Uncultivated Land (Golf Courses)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will issue in- structions to the county war agricultural committees, in connection with those 18-hole golf courses throughout the country which have not cultivated any part of their land, urging on them the desirability of utilising nine holes, or part of the course, for cultivation, having regard to the fact that this would still enable healthy exercise to be pursued?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave him on 24th June.
Why does not my right hon. Friend make more widely known to the public the fact that there is less land now under cultivation than there was at the beginning of hostilities? Would people not realise then the need to get this land under cultivation? My right hon. Friend does not take any notice whatever.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to make a further statement in connection with his instructions to the county war agricultural committees regarding the ploughing-up campaign for this autumn; and what is the Government's policy in connection with this matter?
The Government's primary aim in connection with ploughing up for the 1944 harvest is the maintenance of the 1943 peak tillage area. This implies the ploughing-up of additional grassland to take the place of land which it is necessary to reseed in order to restore fertility. In addition, it is hoped to increase the tillage area in particular districts.
Is it not easier to cultivate land which has already been drained than to plough up the slopes of Plynlimmon and to endeavour to cultivate derelict and waterlogged land? Why not plough up the drained fairways of the golf courses? Can I have an answer?
I have already explained to my hon. Friend why it would not be in the national interest to plough up certain golf courses.
That answer is not satisfactory.
Is it true that there is less land under cultivation now than at the beginning of hostilities?
That fact was published the other day, in some figures issued by my Department, stating that the amount that is lost to aerodromes, munitions factories and battle areas is appreciably in excess of the amount which my Department has been able to reclaim from derelict land.
In view of that disclosure, something must be done.
Can my right hon. Friend say what is the decline in the amount of land under cultivation? Is it 100,000 acres a year?
I do not know what the figure per year is, but the total is 2 per cent.
It is a national scandal.
Small Poultry Farmers
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give an assurance that, after the war, everything possible will be done to re-establish the small poultry farmer as an agricultural unit in this country?
I cannot at present make any statement as to the position of particular classes of farmers after the war.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the poultry farmers suffer very badly as a result of the war, in comparison to other branches of agriculture? Will he bear this particular branch of agriculture in mind?
Wages And Prices
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the recent increases in wages fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board and the claim now before the Board for an increase in the national minimum wage for adult male workers, he can give an assurance that the prices at present fixed for farm products will be increased so as to meet the whole cost of increases in wages?
No, Sir. Last November, when the powers of the county wages committees to fix rates of wages in the counties were transferred by Defence Regulation to the Agricultural Wages Board, the Board and representatives of the National Farmers' Union and the Workers' Unions were informed as follows:
"That in any review of farmers' returns in. relation to costs of production, labour costs would be assessed by reference to the national minimum wage as fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board, and that in so far as the county rates exceeded the national minimum wage the difference would fall to be met out of the current returns of the industry and that the Government would not contemplate an automatic general increase in prices to cover the cost of any increase in the national minimum wage."
If the farmers have no control at all over wages, are they to have no say in the control of prices?
I do not think this is what representatives of the industry were told.