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Agriculture

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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Flower Growing

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture why many districts are being permitted to grow from seed flower crops and bedding plants while in Staffordshire this is forbidden to the loss of seedsmen and nursery gardeners.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) on 22nd April. I am not aware that permission is being given by county war agricultural executive committees for the growing of flower crops and bedding plants from seed, otherwise than in accordance with the instructions which have been issued. If my hon. Friend has any cases in mind and will furnish me with particulars, I will have them investigated.

I beg to give notice that in the exceedingly remote possibility of my being called I will raise this point, which calls for good nature and brevity.

Rooks (Destruction)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange for his Department to issue instructions with regard to the killing of rooks, as much difference of opinion exists as to the usefulness or otherwise of these birds?

Such instructions have already been issued to county war agricultural executive committees by my Department, which has also published an advisory leaflet on the subject. I am sending copies of these documents to my hon. and gallant Friend.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that official organisations working under his Department, such as the Nottinghamshire agricultural committee, are practically ordering the wholesale destruction of these birds?

It may well be that it is justified in view of the excessive number of birds in particular localities.

Credits

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will consider introducing legislation to widen the statutory powers of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, Limited, so as to enable them to handle short term and intermediate credits as well as grant mortgage loans, having regard to the fact that the Corporation have at the present time cash and investments of over £3,000,000 not being utilised for agricultural purposes?

No, Sir. I have no reason to think that existing facilities for short-term and intermediate credit to farmers are inadequate for present needs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, even if the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation is not a suitable body, farmers do not want to go on paying five per cent. for short-teim credit? Why is it that something really intelligent cannot be done?

Downland Sheep

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is taking any steps to encourage an increase in the sheep population on the downlands, with a view to preserving soil fertility?

I am aware of the importance of hurdled flocks of sheep on light downlands in the interests of soil fertility. It was for that reason that the Ministry of Food, in consultation with my Department, in the autumn of 1941, increased the price of fat sheep and lambs by Id. per lb. for the winter and spring, the period when sheep from these flocks normally go for slaughter. The return from this class of land depends also on prices of corn crops, principally barley, which have been fixed at remunerative levels.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a shortage of experienced shepherds for registered flocks, and will he take some steps to ensure a supply of trained shepherds?

Italian Prisoners Of War

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that Italian prisoners of war have been used to evict furniture from farm workers' cottages; and whether he will issue orders which will put a stop to this practice?

I am aware of a case which occurred last December where two Italian prisoners of war who were working on a farm assisted the police with the removal of furniture from a cottage. Instructions have been issued that prisoners of war supplied to farmers are intended for employment on farm work only, and I think this is generally understood, but I will consider whether the instructions need strengthening.