-heads of £76,900, leaving a net charge of £11,000. There has been a shortage of receipts from appropriations-in-aid of £14,900, making the net total required of £25,900. I shall deal with a number of the matters covered by this Vote and I shall be glad to answer any questions that may be asked. Under Sub-head G.3.—"Agricultural Education,"—there is a small sum of £750 for grants-in-aid of annual expenditure of colleges and institutions. The Committee may be interested to know that the whole question of veterinary education is being investigated by a committee, and until it has reported we shall not properly know what are the requirements for the future conduct of this vital part of agricultural education. This sum is for the maintenance of the Veterinary College as it is at present, pending the receipt of the report of the committee and a detailed scheme of veterinary education.

With regard to sub-head H.1, which covers grants for diseases of animals, the additional sum of £48,300 includes £40,000 on grants for compensation in respect of foot and mouth disease. That is a very difficult item to estimate, and our experience last year would indicate what that difficulty is. There were no outbreaks at all during the first five months of the financial year, but between 1st September and the date of the submission of the Estimate there were 65 outbreaks. In this case we are estimating for expenditure in this year on any outbreaks which may occur before 31st March. On the item with regard to cattle slaughtered under the Tuberculosis Orders there has been an increase which is due to two factors. One is the increasing vigilance of the local authorities and the farmers in reporting disease in their herds and making use of the provisions for its elimination. That is a healthy symptom. The other is that in many cases animals are being condemned at an earlier age when they are normally more valuable, and that also may be taken as a healthy symptom, showing that both farmers and local authorities are taking their duties seriously in this matter and are making progress in dealing with this vital problem of cleaning up our herds.

With regard to land drainage the increased sum now asked for arises chiefly in this way, that whereas provision was made on the basis of existing schemes of catchment boards, either by way of loan or by way of grant, recently an increasing number of catchment boards have asked us to assist them by direct grants, paying the expenses of their works out of revenue and not upon loan. That leads to an apparently increased expenditure, which in the long run is not a real increase at all. With regard to the item under subhead L.2 relating to the Agriculture Credits Act, 1923, I would remind the Committee that under that Act and the regulations framed thereunder, borrowers were enabled to pay back what they had borrowed at any time without paying the fine which is customary in these cases for paying back too promptly.

Do I understand the Minister to say that the regulations under which private borrowers repay to the Public Works Loans Commissioners were fixed under the Agricultural Credits Act?

Provision was made in the Act as to the method by which repayments were normally to be made, but this particular Act was passed just after the Corn Production Act was repealed, when many farmers had bought their land; with the idea that that legislation was to be permanent, and it was in those peculiar circumstances that the regulation was made to enable the borrower to repay at any time without the customary fine. The same regulation provided for charging any loss of the Public Works Loans Commissioners to the agricultural Vote and that is the subject which now appears on the Estimate. I shall be glad to answer any question which any hon. Member cares to ask about these items, each of which is relatively small in amount, though they constitute the total I have indicated.

10.19 p.m.

I should like to know the Treasury Minute under which private borrowers under the Agricultural Credits Act are treated more favourably than local authorities. If local authorities wish to repay the Public Works Loans Commissioners prematurely, they have to pay a very stiff premium in certain cases, but private borrowers under the Agricultural Credits Act are allowed to repay the bare amount of their indebtedness, without any premium. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But this item on the Estimate is part of the amount found by the Treasury in order to compensate the Commissioners, and these borrowers, as I say, are entitled to repay at any time without making any compensation at all. Farmers are bad borrowers, and the losses are so heavy that the Treasury are only too glad to get their money back at any price, but there are certain cases where the loans are adequately secured, and I see no particular reason why the Treasury Minute should apply to all private borrowers, irrespective of the security. I think it is perfectly good policy for the Treasury to say, if there is a loan inadequate in security, "We will get that money back if we can," but where the loan is fully secured, I see no reason why the farmer should be entitled to repay his money without premium, thereby throwing a very definite and heavy loss on the Treasury. Why does not the Treasury Minute stipulate that where a loan is paid back, if there is adequate security, the farmer shall pay his premium, and that only where there is not sufficient security, the money should be repaid without the premium?

10.22 p.m.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the result of the National Stud. The excess of receipts over payments in connection with the National Stud is £3,000, and that is a very different tale from the results which we had two or three years ago, when the National Stud was almost dormant. The only thing that I would like to suggest is that the National Stud, being situated in the Irish Free State, is not doing its full job and that it would do very much better if situated in this country. I understand that there are some legal difficulties in the way of transferring to this country, and I should like to ask the Minister whether that is the case. If it is not the case, I would like to suggest that there are much better and much more useful areas for promoting British bloodstock—

The hon. and gallant Member cannot, I think, discuss the National Stud on this Vote.

I think it appears on page 17, Sir Malcolm. I only want to point out that I would like to see it transferred to this country, and there is, in my opinion, no more suitable site in this country for the headquarters of the National Stud than Newmarket.

10.24 p.m.

There are two points about which I would like to ask information on this Vote. The Minister must realise as well as any Member of this Committee that the situation of agriculture is a very grave one. I see that he anticipates a saving in salaries of £31,700, and I should like to have an explanation why there are these salary savings. Where research is so essential, not only in connection with foot-and-mouth disease, but also in connection with epizootic abortion and other diseases of livestock, how is it that these savings in salaries are effected? The item G.5 raises the question of agricultural research grants. The Government are proposing to make a saving of £21,500 on this Vote. After the speeches lately made by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, I do not think it is reasonable to suggest saving on agricultural research grants. Before this Vote is passed the Minister should, I suggest, give us some explanation of why, when so much attention has been paid by this Committee to agriculture in the scheme of National Defence, he proposes to make savings in salaries and research grants.

10.26 p.m.

There are one or two matters on which, I think, we might have fuller information. I understood the Minister to say that the additional sum of £750 was due to further grants made to the Royal Veterinary College. I welcome the expenditure in connection with that College, and I should like the Minister to give us a fuller statement as to facilities for education and progress in the erection of the building. Further, I would remind him and the Committee that that very eminent and distinguished veterinary surgeon, Sir Frederick Hobday, has recently left that College, and that another distinguished professor, I think from Cambridge or Oxford, has been appointed. I should like him to explain why Sir Frederick Hobday was removed just at this stage, after he had devoted many years of successful effort to the creation of this new College. There was a good deal of public controversy at the time of his supposed resignation, and I should like to know whether the Government had anything to do with his resignation, or his dismissal—I think his resignation—whether they implemented it in any way, and whether the gentleman who has followed him is as competent as Sir Frederick Hobday proved himself to be. The Minister referred to the constant outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and the very lareg expenditure of money incurred in consequence. At the same time, as the hon. Member for Banff (Sir J. Findlay) has indicated, they are priding themselves upon saving £21,500 on research. I should like to know what measure of research is going on into foot-and-mouth disease, and whether we are likely to overcome the disease, to achieve our aim to secure its ultimate suppression. Perhaps the Minister will explain why we are saving money on research while at the same time spending an increased sum of money on foot-and-mouth disease.

Then there is the question of land drainage. I think we are entitled to know what schemes have been put forward by the catchment boards. In the Bentley area of my own Division of Doncaster there have been two serious floodings—not during the lifetime of this Parliament—and there is great anxiety among the people in Bentley as to whether there will be another flood, particularly having regard to the continuance of rain and of flooding taking place in the country. I understand, for instance, that the Ouse Catchment Board have erected some barrier, but I should like to know whether the Minister is confident that that barrier is sufficient to prevent further flooding of my constituents in the Bentley area. If it is not, what is the use of paying further grants to catchment boards who are not fulfilling the original intentions of Parliament and of the Act of 1930? If the Minister will answer my questions, to the satisfaction of myself and of those who sit behind me, perhaps he will get away with his Vote without a Division.

10.32 p.m.

I would ask the Minister two questions in reference to the Land Drainage Act. Has he had any general complaint with regard to the incidence of the drainage rates? In the Division which I represent, and particularly in the town of Sheerness, there has been a great deal of indignation about the amount of the rate. From investigation which I have made I believe that that resentment is well founded. I have taken the liberty of communicating with the Minister on the subject, but it is seldom that one has an opportunity of raising such a matter on the Floor of the House. I should be glad if the Minister would answer my question, and if he will say also whether he can give me information as to any change likely to be made in the incidence of the rates upon the ratepayers of Sheerness. The town is not by any means rich, in a material sense, and the rate is very heavy upon the poor people. I believe it should not be levied. It may be that my questions are very much upon the borderline of being out of order, and if so, I thank you, Sir Malcolm, for your consideration.

10.34 p.m.

A question I would put to the Minister in regard to drainage rates is in relation to the Special Areas. They were told that the Government would allow 75 per cent., but it is impossible for a distressed area to find the further 25 per cent., when public assistance is costing approximately 9s. in the pound as against an average for the rest of the country of less than 3s. Is it not possible to stretch a point in the case of the distressed areas and to give the full grant, so as to enable work to be found for the unemployed? I think that the Minister will agree that there has been a terrific amount of flooding this winter, and it is particularly hard upon the distressed areas that they cannot be given a grant to enable them to find work for their unemployed.

10.35 p.m.

I want to ask the Minister for information about the savings upon research grants. There is a saving of £21,500 under Sub-head G.5, and a saving of £2,200 under G.6, both for research. The other night the Minister brought in a Money Resolution asking for a sum of money for research into the diseases of fish. Now he comes, almost at one and the same time, intimating that he cannot spend the money he has got for research in these Departments. He is asking us to vote more money—the Minister shakes his head; if he will rise and explain to me, I will conclude at once. I understand that his is the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and I notice that among the appropriations-in-aid here he has one from the whaling industry. He is drawing £1,100 from whales. Surely the man who is looking after whales can also look after salmon. At the time he brought in his Money Resolution about the blisters on salmon, I asked him why this could not be done in the routine work of his Department, which, as I understand it, deals with agriculture and with fisheries, both sea and freshwater. I imagined that he had perhaps exhausted all the money he had for research. But now I find, from this Supplementary Estimate, that he has something like £23,000 in hand, and I want to know from him why he is saving this money here and putting the House to the trouble of passing new money to him, and, indeed, of passing new legislation, when we have already enough in hand.

10.38 p.m.

If I were able to influence the Committee, personally I would not give the Minister any more money at all, because the administration of land drainage is nothing short of a scandal. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton) spoke about the whaling industry, but industry in some of the flooded parts of England is becoming a weeping and wailing industry, owing to constant and ever-recurring flooding. As you, Sir Malcolm, have allowed an allusion to be made to an area which is particularly affected, namely, Sheerness, perhaps I might also briefly refer to another district that is particularly affected—the Isle of Axholme. On previous occasions we have urged the Ministry of Agriculture to get a move on in order to take the fullest possible advantage of the 1930 Act, and to give grants of an adequate character to remove some of the injustice of heavy rating in these drainage areas. I can tell the Committee of a particular case which shows the need for action. In the Hatfield Chase area, a certain farmer whom I know rented a farm. He rented it from Hatfield Chase. Finally he bought it, and he now pays more in drainage rates than he paid in rent when he rented it, before he became the owner of the farm. In the Isle of Axholme, an important area, it is nothing less than a scandal that the work has not been done. Land is flooded, and time out of mind the attention of the Minister has been drawn to it both by letters and by interviews, definite promises have been made that relief would be given in some of these areas that are so heavily hit, but no relief of a character that is useful to them has yet been given.

In one area, only about the width of this House, on that side there is a heavy drainage rate and on this side none whatever; on that side a jam factory and on this a brewery. The jam factory pays a very heavy drainage rate, the brewery escapes without paying a halfpenny. The Ministry is well acquainted with every detail but has not taken a step to remedy that grave injustice in that little place. When you suggest new legislation, they say it is a matter of administration and, when you suggest that it should be remedied by administration, they say, "We are looking into it." Meanwhile these people are being summoned and are being called upon to pay tremendous rates, and in some areas there is no land drainage at all. In some of these areas the overlapping authorities have no income and cannot carry out their duties. The benefits that ought to have been conferred upon agricultural land by the 1930 Act have been largely discounted because the grants have not been adequate.

10.42 p.m.

I should like to endorse the hon. Member's criticism. I noticed that when he termed the land drainage of the country scandalous he received the endorsement of hon. Members behind him. I should like to remind them that the scandalous position of land drainage is clue to the Socialist party's Act of 1931.

10.43 p.m.

I should like to reinforce what has been said with regard to this land drainage problem. I was instrumental in bringing to the Minister's predecessor a deputation from the House on the whole problem of the cost of drainage. We were armed on that occasion with data which to the most casual eye seemed quite invincible and should have convinced any Minister of the urgency of the task lying ahead and the unfairness of the costs as they were apportioned between the cities and the county areas. The Minister received us very nicely and said he was very sympathetic and, with a very fixed stare at me, he said, "Look here, how am I, as Minister of Agriculture, to go back to Scotland to the distressed agriculturists and the distressed areas of Glasgow and tell them that we are going to put a general tax on them so that we can give a subvention to some drainage scheme down in the South of England?" He did not meet the figures that I gave. I will repeat them, because I want the present holder of the office to face the difficulty.

May I give the figures of the Trent Catchment Area, because the other catchment areas have been given already? Doncaster has always been very keen to look after itself. The other catchment areas agreed generally to stand together and to fight for the general relief of land, but I am bound to say that Doncaster did not altogether play the straight game. They went outside for little advantages of their own. I will give the Trent Catchment figures. The area of the Trent Catchment is also 2,750,000 acres. The estimated expenditure upon the scheme in the Trent Catchment area, less Government grant of 30 per cent., is £1,564,000, or 12s. 1½d. per acre, and the aggregate contribution from the county boroughs of the Trent Catchment area is £944,253, or £5 4s. 11d. per acre. The contributions from the county councils in the catchment area are £620,597 or 5s. 3d. per acre. The county boroughs in the Trent Catchment area, therefore, contri- bute £20 5s. 4d. for every pound contributed by the county councils. These figures show that the main cost of these drainage schemes is largely imposed upon the thickly populated city areas. In the Trent Catchment area alone, if you take Birmingham, the annual contribution towards the drainage scheme runs into thousands of pounds, whereas Birmingham really gains no advantage out of the drainage scheme at all. The advantages of much of the drainage work redounds to the credit of the agricultural areas.

In my own area of Stoke-on-Trent we have to contribute annually a large sum towards the drainage scheme of the Trent area, and we practically get no advantage from it whatever. The costs are pooled for the whole area, and farming land that would otherwise be under water is drained and the major cost of these undertakings is thrown upon the thickly populated areas of the cities. I should be out of order to suggest remedies, but I want to be quite frank and say that the proposals which I have heard made as to what would be the way out of the difficulty have, I can assure the Committee, not altogether met with my approval. There is the difficulty of the low land and the high land, as to who should pay the most; whether the man on the low land should pay more than the man on the high land, and whether the man on the high land should pay more than the man on the low land. I have a shrewd suspicion that to arrive at the proportion of contribution to be made in each case would be to find out who is the person who gains most by the drainage, or, to put it in a negative way, what would happen to a certain holding of land if no drainage were carried out?

I think that that is really a question for the main Estimate, and not for the Supplementary Estimate.

That is what I say. I was merely suggesting that the methods adopted so far do not meet with my approval. I was going to tell the Committee what I might have said in other circumstances, but I have said enough to hint at that. Here is the point which I want to put to the Minister. He has come here for the first time, and I congratulate him in more ways than one, because he has come into a frightful heritage. His predecessor has simply thrown about his neck problems which will require the stamina of an enormous fellow to attempt to solve. I want him to meet another deputation. But enough has been said to indicate to any new holder of the office that he has a problem to face here and that he has much to straighten out. I hope that in his reply he will tell us something more of the complaints that have been submitted to him, and what proposals, if any, are in the minds of the Ministry as to how these disproportionate charges are to met, or indeed if there is any programme to meet them.

10.51 p.m.

I want to ask the Minister of Agriculture one question about the poultry industry, and I think that you will find that I am not out of order in the manner in which I endeavour to raise this particular question. There are in the anticipated savings, B, G.2, G.4 and G.5, savings in travelling expenses, agricultural education grants and agricultural research expenses. It is within the knowledge of all Members of the Committee that the poultry industry is in a very desperate state at the present time, and I feel that it would be the wish of the Committee that none of the moneys saved under these particular sub-heads is saved in respect of education, research or travelling expenses in respect of the duties in looking after the poultry industry carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture. If we could have this assurance it would give us some measure of content in respect of the greater feeling of misgiving that we have for the future of the poultry industry. If we could feel that the Minister has not saved one penny under these sub-heads, that the saving for research is not a saving in respect of the amount of feeding stuffs that can be fed to a chicken in order that it shall lay more eggs, if we can be assured that the minimum amount of food required by a chicken is being investigated by the Ministry of Agriculture without any effort to save on the moneys granted by Parliament, then I feel that the Ministry of Agriculture in respect of the great chicken problem will have a greater degree of confidence on the part of hon. Members than before.

10.53 p.m.

I should like to support the hon. Member in regard to the matter of research in the poultry industry. I would go as far as to say that one of the main problems before the industry to-day is the fact that certain diseases are liable to be rampant at certain times of the year more than was the case, and there is evidence that the general stamina of the flocks in this country is not what it was a few years ago. For a number of reasons I venture to think that the time has come when the research institutions should look more deeply than they have hitherto into the whole question of the method of keeping poultry. I would like to support those who in this discussion have called attention to the fact that there is money saved here apparently on research, and to express the wish that the Minister will in future devote more money to research in the poultry industry.

I would like to refer to one other point. I could not quite understand what he said in regard to the grant for veterinary research. Some years ago the Veterinary College at Camden Hill came to an end. Now I understand that there is no central research station in this country for veterinary work. At Cambridge and other universities they have research stations where veterinary work is being done. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to what purpose the £750 is going? I could not gather what proportion was for veterinary work and what proportion for other work. What kind of institution is envisaged in the near future, and what plans are being thought out for the purpose of improving our work in veterinary surgery?

10.56 p.m.

I should like to support the plea made so vigorously by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour), whom I congratulate on his ingenuity in keeping within the bounds of order. His plea was supported by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), who, I know, is very sympathetic to agriculture but whose party associations perhaps prevent him from giving to us that support on agricultural matters which we should like. We desire the National Government to do even more for agriculture than they have already done. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet drew attention to several sub-heads in the Vote and asked my right hon. Friend to give an assurance that he was not effecting these savings in such a way as to make more hard the lot of those who are suffering through the crisis in the poultry industry. I hope that I am well within the bounds of order in saying these few words, and in supporting the plea made by my hon. and gallant Friend. It is the first time that I have had the opportunity of intervening on any agricultural matter since my right hon. Friend was appointed to his present position, and I shall he very interested to hear what he has to say.

10.58 p.m.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) asked for the date of the Treasury Minute. I am sorry that I cannot give him the exact date, but I will inquire, if it is a matter of importance to him. The first repayment under the Act was in 1930. I cannot allow to pass unchallenged his statement that farmers are a bad lot.

I think the hon. Member used the term "bad lot." If he says that they are bad payers, I would point out that if that were so there would be no need for this Supplementary Estimate, which is simply to meet charges because a certain number of farmers have paid their debts to the State before the clue date. Several hon. Members stressed what they thought was some constriction of the provision for research. The Committee ought to be reassured on this point. There is no doubt that agriculture presents many problems wherein research is required. The bulk of the expenditure which is chargeable under this head is recoverable from the Development Fund. The saving of £22,400 arises from the postponement of certain capital charges which have not become payable. For example, part of the sum is for additional land for the Veterinary Laboratory which has not become payable, and will have to be re-voted next year.

Can the Minister tell us why? Have there been any difficulties in this matter?

Provision was made for buying additional land for the Veterinary Laboratory in the financial year, but other factors have meant that it has not been possible to proceed with this work this year, and the money will have to be re-voted. The provision was made in case the negotiations went through in the present financial year, but as this has not been the case, the sum will have to be re-voted. I can assure the Committee that these savings on capital expenditure are due in some cases to the estimates which were made for capital expenditure which had not fallen due. The saving of £22,400 is partly off-set by an excess of £900 on the provision for special research work. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked why if there was this excess for agricultural research work in this financial year, it was necessary to provide a sum of £600 or £700 for research work under the Diseases of Fish Bill. The answer is that the Fish Bill is not yet through Parliament.

My point was why was that legislation needed for a bit of research work which I imagined would have been the routine work of the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

The provision in the Fish Bill for £600 was to meet expenditure in the coming financial year, and the reason why it was necessary to make that provision was because no provision had hitherto been made for it. The £600 for research work under the Diseases of Fish Bill is not research work comparable to the present case, it is only to pay a man to test fish to see whether they are suffering from furunculosis or not. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) wanted to know why Sir Frederick Hobday has retired. He seemed to suggest that the Government were responsible for his retirement. I can assure him that something even more powerful than a Government was responsible—age. I can assure the hon. Member that the great services of this distinguished gentleman have been fully appreciated. The research into foot-and-mouth disease has been carried forward with the utmost energy and some of the results obtained have been very creditable.

With regard to floods and the catchment boards, the Committee will understand that, under the 1930 Act, the duty of initiating works to combat floods rests with the new catchment boards. I have no power to initiate works of that character, and I can only assist as far as I can. If I tell hon. Members that there are at present approved works which cost a total of £6,000,000, they will see that the new bodies have taken to their duties very seriously, and I hope that in the course of time their operations will be attended by the abatement of this menace which so much affects many parts of the country. The Committee must have a certain amount of patience with regard to floods. Very often the works have to be done on a very great scale, and it takes a long time for the labour and expenditure to bring obvious results. Often they have to wait on the winds, tides and weather, and very often, in very small places, it is only possible to have a certain number of men at work at a vital place at the same time. Moreover, there is at this time a shortage of skilled labour for this sort of work. These things make the problems less easy of rapid solution than they might otherwise be.

The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) and other hon. Members drew attention to the drainage rates which, they asserted, were causing dissatisfaction in some parts of the country. Of course, the feature of recent legislation which has given rise to the state of dissatisfaction which has been expressed in the Committee was the change made, in the 1930 Act, in assessing the liabilities to drainage rates, from an acreage basis to an annual value basis. It is not very long since the Act was passed, and there is no doubt that, as a consequence of it, many people who had never paid drainage rates before have had to pay them. I would only say, in answer to hon. Members who have drawn attention to this matter, that the Act contains several provisions whereby, by arrangement among the local authorities concerned and the catchment boards, the burden of drainage rates, if it bears excessively upon any section of the community, may be sensibly eased. I hope hon. Members will wait to see how the 1930 Act works before they criticise too much, and take as much advantage as they can of those provisions which alleviate, by rearrangement of the area, some of the difficulties which have hitherto been experienced. I think I have answered most of the questions which have been asked, but I did not imagine that this discussion would close without a reference to the poultry industry.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to when he is going to take the administrative action that has been promised, in order to remedy the grievance of rating, which his side moved as an Amendment to the Land Drainage Bill in Committee?

No, Sir. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Amendment was made by your side."] I am sure I would not attempt to get out of my responsibility by stating that the Amendment was moved by someone on the other side. However, I am not concerned with that question of ancient history; let us face the present and the future. I wish I could promise some sort of legislation that would provide an easy solution for this difficulty, but we already have a very congested programme. I must ask hon. Members to do what they can within the provisions of the Act. With regard to the particular case of the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), we have already done what we can to help, and are still considering the matter. Of course, we have no power to coerce the local authorities or the catchment boards.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that I asked a specific question with regard to the Isle of Sheppey? I pointed out that 600 or 700 summonses had been issued, and I asked him whether he could hold out any hope that steps would be taken to relieve the present position.

I understand that the hon. Member has received a full reply from my hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions on this matter. If there is anything further about this particular case which he wants to know, perhaps he will let me know. Generally, in regard to the hon. Member's locality, I think he will find that the new catchment board for the Kent Rivers will materially ease some of the difficulties. To return to poultry, the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) inquired about poultry research. I can assure him that we are prosecuting research very keenly, and are not forgetting the question of the stamina of poultry stocks, which is among the problems being investigated by a Departmental Committee. To the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, I would say that the £750 for the Royal Veterinary College is for maintenance of existing activities. The whole question of veterinary education is the subject of an inquiry by a committee set up for that purpose. Until we have received the report of that committee, it would be premature to incur large capital expenditure or to make plans for the future of veterinary education. In the meantime we are making such grants as are necessary for the maintenance of the institution. When we get the report we hope to make a decided step forward.


"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £25,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants and grants in aid in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and fishery research; and grants, grants in aid, and expenses in respect of improvement of breeding, etc., of livestock, land settlement, improvement of cultivation, drainage, etc., regulation of agricultural wages, agricultural credits, and marketing, fishery development; and sundry other services,"

put, and agreed to.