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Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps are being taken by the Forestry Commission to acquire more land suitable for planting and so reduce the shortfall in its planned reserve of land.

The Forestry Commission is always looking for suitable land at a fair price for forestry. But with all the competing demands for land in this country, there is no easy solution for this problem.

May we take it that it will continue to acquire land when it becomes available in view of the disadvantages of having an inadequate reserve for the whole of the programme?

Yes, Sir. The disadvantages of having inadequate reserves are considerable. The Commission is about 60,000 acres down. It would like to have a reserve of about 390,000 acres. It is pressing on to get all the land it can to make good the deficiency. It is very important to the Commission.



asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the negotiations between the Milk Marketing Board, the National Farmers' Union and his Department on the possible restriction of milk output.

Possible alternative price systems for milk are now being considered by a technical study group on which the farmers' unions, the five milk marketing boards and the three agricultural departments are represented. This group's report will be submitted to the Joint Committee set up by the unions and the boards, and, when they have considered it. I will be able to make a statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also undertake, at the same time as he is making these inquiries from the farmers' unions, to consider the possibility of greatly increasing the supply of dried milk from this country to under-developed countries on the same lines as is done by the United States and Canada?

European Economic Community


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what negotiations on agriculture he has held with the European Economic Community.

In view of the anxiety which is felt about our future relations with the Common Market or the European Community, will my right hon. Friend consider publishing a statement on the views, of the Ministry of Agriculture concerning the possibilities of our associating with the European Community?

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, what is happening in this field, as in other fields, is a general study to see whether there is a basis on which we would be able to negotiate with the Common Market countries and, at the same time, preserve the vital interests of agriculture and, of course, the many interests of the Commonwealth and other countries which are interested in our food market.

In view of the many contradictory statements which have been made about this subject by Ministers, will the Minister of Agriculture undertake that, soon after we return after the Recess, he will make a full statement of the implications, not only to the agricultural community but to consumers, of our entering the Common Market?

I understand that it has been contemplated through the usual channels that there might be a debate in the House on agriculture soon after we return after the Whitsun Recess. That would seem to be an appropriate time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one is most disturbed that any abandonment of the 1947 or 1957 Acts might not only hurt the farmer and increase the price of food in this country, but also increase our competitive costs with the rest of the world?

Yes, Sir. Of course, integration with the Six in any form would involve quite considerable changes in the methods that we use for supporting the farmer and also in the cost of food in this country. But, of course, the pledges which the Government have given in this regard at the last election stand inviolate.

In view of the general interest in this matter, will the Minister consider circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full account of his rowdy meeting with Conservative back benchers a night or two ago?

I read a report of that in one daily edition and it was one with which I did not agree.

Agriculture (Improvement Of Roads) Act, 1955


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many grants have been made under the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955; what was the amount of grant paid up to the end of 1960 in Devon; and how many applications for grant aid have been turned down during the same period.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

Up to 31st March, 1961, grants have been paid towards the cost of 692 schemes in England and Wales. The grant paid in Devon up to the end of 1960 was £95,844. Sixty-eight applications for grant-aid had been turned down in England and Wales up to the end of 1960, one of which was in Devon.

Farmland, Somerset (Flooding)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to relieve the farming land in the Long Sutton Machelney area from chronic flooding.

The Somerset River Board is the responsible authority, and is carrying out drainage improvement works in this area with grant-aid from the Department.

While I am grateful for that information, which I have known for a long time, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is aware that this problem, which has existed for the last eight or ten years and is getting worse, is beyond the resources of the river board, which has a great many other problems to deal with anyhow? In this case, a number of farmers are being deprived of their land year after year. The land is being ruined and it is not good enough to go on like this. Will my hon. Friend have a good look at the matter and accept that it is quite intolerable that people should have their land used as a receptacle for other people's drainage?

While I do not accept all that my hon. Friend says, we have done a good deal more than simply look at the matter. We are offering the board 80 per cent. grant for substantial work, which it is now undertaking, to help conditions in the area, and the board hopes to have one important work, a new pumping drain, in operation before the end of the summer. This will give a measure of immediate relief and it is the forerunner of other work to follow.

Will the hon. Gentleman look again at the Motion on the Order Paper signed by approximately a hundred hon. Members on the question of water conservation and flooding, and see whether he cannot produce a much more comprehensive plan to solve not only this Problem but others like it?