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Clause 12—(Power To Dispose Of Machinery Acquired Under Agricultural Development Act, 1939)

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1949

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I beg to move, in page 9, line 40, after "him," to insert "by public auction."

The Clause, as amended, would read:
"… may be disposed of by him by public auction…"
As I understand the present position, when these machines, purchased under the 1939 Act, are no longer required by the county committees, they are disposed of in the following way. First, they are offered to the manufacturers or to the machinery merchants or to the contractors who have been using them, and if none of those authorities requires the machines, they are then sold to the farming community by public auction. I also understand that this is the same general procedure as is outlined in the White Paper on the disposal of Government stores. I do not consider that is a satisfactory method of dealing with these machines. The farmers are very much concerned and dissatisfied with the proposition because they feel that whereas the dealers and contractors are getting the best machines, they are only given the chance of getting the dud machines which are of little or no further use. Therefore, we say that the whole disposal policy now requires revision and alteration.

6.45 p.m.

I can illustrate my meaning by giving some figures of recent disposals which have taken place. In regard to this particular transaction 3,000 tractors were for disposal. I dare say that many of them were not bought under the 1939 Act, but I presume that the figures will be comparable. Of those 3,000 machines, 132 were sold to the agricultural contractors who were using them at the time. That I consider to be perfectly legitimate. It is, however, a very small proportion. Five hundred and seventy were sold to dealers and agricultural machinery merchants. These would be the best machines out of the whole 3,000, and the remainder—presumably those that were in such poor condition that the machinery merchants did not require them—were sold by public auction.

I was also given some figures for implements which correspond very closely with the figures which I have just given. In each case, the agricultural merchants were getting the pick of the litter, and the farmers were then allowed to scramble for the rest. We ask for a review of this policy, so as to give everybody concerned a fair chance to buy not only worn-out machines but those which have some chance of a fairly long and useful life in the future.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Perhaps it may be thought that I am supporting it because public auctions were part of my livelihood at one time. That is not so. I do so because I think that putting these articles up for auction disposes of anything that may be said about somebody "working" something. There is always the danger when private sales take place that someone may or may not receive something from a person who wants to get possession of a machine, and there are always plenty of people who will say that that is taking place, whether it is correct or not. If the machines are put up for sale by public auction, it gives everyone the same opportunity to bid for them. I would go further than my hon. Friend and say that all these machines, whether used by contractors or not, should be put up for sale, and if the contractors wanted to buy them, they would have the opportunity of doing so. Who is to decide which contractor shall have his machine and at what price? There is no better way of testing the value of any machine or any other article than by putting it up for public auction and disposing of it to the highest bidder.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
(Mr. George Brown)

May I make it quite clear that this Clause relates only to the very limited number of tractors and implements which are still left to us and which were bought under the 1939 Act? In fact, because the war came so soon after the passage of that Act, very little was ever bought. It was only a matter of 665 tractors and 500 two- and three-furrow ploughs that were bought. Most of these have now gone out of the picture altogether and all that the Clause does is to give legislative authority to dispose of the remainder. When the power was obtained there was a good deal of fear expressed by those who represented the trade that if a lot of stuff were bought under the Act and put on the market at some time, that could easily depress the whole market, to the disadvantage of the industry itself. Therefore, an undertaking was given not to dispose of it without legislative authority being obtained from this House. Although there is not very much of it left, it is for that purpose that we have now come to the House with this provision.

Much of the Debate has been about the way in which we dispose of the machinery, whether it be the limited quantity to which this Clause relates or the machinery we have been buying under the war-time general powers. I must remind the House, and particularly hon. Members opposite, that we are operating the policy laid down in 1944 in the White Paper on the disposal of Government stores. Quite apart from anything else, it would be very difficult indeed for us to go back on that arrangement, which was come to after discussion, and clearly accepted by the House, for the Government's buying policy. It would be very difficult to lay down a policy on disposal to everybody's satisfaction at the time of buying, and then to go back on it at the time of disposal. That would not be regarded as a particularly good thing to do.

There was one thing in the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) which rather interested me. We must be clear about this. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) used the phrase: "The merchants get the pick of the litter, leaving the farmers to scramble for the rest," whereas the hon. Member for Leominster used some such phrase as, "We want the farmers to get it all."

No, I did not. The Parliamentary Secretary must not misrepresent me. I did not say anything of the sort. I said I wanted all the public—whether contractors, farmers or whoever it may be—to have the same opportunities.

Let the hon. Member not get hot under the collar. The only people who will use these machines are farmers, not the general public. The point I make is that merchants do not buy these tractors to hide away in some corner for themselves; they buy the better machines, which are capable of being repaired and then re-issued.

Yes, resold at a controlled price, with a guarantee. The farmer who buys what we have to sell by public auction takes a chance on what he gets, but the farmer who buys the machines taken up by the merchants gets a rebuilt, guaranteed product for considerably less than the list price—60 per cent. is the maximum at which it can be done; he gets a machine which carries with it a written guarantee, so that he knows where he stands. I should have thought that as much of this machinery as will stand being reconditioned and put into good order should be sold in that way.

In this House we do not speak very much about conversations we have with each other around the Palace of Westminster, but a conversation I had is relevant in this connection. The other day I had a discussion with an hon. and gallant Member who happens to be connected with a firm of implement makers, who told me how difficult it is when implements are put on the market by public auction, bought by some farmer who is badly in need of them, who then worries about the performance of the implements and goes to the makers for help. The hon. and gallant Member told me that was a constant worry to makers, and how much they would prefer to buy it all themselves, scrap it and so avoid that difficulty. The figures given by the hon. Member for Ripon show quite clearly that the overwhelming bulk are sold by public auction; such of the remainder as are capable of being turned into new machines and given a guarantee are so dealt with and sold at a very severely controlled price. We believe that, on the whole, that is the best policy. I hope that with that explanation the hon. Member will not feel inclined to press the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[ Mr. G. Brown.]

6.54 p.m.

My complaint about this Bill is not so much to the Minister as to the Leader of the House. I was not able to attend any of the Committee stage, but I have read the Debates, and what was plain at the Second Reading became even plainer during the Committee stage.

I am very sorry not to have stopped the hon. Member earlier, but my attention was directed to some other matter. I did not call Mr. Wilfrid Roberts; I called Mr. Hurd.

I thought I must have misheard you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I was stung by a bee; that affected my eyes, and I thought it must have affected my hearing, too.

I should like, on behalf of the Opposition, to say a few words of blessing to this Bill before it finally leaves us, because in our agricultural policy we are, happily, all able to agree today on the objectives, although we may have different ideas about the means of achieving those objectives. We on this side of the House wish the Government would begin to get away from the subsidy mentality. One of the objectives of this Bill is the rearing of more calves, which we hope will in due course of nature increase the ration of home-produced beef; and under this Bill we are putting £30 million in subsidy behind that effort. We are also putting £160,000 behind the encouragement of grass drying by cooperative societies, and particularly the Milk Marketing Board.

Those are desirable objectives: we want people to get ahead with grass drying and with rearing calves suitable for beef production, because today those calves are going for veal. However, we should prefer to see these arrangements and inducements given, as far as possible, through the annual price review. We have just seen the results of the annual price review for this year, in which the Government have wisely increased the price of fat pigs so as to make it worth while for the farmer to feed his own barley to fat pigs. I mention that because throughout our Debates on this Bill it has seemed to us that the Minister could, through the price mechanism, have given the necessary inducements for rearing more calves for beef production—calves which are now going for veal. Giving a subsidy like this is, of course, the easy way, the lazy way, which may be popular with many farmers; but that does necessarily mean that it is the right way.

I hope, too, as the subsidy on imported feedingstuffs is now being reduced, that the subsidy in this Bill for the encouragement of grass drying will not prove to be so necessary as it obviously was when imported feedingstuffs were kept artificially cheap. I think that there we are getting on to a sounder basis, and are rating the feedingstuffs which compete with dried grass more nearly at their true value. I hope that under the scheme approved in this Bill the grass driers will be able to meet competition on a fair basis from similar feedingstuffs. I shall say no more, except to repeat that we are wholeheartedly in agreemnt with the provisions of this Bill, which we hope will achieve all the purposes the Minister has put before us, both here and in Committee, and that we shall get full co-operation from the farming community in making a success of it.

6.59 p.m.

I begin by again apologising, Mr. Speaker, for having misheard you previously.

I was saying that my complaint would be better addressed perhaps to the Leader of the House. What became clear in Committee, and could have been seen on Second Reading, was that this Bill could not be amended because most of its provisions have already been in force for at least 18 months, and some of them for longer. That really makes a mockery of legislation. It is useless to argue with the Minister that he ought to make some alteration in a scheme for which he has already paid out the money. Although in some respects the Minister was obliging enough to say that in future he would consider the suggestions of hon. Members, he clearly could not make any alteration when, not only had he acted upon his scheme, but the Treasury had paid out money under the scheme. That does not seem to me to be the way that Parliament intended to work, and though it is not a very serious matter on this occasion quite a lot of money is involved. I hope the Minister, in bringing forward schemes in future, will give Parliament the opportunity of expressing an opinion before they are carried out, or in any case sooner than within 18 months.

Some money is wasted under this Bill. I do not think it is necessary to give a subsidy for dairy heifer cows, and nothing that the Minister said on Second Reading or that I can see was said in Committee suggests to me that it is necessary. Already distinctions are being made. It is possible not to give a subsidy to Channel Island bull calves, and it is also possible for the Minister to differentiate between individual calves, to which his inspectors will not give a subsidy because for one reason or another they are unsuitable. Therefore, the argument that has been used from the Government side that they could not distinguish a dairy heifer calf from another calf seems to me to fall to the ground, because they are within the scheme making two distinctions.

I am representing the view of agriculturists when I say that this money given to the dairy heifer calves is a waste. If it is available for agriculture there are many other ways where it would have been better used, and as a subsidy it may not do good but possibly may do harm in that it will encourage dairy farmers to keep dairy heifers which will not make good beef or will not be good dairy animals, so that they may qualify for this subsidy. I hope that when the scheme is considered again this question will be viewed in that light, and this money used for a better purpose. With the general idea of a subsidy to increase the number of beef cattle in the country, I am in complete sympathy, and I am glad to know that the figures show there has been an increase in the number of calves and that the scheme has started so successfully.

There is also some waste of money in the grass drying scheme. I am not convinced that the Milk Marketing Board could not provide that service for their members without additional assistance. They have great resources, and I believe they could have provided this service. It may be that assistance for independent co-operative societies is right to encourage grass growing there, but I do not think an organisation as powerful and with the resources of the Milk Marketing Board needs this additional assistance. On the whole everybody welcomes this Bill, and but for these two criticisms I want to make it clear that in its general provisions I also welcome it.

7.4 p.m.

I must apologise that I was not able to be here when the first Amendment was discussed, but that discussion took place a little earlier than I had expected. I want to make a few remarks on Clause 4 (3), which we on this side of the House had hoped would be left out of the Bill. I shall confine my remarks to making suggestions to the Minister as to the carrying out of this Clause, and I shall ask him to put my mind at rest on some of the things about which I am worried.

Under this Clause the Minister might possibly direct a private artificial insemination centre to purchase a bull. That centre may have no money and no credit at the bank, and even if it does not spell ruin for the centre it may cause great inconvenience and hardship. During the Committee stage the Minister replied to me:
"The insemination centre, if obliged to buy a Hereford bull, would make the purchase, but we would have to be satisfied that it was reasonable and likely to give a good return as an investment, since the Department would have to pay the annual loss on the basis of depreciation, and would exercise very great care and discretion before giving directions to anyone under subsection (3)."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 3rd March, 1949; c. 63.]
Before giving directions to anybody under this subsection the Minister, I am sure, will take very great care. Although he may be going to pay the annual loss on depreciation, I do not know under what part of the Bill he pays that annual loss or whether he has any authority for saying that, but I do not question it, because I am sure he has the right. But although the Minister has to pay depreciation on the bull, what happens if a bull dies, becomes impotent or if there is a loss on its keep? The owner may be very much out of pocket. The Minister said that he will not direct an owner to purchase a bull unless it is an economic proposition, but the Minister may very well be wrong in his judgment.

When I brought this up in Committee the Minister said that the worries which I have were merely the figment of my imagination. My local Press described it as a bull fight between the Minister and myself. I am perfectly prepared to have a little fight over this Bill, because I am quite certain that what I say is correct. The Minister says that everything is going to be all right, and all I am going to ask him at this juncture is to give an assurance that all future Ministers will be just as careful as he says he is going to be.

I should like to mention one other point under this subsection and that refers to the Minister's power to direct the extent and nature of the service. The Minister said that he was not too happy about this and would look into it. No doubt he has looked into it, but from what I gather I imagine that if a farmer has a good dairy cow he would refuse to give it a free service. On the other hand, if a farmer has a good beef animal not likely to produce milk he may insist on it having a free beef service. That again sounds perfectly all right, but I want to know who decides the issue. The Minister cannot be here, there and everywhere to say which cow shall have which service. I imagine it is left to his livestock officers, but how many livestock officers has the Minister got in each county? How often do they question the semen that is used in these artificial insemination centres and when do they do it? I am told on good authority that the only check they make is long after the service has taken place, and then it is only a very cursory check covering a very small percentage of the services. It is not very satisfactory as it stands, and I hope the Minister will improve the procedure.

With these few remarks I should like to add my blessing to the Bill. I am not very happy about the extremely large cost. Everybody who has been on the Standing Committee on this Bill knows that the calf subsidy will cost something like £7 million a year, out of which we all recognise that probably £5 million is being paid to people who would rear the calves already which is an extravagant proposition. The same applies to the free beef insemination service. Many farmers would be perfectly prepared to pay for that service which now they will get free. That, of course, is a very much smaller figure.

During the proceedings on the Bill no one has suggested any better ideas and for that reason I cannot be very severe in my criticism. It is vital to produce more beef. Owing to the muddle into which the Government have recently got us through the bulk purchase of meat in the Argentine when they swapped our railways without producing the meat, for that reason alone it is most important that the subsidy should be a success. In view of the large amount of money involved I hope that the Minister will treat this as a very temporary affair and that he will make it quite clear to the farmers that he will treat it as such.

7.11 p.m.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail in the very interesting points he made in the earlier part of his speech. I was particularly glad to hear him stress, as did the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), the importance of the first two Clauses. We cannot allow the Bill to leave us without emphasising this point. The hon. Member for Newbury urged the Government not to be "too subsidy-minded" and pointed out—I endorse what he said—that the calf subsidies which form the subject matter of the first two Clauses are not in themselves a long-term policy; they are only a palliative and no palliative can be a real remedy for what is now becoming a really serious position with regard to beef production in this country.

I represent a constituency in Southern Scotland, now very largely concerned with dairy production and, in the old days, very largely concerned with beef production as well. While I do not suggest that the policy with regard to milk, pursued not merely by this Government but also by its predecessors, has been wrong, we have gone rather far and our beef production has suffered, and as a result a very serious position confronts us. None of us can view the position calmly. I hope that the Government, and particularly the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, will take note of the warning of the hon. Member for Newbury. We are approaching a stage at which the Government will seriously have to think out a long-term policy about beef production and adjust the balance between milk and beef production in the country as a whole. I am glad that Clause 3, which deals with imported calves, has been included in the Bill. It is a valuable Clause. I hope that there will not be many dishonest persons.

I also want to say a word or two about Clause 9, which deals with the Minister's right to certain tenants' compensation on giving up requisitioned land. I would not be a party to denying the Minister or the Government the same fair treatment as is accorded ordinary tenants, but in regard to subsection (3) especially, which makes the necessary provisions for the Minister's rights on derequisition- ing, I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will also be accorded fair treatment. I also hope that those who are responsible for the derequisitioning of land will bear carefully in mind, when seeking their rights, that the former owners should receive their rights.

I join the general chorus of approval and welcome which has been accorded the Bill. It is not a very big Measure but it is far-reaching in scope, and I hope that it will bring great benefits to the agricultural industry.

7.15 p.m.

As one who has criticised the Minister rather severely with regard to certain provisions of the Bill, I wish now to congratulate him and to express the hope that the Bill will bring about everything that he desires. We know that the object which he has in mind is good and is to the benefit of the country. We certainly need a great increase, in beef cattle, and, as one hon. Member has said, no one has put forward an alternative suggestion to the calf subsidy. The reason I criticised it severely is that I do not believe that the calf subsidy is necessary. I believe that if the Minister had appealed to the farmers for the production of beef calves just as he appealed for the production of potatoes—

—it would have been forthcoming. I want to speak about grass drying. Grass drying is very necessary, but its cost will have to be watched. Dried grass is becoming far too expensive a food. Now that the subsidy has been taken off feedingstuffs and their price is increasing, the farmers will not wish to pay the large amounts they are having to pay for dried grass. It is an excellent food, but something will have to be done, whether it is by an increase in the productivity of the plant, the cheapening of the growing or the lessening of labour costs, to reduce the price of dried grass when it is sold to the farmer. Otherwise the farmers will turn, as many are doing, to silage making instead of dried grass, and I am afraid that many of the plants will be left high and dry and unused in a few years' time. I congratulate the Minister on adding to his record in agricultural legislation and I hope that everything which he desires in the Bill will be achieved.

7.18 p.m.

I hope that if I make a few comments on the Bill the Minister will not think that I am criticising; he generally thinks I am doing so. I welcome the Bill and I appreciate that the Minister is doing what he thinks is a good service to agriculture. I support what has been said about subsidies by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I dislike subsidies of all sorts. They may be right as a temporary measure, but they are completely wrong as a long-term measure. I was glad to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had decided to take off the subsidy on feedingstuffs. I thought that was a step in the right direction.

I am sorry that the Minister has decided upon a calf subsidy in his attempt to increase beef stores in this country. The Minister said that no alternative suggestion had been made, but I endeavoured to put one forward in Committee. The idea of the calf subsidy is to increase the number of beef stores. We are to spend a lot of money; £30 million in four years is a considerable amount. I suggest to the Minister that, if he has an opportunity of reconsidering this, he could spend that money in a better way.

To begin with, a good deal of the money will be paid to pedigree breeders and dairy farmers who should not be entitled to it. The people who should be encouraged are those who live on marginal farms. If this money had been spent to encourage those smaller farmers on the marginal land to go in for calf rearing, it would have done more good. One way the Minister could have done it would have been to give a good subsidy only for those extra calves which are reared over and above one per cow, instead of giving it for all calves. In that way he might have got the extra calves he wants without spending such a huge sum of money. Another way—the way I should recommend—is that the price of beef should be increased to such a figure that the rearing of store cattle would adjust itself right down to the calf rearer. In a subsidised scheme we unbalance our agriculture entirely, so that when the Minister has an opportunity of reconsidering this, I hope he will see whether it is not better that the price should be given for beef and so let the store cattle rearers adjust their economy right along the line.

I do not propose to say anything about artificial insemination—I have said what I think about that upstairs—except that it is entirely abnormal and is the wrong way of tackling the problem. We should be attacking the disease of abortion at its source.

7.22 p.m.

I find myself in agreement with the hon. Members for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and Leominster (Mr. Baldwin), especially as regards subsidies. I have a great dislike for subsidies in general and for some of these agricultural subsidies in particular. On the one hand, the Minister is removing a large subsidy which he has given on foodstuffs until recently and is imposing subsidies for free insemination by beef bulls and for the rearing of calves, and the cost of administering these subsidies is substantial.

I do not believe the Minister accomplishes exactly what he sets out to accomplish with the subsidies for free insemination by beef bulls and the calf-rearing subsidy. With one set of subsidies he is trying to get people to breed suitable calves for the rearing of beef and with another set of subsidies he is trying to induce people to rear more suitable calves so that they will be available for the graziers and breeders to finish off as beef. Owing to the fluctuations of the natural food available in this country, and the vagaries of the climate, it does not work out like that. Sometimes the grazier is able to buy store cattle cheaply if there is a shortage of grass and natural foodstuffs; if there is abundance and demand, no matter what the subsidies given by the Minister, the price of those stores will be expensive.

For that reason, it is much better to allow the problem to resolve itself by the law of supply and demand. If the Minister had asked the farmers of this country to rear calves suitable for feeding for beef, I feel sure the farmers would have responded to him suitably and, those beef cattle would, in the end, have been produced much more economically than with the subsidies.

I was much against the free beef bull subsidy in the first place but, as it has been imposed, I think it is essential to carry it on for a second year and maybe a third in order to give it a fair trial. It was, however, a wrong method of approach. Similarly with the calf subsidy. As far as I know, practically the only calves which are ineligible for subsidy are the steer calves of the Channel Island breeds, and possibly Ayrshires, too. There will be a large number of calves receiving subsidy which are not in any way entitled to it. I can think of the Channel Island heifer calves, the heifer calves of pedigree herds, the heifer calves of many dairy herds. It will not affect the number of those reared in the slightest. If a subsidy had to be used, I would have liked to see a larger one for suitable calves. In any case, I hope that this will be only a short-lived subsidy and that, when the Minister reviews it, he may either adopt another method or improve it in some suitable way.

A great deal was said in Committee about the use of silage as against dried grass. The Minister has laid great emphasis on helping to make more dried grass available, which is most necessary in view of the high cost of imported feedingstuffs at the present time. I hope he will not overlook the plea which some of us made for an increase in the quantity of silage used in this country. There are many ways in which the right hon. Gentleman could help to increase that food. I believe it is the most economic method of conserving surplus summer grass for winter use. It is infinitely more economic than drying grass, and I hope the Minister will consider whether he cannot use this Bill—as indeed he could if he wished—to extend the use of silage.

I wish the Bill luck and success, I hope it will do some of the things for farming which the Minister hopes and, when he reviews it, I hope he will improve it in the way I have suggested.

7.28 p.m.

If I said "amen" to the chorus of criticism and odd spots of praise, that would perhaps meet the case. There are only one or two points to which I shall refer, and that out of sheer courtesy to hon. Members who have intervened in this Third Reading Debate.

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) suggested that the subsidy for calf rearing was the lazy way of creating more beef in this country. I should have thought that merely to put a penny per 1b.—or any unit of cash—upon the finished article was the easy way, but it might not have produced the results required. That certainly, would be the easy way administratively, but there would have been no guarantee that we would have reared more calves up to 12 months, whereas the policy we have pursued over the past 18 months has at least shown us an increase of 360,000 calves of 12 months old compared with the previous year. The results are there to be seen.

I think it was the hon. Member for Newbury—he will forgive me if I am wrong—who said that if the subsidy is extended for a further two years, its cost over four years will amount to £30 million. But to put one penny per pound on to the finished article would have cost £32 million, with no guarantee at all that we should have had any increase in the rearing of calves. Therefore, on the basis of experience—despite the fact that some farmers have received a subsidy for heifer calves that have gone into the milk herd which, perhaps, they did not need—no hon. Member, either on Second Reading, in Committee or on Third Reading, has shown us a better scheme—a better scheme, that is to say, that would have produced the calves and ultimately, I hope, the beef. That aspect very largely has been the current of thought running through the various speeches and I need not, therefore, refer to all hon. Members individually.

The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said he would have liked to have made a protest to the Leader of the House because in the Bill we were dealing with a fait accompli; that we could not amend it, that already we were actually doing the thing for which we are now legislating. It is a policy of this Government to get on with the job and to talk about it and pay for it later. That may be regarded as unique, but during the past 18 months there have been several Debates on agriculture, and on any of those occasions any one of the matters dealt with in the first five Clauses of the Bill could have been raised and the theory or practice contested.

The hon. Member said he was not too sure about the results of the calf subsidy, and that it might even do harm. I do not know whether it will or not. What I am hoping, however, as a result of the first 12 months' experience, is that two years from now—although that is a long time to wait, I know—there will be 100,000 tons more British beef than there would have been but for this calf subsidy. To that extent I do not think it can be regarded as having done any harm. Any extension beyond 1st October of this year can only be done by a new scheme and by an affirmative Resolution which will have to pass through both Houses. Therefore, the House will have ample opportunity to express its point of view either about the continuance of the scheme or the form of any new scheme.

Reference was made by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) to an Amendment moved earlier by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) regarding the directions to be given to artificial insemination centres. I think that I replied to that matter then and need not repeat my remarks now, except to say that if the hon. Member will look carefully at Clause 4 (1, b) he will find that the Minister has full power to remunerate those who run an artificial insemination centre in case they should receive a direction from the Minister, whether the bull should live and thrive or whether it dies. The hon. Member asked how we can detect a heifer from a steer. We must be guided in these things, when laying down arrangements for artificial insemination centres, by the advice and guidance obtained from an advisory committee, of which the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) is a member, and from our livestock officers also. We take advantage of any advice they can give about what ought to happen. I have no qualms of conscience, since no directions are likely to be given which would involve hurt, harm or loss to those in charge of the centres.

The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), to whom many thanks, referred to silage. I hope that neither he nor the hon. Member for Eddisbury will imagine that we are not concerned equally about silage as we are about dried grass. I said in Committee that we had been running for many years a campaign for the making of silage, and perhaps more intensely in 1948 than hitherto. The highest figure reached during the war years was 400,000 tons of silage—incidentally, a very fine protein food. In 1948, thanks to the new expansion programme and our campaign, we have pushed up production to well over 600,000 tons. Whatever quantity of dried grass we may produce in 1949 or 1950, I hope that the campaign for silage will continue side by side with that for dried grass. Several Members opposite have said that they are all against subsidies.

Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) nor, indeed, any other hon. Member has been good enough or kind enough to tell me how we can produce more beef in this country without the incentive we are giving here. Nobody has deigned to make even a suggestion. All three subsidies referred to in the Bill—whether for calf rearing, the free artificial insemination service or for helping grass drying—are for limited periods of two to four years at the very outside. They were given for a specific purpose and unless hon. Members can prove that the giving of those particular subsidies has been a failure, I do not regard what they have said about them as criticism. I want, however, to express my thanks to the House for the general reception which the Bill has received, and I hope, with hon. Members, that the results we desire will be forthcoming.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.