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Volume 440: debated on Monday 21 July 1947

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Afforestation (Land Allocation)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is satisfied that the fullest efforts are being made to use all available home-grown timber which is suitable for housing and furniture making, with a view to increasing the timber supplies immediately and enabling this woodland to he replanted in accordance with the re-afforestation schemes of the Forestry Commission, in Freference to taking over fresh agricultural land.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that mature timber in parts of North Devon, mainly ash, oak and beech, is available or could he made available for the furniture trade and that, if it was taken, it would enable land to be used for replanting trees, instead of taking fresh agricultural land?

If my hon. Friend will, give me any specific cases and the exact areas where this happens to be the case, I can assure him that ready use will be made of it.


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are taken before land is planted with trees under Forestry Commission schemes to ensure that the land is suitable for growing trees; that no other land in the district is more suitable; and that land of greater value for agriculture is not being absorbed.

Only land placed at their disposal by the Minister of Agricul- ture or by the Secretary of State for Scotland can be used by the Forestry Commissioners for afforestation purposes. Before each acquisition, the suitability of the land for growing trees is determined by technically qualified officers, and agreement is reached between the Agricultural Department and the Forestry Commission as to the land to be used for afforestation purposes. Land of greater value to agriculture is not allocated for afforestation.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that agricultural land which has proved unsuitable for growing trees over a number of years has been allocated to the planting of trees, again in North Devon, and will he look into the case and see if there is any other land which is more suitable for afforestation?

I am not aware that there is any land suitable for afforestation which has been reserved for agriculture, unless there is a real agricultural use for that particular land, but I will gladly look into any case which any hon. Member brings to my notice.

Warble Fly


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the damage to the production of milk, beef and hides by the warble fly; and if he will now consider making an order under the Diseases of Animals Acts for compulsory dressing of all cattle, whereby the numbers of warble flies might be substantially reduced.

I am aware of the damage caused by the warble fly, but, as the dressing of cattle before March to destroy warbles would not be effective, the question of making an order does not arise at the moment.

In view of the fact that sheep are now only to be dipped once a year, would not the police have time to see that such an order was properly carried out?

I understand that all warble flies that emerge between mid-March and the end of June are likely to give rise to another generation. That is why I feel that, at this moment, at all events, there is no point in making such an order.

Would it not be advisable to avoid compulsion, in the absence of adequate farm labour necessary for the application of the derris wash at the appropriate time; and is not my right hon. Friend aware that he might overcome this problem by prevailing upon the Minister of Food to pay different prices for designated hides according to the condition in which they arrive at his depots?

I think that that question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food.

In view of the importance of this matter, and the great loss to the leather industry in this country, particulars of which are readily available from the Leather Merchants' Association, will the right hon. Gentleman look into this question again, because the trouble in the compulsory dressing of cattle is no more than in the compulsory dipping of sheep?

As I have already explained, treatment at this moment would be ineffective. It is only between mid-March and the end of June that treatment would be effective.

Five-Furrow Ploughs


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will authorise an increased release of five-furrow ploughs to the home market.

In order to meet the needs of home farmers, arrangements have recently been made for the diversion to the home market of a substantial proportion of the five-furrow ploughs which have been specially built to meet export orders.

Is the Minister aware that a substantial proporton of these ploughs are, in point of fact, of a type which is unsuitable for use on English soil?

Yes, Sir, but there happens to be only one firm in this country which makes them.

Wool (Average Price)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the average price paid to the English farmer for his wool; and at what average price is this passed on to the manufacturer.

For the season ended 30th April, 1047, the average price paid for wool to the British farmers was 17.44 pence per pound. The average price to manufacturers was 17.184 pence per pound.

Grass Seed


asked the Minister of Agriculture what are the total requirements of grass seed for England including Wales and Scotland, respectively, in a normal year; and what quantity has so far been imported during 1947.

No separate figures are available of the annual requirements of the various descriptions of grass seeds in England and Wales and Scotland, respectively. For the United Kingdom as a whole, it is estimated that between 30,000 and 35,000 tons of seed of the principal agricultural grasses are needed for sowing throughout the season, based on current cropping programmes. The quantity of these seeds imported during the first six months of 1047 was 1600 tons.

is the Minister aware that in my constituency about 3,000 acres of grass seed, sown at the request of his Ministry, is no longer needed for this purpose, and will he ensure, if he still wishes seed to be grown for export, that an assurance is given to farmers that their seed will find a market?

It may very well happen that, at one and the same time, there is a surplus of one kind of seed and a shortage of another, which can only be obtained by imports. I can assure my hon. Friend that we do not encourage people to grow seeds unless we feel that there is going to be a market available for them.

Animal Health Division (Veterinary Surgeons)


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many appointments for veterinary surgeons in his Animal Health Division are unfilled; and what salaries are being offered for these posts.

There are about 140 vacancies on the permanent staff, of which 75 are at present filled by temporary officers. These vacancies are in the basic grade for which the salary scale in the country is £520 for men of 25 rising to a maximum of £960. The salary is slightly higher for veterinary surgeons stationed in London and certain provincial cities.

Does my right hon. Friend regard this basic salary as sufficient considering the long training and the responsibility of the work involved?

My advisers are satisfied that these salary scales are regarded as satisfactory when compared with those of other professional and scientific civil servants.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in some ways, it is more important to be a "vet." than to be a doctor because the "vet's" patients cannot tell him what is wrong with them; and, further, will he not have a look at these salary scales because they compare unfavourably with those for doctors?

I certainly do not disagree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question.

Drainage Works


asked the Minister of Agriculture by what date he aims to have the work completed of restoring the existing drainage system damaged by the floods; and if he is satisfied that the work will be done in time to ensure that there is no flooding caused by the normal rainfall and tides before that date.

The drainage authorities concerned feel confident that they will be able to complete the necessary rehabilitation works before next winter, and, in some cases, to incorporate a measure of improvement to their embankments. Given normal weather and tidal conditions, flooding should not occur before the works are completed.

Could the right non. Gentleman give an approximate date, as people do not know when the work is going to begin?

It is quite impossible to give a date, that being determined by numerous local factors.


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many men are employed in the North Level Internal Board's area and in the Great Ouse Catchment Board's area on restoration of the existing system of drainage; how many have been asked for by the respective boards; how many additional men will be made available for long-term schemes in the Welland and Great Ouse Catchment Board's areas; and when work will start on such schemes.

Over 200 men are now employed by the North Level Commissioners, and some 500 by the River Great Ouse Catchment Board on restoration and improvement work. Prisoner-of-war labour has been made available as required. The availability of supervisors and of local accommodation will determine the rate at which further labour, if it should prove necessary, can be absorbed. All practicable steps are being taken to help the Boards. As regards the last part of the Question, I assume that the hon. and gallant Member has in mind the major improvement scheme of the River Welland Catchment Board, and the revised flood protection scheme of the Great Ouse Catchment Board. The former scheme was approved by my Department in November last, but detailed information about the latter scheme has yet to be submitted. Both Boards have urgent rehabilitation works in hand which must be completed without delay. However, the Welland Board will start work on the outfall end of their major schemes shortly. Before work can begin on the other scheme a number of preliminaries, including the acquisition of land, must be completed.

While I appreciate the length of the answer, could the right hon. Gentleman answer in detail, the third part of the Question, as to how many men have been asked for by the respective boards?

Crown Houses, Kew


asked the Minister of Agriculture why the Crown properties, 17 and 19, The Green, Kew, Surrey, have been unoccupied for 16 years although these houses are capable of being made fit for habitation; and, in view of the serious housing problem which exists in the neighbourhood, if he will take steps to arrange that they be placed at the disposal of the local authority to rehouse homeless families from their waiting list.

These houses, which are 200 years old, were regarded before the war as fit only for demolition, and it was proposed to rebuild them (retaining their facade on account of its architectural interest) as an official residence for the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. This proposal had to be postponed on the outbreak of war, but it is intended to proceed with the work as soon as conditions permit. I am advised that the present state of the buildings is such that they could not be adapted for housing purposes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a local builder is quite prepared to adapt these houses at reasonable cost and make them fit for habitation; and would he look into this matter again, and offer them to the Home Secretary to see if it is possible for him to make use of them in connection with the housing of N.F.S. firemen for whom he has had great difficulty in finding accommodation?

I understand that various proposals have been made about these two cottages over the past 17 years, but none of the proposals were accepted, and after 17 years, I feel that deterioration will now have reached such a point that it would be folly to make a payment to make them habitable.

Does the Minister now say that no steps will be taken, if for no other reason than that of historical sentiment, to see that these fine old Georgian houses are preserved?

Yes. I hope that, if conditions permit, work will proceed on them. We hope not only to retain the facade, but to make them available for the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Dominion Food Gifts


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what extra quantities of food have been brought to the United Kingdom from Canada, Australia and New Zealand through voluntary individual surrenders of food coupons for the benefit of this country.

I have been asked to reply. As the answer is rather long, and contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman noticed the cables in "The Times" to the effect that people in the Dominions are feeling aggrieved that they have drawn in their belts without any apparent advantage to ours, and will he arrange for any figures he has to be published in the Dominions, both in the Press and through the B.B.C., if possible?

Following is the answer:

Reference has been made in this matter by telegram to the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Australian Government have stated that it is not possible to relate exactly over a period what increased shipments have been made as a result of voluntary surrendering of food coupons; but that, as the only markets for the disposal of meat and butter are domestic consumption in Australia against coupons and shipments to the United Kingdom Ministry of Food, it is obvious that any saving made in domestic consumption by the surrender of coupons will, to that extent, increase the supply of meat and butter available for shipment to the United Kingdom. This is also the position in the case of New Zealand. The following figures show the approximate amounts represented by the voluntary surrendering of coupons:

  • Australia (from May, 1947)—
  • Meat—3 million lb.
  • Butter—54,000 lb.
  • New Zealand (from April, 1946)—
  • Meat—4¾ million lb.
  • Butter—196,000 lb.

In the case of Canada, meat is the only food affected, as Canada did not export other rationed foods to the United Kingdom. During the period of meat rationing in Canada (September, 1945, to March, 1947) the amount of meat exported to the United Kingdom, as a result of the surrender of coupons, was, approximately, 3 million lb.

Newfoundland Fish (Markets)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what action he is taking to find an alternative market for fresh or frozen fish from Newfoundland, which, during the war, formed part of the United Kingdom's supply of fish.

Since it proved necessary to inform the Newfoundland Government that the dollar position precludes the United. Kingdom from purchasing frozen fish from Newfoundland during 1947, the Commission of Government are taking all possible steps to find alternative markets for this fish.