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Agriculture

Volume 415: debated on Monday 12 November 1945

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River Boards Bill

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what he intends should be the future of the River Boards Bill; and what stage has been reached in the preparation of this Bill.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Berry) on 22nd October.

Will the Minister keep in mind that areas round the Wash are very seriously affected by any project such as is contained in the Bill, and will he see that the interests of those areas are not jeopardised?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that all relevant factors will be taken into account.

Foot-And-Mouth Disease

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease there have been this year; how many of these occurred among pigs and may have been attributable to swill made from imported meat.

During this year there have been 122 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain of which 60 have been original cases, that is, cases not traceable to previous outbreaks in this country. Fifty-six of these 60 outbreaks started in pigs, and in 29 of them the outbreak has been attributed to infected swill. In a number of other cases swill may have been the cause, but the evidence is less clear.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there have been, so far as I am aware, no outbreaks at all among those who have been supplied with swill from the American camps in this country? In view of the absence of foot-and-mouth disease in North America, does he not think that fact is rather significant?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member must be aware that America does not import meat from sources from which this country imports, and must continue to import, meat. Perhaps that fact will add to the explanation.

What steps has the Minister taken to ensure that swill is properly processed?

The hon. Member is well aware that we are doing all that we can to persuade people who use swill to observe the Order, and, by means of our inspectors, to see that the Order is observed.

Cannot the Minister use a little more compulsion in these cases, because, according to his own reply, the disease arises from lack of proper processing of swill?

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how much money has been spent on research into foot-and-mouth disease in the last 10 years.

During the last 10 financial years about £250,000 has been spent on the research work undertaken by the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Committee.

Will the Minister consider substantially increasing the amount of money and time devoted to research into what is a serious, and may be a devastating, disease?

As against an average of £25,000 per annum spent on this disease, some £37,000 was spent last year, and I have no intention of reducing that sum.

County Executive Committees (Appeal Tribunals)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will state the composition of the regional appeal tribunals which are to be set up in connection with decisions of the W.A.E.C.s; and how soon they will be functioning.

Wheat

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that all the wheat produced in this country is needed for human consumption, he will reconsider the decision to reduce the deficiency payment to farmers for the 1946 crop by £2 per acre.

No, Sir. The reduction in the acreage payment was made in consideration of the withdrawal of compulsory directions to grow wheat for the 1946 harvest.

Does not the Minister agree that this is not the time, when costs are rising, to decrease farmers' income by reducing the acreage payment?

63.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will obtain an estimate from the county committees as to acreage of autumn wheat planted this season.

The planting of wheat is still in progress in many part of the country, and I hope that in view of the serious food situation, farmers will continue to plant as much wheat as possible on all suitable land, both now and in the spring. Returns of the acreage planted up to 4th December will be made by farmers on that date.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman encourage farmers by reinstating the acreage payment he is now taking off?

Trainees, Worcestershire

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many ex-Servicemen are being trained in agriculture in the county of Worcestershire.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is enough labour to replace the prisoners?

No, Sir. I should very much prefer the figure to be 80, or 88, or 880.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Evesham considers the position thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Will the Minister bear in mind that until the men in the Forces who previously worked on the land know what the Government's agricultural policy is to be, they will not have very much enthusiasm about the present scheme?

Woodlands (Clearance)

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether prisoners of war are available for the clearing of woodlands.

At the present time the prisoners of war allocated to my Department are fully occupied on urgent farm work. Opportunities may, however, arise during the winter of making small numbers available for clearing woodlands.

Does the Minister appreciate that, unless the woodlands are prepared for replanting, the Minister's difficulties will steadily increase? Would it not be better to get on with it now?

I fully appreciate the hon. and gallant Member's point of view, but he will also be fully aware of the necessity for lifting all the potatoes and the beet before we divert labour.

Grey Squirrels (Destruction)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if action is being taken to destroy grey squirrels in every county where their numbers are increasing; how many grey squirrel clubs have been formed by W.A.E.C.s and with what results.

Yes, Sir. About 150 clubs for shooting grey squirrels have already been formed, and I anticipate that this number will increase with the approach of the main shooting period. I have no detailed information of the numbers of grey squirrels so far destroyed by this means.

Surely the grey squirrel should be shot at all times? Why shoot it only in February and March?

I am horrified at the callousness of the right hon. Gentleman. Surely if he had a spark of humanity—[Interruption.]

The hon. Member will be aware that, at the period mentioned by myself, there are no leaves on the trees and that the squirrels are easier to get at.

Horticultural Production

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the value of horticultural production, including potatoes in the past year.

The value of the output of horticultural produce including potatoes in England and Wales in 1944–45 is provisionally estimated to be in the neighbourhood of £140,000,000.

Newfoundland (Self-Government)

65.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether any steps have been taken towards the restoration of self-government to Newfoundland at an early date.

It is hoped to make a statement on this subject in the near future.

Will the hon. Gentleman include in it a statement of the present financial position of the Dominion?

Southern Rhodesia (Building Industry, Wages)

66.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is aware that under the recent building industry agreement in Southern Rhodesia, a European journeyman will receive 4s. 4½d. an hour, plus cost-of-living allowance, while an unskilled African labourer will receive a maximum of 2¾d. an hour, minus deductions for board and lodging; and whether he was make representations to the Government of Southern Rhodesia to secure that African interests are better looked after in this agreement.

As explained in reply to my hon. Friend's Question on 29th October this agreement does not require the approval of the Secretary of State. Inquiries will, however, be made as to the position.

Having regard to the fact that the Governor's assent had not been proclaimed before the agreement itself came into operation will the Minister use his influence to ensure that the urgent representations of the native welfare society shall be considered before the assent is given?

We can only give effect under the constitution to particular Acts, and we do go into particular Acts to see that the Governor of the local assembly does not exceed his powers.

Canadian Forces Personnel (British Wives)

68.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is aware that a large number of British women who have married members of the Canadian forces are suffering anxiety because of uncer- tainty as to when they will be granted passages to Canada; and whether he has any statement to make on the matter.

I am aware of the position as stated in the first part of the Question. The arrangements which are being made to deal with it were explained in the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of War Transport to the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) on 15th October, to which I have at present nothing to add.