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Volume 415: debated on Monday 5 November 1945

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Long-Term Policy


asked the Minister of Agriculture when he will be in a position to announce the long-term policy of His Majesty's Government for agriculture..


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the farm-workers' application to the Central Wages Board for a minimum wage of 90s. per week, which involves farmers' prices, he will now inform the House when the agricultural policy of the Government will be announced.

I have nothing to add at present to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) on 15th October.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the agricultural industry has been waiting for a long-term policy now for three years and when does he think he will be able to announce it?

Does my right hon. Friend realise that delay in announcing the Government's agricultural policy is inter ferring with the men returning to the land and that the application now before the Wages Board is not likely to receive the consent of the farmers until they know what is the Government's policy?

Dispossessed Farmers


asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the number of farmers dispossessed by order of the County War Agricultural Executive Committees for the years 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944, respectively.

As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

:Does my right hon. Friend realise that there has been a number of very doubtful cases of eviction and will he carefully consider the possibility of setting up machinery by which these evicted farmers may have a right of appeal?

YearTaking possession of Land (including all cases where tenancies have also been terminated).Termination of Tenancies(excluding cases where possession has also been taken).
No. of cases.Acreage.No. of cases.Acreage.

In only a small proportion of the cases have the farmers affected been compelled to leave their homes and farms.

Requisitioned Land, Norfolk (Release)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now state the acreage of agricultural land in the county of Norfolk that has been taken for all military and Air Force purposes since 1938; how much of it has since been returned to agricultural purposes; and, in view of the paramount needs of food production, whether large acreages will be returned for cropping during the coming season.

The total areas of such land is approximately 40,000 acres, 7,700 acres of which have been derequisitioned and in large part returned to agricultural use. I am unable to say at present whether any further large acreages will be returned to cropping during the coming season, as this will depend on the requirements of the two Services, but my Department is working in close co-operation with them on this matter.

:Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to get this land back to food production just as urgently as it was taken over for war purposes?

I do not agree that there have been a number of doubtful cases of eviction.

Following is the answer:

The numbers given below are net figures after deduction of cases where possession has subsequently been given up. I am unable to state the gross number of cases.

:Most certainly. My Department is very anxious that all suitable land should be restored to its former use when the Services can make it available to us.

:Will the right hon. Gentleman give active assistance to Members of this House who desire to get these areas back to their constituents from the War Office?

German Prisoners Of War


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will take steps to put an end to the difficulties of farmers in Leicestershire who have been unable to get German prisoner-of-war labour for gathering their potato harvest on account of priority claims on such labour for demolishing air raid shelters in Leicester City.

Nearly 4,000 prisoners of war as well as a considerable amount of military labour is available for agricultural work in Leicester and well over 90 per cent. of the potato crop has already been lifted.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of employing further parties of prisoners from Leicester Prison on this work, in view of the satisfactory results which have been obtained from the parties who have gone out from the prison hitherto?

Class B Releases


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many applications for release from the Forces under Class B have been received by His Ministry; how many have been passed on to the appropriate authority; and how many have been granted up to the lastest date for which figures are obtainable.

One thousand four hundred and eighty-three applications for Class B release under the individual specialists scheme of former agriculturists and persons required for "key" posts in industries ancillary to agriculture have been received by my Department up to 31st October. Of this number 572 were recommended to the appropriate authority who have approved release in 380 cases, and rejected 30 others either for non-compliance with the essential conditions of release or for Service reasons. Decisions in the remaining 162 cases are outstanding.

Wheat (Deficiency Payment)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether in view of the proposed reduction by £2 of the acreage deficiency payment on wheat planted for the 1946 harvest, he will give farmers the right of a free market for that crop.

I have been asked to reply. The prospective supply position for wheat makes it essential that as much home-grown mill-able wheat as possible from the 1946 crop shall be used for the production of flour. I am not therefore prepared to relax the existing regulations which require a grower to sell such wheat to an approved buyer.

While thanking the hon. Lady for the reply, may I ask whether she considers, in view of the rise in the cost of production, that this is the right time to reduce income for this very necessary article of food?

In view of the fact that we need all the wheat produced in this country for human consumption, we cannot possibly leave it to individual farmers to decide how they shall dispose of this crop.

May I ask the hon. Lady why she does not return to the 85 per cent. extraction loaf instead of pouring the stuff into the bowels of cows?

Returns And Surveys


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the experience of various types of production, due to pre-war and war-time conditions, now possessed by farmers, he will call for a return through W.A.E.C.s giving farmers the opportunity of saying what could be their maximum annual output of crops, live stock and other produce; how many regular workers, in addition to those they now have, would be required by them to produce that maximum; what housing would be required, both new and reconditioned, to accommodate this labour satisfactorily, and if he will give an assurance that he will take into consideration the answers an framing his post-war policy.

Generally speaking, existing returns and recent farm surveys provide the information necessary for; the consideration of agricultural policy, including the assessment of production potentialities and of labour and housing requirements. Additional inquiries will be made as they are needed, but I do not think that a special return of the kind suggested is necessary.

Women's Land Army


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the W.L.A. National Charter, a copy of which has been sent to him; and if he has any statement to make thereon.

This document contains a number of suggestions about the treatment and conditions of service of members of the W.L.A., many of which are already effective. Others, however, cannot be adopted for reasons which have already been explained to the House.

Calves (Vaccination)


asked the Minister of Agriculture when he proposes to extend the calfhood vaccination scheme against contagious abortion to all cattle in addition to dairy herd heifers.

Until more veterinary manpower is available, it would not be practicable to consider the extension of the calfhood vaccination scheme to all cattle herds.

Trained Ex-Servicemen (Housing)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to ensure adequate accommodation is available for ex-Servicemen who complete the agricultural and horticultural training courses.

When a man has been trained and takes up farm work he will, as regards housing, be in the same position as other members of the rural population. The provision of more houses in rural areas is receiving the urgent attention of the Government.

Bulb-Growing Industry


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is taking any steps to safeguard the bulb-growing industry of this country; and to encourage a full re-establishment of this industry.

Resettlement Grants


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, when the financial assistance in connection with the resettlement grants for smallholders will be forthcoming and why, in view of the fact that a substantial number of small shop keepers have received their resettlement grants already, smallholders have been kept waiting so much longer for this assistance.

As I informed the hon. Member on 29th October, the resettlement grants scheme for agriculture will be introduced at an early date. I would remind him that the Supplementary Vote providing for expenditure on this scheme was taken as recently as 16th October, and there will be no avoidable delay in bringing the scheme into operation.

Is the Minister aware that I want to avoid delays—avoidable, unavoidable or any other sort of delays—as this is an important matter?

Fishing Industry (International Conference)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to obtain an international agreement to, prevent the grounds in the North Sea and Channel from being over-fished; and to prevent the destruction of immature fish by limiting the size of mesh for all fishing other than that conducted for certain special purposes in defined areas.

As stated in my reply to the hon. Member's question on 29th October, His Majesty's Government have decided to convene an International Conference to try to reach agreement to prevent the over-fishing of the North Sea. This will no doubt afford a suitable opportunity for discussing the limitation of the size of mesh of fishing nets.

Liberated Europe (Food Distribution)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any steps are being taken to ensure the survival and feeding during the coming winter of those people who gave assistance, at great risk to themselves, to allied armed forces and to escaped allied prisoners of war during the German occupation of Europe..

Food distribution in the liberated European countries is under the control of the National Governments concerned. Arrangements have, however, been made by which His Majesty's Government are able to compensate in other ways those people who, during the German occupation of Europe, served the Allied cause so well.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if a reliable list of these people has been compiled?

:Is the Minister aware that very many of the people referred to are Jewish and other people, who are now living under miserable conditions, in camps which are not very much better than the German internment camps?

Yugoslavia (Members Of Parliament, Visit)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to send observers to Yugoslavia to report on the coming elections; if he is in a position to give their names; and if he will consider giving facilities to Members of this House to visit Yugoslavia for that purpose..

His Majesty's Government are sending no observers to report on the elections, but they will be kept fully informed by His Majesty's Ambassador.

Can I take it, therefore, that the group of Members of Parliament who have just gone to Yugoslavia are in no way going as representatives of this House of Commons?

It is correct to make the assumption that the hon. Gentlemen who have proceeded there are not a Parliamentary delegation.

Surely, some arrangement must have been come to with the Foreign Office whereby these gentlemen have been sent out to Yugoslavia? Would not the Foreign Office make arrangements for their visit?

Neither the Foreign Office nor His Majesty's Government would seek to be their brothers' keepers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] These hon. Gentlemen proceeded at the invitation of the Yugoslav Government.