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Agriculture

Volume 463: debated on Monday 4 April 1949

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Bovine Tuberculosis (Consultations)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has completed his consultations with the farming organisations and the veterinary profession on the arrangements to be made for the systematic eradication of bovine tuberculosis and the establishment of clean areas; and when he will put such a scheme into operation.

No, Sir. While discussions with the interests concerned show that there are no wide differences of view as to the main principles on which an area eradication plan should be based, a few difficult questions remain as regards the financial provision of such a plan. I hope, however, that these may be resolved in the near future. Meanwhile, substantial progress continues to be made under the voluntary Tuberculosis (Attested Herds) Scheme, which now includes nearly a million and a half cattle.

Is the Minister remembering that these consultations have gone on for very many months; and does he not agree that to get an effective scheme for irradicating bovine tuberculosis we must have co-ordination which can only be done through his Department?

I fully appreciate that, and I hope the hon. Member will not forget the evidence side of determining an eradication area.

Fishmeal

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what results he has had from his campaign to persuade fishermen to land whole fish instead of dumping heads and tails in the sea.

There has been no such campaign. At one time maximum price schedules laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food had the effect of encouraging the landing of headless fish, but that was corrected last November, and I feel that it would be difficult to justify taking any further steps at the present time in view of the need to land maximum quantities of edible fish.

Is the Minister aware that I understood he was carrying on a campaign; and, as he says he is not, will he consider carrying on a very strenuous campaign, as at the present time fishmeal is of the utmost importance for rearing pigs?

I fully agree with the hon. Member that fishmeal is of some importance, but while there is a shortage of other kinds of food, the maximum quantity of edible fish is also a grave necessity.

Is the right hon. Gentleman stating that since the order was altered, there has, in fact, been no change at all?

Well, perhaps a change, but a change for the worse from the point of view of fishmeal.

Foot-And-Mouth Disease (Serum)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider making experiments in this country with the treatment of foot-and-mouth disease by a serum vaccination in view of the success achieved by the French Ministry of Agriculture.

Tests with serum have been carried out in this country and its value in controlling outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease is well understood. The use of the serum would not, however, be entirely effective in preventing outbreaks or the spread of the disease, and I am satisfied that the present eradication policy is the best and most economical in the circumstances of this country.

Can we have an assurance from the Minister that research will be made into this all-important matter, in view of the success that has attended this treatment in France?

Perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to tell the House that the success achieved by the French Ministry of Agriculture may be measured by the fact that during January, 1949—the last month for which we have figures—there were 1,773 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in France; in this country, we have had 24 outbreaks in the last 15 months.

Is it not possible for farmers to get hold of this serum so that they can try it out voluntarily?

Potato Acreage

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what information he has about the acreage which farmers propose to allocate for potatoes for the coming season.

An inquiry of the county agricultural executive committees in January suggested that the potato acreage in England and Wales might fall short of the target by about 5 per cent. Since then deliveries of seed potatoes from Scotland and Ireland to English merchants—which give a rough indication of prospective acreage—have improved and are now up to the total for the same date last year.

Is the Minister aware that the difficulty of disposing of this year's crop of ware potatoes may militate against the planting of the desired acreage this year; and will he take steps to assure farmers that if they do grow the required acreage they will be disposed of this year better than they were last year?

We not only give that guarantee, but the price they shall receive has already been fixed.

Production

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider the printing of a short message from him which could be posted up on farms throughout the country asking farmers and their staffs to step up food production to the utmost for the good of the nation.

No, Sir. I am satisfied that the diverse means already employed, not only for asking farmers to step up production but also to advise them on the methods by which they can do so, are adequate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman's refusal due to the difficulty he finds in devising a suitable message for onion and tomato growers?

South Downs (Public Rights)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that large areas of the South Downs have been handed to the East or West Sussex Agricultural Committees for restoration pending derequisitioning, and that there is public anxiety at the resulting interference with public rights of way and other public rights in this area; and if he will make a statement on this matter.

I am satisfied that the East and West Sussex Agricultural Executive Committees do all they can to avoid interfering with public rights on and over the South Downs so far as that is consistent with the essential work of cultivation during the period before the land is derequisitioned.

Is the Minister doing his best to speed up handing this land back to its rightful owners; and if I give him details of serious interference with rights of way—interference such as no private landlord would dare to make—will he look carefully into each case and do his best to put these things right?

I shall be very happy to look at whatever information the hon. Member cares to send along. Perhaps I ought to tell him and the House that the Society of Sussex Downsmen state in their 1947 Report:

"The valuable work that is being under-taken by the East and West Sussex County Committees unfortunately led to complaints to the Society concerning bridle roads and footpaths. Their task is a very difficult one, and from interviews between representatives of the Committee and the Society it is obvious that they do respect the public rights, and do all in their power to avoid damage to bridal roads and footpaths."

Will the Minister be kind enough to look at the Society's 1948 Report, which he will find tells a very different story indeed?