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County Committees (Expenditure)

Volume 463: debated on Monday 28 March 1949

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asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the fact that for 1947–48 the excess of expenditure over receipts of agricultural executive committees was about £13¼ million, of which £8¼ million was incurred in machinery and labour services and £3½ million on administration, he will now close down the agricultural executive committees, or take steps to put them on an economic basis.

I am certainly not prepared to consider abolishing the county agricultural executive committees set up under the Agriculture Act, 1947, which have many important duties to perform. I am, however, taking every practicable step to reduce as far as possible, having regard to the needs of the agricultural expansion programme, the excess of expenditure over receipts, including the deficits on machinery, labour and other services.

Why should committees whose incompetence has been so obviously shown and whose working has been adversely commented upon by learned judges be in a position to direct or dispossess farmers whose incompetence has not been proved?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's designation of incompetence, and I suggest to him that he read the Conservative Party's Agricultural Charter.