asked the Minister of Agriculture, in view of the fact that the Government's policy was for the county agricultural executive committees throughout the country to relinquish their machinery depots, and since a large number of small cultivators have not funds to buy a complete range of implements to enable them to carry on their cultivation, what alternative arrangements are being prepared so as to ensure that the fullest possible use is made of the cultivation of the soil by the smallholders throughout the country.
No general decision has been taken to discontinue the machinery services operated by county agricultural executive committees. The services are not being withdrawn where there is a sufficient demand from small farmers who cannot afford to buy the necessary machines and who cannot get the work done in any other way.
Is the Minister aware that many of these machinery depots have been far from satisfactory in the past? Would it not be a good thing to have a completely new scheme to enable all small farmers throughout the country to acquire the necessary machinery with which to increase food production?
Perhaps it would not be out of place if the hon. Member were to consult with his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) in order to make up their minds whether they want a machinery service or not.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat this matter with all seriousness, since it is a matter which vitally affects food production?
May I ask the Minister if it would not be wise to go into the question of setting up county servicing depots for farmers in the various counties, which I think is a feasible proposition, and one that ought to be carried out?
We have county servicing depots, and all the time we are anxious that they should be supplemented by private servicing depots, where they can be established. While we are very anxious that there should be a machinery service as long as it is necessary, it is our desire that private enterprise should step in to provide this servicing for small farmers where they cannot provide it themselves.